Casey was so worried about Severide that he never saw it coming. One minute he was answering the door, the next he was lying on something hard: check aching slightly and stomach hollowing out. Then darkness. He woke to a tingling in his hands and feet; head throbbing and guts churning. Running his tongue over his teeth to try and combat the stale dryness in his mouth, he shifted and jerked fully awake. He couldn’t move. Twisting his head as much as he could to look behind him, he caught a glimpse of what looked like rope. Mind whirling, he worked out that his hands and feet were tied together. He felt the beginnings of a panic attack so swallowed and tried to calm his breathing. Blinking in the low light, he squinted.
As far as he could tell, he was alone in a warehouse of some sort – obviously abandoned for some time judging by the small, discarded objects and other signs of squatting. He was tempted to call out but pushed down the impulse. Whilst possible, it was still highly unlikely that his abductor had abandoned him and someone else was within hearing range. First he had to see if he couldn’t cut himself free somehow. With grim determination, he rolled himself over onto his other side and almost stopped breathing.
There was a tripod not three feet away from him: holding a cup of something suspended over a pile of white powder. He’d bet his bugles that he was looking at another time-delay fire starter. Body so tense that it was painful, he fought to stave off another panic attack. His mind raced. Was he the only one or were there more people tied up here? Was there another target area? Had the maniac Hadley already left? Or would he come by to gloat?
From his position, he was pretty sure that the cup wasn’t already dripping, but it was hard to tell in the low light. Looking around, he couldn’t immediately see anything that he could cut the ropes on so he struggled against them for a few minutes. Eventually, he gave up and cursed the expert job. All he’d managed to do was make the knots tighter. A noise from far away startled him and he decided to take his chances. If it was Hadley then it wasn’t like pretending he was still unconscious would help him any.
“Help!” He rasped, throat drier than he’d expected. “Help! I’m in here!” Straining his ears, he held his breath. There! Footsteps. He couldn’t tell where they were coming from so he called out again. “Hey! I’m in here!” Suddenly, his body jacknifed with panic and dread flooded his gut. There was someone behind him. Every instinct he had was telling him to run. He knew without turning over who it was.
“Well, well, well.” The cruel voice rang out in the large, draughty room. “What do we have here?” The footsteps came closer and Casey closed his eyes briefly before drawing on all of his anger. This sick bastard would not see his fear. “A poor little fly, caught in the spider’s web.” A boot came down hard on his hip, flipping him over to lie awkwardly on his bound hands and feet. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he injected as much authority as he could into his voice as he ordered.
“Let me go.” Hadley just smirked, eyes glowing with sick pleasure.
“The Great Lieutenant Casey: so gallant, so stoic and strong,” he mock-simpered, “but so nice!” His face contorted and he spat angrily. “You look down on everyone else when you’re the one bending over for Boden: eating up his family trash and crapping it back out again. I thought I was family!”
“You attacked Mills-” Features hardening, Hadley put his foot on Casey’s throat and pushed down.
“Precious, perfect Mills! Just because he’s the son of one of Boden’s dead friends, he gets special treatment? I worked on squad for years before that mutt waltzed in and started messing everything up!” Casey wanted to retort but it was getting hard to breathe. His body twitched and his breaths became short and laboured. The panic was threatening to take over when the sadist lifted his foot. Head feeing heavy and lungs burning, Casey could only gasp desperately. He must have lost some time because the next thing he knew he was being dragged by one of his elbows. Exhausted from his struggles and the choking, he could only wriggle pathetically. The dragging stopped and Casey froze as he found himself staring at the white powder. It was beside him, under him, all-fucking-around him. Heart pounding, he barely heard the psycho’s speech about luring Severide into a trap. All that was in his head was the image of the whole pile exploding into flames and the cold, logical side of his brain wondering if he’d even have time to realise what was happening when it went off. Something wet hit his cheek. He jerked, whole body straining against the ropes which were starting to feel like knives against his skin. Blinking, he realised that the cup was now dripping. The countdown had begun.
He tried to calculate roughly how long he had but found he’d forgotten all of the metrics. His insides felt hollow even as a numbness began to descend. Feeling the grit of the powder under his cheek, Casey coughed and took the only course of action left to him – pleading with a madman.
“Hadley.” He wheezed. “Hadley, please! Don’t do this!” There was a dark chuckle from somewhere above him.
“Oh, I knew that you’d beg, but so soon? No Lieutenant, there’s nothing you can do to save yourself, but maybe if you ask him not to, Severide won’t come running into a burning building for you.” Squinting, Casey looked up and could just make out the figure of Hadley holding something. It was Casey’s phone. The asshole was filming him! There was a little voice inside him that told him it would be pointless, that he’d only be playing into Hadley’s plan, but he couldn’t help it.
“Kelly!” He rasped through his rapidly swelling throat. “Don’t do it! Don’t be an idiot!” He broke off, coughing wetly and distantly thinking that bleeding from his mouth wasn’t good.
“Oh how the mighty have fallen. I wonder if Boden will gear up and come in too…” Almost delirious from pain and fatigue, Casey couldn’t reply; fear and rage beginning to succumb to the growing despair. He’d forgotten how it felt to be completely helpless and cursed Arson Investigations, the police, himself, for all failing to stop this crazy revenge plan. Starting to choke on the blood in his throat, he thrashed, rearing his head and wiggling to try and change position. He managed to roll onto his other side, ignoring the chuckle from behind him. Gritting his teeth, he heaved and rolled again, this time bumping into something…one of the tripod’s legs. He glanced up at Hadley; he had walked away and was talking on the phone.
Now was his chance. Trying to move as little as possible, Casey shifted until he managed to grip the pole with both hands. His mind kicked into gear as he thought desperately; if he rolled and lifted the pole with him, he could tip the tripod over. There was no guarantee that the fallen cup would ignite the powder, or that he’d even have the strength or coordination to pull it up at all, but what choice did he have? In his mind’s eye he saw all of his team, squad, the chief, the paramedics, Severide, all running into the warehouse only to be caught in the massive explosion. Dying in a ball of fire. Just like Andy. Sparing a sad thought for how Kelly would cope – or not cope – Matt tightened his grip and pulled.
7:45 am. Otis wandered into the break room.
“Has anyone seen Casey? I need to ask him something.” Mouch, already parked on the couch, looked up from his programme.
“I think he’s in with Boden.” Glancing in the direction of the chief’s office, Otis nodded and went over to the counter to chat with Sylvie at the coffee machine. In the locker room, Severide was just finishing getting changed. Hiding a yawn behind his hand, he ambled over to the break room, greeting people as he went. Boden intercepted him.
“Have you filed your quarterly reports yet?”
“Just gotta dot the ‘i’s and then I’m done.” Boden nodded and indicated with the folder he was holding.
“Before lunch.” Severide nodded back before going to the coffee machine. Mills was hovering over Cruz’s shoulder behind the counter, obviously wanting to take over preparing breakfast but not wanting to on principal. Severide flipped through the paper until roll call and was as surprised and worried as everyone else when Casey didn’t show. He’d never been late a day in his life – not without calling ahead at least. Something was wrong. Exchanging a look with Boden, he dug out his phone and rang Casey. It went to voicemail and Severide struggled to keep his voice steady.
Unable to do anything more for the moment and hoping that Casey had just gotten a flat tire or something, everyone got back to their duties even as they discussed what could have happened. Severide all but stared at his phone, ignoring the speculation which only became wilder and wilder as the minutes ticked by. Suddenly, his phone pinged and he grabbed it up lightning quick. A message from Casey:
Don’t worry about me. I’m in safe hands.
Blood running cold, Severide heard Otis reading over his shoulder when a video message popped up. As if on its own accord, his thumb tapped it and he heard someone gasp.
There was a tripod holding a Styrofoam cup suspended over a huge pile of white powder, enough to take out an entire block, but what made Severide’s guts dissolve was the figure lying in the middle – bound hand to foot and flinching as drops splashed on his face.
“Matt.” He breathed.
“Kelly!” Matt rasped from his phone, begging him not to fall into Hadley’s trap before his voice was lost to blood trickling from his lips and down his chin. The video began shaking. No, Kelly realised distantly, it was his hand which was trembling. As abruptly as it had started, the video cut off. Frozen in his seat, Severide caught snatches of the urgent conversations above him.
“-tonio now, get him to-”
“Boden! Come quick-”
“Son of a -”
“-gotta do something-”
“-where is he? Can you see-”
Then there was a hand on his shoulder.
“Severide.” Chief’s voice spoke to him, quivering with barely controlled rage. “Antonio and Voight are en route. I’m going to take us out of service-” Severide started at that, half-rising from his chair.
“What? But what if-”
“Exactly. I can’t have you charging in and-” The bells rang. Everyone froze as dispatch called out details about a house fire. Severide leapt up as Hermann commented.
“Hey, isn’t that…?” Knowing that he’d never be able to contain them now, Boden confirmed.
“Casey’s apartment building – let’s move!” They raced to the rigs and loaded up in double time, the atmosphere tense and worried. As they pulled away, Tony muttered to Severide.
“The traitor’s going down.”
“Just get us there.” Severide barked, clasping his helmet tightly. He couldn’t afford to be distracted, not even by revenge; Matt needed him to be at the top of his game. He would never forgive himself if he messed up now, if he lost Matt too.
Pulling up to the apartment building, Severide frowned: where was the smoke? He squinted. If there was any, it was very thin. All but throwing himself out of the rig, he slammed his helmet on and slung out orders. Someone might have called his name but he didn’t stop, sprinting up the steps and into the building.
“Everyone evacuate!” He yelled at people he saw on the stairs, sensing Capp right behind him. As he reached Matt’s floor, Mill’s voice came bouncing up the stairwell.
“Severide! He’s not in there!” Torn, he hesitated, exchanging a look with Capp who then called down.
“How’d you know?” Getting impatient, Severide glanced down the corridor anxiously. Just because no smoke was seeping out from under the door didn’t mean that a fire wasn’t raging, that his best friend in the world wasn’t tied up and suffocating.
“The background in the video – the floor – it wasn’t from Casey’s apartment!” Growling at the flimsy argument, Severide stalked to Casey’s door. Capp voiced his doubts.
“I thought you couldn’t see where he was on the video.” By this time, Mills had reached them, holding the thermal imaging camera.
“Otis figured it out. At least check before you go in!” He hurried forward and Severide’s terror over Matt’s fate warred with his logical side, pointing out it would be just like Hadley to try and trick him. He was wasting time. Coming to a decision, he nodded and let Mills scan through the door. There wasn’t any heat in the immediate area. No fire, no people.
“Could be deeper in.” Severide reached for the door handle but then their radios crackled.
“I got eyes inside!” It was Otis. Frowning, Severide realised that he must be on the aerial at the window. “Don’t open the door! It’s rigged!” Mills and Severide took an automatic step back. “I think I could disconnect it if I-” Boden cut in.
“Negative Otis, we’re gonna wait for bomb squad. Evacuate the building and pull back!” Frustration pumping through him, Severide wavered at the door. What if they were wrong? What if Matt was in there? Tied up and stuffed in a closet, bleeding, thinking that no would was coming?
“Severide.” Mills prompted him. Reluctantly, he turned away and went to thump on the other doors; one question haunting him: where was Matt?
For a split second, Casey thought that he hadn’t got enough momentum; he was balanced on his hip bone, pole clutched in his hands and tripod beginning to tip. Desperately, he tightened every muscle he had and pushed his feet up and the whole thing fell to the ground with a loud crash. He scrunched his eyes tight, barely feeling the grind of powder against his face and neck as he waited for the explosion. Instead there was silence. No. No!
“I can’t decide if that was stupidly heroic or heroically stupid.” Hadley commented as he walked around the pile. Casey didn’t have any energy left to answer. There was no chance that he’d have another opportunity. This was it. His friends would die trying to save him and that was on him. Suddenly, his feet fell to the ground. Groaning as his aching muscles protested, he realised that the rope between his hands and feet had been cut. Then he was being rolled over onto his side and dragged off the powder. Water was splashed on his face, a soft cloth cleaning the blood and powder away. “I thought I’d taken enough precautions against attempts at heroism, but trust Lieutenant Casey to find a way.” Casey blinked, brain feeling sluggish as he struggled to grasp what was happening. His captor’s voice was hovering just above him and it sounded…fond? “You know you have a lot of great qualities: grit, determination, inventiveness,” it continued conversationally, "Severide has relatively good taste." He mock-sighed. “If only you hadn’t been brainwashed by Boden…” He trailed off as he leant over to clean a trickle of blood down Casey’s neck.
Skin crawling at the contact and closeness of Hadley’s body, Casey jerked his head back, grimacing at the pain but unable to regret doing it. Tutting and cleaning the cloth with the bottled water, Hadley didn’t seem surprised or offended by the gesture.
His phone pinged and he looked at it. “Good.” He muttered after a moment. “Looks like we’re onto Phase 2.” Eyes finally focusing, Casey could make out Hadley’s face. The manic glee shone in his beady eyes as he explained. “He should be well and truly fuming, and so, so worried.” Casey was unable to move, he was so drained, so paralyzed by guilt and fear that he didn’t even react until Hadley leant down and whispered. “He'll do whatever I ask him to now.”
Shivering automatically, Casey groaned as he was hauled into a sitting position. Braced against Hadley’s chest, breath uncomfortably hot against his ear, a bottle was pressed against his lips. Now more alert, he tried to struggle but Hadley reassured him. “It’s not poisoned, I promise. You’ve lost a lot of fluid; this’ll make you feel better.” Closing his eyes in defeat, Casey began taking sips. It was some kind of energy drink, the artificial taste thick on his tongue. Not realising how thirsty he’d been, he drank greedily, gasping as the bottle was taken away again. Now rehydrated, his mind began to go into overdrive, trying to work out what Hadley was planning next.
As much as the implication that there were further plans for himself horrified him, he decided to use that to his advantage.
“What are you going to do?” Hadley chuckled, the sound vibrating through their connected torsos, making Casey cringe.
“Don’t you worry about that.” He pointed to the spilled liquid and freezing, Casey realised that some of it had already reached the powder. “It’s just water. You were never in any danger, well,” he sounded like he was smiling, “except from yourself.” Even more disturbed by his captor’s mood swings and kind of wishing he’d go back to bitter aggression, Casey ventured cautiously.
“You know that’s not why I’m asking.” Shifting around a little, swinging one leg over Casey’s outstretched ones and placing a gentle hand on his cheek, Hadley looked him in the eyes as he agreed.
“I know.” Pushing down the urge to turn his head and bite down viciously on the hand, Casey licked his lips and tried.
“You could run. It’s not too late.” Although momentarily distracted by the sight of Casey’s tongue, Hadley countered.
“I’m not going to let that son of a bitch run me out of town.” Encouraged by the fact that Hadley was engaging, Casey argued.
“If you stay and do your plan, you’ll either die or go to jail. Don’t they say the best revenge is a life well lived?” Throat bothering him again, he started coughing. Hadley shushed him.
“Stop talking now, you’ll only make it worse. And nice try but I’m a psychopath, not crazy. I’ve made up my mind and one way or another: Severide will die today.”
“No, please!” Casey croaked. Hadley shushed him again, this time pressing his thumb against Casey’s lips. He made to speak but then paused, staring into those big, pleading eyes. After a long moment he said softly.
“There was only one thing that I could do to do him that was worse than killing him.” He brought his other hand up to caress the side of Casey’s face. Swallowing down nausea, he could only tremble as Hadley whispered.
“Did you know that he’s in love with you?”