Alternate Ending part 13
(c)2000-2001KSH/B Stearns

Liz helped Corey sit down with her head between her knees. The three women sat in silence for a few moments, until Corey finally raised her head and murmured a weak "Thanks."

"Is it really that bad?" Liz asked. "I'm surprised Jon's not over here barfing, too."

"No," Corey answered, reaching for the cup of tea Dina offered. "I'm just not feeling so great today anyway, and it just got to me."

Liz regarded her suspiciously, but didn't say anything else.

* * *

The first police officer arrived on the scene, and hurried to assist with the first aid. Neal and Mugs led Jon over to where the women sat, away from the crowd that was beginning to gather. Steve joined them when the paramedics arrived. Aug hovered in between, trying to overhear anything he could about the patient's condition.

Before they had a chance to discuss an official story between them, an officer approached the group.

"I understand you folks saw what happened here?" he asked, flipping open his notebook.

"Yes sir," Liz quickly answered, startling everyone. "We had plans to all go somewhere together today, and Steve needed to get some cash, so we stopped at the bank. He had just seen that they weren't open and was getting back in his car when the accident happened."

The officer nodded and scribbled something in his notebook. "Looks like the victim lost control of his car for some reason and ran into the side of the building. Did anyone see the car before it entered the parking lot?"

The group looked at one another, several shaking their heads and a couple saying "No."

"He had his hand on his chest," Neal volunteered.

The officer nodded again without really looking up. "Yeah, it appears that he was shot in the chest. Don't know if it was a random thing, somebody just shooting at a passing car, or a road rage incident or what. No one seems to have seen that part." He scribbled a little more in his notebook before glancing up. "I'll need your names for my report."

"Steve Anderson, and my wife Corey," Steve answered before anyone else could speak. "My brother Aug, uh, August. Richard and Susan Kimbell," he pointed at Jon and Liz. "and his brother David, and Vince and Tammy Perone."

"Okay, and I'll need a phone number where you can be reached if we need any more information." the cop still didn't really even look at them.

Anderson gave her cell phone number, saying that she could get in touch with anyone else he needed to speak with.

The officer nodded and thanked them before heading off to speak with a superior officer.

"What was that about?" Jon asked, frowning at Steve.

"Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon are still officially dead. And we're not ready to advertise over police radio that they're alive, much less where they're currently sitting." Steve put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the fender of the rental car.

"Yeah, but did you have to use the name from 'The Fugitive?'" Aug rolled his eyes.

Steve grinned. "Fits, doesn't it?"

A Mercedes pulled up, its driver immediately jumping out and approaching the fire chief. The blazing car was almost completely extinguished, as well as the portion of the building which had ignited.

Before anyone realized what he was up to, Steve stomped across the parking lot to the man with the Mercedes.

"Aren't you the bank manager?" he asked belligerently.

"Uh, um, yes, yes sir, I am. Terrible tragedy we've had here today." he swallowed and licked his lips. He opened his mouth to continue, but Steve didn't give him the chance.

"Look, pal, you got a new drive through. I have a safe deposit box in your bank, and if there's a hole in the wall, I don't feel like it's really safe. I want my stuff out of there so that I can arrange to put it somewhere more secure." Steve put his hands on his hips and glared at the manager.

"B-b-b-ut, sir, the safety deposit boxes are inside the vault. The vault itself is fireproof concrete and steel. No one could get to your valuables. Even with the hole in the wall." The man took a step backwards.

Jon wondered what the guy would do if Steve _really_ got upset.

"The structural integrity of your building is compromised, and yet you're denying me access to remove my possessions?" Steve was almost roaring by now. "I wonder what my friends who bank here would think about that. Actually, I wonder what the _FDIC_ would think about it."

"Sir, please," the manager glanced nervously over at the growing crowd. "No one is trying to keep your possessions from you."

"Sir," the fire chief interrupted. "The scene is going to be too hot to enter for several hours. Our investigation team is going to need to do a few things here before we allow anyone else access to the site. Might I suggest that you meet with your insurance representative, attorney, or whoever, and figure out what you need to do about the safe deposit boxes." He addressed the bank manager. Then, maybe anyone who wants to remove the contents of their box could meet you back here, oh around 2:30, and get what they need." He looked over at Steve. "We'll keep men here until then. We would have been here for a few hours anyway, because we've got to be certain that this thing is not going to flare back up."

The manager's head bobbed like a little dog in a rear windshield. "Yes, yes, that would be agreeable with me. How about you, Mr...uh, ..."

Steve scowled and purposely did not answer the question. "I guess that's the best we can do. Are you sure that the vault will be safe until then?"

"We'll keep a couple of policemen here, too," the fire chief replied. "I assure you, no one is going to get into that vault before you do."

Steve stomped back over to the group, a small smile hidden from any official types that might be watching.

"That's taken care of," he announced. "We come back here at 2:30 to pick up the box."

"Okay, so what do we do now?" Aug asked.

"Worry about the fact that someone who bears a resemblance to Jon and riding in a car that resembles Corey's was just shot right outside a bank we were already trying to get into," Steve said. "They know we're here, and the bastards probably know why. So getting back into this place later on is gonna be funny as hell. They screwed themselves in a way, though, with all these cops and firemen here. At least they can't walk right in and get anything out of there."

He paused and looked at Jon. "But they're not getting another shot when we come back. I'll come back alone, at 2:30."

"Here we go with the cowboy shit again," Jon said, but he was far from arguing. The previous several days were a blur he didn't want to examine, and if there was any way to get the whole thing over with, he was happy to go along.

"Maybe," Steve said with a shrug. "_We_ won't need what's in there, by then. I wanna see what happens, see who shows up." He glanced at Aug. "You up to keeping an eye on everyone?" He let his eyes dart to Mugs as he said it.

"Barely need to," Aug said. "Everyone seems to be doing pretty damn good without us. You do anything out here, later, more bystanders are gonna be shot." He paused. "Not to mention the fact that we're pretty goddamn beat up, and sooner or later you're gonna have to have something done about your ribs."

Steve gave Corey a contemplative look. He knew something was up, but he was a long way from catching on, in a lot of areas. And he was beginning to feel like hell, himself. Finally, he said, "I hate to do it, but we're better off splitting up. Liz, Dina, you guys have to get out of this, while the getting's still good."

Dina opened her mouth to let loose with a myriad of reasons why she didn't like that idea, and Steve added, "Kids," and Dina looked at Liz, who nodded.

"Who do you have watchin' them, anyway?" Neal said.

"Someone else who doesn't play by the rules," Steve said. "Your families have to get out of this, now. I'd kick you out, too, but I think they're better off if you two stay on the run."

"Not to mention the fact that we wanna see the end of it, after all this bullshit," Neal said.

"And if people are gunning for me specifically, I don't want any more accidents happening," Jon said. "But separating..."

"You too, Mugs," Steve said.

"Bullshit," Mugs said.

"Yeah," Jon said. "For once, I gotta agree. You're quick, but part of it's been luck, and it can't go on forever."

"Think about it," Steve said. "You'd still be an extra set of eyes. Help keep an eye on the family front. If I ever need a sidekick again, I'll look you up."

"More like the other way around," Mugs shot back.

"Let's get the hell out of here, out of the open, before that becomes unavoidable," Aug said. "What've we got, around here, for a temporary hangout? Where we won't be conspicuous."

Steve glanced further down the street. "We got no hope of inconspicuous," he said. "But for now, there's a pretty big mall about a mile and a half west of here....something-or-other Square. One of those damn upscale things. Be busy enough on a Saturday for us to blend in. We can sit and regroup for awhile, and split up from there." He glanced at Corey again. Dina was giving him one of those 'you're such a neanderthal' looks that tended to confuse men the world over. He was thinking of ways to get Corey alone, but there wasn't time or opportunity. And by then he didn't think there ever would be.

"Same teams?" Aug said.

"Yeah. Different routes. I doubt the shooter's still around, but it won't hurt to play it close to the vest." He glanced back at the paramedics who were losing the battle with the guy who'd accidentally taken Jon's place and felt a pang of sympathy, but it was short lived. "Let's go."

* * *

They broke up into teams that assured there was at least one armed (and dangerous, according to Mugs) person in each vehicle; Neal, Dina and Corey in one, Aug and Mugs in another, and Steve, Jon and Liz in the last. It was obvious that Steve was keeping Jon with him because of the likelihood of trouble. "And you," he said, jabbing a finger at Mugs as the drummer moved to get in the car, "stay down."

Mugs said, "No, I'm not playin' civilian again, not after all--"

Steve was there in two steps, faster than anyone had expected him to be, and had the front of Mug's shirt in both hands. "Do you have _any_ fuckin' idea how much you _look_ like Jon?" he shouted, and by the time the words were out, Jon and Aug were pulling them apart.

"Hey, hey," Jon said, keeping his voice low. "First of all, that's my brother. Second of all, we don't need another goddamned scene. He'll stay down. He will."

Steve backed off a fraction, staring Mugs down, realizing he'd snapped and was more startled about it than Mugs was. He was too damned warm, had been running some kind of low grade fever for the last day or so, and he tried to blame it for a lot of things. Mugs held his hands up and said, "One sidekick, stayin' down."

Steve looked at Aug, who was staring at him with a clear warning on his face. Then they broke up without another word and headed for the mall.

* * *

They each parked at different ends of the mall and came through different entrances, purposely wandering in circles long enough to be relatively certain they hadn't been followed in. Nearly half an hour after that, they met up outside a Walden Books on the second level, finding a table in the common area and sitting down.

"Here's what I'd _like_ to see," Steve said, leaning back in his chair in what looked like a loose, 'hey, I'm slumming at the mall' sprawl. It was actually uncomfortable as hell between the gun on his hip and the trouble his ribs were giving him, but he could see almost one entire side of the rectangular shopping area from there. Aug sat directly across from him, watching the side that was out of Steve's view, also adopting a casual posture that just happened to leave his right hand inches from his gun. They'd stopped at various take-out spots along the south corridor of the mall to pick up enough beverages and foodstuffs to make themselves fit into the lunch crowd, just a bunch of friends out for a shopping spree. It wasn't quite 11 yet, but close enough. He tried to lay everything out while they ate.

"Liz, I need you to go home. By now the kids are missing you and Jon, and that's too much. Get out of this, stay out of it. Your family'll be okay even if someone does try to get at Jon that way."

"I still wanna know who you've got watching them," Neal said.

"It doesn't matter," Steve said. "No one'll ever see 'em. They'll stay out of sight and keep things quiet. If I didn't think so, I'd be over there myself." He looked at Dina. "Same goes for you. Hang out at your parents'. You guys'll be okay because someone'll still be keeping an eye on you." He looked at Mugs. "You, go home and stay there. If I see you again, _I'll_ be the one shooting _you_."

"Who's gonna get you guys out of trouble, let you out of the back of locked U-Hauls?" Mugs said. "Where's your wild card?"

"Yeah, well, Murdock usually had to be sprung from the VA hospital before he could save Hannibal and Face, most of the time," Steve said. "Back to the VA, H.M.."

"I get to be Face," Aug said.

Mugs shrugged. "I dunno, though. Seems to me I'm still a fugitive, for shooting you and then breaking out of jail. Won't they just come pick me up again?"

"Anybody read you the Miranda?" Steve said.

"No."

"Were you booked?"

"Noooooo," Mugs said, beginning to catch on.

"Do you really think for a moment that you were really arrested?"

Mugs sighed. "I'm crushed."

Steve looked pointedly at Aug, and the younger man shook his head. "Forget it, bad boy," Aug said. "My career is fucked right now, I can't go home, and I probably know more than you do about how to flush these guys. I'm all over this."

"You'll be all over the back wall of some warehouse, you stick around with me much longer," Steve said, but it was without energy. He glanced at Corey.

"Yes," Dina said before he could speak. "Corey should drop out of this."

"I can't," Corey said. "I spent my life in the program. I owe my life to it. I owe a lot of people. If it's come to the point where things are this bad, I need to be part of turning it back around."

"I still think you should drop this, now," Steve said. He wanted to add, _because I can't be objective with you around anymore, because I don't like how tired you look,_ but he slammed it down. It was getting harder to slam things down, he'd noticed.

"Fuck you," Corey snapped, startling the rest of the table into staring at her in silence. "I don't like the thought of you getting hurt, either, but I don't have any goddamned say in it, do I? I'm a goddamn federal agent, but I'm also a woman, so I'm the vulnerable point? What are you gonna do, if I say no? Shoot me like you did Raff, to get rid of me?"

Steve sat forward, a look of genuine amazement on his face. "Corey..."

"No," Corey said in the same tone. "Make up your goddamn mind. You can't take this away from me, and you can't just drop me, either, for being inconvenient."

"Shit," Neal said almost under his breath, drawing it out into two syllables. Jon looked from Dina to Corey, then to Liz during the exchange, and caught on at the same time Liz did.

"You wanna talk about this somewhere a little more private?" Steve said softly.

"No. You want me out, you shoot me right here."

Unsure of what the hell was really going on, mostly aware that Corey was frightened of something, Steve leaned back in his chair again and stared at her for a moment before letting his eyes wander back around. He tried to sigh and couldn't. "I think we'll table _that_ agenda item," he said. For a moment, Corey looked ready to throw something.

"Okay," Aug said quickly, "those of us staying on the front line need to come up with something better than going back to hang around that bank at 2:30. I mean, with all the cops that'll still be hanging around, I think at some point it'll occur to someone to have an APB put out on you. Maybe Raff, maybe the rest of the dark gray guys, but it'll occur to them eventually that the best way to reel you in is have everyone possible looking for you. They'll want us in custody, even if it has to be for a traffic infraction, because then their big worries are over. You die, even 'accidentally' in custody, and it's all over."

"If I don't go back and get that stuff out of that bank, someone else will find a way to do it," Steve said. "I'd rather they not find out what exactly I have until I manage to drop it on their heads. If they know, then they'll make specific moves to discredit it. I don't want _all_ of it becoming circumstantial evidence."

"Then I'll go with you," Aug said.

"Time to table that item, too," Steve said. "Here's where we go our..." he paused. "Aw, shit."

"Separate ways," Neal said, grinning. Aug snorted.

"Fucking song puns," Steve said. "Hate 'em." he looked at Corey. "At least stay out of it long enough to escort these guys back where they should be, then. Please. Leave your car here, and take the rental."

She nodded at him without looking at him.

They cleared the table and said their farewells to each other. Corey, Mugs, Liz and Dina split off and vanished into the growing Saturday afternoon crowds, and Steve felt a pang he tried desperately to ignore. Aug, Jon and Neal followed him out a different entrance and stood looking out over the parking garage with him. No one saw anything they didn't like, so they headed for Steve's car.

"Now," Jon said, "why don't you go ahead and admit, at this point, that you're scared and have no idea what to do?"

Steve glanced over his shoulder at Jon. "Thanks, but no pop psych from the peanut gallery, okay?"

"Yeah," Jon said. "Fine. You had too many people you care about in one place, still do, and it's fucking you over to the point where you're just gonna freeze up."

"Okay, Jon," Steve said wearily. "Think about this. You remember just before the Frontiers tour, the first soundcheck in Seattle? That fucking lighting truss that hung over the stage. You made some crack about hoping it'd miss the piano, if it came down." He stopped and looked at Jon. "I'm _still_ trying to make sure things miss the piano. Okay?"

Jon stared back at him, trying to be calm about it. "When are you gonna tell us the rest of it?" he said.

Steve waved him off and kept walking. Jon and Aug shared a glance, and Aug nodded.

They took a good look at Steve's car, including in the trunk and under the hood before deciding it hadn't been tampered with. "I'm driving," Aug said. "I've seen 'Cannonball Run' at least 18 times, and I think that qualifies me for all kinds of shit."

Steve didn't argue, just got in on the passenger side. Jon and Neal didn't need to be told to stay low in the car, not after what had happened at the bank. Not after how upset Steve had been over the same question with Mugs.

They spent the next few hours wandering almost aimlessly, never staying in any one spot for long, keeping an eye out for anyone who might pick up their trail. They got back in the neighborhood of the bank at quarter after two, and got a look at the scene from several different angles, ending up in the parking lot of a Pizza Hut two driveways over. There were still a couple of police cars, and part of the parking lot was cordoned off, but it looked a hell of a lot quieter than it had been. The Eagle Vision had been removed from the side of the building. There were lights on inside, visible even in the partly cloudy afternoon daylight.

Aug said, "I don't like it."

"Neither do I," Steve said. "But, it's gonna shake the tree a little. And if not, well, I walk out of there with the stuff and we run off to make the evening edition."

"Let me go in," Aug said.

"No."

"Paper scissors rock?"

"No."

"You really think they'll do something, with cops still walking around the lot?" Jon said, craning his neck to see if there was any evidence as to whether or not the shooting victim had lived. There was crime scene tape, and a couple of guys in addition to the cops who looked like they'd walked out of a Home Depot commercial. Sealing the hole in the building, probably.

"Just as much as I think they'd use a crowd to pick one of us off onstage," Steve said. "Police are like crossing guards to them, Jon."

Neal said, "If they knew your stash was here, why haven't they done something about it before now? You ever think of that?"

Steve shook his head. "I'm thinkin' they managed to get a bead on us earlier and follow us out here. Then someone jumped the gun and took a shot at who they thought was Jon. Now, though, now it's a setup." He looked at Aug. "Anything goes bad, or you see more cops, hang it up and get these guys out of here. You know where the second set of stuff is. Get these guys out of this, Aug."

Aug didn't answer.

"You've been kind of hoping for a setup, though," Jon said. "Haven't you?"

Steve got out of the car and walked away, that easily, without saying another word, and Aug cursed under his breath.

"Death wish," Neal said, and there was a tension in his voice that was never there when he said anything in front of Steve.

"Yeah," Aug said. "But not his own."

"I'm not as sure as you are," Jon said softly, watching Steve walk away.

* * *

Steve shrugged his shoulders as he walked across the lot, trying to loosen himself up in case he had to go for his gun, and he was instantly sorry he'd done it. A twinge of pain laced across his back, the muscles tired of the way he'd been holding himself to avoid aggravating his ribs. There was no movement from the building as he walked toward it, no one on the roof, no one in or around the cop cars. The Home Depot guys were still messing with plastic sheeting around the corner of the building that had been hit. As he approached the door, which was open, one of them glanced at him, met his gaze. He nodded at him, received a nod in return. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck was standing straight up by the time he reached the door and gestured at the security guard standing just inside it.

"Bank's closed, sir," the security guard said.

"Not when there's a huge hole in it," Steve said. "I talked to the manager earlier, and he let me know I'd be able to remove my belongings. Do I have to go through this entire argument again?" He raised his voice, and the security guard narrowed his eyes at him.

"Sir..."

"Where's the manager?"

"In the back, with a couple of cops," the guard said, still looking at Steve like he couldn't believe his eyes. "Someone was killed in the earlier accident. You knew about it, I assume, if you were here earlier."

_Jon's gonna love that_, Steve thought. _He's not getting it from me, that's for sure._ "Yeah. I got something that's gotta come out of there, today. Can I get in there?"

"Aren't you Steve Perry?"

_Oh, Christ. Please God, not a fan, not now._ "You know, I get that a lot. But no, can't say I've even met the guy." Which was partially true, the way he looked at it. He glanced over his shoulder, back toward the Home Depot twins. They were nowhere to be seen.

"Well," the guard said, "let me check with the manager. Then we can open the vault, get your things."

The guy left the doorway and headed toward the back, and Steve took one step inside to keep his back from being exposed to the entire neighborhood. He couldn't see the car from there, and didn't like it.

"Name?"

Steve startled. He hadn't heard the guy come back. Christ, what the hell was wrong with him? "Anderson. Steve Anderson."

The guard nodded and started to walk away toward the back again. His expression said _yeah, right_.

There was a long couple of minutes during which Steve began imagining every kind of scenario, from a frontal assault to a goddamn bomb in the building.

Well, almost every scenario.

The guard returned with the bank manager, who showed instant recognition on his face. Behind them were two uniformed cops, hands on their guns, faces set and determined.

Steve nearly went out the door, realized a foot race was not the way to go, in his case. It wasn't the presence of the cops, it was the look in their eyes. Then they were nearly crowding him.

"Steve Anderson," the taller of the two cops said. It was a statement.

"Yes."

"Let's see some ID."

Steve was reaching for his back pocket and his wallet, still thinking there was a chance to talk his way out of this one, that they were just jumpy because of the shooting. As he made the motion, the taller, heavier cop reached a hand forward and planted it on his chest, shoving him hard into the facing foyer wall. Off balance, Steve stumbled back in surprise and ended up slamming into the wall, trying to roll away on it as he did it. Too slow; the cop was on him by then, helping him roll away by spinning him in the same direction and slamming him face first against someone's idea of decorative paneling. Steve felt what had to be the barrel of a standard issue firearm press against the side of his throat; it felt like his goddamn chest had caved in from being slammed against the wall.

"Steve," the cop said against his ear, "you're a person of interest now, if you know what I mean."

The second cop patted Steve down and came up with his 9 mm, checking the magazine. "This looks like something we'll have to investigate further," he said. "As a matter of fact, I say this is the weapon that shot our poor, unfortunate civilian earlier. But I'll need to do a ballistics test, first."

He turned and shot the bank manager twice, the reports hideously loud in the confines of the foyer. Steve startled and yelped, and the guard shouted in surprise, reaching for his own weapon as the manager ended up facedown on the tile floor. The second cop, still holding Steve's gun, brought the weapon up and centered on the guard, and Steve let himself drop to his knees as dead weight, looping his arms around the backs of the cops' knees even as the other man tried to stumble away, putting himself into the second cops' line of fire. Using the cops' legs as leverage, Steve levered his own feet under him and shoved backward from the wall violently, sending him and the cop to the floor in a tangle.

"_Run!_ " Steve screamed at the guard. "_Goddamnit just run!_"

The guard hesitated long enough to give the second cop a chance to fire on him, sending parts of the doorway shattering out into the parking lot after him when the shot went wild.

* * *

The first two shots were just audible to the men in the car two parking lots away, and Aug rolled his window down. "Shit," he said. "God. Come on, Steve."

Jon moved as if to get out of the car, and Aug said, "No, no way. You stay in here, and stay down."

"But--"

"I can't leave you guys here, and you sure as hell can't come anywhere near the place with me. He knows what the fuck he's doing!"

But he had his head lowered and both hands on the steering wheel in a convulsive grip when he said it.

* * *

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