Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Murder Mystery Series are the creation of the author.
To Lisa, Inga and Susan, my deepest thanks for their hard work as my beta readers.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
A Special Warning: This story has a graphic and realistic description of the forensic investigations involved in an airliner crash. It is a dark story involving a psychopathic killer. Some strong language is used. This story might upset more sensitive readers.
You can contact Anne Azel at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or visit the Anne Azel's World web site at <www.jes.com.au/~azel> Anne's books are also available through Dare 2 Dream Publishers
Aliki had been even more withdrawn than usual that night. Dawn waited until their daughter, Mac, was safely off to bed and then approached the subject with her moody lover. "Aliki, we need to talk, Hon. The plane crash, I know, has been pretty traumatic for you. You've really withdrawn. If you feel you can't talk to me about what is going on inside you, maybe you should make an appointment to talk to one of the police councellors. You are just not yourself."
Aliki put down the report she was reading and looked at Dawn with eyes filled both with annoyance and guilt. She just didn't think she could handle one more strain in her life at the moment and yet she knew she was not being fair to Dawn or Mac. "Something has come up in relation to the crash. Something pretty serious. I...I can't talk about it. I'll be leaving really early tomorrow. A body is being exhumed for re-examination."
Dawn saw the pain in Aliki's eyes. Whatever her lover was holding in was no small matter. She went over and put her hands on Aliki's shoulders, rubbing some of the tension out before leaning forward to place a kiss on Aliki's head. "Just remember we are here for you. This Saturday, we'll be officially family but I don't need that ceremony to know in my heart that you are my partner, my soul mate, my reason."
Aliki swallowed and reached up to place her hand over Dawn's that rested on her shoulder. "Sometimes the past can come back to haunt you. I.... I am really worried."
"Tell me about it."
Aliki swallowed hard and with effort tried to get out what they had seen and done at the crash site and then the horror of the letter. Dawn listened but said nothing until Aliki came to a jerky halt. Then she wrapped her suffering lover close in her arms. "You can only do what you can for the victims, Aliki. You didn't cause their pain although sometimes when people are in shock they may lash out at whoever is near. Nor are you responsible for the crash or the actions of this Jigsaw. Your life is not an extension of theirs. Tell me why this Jigsaw might have a grudge against you."
Aliki held on to Dawn tightly, needing her warmth and understanding. "It was one of my first cases when I was assigned to the forensic lab. Jigsaw, her real name is Marsha Higgins, killed her parents. Tortured and stabbed them to death because they wouldn't let her have the car for the evening. She covered them in gas and set the house on fire. Then she took the car and picked up some friends and went to a movie."
Dawn looked shocked. "Holy crow, that is one disturbed girl!"
Aliki nodded. "The police were fairly certain it was her but they couldn't make her vary from her story and they couldn't pin point the time of death close enough to be absolutely sure it was her. There was other deaths, women, where the MO was similar after that. The police could never get enough on her to make anything stick.
I was going back over old cases that had not been closed. One was Jigsaw's parent's murder. I noted that on the description sheet the first night of her questioning, it had been observed that she'd had a scratch on her arm from her dog. I went back and checked all the scrapings that were kept from under the finger nails of each parent. By using some pretty sophisticated enhancing techniques, I was able to prove that a minute amount of skin tissue found intact under one nail of the mother had come from Jigsaw's arm. It placed her at the scene and we got the conviction."
"So she has it in for you?"
"Probably. But she is supposed to be dead. Stabbed and burnt in the prison riots a few months ago. Neil Ross did the autopsy."
Dawn sat on the edge of the desk. "You don't think Ross's lab work is all that good, do you? And you feel the prison stabbing and the burning of the body repeats a pattern. You think that Jigsaw is still alive. Is it her remains you want to exhume?'
Aliki nodded. "Jigsaw, at the age of seventeen, got away with murder. And she probably killed others over a number of years before we were able to convict her of her parent's death. She is smart and deeply psychotic. A few years in prison would have given her a lot of time to plan and to pick up criminal knowledge. Yeah, I have a really bad feeling about this....Dear God, Dawn, what if she is alive and did blow up that aircraft to get back at me?"
Aliki looked up with eyes filled with horror and pain. Dawn wrapped her close to her. "Then she has done a hideous crime and I know you and the police will find her and bring her to justice. You are not responsible for her sick actions, Aliki. Only for seeing that justice is done."
They went to bed then, Dawn snuggling close to try to warm the wounded soul of her lover and Aliki lying stiff and awake beside her well into the night. Her mind replaying over and over every minute of Jigsaw's trial and the crash site.
The scream of passengers' panic suddenly silenced by death woke Aliki with a start from the nightmare that had terrified her dreams. Dawn was holding her, trying to calm her down. The alarm clock wailed softly like a siren in the distance. Aliki reached out and silenced it.
"You okay, lover?"
Aliki wiped the sweat from her lip and nodded. Then she gave Dawn a reassuring if shaky hug. "Nightmare. I'm okay. It's three thirty. I gotta get up and head out to the grave site. You go back to sleep."
Dawn dropped a kiss on Aliki's cheek. "Okay. When will I see you?"
"I don't know. It will depend what I find. I'll do the identification as soon as the bones are delivered to the lab," Aliki stated, returning the kiss and then slipping out of bed. "I'll phone, hopefully around noon."
Dawn nodded, sympathy and concern written on her face. "Just you remember you are getting married in a few days."
Aliki smiled but the light didn't reach her troubled eyes. "I won't." She headed off to the bathroom to get ready. Dawn sat brooding for a few minutes. If Jigsaw did bring that plane down, Aliki was not going to be able to live with that knowledge easily. How could she help her partner work through this horror?
Exhumations always happened at dawn. An old tradition from the turn of the century but one still practised today in some places to avoid the attention of the public. A backhoe had been brought in to dig up the grave and a flat bed truck stood by to carry the remains off. Aliki watched as two men slid down into the grave and cleared away the excess soil from the plain coffin. It was still in relatively good condition considering. They got ropes around it and it was lifted slowly from the earth by the backhoe and lowered on the truck. Caked dirt broke loose and trickled back to the ground and the morning light reflected blood red off the wood.
Canvas was tied over the coffin and the truck headed off. The grave diggers covered the scar in the earth with wood and put up caution tape. Aliki signed the witness of exhuming form presented to her and then slipped into her Honda van for the trip down to the labs. There had been no tears, prayers, or concerned relatives. Just a dirty job done quickly and efficiently. Jigsaw had left no one alive that cared.
Bates watched from the doorway as Aliki quietly and methodically worked on cleaning and measuring the grave remains. She had been at it most of the morning, obviously going out of her way to make sure that her findings were going to be accurate. She jotted one more thing down on her lab sheet and then went to clean up. The lab technicians would see to the removal of the bones and the cleaning of the area.
A half hour later, Aliki appeared at Bates' office door looking grim and determined. "Come in. Well?"
Aliki nearly growled in frustration. "It's not her. Marsha Higgins had broken her right tibia as a young teen and there is no evidence of such an injury. She had also had her wisdom teeth removed. The female in there is missing one wisdom tooth, and the others have fully emerged. Height and bone structure are similar and probably age but that is about as far as it goes. Neil never did a complete examination. He saw a burnt corpse with roughly the same characteristics and concluded it had to be Jigsaw."
Bates sighed and looked equally annoyed. "We need to know how this misidentification could have happened. Someone must have been missing."
Aliki picked up a thick file folder from her lap and placed it on Bates' desk. "I think I might have an idea. After her conviction, Jigsaw stayed in the city jail waiting on lawyer appeals and such. Then, a few months ago, she and another inmate up on prostitution charges were transferred to the main prison facility. The riot and fire occurred that night. It might be a lucky coincidence but I think Jigsaw started both the riot and the fire so that she would have the opportunity to change places with the woman she went up with and murder her. Then she did her time for prostitution and walked away a month later."
Bates looked up in surprise. "Surely that wouldn't be possible."
"I think it was. Jigsaw is not only criminally insane but she is very smart. She could have pulled this off. And I think she had been planning an attempt right from the very beginning. Check the file, she had access to the records. She volunteered to work in the prison office filing to gain parole points. I think she changed the finger prints and photos between her file and the other woman's as soon as she knew they would be going up together. It was an opportunity made in heaven for someone as devious and bold as Jigsaw." Aliki's face muscles seemed to ripple with suppressed anger and the need for control.
"She would not have access to the data files though," Bates reasoned.
"No, she would need a user pass code. But as long as no one compared the two that wouldn't be a problem."
Bates leaned back in his chair. The leather squeaked and settled again. "We'll need to get the authorities to check. If Jigsaw did escape the wheels have to be put in motion to get her on a most wanted list and back in the hands of the justice system."
Aliki snorted in frustration. "And how long will that take? And in the meantime how many more people will she kill in my name? I can't wait that long...this is personal."
Bates looked up sharply. "We are not in the business of making things personal, Doctor Pateas," he reminded her coldly. "It is our job to be objective and measure justice impartially. You did your job correctly. Now you have to let the justice system do theirs."
Aliki's eyes were the colour of blue ice. "I am not going to sit back and let Jigsaw kill again. She wants me to come after her and I mean to do just that."
Bates slammed forward in his chair. "Damn it, Aliki. You have no proof that your crazy theory has any truth to it at all. This department will not support you on some wild goose chase. This is a police matter."
Aliki stood slowly. "No, once that letter arrived it was no longer a police matter. This is all about her and I."
Bates stood and made one last appeal to Aliki's common sense. "This could ruin your career. Damn it, Aliki, you are getting married on the weekend."
For a second she looked away from Bates blinking back tears. "No I'm not."
"I can't, can't you see that? It would put Dawn and Mac in grave danger. It would be taunting Jigsaw. The wedding is off until I can find Jigsaw and put her away." Aliki used Bates' stunned silence to pick up the file. "I'll make copies of what I need and return the originals."
"I can't do anything to help you , Aliki. Not officially," Bates warned. Aliki nodded sadly and walked out.
A few hours later, Bates wandered into Aliki's office and sat down. Bates' office was always an eclectic pile of files and specimens seemingly randomly left balancing precariously on every surface. Aliki's office was rigidly neat, every bit of paper filed and every speck of dirt swept away. Not for the first time did Bates wonder how his beautiful assistant could work in such a sterile environment. The only concession to human weakness was a framed picture of her with Dawn and Mac sitting on a large boulder by a northern lake. Bates knew that Aliki's half sister the famous actor/director Robbie Williams had taken the picture.
"I have had a call from personnel. They tell me you have applied for a leave of absence."
Aliki looked up from her computer screen where she had been methodically going through all of Jigsaw's documentation. "It seemed the best way. I don't want my actions to reflect badly on the lab."
Bates looked up sharply. "Dr. Pateas, let us establish this point right now. I do not approve at all of this undertaking but if your mind is made up I do expect you to conduct yourself well within the perimeters of the law and of your moral and ethical conscience. Is that understood?"
Aliki straightened. "Yes, Sir." Intellectually she knew that Bates had no authority over her out side of the forensic lab yet her respect for him was so great that she couldn't help herself from accepting his right to set the perimeters of her investigation. In a way, having these emotional safe guards outlined was a relief. It set boundaries that would be hard for her to cross even in the heat of the moment.
"Good. You will keep in touch. I have made arrangements. Here is a key to a locker at the Union Train Station downtown. In it you will find a cell phone that will be kept charged for you. There will also be a supply of money should you need it, a spare gun and ammunition. Your new name is Alberta Freeman. Here is your driver's license and health card."
Aliki took the battered and worn documentation with interest. How had Bates arranged all this in such a short time? She smiled to see the old devil had used Dawn's surname for her cover. He might be helping but he was certainly not about to let her forget that she had a family and responsibilities to look after. "Thanks."
Bates looked grim. "Naturally, this department knows nothing about this undercover assignment you have taken on."
"Naturally," Aliki agreed.
Bates nodded. "You have been in the west and have recently moved to the east looking for work. You had a room in Calgary, the address is on your license. You worked for the Calgary Stampede Association in grounds care until you lost your job due to down sizing. Questions?"
Aliki shook her head. "Thanks, Dr. Bates. I owe you for this. I know you don't agree and I appreciate your support."
Bates stood with a noise that sounded much like a growl. "You do not have my support. I am just trying my best to protect a very valuable member of my team from her own stubborn stupidity and to make sure that long suffering partner of yours might actually someday have a decent life with you." For a moment he hesitated. "Good luck.," he said and was gone.
Aliki blinked and felt the pain of Bates' disapproval deeply. What was she going to tell Dawn? How could she make her understand that doing this had to come before their wedding plans?
Lunch had come and gone and so had dinner with no word from Aliki. Dawn had gone through the normal routines of the day covering her growing anxiety as best she could. Things could not have gone well for Aliki today or she would have phoned. The fact that she had not heard from her moody lover could only mean one thing; Aliki didn't have the nerve to talk to her and that could only spell bad news. She loved her tall lover dearly but there was no denying that Aliki was an emotional coward.
It was well past eight when Aliki's van pulled into the driveway. Mac had come bouncing down the stairs immediately. "Hi Aliki. Where have you been? What's up?"
Aliki looked around for help but the quiet defensive eyes of Dawn did not seem to offer much hope. "Hey, let me get in. Why don't you go put a kettle on. I could sure do with a cup of tea."
"Okay,"smiled Mac, who could see no wrong in her hero. She headed off up the hall leaving Dawn standing watching Aliki from the living-room doorway.
Aliki squirmed. "I should have phoned."
Dawn cut her no slack. "Yes, you should have."
Aliki swallowed and blushed. "Sorry." This was going to be even harder than she imagined. "We need to talk."
"Okay," stated Dawn quietly, as she turned and walked into the living-room. Normally, they snuggled up together on the couch. Tonight, Dawn chose the chair in a dark corner on the other side of the cold hearth.
Mac came trotting back up the hall. "I go the kettle on....what's up?"she demanded looking back and forth between her mother and Aliki. Something was not right, she could feel the tension between them like a physical barrier.
Aliki sank into a chair suddenly overcome by the enormity of the task ahead. "Mac...Dawn, I..." She swallowed and tried again. " I believe that a very disturbed woman whom I helped convict a few years ago has escaped the justice system without their awareness. She sent a letter to me stating that she was responsible for the death of the passengers on the downed aircraft last week. She said this was just the first of the killings she means to do to get back at me."
Mac looked at her Mom with eyes filled with horror and confusion. Dawn held her arm out in welcome and Mac went over and cuddled closely to her mom. She wasn't sure what this all meant but it didn't sound good.
"Mac, Dawn, I can't in good conscience allow this woman to continue with her mad plan. I am also terribly afraid for you two. I believe this is a sick, twisted game, that she is taunting me to come after her and I mean to do just that." There, it was said. Now the rest tumbled out before she could chicken out. "I need to delay the wedding. I don't know how long. It could be sometime. Jigsaw will be living on the streets and I am going to have to do the same to track her down. I'll be leaving tonight. I don't know when you will hear from me again."
For a beat of a heart there was no response. Then Dawn stood and walked over to pat Aliki on the shoulder. "You will need time to get ready. Mac and I will see to making the tea and some sandwiches for you. Come on, Mac."
And that was it. They were gone. No tears, no questions, just quiet acceptance. The surprised reaction chilled Aliki to the very bone.
In the kitchen, Dawn talked to Mac, helping her daughter work through this. "What am I going to tell my friends? They have just accepted that my parents are gay and are going to get married and now I have to tell them it is all off."
Dawn gave her daughter a hug. "It is not off. It is delayed. Alki doesn't have a nine to five job, Mac. We might not always understand her motivation but we have to accept that she knows what she is doing and this is the only way. Aliki would never deliberately hurt us. She loves us. She feels that what she is doing has to be done by her in order to protect us and others." The words sounded sincere and had the quality of truth about them. Dawn hoped it would help her daughter to accept this blow to their plans. For her part, all she felt inside was a growing coldness.
Mac slapped egg salad on fresh slices of bread looking annoyed. "Her job is to find the evidence. The police should be the ones going after this woman. What aren't they?"
Dawn shrugged. Good question, she thought, but out loud her words were supportive. "Aliki is a skilled forensic scientist but she is also an RCMP officer. You know she has used her police skills before to solve crimes. That's the way Aliki operates. Mac, over four hundred people died on that plane. That is very hard for Aliki to accept and just sit back and do nothing."
The sandwich got dumped on a plate roughly. "We could have the wedding first and then she could take off."
Dawn shook her head. She didn't have an answer for her daughter. She didn't even have an answer for herself.
Upstairs things were not going any better. Aliki was on the phone with her sister. "Are you fucking nuts?!" Robbie snapped. "Everything is ready, damn it. What about your family? They are arriving from the west in two days time? They are expecting a wedding not a damn wake. And what about Dawn and Mac?"
Aliki had a hell of a headache. "We've talked. They understand."
Robbie was good and pissed with her half sister. "Bullshit. I don't understand. This is not your job. You are just using this to chicken out again."
Aliki snapped in anger. "Back off! You know better than that. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think there was a better way. Do you really think I'd walk out on everyone if I thought I had options? I don't. I know this is fucking hard on everyone. It is fucking hard on me too. Just help me out here and get this wedding called off with as little attention as possible."
There was silence for a second at the other end. "Dawn has agreed to this?" asked a quiet, cold voice.
"Then Janet and I will see to getting everything cancelled. We'll be down in a day or two to pick Dawn and Mac up. If you think there is that much danger then they will be safer for the summer up here. Besides, they are going to need some family support."
Aliki felt the barb but didn't react. Her anger spent she felt only numbness now. She had made her decision and there was no going back on it. "Thanks. Thanks for taking care of them, Robbie. Good bye."
Aliki heard Robbie's uneven sigh as she fought with her emotions. "We don't have to agree on this. Janet and I are here for Dawn and Mac and I hope you know that we are there for you too if you need our help. Be careful."
"I will. Thanks. Bye."
For a few minutes, she stood by the phone, dealing with the rawness of her feelings. Then she gritted her teeth and headed back down the stairs to face her family.
It was a strained gathering. They sat subdued around the kitchen table and talked about how to go about things. Aliki related the bare essentials of her conversation with Robbie. Dawn nodded and promised to phone Aliki's father in the morning and tell him and her two brothers and wives not to fly out for the wedding after all. They talked about wedding gifts and what to do about them and made a list of guests that would need to be contacted. They talked about everything but what was really important and that was Aliki's decision to go after Jigsaw.
Mac was quiet. That was usually her way anyway. She knew her mother wanted her to support Aliki's decision so she was going to, but inside she felt very betrayed by her hero. She felt angry too that her mother was being left at the altar this way. It wasn't right. She left as soon as she could and hid up in her bedroom writing emails back and forth to her cousin Ryan, Robbie's daughter.
"Dawn, thanks for supporting me in this," Aliki said, now they were alone. "I know it is hard."
Dark, stormy eyes snapped up. "I don't support you on this. It is more than hard, it is embarrassing and degrading. But I don't want to hurt my daughter anymore than she has been hurt by your actions. I won't dump my anger on her. I will not criticize your actions to anyone. Something like this is a family matter and far too sensitive a topic, for me at least, to want to discuss. Just don't count on me being here when you get back, Aliki. You have decided what path you feel you need to take and I guess now I need to sit down and re-evaluate where I am going too."
Aliki felt like she had been hit. "Dawn, I love you!"
Tears welled in the smaller woman's eyes and she blinked them back with determination. She was not going to make a scene no matter what. "I love you too, Aliki. But love by itself is not enough. There has to be commitment. You have things to do to get ready. Go do them. I'll see to the dishes. I need to be alone for a bit." Aliki nodded miserably and left.
There wasn't much to do. Jigsaw would make for the streets of Toronto. She knew the streets and how to survive having run away from home on any number of occasions. She would be out there waiting for Aliki on her own territory. Aliki would not have the element of surprise but she might, thanks to Dr. Bates' help, be able to move onto the streets before Jigsaw realized she was there. Shedding an identify was not as easy as it seemed. Her face was known, and on the street there was a well plugged- in grape vine of information. If she was spotted, everyone would know within days. She would need to be very cautious.
She went into the bathroom and cut away at her hair with a pair of scissors, combing her hair forward to create a deep bang and cutting the rest ragged and short. She used tweezers to drastically thin her eyebrows and popped in tinted lenses to change her eye colour to grey.
She chose one of her old black, gardening jeans with the torn knees and ragged, discoloured cuffs, a scuffed pair of hiking boots, a black sleeveless t-shirt, and a worn, black Levi jacket. Her shinto knives slipped down the side of her boots nicely. Into an old knapsack, she added underwear, a change of shirt and jeans, toiletries, and her service revolver with two extra clips. She was ready.
She found Dawn in the living-room curled in a corner of the couch. "I'm going now,"she stated awkwardly, standing in the doorway of the room. How do you say good bye to someone you love and just walked out on?
Dawn got up and came over, wrapping her arms around her partner. Aliki dropped her bag and held Dawn close. "I'm sorry."
Dawn nodded. "You look a mess."
Aliki kissed Dawn's head. "I'll look worse soon. You and Mac be very careful. I...I love you."
Dawn gave her one more hug and then stepped back. "I love you too. You come back safe."
Aliki nodded, picked up her bag and fled the house. The whole situation was just too painful to handle.
She walked down several blocks and caught a street car for the centre of the city. Tonight, she would stay at the bus station making sure that the night crawlers saw her about. The assumption would be she got off the late bus in from the west and had no money or place to go. It was time to start building her street identity.
The window of the bus reflected back a ghostly image of herself superimposed over the beating flashes of store windows as the street car bumped along. Already she looked street worn and tough. In a few days, she would have left her old identity behind altogether and be someone else. Someone hardened, calculating, and bent on evening a score.
Dawn lay awake well into the small hours of the morning trying to come to terms with what had happened. She wasn't sure she could. Intellectually, she could rationalize Aliki's decision, emotionally it was a totally different matter. The more she thought about the enormity of calling off the wedding and the embarrassment associated with it the more angry with Aliki she became.
Her heart was a cauldron of emotions. Confusion, anger and a good deal of fear for Aliki's safety churned around and around in her soul. She watched the grey light of a city dawn creep into the night sky and set her jaw firmly. She could get through this. She had faced worse situations in her life. First, she would have to talk to Robbie and Janet about calling everything off. Then she needed to see to their own safety and pack to join Robbie and Janet at their home in the north of Ontario. Lastly, she needed to get on with her novel. There was no use keeping everything on hold. She needed to get on with her life - a life without Aliki.
Aliki has spent the remainder of the night sitting in the downtown bus station. Now cramped, hungry, and grimy with a layer of dust and diesel fuel she headed out onto the streets. There was a small place she knew that the police used that would help her get deeper into her character. She walked the seven or eight blocks stopping along the way for a coffee and bagel at a corner store.
Her destination was a small tattoo shop on a seedy back street. The owner was an East Indian woman who had a small apartment in the back of the store and rented the rooms above to students scraping by on next to nothing.
The place smelt of curry and bird droppings. Shazenna had two large parrots in a cage on the counter. She wore a lime green, flowered sun dress, that even in its fullness did not hide the many rolls of fat that formed Shazenna's being. "Whatta you want?"
"Hi to you too, Shazenna," Aliki rumbled, coming to stand at the counter and absently holding up a piece of browned apple for one of the birds to peck at.
Shazenna smiled, leaning back on the counter and looking with interest at the tall woman. The smile did not reach her eyes. "Dr Pateas. It's been awhile. What do you want that is going to fuck up my life?"
"I need to be on the streets, Shazenna. Seeing but not seen."
The old woman chuckled softly. "You ain't got a snowball's chance in hell. You stink of cop shop."
Aliki raised an eyebrow and leaned closer, speaking with a soft, steely voice. "Let's start with some henna tattoos that won't wear off for a while. Then we'll talk about hair dye."
The old woman's smile faded. She couldn't afford not to have the police on her side. If the police decided they didn't like you they could make life fucking miserable. She reached under the counter and pulled out a worn album. "Take your pick."
That afternoon, Aliki emerged from Shazenna's with dirt-brown hair, and two henna tatoos. "Don't wash or stand in the fucking rain and they'll last you through to the winter," was the old woman's advice. One was a chain of barbwire around her upper left arm the second was a skull with the words 'fuck you' on a banner below. She'd had this one put on the left side of her throat. People's eyes would be naturally drawn to the tattoo and away from her face. This was important. The last step in her new identity was a pair of tinted glasses.
Shazenna looked her over critically. "You're too fucking clean and walk with too much pride. Yah gotta slouch like a beaten dog. That's what them people are out there, either mad or beaten dogs. Sometimes both."
Aliki nodded. While Shazenna had worked on her they'd had time to talk. The old woman had no time for crazies that blew up aircraft. Grudgingly, she had offered help and advice, even a bowl of well stewed curry. She had no time for cops but believed strongly in revenge.
Aliki headed back down to Younge Street and hung around until late at night. The summer streets were an exotic blend of pimps, hookers, night club yuppies, tourists, and street people. Aliki walked up and down the street doing the usual street shit. She rooted through dust bins, wrote on a scrap piece of cardboard that she was out of work and begged change. All the while, her eyes scanned the crowds looking for that one familiar face that she knew she would never forget.
Now it was survival, slowly sinking into a life style and identity that would be accepted on the streets. For now she was sleeping under some bushes in one of the city parks. The days were hot and the nights cool. It was okay. She had to remain alert and she knew in a few weeks that she'd need some place warmer but for now it was okay. Each morning, she'd head into the train terminal and report into Bates, then phone Dawn on the cell phone that had been left in the locker. Then she'd wander the streets, checking out slowly and methodically the old haunts where she knew Jigsaw was likely to go. At noon, she'd head over to the soup kitchen run by the Salvation Army and have a bowl of chicken soup and bread. Then it was back on the street again well into the night, waiting, watching and listening.
There had been rumours. Nothing definite, just some talk of a tough female bragging about bringing the airliner down. No one seemed to know her or where she might be. The description was vague and the general feeling was that whoever she was, she was just another damn crazy with too big a mouth and too little brain. Aliki knew different. Jigsaw was playing with her. Leaving her crumbs to tantalize her but no clear trail to where she might be. She knew she needed to be careful. Jigsaw would be listening and watching too. She would know if anyone was asking questions or taking too great an interest in the woman who was bragging about bringing the plane down. Aliki listened but showed no interest and asked no questions. It was frustrating and inefficient but it was necessary to have patience if she was going to catch Jigsaw.
Three days on the streets and Aliki was feeling lean and hungry. She had woken before dawn cold and cramped, wet by a steady drizzle that was blanketing Toronto. She headed down to the train terminal and washed her hands and face in the public washroom, then brushed her teeth. Once she felt almost human again and had checked that no street people were around, she found the safe locker and took out the phone.
Her call to Dr. Bates was short and to the point. "Morning."
"Good morning, Alberta. How are you doing out there?"
"It's raining and I am sleeping under a god-damn bush. How do you think I am doing? There is nothing new to report. I had a beer over at The Jarvis Tavern last night. The bartender had heard a woman laughing about the plane crash. Told him she'd heard it was an act of revenge and had nothing to do with terrorism. The description, five foot, six, red shaggy hair and a lazy eye that turns slightly in, could very well be Jigsaw. I'm going back there tonight."
"Be careful. Do you need back up?"
Aliki snorted. "I thought I was on my own in this."
"You are. I am just protecting Dawn's interests," came the grumbled reply.
"I can manage." Aliki had her back against the grey, chipped lockers. The metal felt icy cold through her damp t-shirt. Her alert eyes restlessly scanned faces.
"I talked to Dawn last night. She is naturally worried about you. She and Mac have finished up all they can do there and are heading up to Robbie and Janet's tomorrow morning. You will call her, I hope."
Aliki growled, anger surging through her frame and driving off the chill. "That's my business. I appreciate your concern but butt out."
There was an audibly sigh of frustration at the other end of the line. Bates was not happy with her attitude. "Very well. I am here if you need me." He rung off.
Aliki pulled a face at the cell phone, realized that the whole conversation on her part had been rude and antagonistic and blushed. The continuing nightmares of the crash and the discomfort of her physical situation had left her short of sleep and patience.
She punched in Dawn's number. "Hi, it's me."
"Hi. Are you okay?"
"Yeah fine. I am starting to pick up some leads. Nothing definite but rumours that she is about."
"Yes, I will." Aliki's words fell into silence. What more was there to say between them? A void of disagreement separated their actions and their hearts. Aliki hated the gulf between them. It made her feel lonely and depressed.
Dawn swallowed her hurt and pride and made an attempt to reach out to Aliki. When she spoke her voice was calm and neutral. "Robbie will be picking Mac and me up tomorrow as soon as she has finished at her office. We are going up to the lodge for the month."
Aliki felt the tightness in her heart. "Good, good. Aah, everything else work out okay?"
There was an angry snort at the other end of the phone. "What do you think, Aliki? It has been pretty difficult and embarrassing. Look, I don't want to leave town without seeing and talking to you. Can we meet somewhere?"
Aliki frowned. She didn't need this. She was deep into her character now and didn't want to risk blowing her cover. Yet she yearned with all her heart to see Dawn again - to somehow make up for walking out on the woman she loved.
"I'll come by the house. Can you make sure Mac isn't there? We need...sometime together."
There was thoughtful silence at the other end then Dawn's voice came on the line again, sounding hesitant and cautious. "Mac will be out this afternoon at a swim party for one of her friends. Can you be here about one? I'll have a lunch ready."
Relief flooded through Aliki. Dawn might be really angry and disappointed with her but she hadn't closed the door on their love. "Thanks. Yeah, I'll be there. Dawn...I...I'll be there."
"Okay. Bye then. Be careful."
For a long time, Dawn stood at the bedroom window, her arms crossed against the chill that seemed to have invaded her insides. She loved Aliki but she couldn't let herself be so badly used. She wanted to support her lover because she knew the horror of those deaths weighed heavily on her conscience yet she did not agree with what Aliki was doing. Tears slowly rolled down her face. Be safe where ever you are, Aliki, she prayed.
Aliki had risked slipping into the forensic building after doubling back several times to make sure she was not being followed. She had a long shower and changed her clothes. She didn't look much better but at least she didn't smell. She sat at her desk after, using the morning time to review once again Jigsaw's profile. Around eight, Bates came in and sat down opposite her. "I heard you were in the building."
Aliki turned from her computer to look at her boss. "Dawn wants to see me so I came in to clean up. I thought I might as well catch up on things here before I head over there. I'm sorry I was such a pain in the butt this morning,"she finished with a self-conscious blush.
Bates leaned back a twinkle in his eye. "You are intelligent, talented, and difficult, Dr. Pateas, and I don't suppose that is going to change." He considered for a minute looking at Aliki with some interest. "I would hardly have recognized you. You do look...tough."
Aliki blushed. "I'm going to need to be a lot tougher before this is over, I suspect. You heard anything new?"
Bates shook his head. "There is an investigation underway into the misidentification of Higgins' remains. They are starting to collect and assemble pieces of the downed craft now. Our early assumptions seem to be holding true. An explosive fire started near the port wing fuel tank and ripped through the fuselage. The cause has yet to be determined. Sabotage, terrorism, or mechanical failure are still all possibilities. We have talked, Aliki, about how Jigsaw might have just used this event to draw you out and that the plane crash might not have anything to do with her at all."
Aliki nodded and swallowed hard before responding. "I hope that proves the case. Dr. Bates, this is hell to live with."
Bates nodded, deeply touched by Aliki's honesty and vulnerability in front of him. "You go on with your research then. I mean to have a walk over to The Coffee Guy and bring back bagels with cream cheese and some coffees for us."
Aliki blinked back tears at her boss's kindness. "Thanks."
Dawn had been deep in her thoughts, preoccupied with where her relationship with Aliki was going. On the one hand, she was so angry and hurt she could scream but on the other she knew Aliki was risking her life to stop a killer. She didn't know how she could cope if anything happened to the woman she loved, especially at the moment when there was such tension between them. She came out from the living-room having closed the windows against a pending summer storm and found a stranger standing there. Her gasp of shock seemed to be drowned out by the drumming of her own heart.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
Dawn looked into grey eyes below shaggy, ill kept brown hair. The body was dressed in shabby black jeans and a t-shirt and lean, hard muscle showed clearly through the thin material. A tanned wiry arm had a tattoo of barbwire around it and there was a death skull tattooed onto a strong, long throat. The over all effect was one of danger and strength. "Aliki? You look....different. You scared the hell out of me."
"I'm supposed to look different." She had gone over and over in her head the things she should say. Instead, so near to the woman that she loved that she could smell the heady scent of summer herbs that were so much a part of Dawn, Aliki impulsively took a step closer and leaned forward to capture Dawn's lips with her own. "I hate being away from you,"she growled.
Dawn's arms slid up her chest and wrapped around her neck. "I hate it too. I want to be married to you and living as a family. I am so worried about you...about us."
"Don't be, Babe. I know this is hell but things are going to work out. I promise you that." Aliki's arms held Dawn close, her hands moving seductively over her lover's back and bottom. Dawn responded by moving against Aliki's sex.
Aliki nuzzled at the white underside of Dawn's throat. "I know we need to talk- to understand each other- but right now, Lover, I need you real bad."
"You're kinda scary," Dawn laughed nervously. This was a side of Aliki that she had rarely seen. Her lover prided herself on her responsibility and practical, controlled attitude. This Aliki was just a bit out of control and very sexy. Dawn needed to say so many things while she had Aliki here but she had missed the taller woman in her bed and just at the moment all she wanted was the reassurance of Aliki on her, in her and loving her.
"I feel kind of scary," Aliki growled and picked Dawn up in her arms and carried her up the stairs to their bedroom just as the first roll of thunder shook the house.
Aliki had felt rejected and her life tilted totally out of control. She needed to feel loved. Needed to feel in charge. Rain drummed heavily against the window as she pulled the clothes from her excited lover. Their kisses were deep and demanding. Dawn was just as eager to get Aliki out of her clothes. Flesh touched flesh and with a growl of need Aliki pulled Dawn onto their bed, spreading her legs wide with her hips as she sucked and kissed nipples swollen with desire. "You excite me to the core of my being. I need to have you. Need to feel you come while I am in you," Aliki whispered, her voice rough with emotion.
Dawn groaned and let her finger tips rake down Aliki's broad shoulders. "Oh God, you feel good."
Thunder rolled as Aliki's hands explored and caressed, finally demanding entrance into Dawn's being and rocking with the ancient rhythm of desire. Their coupling was hot and wild. The storm raged and their bodies heaved to the tides of emotional hunger. When Dawn came her cry of release echoed on the wild wind. Aliki felt her own release, her eyes enjoying the naked form of her lover highlighted by the flash of lightening.
She rolled off and pulled Dawn to her, the two of them still breathless from the intensity of their coming. Dawn snuggled close, dropping gentle kisses on Aliki's hot flesh. The kisses intensified and Dawn slipped lower to bring her kiss swollen lips against Aliki's sex. The scent and silken feel was heady and Aliki's moans of pleasure as Dawn licked the nectar of her lover's excitement drove Dawn wild with need again. She rubbed her own sex against Aliki's leg while she gave pleasure to the woman she loved.
Aliki looked down with eyes blazing with passion. The naked body of her lover moved against her and she could see Dawn feasting at her sex. Waves of need flooded through Aliki and she bucked violently as her climax rolled with the thunder outside.
They lay together in each others arms listening to the moisture dripping now the storm was spent, each contented and a bit dazed at the intensity and abandonment of their love making. It had been great.
"You okay?'Aliki whispered, kissing the head that rested under her chin.
"Mmmm, yes. You?"
"Feeling better now. I hate us being apart."
The body beside Aliki pulled away slightly. "It was your choice." The response was dull - lifeless.
Aliki sighed and sat up on the side of the bed. "I am doing what I feel I must do. I know everyone thinks I have fucked with their lives pretty badly but I am sorry, I feel pretty fucked over myself too."
Dawn wiped away tears angrily. There was no point in getting into this. She didn't want to fight with Aliki - not now while she was in such danger. "Look, just go. Phone me up north when you can. I really miss you and want you safe but just at the moment talking like nothing has happened is just too damn hard for me."
Aliki let her face fall into hard lines. She couldn't afford emotion. "I'll phone when I can." She got up and dressed while Dawn watched with sad eyes and then leaned down and kissed her lover good bye. "Have a safe trip. I love you." Then she was gone, back on the streets, back to the world of darkness into which she had stepped.
Aliki once again rode the street car down town. Dusk was settling as she prowled the back alleys looking for a place to keep warm until the bars opened. A depression had settled around her like a dense fog. She felt totally alone and miserable. Around six, she slipped into a lesbian working class bar off Jarvis that she knew Jigsaw might have been seen. She settled in the far corner of the bar and ordered a beer.
"You've been here before,"the young girl said, slipping the beer in front of Aliki. "What's your name."
"Alberta." Aliki sipped the beer through its bitter head and checked the girl out with bold eyes. She was tall and lean and looked at first glance a lot older than she actually was. Her hair was blond but darker at the roots and her nose was a bit too narrow and her chin too sharp to be cute.
"Where're you from?" the girl asked, wiping the counter with a rag.
Alberta's felt herself bristle with caution. Was the kid just hitting on her or was she being pumped for information? "Out west. Been working at grounds maintenance for the Calgary Stampede Association. I got layed off so I thought I'd come out east and see what was doin'. Haven't been here in years. What's your name?"
"Alice." The girl wrung the rag out and started washing dishes in a small bar sink. "So you glad you came?"
Aliki gave her the look. "I haven't... yet but I'm working on it."
Alice laughed. It was a nice laugh that bubbled up and sparkled in her eyes. "Think you're hot stuff, eh?"
Aliki smiled. She hadn't played this game in years and found it fun. Not that she had any intention of taking it any farther than bar talk but for a bit anyway it was companionship and understanding against a cold, wet night. "I learned to ride pretty good out west,"she smirked and took another sip of her beer. "Can't say the east has improved any. I'll probably head back west in the spring."
Alice was now drying and polishing the thick beer glasses and putting them back on the shelf. "I'd like to go west,"she said, giving Aliki the once over. "I like riding... a lot."
Aliki smiled. "I'll keep that in mind."
Alice returned the look. "I'm off in another half hour."
Aliki dropped a few bucks on the counter. Bartenders, especially ones hot to trot, noticed and heard a lot of things. Aliki figured Alice could be of some use. Still she'd have to be careful that Alice wasn't one of Jigsaw's fillies. "I'm going to play some pool. Join me later."
Alice watched Alberta out the corner of her eye. If this was the one that Jigsaw was interested in knowing about she sure was a surprise. She didn't act like a cop. She was one tough and sexy woman. Alberta's strong, long back showed through her t-shirt as she stretched out to take a shot. Alice liked what she saw. Long fingers and capable hands, great buns, and runners' legs, yeah, Alberta would be a real mean machine in bed. She wondered if she was into anything kinky. You could never tell, not until you got 'em behind closed doors. Jigsaw liked it when she talked dirty about what Jigsaw was doing to her but she didn't like Alice to move. That was freaky. Jigsaw liked to do the fucking but she didn't like to be touched not ever.
Gus, the owner, had told her that Jigsaw had killed a bunch of people and that she shouldn't have anything to do with the woman. Alice didn't care. In fact, it sort of turned her on. She liked rough sex, not violent or anything, just on the edge where it was kind of scary and real exciting all at once. She figured there was a fine line between pain and ecstasy. That's the way it had always been in her family anyway and quite often that line got crossed.
She pulled a few beers then made a phone call like Jigsaw had told her to. Bad things happen in life. That wasn't her fault.
Once Carla had taken her place at the counter, she poured two beers and took them over to where Alberta was playing pool with a few dykes that had come in. Alberta took the beer and kissed her neck. Alice felt herself getting hot and wet. She liked the way the other women looked on with hungry eyes. While Alberta waited her turn, Alice stood close at her side, her hand in Alberta's back pocket. Alberta didn't touch or look at her after the welcome kiss but Alice knew she was turning Alberta on. She could feel the woman's heat.
They played three games and Alberta took them to the cleaners. She was good, cool and calculating. After, she pulled Alice close and they danced real slow in a corner. Alberta checked out what she had to offer with hands used to getting what they wanted.
"You coming back to my place?" Alice whispered, as she sucked at Alberta's ear.
Alberta gritted her teeth. It had been a long night and she was sick of this game. "Not tonight, Babe. Got other arrangements."
"She can't do for you what I could," Alice purred.
Alberta laughed and took Alice's head between her hands kissing her hard, "That remains to be seen. I'll see you around, hot stuff." It was a good exit line and Aliki used it. She felt dirty and disgusting and hated herself for what she was doing. Her whole fucking life stunk.
Moodily, she walked through the empty streets, heading back towards the park where she had been sleeping. She would need to find more shelter than the bush afforded. What was she doing out here anyway? Maybe Bates and her family were right, and she should leave the investigation to the police. She hadn't got very far. She winced with guilt and embarrassment. How did she explain to Dawn what she was doing?
The attack came suddenly and without warning. A meaty hand grabbed her by the hair and pulled her into an alleyway where her face was smashed against the rough side of a brick wall, once, twice, three times. Pain shoot through her head and left her dizzy and disoriented. She could feel hard, callused hands under her shirt and her jeans being ripped open and pulled down. "Hey, bitch, we got somethin' for you," someone breathed into her face, as she was pulled to the ground.
Panic seized her and she thrashed at her two attackers wildly. The heavy weight of a man covered her and a fist drove into the side of her head several times. She could taste blood and smell stale tobacco and beer and feel fingers groping at her body. "Stop, your fightin' slut! And give us some tail."
Aliki's hand slipped down her bent leg and the cool metal of a knife blade touched her hand. Rage at her body's violation roared through her head. She lashed out with her knife and sunk it deeply into the man's groin. With a howl of pain, he rolled off her and she reached and stabbed at the hand that still pinned her shoulders to the ground. "Fucking tart!"the second man yelped, letting her go and staggering back.
Aliki willed her body to move and staggered to her feet, pulling her torn jeans up with a hand trembling with emotion while she kept her eye on the man she had just wounded. Bikers, drunk and looking for trouble, she concluded. Well, they had found it. The one lay on the ground holding his parts as blood soaked his underwear. The other had backed up against the opposite wall and was holding a bloody hand under his arm. Aliki raised the knife. "Come at me and I'll rip your bowels out," she warned.
The man looked down at his comrade. No help there. He looked up at the knife in Aliki's hand. His decision showed in his eyes a split second before he pulled a knife from the sheaf on his belt and lunged forward.
You can tell an amateur wound because the assailant will stab down, Aliki recalled, hearing the words of her forensic instructor years ago as if he was standing beside her. Aliki ducked under the blade, letting it descend over her shoulder. Her knife plunged deep and ripped up like a pro. There was no blood this time. Deep knife wounds bleed internally not externally. The man gave a soft grunt and dropped to the alleyway, dead.
Sobbing and trembling with shock, Aliki leaned against the wall and tried to make sense of what had just happened. Her head pounded and muscles ached with strain. She had come so close to being raped. Her body stunk of male sweat and her skin crawled from their bruising groping. She looked down at the man who lay on the ground whimpering. His jeans were wrapped around his boots and his big hairy ass mooned out of shorts soaked red with blood. She has stabbed him deep into his groan. "Help me,"he whispered between gasps. "I'm gonna bleed to death."
Aliki thought about what they had planned for her. They would have killed her after they had finished, that went without saying. By then she probably would have wanted death. She wiped her knife clean on her jeans and slipped it into her pocket. Then she straightened her ripped clothes as best she could and walked away. A moan of despair followed her as she limped down the street.
The park was out of the question. She couldn't walk that far and she didn't want to be alone. She staggered down a few streets and slipped down an alley that led behind a large department store. Here, amongst trash cans, a pathetic group of street people huddled next to the exhaust fans of the building's heating system. She found a spot next to a drain pipe and slid to the urine stained asphalt. A soft, crazy chuckle of a female came from a heap of rags. "So was it good for you too, Sweetheart?"
"Fuck off,"Aliki muttered, curling into a ball and crying herself into exhausted sleep.
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