Fandom: The Rockford Files (specifically, The Queen of Peru episode)
Characters: Ginger Townsend, Lou Trevino, Benjamin Wish; OCs
Prompt: Table 3, Prompt #11 - Holding Out For a Hero
Word Count: 3,758
Warnings/Spoilers: Violence and related discussions; dream-based fic (the flashback was the dream).
Summary: Lou hardly ever uses a gun, but he's more than willing to do so if Ginger's life is in danger. Sometimes even he can get carried away.
They were in trouble again.
What should have been a simple trip to make sure that the new graphics technology was unloaded safely at the docks turned into a desperate struggle to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Several thugs who no doubt worked for a competitor ambushed them, injured the movers, and started taking on Ginger and Lou. Ginger left half of them groaning in pain on the pier, while Lou delivered knockout punches to most of the rest.
The last one, somehow escaping Lou’s fists and Ginger’s elbows, suddenly descended on Ginger from above and brought him to the pier while he shouted in surprise and pain. The new attacker was bigger than Lou and easily capable of killing Ginger with his hands alone. Although Ginger struggled and scratched and kneed the brute in the stomach, he soon found himself hanging off the edge of the pier while the water lapped below.
“Now,” the gorilla sneered, gripping Ginger’s jaw in his beefy hand and forcing his head downward, “the only real question left is whether I should break your neck or drown you.”
“Go to blazes,” Ginger hissed. The pain shot through him as he stared up at his killer, practically upside-down in his vision. He reached up, clawing one last time at the strong arms, but it was no use. His vision started to darken as he was pushed down even more.
Suddenly a gun clicked. The sound, startling Ginger back to full consciousness, was followed by another, darker sound, one which brought back memories of the first time such a scenario had taken place.
“Let him up.” Lou’s voice was filled with hatred and danger. It wasn’t raised, but when the thug did not immediately comply with Lou’s wishes, he all but roared, “Let him up or I blow your brains out right here!”
Something in Lou’s tone reached the brute and he straightened, taking his hand away from Ginger’s jaw. Choking and gasping, Ginger sat up on the pier while massaging the sore flesh and bone.
Without warning the thug spun around and lunged at Lou, wrenching the gun hand into the air. The weapon fired harmlessly into the night sky.
Ginger leaped up now, delivering a harsh karate chop to the back of the man’s neck. He collapsed in a heavy heap, barely missing trapping Lou under him as Lou scooted out of the way.
“Oh man.” Lou looked to Ginger in relief as well as concern. “Are you okay, Buddy? How bad did he hurt you?”
“I’m alright,” Ginger insisted. “Just slightly sore. He didn’t have the chance to break anything.” He stepped around the unconscious body and over to his best friend. “What about you, Lou? Are you alright?”
Lou started, suddenly realizing he was still holding the gun. He threw it into the water before looking back to Ginger. “Yeah. I’m okay, Ginger. Really.” He drew a shaking breath. “I got the gun away from one of those other creeps. I was gonna toss it then, but I saw what this scutch was doing to you and I just snapped. I should never have a gun. . . .”
Ginger laid a hand on Lou’s shoulder. “He might not have listened to you if you hadn’t had it. And with what he was doing to me, it would have been too dangerous for you to have jumped him.”
“I know.” Lou shuddered.
“It was the same the first time you saved me at gunpoint,” Ginger said quietly.
Lou gave a small nod. “I figured we’d both be thinking about that.”
“It would be impossible not to draw the parallels,” Ginger answered.
They both fell silent as they walked up the pier, memories of the distant past now swirling through both their minds.
The heist had been easy enough. Slip into the museum, disable the security cameras and the alarm system, and snag the jewel out from amid a myriad of laser beams. Lou had handled the technology, while Ginger’s agility had served him well as he had somersaulted through the beams and taken the ruby from off its pedestal. Their usual fence was waiting and they could pass the gem off through him to their favorite private collector in Thailand.
It was the next day when the trouble happened. They were leaving the London office of their company and heading for their car in the parking garage. Two thugs stepped out from behind thick pillars, sneering eerily at the duo.
“So,” said the first, “we heard about the Calston Ruby being knocked off last night.”
“So what?” Lou frowned, immediately on guard. They knew these two and didn’t like either of them. Their appearance on a scene always meant trouble.
“So we didn’t get it,” said the second. “That means you two must’ve.”
“There are countless jewel thieves through England,” Ginger said in irritation. “There is no proof that it was us.”
The first man lunged, poking Ginger hard in the chest with a finger. “And there’s no proof it wasn’t! . . . Except that it’s always you two beatin’ us to a burglary. We’ve known it’s been you in the past. There’s no reason to think it isn’t now.”
“Even if you’re right, we always hustle our jewels off to our fence the next day,” Lou said. “You should be shaking him down, not us, if you want the thing back.”
“He’s got a point,” the second man said. “Except their fence never talks.”
“I don’t care about the fence! I’m sick to death of being outwitted by these two!” The first man’s eyes flashed with outright hatred. “If we just shoot them down here, they won’t be in our way any longer.”
“What?!” Lou burst out. “Are you crazy?! There’s cameras down here. Someone’ll see you do it!”
“We know how to disable cameras too,” the first man sneered. “We already did that.”
“Bully for you,” Ginger growled. “Two blokes being found gunned down among all the parked motor cars are still going to generate quite a scandal. You’ll be found out eventually.”
“Maybe.” The first man’s eyes fairly danced with murder. “But until then, it might just be worth it.”
“You’re sick!” Lou snarled. “We’ll both put up a fight. And we’re not the last people to come out of the building. There’ll be more. Someone just might see you kill us. Then what? You’ll pop them too?”
The second man looked nervous. “It’s really not a good idea,” he said. “Not here.”
“Oh, button it,” snapped the first.
“Well, now, ain’t this little gathering cozy.”
The fifth voice caused everyone to look up in surprise. Then Lou’s stomach dropped down around his knees. “Benjamin Wish,” he groaned.
Ginger also looked irritated. Wish was a Cockney and had grown up close to Ginger’s East London neighborhood. Their paths had occasionally crossed as children and as adults, with the result that neither liked the other. Lou felt much the same.
Wish smirked at all four of them as he strolled into view. “Hello, Ginger, Lou,” he greeted. “Fancy meetin’ the two of you here. And Dabney and Cole too. Ain’t this a pretty picture?”
“What do you want?” Ginger snapped.
Wish clucked his tongue. “Now, that’s not a polite way to treat an old chum. I just heard about the Calston Ruby, same as the rest of you blokes, and thought I’d come find out what my good friend Ginger Townsend knows about it.”
“Even if I knew anything, I wouldn’t tell you,” Ginger growled.
“We wouldn’t either,” Dabney glowered.
“Oh. Well then.” Wish pretended to be stymied, but only for a moment. As his lackeys appeared on either side of him, he nodded for them to go forward. “Tie them up,” he instructed. “We’ll take all of them with us for a nice little drive.”
One of his henchmen looked slightly taken aback. “We don’t have any rope.”
“No rope?! I thought I told you lummoxes to be sure to pack it!” Wish snarled.
“We brought this.” The second lackey held up a roll of clear, wide tape.
“Postage tape?!” Wish looked ready to fling it to the ground, but then thought better of it. “Alright, lads. Bind them up with this.”
“And just what makes you think we’ll hold still for any of that?” Lou frowned.
“This.” Wish calmly took a gun out from inside his coat.
“You won’t kill us, since you want information from us,” Ginger said flatly.
“No, but I can bloody well make you wish you were dead,” Wish returned. “I don’t think any of you would like bein’ shot in the shoulder.” He aimed the gun at Lou. “I especially don’t think you’d like if your best chum was hit, Ginger.”
Ginger glowered. “Alright, bind us up. Just don’t expect that tape to work anywhere as good as rope.”
“I’m thinkin’ it might work even better,” Wish mused. “When’s the last time you tried openin’ a package?”
Lou clenched a fist. He hated feeling so helpless. But if he resisted, he knew Wish would threaten him with Ginger’s safety and that was unacceptable. So instead he leaned in close and whispered to Ginger, “Hey, we don’t know what this nut will do to us. Just give him the name of our fence and maybe he’ll let us go.”
“Then we wouldn’t have any fence left,” Ginger retorted. “Anyway, you don’t know Wish like I do. Giving him what he wants wouldn’t help us.”
“So what the heck are we gonna do?!” Lou cried.
“You’re gonna stand apart from each other, loves,” Wish interrupted. “That’s right; we’re goin’ to mix and match so there won’t be any schemin’ goin’ on. You other two blokes, you go over there with them.”
His henchmen started unwinding the packing tape. While one forced Ginger and Dabney to stand back-to-back, the other did the same for Lou and Cole. The tape was wound around their torsos, pinning their arms to their sides.
“Oh, this is just great,” Lou whined. “There’s no way we can even ride in your car like this.”
“I brought a van this time,” Wish answered. “There’ll be plenty of room for the lot of you.”
The door to the building abruptly opened. “Hey!” a stunned secretary yelled. “What are you doing?!”
Ginger took the opportunity to kick out, sweeping a henchman’s feet out from under him and ignoring Dabney’s protests as he stumbled from the abrupt movement. Lou did likewise with Wish’s other thug. He knocked into Wish, sending his gun flying to the floor. The secretary screamed and ran back inside, presumably to call the police.
Wish was already bolting. “Come on, lads,” he exclaimed. “Forget them; we’ll find our prize some other way.”
His lackeys were only too thrilled to comply.
Ginger watched them run, at the same time reaching up to peel the tape off of him. “This bloody tape doesn’t stick to clothing,” he remarked, slipping out from underneath it.
“No, but let’s see how well it sticks to you!” Dabney grabbed the tape from Ginger’s hands and lassoed him back by pulling it against his throat.
Ginger gasped, clutching at it. Dabney wouldn’t have to pull much harder for it to start cutting off his windpipe.
That was when Lou saw red. He wrenched his way out of the other tape and grabbed for Wish’s gun all in one swift motion. “If you tighten that tape and try to choke him, you’re gonna find yourself without a hand,” he snarled.
Dabney wasn’t concerned. “You won’t risk hitting him,” he objected.
Cole moved to jump Lou from behind. Lou whirled, striking him hard in the forehead with the butt of the gun. He dropped, dazed, and Lou turned back to Dabney.
Ginger was gripping his assailant’s wrists by now, trying to force Dabney to loosen his hold on the tape. His hands were shaking, his knuckles white. Dabney was far stronger than Ginger; the slight man could do very little in this instance.
“You know, I wonder what you’d look like if a bullet hit you in the face,” Lou taunted. “Or what you’d look like after both me and Syl got through with you. You know Syl? He’s my cousin.” He took a step forward. “He’s also the partner of Tony Boy Gagglio. Now I know you’ve heard of him. Even Londoners know all about Joseph Minet and his boys. Kill Ginger and I go right to Syl. He’ll probably bring Tony Boy when he comes. We’ll all have a field day with you.”
Dabney definitely had heard of the mobster Joseph Minet and his prize hitman Tony Boy, and that threat was enough to frighten him into letting Ginger go. He backed up, actually looking afraid now. “Okay, Trevino,” he gulped. “I let him go. Put the gun down.”
Ginger coughed, bringing a hand to his throat as he watched Lou in growing alarm.
Lou advanced on Dabney, his eyes still filled with hatred and danger. “You’ve been a real thorn in our side for a long time,” he said. “What if I don’t put the gun down? What will you do? Your buddy’s down for the count. All I have to do is take one shot at your face. I’ll say I was defending Ginger. He’ll back me up.”
“LOU!” Ginger finally choked out his friend’s name amid the gasping for breath. “Don’t. Not that way; you can’t go back from that. Don’t lose yourself. Come back.”
Lou froze. He had never before heard Ginger sound so desperate, so pleading, so actually worried. He lowered the gun, shaken. He barely noticed Dabney and Cole staggering to their feet and running away through the parking garage.
“I almost killed someone,” Lou whispered in horror. “I was angry enough to do it even after he let you go.” He let the gun drop from his hand as he turned to look at Ginger. “I probably would’ve done it if you hadn’t said something.”
Ginger shook his head. “Don’t become like me, Lou,” he rasped. “One of us being a monster is bad enough.”
“Oh Ginger.” They were not close enough yet to really touch each other, but Lou stared at the older man in saddened understanding. “I know how you feel when you snap. Now I really know.”
“I wish you didn’t,” Ginger said quietly.
Lou hesitated, then moved closer to Ginger when he continued to rub at his throat. “Are you really okay?” he worried.
“Yes,” Ginger insisted. “You rescued me before he could pull too tightly. Let’s go.”
Lou could only give a shaky nod of agreement.
Ginger was even quieter than usual on the drive home, after they had given their statements to the arriving police. Once they reached their apartment, he went inside ahead of Lou and into the bathroom. Worried that Ginger really was hurt more seriously than he would admit, Lou paced and wrung his hands and fretted and waited.
Ginger was really only gone for a few minutes. When he emerged, he went to the table in their kitchenette and sat down, placing his arms on the table.
Lou sat across from him. Ginger was always quiet, but Lou could tell when there was more to it than usual. “Ginger . . .” he pleaded. “Something’s wrong. Talk to me.”
Ginger finally looked up at him. “I can’t decide what affects me more,” he said at last, “that you almost snapped and killed someone in cold blood, or that it happened because of me.” He leaned back in the chair. “No one other than my family has ever cared about me on that level before.”
Lou stared at him. He had never expected that revelation.
“I can’t decide how to feel about it, either,” Ginger continued. “I don’t like to think that I could be the cause of someone being willing to commit murder and ruin the rest of their lives. But . . . to think that someone could love me that much is sobering and overwhelming.”
Lou wasn’t even sure what to say. He looked down at the table for a long moment before replying. “That sounds awful. Not to have anyone, I mean.”
“I got used to it,” Ginger answered. “I had my parents’ love and that was better than a lot of unfortunate souls have. I doubted anyone else could ever love me at all; I thought someone did once and I was proved wrong.”
Lou was sickened. “I had no idea,” he said sadly.
“Naturally you wouldn’t; I didn’t tell you,” Ginger pointed out.
“But you’re telling me now,” Lou realized. Something had changed between them tonight. The events had been horrifying for both of them, but it had drawn them closer.
Ginger did not speak, but he nodded. The look in his eyes said that he recognized it as well.
Lou slowly smiled. “I’m glad.”
“So am I,” Ginger answered.
Ginger and Lou came back to the present as they arrived back at the van and surveyed the heavy crates. By now the movers were regaining consciousness and they groaned as they stirred. “What happened?” one of them mumbled.
“You were both knocked unconscious,” Ginger flatly explained. “Are you badly hurt?”
The second one grimaced. “I’m okay, I think. But what about the crates?!”
“They’re here,” Ginger answered. “We stopped your attackers from taking them.”
“Oh good,” the first gasped. “We’d all be in deep trouble if you hadn’t been able to.”
“I’m gonna call the police now,” Lou announced. “Should I call an ambulance too?”
“I don’t think so.” The first stumbled to his feet. “We can make it.”
“Okay, but maybe Ginger and I’d better lift the stuff into the van,” Lou suggested.
“Yeah, maybe you’d better,” the second groaned.
Soon the van was loaded and the movers had agreed to let Lou drive while they rested. They climbed into the back row of seats and Ginger slid in next to Lou to wait for the police.
“It’s sure been a crazy night,” Lou sighed, shaking his head.
Ginger nodded. “But at least it’s ending well, just as that other night did before.”
“Either one of them could’ve turned out real bad,” Lou frowned. “Both times because I let myself get too ticked off.”
“Both times because I bloody well got into a situation that I could not extract myself from on my own,” Ginger said. “You were angry and protective. I could never blame you for that.” He paused. “And had you done something in the heat of the moment, I would have backed you up, just as you surmised those many years back.”
Lou managed a smile. “I know. But I probably still wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I did something that wasn’t out-and-out defense.”
“I could tell you wouldn’t have been able to,” Ginger said. “But I would have insisted it was, just as you did for me when the subject was Florence. Both of those people, like Florence, were actively trying to murder me. We don’t know but what they would have continued trying.”
“And we don’t know but what they might have stopped,” Lou sighed. “Especially that Dabney idiot when he calmed down. Ginger . . . how do you deal with it? Knowing that you feel that anger, that hate? It scared the heck out of me when I first realized I was capable of it too.”
Ginger hesitated. “It was easier for me,” he confessed. “I am fiercely loyal and protective, as you well know. It was hard for me to think that anything I did in the protection of my loved ones was wrong. In my mind, anyone who deliberately set out to harm them was my enemy and I was justified in whatever I did against them.” He looked tired. “I eventually realized I needed to show some restraint for my own sake as well as my loved ones’. If something irreparable happened and I was sent to prison or executed, that bloody well wouldn’t do any of us any good.”
“It sure wouldn’t,” Lou agreed. Now he paused. “But for years you’ve thought you’re some kind of a monster. You must’ve realized ages ago that maybe you were going too far sometimes.”
“Most likely that started after the episode with Cynthia and increased during my adulthood,” Ginger answered. “Yes, on the one hand I knew anger and rage are monsters when misused and I could lose all sense of reality so easily when pushed too far. Part of me felt justified, yet at the same time I recognized the damage that such behavior could cause and I knew I didn’t want to see you follow me down that path. I suppose I’m just a mass of contradictions.”
“As we all are,” Lou answered. “It’s part of being human.”
“I wish it wasn’t,” Ginger grunted, “but I suppose you’re right.”
“Honestly, I’m just glad you’re okay,” Lou declared. “I’m glad we’re both okay and that we’ll be able to go home safe after we wrap things up here.”
“That’s the most important thing,” Ginger agreed. He paused. “Ironic, that we could have both ended up dead in that car park.”
Lou knew that Ginger was thinking of his confrontation with Mike. “I guess,” he said quietly. “But we came out of it okay, just as all of us did again later.”
Ginger nodded. “Back then, you and I ended up much closer at the end of our experience. I finally felt comfortable enough around you to reveal something of my past.”
Lou smiled. “Yeah. And I realized I was just as protective of you as I was with Mike or Mom and Dad. I think that was the night I knew you were part of my family too.”
“I bloody well detest that I was so helpless in both of those situations,” Ginger growled, “but I’m thankful you were there for me both times.”
“And you’ve sure helped me a lot of times,” Lou declared. “It all evens out.”
“I wasn’t keeping score anyway,” Ginger said.
“Me either,” Lou asserted. “Friends don’t need to do that.”
He perked up at the sight of red-and-blue lights. The police were arriving. Hopefully they could give their statements and hurry on to the company building with their valuable cargo. Then, after seeing that the movers were taken care of, they could go home safe and sound. That sounded like the perfect end to this adventure.