Without a Trace, chapter 4 - Whispers

Whispers

 
 
Chapter Four: Les Terrains de Chasse

"The Hunting Grounds"

- Any one of us would have laid down our hides for you. 'Cause then, you was at least a bum with honor. -
- Yeah, well—dat was just a rumor I started. -

Grovel and Gambit, Uncanny X-Men #347

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Logan kept his jacket close about him as he ducked into a seedy looking bar on the edge of town. He kept his eyes open and ignored the men that shuffled further away from him in their seats. There was enough smoke in the place to shelter almost anyone in anonymity.

He shouldered his way to the back of the bar and dropped into a seat in front of his contact. "Hudson."

"Logan." The man raised his shot glass and downed it in a gulp. "You said it was urgent."

Logan took a moment to order a beer, then settled in. "Yeah. My girl got picked up in some sort of ops. Vanished."

Hudson narrowed his eyes. "You sure about that? Can't always help in ops."

"It's my girl," Logan growled and watched the other man wince. He knew how Wolverine felt about Rogue. "She and another guy. Ever heard of Le Diable Blanc?"

Hudson dropped an expletive. "Logan, you sure pick the worst kind of trouble. You absolutely positive she didn't just skip out on you somewhere?"

"Running a job south of the pike and got a chopper and ground troops coming at us." Logan took another swig of his beer. "They weren't after the diamonds."

"South, you say?"

"South."

James Hudson stared down at his empty glass and narrowed his eyes in thought. "Most of what I know about Le Diable Blanc is classified if you get my drift. He runs high-end jobs, secret strings and never fails. I've only worked with him once and never saw him."

Logan grunted.

"If they're calling him in now, it could be anything." He paused and met Logan's eyes. "But whatever it is, it won't be pretty."

"Just tell me who's running a chopper out past the pike."

Hudson shrugged. "I've got ten guesses. Let me drop some feelers. I've been hearing a lot of undercurrents going on. Trouble of some sort or other with mutants."

"And he is one?"

A brief nod confirmed it. "And a dangerous one. That isn't a friendly nickname. Sure, he wisecracks through eighty percent of the nastiest jobs, but he's done worse jobs than you."

Logan nodded and put enough money on the table to cover the bill. "See you Monday."

"Just be careful, Logan. They'd jump at a chance to get their hands on you."

Logan paused. "And you wouldn't know anything about that?"

Hudson held up his hands as if to show his innocence. "I picked you up, cleaned you up. I still don't know where you came from."

"Fine, then. Happy hunting."

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Kissing Chere was like pulling off a heist from a top-security military building after forty-eight hours of no sleep: exhausting, exhilarating, and dangerously addictive. Remy had to get away quickly in order to focus on the work at hand. He told her what to take and left her to pack.

Just stop thinking about it, he told himself. He booted his laptop and went to work erasing himself from existence.

He took a small percentage of his funds from multiple accounts and transferred them to "Emily Lapeer." His cousin Emil couldn't provide money for him, but he let him keep a small slush fund for emergencies in a name no one would trace. This was definitely an emergency.

He'd seen hits before, even taken them. Three million dollars meant either an auction or deep, deep pockets (usually government). It wasn't often that people took bids for the right to kill someone, which meant worse could be on the menu. He didn't want to tell Chere that worse had been on the menu the last time he saw her "friend."

Remy was brutally efficient in removing his tracks, freezing his accounts, clearing all records of himself. He'd hacked and stolen and researched enough to know what was necessary. He cleaned off everything possible, then shut down and set the laptop on the desk in the front room. He carefully reworked the wiring and strung out more wires, creating the necessary connections.

He felt the whisper of movement that denoted Chere's entrance. He tossed her a black bag.

"Help me string 'em."

She didn't argue, just set down the duffel bags and went to work. He figured she'd pull his memories for what she was doing and wasn't surprised when she turned out to be an expert at placing and setting the charges around the apartment. She only hesitated for a moment before latching the one over the door.

"Will anyone get hurt?" she asked without a trace of emotion in her voice.

Remy shrugged. "None of our business, Chere. They're here to get us."

She glanced at him and shook her head. "I meant the neighbors."

"Non. I've done this before."

She merely nodded, not asking.

They laid their lethal web. He fiddled with the computer another moment, then snapped it shut.

"Get everything?"

"Yes." She was as coldly professional as he. It scared him but he had no time to be afraid.

He grabbed one of the duffels, slipped on his sunglasses, and pulled her towards the door. "Let's go."

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Remy seemed to have no qualms about maneuvering Chere where he wanted her, and she found herself nestled between him and the wall outside his apartment as he locked the door and set the final triggers. His personality had kept her frighteningly well-informed during their work as to what exactly she was helping him do. Chere wished she could say she'd never done something so cold-blooded before, but she really didn't know. Something in her found it easy. Too easy.

He tucked a hand in the crook of her elbow and led her down breezeway to the stairs.

"We'll take the bike," he said and glanced back at her.

She didn't like the shades.

"But nothing else, d'accord?"

Chere raised her eyebrows. "What else do you think I'm going to grab?"

Remy shrugged and stopped at what had to be a custom rig. She could identify parts, but not the make or model of the motorcycle. He took the bags and put them in the helmet compartment, then handed her a helmet.

She furrowed her brows. "Harley?"

"Non. Too noisy." He clucked distastefully. "Little of this. Little of that. Made her myself." He settled onto the seat and indicated she was to join him.

A bolt of recognition flashed through her as she leaned into him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I've ridden one before," she said softly.

"Bien." He slapped his helmet shut and started the engine.

She laughed in the wind blowing against them as they rode, not loudly, but enough to feel her enjoyment. Somehow, this felt right. It felt like home.

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Emma Frost stood on the balcony of the fine restaurant where Heather Hudson had taken her. She sipped slowly on the last of her champagne.

"Why should I help you?" the telepath asked softly.

Emma's blonde hair was done up elegantly and her white dress left little to the imagination. But nobody dared criticize the powerful socialite, especially the only one to successfully defeat Mastermind and earn her own freedom. He'd made a habit of picking up telepaths and empaths and making them his favorite pets. And tools.

Heather knew a great deal about tools and was in the business of getting others less powerful than Emma out of the clutches of those who would use them. She had met Emma through mutual interest in a young mutant named Kitty Pryde and a fragile friendship had developed between the two.

"I've told you about Logan?" Heather leaned on the railing to better enjoy the breeze.

Emma ignored the view of Manhattan's skyline. "You have."

"He has a friend. Young. Female." Heather shuddered. "We have reason to believe that she might have gotten caught in all of this."

Emma's blue eyes focused like lasers. "But why should I help you?"

Heather glanced back sharply. "You've already been bought?"

"I keep client confidentiality, Heather." Emma shrugged her exposed shoulders above the simple white dress. "But I will tell you this, as a friend. All I ever sold was information and opportunity. I certainly could provide...other...services."

The words hung in the evening air.

Heather sipped on her champagne. "Such as certain search capabilities?"

"I don't have a Cerebro."

"My husband works for Department H," Heather reminded her. "As do I. I don't think it'll be a problem."

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Bella Donna Boudreaux was an Assassin, not a romantic, not a thief, and certainly not an obsessed stalker! She banged her fist in frustration on the heavy oaken table that had survived centuries of Assassins' tempers.

Marius looked up from his casual breakfast. Hers was untouched, but a slew of papers and an open laptop decorated the table in front of her.

"No change?" he asked, an amused taint to his tone.

She glared at her pere. Then she shifted her attention back to the data in front of her. "I've even offered to take the contract, Pere, but I still can't find out who's paying."

"Please, Bella!" her Tante Claudette began. "Don't whine!"

Tante Claudette though had nothing on her former lover's Tante Mattie and Bella Donna was thoroughly unmoved.

"Remy is still my betrothed, until such time as the treaty is nullified or modified," she said icily. "I have every reason to want to know who wants his head!"

Marius sighed and shoved back his plate. "What is troubling you?"

"The contract calls for his delivery alive. They don't want an assassination."

He frowned deeply and she wondered if perhaps he was finally taking her seriously. "Essex?"

Bella Donna frowned in response. Remy hadn't told her much about the doctor, except that he'd wanted to know a lot more about Remy than he'd been willing to allow.

"Perhaps." She drummed her nails on the tabletop, then slammed her fist again. It had survived a couple centuries already and she wasn't inclined to spare it any when it was likely to survive a few more. Bella Donna sighed and went back to work.

Maybe she would take the contract, if only to find out more about the hunt.

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Logan never stopped with a single lead. French was French. He called up one of the men he had met during these last three years with Rogue, away from Xavier's Institute.

"Yeah, it's me." He leaned into the side of a building and listened carefully to the man on his cell phone. "French name. Code or something. Diable Blanc. Freelances for Canada."

He blew out steam in the cold. "Yeah. It's important."

A long moment passed. Logan grabbed a pen from his pocket and wrote a number on his hand. "You got it. I owe you."

He'd pay up too. But anything was worth it for Rogue.



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