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 <email@example.com> 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 woke in the morning to the sound of garbage canisters being dumped. She tried to move and pain shot through her body. The trauma of the night before exploded on her mind. She had killed one man and left another to die. What the hell had she been thinking? With a groan of pain that was more from her soul than the soreness of her muscles, she staggered to her feet and hobbled back down the streets to where she had left the man the night before. Perhaps it wasn't too late. Perhaps she could get him some help.
People stared at her in shock as she lurched by them, blood caked hard to her clothes and her face swollen, bruised and scraped. A block short of the alleyway, she stopped and stared with horror. Yellow police tape cordoned off the area. Fear dropped like an ice ball into her gut. She had murdered.
She turned quickly and pushed her way through the morning commuters. She'd need to change and clean-up and then head to the police station. People moved aside, avoiding her as she limped into the bus station and made her way to the lockers in the back corner. Tears of despair rolling down her face she searched for the key that should be in her pocket. It wasn't there.
A voice behind her observed softly, "It fell out of your pocket in the alley last night." Aliki turned to see Dr. Bates and Dawn standing right behind her.
Dawn's face was stained with tears. She took Aliki by the arm and led her from the building. Bates followed carrying Aliki's knapsack. His car, with its certificate of police authority propped in the window, was parked by the curb in a no parking zone. Stunned, Aliki allowed herself to be led meekly and deposited in the car. Dawn slipped in beside her, and Thomas Bates took the driver's seat.
He looked up into the mirror. "How badly is she hurt? Has she been..."
Dawn was trying to wipe dried blood from Aliki's face. "I can't tell. Aliki, Hon, did they rape you?"
Aliki managed to shake her head. Her body shook with sobs. "No, they tried. Dr. Bates, I killed them."
Bates kept his eyes on the road but his hands gripping the wheel were white with tension. "One lived. The police arrived shortly after the incident. Someone reported a woman being attacked in the alley."
Aliki nodded and sat eyes not quite focussed as Bates drove them back to his house. Slowly, Aliki started to become aware of the circumstances. "Where is Mac? Why aren't you on your way north?"
Dawn stopped her inspection of Aliki's wounds. "Thomas phoned me just as Robbie arrived. He suspected that you were in trouble. I insisted that he pick me up. Robbie has stayed with Mac. Thomas reasoned that if you could you would head for the lockers so we went and waited there."
Aliki nodded. Dr. Bates' reasoning as always was sound. She looked over at Bates. "How did you know it was me?"
"I was called in early this morning to examine the body. I found the key among his clothes. It must have fallen from your pocket as the two of you fought."
"I need to turn myself in," Aliki muttered.
Bates felt the muscles in his neck tighten. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He believed in justice and yet he recognized that politics, lawyers, and media hysteria often interfered with the process. The system functioned on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of its intent and that made its objectivity cruel and blind to human reaction. The system would not give Aliki a fair deal, the prison inmates would get her as soon as they knew she was a cop, and if they didn't the bikers would.
"Unfortunately, the prints taken at the scene were inconclusive. The rain during the day, I imagine, made identification impossible. I saw no reason to report the key as part of the inventory of the victim's belongings."
Aliki looked up sharply with eyes filled with shock and met Bates' eyes looking back at her through the driver's rear view mirror. His eyes showed his resolve and determination. He had tampered with the evidence to protect Aliki.
"Keep quiet, Dr. Pateas. That is an order," Bates snapped irritably.
"Yes, Sir," Aliki whispered. Her head ached terribly and she felt sick to her stomach. She must have a concussion. She lowered her head to Dawn's shoulder and let her partner hold her as the car made its way through the Toronto streets.
Once at Dr.Bates home, Dawn took Aliki into the guest bathroom, stripped her down and got her under the shower. In the end, she had to take her own clothes off as well and get in and help her lover wash. Aliki had leaned against the tiled wall and let the water run off her. Dawn was very concerned. Aliki was not acting like herself. By the bruising she had come very close to being raped and her head and neck showed signs of repeated blows.
Dawn helped her partner out of the shower and towelled the two of them down. She sat Aliki on the toilet seat while she dressed. Then she took Aliki's face in her hands gently and kissed her forehead. "Aliki, I need to know the truth. Did either of those guys rape you? Do you need medical attention?"
Aliki looked up her eyes not quite focussed. "No, I'm okay. They tried...beat me up good...but I reached my knife. I..."Sobs shook her body.
Dawn held her close. " It's okay, Aliki. It's okay,"she whispered, rocking her lover like a child.
Dr. Bates was sitting in his den puffing away nervously on his pipe when Dawn finally came out. "How is she?"
Dawn shook her head. "In shock obviously and I think she has a concussion. She wasn't raped and most of the blood was not hers. Her face is a mess. They must have really pounded her and she's bruised where you'd expect her to be bruised." Red, partly from embarrassment and partly from anger, crept up Bates' neck.. That this ugliness could have happened to his friend and colleague appalled him.
Dawn had flopped down in a chair. "She is sleeping but I don't like her state of mind. This whole thing is tearing her apart. Now she has another death on her conscience." Bates nodded, looking miserable and not knowing what to say. Dawn looked at him with eyes filled with tears. "Thank you for protecting her."
Bates squirmed uncomfortably. "Nonsense. That is just the way things worked out."
A few hours later, Aliki lay in the spare bedroom staring at the ceiling. She had always wanted to see where Dr. Bates lived. Now she was here and she couldn't remember a thing about the place, not even the colour of the bathroom. She felt her head and winced in pain. She wasn't tracking very well she knew. Gather your thoughts Aliki. Work through things from when you entered the bar last night and get everything straight in your mind. Something didn't feel right. There was something important that she had overlooked. Some key that would blast this whole mess open wide.
Slowly, methodically, Aliki went through the evening, forcing her aching brain to function better. Alice had a girl friend who had been in prison. She had told her that while they danced. Jigsaw had probably been hanging around that bar. The bikers just happened to be waiting down the street from the bar for someone to rape. Jigsaw used to be a biker's girl. Gradually the pieces came togther. Jigsaw had not been fooled. Jigsaw knew she was out there and was setting traps for her. It hadn't been a coincidence that the two assholes had been in the alley. They had been waiting for her. Jigsaw knew she was there and had tipped them off to look out for a woman cop. It was Jigsaw's way of sending her a little present and welcoming Aliki to her world.
This changed everything. She had to get back out there. She had to show Jigsaw that her little game had failed and that Aliki was okay and not intimidated. She needed to make Jigsaw angry so that she got careless and made mistakes. She needed to protect Dawn and Dr. Bates. They had already risked themselves to help her and that was just not right. So far she had been a real fuck-up and she was going to have to do much better than this to catch Jigsaw.
Slowly, with a groan of pain, she slipped from the bed. From her knapsack, she pulled her spare jeans and t-shirt and slipped them on. Then on a sheet of paper that she took from the printer that sat beside a computer on a desk, she wrote a note.
I need you to know that above all else I love you and want with all my heart to be your legal partner. Circumstance has pulled me from your side and I know that has hurt you deeply. It is a painful ache in my heart too.
Dawn, I know how to find Jigsaw but the price is very high and so is the danger. I am going to use myself as bait by moving in with one of Jigsaw's girls, Alice. I need you to know in case something goes wrong that I will not have slept with her. My heart, my body belongs only to you.
Please take Mac to Robbie's place in the north. I love your loyalty and courage but I need you safe. I can handle this. I am leaving now before you can stop me. Tell Dr. Bates that I will keep in touch.
I love you,
Sometime later, Dawn read the note that lay on the bed. She had to read it twice before its meaning really impacted on her shocked mind. She turned and walked from the room finding Thomas Bates in the kitchen making sandwiches.
"How is she?" he asked, over his shoulder. Then put down the knife he was cutting tomatoes with and turned to go to Dawn. "What is the matter?"
Dawn pushed the note into Bates' hand and sank down onto a kitchen chair. Tears rolled down her face. Bates read the note and swore.
"How could she do this to me?" Dawn sobbed. Bates put his hand on the woman's shoulder. He didn't know how to answer. This was well out of his depth. He made Dawn some tea and then slipped down the hall to his study. He needed help. The phone number he dialled was answered on the second ring.
Bates sighed in relief and sank into his chair. "Robbie this is Dr. Thomas Bates. I have quite a report to give you." He kept to the facts, giving a concise but complete summary of the events of that morning. When he finished and asked for backup, Robbie swore.
"That god-damn sister of mine is more trouble than the fucking plague. Next time I see her I am going to beat her silly. Give me your address and Mac and I will come over there and pick Dawn up. Honest to God, what the hell could Aliki be thinking of?!"
Bates gave his address and directions for getting there from Aliki and Dawn's home while he pondered Robbie's question more seriously than Robbie had meant him to. When he answered it was with a warning. "Aliki is not acting like I would expect. I think the shock and guilt of the last two weeks is weighing very heavily on her mind. Her decision today to escape via the window was completely irrational. And to walk out on her wedding and then leave a note to say she was moving in with another woman...well, how insensitive and cruel. I am very worried about Aliki's state of mind."
Bates could hear Robbie pacing irritably at the other end of the line. "She won't need a mind once I've finished kicking her butt around the block," she answered, but Bates could hear the fear and strain for her sister and Dawn in her voice. "Stay with Dawn. I'm on my way."
Bates nodded although there was no one to see. "Yes, okay. See you in a few minutes."
Dawn had stopped sobbing and was sitting holding her tea cup in her hands. Its warmth felt good. Shock had left her feeling cold to the bone. How much could you take before you gave up on love and walked away? She knew a lot of people would have given up on Aliki a long time ago. Was she a fool to think Aliki was capable of making a real commitment to her and Mac? Tears threatened to overflow her eyes again at the thought of how hurt Mac was going to be. She wiped them away angrily. She'd be damned if she was going to cry over Aliki. She wouldn't let herself. She had to be brave for Mac's sake. This was going to be hard enough on her daughter.
Bates came in and sat down across the table from her. His pipe, unlit out of respect to her, was clamped between his teeth for security. With reluctance he removed it to speak to Dawn. "I called Robbie. She and Mac are coming over."
Dawn nodded, then looked up into Bates' gentle eyes. "I know you have risked a lot to protect and help Aliki. I know if she was in a better state of mind, she would want me to thank you."
Bates looked down at his pipe as if seeking for guidance. "She is right. Jigsaw has to be stopped and the system might not be quick enough to do that before she strikes again. I just wish this was not so personal an issue for Aliki. It clouds her judgement. What are you going to do?"
Dawn took a sip of her tea to calm her nerves before she went on. "The first thing is to deal with the issues that I can do something about, then I'll deal with the harder issues. Mac and I will go up north with Robbie and I'll deal with the fall-out from the cancelled wedding and make sure that Mac is okay. Then I mean to come back here and do whatever I can to protect and help Aliki. I don't know if our relationship is going to survive this crisis but I do know that I am not going to walk out on her when things got tough. I won't give her that out. Aliki is going to have to face me and explain herself to my satisfaction"
Bates smiled and clamped the pipe stem into his mouth, speaking around it. "Dawn, you are far to good a woman for that renegade assistant of mine but you are just the sort of strong, compassionate woman that she needs."
The ringing of the door bell made them both start. "I'll get it," Dawn stated. "That, I am sure, is Robbie."
Dawn walked down the hall and opened the door to find Robbie with her arm around Mac's shoulder. Robbie immediately stepped in and gave Dawn a big, sisterly hug. "Mac and I have talked it over and we have decided to boil Aliki in oil first and then feed her to the sea gulls."
Dawn laughed and hugged her daughter after she was released by Robbie. "I'll agree only if the bird's have dull beaks and ravenous appetites."
They all ended up down in the kitchen. Thomas Bates finished making sandwiches and coffee and they sat around and discussed what a silly, stubborn ass Aliki was and what they could do to save the idiot's bacon. An hour later, the three of them said goodbye to Bates and headed to the Toronto Island Airport where a helicopter would jet them north
Aliki sat on a park bench. She didn't feel good - sort of distant and queasy and her head ached badly. She lay down on the bench. The sun felt hot and good. People passing by thought she was sleeping off a high. She didn't wake until the early evening and for a long time couldn't make out where she was or why. When her memory finally came back a ball of fear exploded in her gut. What the hell was she doing? If Jigsaw had been following her she would have been dead by now.
She sat up and tried to work the kinks out of her shoulders. Carefully, she reviewed her plan. It looked like Jigsaw wanted to play a cat and mouse game. It could be a long time before she got the chance to make an arrest. In the meantime, she couldn't continue to live on the streets. It sapped too much of her strength and was dangerous in itself. Alice would take her in but she would also want money. Aliki needed a job. She headed down to the bar she had been at the night before.
Gus, the owner of the Jarvis Tavern, was behind the counter checking the inventory against the receipts. "We godda sign out front. We aren't open yet"
"You got a sign saying you need help. That's me."
Gus looked at her swollen and bruised face and sneered. "You'd scare the costumers away. What happened to you?"
"Like your costumers haven't seen bruises before. Let's just say I walked in front of a bus."
Gus grunted and smiled. "Nine bucks an hour and tips if you get any."
"That's below minimum wage."
Gus shrugged. "It's all I'm going to pay. Take it or leave it."
"I'll take it."
The back room where the metal sink was located was small and hot. It smelt of stale beer, cigarettes and cockroach spray. A pile of glasses and dishes remained from the night before. "Ya, get these washed and then you wipe down the tables and chairs and mop the floor. You got that?" Gus asked almost accusingly.
Aliki gritted her teeth and smiled cockily back at her new boss, "Yeah, I got it."
She worked through the morning and into the afternoon. About eleven o'clock, Alice came in, looked at her in shock and tried to make a quick retreat. Aliki had her hand around her arm before she could. "Let's talk. In the back, you."
Alice hid her fear behind aggressiveness as she tried to pull away from Aliki's hold. "I don't want to talk."
Aliki smiled and leaned in real close trapping Alice between her body and the wall. She whispered into the woman's ear softly but cruelly, "Then I guess I'll have to make you talk. Come on." This time Alice let herself be dragged into the back room.
Aliki pushed Alice onto a wood chair and stood over her glowering. Alice tried to look defiant and swung her hair out of her eyes. "You don't look so good. They must have done a real number on you."
Aliki yawned. "You ought to know. I'm sure Jigsaw's friends have docked in your harbour more than once. Sorry to disappoint you but I had to kill the one 'cause he was getting fresh and the other won't be using his plumbing for a long time 'cause he's got a catheter stuck up it. I had to make a point with him with my knife."
Alice paled. "Holy Shit, Jigsaw will kill you."
With a snort, Aliki bent over Alice. "I don't think so. I need a place to stay and I think your place will do nicely."
Alice laughed. She was a slow thinker and the laugh came a few seconds too late. "You'd be throwing your life away. Jigsaw lives with me."
The police officer smiled. "You might be one of Jigsaw's fucks but she doesn't live there. Jigsaw doesn't trust anyone that much and she hates to be touched. She'd come and get what she wanted and then leave. So I'll be sticking to you like glue."
The waitress looked both sulky and intrigued. Aliki knew the type. They came through the morgue all the time. In life, they were hooked on the rush of danger and pain in a relationship. In death, they bore the scars of brutality. They were moths attracted to an evil flame of passion. Alice's fate was decided the moment she got involved with Jigsaw. Aliki would do her best to protect the woman but she knew that there would always be a Jigsaw in Alice's life and sooner or later the rough sex would be deadly. It is a fool who thinks there can be boundaries in an SM relationship. The envelope is always being pushed that bit farther until the victim ends up in an emergency ward or the morgue.
Alice looked up at Aliki. "What if I don't want you...there."
Aliki forced a smile. "You want me ...there." She leaned in and kissed Alice long and hard. Alice clung to her. Rubbing her body against her like a cat. Aliki tolerated it for as long as she could and then pulled away. "You have work to do. So have I. Get out of here." Alice straightened her clothes and did as she was told. Aliki washed her face and hands in disgust and forced her mind back on her work.
Her head ached and her soul felt crushed. She wasn't sleeping well. The voices of the dead cried out to her. Her family didn't understand. Her boss was angry with her and had taken great risks in protecting her. She could still feel vividly the violation of her body and her anger and panic when she stabbed a man to death and wounded another. Now she felt like she was cheating on her partner. She couldn't sink much lower if she tried. Nothing mattered anymore except getting Jigsaw.
She worked past closing time and then got on a bus with Alice and rode north along Yonge Street to the area where Alice's room was on the second floor of an old red brick that had been divided into small utility apartments of dubious reliability. Alice's clothes seemed to be the principal decoration in the room, piled where ever she had discarded them. Dirty dishes sat in a yellowing porcelain sink and the tap dripped. The bathroom was at the end of the hall and was shared by the four apartments on the floor. The only furniture in the room was a sagging mattress on the floor. Aliki flopped down on the mattress. "When I wake up your clothes had better be folded neatly somewhere and the fucking dishes done or I'm going to kick your butt around this shit hole." Her voice sounded tough and her body language aggressive but her heart ached. She felt so alone.
Dawn sat on the front deck of Robbie and Janet's home. It was huge and made of massive log supports and thick, wide cedar decking. The view too was wonderful. The lake the deck overlooked was calm and reflected the fall colours of the surrounding northern forest like a mirror. This should have been the happiest day of her life, the day that Aliki and she recognized their love and commitment before their family and friends. A lump formed in her throat and big tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. Instead, she hurt so deeply inside that she just wanted to curl up in a ball and whimper. It had been a hell of a few days. She felt tired and worn and ever so fragile in body and spirit.
Damn Aliki anyway. She should have realized that Aliki would find an excuse not to go through with the ceremony. She didn't doubt Aliki's love just her ability to once again take on the responsibilities of a family. Dawn dug out an already damp tissue from her pocket and wiped away tears with a shaky hand. She knew that Aliki had felt trapped and overwhelmed after her mother had died and Aliki had been called on to help her father raise her brothers, particularly her high spirited younger brothers who were twins. Dawn also knew that Aliki had had a stormy relationship with her older brother before his death. Yet, the Pateas family seemed to love each other and get along now. There was something else, Dawn was sure, something deep inside Aliki that made her mistrust commitment. Something that went far beyond the loss of freedom and childhood that came with her mother's death.
Then there was Jigsaw. Had Jigsaw sabotaged that airliner just to get back at Aliki for putting her behind bars? Nothing could have hurt her partner more. Dawn had lain awake those nights after Aliki returned listening to the nightmare that tore her lover's sleep and soul to ribbons. She had heard her pacing back and forth in the dark after she woke afraid to go back to sleep. Dawn had tried to help, tried to comfort her but Aliki had pulled behind her wall of silence. And that, that was what hurt the most, not the delayed wedding, not the embarrassment, not the confusion and pain in Mac's eyes, but the realization that Aliki didn't trust her. Didn't need her. Dawn lowered her head and let the sobs break out again, her small body shaking with emotion and pain. She felt so alone.
Janet watched Dawn from the window wondering if she should go to her or leave her some space to come to terms with what had happened. Robbie moved restlessly from room to room sulking. Janet had had to speak pretty firmly to her about not bad mouthing her sister in front of the girls or Dawn and had strictly forbidden Robbie from going after her sister and marching her to the altar in front of a shot gun. A small smile hovered at the corner of Janet's mouth despite her concern. Olive Oil, as Janet often called her partner because like olives she took some getting used to, tended to use a bomb when a pea shooter would do.
She sighed; it was time for some planning and feather smoothing. She turned from the window and followed the sound of pacing to the back hall. "Want some tea?"
"No thanks," Robbie responded sulkily, looking at her feet as if they had suddenly done something fascinating.
Janet rolled her eyes. Williams could be so difficult. "Come help me make tea anyway. We need to talk."
Robbie opened her mouth to refuse. Janet raised her eyebrow. Robbie's mouth closed and she obediently followed her small partner to the kitchen. Robbie might rule a film empire and several other spin off companies but Janet ruled her heart.
Robbie swung her long, lean leg over a stool and leaned on the bar watching Janet fill the kettle and get out tea bags. They had been married now five years and she still could not look at Janet without love and desire. Janet had made all the difference in her life. She had turned a scary, dark world into one filled with colour and happiness. There was nothing Robbie wouldn't do for her partner.
Janet leaned over the counter and planted a soft kiss on Robbie's lips. It was a peace offering. "Dawn's out on the deck crying."
Robbie nodded sadly, looking miserable.
Janet gave her partner's hand a gentle squeeze. "She is going to want to go back to Toronto and help Aliki in anyway she can. I need you to go with her, Robbie." Startled, big blue eyes, world famous on the movie screen, came up and met Janet's. "And I need you to be subtle in your support. You know how proud they both are. Dawn will need body guards and she will also need information. I know her Uncle left her financially very secure and she has made money too on her writing but she doesn't have the experience you have in protecting herself. You have the connections to get some good people on the case without getting in Aliki's way."
Robbie nodded, feeling a little overwhelmed by what Janet was asking. Now, being given permission from her true love to go hunt down bad guys was great but supporting Dawn emotionally and being subtle was something she was having trouble wrapping her mind around.
"Aaah, I'm not much good at that sensitive stuff," Robbie admitted with a blush, as she played nervously with a teaspoon in the counter, spinning it around and around in a circle with her finger.
Janet took it away from her and reached over to plant another kiss on her lover's lips. "You have your moments," she reassured the famous actor-director.
"Why can't you come too and sorta hold Dawn's hand while I track down Aliki?" Robbie argued, watching Janet pour the tea.
Janet shook her head. "If you have to be Dawn's big sister then you can't go off on some mad, wild goose chase Aliki and that is just the way I want it. I don't want you to get hurt, Robbie."
A soft, knowing look passed between the two. They had gone through a lot together and their love had gotten stronger through the years. Janet gave herself a mental shake and went on with her thought. "Besides, I am needed here. Mac has really been undermined by Aliki's action. You know that poor kid still has some real issues about rejection. If her Mom leaves to go help Aliki, Mac is going to need all the support and understanding that she can get."
"I could do that!" Robbie argued, trying desperately to find a way out of not having to be with Dawn in her present emotional state.
Janet raised an eyebrow. "You coward. No, it has to be you. Besides, if I left you with Ryan, Reb and Mac, you'd probably decide to take their mind off the crisis by taking them all hiking in Tibet or something and then I'd have to go and rescue you all from some mountain terrorist group."
Robbie looked indignant. "Hey, I can handle things just fine!"
Janet smiled. Checkmate, she thought. "I know, that is why you have to go with Dawn. Here, take these two mugs of tea and go discuss it with her."
"I was had," Robbie grumbled taking the mugs carefully in each hand and standing up.
Janet came around the counter and gave her lover a big hug while Robbie stood there arms outstretched so as not to spill hot tea on her. "You are the best woman for the job and my hero." They shared a kiss and Robbie headed off to face the task that Janet had assigned her.
Alice had piled all her clothes in one corner and rinsed the dirty dishes under the tap before crawling on the mattress and trying to get under Aliki's clothes. Aliki had rolled over, pinning the woman beneath her body, and kissed her hard while she held the woman's hands firmly over her head. Alice squirmed with delight. "That's all you get," Aliki growled. "That's all you get for a long time yet until I decide that I want to give you more. You got that?"
Alice nodded, a look of total adoration in her eyes. Aliki rolled off the waitress and turned her back on her. Tears escaped and rolled down Aliki's cheeks. She hated herself. It was late when sleep finally came to her rigidly tense body. With sleep came the nightmares. Hundreds of voices were crying to her to stop the plane from crashing. Their panicky hands clawing at her morphed into rough hands feeling up her body, tearing at her clothes and violating her sense of being. Then Dawn and Mac were there looking down at her. They turned in disgust and walked away. Aliki tried to call to them but her voice became just one of many screaming for help. She woke with a start. A pale grey dawn light was weakly trying to force its way through a grimy window. Aliki disentangled herself from the sleeping form beside her and went to wash the sweat and dirt off her body in the washroom down the hall.
Once dressed, she walked done to a corner variety and bought a package of honey donuts and two coffees. She ate breakfast sitting on the floor with Alice who was obviously not a morning person. Then she headed into work. Alice would be going on duty today around the time that Aliki was going off. This suited the cop fine. She wanted the room and she wanted a link to Jigsaw but she didn't want Alice.
At the bar, she started clearing tables and washing floors before she tackled the mess of glasses filled with stale beer and plates caked with nacho cheese. She tried not to think while she worked. She didn't want to think about anything. Thinking made her crazy. She just wanted to focus on getting Jigsaw. Getting Jigsaw was all that mattered.
At eleven, the bar opened. Sandy and Gus were on duty. Sandy looked like Alice, thought like Alice, and was destroying herself like Alice. She lived with some guy who had been between jobs ever since he moved in with her, drank her pay cheque away, and bounced her off the walls when she complained. There were at lot of Alices in the world, taught by abusive parents and attracted to abusive partners. Aliki wished she could do something for them but there was little that could be done if they refused to see that they had a problem that went deeper than the immediate issue. She would do what she could for Alice but she didn't believe in happy ever afters anymore.
At four, Alice showed up to start dealing with the afternoon and night crowd. Aliki gave her a spank and a kiss and left as quickly as she could. She didn't head to their room wanting to avoid it for as long as she could. She went first to the Variety down the street and ate a bagel and cream cheese with a small carton of milk sitting on a bar stool at the milk bar. Then she walked over to a salvage store and picked up a few things she needed.
Back at the room, she started to work. With a roller, she put two coats of beige paint on the walls using a gallon of paint that was on sale because it had been mixed wrong. Then, using the broom and mop she had bought, she cleaned the floors. A few cleaners got the sink and counter back to some state of cleanliness with a good scrub. Then she tacked up the movie posters that she had got for nothing at the video store and placed a plastic plumbing tube across a corner of the room held in place by a few brackets. Next, she untwisted the tie on a stack of coat hangers and hung up Alice's clothes on the plastic rod. There were two new sheets for the bed and a colourful striped blanket. It wasn't much but it helped.
Aliki tried to clean the small window as best she could from the inside. Would Alice appreciate her efforts? Maybe, if it was approached with enough rudeness. Aliki sighed. That was Alice. She wasn't really a bad person just not very bright and conditioned by a dysfunctional family and abusive lovers to believe she deserved to be treated like shit. Someday, someone would go too far and Alice would become another number in the police statistic files.
Aliki set in place two cheap plastic chairs by the grimy window and an old card table that she had got at the pawn shop. She opened a can of soup and buttered some bread for when Alice came in. Why was she wasting her day doing all this? Probably, just selfish. She couldn't live like a damn street person any longer and Alice's place had been only one step above a flop house. Maybe she had done it to make Alice happy. She wasn't sure anymore if she felt anything for anyone. All she felt was her own personal hate for those that were hurting her and ruining her life. She was tired of the screaming ghosts of her dreams, tired of the groping hands that left her feeling unclear, and tired of caring. She was putting Alice in danger by being here, she knew that. But she also knew that Alice was on her way to hell in this life and after. Why not use her? It wasn't going to matter.
A stab of guilt, almost a pain in her heart, made her cringe with shame. Who was she? What had she become? When did life become so cheap to her? When five hundred people went screaming to their deaths because of you, came the answer from her sick soul. What was one more death?
At three, Alice came in smelling of beer, cheap perfume, and stale cigarette smoke. She stopped dead three steps in and looked around with eyes like a deer's in the headlights of a car. "Fucking shit!" she exclaimed.
"I don't have to live like a pig," Aliki stated, bluntly. "You make sure you hang your clothes up or I'll knock your block off."
"Sure Aliki,"Alice agreed quickly, and came over to rub her body against Aliki's. "Thanks." They kissed, Alice letting it be known that she wanted more.
Aliki pulled away. "When I say not before,"she growled. "You gotta table now so serve up the soup, I'm hungry."
Alice looked pouty and frustrated but turned to do what she was told. Aliki wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and picking up the plate of bread she slammed it down on the table with more force than she had meant.
They ate their soup without talking, Aliki silently gritting her teeth as Alice slurped and chewed with her mouth open. Irritation overcame reason. "Why do you fuck shit like Jigsaw?" Alice shrugged but said nothing.
Aliki, over-tired and emotionally strung-out, couldn't let it lie. "You're an idiot. You think she is going to let you dump her? You think she's going to take any chance of you talking. You are just asking to get hurt."
Alice looked up. "Jigsaw doesn't like to be touched when she makes love to me. It's freaky, scary, it really turns me on. You're a lot like her."
The blow of that statement shot to the centre of Aliki's being. The realization of the truth of Alice's words exploded on her mind. Aliki smiled bitterly, accepting what she had become. "Nah, I'm responsible for the deaths of a lot more people than Jigsaw. You didn't answer my question. Why do you fuck people like us? You could do better."
Alice shrugged again and her attention returned to her meal. "Every moth has its flame. It's the same with people."
Aliki said nothing. Alice was right. Her flame was Jigsaw and there was not going to be room for anything else in her life until the flame was extinguished or she burned up trying.
Robbie hipped the screen door open and carried the two mugs of tea outside. "Here," she said bending forward to hand Dawn the mug. The tea steamed in the cool air. It were Robbie's favourite mugs, the ones that she had got from the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, of which she was a member. Janet was like that, thoughtful and attentive to details. The message to Robbie was clear. Be brave and do your duty.
Robbie set her jaw and sat down on the step beside Dawn. She reached into her pocket to hand Dawn the handful of tissues that she had picked up before coming outside. "Here."
Dawn put her mug of tea down on the porch and took the tissues. "Thanks. Sorry, I'm an emotional mess."
Robbie nodded. "Aah, Janet thinks it would be a good idea if I tagged along with you. She figures I have a better grasp of security matters on account of always having had to have body guards around. I figure she has got a point."
Dawn wiped her eyes and swallowed hard. "I'd like that, Robbie. I know it sounds cowardly but I don't want to be alone."
Robbie wrapped an arm around the petite frame beside her. "You're not alone. Hell, we're family. We'll help each other and Aliki. You just wait and see."
Dawn relaxed in Robbie's arms. "I'm so worried about her, Robbie. I'm so angry with her and yet I am so worried about her."
"I know, love. I feel the same way but we are going to find her and help her through this. That is what family does. It took Janet to teach me that lesson and I guess we have to teach Aliki now. Janet will help Mac through this while we are away. She is super with kids. You don't have to worry, Dawn. We'll get through this rough time just fine."
They drank their tea together watching the night close in and quietly planned what they should do. Dawn had herself under control now. She could feel the quiet and determined support of her family and felt like she was back in control of her life. They had a plan and they would help Aliki and bring her home safe again.
They left early the following morning, taking a helicopter to the Toronto airport and then a car to Robbie's house. By the time they arrived they were already under the protective eye of Robbie's security personnel. While Robbie talked to the security officer in charge outlining the situation to him, Dawn was on the phone to Dr. Bates inviting him to Robbie's penthouse for a council of war. The three ordered pizza and opened a few beers then settled down on the open terrace overlooking Lake Ontario to have a briefing.
"She contacted me yesterday. She is off the streets I am glad to say and is working cleaning and washing up at the Jarvis Tavern."
Robbie snorted as she took a slug of beer from the bottle. "That's my sister, always moving up in the world."
Dawn, however, had caught the dodge in Thomas's report. "Where is she staying?"
Bates looked into intelligent, knowing eyes. "I am not sure exactly. She has moved in with one of the bar's waitress. The bottle lowered from Robbie's lips and her eyes were cold and weary as she looked back and forth between Bates and Dawn.
Dawn appeared pale but calm. Her voice, when she spoke, was controlled and strained. "Jigsaw's girlfriend."
Bates nodded unhappily. Dawn licked her lips and became suddenly interested in scraping the label off her beer bottle. Robbie squirmed uncomfortably and tried to think of something to say.
It was Bates who came to the rescue and filled in the awkward silence. "I think we need to work on this issue from two separate ends. I mean to pursue the forensic and engineering investigation of the crash. I do not believe that Jigsaw would have the expertise or access to an airliner flying from Canada to Europe. I think her letter was a way to get back at Aliki. If I can prove that, then this investigation won't be so personal for Aliki." Bates stopped and took his beloved pipe from his pocket.
Dawn looked at Robbie, a small plea in her eye. Robbie took the hint. "I don't mind if you smoke out here," she stated.
Bates beamed and dug immediately for his tobacco pouch. They all waited while he went through the ritual of packing, lighting, tamping and drawing on his briar. Once settled and surrounded by an aromatic blue cloud, he continued. "I think you two should find out everything you can about Jigsaw's past looking for patterns that she might have fallen back into. People like Jigsaw only feel safe and comfortable on their own turf. She needs to be in the know, have the power."
Robbie nodded her agreement but Dawn protested, "I want to find Aliki!"
Bates looked at her with a fatherly but firm look. "No, Dawn. You might in doing so compromise her safety or endanger your own. No, we need to support Aliki in this not try to stop her. She would never forgive us if Jigsaw killed again because we stopped Aliki from tracking her down. I am as worried as you are but there is nothing we can accomplish by finding Aliki and trying to bring her back."
Dawn nodded sadly and went back to picking at the beer label, deep in thought. It was Robbie who voiced their greatest concern. "Dr. Bates, is Aliki making rational decisions?"
The old man sighed and took his pipe from his mouth reluctantly. "I don't know. I suspect that she might be on the edge of a breakdown. She has endured a lot in a very short time. I know she wasn't been sleeping well and she has complained to me of headaches. She took a hell of a bashing to her head the night she was attacked. Aliki is a very strong woman but...well...she is in my opinion obsessed about Jigsaw."
The two women exchanged a look. The message between them was clear. Neither of them believed anymore that Aliki was either physically or emotionally up to the challenge of the investigation she had taken on. Robbie could see a mixture of pain, worry and confusion in her future sister-in-law's eyes. What must she be feeling? She was making the final plans for her wedding one day and now, only a short time later, Aliki was living with another woman, physically and emotionally battered, not thinking straight, and all the while a psychopathic killer out there was waiting for an opportunity to take Aliki out.
After Bates left, Robbie set the security alarm and made Dawn as comfortable as she could before heading down to her own room. Tomorrow they would start at the media library and trace Jigsaw's history back through the press looking for patterns and names of people they could contact to learn more about the killer. Right now though she needed to talk to Janet.
She pulled out her phone and pressed one. "Hello," came a tired voice at the other end.
"Hi Lover, how are you doing? You sound like you have had a tough time," Robbie stated, sitting down on the edge of the bed and needing desperately to hold her partner.
"It's been rough. At first, Mac wouldn't speak to anyone. Reb got pissed off with her favourite cousin refusing to speak to her so she called Mac a very rude name which she could have only picked up from a certain Olive who is going to be in so much trouble when she gets home."
Robbie squirmed with guilt. "She learned it in grade one. It's a urban jungle in there. You wouldn't believe what sort of things they are discussing over their Harry Potter lunch pails."
Janet laughed relaxing a bit. "You are so full of it! Anyway, I had to discipline Reb who started to cry. In the meantime, YOUR daughter, couldn't leave anything lie and told Mac that it was her fault that Reb was in trouble because she was acting like a snotty, fucking bitch."
Robbie cringed. "We gotta talk to that school!"
Janet snorted. "We have to wash your mouth out with soap as soon as you get home. Anyway, THAT started such a yelling match as only two teenage girls can have when they are over stressed."
Robbie could hear the strain back in Janet's voice. She nibbled on her lip in frustration and tried to think of something to make Janet feel better. "Well, at least Mac is talking again." This was always a worry. Mac as a small child had lost her mother and then watched as her father stepped in front of a train. The trauma had been so great that she had been unable to speak for many years. No one wanted Mac to suffer a relapse.
"Not anymore. I have sent them all to their rooms. Mac is in our bed because I wouldn't dare put her in with Ryan-the-mouth and I didn't want her sleeping alone in the guest room and fretting. I gave her your albums of press clippings to keep her occupied and she will undoubtedly have some interesting questions to ask you when you get back."
"It's all lies! I was the victim of a sensationalist media." Robbie groaned.
"Sure you were, Olive Oil," snorted Janet, who was well aware of Robbie's wild past. "How is it going there?"
Robbie filled Janet in using her amazing memory and her ability to mimic voices as an almost instant replay. Janet listened with only the occasional remark. When Robbie had finished Janet sighed. "I don't like at all the sound of your sister's emotional state. I'm worried, Robbie."
"Me too, Lover. We'll do everything we can to help her. You can count on that."
"You just make sure you get back to me in one piece. You know what you are like. Trouble just follows you around."
Robbie heard the catch in Janet's voice. It was hard for her being up there unable to help and having to deal with three very strong-minded girls. All of a sudden Robbie was glad she had been picked to be Dawn's support. She leaned back on her bed and turned on the charm. Her voice softened to a deep purr. "I will be careful, my Special One. You are my soul, my reason and my deepest love. I am missing you terribly already and I want nothing more than to hold you, love you, and chase away all your fears."
Janet smiled and leaned against the kitchen counter feeling Robbie's voice like a soothing balm on her bothered soul. "You are something else, Williams," she chuckled.
Robbie laughed. "You must have been reading my press clippings too!"
Janet whispered into the phone, "No, I have first hand experience about how wonderful it is to feel your hard muscles tighten under hot, silken skin as you get ready to come for me. I can feel your heat and wetness and the scent of your excitement haunts my mind."
Robbie made a noise that sounded a lot like a pressure cooker about to explode. "Not fair!"
"Good night, my sexy Oscar winner," Janet growled sexily. "Keep in touch."
"I won't be able to sleep!" Robbie protested but it was too late. Janet had hung up. Robbie slammed back on her bed and snapped the phone shut and laughed at how Janet had turned the tables on her.
The next day, Robbie and Dawn were up early and armed with file cards and a laptop they headed to the media library to start collecting data on Jigsaw's history. It was a long and tedious process and it became clear that they would be days at it. In the meantime, Dr. Bates was also moving heaven and earth to do what he could. He managed, using his position as head of the forensic labs and with a good deal of talking, to get access to Jigsaw's files. Although photocopying was out of the question, he did spend a few hours jotting down what he could of the police record of this troubled woman. It was a start. The next step would be to interview people who had known her and lived to recount the experience. Those individuals seemed few and far between.
Aliki woke with Alice snuggled close beside her. A shot of guilt and disgust fired through Aliki's soul. If she lived, how was she ever going to explain this to Dawn? It was not that she had made love to Alice, she would never betray Dawn like that, but just being here, leading Alice on, left her feeling dirty in her mind and soul.
She got up quickly and dressing, she went down the wall and washed the smell of Alice off her body and soul as best she could. Life stunk. She looked at her troubled eyes in the cracked mirror. A hard, lean face looked back. Her hair was shaggy and her tattoo was threatening rather than artistic. It didn't seem like her face anymore. The woman she had been was gone. This was a stranger, the personification of the darkest regions of her soul. She didn't like this person nor did she particularly care if she lived or died just as long as she took Jigsaw with her.
Aliki went back to their room to eat some breakfast before heading to the bar. She stood with her back against the counter eating some stale bread and peanut butter, lost in her dark thoughts.
"Al?" Alice mumbled from where she lay only partly covered by sheets.
"I'm heading off to the bar. Go back to sleep," Aliki ordered, her eyes averted from the near naked form.
"Yeah, okay Al. I just wanted to say - thanks. I like the place. Waste of time 'cause I don't figure I'll be here long but thanks. No one's ever done nothin' like this for me before."
Aliki's eyes snapped to the scrawny form that seemed so suddenly vulnerable. "They should have. You're okay, Alice."
The waitress sat up, bare breasts exposed. She had a tatooed butterfly on the left. Or was it a moth, Aliki wondered, hardening her heart. What had Alice said, every moth has its flame. "Shut up and go back to sleep. I gotta go to work," Aliki grumbled and left as quickly as she could. Alice sat for the longest time, looking at the home that Aliki had made from her cheap room. No one had ever done nothin' like this for her before. Never. It was weird. Maybe today would be a good day. She curled up on Aliki's side of the mattress and went back to sleep.
By four, Aliki had washed all the beer glasses in the sinks and was stacking the cleaned glasses back behind the bar. That was Alice's job but Alice wasn't there. Aliki felt a growing dread.
Gus stopped counting the change on the counter and looked over at Aliki. "So where is your girlfriend? Wear her out last night, did you? You tell her that she better not do this again or she's fired. What you need is a man's dick to give you some real action,"he leered, rearranging his equipment as he spoke.
Aliki shot him a look. "I'm done. What you need is some manners screwed up your asshole." She headed out, anxious to get back and find out what had happened. She could hear Gus's soft, laugh and feel his eyes on her as she left.
She knew before she even opened the door. The smell of blood was as familiar to her as any perfume. The first thing she noticed was the spray of blood drops across the wall she had painted only yesterday. The second thing was Alice propped naked on a chair. Her arms were hooked over the back of the chair her head bent forward. Her legs were wide apart and a kitchen knife handle protruded from her vagina. There was blood everywhere.
It was the last image of Alice that Aliki had. The blow came suddenly and from behind, hitting her hard on the back of the head. She fell forward into a streak of blood where earlier Alice had tried to crawl to the door to escape.
The call had woken Dr. Bates at three in the morning. He was at the morgue by four. The detective on duty was Brad Chauhan, a second generation immigrant who had been posted to the position because more visible minorities were needed on the force. He knew that and worked twice as hard to prove that he was up to the job he had been appointed to. Bates found him to be a moody guy but good at his job and that was what counted.
At the moment, Chauhan sat on a stainless steel lab stool looking pale and sipping slowly on a coffee. He looked up as Bates walked over. "If someone did that to my wife or daughter I'd go fucking ape shit," he muttered. "All those people gaping at her and photographing...and now this. Shit."
Bates put his hand on the young officer's shoulder. He knew all too well what the cop had experienced. Lab people would have measured, marked, photographed, and dusted for finger prints. The body would have sat there like some macabre exhibit at some ocean side Horror House while each specialized division did their job. Shock and disgust would be hidden behind a facade of crude jokes and comments.
Bates went to the small change room that he shared with Aliki and the others. He missed Aliki very much. Not just her professional expertise but also her companionship he realized. Aliki was his friend and he missed her companionship.
He slipped into surgical greens and shoe covers, tied on a plastic apron and headed out into the main autopsy room. Here he slipped a recorder into his pocket and wired the mic to his collar. He put on a safety shield and a double layer of plastic gloves and walked over to the table.
The victim was a woman in her early thirties. She had been tortured. There was not only evidence of knife wounds but also cigarette burns and beating. Her upper arms and shoulders were particularly bad - defence wounds as she had tried to turn away from the blows. But her hands were relatively untouched except for deep rope burns at the wrists. The assailant had tied her hands behind her back but had left her free to move about so that the killer could enjoy the chase.
Bates leaned forward. There was a particularly badly burned area on the woman's breast. It appeared that the killer had tried to burn off a tattoo. He would need to cut that area out and see if the layers of epidermis could be separated so that an imprint of the tattoo could be lifted. It might be a significant lead. While he did his observations his lab assistant, Chen, was carefully slipping metal shishkebab sticks into each of the knife wounds. The victim now looked like some giant-sized voodoo doll. They were checking for the direction of the blows and calculating the force of penetration.
"Looks like a right handed assassin," Chen murmured, picking up the camera that lay on a table near by. Bates stepped back and let him take his pictures, then stepped forward to examine the woman's vagina area from which the knife handle still protruded. "This wasn't placed in here after. She was raped with it while she was still alive and bled to death by the looks of things," he stated quietly. "Do we know who she is?"
Chen looked over at the chart. "Alice Bondy. Thirty-two. Works as a waitress at the Jarvis Tavern. She probably picked herself up a real sick loser there and paid a hell of a price for it."
Bates looked up with horror in his eyes. "Get me Chauan and Young. I need them in my office as soon as possible. Aliki might be in big trouble."
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