Chapter XVI - Point of View
"I'm coming straight over," Jack said when he heard the brief outline of the evening's activity.
"You don't have to," Daniel replied, but grateful for the offer nevertheless.
"Oh, I think I do. If somebody wants Serena, they ain't gonna stop there. You know that. Besides, it's easier to talk face to face than over the 'phone."
"O.K. and thanks, Jack."
Twenty minutes later, Colonel O'Neill arrived toting an overnight bag and sleeping bag.
"Guess your spare room's occupied," he grinned. "No signs of any unwanted company outside, by the way."
"Thanks, Jack. We're really grateful. Uh, Serena's asleep, by the way. She was tired and a little shocked, I think."
"So, Danny, got any plans?"
"No, not really. It's funny, faced with an imminent attack from a goa'uld with an army of Jaffa, I'd know what to do. Kind of. A couple of thugs attacking my daughter, and I'm completely at sea."
"A bit too close to home, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"You seemed to have managed O.K. so far," Jack observed. "I don't see any signs of injury."
"Not on us, no," Daniel grinned. "I imagine they were expecting an elderly professor"
"And instead they got a lean, mean, fighting machine, huh?" Jack grinned back.
Daniel laughed, shaking his head.
"Not really. It wasn't more than a scuffle, and I - er - I didn't exactly play by the rules."
"Good. We'll have to sign you up for black ops."
"I don't think so, Jack."
"Well, perhaps not. The way you went for poor Crocetti this afternoon showed a certain - shall we say - lack of control. Not that I wasn't impressed by your technique, by the way," O'Neill smiled reminiscently.
"Er, thank you - I think?" Daniel replied. "Actually, maybe it's Serena you ought to sign up. She took out two of them."
"A chip off the old block then?"
"Less of the old, please," Daniel said in mock-complaint. "At least I haven't got any grey hairs yet..."
"Yeah well, you don't have to work with you!"
Daniel acknowledged a hit, then his expression changed to one of concern.
"I'm worried, Jack, really worried."
"Yeah, I can tell. Care to join a few dots for me?"
Daniel recounted Serena's history and her reasons for fleeing Italy. The ill-treatment had already been touched on, but not the intended marriage.
"Resourceful girl," O'Neill commented on hearing about the engagement ring, "but then, I'd expect no less from anyone with your genes - I presume the test came back positive?"
After a quick nod, Daniel moved on to the most recent events, and his own threat assessment.
"So, how do you see it, Jack?" he asked when he came to the end.
"Hm. I go along with what you've said. It sounds like an ad hoc attempt, put together on the spur of the moment - no particular plan and obviously not a lot of information-gathering. You've filled in some of the blanks for them. They know you're no pushover now, so they'll either be back with more men, or ones that can handle someone like you. 'Course, they don't know about me, and there's also Sam and - er - Murray."
"Thanks, Jack, but you can't ride shotgun for us every minute of the day - and for how long?"
"Jeez, you really are completely at sea, aren't you."
"Well, they're going to try again sometime..."
"Sure, but now they're going to have to start from scratch, back to the drawing board - make A Plan. Which will take a little while. So we go after them."
"What? But how?"
"Well, that Camaro should be easy enough to track down for starters."
"Don't you think Niccolo will be playing least in sight right now?" Daniel asked sceptically.
"Shouldn't think so. In the first place, he doesn't know that you connected him with that car - absent-minded professor and all that - and even if he suspects that you did, he probably thinks you couldn't identify anything that isn't pre-Columbian anyway. Secondly, a guy who doesn't want to be noticed doesn't drive a car like that. Thirdly, he probably won't expect anyone to come looking for him and finally, from what you say, he doesn't sound like the sharpest knife in the block."
Daniel gave a dry chuckle. He liked Jack's way of summing things up.
"Colorado Springs is still quite a big haystack to search, though," he demurred, "plus you don't know what he looks like."
"That's O.K. Carter can probably track down a picture. It's not a common name and I don't suppose he's managed to steer clear of the law from what you've seen of him. Where'd you say he lives?"
"Atlantic City, New Jersey."
"Huh, figures. Meantime, I'll get Carter to fix you both up with G.P.S. bugs, so if the worst comes to the worst, we'll know where to come and pick you up."
Jack smiled, feeling pretty pleased with himself, but Daniel was looking far from happy.
"What's up, Doc?" O'Neill asked, tipping his head to one side.
"I'm scared, Jack scared that next time, they'll have guns. I know they won't want to... to damage the 'merchandise', but there's always the chance of an accident."
"Good point," Jack agreed. "First thing tomorrow I'll requisition a couple of kevlar vests. And now I suggest you get some sleep. They're not gonna try anything more tonight."
Chapter XVII - Fail Safe
Jack was awake first on Tuesday morning. His routine rarely varied when he was at home, and he had it down to a fine art - 0600 hours, wake, shower, shave, dress, breakfast and ready for action by 0630 hours. Even off-world, about the only variable was the shower, as in absence thereof.
This morning, his first action on waking was to check the perimeter, i.e. look out of the window and through the fish-eye lens in the door. All clear. Then came the rest of it. He knew his way around Daniel's kitchen fairly well by now, and set about the most important aspect of breakfast - brew the coffee. He might not get it quite as Daniel liked it, but it wasn't far off. Next he raided Daniel's 'fridge, which was rather better stocked than usual, and set about cooking breakfast.
The smell of frying bacon drifted through the apartment, luring a sleepy Serena from her room. She was still wearing the clothes she'd had on yesterday. The stylish Italian gear was creased now and her long dark hair had that pulled-through-a-hedge-backwards look. She wandered towards the kitchen in her stockinged feet but halted sharply on the threshold and gasped. The man at the hob with his back to her wasn't Papa.
The momentary half-asleep panic subsided as she realized that a would-be kidnapper wouldn't be cooking breakfast. The man turned his head and gave her a bright smile. Ah. She remembered him from the party - one of her father's friends...
"Ma guarda, Jack! Ha un buon odore - um - that smells good."
"Morning, Serena. Nice timing. Could you watch this for me while I go drag your Papa out of bed?"
But Daniel was already up, if not exactly alert, and shucking himself into sweat pants and shirt. O'Neill was pleased to see the P7 to hand on the night-stand.
"Gonna have to buy myself some pyjamas," Daniel grunted. "I'll be through in a minute."
As they sat down to breakfast, Jack looked at the dishevelled pair.
"Well, I can see the family resemblance," he grinned.
Father and daughter exchanged glances then turned identical baleful looks at him.
"Whoa! Remind me never to pi um, annoy the Dangerous Duo!" Jack laughed. "I suggest you two stay in town today, by the way - do that shopping. Our friends won't want to try anything too public."
"Oh, that reminds me," Daniel said. "Luisa Dillamore and the girls are calling round before they leave."
"Good. Better put her in the picture. I don't suppose the gang will have any interest in her now Serena's with you, but she should be aware. I tell Hammond what's going on and meet you for lunch - 'Steak & Bake' in the Mall okay?"
"Perhaps I should go home..." Serena said in a small voice. "Sweetheart, you are home," Daniel said in concern.
"They know where I am, and they will not give up, so I might as well g"
"You can't go back to Stefano now. Besides, I won't let you. Papa forbids!" he added, softening the stern parental tones with a fond smile.
"But I am afraid I might get you hurt or..."
Jack and Daniel exchanged glances.
"Oh, I think your family might have a surprise coming," Jack said with a reassuring smile. "Your Papa has a lot of very good friends, powerful friends."
"Really?" she asked, brightening a little.
"Really. Now I suggest you two go get changed and tidied up. I'll check around outside then go see Hammond."
Mrs. Dillamore, Emilia and Bonnie arrived shortly after nine o'clock. Daniel left the girls giggling together while he explained to a shocked Luisa what had happened. Much as he would have liked to make a dent in Stefano's business enterprise with the bad propaganda his treatment of Serena might cause, Daniel solicited Luisa's silence.
Stefano would certainly deny any involvement in the abduction attempt, and publicity that Serena was not Stefano's daughter might adversely affect Rosa. Furthermore, she and her other children would likely suffer if his business was boycotted. Reluctantly, Luisa agreed, privately approving of the Doctor's generosity of spirit.
The visitors then went on their way amid much Latin emotion, promises to write regularly and an invitation to Emilia to come and stay with Serena next time she was in the U.S. Father and daughter left the apartment along with their visitors - safety in numbers.
The first port of call was the Air Academy National Bank in E. Platte Avenue.
"I want to set up a bank account for you," Daniel explained. "I'm not happy about you carrying so much money around on you, and I need to make you an allowance."
"Oh, Papa, I do not want to be a... a burden on you."
"Serena, for the past seventeen years, you haven't cost me a single cent. That is something which I really regret."
Not that I had any spare money for quite a lot of that time, he thought.
"The government pays me plenty and I haven't had much to spend it on. Now I do," Daniel said with a happy smile, "so I don't want to hear any more about it."
There was something else he needed to do. With his inconvenient habit of dying, he would have to change his will as soon as possible, before - Heaven forfend - that state should become permanent. Serena would need funding to go through university. He would go see Martin Best again the next time he was in the Mountain.
And there were other things to consider. His reports and research were the property of the S.G.C., but his journals were his own. He wanted to leave them to her. She would need top level security clearance in order to read them, but sooner or later, the Stargate Project would become public knowledge, he was sure. When that happened, they might be worth something, if not to her then maybe to her children. Grandpa Jackson's Journals. It had a nice ring to it - a sense of perpetuity.
Their next stop was the Citadel Mall where Serena, in teenage heaven, promptly forgot all about being a burden in the delight of swapping Italian chic for American cool, beginning with the blue jeans she'd always craved. It forcibly reminded Daniel of a shark feeding frenzy. He wondered if he should up her allowance already as he forked out for an expensive leather jacket.
By the time Daniel managed to drag Serena away from her clothes buying, Jack was waiting impatiently in the 'Steak & Bake'. Sam had come with him. She hardly recognized Serena with her New Look and happily admired all her purchases as they were pulled out of their carrier bags.
"Hammond's suspended all S.G.-1's missions for a couple of days, so we can nail this," Jack said, producing two bulky packages from under the table. "Officially it's downtime."
"Not exactly the height of fashion," Jack continued, "but hopefully it won't be for long."
Serena was surprised and a little concerned about the idea of a bullet-proof vest.
"They would not use guns. Surely?"
"Yeah, well in the glorious U.S. of A., 'Land of the Free', every man has the right to carry a gun," Daniel said with distaste.
"But you do not carry a gun, Papa?"
When Daniel didn't answer, her eyes grew large as she suddenly realized that this could be a whole lot more serious than she had ever considered when she and her mother had planned her escape.
"It probably won't come to that," Daniel reassured her, making a tolerably accurate assessment of what she was thinking. "I just don't want to take any chances, that's all."
Sam reached into her pockets then and fished out a couple of small pieces of equipment.
"Just fasten these to your inner clothing," she smiled, "and then, if you go missing, we'll be able to track you."
Serena looked marginally less worried. Between courses, Daniel excused himself, leaving Serena with his friends, and went in search of a public 'phone. There was a quick call he wanted to make.
"Pronto. Chi parla?" came a now familiar male voice on the other end of the line.
"Sono Daniel Jackson. You probably already know by now that your brother Niccolo failed in his attempt to kidnap my daughter. - No, don't interrupt! - Do not, I repeat, do not try that again, because if any harm comes to Serena, I will personally come over there and I will kill you myself. Capisci?!"
Chapter XVIII - Smoke and Mirrors
When Daniel returned to the 'Steak & Bake', Serena and Sam had gone to the bathroom.
"Everything okay?" Jack asked.
"It'll be fine," Daniel replied tight-lipped, his expression uncompromising.
"Or I'll keep my promise."
"Promise? As in T-H-R-E-A-T?"
Daniel's face remained inscrutable and O'Neill decided to let it ride as Serena and Sam returned.
"Oh, we tracked down Uncle Niccolo," he said, changing the subject. "Murray and I are going to pay him a little visit later on. Would you believe he's putting up at the Ramada in North Murray Boulevard?"
"Are you going to... um - 'ride him outta town'?" Serena asked with interest.
"Something like that, yes," Jack grinned.
"No, young lady, you are keeping well out of it," Daniel said with finality. "We'll leave it to Jack and Murray."
"Murray? I don't think I know him, do I?" Serena asked, wrinkling her nose in the search for a connection in much the same way as her father.
"Yes, you do," Daniel responded, "you met him at the party. Ah, perhaps he was introduced as Teal'c It's, um, a nickname."
"Oh!" Serena breathed, "he is very big! Nio Niccolo will be ve-ry afraid."
Her eyes lit up with an unholy glee. It kind of reminded O'Neill of the look in Daniel's eyes when taking on a goa'uld...
The afternoon passed uneventfully. Daniel and Serena saw nothing to alarm, and there were no unscheduled events at Cheyenne Mountain. As there was nothing else pressing, Hammond was happy for the rest of S.G.-1 to leave betimes.
After changing, they left the S.G.C., Teal'c going with O'Neill in his truck. Judging by his choice of head gear, he'd been watching 'The Blues Brothers' again. They drove to the Ramada, spotted the hugger orange Camaro in the parking lot and parked close to it. So - Niccolo was 'at home' then. Good. O'Neill wasn't keen on hanging around doing nothing.
He took out the photo Sam had printed off, and refreshed his memory of the weasel-faced guy. Serena had said earlier that it was good photo for identification - fairly recent. She'd wondered how Sam had got it, and so quickly. Sam had brushed it off as 'the miracles of modern technology', and Serena hadn't pursued the subject.
In the event, they didn't really need the photo. As O'Neill and Teal'c stepped down from the F250, the man himself came out of the building and headed for the Camaro. Executing a neat pincer movement, they sandwiched Niccolo beside his car before he had a chance to open the door.
"Where' ya goin', Peruzzi?" O'Neill asked with a wolfish smile.
Niccolo jumped and his eyes widened. His jaw moved up and down but no sound came out.
"N-n-nowhere," he stammered eventually.
"Oh yes you are," O'Neill sing-songed back at him. "I believe NiccoloPeruzzi is going to Atlantic City," 'Murray' growled.
"Nice," O'Neill approved, "let's go help him pack."
He removed the car keys from Niccolo's slack fingers.
"Oh, and don't try anything foolish," he warned with a feral smile, shifting his leather jacket slightly to show his Glock 36, the .45 automatic, lurking there.
"Y-you wouldn't... You'd never get away with it," Niccolo said, attempting to bluster and failing.
"Oh, I think I would," O'Neill said, still smiling, eyes glittering. "In fact I know I would. Of course, if you're not absolutely satisfied with my assessment, we could always put it to the test..."
"NO! N-no, I'll I'll take your word - really."
His shoulders sagged and he made no resistance as O'Neill and Teal'c escorted him back into the building.
"Mr. Peruzzi's bill, too, please," O'Neill said to the clerk as Niccolo collected his room key. "Mr. Peruzzi will be leaving very shortly.
Once Niccolo's baggage had been stowed, O'Neill held up the car keys just out of reach.
"Right, this is how it's gonna go down. You're gonna get on Highway 24 and go on up to Limon where it joins the I-70, then keep on driving the Interstate until you get to Baltimore. How you get to Atlantic City from there is your own choice. I'll be following you part of the way. Now, I know your Camaro can outrun my truck, so I'd just like you to know that we're not alone. You deviate from the prescribed route by more than ten yards, then I can guarantee you a welcoming committee you are not gonna like. Oh, yeah, and Murray here's always had a fancy to ride in a Camaro, so he'll be going with you part of way."
'Murray' smiled. It gave Niccolo a very bad feeling. He slid into the driving seat alongside his unwelcome passenger and turned the ignition.
About fifty miles out of the Springs, between Simla and Limon, Niccolo told his taciturn companion that he'd have to pull in at the next filling station because he needed to take a leak - if it was all right with him? 'Murray' generously inclined his head.
While he was visiting the little boy's room, Teal'c remained in the car. O'Neill pulled up behind and got out.
"Any trouble?" he asked. "Everything is fine, O'Neill, though I grow a little weary of NiccoloPeruzzi's attempts to make conversation."
"Talkative, is he?"
He say anything about Serena? Or Daniel?"
"Nothing at all, O'Neill. I am, however, fully conversant with the state of his intestinal tract and urino-genital system, and the history of their treatment."
"That bad, huh?"
"Indeed. I suspect we may be making frequent bathroom stops."
"Yeah, right. See if you can get anything out of him about the family. O.K., here he comes."
Niccolo called for another comfort stop about an hour later. 'Murray' was not happy. He'd gleaned precious little information on the Peruzzi family. In fact, a polite inquiry about the family had caused Niccolo to clam up for several miles. This had come as blessed relief.
Then Niccolo had switched to the subject of his other favourite hobby, orchid cultivation. By the time they reached the next filling station, somewhere between Arriba and Flagler, Teal'c had heard enough of cymbidiums, odontoglossums and dendrobiums to last a lifetime.
"On the subject of orchids," he informed O'Neill acidly, "NiccoloPeruzzi could drill for America!"
"Um, that's bore Ah, yeah, O.K. big guy," O'Neill responded, observing a slightly manic glint in Teal'c's eye. "I guess we're far enough out to let him go on his own. Sam can keep tabs on him from her Harley if he does decide to shoot off."
"You have my profound thanks, O'Neill."
When Niccolo emerged, both men loomed over him.
"We're gonna trust you on your own from now on," a stony-faced O'Neill informed him. "We'll still be behind you and like I said, we're not alone, so stay in sight, O.K.?"
Niccolo nodded nervously. As O'Neill and Teal'c reached the truck, the Camaro burned rubber and left the station in a flurry of dust and exhaust fumes.
O'Neill swore roundly and reached for his cell phone.
"He's doing a runner, heading your way. He may just have had enough of our company," O'Neill went on, ignoring a snort from Teal'c. "Watch him. If he shows any signs of coming back, take him out, any way you have to, but don't kill him."
He and Teal'c climbed into the truck and set off after the Camaro's tail-lights which were rapidly fading into the darkness of the early evening.
Sam, a couple of mile ahead of the little convoy she was shadowing, slowed down and waited for the Camaro to come into the sight of her wing mirror. It was easy to spot even in the dark by the speed at which the lights were approaching. She waited till it had passed then tailed it a few hundred yards behind. Niccolo stopped again at Bethune, so Sam pulled in a little further up road and gave O'Neill a progress report.
The Camaro shot past at speed, taking her by surprise, but she managed to catch up. Near Kanorado, just over the state line in Kansas, it pulled in yet again. This time the driver filled up with gas too. When he went to pay, Sam decided to refuel as well, giving O'Neill a further update as she waited to pay.
As she returned to the Harley after paying, a man came from the direction of the bathroom. At first she thought it was Niccolo. From a distance he looked very similar, but it wasn't him.
"Oh shit!" Sam breathed as he eased himself into the Camaro and drove off.
Chapter XIX - Between Two Fires
"Damn! He must have changed cars at Bethune," O'Neill said when Sam called back. "I shoulda confiscated his cell phone. Leave it, Carter. Head back to town. I'll meet you at Daniel's."
Jack cut the connection and called Daniel. No reply. He remembered Daniel and Serena discussing a visit to the Peak's Pike Centre to see a show given by some touring theater company. Which meant he'd have his cell phone switched off. And what was the betting he'd have left his pager at home? Did the guy have no sense of self preservation?!
No, it wasn't fair to blame Daniel for being incommunicado. He was certainly very protective of Serena even if he was somewhat - make that very - careless of his own safety. But of course Daniel knew that Jack was taking care of things - that Niccolo was out of the picture. It was Jack who'd screwed up and Jack who'd blame himself till kingdom come if anything bad happened.
Time for a little more threat assessment. It was nearly 2025hrs now. Peruzzi would have reached Bethune some twenty minutes earlier, given that the other driver hadn't been pushing it too hard. Probably didn't want traffic cops on his tail.
Peruzzi was now driving an unknown car which could be anything from a clapped out wreck to another sports car. He couldn't have had much opportunity to arrange anything, but obviously those comfort stops had just been a cover for making alternative plans while he and Teal'c kept an eye on his car outside. Which made it all kinda personal.
Jack hated being suckered, and that slimeball, Peruzzi, had come damn' close to doing just that. Not the sharpest knife in the block? Well, he himself was fond of playing dumb - it gave him a big advantage. People tended to under-estimate him. Had he himself fallen for the same trick?
Focussing on the task in hand, O'Neill calculated that if Peruzzi travelled around the same speed on the return journey, he would arrive back in Colorado Springs around 2230hrs. Daniel and Serena would be safely home by then. But if he had another sports car, he could well take an hour less, assuming he didn't get pulled in for speeding. And Daniel might have taken Serena out for supper afterwards. Dammit, there were too many variables.
Like how well organized was Peruzzi? He hadn't seemed overly bright, but he'd just done a good job of selling them a dummy. Granted the first attempted snatch had been a pretty botched affair, but that was possibly down to inadequate intell. He would have learned a fair bit about his quarry from that encounter, and who knew what other sources of intell. he had?
Come to think of it, that orange Camaro had drawn their attention like a magnet - distracted them from what the others might have been doing. Could've been tailing Daniel and Serena... Jack didn't like that thought one bit.
He paged Sam. When she 'phoned back, he filled her in on his evaluation of the situation.
"So hit the gas, Carter," he concluded. "Get back to the Springs a.s.a.p. Warn Daniel. I'll pick up any tickets you get."
Daniel and Serena had enjoyed their evening together at the Hi-Notes Musical Touring Company's production of 'My Fair Lady'. It seemed to Daniel an appropriate choice. The costumes were spectacular, the story familiar and the songs well known. Serena was a charming companion and Daniel felt that he had rarely been happier or more at ease. Magic!
In the foyer, he paused to chat with a couple of friends from the Colorado Springs Chess Club and a neighbour who kept an eye on his apartment while he was 'away'. He introduced Serena with fond pride and was pleased, though unsurprised, by his friends' warm response to her. Most of the audience had left by the time the group broke up and went their separate ways.
"How do you fancy a bite to eat before we go home?" he asked as they walked out of the Center.
"That would be very nice, Papa. Thank you for a wonderful evening. I am so happy now."
"So am I, Serena - very happy."
"I could have danced all night..." Serena began singing.
With a silly smile on his face, Daniel grasped her around the waist and waltzed her across the almost empty parking lot outside the Center. They spun around and around, laughing and singing, until they were giddy. Which made it all too easy...
As they reached the exit into West Vermijo Avenue, four men sprang out of the shadows. They tore father and daughter apart. Serena screamed. Daniel reached inside his jacket. A fist connected with his jaw. He sagged against his other attacker as another blow landed. Serena was struggling wildly, kicking out. Two men were dragging her back towards a black transit van.
A large cargo van now screeched to a halt by the entrance. The side doors flew open. Four masked men jumped out. Three were armed. One fired into the air.
"Give us the girl!" he yelled, "and nobody gets hurt."
Serena's attackers stared at the new arrivals - relaxed their grip. She broke free. Daniel's assailants, too, let go in surprise. Without support, he dropped to hands and knees - shook his head to clear it. Serena ran to him - reached out to pull him up. Rough hands seized her - dragged her away.
"Papa!" she screamed.
Daniel struggled to his feet - staggered after her. Another figure came running out of the darkness - pushed past him, made a grab for Serena.
"Nio!" she gasped.
One of the new arrivals pistol-whipped him away - didn't connect fully. Niccolo fell back, collided with Daniel. They glared at each other. Together they lunged for Serena as she was bundled into the van. In the mêlée, a shot was fired. Niccolo collapsed, sprawling backwards. Daniel reached out. A second shot knocked him back - stumbling, almost falling. Gasping, he forced himself onward again.
Sam screeched towards a man aiming at him. The Harley cannoned towards him. The shot went wide as he leapt aside. Someone else fired. The bike described a twisting, shining arc into the parking lot. Bike and rider lay still as the van doors clanged shut.
Running on adrenaline, Daniel made a desperate effort to get to the van - careering towards it as the last man leapt into the passenger seat. As Daniel struggled to open the side door, the man fired.
This time, Daniel did not get up and the van drove away.