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The first sense that returned when he woke was taste, the dry, tinny taste of his own blood.  Shane coughed to try to clear it away, but his body constricted.  Several knives lanced through his side, his memory returning of how the interrogators had broken his ribs.  Forcing himself to take shallow breaths only, he tried to rise to his hands and knees, a struggle that led to only momentary success.  He managed to get only about six inches off the ground, before dizziness and more knives sent him crashing back to the ground.  He stayed there, in a fetal position, and exercised the only muscle in his body that did not send pain ripping through him.

He had lost count of how many days they had interrogated him in the basement of the palace.  He had revealed nothing, clinging to his mantra that it was all a "misunderstanding."  All to no avail.  The one saving grace was that Costa Blanca's secret police were still in the dark ages, interrogation-wise.  Fists and the occasional electrode, he could handle, no longer how long they kept it up.

Shane realized he was no longer in the interrogation room.  That room had been light.  This room was different, dark, and he had no idea if he was still in the palace or if they had moved him while he was unconscious.  As delicately as possible, he tried to turn his head to get a view of his current surroundings.  He grimaced at how much just that small movement hurt, but he could now see a metal door that allowed just a crease of light to creep under the door.  The rest of the room was spare, with just a moldy mattress and a bucket.

"Not exactly the Ritz," he muttered.  He slid along the concrete floor and onto the mattress, the effort leaving him alternating gasping for breath and wincing from the attempt.  I'll just lie here, he thought.  No reason to move; he wasn't going anywhere in the near future.  ISA standard operating procedure was to disavow its operatives missions -- no exceptions for anyone, no matter how where they sat on the ISA food chain.   With a groan, he rolled onto his back, stared up at the blackness at the top of his cell, and realized that his only job now was to heal and survive -- and wait for an opportunity to escape. 

He expected they would follow chapter one of the torture handbook by leaving him alone for a few days.  Their plan was for the dark and silence to disorient him, and the lack of food to weaken him.  But Shane knew that handbook well.  If Vasquez expected a little solitude and hunger to soften him up, El Presidente would be sorely disappointed.

Thus, it was surprising when, only a few hours later, he heard a fumbling at the door and it slowly opened with the sound of metal rubbing on metal.  Three guards entered while a fourth kept watch from the door, covering with a submachine gun.  One of the guards set a chair in the middle of the cell, while the others pulled Shane from the mattress.

"Do you really have to?" he groaned.  "I was just getting comfortable."  His ribs protested as the guards forced him onto the seat.  They wrenched his arms back and bound them to the side of the chair.  He forced a laugh.  "Is this violence really necessary?  Do you truly think I'm going to take out four of you in my present condition?"

"It's not for the four of them," came a low, drawl from the door, as Victor stepped into view.  He nodded at the guards.  "Leave us." Shane was impressed at how quickly the guards complied.  They left the cell and pulled the door shut behind, leaving only the two men in the room.  Someone opened a square in the middle of the door to allow more light to shine in.


"I'd shake your hand, Victor, but that seems to rather impossible at the moment."

Victor stepped forward, deliberately pacing back and forth before Shane's chair.  "I'm disappointed in you, Donovan," Kiriaks said.  "Once, you were a worthy opponent, but this . . . This is beneath you.  To fall for such a clumsy ruse." 

"A trap, you mean," Shane said.

"Trap sounds so underhanded.  No, I like to think of this as more a part of a long-running competition."  Victor shook his head.  "Unfortunately, one of the competitors will no longer be competing."

Shane glared.  He strained against his bonds, praying he could just get free of these ropes for one second.

"Please keep trying to break free," Victor said, obviously amused.  "It's futile to try, but I do appreciate the effort."

"I swear, Kiriakis, I'll make you pay for this."  But he stopped fighting against the rope.  The best way to deal with Victor was to keep calm and not show emotion.

"I believe I've heard that before, but then again, Donovan, you always were full of empty rhetoric.  Do you remember that day, right after I was brought to Salem from Miami?  You came to the jail to gloat and promised that you would 'bury me'?  I seem to recall you telling me that I would be in prison 'for many years.'"

Shane said nothing, as Victor continued.

"I've waited a very long time for this, biding my time.  See, you think too linear.  You're too impatient, always focusing on a single target and hunting it down.  Me, I move on and deal with other matters, all the while waiting for the time to strike at targets I might have missed before.  One year.  Five years.  Twenty years.  It doesn't matter, as long as the game is eventually won."  He smirked openly.  "And, now, Donovan, you're going to spend some time here, enjoying a different type of El Presidente's 'hospitality.'"

Shane made a point of looking casually around the cell.  "I've seen worse.  I once stayed at a roach motel outside Texarkana.  You wouldn't believe that place."

"Keep making jokes, Donovan.  They'll have to sustain you for awhile."

"Oh?"  Shane quirked an eyebrow.  "I thought I was going to be executed."

"Eventually.  You'll be executed eventually for your 'assassination plot,' but only when I tell Vasquez when.  He's agreed to that as a favor for helping him protect his Operación Norteño from the authorities."

"But I'm not with the ISA any more.  You know that." 

Victor chuckled.  "I know a great many things about you, Donovan.  Some things that you don't even know about yourself," he said cryptically.  "And one of those things is that you would never sell your skills to a man like Vasquez. . . . I must say that 'Nightwing' is quite the elaborate front.  Quite a brilliant one.  You deserve credit for that.  In fact, I believe you have done me quite a good service by eliminating some of my biggest rivals.  And for that, Donovan, you can die with the knowledge that I will not expose your life's work."  He chuckled.  "I think you did me a tremendous favor tonight.  My competitors will take part in Vasquez's plan and the ISA now has a roadmap of their operations.  When they go down, there will be a vacuum that I will fill."  Shane tried to drown out the gloating, even as Victor continued. "So tell me, how does it feel, Donovan, that your last heroic act was to help me?"

"If you think that's my last act, you're sorely mistaken."  Shane locked eyes on Kiriakis.  "How many times did you try to kill me in the past?  You didn't do it then and you won't do it now."

"You don't have the Bradys to save you this time, Donovan.  You're on your own."

Shane pursed his lip.  "True, but I always thought I made a pretty good solo act."

"Yes, about that."  Victor looked thoughtful.  "I am sorry that we had to kill your men outside.  I would have preferred to avoid needless bloodshed."

Shane dropped his head, not wanting to let Victor see what real pain looked like.  The facade crumbled.  Hank had been Shane's friend for decades.  DaJohn was just a kid.  He took three quick breaths, his entire body shaking in fury.  He pressed against the ropes again, but there was no chance of them giving way.  Then, he looked back up, his jaw tight and growled, "You bastard.  Those were good men."

"I'm sure they were" Victor said, impassively.  He could have been describing an afternoon trip to the grocer.  "They accepted the risk when they took the job."

Shane continued to glare.  His shoulders ached from trying to pull free, and the stabbing pain tore at his side.  Breaths were hard to come by.  But he refused to break eye contact, refused even to blink.  "I will get out of here, and I will hunt you down."

Victor stood tall and let loose a triumphant laugh.  He turned and walked toward the door of the cell, which a guard dutifully opened.  As he stepped through the door, he looked back.

"A competitor to the end, Donovan, but I don't think so.  The game is over, and this is 'check' and 'mate.'"