Chapter XLI - A Matter of Time
Daniel looked on in surprise as Parker crumpled at his feet. Bemused, he glanced at his own gun - bent to check for a pulse. Parker still lived. Daniel had a higher priority right now. He hurried on towards the rear of the house. It was pitch black. The building cast a deep shadow across the back lawn. Moonlight silvered its furthest reaches and the bordering trees.
He intended to enter by the back door under cover of the darkness. At the corner, something stopped him. A normally dormant sixth sense? It occurred to him that the S.W.A.T. team must be aware of that exit too - would be hiding in the bushes... He scanned the shrubbery - saw slight movements. What to do next?
Inside, another shock grenade went off. The back door burst open - sounds of coughing - movement. Searchlights suddenly bathed the rear wall, pinning two men to the wall in their glare. A third man came out, and a fourth.
Large hands dragged Daniel further into the bushes - pushed him to the ground. A distant voice called out.
"Stay where you are! Surrender your weapons!"
The first two men, recovering - tried to run for it - did the dance of death in a volley of automatic fire The other two, still dazed, dropped their guns. Daniel struggled against his attacker - found it was Teal'c. Half a dozen men broke cover - zigzagged across the grass. Shots came from an upper window. One man went down. The other five went inside, firing as they went.
Teal'c gave it a minute to make sure the coast was clear before releasing Daniel. With no further movement outside the house, the two glided like shadows to the open door and slipped inside. As Daniel suspected, they were in a kitchen with quarry-tiled floor. Searchlights shone through the door and windows.
Opposite the external door was another open door. A flashlight beam lanced through the darkness beyond. Presumably a third door - closed - led down to the basement. Daniel was pretty sure Serena wouldn't there. Further inside and from overhead came sounds of scuffles and sporadic gunfire. Daniel's heart lodged in his throat every time he heard shots.
M-9s raised, the pair flanked the open door - peered through, nodded and moved into an open area. A hallway? And stairs. A dark figure with a flashlight mounted on an MP5 was going up them. No moonlight here. Must be back stairs then. In the other direction, a faint grey light shone on the floor. Moonlight from a main hall at the front? Sounded like captives were being rounded up there.
Daniel signalled to Teal'c then set off up the back stairs. It was an old house. He kept close to the wall to minimize creaks. Not enough. As he reached the top, a flashlight shone in his eyes blinding him.
"Put the gun down! Now!"
Daniel did. He knew that tone of voice.
"You don't understand," Daniel protested, dropping on one knee to show some sort of willing. "I'm Dr. Daniel Jackson. I'm with the U.S.A.F. "
"Oh yeah? And I'm the king of Siam. Now shut up and lie face down."
"Look, I have to find my daughter!" Daniel persisted. "She was kidnapped. She's probably being held here."
"Just shut the fuck up and do as you're told or I'll shoot you for resisting arrest."
"That would be most unwise," came a deep and welcome voice.
As the guy took his eyes off his suspect, Daniel launched himself bodily at him - took him amidships, deflecting his aim as he went. The gun flew from his hand as he hit the floor. Together, he and Teal'c subdued him.
"What Doctor Jackson told you is correct. We are indeed with the U.S.A.F. along with our commanding officer, Colonel Jack O'Neill who is presently with your co-ordinating officer, Robert Skilbeck."
"Oh. Why didn't you say?"
"I was trying to! You wouldn't listen."
"Sorry. No one told me the Air Force was involved."
"Well now you know," Daniel snapped. "Help me find my daughter."
"Your daughter? I thought she was Italian."
"Her mother is Wait, you know about her? Have you found her?"
"Don't know. We weren't looking for the girl - just told there was an important meeting here tonight - several big names from the Vegas and Chicago mobs. Our orders are to detain them using lethal force if necessary."
Daniel went cold.
"We have to find her," he said vehemently. "She's an innocent in all this - a victim."
"Okay, come with me. Stay behind and stay close."
Thus began the search. Their guide, Officer Penderell, had a map of the layout of the building committed to memory. His partner had been gunned down outside so he welcomed the back-up. He led them quickly and effectively from room to room on the second floor.
They found a lurker in a bathroom. He tried to talk his way out, but capitulated when he realized he was outnumbered. They took him on to the landing where Teal'c 'cuffed him to the newel post. Small arms fire came from another room. Someone returned fire and it stopped. Daniel immediately headed in that direction, the other two close behind.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" he yelled as he reached the doorway.
"'S okay, he's with me!" Penderell shouted.
Two officers were already inside. As Daniel stepped over the body in the doorway, the lights came back on. There was no one else in the room. With that floor secured, it seemed the fighting was more or less over.
Daniel, Teal'c and Penderell headed for the attics on the third floor. Daniel's heart was in his mouth. If Serena were here, maybe her captor would try to use her as a shield... Or - or kill her to stop her talking... No, she wouldn't know enough to make than necessary. Would she? He took the stairs two at a time.
The third room they tried showed signs of habitation. It contained a rumpled camp bed, a ricketty table and a wooden carver chair with only one arm, but not much else. There was a carafe of water and a glass on the table along with a used plate and fork. The window was barred... This had to be the place surely, but There was no sign of Serena.
He turned to leave. Something cracked underfoot. He looked down and saw the pair to the apple-blossom hair clip that Jack and Teal'c had found the night she was kidnapped. He picked up the pieces. Apple-blossom. Hope. At least he knew she'd been here. So where was she now? Maybe, she'd been released already - was downstairs in the main hall...
"What now, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked.
He too had seen and recognized the clip.
"Guess we go downstairs and see if she's been held by Officer Penderell's friends."
"Right, but I'll go first this time," Penderell said. "Let me do the talking."
But Daniel was already ahead of him again.
"Is he always like this?" he asked Teal'c.
"He is known for rushing in where fools fear to tread, yes."
When Teal'c and Penderell reached the main hall, Daniel was already on the wrong end of an MP5 and pissy as hell.
"...Not until I find my daughter!"
"She isn't here. You are, and you're under arrest."
"What for? Illegal parking?!"
"It's okay, sir. He's U.S.A.F.," Penderell put in.
"Sez me," came a voice from behind him.
"Jack! Would you get this big ape off me."
Penderell smothered a snigger as Skilbeck also appeared and confirmed Daniel's identity.
The downside was that Serena really wasn't there. Neither was Don Angelini's cousin, Tony "the Eel" Carducci, who owned the property.
Chapter XLII - Nemesis
In the main hall, lit by a large crystal chandelier, the S.W.A.T. teams were marshalling their prisoners and tending the wounded. Daniel sat at the bottom of the main staircase, arms wrapped round himself, head bowed. O'Neill regarded him with concern. Daniel was just one step away from that place he'd spent so long in after Charlie died. He fell back on the tried and trusted.
"So what do we have, and what do we need?" he asked briskly.
"We have nothing," Daniel said in a hollow voice.
"We need information," Teal'c stated.
"Good. Where would we get that?"
Daniel's head shot up and he looked at Jack. The sparkling light from the chandelier rekindled the life in his eyes.
"At home!" he cried, leaping to his feet. "Maybe they - he - whoever - will leave another message there. And I was wrong. We do have something."
He opened his hand to reveal the broken pieces of hairclip.
"We have hope."
Jack's heart sank. If anything, a hopeful Daniel was more depressing than one who had all but given up hope. It was too fragile a state. Given Daniel's track record with family, he dreaded the outcome and what another loss would do to him - didn't want him to visit that dark barren place...
He and Teal'c followed him as he picked his way across the main hall and out through the shattered front door.
Jack began to think that his civilian was getting way too fit as he struggled to keep up Daniel's pace back to the car. He didn't feel too happy about letting him drive back. He'd heard all about 'Daniel in a hurry' when he was driving across the dunes from Carter and Doc. Fraiser. As Daniel slowed to operate the remote locking, Jack grabbed the keys.
"You drove here," he said with spurious affability. "I'll drive back."
"No that's okay, Jack. I'll drive," Daniel replied, scrabbling the keys back and dropping them.
Jack nipped into the driver's seat as he picked them up. Teal'c, catching on quickly, slid into the front passenger seat, leaving Daniel with no option but the back seat. He spent most of the journey home leaning forward between his companions, alternately grumbling and urging greater speed.
Finally, Jack said, "Daniel. Do not. Distract. The driver. And Teal'c, if he dares to ask if we're nearly there yet, I hereby authorize you to shoot him."
"Ah! Not another word or you will be walking the rest of the way!"
Daniel flung himself backwards, right where Jack could see the face-like-thunder through the rear-view mirror by the lights of on-coming cars.
It was getting on for midnight by the time Jack pulled in to the parking lot at the back of Mainland Street. As Daniel left the car he looked up, then grabbed Teal'c's arm and pointed. There was a light on in his apartment.
"Come on, hurry! If he's still there, maybe we can catch him," he said and raced off to the rear door.
Inside the three gathered by the elevator.
"Jack, why don't you take the front elevator, and Teal'c the emergency stairs. We might cut off his escape."
"Just one flaw there, Daniel. We don't know who we're looking for."
"No, but if we meet someone waiting on the eighth floor..."
"Okay. See you up there."
Daniel was the last to arrive outside his apartment. The door was locked. Jack and Teal'c slipped the safety catches off their sidearms and waited either side of the door as Daniel unlocked it and threw it wide open. The three burst in as a figure came out of the kitchen.
"Papa!" came a delighted squeal, then she ran towards him.
Serena paused for a moment, taking in all the black attire and the pistols, then flung herself at a stunned Daniel and hugged him.
"I was beginning to worry about you," she said.
"You worry...?! Serena. Sweetheart. What? How...?" Daniel stammered.
He pulled back to look at her - gently brushed the fading bruise on her cheek with one finger.
"And what have they been doing to you?" he asked tersely.
"Oh, I am fine, Papa," she smiled, then frowned. "But you don't look so good."
"Ah, tell you what," Jack interrupted, "why don't you make us some coffee and find a few cookies, Daniel, while I ring Sam and Hammond and pass on the good news? Then Serena can tell us all about it."
A little while later, when they were all comfortably settled, Serena told her tale. After describing her experiences of the first few days of her captivity, she focussed on her escape. The only time her door was unlocked was when she needed to visit the bathroom next door, but there was an armed guard outside so she couldn't just make a run for it. No, he hadn't tried to take advantage of her. Daniel breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yesterday, the housekeeper who brought my food, told the guard that some important people were coming for a banquet today, with an important meeting afterwards. I thought, if they were busy, no one would notice if I slipped away."
"From a locked room with a guard outside?" Daniel exclaimed.
"Maybe she can pick locks like MajorCarter," Teal'c suggested.
Serena looked puzzled for a moment, then went on.
"I needed to get rid of the guard. The chair was too heavy to hit him over the head with, but one of the arms was loose. I worked at it until it came free. Then I screamed and screamed until the guard came in. I pointed under the bed and said that a bi-ig spider had run underneath and would he get it out for me please."
"You're not actually afraid of spiders, are you?" Jack surmised.
"Oh no, I have brothers... At home, I have a pet tarantula - a Mexican Red Knee called Juanita. Anyway, he looked at me with scorn for being so scared, but in case I ran away, he locked the door. He got down on his knees to look under the bed where I was pointing, then I hit him on the head very hard. I think I only stunned him though."
"How very resourceful," Jack remarked approvingly. "Your daughter does you proud, Daniel."
Serena beamed. Daniel looked more worried than proud, however.
"I took the keys out of his pocket and thought about taking his gun too, but I have never used one"
"What never?" Jack grinned. "Well, you do surprise me!"
"I do not think Stefano would have trusted me with one," she said with an impish smile. "Anyway, I thought I might be in more danger with a gun than without in that case."
"Jack, would you stop interrupting and let her get on with it," Daniel said irascibly.
Jack put on his injured innocent 'who me?' look, but said no more.
"Well, then I locked the guard in the room and went carefully down the stairs. When I reached the landing, I heard people crossing the hall below, so I went into the nearest room to hide. But there was a man there beside the... il armadio per abiti."
"Clothes closet," Daniel put in.
"Now who's interrupting?"
"Translating, Jack. I was translating."
"He was changing his clothes for the banquet I suppose" Serena continued smoothly. "He was very surprised to see me! There was a pistol on his nightstand. I saw him look towards it, so I had to stop him. As he moved towards it, I swung the chair arm as hard as I could. I was standing to the side of him so it hit him straight across the face."
All three men winced.
"Ooh that gotta hurt!"
"The door of the - clothes closet was open, so I borrowed a hat and put my hair up, so that I would not look so much like a girl. I thought it might be cold outside, so I took a jacket too. It was too big but okay. Then I looked out of the window. It was nearly dark but I could see that the room was above the front door. I got out on to the roof of the porch then climbed down some sort of ivy."
Daniel looked slightly horrified.
"It was all right, Papa. I've done that before - I have brothers... No one had raised the alarm yet, so I ran away as quickly as I could. I walked for a long time until I reached the highway. After a while, a truck driver stopped and offered me a lift. He was going to Colorado Springs so he brought me almost all the way home. But you were not here, Papa."
She looked sad. Daniel felt, quite absurdly, that he'd let her down and so failed to add a warning about accepting lifts from strangers.
"Fortunately, I put the spare key you gave me in my pocket, not my purse, so I still had it with me, and I let myself in."
"You know, Daniel," Jack smiled, "When Serena graduates, I think I know where she could find a job to suit her capabilities..."
Daniel smiled weakly.
"I'm not sure I want her making a habit of that. She might have killed that guy"
He looked at Jack as the penny dropped. Together, they said:
Jack grabbed the 'phone and rang the authorities. It took a while, but finally he got on to Skilbeck.
"That Tony Carducci you'd lost sight of - we think we know where you might find him. Try the hospitals. ... ... ... Serena? Oh, she's fine, thanks. Just fine!
The following Saturday, everyone gathered at Janet's house for a 'Coming Home' party, hosted by her and Cassie, to celebrate Serena's safe return and officially taking up residence with her father.
During the intervening week, Serena had called her mother who was a little better, the more so for hearing that her daughter was happily settled. Daniel offered her a safe home if Stefano attempted to take out Serena's defection on her, but Rosa was reluctant to leave her sons.
Niccolo Peruzzi was now out of danger and had been interviewed by the police. Tony 'the Eel' Carducci was also likely to survive. He had narrowly escaped death at his captive's hands, and when he'd recovered, he was not going to slither out of a long jail sentence. The futures of Crocetti and Chavez were less certain.
So far as Serena and S.G.-1 were concerned, this was all in the past now, and it was time to look to the future.