Dane didn't know what was going on any more than Janet did. He hadn't anticipated a shootout in front of the police station. And he hadn't been prepared for anyone to notice him, let alone pursue him through the streets of Tiverton, Rhode Island. That single moment of unpreparedness had given his pursuer the edge he'd needed. Now, it didn't look like Dane would be able to lose his tail.
That was a failure Dane was not prepared to accept.
In fact, Dane had lied to Janet when he'd told her he'd discovered where Hayden was being hidden. He knew where his brother was, but it was nothing he'd figured out for himself. He'd been told where his brother was, and invited – or dared, perhaps – to find and rescue him. Dane knew he had but one single chance to pull it off, but he'd never once doubted that he could do it. Not until he was unable to shake off the lone NCIS operative who was trying to catch him.
As the two cars twisted through the mostly empty roads, roaring at every turn and screeching with every rare press on the brake, Dane was finding it impossible to get rid of Ted Compton. As desperate as he was to reach his brother, Ted was just as desperate to stay with them.
Well of course he is, Dane scolded himself, you kidnapped his subordinate. He swung the Impala around another curve in the road, knowing he was driving faster than was safe but not caring. Behind him, the cop car imitated his movements exactly. The sun was going down, and by his estimate there was only an hour or so of daylight left. Each twist and turn was only wasting his time and taking him further from his goal. Further from his brother.
It doesn't matter, he decided. I'll go to the forest, and I'll get rid of this NCIS there. Glancing to his right, where the terrified Janet Riddowski sat perfectly still, he corrected, both of them.
In spite of the danger of the situation she was in - or perhaps due to it - everything seemed to slow down for Janet. The sharp turns Dane made and Ted mimicked flawlessly, the way her head shook as she rolled through her seat as far as the seat belt would let her, the sudden shift in her perspective accompanying the ride, they all blended together. She didn't look at the clock once during the chase, and she had no idea how long it was taking. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours; it made no difference to her. Nothing changed. Dane kept one step ahead of Ted, who in turn stayed on his tail. No matter where they went, it stayed this way.
It didn't help that Janet was still in shock from the murder of Richard Shore, or the seeming massacre outside the police station. She had no idea how either of those events could happen, and she could not get her mind off of them. The image of the men dying, falling, the instant spray of blood - they weren't thoughts she would ever forget, and they weren't going to get much easier to remember. It had been the first time she'd faced such violence and terror. Her NCIS training hadn't prepared her for the kind of crisis she was facing. Nothing had. Nothing could.
Before she knew it, her car wasn't on the road anymore. Dane was driving it down a winding but wide forest path, skillfully weaving in and out of the few trees that popped up. Low-hanging branches scraped across the top of the car as if they would slow it down long enough for her to escape. As he had before, he refused to listen to them. Instead, he kept pushing the car as far as he could, giving barely a passing thought to safety.
Why is he in such a hurry? Janet wondered. She whipped her head around and saw Ted's police car, still in pursuit of the fugitive. She knew it was odd given the situation, but she couldn't help but crack a smile at the sight. He's not giving up, she beamed, relief flooding her veins. He isn't going to let up. I'll be safe soon.
That's when Dane slammed on the brake, nearly causing Ted to hit him. The NCIS operative reacted fast and turned to the right, but Dane had the Impala in reverse within seconds and slammed back into the police car. Desperate to avoid him, Ted turned sharper, trying to go around him. The back of his car struck a tree, stopping it momentarily.
That moment was all Dane needed. He put the car back into drive and surged forward, crashing into Ted and sending the car reeling. The man flailed his arms and doubled over, nearly hitting his head against the dashboard as his vehicle was pushed through the forest. The passenger side rammed into another tree. As Janet watched, her mentor slumped in his seat, the seat belt being all that kept him upright.
She let out a horrific scream and clicked her own seat belt off. Dane parked the car as she opened the door and rushed to Ted's side. To her horror, the driver's side door was dented too much for her to open it. She tried it again and again to no avail. She screamed again, probably his name, but she did not know for sure.
No... no... no! The word bounced around in her head rapidly. He can't die, not for my mission. Not for this! She was now certain she was calling his name over and over again. He wasn't responding.
She felt a blow to the back of her skull, and her vision went black as she slumped forward.
When she awoke, the first thing Janet noticed was how much darker it was. Even though forests were always dark, she could tell the sun had gone down. Her next observation was the dull pain behind her head, where Dane had struck her, probably with the stock of his stolen shotgun. The pain intensified when she turned her head, so she slowed her movements down. That was when she saw the police car.
The image of Ted crashing into the tree flashed back into her mind, and she sprang to her feet. The jolt of pain nearly made her collapse again, but she managed to regain her footing and limp to the car. She looked into the window and saw her boss still sitting there, unmoved. She gasped.
Is he dead? The words sounded dumb to her as they echoed through her head. A pointless question that did not need to be asked. Regardless, she couldn't simply accept that he was gone. Not that easily.
Janet threw the door of the police car open and placed her hand beneath Ted's jawbone. To her relief and joy, there was a pulse. She slumped forward, her head landing on his chest, and started to cry. She could feel him breathe as well.
Just then, she remembered Dane Wesson. The man who she had been hired to look into. The man who claimed to be looking for his missing brother. The man who had caused so much misfortune for her, including this latest disaster. He was responsible for Ted's condition, and he had brought her to this forest.
Oh, Dane, I'm going to find you, she said to herself. You aren't going anywhere.
Dane Wesson walked over the last hill. It had only been an hour since he'd knocked Janet unconscious, but it felt like an eternity. He had wandered the forest for that time, seeking the entities that had taken his brother. They had seemed to always be just out of his reach. Until now.
Ironically, the hill he was now crossing was less than 200 meters from where he had left the two NCIS agents. It wasn't that he had been stupid in his search. Rather, it felt more like he had been prevented from seeing the hill there, as if something had kept him from reaching it for the time being. Something had been toying with him. It wasn't a sensation he enjoyed.
We'll see who toys with whom, he promised as he walked down the hill into a valley. Whatever had done this to him would soon be within reach.
Other than him, the valley was devoid of life. That didn't bother him, though. This was where he had been told to go, and this was where they would meet him. He stood in the center and waited.
Janet didn't know where to go. The forest was large, and she couldn't see very well in the increasing darkness. She had no idea where she was, since she hadn't thought to keep track of where Dane had led Ted on the chase. It didn't matter; she probably wouldn't have remembered anyways, since Dane had knocked her unconscious. She walked around in circles for a few minutes, trying to figure out where he would most likely have gone. It was no use. There was no way to tell.
A light shone over a hill. Her head sharply turned to look in that direction. She judged the hill to be only 200 meters away or less. The light was almost impossibly bright, and very white with a slight blue tint. It was out of place in the nighttime forest. She had no idea what could cause it.
Well, I've got nothing else to go on, she reasoned. She started jogging toward the hill, but it hurt her head to move that fast. She slowed to a brisk walk and hoped she reached it in time.
She did. The light didn't change during her journey. It was obscured when she reached the base of the hill, but she knew it was still there. Nevertheless, she climbed fast, reaching the top as soon as her aches would allow. She couldn't believe her eyes at the top.
In the center of a valley before her, Dane Wesson stood calmly. He was enveloped in the light, but the man himself seemed dark. His arms were held to his side, and he stood as straight as he could.
"Dane!" she screamed. He looked in her direction, but made no reply. "Dane! It's over! You're not going anywhere!"
This time, he answered. "On the contrary, I'm leaving you far behind."
Walking towards him, Janet demanded, "What does that mean?"
"I told you who had my brother, didn't I? I'm getting him out!"
"You're standing in a valley, Dane! Hayden isn't here!"
"No, he isn't. I'm going to him."
"You can't believe that!"
"No? Why not? I'm here, aren't I?"
"Because it's insane!"
"And how do you describe everything else that's happened?"
He's right, she realized. Everything that had happened was completely insane. But then another thought hit her mind: He's stalling. And then another thought: it's working.
She was within ten feet of him now, and the light was brighter with each step. Her hands were held out in front her in a vain attempt to block some of it. Dane seemed fine, as if he wasn't surrounded by the light at all. She was closer now, about five feet. It was blinding, but she wasn't about to give up.
Her hand struck out, reaching for Dane. The light intensified, reminding her of when she had been at the crash site. She couldn't see at all. She waived her hand back and forth, grasping for her target, but she didn't touch anything. What- she managed to think before it was too bright. She covered her face with both her hands, trying to protect them from the blinding light.
It wasn't enough. The light was shining through her hands, taking full advantage of the cracks between her fingers. She desperately swept her left hand around blindly, hoping to grab Dane while covering her face as tightly as she could with her other hand. It didn't happen. Finally, she had no choice. Janet twisted around, facing away from the light, and dived onto the ground.
Even after the light vanished, it took her a minute or so to recover enough to pull her hands from her eyes. It was pitch black at first, and she felt horribly vulnerable. Anything could be lurking anywhere, and she would have no idea it was there. But after a few minutes, her eyes adjusted to the starlight. Janet searched her surroundings. She looked first in one direction, then the next, not skipping anything. She was looking for Dane. But though she could see everything in the small valley, she couldn't see him.
No, no, no, no, no. The words traversed her mind again and again. No, no, no. He's not gone, he has to be here somewhere. He did NOT escape! Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes as she tried to deny what she knew to be true. He is NOT gone! He did NOT escape me! NO!
But try as she might, there was simply nothing she could do but walk away. And as she walked, shame and failure the only emotions she felt, she didn't bother with the path she was taking. As long as it got her back to her car, it was fine with her.
That was when Janet walked right by the missiles that had been missing from the plane Hayden had taken from the ship.
They were sitting on the ground in plain sight. No effort had been made to conceal them, as if they were just another part of nature sitting in the forest. Janet gasped as she realized what they were. The next thought that hit her was, Why are they here? Could they be a trap? Would they detonate and take out the entire forest? Would the explosion reach Tiverton?
She merely looked at the pile of missiles for a few seconds. It was then she noticed the small piece of paper sitting on top. She lifted it up and read it.
It was nothing against you, the note stated. I respect you, and I'm sorry you got caught up in it. Beneath that, a simple signature: Dane Wesson.