Pairings/Characters: Noah Bain/Al Mundy (Is it one-sided?)
Fandom: It Takes A Thief
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Allusions to torture, descriptions of mutilation
Summary: Sometimes an agent is too broken to put back together again.
Date Of Completion: June 5, 2010
Date Of Posting: September 7, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, ABC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1556
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Apparently, It Takes A Thief is the ancestor to White Collar, so I've heard. :) The original aired on ABC from 1968-1971 and starred Robert Wagner as master jewel thief Alexander (Al) Mundy, who had been caught by Noah Bain (Malachi Throne) and put in prison. Noah offered him a get-out-of-jail-free card if Al would consent to working for the SIA, a Government intelligence agency. The reluctant recruit was one of the SIA’s most successful agents, his thievery talents put to use for Uncle Sam. Noah was able to handle Al, though sometimes fell for his charm, too. ;)
The entire series can be found here.
They just shrivel
And blow away
In the wind.
"The Spy Game"
Noah Bain hated visiting this complex located behind high walls deep in the Maine forest. It was for the irredeemably broken, and the alternative in their profession was usually death.
Noah showed his I.D. at the main gate and was waved in, an autumn crispness in the air. He drove his dark-blue Chevy Impala down the paved road to the parking lot.
Next he entered one of the brick buildings that housed the ‘retired’ of this facility, nodding at the guard at the entrance. He checked in at the security desk and pinned an I.D. badge to his shirt, taking an elevator to the second floor. He walked down the nondescript hall with its beige walls and scuffed linoleum floor to Room 206, quietly knocking, then opened the door.
The room was like all the others here at Pinewood: pale green walls and furnished with a maple bed, dresser, nightstand and two chairs, one a rocker.
The occupant of the room was sitting in the rocker by the window, his face in shadow. There were no lights on in the room and the sun traced bar-like patterns of light on the hardwood floor, cobalt-blue skies framed by the dark-green drapes.
“Hi, Noah.” The voice was raspy, as if he had swallowed too much smoke. Dressed in a pair of jeans and a soft white shirt, his feet were clad in scuffed sneakers.
A far cry from the glory days, huh, Al?
Alexander Mundy, suave jewel thief extraordinaire, had always worn the finest clothes and looked like a jet-setter. He’d been sophisticated and charming, all the while plotting to steal the finest jewels on five continents.
Until I caught you and put you in prison.
Noah pulled up the other chair, careful not to sit too close. Al would shy away if he got too near.
Noah said gently, “She died last night.”
Silence. The ticking of the clock on the nightstand sounded loud, then Al asked, “She wasn’t in pain?”
“No, she wasn’t.”
Noah could feel relief emanate from the man sitting only a few feet away from him.
“Keeping Dad’s grave up?”
“It looks fine. I’d never let his grave be neglected, Al.” It was a promise between them.
Silence again, then Al said, “I know.” He sighed. “They’re all gone now.”
Noah felt the sadness well up in him. Alistair Mundy had been a world-class jewel thief and had taught his only son everything he’d known. Bessie Grindel had been an equally-successful jewel thief, a close friend of the family. She had been old and sick, but feisty until the end.
The only two people in this world…besides him…who cared about Al were gone now.
He glanced around the room. The only personal touches were a stack of books on the dresser, a watercolor of Paris on the wall, and a platinum watch on the nightstand. Al had been allowed to keep it, but he never wore it.
A framed photograph of Al and his father had been put away in a drawer after Alistair’s death, along with other photos. Noah was proud to have been included in some of them. He remembered one from Monte Carlo, both of them smiling, Al’s arm slung around his shoulders in a friendly gesture. They were at the height of their careers when the photograph had been taken, fresh off a highly successful mission.
“So, how’s the great big ol’ world out there?” asked Al.
Noah nearly winced. The scratchiness of his friend’s throat must hurt like hell. His vocal cords…he stood and picked up the pitcher from the nightstand, pouring a glass of water.
“I don’t need it, thanks.”
Noah nodded. He drank it himself, wishing it was colder. He sat back down.
“The world’s still pretty much the same.”
“Sorry to hear it.”
Noah’s guilt curled around him, his thoughts wondering for the thousandth time whether he’d any right to offer Al the deal so many years ago. A master jewel thief sentenced to San Jobel Prison, Al had jumped at the chance to get out, saying to Noah, “Bad food, bad company, lousy tailors…sure, I’ll work for you.”
It really wasn’t fair for you, Al. Agents who joined knew the risks, knew there’d be little personal reward and the only way out was death, crippling, or this place.
Some agents got lucky. They were able to return to civilian life, but they were never truly free. The old life always reached out and grabbed you. You never really got out. He was living proof, trying to live a civilian life, but often it was a hollow shell.
Did you know that, Al? Or did you think you could beat the odds? You always had before. That Golden Touch of yours…it made you a master thief, one of the best ever. You had nerves of steel and boatloads of confidence. I was the only one to trip you up. Do you hate me for that?
The shadows grew a little darker as the autumn afternoon sunlight lengthened across the hardwood floor. Noah wished that he could rip the shadows away, once more see the old, sparkling Al with the confident smirk and agile fingers.
Was it fair to bring you into this business, Al, when all you wanted was to get out of prison? Did you know what it would be like?
Noah had a sinking feeling in his stomach, his own loneliness eating away at his soul, a harbored hope and chance at happiness gone, lost in blood and broken bones.
The shadows shifted, and Noah saw the livid scar that started above the eyepatch and continued below it to the jawline. The scratchy voice asked, “So do you think Nixon will resign?”
“It’s looking that way.”
A breeze fluttered the curtains, a shaft of sunlight glinting off the brace on the right leg.
“Should have hired me. It wouldn’t have been a fourth-rate burglary with me involved.”
“No, it certainly wouldn’t have.”
A slight echo of the old amusement tinged Al’s voice. “I guess they decided to go cut-rate.”
Noah smiled slightly. “I guess so.”
For a moment, it was almost six years ago when they had first started working together, Al a brand-new reluctant agent and Noah his immediate superior. Al played the charmer and Noah tried to rein him in. While Noah had been able to handle Al, he’d still felt himself falling prey to that undeniable charm, but a genuine friendship had developed. If he had wanted more, it had been buried deeply, though hope had always flared when a moment would pass between them, eyes meeting and the world grown a little brighter before Al went off to pursue yet another woman in a long line of them, but he always came back to Noah.
Al had always been a favorite of his. He admired his special skills, his way with women, his suave ‘cool’ that seemed to epitomize the Sixties.
Now, in the Seventies, it was more of trying to patch together what had glittered brilliantly back then, prisms of light dancing crazily as they shattered, jagged shards cutting as flesh bled and screams were ripped from a tortured throat.
The door opened and a nurse said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were visiting, Mr. Bain.”
“It’s all right, Nurse Kelleher. Do you need me to leave?”
“Just for a minute.”
Noah stood, preparing to exit the room.
“You coming back?” The voice was soft beneath the rasp.
Noah paced the hall, trying to keep another hall out of his mind: dark, dingy, and smelling of blood and death. A frantic dash through that hall, trying to find what lay behind the iron doors, searching for one prisoner in particular.
Noah lit a cigarette with shaking hands and tried to block out what he and his men had found behind the last door.
All broken. So much blood.
He closed his eyes, seeing crimson splashes staining dark-gray walls. What he wouldn’t have given to see Al’s handsome face, his smile dazzling as he said in his deep voice, “Oh, you’re beautiful, Noah”, rich laughter echoing under glittering chandeliers instead of the broken body in the grotesque chamber of horrors.
No, you were beautiful, Al. You belonged with beauty, not the ugliness of espionage.
Nurse Kelleher came back out with a smile. “All set, Mr. Bain.”
Noah crushed his cigarette into an ashcan and went back into Al’s room.
“So, how’s the Senator doing?”
“Just fine. He’s grateful you saved his reputation after that little incident of him being framed. Compromising positions don’t go over well in the Senate.”
“I was happy to do it.” A breeze blew in through the window. “Got a cigarette?”
Noah fished for his pack, shaking it so that one slid out halfway. Al reached for it.
The sunlight glinted off the metal claw as Al deftly took the cigarette, the other claw cupping it as Noah lit it with a remarkably steady hand, considering how his nerves were jumping.
Al leaned back into the shadows, the spark of the ember glowing in the darkness.
The Man With The Golden Touch had no touch at all anymore.