A ‘Proof of Life’ Vignette
Author’s Note: This story takes place during `Proof of Life’, after Terry Thorne’s meeting with Ian Havery aboard the Thames’ cruise boat in London. I felt as though something was sorely lacking in the script, considering the fact that Terry must have quit his job at Luthan Risk over Alice Bowman. Here’s my attempt to fill in a few gaps.
Disclaimer: The usual…
“I’m begging you to help me…”
Terry Thorne stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom, the sound of her voice echoing through his head once more. He glanced over at the clock on the nightstand…. 2:42am… He sighed heavily, raising his arms, slipping his entwined fingers beneath his head…. He could not sleep… Every time he closed his eyes he saw her face… The wild blond hair framing that incredibly beautiful face… the full lips… But most of all, he saw her eyes, those sad blue eyes that seemed to look right through him…. The eyes that had pleaded with him to stay…
“I’m begging you to help me…”
He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block it from his mind, but it was no use….
“I’m begging you……”
Abruptly he sat up, throwing off the sheets. “Bugger it,” he muttered to himself, sliding off the edge of the bed and rising to his feet. He padded quietly over to the window, pulling back the curtains to stare out into the night. He could see the lights of downtown London, muted somewhat by the misty rain that was falling, and he leaned against the glass, resting his forehead against the cool surface.
“I’m begging you….”
Bloody hell… What was he supposed to do….? Leave her at the mercy of the ETL…? Let her husband die because some damn corporation was playing games…? If only they had realized sooner Quad Carbon was no longer a client… If only he hadn’t looked her in the eye and told her that he could get her husband back…. If only she hadn’t gotten to him…. Mrs. Bowman… Alice…
Damn it all, he thought, shaking his head. /Don’t let it get personal. Never let it get personal, Terry.// That was the number one rule in K&R… Don’t get personal with the clients. It was a job, it was a business. Period, end of discussion. She was a client….
No, scratch that. She had never been a client. Quad Carbon had not been a paying client for months, so he never should have been in Tecala in the first place. Never should have laid eyes on her….. Never should have given her hope….
“I’m begging you….”
Shit shit shit…. He slammed his closed fist against the window frame, rattling the glass. /She’s married, you fool. Even if you were still there, and did the job, her bloody husband would be coming back to her…. Stay away from her, mate. You’ll only get hurt….//
But what would happen to Alice now…? He knew no reputable K&R outfit would touch this — Octonal had some very long arms, with contracts with every other insurance company…. So there was no one to help her…. No one good anyway.
He’d been straight with her that night, but in doing so, he’d only made it worse for her now…. He’d told her what not to do, who not to trust… So now she *knew* she was screwed because they’d brought in a local negotiator. She knew just enough to realize she’d never see her husband alive again…. Because of him….
He sighed, staring blankly into the distance, watching the glass fog up as he breathed…. What could he do? Ian had pulled him out, told him Luthan Risk wouldn’t touch this job now. His hands were tied — it wasn’t up to him anymore. It wasn’t his fault, this stupid mix up. There was nothing he could do….
Her blue eyes drilled into him like lasers…. “I’m begging you….”
He pulled away from the window, pacing the room, beginning to think the unthinkable….
/Oh, no — forget it, mate. You’re not chucking it all now, not after all this time…// He’d been with Luthan Risk for a long time now — he’d paid his dues in the field, and now it was time to move up. Let someone else do the grunt work, while he finally got the money and prestige he deserved. He could stay in London more, have his flat be more of a home than just another hotel room. He’d be around to see his son Henry, and become more than just a stranger that showed up on holidays.
But at what price….? Peter Bowman’s life?
The more he paced, the more he began to question *everything*…. Hell, did Luthan Risk *really* give a damn about him…? They’d left him alone in Chechnya, let him go solo in that hellhole. Sure, it had worked out all right in the end…. Barely though, he thought as he raised a hand to the scar over his right eye… And now what…? Management assignments…? He’d worked long and hard to get to this level… But now that he had reached it… He couldn’t help but wonder it this was really what he wanted….? Sitting around an office filing reports, schmoozing clients, doing PR work…. Was that *really* for him…?
….. There was a choice to be made here…. He knew he had to help Alice and finish what he had started… But it would cost him his career. The company, and Ian, would never risk the lucrative contract with Octonal for some nameless engineer in the middle of the South American jungle…. Nobody else would help them…. No one else gave a damn about them… about her…Except him….
He wandered back to the bed, flopping down on it. He laid his arm over his eyes, and as soon as he closed the lids, there she was again, the blond hair framing that luminous face…. “I’m begging you…”
Damn, damn, damn… She wouldn’t go away. Then he let out a resigned sigh, knowing that his conscience would never let him forget her.
He couldn’t shake what Dino had said either. Why *was* he risking his neck for Luthan Risk? Dino had over a year ago, because they’d played games with his life one too many times…
But he’d hung on — he hadn’t wanted to throw his career away. But maybe Dino was right… If Ian had genuinely cared about him, he wouldn’t have sent him off to Tecala in the first place, not so soon after Chechnya. He’d nearly gotten his head blown off, but all Ian had given him was the ‘good show old chap’ routine, with a dose of ‘get back on the horse after you’ve fallen off’. Then he’d waved the promotion carrot in front of him, saying it was a ‘management assignment’… Hell, what did that really mean anyway? Endless paperwork, answering to the bean-counters and lawyers… He’d still have no life, flying all over the place at a moment’s notice…
But god, he needed a break! Maybe he should go along with Ian, and take the assignment in Bangkok. Just a few days, then off to the sandy beaches of Phuket. He needed some down time, where he didn’t have to think. He’d find a lovely woman to spend his nights with, and relax.
He felt the stirrings of desire in his body, and closed his eyes, imagining himself on a stretch of pristine white sand, naked, with a lovely, willing female body beneath him… wrapping her shapely legs around his waist as she gave herself to him. He kissed her mouth, and her body arched against his, her breasts rubbing against his chest. He pulled back, staring into her eyes… and found Alice staring back at him.
His eyes flew open, and the fantasy woman disappeared. /Shit, Terry, don’t do this,// he said to himself. /Don’t start thinking with your dick… Just because you haven’t had a long-term relationship in months… hell, years… doesn’t mean you chuck it all now. Don’t make it personal…//
“I’m begging you to help me…”
“…I’m sorry,” he whispered quietly, the stunned look on her face when he’d walked away to get in the cab permanently etched into his memory. “Alice…” he sighed. Yes, she’d gotten to him somehow. Yes, it *was* personal… and right now, he didn’t give a damn…
He clenched his jaw as he moved his arm away from his face, his expression hardening as he came to a decision. He’d give it one last shot with Ian…. But if he refused, then he was heading back to Tecala on his own anyway. He had enough money saved to go it alone for a while, and he was certain he could count on Dino’s help when he got to Tecala.
He paced the floors for hours, until the first hint of daylight appeared behind the gray clouds in the eastern sky. Then he picked up the phone.
“Ian, its Terry.”
“Terry…?” The voice on the other end sounded groggy. “God, do you know what time it is?”
“We can’t do this, Ian. We can’t hang them out to dry like this.”
“What…? Who are you talking about?”
“The Bowman’s. Tecala.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line, then a heavy sigh. “I thought we discussed it.” Ian sounded very much awake now. “There’s no way we can represent them. They’ll just have to find someone else — I told you that.”
“Who, Ian? Who the fuck are they gonna find?” He let his frustration and anger creep into his voice. “Some local asshole that’ll take ’em for everything they’ve got, and all they’ll have to show for it is a shitload of empty promises? And maybe the body, if they’re lucky.”
“It’s not our problem.”
“Well, it is *my* problem, because I stood there and told those people it was under control, that we’d take care of it. That *I’d* take care of it. I’m the one who’s getting screwed too, because I told them all that shit, and then you pulled me out of there and made me look like a fucking ass.”
There was dead silence for a moment, then Ian said, rather indignantly, “Are you drunk?”
“No, but I wish to hell I was… Christ, Ian, we can’t *DO* this.”
“It’s *not* negotiable, and I’m not going to argue with you anymore…. You’re letting this get personal, Terry. That’s not like you.”
“Well, maybe it should be, because believe me, when I’m out there in the field all alone, and damn near get my head blown off, it feels pretty damn personal…!” His voice was rising along with his anger.
“It’s part of the job — you know that. And it’s part of the job to do what the client wants. And Octonal is a *paying* client. Quad Carbon doesn’t exist anymore, so neither does the contract. We are not responsible. If you’re going to be management now, you’d better remember that.”
He took a deep breath. This was it — no turning back now. “…Screw Octonal, and screw ‘management’. I’m going down there. I owe it to those people to finish what I started.”
There was another long pause, and then Terry heard Ian take a deep breath too. “Do you know what you’re saying….?”
“… Yea…. Yea, I do….”
“If you do go down there, you’re on your own…. Permanently. Is that what you want? You’ve been with us a long time. Don’t throw it all away on a whim.”
“My reputation is at stake here…. I don’t consider that a ‘whim’,” Thorne said tightly.
“Everyone understands the situation. No one will question you walking away.”
Ian sounded a bit more flexible now — he must have realized how serious he was, and was trying to keep from losing a very valued member of the firm. “Except the Bowmans,” Terry countered. “The man’s dead if I don’t help them… You know that, Ian. He’s fucking *dead*…. And I can’t live with that on my conscience.”
“Terry, for gods sake… There’s no guarantee you can get him out even if you *do* go back…. And it could take months. Terry… Don’t be stupid. Think this over, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Terry walked to the window, staring blankly out at the horizon. He heard Alice’s voice in his mind again, that sweet, lovely voice… ‘I’m begging you to help me…’ “Sorry… I’ll be on a flight to Tecala by then… I have to do this.”
There was a resigned sigh. “All right….. If that’s the way you want it.”
“That’s the way I want it.”
And Ian knew he meant it. He sighed heavily. “It’s been a pleasure working with you, Terry. I just wish it had ended under better circumstances.”
“So do I.”
“I’ll tell the board when I get to the office.”
“You do that,” Terry said, a lump in his throat. “Good bye, Ian.”
“Goodbye, Terry…” There was a long pause, then a click, and the line went dead.
He set the phone down, and ran his fingers through his hair. He felt numb for a moment as the finality of it all began to sink in. He was on his own now. Solo. Self-employed…
Sighing, he straightened and headed for the den, opening up his laptop. There were a million details he had to deal with before he left — freeing up enough money to last the next few months being chief among them. And Henry — he’d have to drive out and see Henry. It would be difficult to guess when he’d have the chance to see his son again.
As he brought up the website for British Airways reservations, he picked up the phone again and dialed a long sequence of numbers. He had nearly finished booking a seat on tomorrow afternoon’s flight from Heathrow by the time he finally reached the person he needed.
“Dino, its Terry… Sorry it’s late… But I need your help, mate….”