Disclaimers: See Chapter One of Storm Surge for all the legal yada, yada.
Alex drove back to the hospital to check on Donald. Not seeing Catherine in the ICU waiting room, she inquired at the nurse's desk as to his condition. To her surprise, she was told that Donald had improved, and had been moved into a private room on the fourth floor. Alex walked to the elevator, pressed the call button, and waited. She heard a sound to her left and turned to see Gonzolas exit the stairwell.
"Well Jose, I'm surprised to see you here." Alex had a smug look on her face as she acknowledged his presence.
"Why is that Alex, Donald is not only by boss, but a friend as well."
Alex snorted, and rolled her eyes, "I guess that's why you were so concerned about Donald last night, that you didn't even bother to ask about his condition." Alex then turned to face the elevator again.
"You know Alex, I don't understand the problem you have with me. I worked my ass off after you left for your vacation, and closed most of your outstanding case files. You should appreciate me more. I could help you, you know, but that condescending attitude you have with me will have to go." Jose' growled and stepped closer to Alex.
The two agents stared at one another for a long moment, before Alex smirked and shook her head. "Jose', I don't trust you to help me with anything. Trust is something you have to earn, and you've never shown me one reason why I should." There it was, finally out in the open. She had just drawn the line in the sand, now it was time to see where it took her.
"And what does one need to do in order to gain the trust of the high and mighty Agent Montgomery?" Jose' was too caught up in his hostile reverberation to realize he had just opened himself up to Alex's attack.
"You want to gain my trust Jose', fine. I'll be back at the office in an hour or so. Have all of your notes, and files concerning the Hernandez case on my desk when I get there." Gotcha you little slim ball, Alex thought. You might be able to fool Donald...not me.
Jose' glared at Alex for a moment before he turned back toward the stairwell. He was halfway through the door when he heard Alex call out.
"Oh, Jose'! Remember, I want everything you have. I've been inside the organization...I know how it works, and who's who. Don't think you can pull anything over on me, like you did Donald." Alex's eyes revealed the dangerous dark side of her persona, "You try to lead me down the wrong path, and I promise you, you'll regret it dearly." The elevator doors opened as Alex voiced her warning. Stepping into the car, she pressed the button for the fourth floor.
Only when the doors closed did she release the pent up breath she had held inside. Alex rubbed her head as she felt a headache start to form behind her eyes. As she rode the slow car to the fourth floor, she tried to gather her thoughts, and prepare herself to see Donald. Her cell phone rang just as the elevator reached her floor, causing her stomach to lurch at the unexpected shrill ring.
"Montgomery." Alex held the phone to her ear as she made her way down the hall to Donald's room.
"Hey. What ya doing?"
Alex smiled when she heard Sam's highly energized voice on the other end of the phone, and stopped to lean against the wall as she continued her conversation.
"Well, at the moment, I'm walking down a hospital corridor. What are you up to?"
"God Alex, are you OK?"
Alex could not help but laugh. Sam was always so high strung, always fearing the worse, especially since the accident. "Calm down, I'm fine."
"What are you doing in a hospital Alex? Oh, no, it's not Conner is it?"
"Saaamm! Will you please, calm down? No, Conner's fine, I just left her a few minutes ago. I'm here checking on my boss. He got bumped on the head last night, and they wanted to keep him for observation." Alex did not like the blatant lie she was telling Sam, but she knew if her friend were aware of the dangerous path their case was taking, she would only worry more.
"So Sam, did you just call to say hello?" Alex was trying to lead the conversation back to safer ground. Although she was rushed to see Donald, she was also glad to hear from Sam.
"Uhh, no. I was calling to see if you were going to make it over this weekend. Kelly really wants to see you, you know." Sam added the last comment to spur Alex's guilt, and assure her presence at their house on Sunday.
"Yes, I'll be there. What do I need to bring?"
"Nothing, everything is taken care of. Just your presence is required."
"Well at least let me bring the beer. How many people are going to be there so I'll know how much to buy?" Alex bit her lip to stifle her laugh. Sam had no clue that she and Conner were both aware of the other's invitation.
"Umm, it's just a small get together. Just grab a couple of twelve packs. That should be plenty." Sam was stammering, and feared that Alex could hear it in her voice. "Well, I've got another call holding. See you Sunday, Alex."
"OK, Sam. I'll talk to you soon. Bye." Alex flipped the phone closed, and smiled as she continued down the corridor. You Think you're so sneaky, my friend. Just wait until you really see what I've been up too, lately." Alex's smile was cut short as she thought about her two best friends. I hope they're happy for us. If not, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Just because Sam and Conner were once lovers doesn't mean we can't see each other. Alex pulled herself from her inner deliberation as she reached Donald's room. She took a deep breath, and quietly tapped on the door.
The door opened slightly until Catherine saw Alex. With a grin on her face, she swept the door open wide, and pulled Alex into the room.
"Donald, Look who's here." Catherine's excitement over Donald's improvement was apparent in her voice, and body language, a complete change from the woman she had visited earlier in the day.
Donald opened one eye at Catherine's excited squeal. He tried to sit up, but was overwhelmed as pain tore through his injured head. Falling back onto the pillow he scowled at Alex. "What the hell are you doing her, Montgomery? Why aren't you in the field tracking the son-of-a-bitch that did this to me?
"Donald!" Although Catherine was ecstatic that Donald's condition had improved, she shocked at his conduct. "You behave yourself. Alex has been..."
Alex held up a hand to stop Catherine's admonition, and laughed. "Oh Catherine, he's fine. He acts like this all the time at the office." Alex raised a brow to Catherine. "Obviously, you've been able to train him better than we have...you must tell me your secret."
Alex moved to the side of the bed, and looked down at her boss. "Nice to see you too, Chief. How are you feeling?"
"Sorry Alex. I'm just not a very good patient." He pulled the sheet higher on his chest, embarrassed, and feeling exposed in the thin hospital supplied gown.
"Humph, Most overbearing, control freaks aren't Donald, and you could be the national poster boy." Catherine was determined to get her reprimand in to her husband. Alex meant a lot to them, and she wouldn't stand for Donald's verbal abuse, even if he were hospitalized.
"Get me out of here Alex." He glanced at his wife, then back to Alex, "please."
"Hell no! First, you yell at me for being here, then want me to rescue you from your wife, who, by the way, is absolutely right." Alex's eyes were sparkling as she carried on the teasing banter. "Absolutely not, suffer my friend."
Catherine laughed, picked up her purse, and headed for the door. "Well, now that I see neither of you are going to draw blood, I'm going to take a break, and get a little peace and quiet." Giving her husband a stern look, she shook her head, "You be good, and behave yourself. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Alex walked Catherine to the door, and mouthed a silent 'thank you', as the woman left. Alex knew Catherine was leaving to give them some privacy. There were things the two agents needed to discuss, and though Alex trusted Catherine implicitly, there were some things spouses, and significant others did not need to be privy to. For a moment, she was taken back to the confrontation she and Conner had in the garage earlier. Sighing, she closed the door and turned back to her boss.
"Well, now that we're all alone. How are you...really?" Alex sat on the side of the bed and reached for her friend's hand.
"I'm good...a hell of a lot better than last night, from what I'm told." Donald shook his head in disbelief. "I can't believe I let myself be waylaid in my own office."
"Well Donald, your office isn't exactly a dangerous place to be...usually."
"Do you have any leads?" Donald absently reached up to rub the lump on his head, "Catherine wouldn't tell me anything, and hasn't allowed anyone near me all day, so I'm a little out of the loop."
"We're following up on some leads, but right now, nothing looks promising." Alex knew she had to get to the point of her visit. She was concerned about Donald, but she also had to know why he had a file on her in his office."
"Do you think it has anything to do with this Hernandez case?"
"I can't say at the moment, maybe...I just don't know." Alex sighed I frustration, "Donald, I need to ask you some questions."
"OK, shoot. Whatever I can do to help, Alex"
"Well, I...ummm, I couldn't find Catherine's number in your personnel file, so I, sort of, had to break into your desk."
"Well, that's understandable Alex. I'm not going to blame you for doing what you had to do, in order to reach Catherine." Donald could see Alex's hand trembling, and knew something else was bothering her. "This isn't about me being mad because you broke into my desk, is it?"
Alex took a long sigh, and looked past Donald, and out the window. "No Donald, it's not." Turning back to face her boss and friend, she asked the question that had been tormenting her. "When I was searching for Catherine's number in Gainesville, I also found a folder with my name on it." Alex stood and walked to the window, her back to Donald. "Donald, you've been having me followed for months, why?"
Donald's head fell back on the pillow and he let out a ragged breath. "It's not what you think, Alex."
She gave her boss and friend a curious look as she once again turned to face Donald. "Then why don't you tell me exactly what it means"?
Donald hand swept over his face as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Alex, after you were injured in the warehouse incident, we ran out of leads. You were on the inside of the organization, and knew more than anyone else what was going on. With you out of the picture, well we didn't know where to go with the case."
Alex shook her head in frustration, "Donald, that still doesn't tell me why?"
"I'm getting to that." Donald watched Alex pacing, "Will you please sit down? You're making me dizzy."
Alex sat in a chair at the end of the bed. Alex's move to place some distance between them did not go unnoticed by Donald, as he closely watched the agent. "This wasn't and easy decision to make Alex. I was getting a lot of heat from higher up...we needed to close this case. The decision was made to leak your location to people we thought were in the Hernandez organization, and see where it led. We put the tail on you in hopes of picking up anyone that came after you."
Alex stared at Donald in disbelief. "Damn you, Donald. I was unconscious for a week after the accident, and flat on my back for almost a month after that. You're telling me, you sent Hernandez's goons after me when I couldn't even defend myself?"
This was not going well, and Donald was desperate to make Alex understand, "Alex, we had someone on you the entire time. We were protecting you."
Alex turned and glared at Donald with the dark, blank stare he had come to attribute to 'The Shadow', "No, Donald, you were protecting yourself," Alex's words slammed into Donald, "How dare you set me up."
"Alex, please, hear me out." Donald was trying to sit up, but the pounding pain in his head kept him prone.
"No, Donald! You hear me. I have given everything to this case. I've lost Feryle, and Karen. Hell Donald, I may have even lost my soul to this case." Alex stood by the bed and glared down at him. "I will not stand here and let you sacrifice me for your precious cause, Donald." Tears stung Alex's eyes as she whispered, "Don't you think I've sacrificed enough, Donald?" Alex held Donald's eyes. She saw his regret and pain, but it did little to alleviate the betrayal she felt.
"Alex, please, you have..." Donald words were cut short as Catherine entered the room. The tension in the room was almost palpable, as she observed the stare down between the two agents.
"Umm, I didn't mean to interrupt...I'll come back later." Catherine turned and headed back towards the door.
Alex, broke the stare, and walked to pick up her purse from the desk. "No Catherine, I was just leaving."
Alex walked over and hugged Catherine. "It was good to see you again. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you."
Catherine embraced Alex, and could feel the tension in her body, she whispered, "You OK?"
Alex nodded her head as she pulled away. She gave Catherine a sad smile, and then with a hard glance at Donald walked out the door.
Catherine stood in the doorway until Alex was out of sight, then closed the door and faced her husband. "OK, Donald. What the hell have you done now?"
Donald turned away from his wife of twenty years, lost in his thoughts...pondering his regrets.
Alex decided half-way home that she didn't want to spend all night in the kitchen, so she stopped by the grocery store and picked up a couple of steaks for dinner. Pulling into the drive, she didn't see Conner's Jag until she had driven to the rear of the house. Sitting there by the garage was the sleek machine, and a smile crept onto Alex's face as she remembered she wouldn't have to suffer through the evening alone.
She walked into the house, called out to Conner, as she dropped the groceries on the counter, and made a beeline for the bar in the den. She poured herself a healthy shot of Scotch, and finished off half of it in one swallow as she headed back towards the kitchen. She was standing at the sliding glass door, when she felt arms wrap around her waist from behind, followed by a soft warm kiss to the back of her neck.
Conner could feel the tension in Alex's shoulders release as she leaned back into the embrace. She raised a brow as she peered over Alex's shoulder and saw the drink in her hand.
"Hmm, looks like your afternoon didn't go so well?"
Alex smirked, and reached behind herself to pull Conner closer, "Yes, a very bad afternoon."
"Wanna talk about it?" Conner didn't push, but wanted Alex to know she was there.
"Hmmm, yes, but after dinner, OK?" As Alex turned around, she tried to mentally wipe the events of the afternoon away. What she needed, at the moment, was to escape the day.
Alex wrapped her arms around Conner's neck, and pulled her into a warm slow kiss. "Hmm, you smell good...almost as good as you taste."
"I hope you don't mind. I felt grimy when I came in and wanted to shower and change,"
Nuzzling Conner's neck, Alex mumbled through wet hair. "Not at all. I'm just sorry I wasn't here to share it with you."
Conner felt a tantalizing warmth spread through her body at Alex's remark, "I can always go back for another," she whispered in the low sultry voice she knew Alex loved.
After nipping Conner on the neck, Alex pulled back and placed a quick peck on Conner's lips, "Now that sound tempting, but I don't think we'd ever get around to eating if that happened."
Conner raised a brow and grinned, "Well I think I could find something to nibble on."
Alex rolled her eyes, and swatted Conner on the shoulder, "You're bad...very, very bad." Alex moved away, heading for the hallway. "I'm going to take a shower...alone. You think you can light the grill, and put the potatoes in the oven?"
Conner laughed at the emphasis Alex had put on 'alone', as she watched the women walk away. "Uhh, sure, but...please...let me know if you need any help in there.
Alex chuckled as she walked away. It had been a long time since she had smiled as much as she had the last week. She was falling hard for the tough cop, and knew that there was no way she could turn her back on what they had shared the past weekend.
Alex heard banging noises from the kitchen, flashed back to the Sunday brunch Conner had prepared for her, and almost returned to the kitchen to protect her precious cooking utensils. Shrugging, she decided the kitchen would survive, turned on the water in the shower, and pulled of her clothes.
Alex leaned against the shower wall and let the warm water wash away the grit, and frustrations. She closed her eyes, and mentally visualized the stresses of the day, going down the drain. After a few minutes, she felt re-energized, and continued to shampoo her hair and shower. She turned off the water, and cracking the door reached out for the towel. The bar was empty, and she realized that Conner must have used it for her shower. Pushing the door open in frustration, she stepped out to see Conner leaning against the doorframe with a cheesy grin on her face.
"Looking for something?" Conner asked as she held the towel just out of Alex's reach.
Standing there dripping on the floor, Alex tried unsuccessfully to snarl, "Harris, give me my towel...now!"
"Oooo, I can see we're still a little grumpy," Conner walked slowly towards Alex. "Let me see if I can do something about that nasty mood you're in, Agent Montgomery." Conner stood facing Alex, then slowly reached out and wrapped the warm towel around Alex's body.
"Ummm, It's so warm," Alex realized Conner had heated the towel in the dryer as she showered. The tenderness this tough, hard cop displayed when they were alone, amazed Alex.
"Just for you," Conner pulled another towel from the counter, knelt, and began to dry Alex's legs in slow, soft strokes.
Alex could feel the tension in her body rise, but it was a completely different tension, from the one she had just washed away. Her breathing became rapid, as Conner continued moving up her legs. Alex swallowed hard, as Conner's hands touched her thighs, and she had to reach out to the wall to steady herself.
Conner removed the, now damp, towel from around Alex's body, and continued to dry her off. Alex was aware of every movement, and closed her eyes, as she felt Conner's hand brush her chest. She was lost in the moment, enjoying the warm rush surging through her, and groaned when she felt Conner move away.
Alex opened her eyes only to find Conner looking intently at her face. She leaned in a captured Alex's lips in a soft tender kiss, before taking her by the shoulders, turning her around. Conner lifted the robe from the hook on the door, and opened it for Alex. She pulled it onto her arms, then turned her until they were once again facing. Conner located the belt, and tied it loosely around Alex's waist, then knelt and slipped her feet into the slippers that had been sitting by the chair.
Neither woman had spoken since Conner had begun her slow ministrations. As they faced each other, both knew words were not necessary. Alex reached up and took Conner's face between her hands, and bent to capture the soft lips that were open and ready for her. They relished the warmth and comfort of each other for a long moment. The emotions, racing through each of their minds, had nothing to do with sex, or lust. What they were feeling, standing in each other's arms, had everything to do with comfort, promise, and hope. It was then, at that moment Alex realized, she had returned to life...she had come home.
The women were torn from the tender moment as the buzzer in the kitchen announced the potatoes were ready to be turned. Alex broke the kiss, and pulled back to look deeply into her lover's eyes. "Do you have any idea how you make me feel?"
Conner smiled, and stole another kiss, "No...why don't you tell me?"
Alex drew in a haggard breath when Conner bent to nip her neck, "I will, as soon as I rip the damn timer out of the oven." She bent and placed a quick kiss on Conner's lips, untangled herself from the woman's strong arms, and headed to the door. Halfway through, she turned and looked back, "You know? I could get used to coming home to you, " then she turned and continued making her way to the kitchen...to kill the timer.
The grin that broke across Conner's face at Alex's words was indescribable. She shot her fist in the air, and screamed a silent 'YES', then floated out of the bathroom, back to the kitchen.
Conner took charge of grilling the steaks, while Alex finished the potatoes, and made a salad. They enjoyed an easy banter, as they moved around the kitchen. Anyone watching would have thought they were long time partners. The comfortable way they moved and responded to one another was usually a comfort earned through years of learning and experience, but somehow the two women had exempted the normal relationship initiations.
After dinner, they both cleaned the kitchen, then moved to the deck. The evening had been unusually peaceful, and they were enjoying the cool moonlit evening, as they sipped their wine, and held hands under the stars. Neither wanted to be the one to open the door to let the real world back in, knew there were plans to make before Friday.
Conner pulled Alex's hands to her lips, and nipped gently on her knuckles. "So, you want to tell me why you were so upset when you came in this afternoon?"
Alex felt the tension return to her shoulders, as she remembered the confrontation with Donald at the hospital. She felt an overwhelming need to flee, and stood. Conner reached out with strong but gentle hands, and stopped Alex mid-stride.
"Don't! Come here, I want to hold you," Alex took a deep cleansing breath, and sat on the chaise lounge. Conner dropped a leg on each side, and pulled Alex back onto her stomach. Alex sat back and allowed Conner's arms to wrap around her, and they sat for a few moments before Alex spoke.
"I found out this afternoon why Donald had me tailed." Alex was trembling, and she felt Conner pull her closer.
"He set me up." Alex's voice broke, and she struggled to keep her composure.
"What do you mean, set you up?" Conner wanted Alex to set the pace and share what she would, and only asked enough to keep her talking.
Alex sniffed, and wiped the tears from her face, "After the accident. He leaked my location to the Hernandez organization in hopes of luring someone out to kill me. Supposedly, the tail was for my protection, but I honestly think it was there to nab the perp, and not to protect me."
Conner could feel the anger surge through her, and fought the urge to react to the situation. "So, I take it, you talked to Donald this afternoon?"
"Screamed is more like it. Damn, Conner. He was lying there in that bed and could hardly move, and I attacked him like some suspect." Even through her anger, Alex had felt guilty for confronting Donald with the folder while he was incapacitated.
"Humph, Sounds to me like he didn't really care about your feeling or conditions when he sent the goons after you." Conner softly stroked Alex's arm as she slowly revealed the afternoon's events.
"Yeah, and that makes no better than him," Alex sniffed, and wiped a few more tears from her face.
"So did Donald say what information they got from his little stunt? Conner couldn't help but let some of the anger out.
"Actually, I never got a chance to ask him. Catherine came back in the middle of the conversation, and I left."
A loud boom filled the night. Both women flew out of the chair, and dove onto the deck, taking cover. They stayed still for a few moments until another blast ripped through the night. The women looked at each other as they heard laughter out on the beach beyond the house. Conner peeked over the railing to see several people running down the beach. As she watched from her covered position, she stared in disbelief as one of the people set off another firecracker.
"Fuck!" Conner stood up and took a stressed filled breath. "Damn kids! Are you OK?" Conner looked down to see Alex doubled over in spasms, and ran to her side. "Damn it Alex, talk to me. Are you OK?"
Alex looked up into Conner's face but could only shake her head. "You...should have...seen...your face." Alex had to take gasps of air between her words, she was laughing so hard. The tears of sadness she had shed earlier were now replaced with tears from laughter.
Conner wanted to be mad, but soon was sitting beside Alex on the deck laughing with her. They sat there, leaning against the Jacuzzi, holding hands, and listened to the laughter on the beach.
"I think we're strung a little too tight tonight. What do you think?"
"Hmmm, yeah. Me too. Although, I think I could think of some productive way to work off all that tightness." Conner leaned over and captured Alex's lips with her own. They sat in the darkness, exploring, searching, and savoring each other until they heard a scream from beyond the dunes.
"I think we need to take our little party inside before we get caught necking on the beach." Alex rose and pulled Conner up beside her. They could see three kids out on the beach huddled near one of the dunes behind the house.
"You think they're OK? They seemed to be looking down at something in the sand, and Conner wondered if one of them was hurt.
"One of them probably just stepped on a hot leftover firecracker. They don't look too injured to me. Come on let's go inside." Alex pulled on Conner's arm and led her into the house.
Alex refilled their wine glasses while Conner went into the den and looked through Alex's CD collection. She selected a few soothing disks, placed them in the player, and then sat by Alex on the sofa.
"I don't know about you, but I had my fill of excitement for one day." Conner leaned her head back against the cushion, and turned her head to look at Alex.
"That's right, you had a full day too. I'm sorry Conner," Alex reached out to stroke her hand across Conner's cheek. "I was so caught up in my conversation with Donald, I forgot to even ask you about your day." Tell me about this new information you have."
"I looked up one of my old contacts this morning, and got an earful. According to my source, the meeting scheduled for Friday, is between Hernandez, and Sarantos." Conner looked at Alex, and noticed her face had paled. "Umm, they know you're back in town Alex." Conner didn't know how Alex would react to this new information, and was treading lightly, easing it to her bit by bit.
Alex felt her heart rate quicken at the news. The last time she had been in the presence of Hernandez, and Sarantos at the same time she was almost killed. Alex whispered, "How do they know I'm back?"
"That I don't know, could be the from the leak Donald put out a few months ago. They may have been keeping an eye on you, and just not moving to do anything." Conner reached for Alex's hand, and squeezed it firmly within hers. "All I know is Reggie, my contact, said they knew 'The Shadow' was back in town."
Conner turned Alex, until she was nestled in the crook of her arm, "I know I'm being followed." Conner could feel Alex stiffen. "I went back out to the warehouse to look around this morning. I noticed some men on top of the Colorado Container building, nest door. I think they're setting us up Alex. I don't think the meeting is going to be in the warehouse. I think it's going to be in the Container Building."
"Why do you think that?" Alex's mind was turning; trying to make sense of the information Conner was feeding her.
"After I spotted the men on the building, I called Buet, and had him do some checking on the ownership of Colorado Container. It seems as if our friend Bivins is part owner of the building."
Alex pulled away and sat up to face Conner. "You mean that cowboy cop from the beach the other night. Come on Conner, you can't be serious?" Alex pulled a hand through her hair, and then sat with her elbows on her knees staring at the floor. "This makes no sense at all. A two bit cop, part owner in a multi-million dollar corporation, that just happens to have snipers on the roof."
"Actually, Bivins doesn't own any of the actual corporation, just the building. It was sold six months ago to H&S Imports. Bivins is listed as the Chief Financial Officer of the Corporation."
Alex stood up and walked to the other side of the room. She looked out the window into the darkness for a minute then started pacing across the room. "OK, let me see if I have this correct. There is a meeting between Hernandez and Sarantos on Friday night. They know I'm back in town, and want us to believe it's going to be held in the warehouse, but it's really going to be in the Container building. Am I right so far?"
Conner nodded, as Alex continued pacing. If she hadn't seen it for herself she would never have believed the transformation Alex made from the soft sensual woman she was falling in love with to 'The Shadow', a cold, dark, and dangerous panther pacing the floor before her. In the light Conner couldn't be sure, but she was almost positive Alex's eyes changed from dark blue to almost black.
"You said earlier you were being followed. Why do you think that?"
"After I left the container building, I drove home to pick up Magnum, and some clothes. I was at the condo, maybe ten minutes total. About five minutes after I walked in, the phone rang. It was a man warning me away from the case."
"Exactly what did he say," Alex continued to pace like a caged animal. Her face was expressionless, but her body was tense and ready to spring at the least provocation.
"Alex, I honestly don't remember the exact words. I was too stunned. I just remember he said something about being my guardian angle, and told me I was out of my league, and to stay away from the case."
"That message had to be from someone in the Sarantos organization." Alex stopped and looked at the ceiling, deep in thought.
"Why Sarantos?" Conner was having a difficult time following Alex's thought pattern.
"Sarantos is into all this mystical shit. He talked about guardian angels all the time...had most people in the organization believing her was theirs."
"Did you spot a tail on the way back to town?"
"No, I went back to the station for our meeting, then had lunch with you, checked up with the lab, ran some errands, drove around in circle for a while trying to spot someone, then came here." Conner couldn't sit any longer and got up to join Alex in pacing the floor.
"That's why you parked behind the house?" Now it made sense. She had originally thought Conner was just trying to be discreet, but now she understood that she had been trying to protect her.
Conner's cell phone interrupted their thoughts, and both women jumped from the shrill sound piercing the quiet room.
"Harris." Conner barked into the phone, then walked over, and sat on the sofa.
Alex watched Conner as she talked, and saw the woman's face drain of color. She couldn't discern the topic of the conversation, but she knew it wasn't good. Conner talked a few more minutes, and Alex heard her tell the person on the other end of the phone that she was on her way. She closed the flip phone, and looked up at Alex with dazed eyes.
"That was Peterson. They just found Kevin Johnson." Conner stood and walked to the window, "At home, in his bathtub, with his throat slashed." Conner could hear the intake of breath from Alex, and turned to face the woman. They stared at each other for several moments.
Conner could see Alex's eyes clearly now, and they were almost black. Alex walked to the closet and removed her shoulder holster. Both women were silent as they slipped the holsters over their shoulders, and prepared to leave the house. Conner picked up her keys from the counter in the kitchen, and they walked out the back door. When Alex turned to lock the door, Conner wrapped her arms around her from behind, and held her for a moment. Alex fell back into the embrace, as both women came to the realization that the war had begun.
Alex took a deep breath, as she thought about the woman holding her close. In the next few days, people were going to die. She silently vowed that it would not be Conner, and prayed that she too would be lucky enough to survive this next step into hell.
Conner heard Captain Peterson, before she spotted him talking to the Medical Examiner in the far corner of the living room. Alex stood off to the side, trying to stay out of the way, as the paramedics rolled the gurney, which held Johnson's body out the door. Some of the officers on the scene knew who she was, and was well aware of the animosity between the local police and the FBI. Johnson's death had not officially linked to the Hernandez case, yet, but Alex knew that by morning, she would officially be part of the new case. Until then, she decided to stand down, and unofficially observe the scene.
When Captain Peterson finished talking to the ME, he motioned Conner and Alex over. He raked a hand through his hair, as the women joined him. Conner noticed the stress on his face, and couldn't help but worry about her commanding officer. This was the third officer he had lost in this case. The first two died at the warehouse, the night Alex was almost killed. He took a deep, ragged breath, as he looked at the two women.
"I'm sure you have already figured out this is linked to the Hernandez case."
Conner nodded, "Who found him?"
"Rodgers. Buet called him looking for Johnson after our meeting. Apparently, Johnson told him he had a doctor's appointment after lunch, and they split up about noon. Rodgers went back to the precinct, to finish some paperwork, and then went home about five o'clock." Peterson, stopped to answer a question from an approaching detective, then turned back toward the women.
"Anyway, when I left around six, I still hadn't heard from Johnson. I told the desk sergeant to page him, and when Johnson didn't answer the page, the sergeant called Roger's." Peterson sighed, "Rodger's eventually came by here when he couldn't reach Johnson, and found the back door open. He knew Johnson had gone to the doctor earlier in the day and thought he might be sick, so he entered the house. The shower was running, but when he called out, Johnson didn't answer, so he went in the bathroom and found him in the tub."
Conner saw the 'adam's-apple-jump' in her captain's throat, a sign that the small amygdale, an almond-shaped neuro structure, located in the brain, involved in producing and responding to nonverbal signs of anger, and fear was stressed to the max.
Not knowing what to do to relieve some of his stress, she took his arm and inconspicuously pushed him toward the door. "Captain, I need some air, let's walk outside for a minute." Peterson knew what Conner was doing, but let her lead the way...He needed some fresh air to clear his head anyway.
When they were outside in the front yard, Peterson turned to Alex. "I want to make this official Alex. I want you and your office in on this case. We will lead the investigation, but I would appreciate your help. I know this is tied into the Hernandez case, although I can't prove it, yet."
Alex moved a little closer to the Captain. "I agree that it probably is tied to the other case, but what other cases was he working?" Alex stopped talking until one of the detectives passed by them, "Anything that could even be remotely linked to this?"
"Not that I'm aware. My opinion is, Hernandez wanted to send you a message, and knew Johnson was the easiest target. He was young, inexperienced, and well, you heard him on Monday...he wasn't convinced Hernandez was capable of this. Unfortunately, this is another case of blind inexperience."
Turning back to Conner, his eyes grew cold, "I'm sorry Conner, but all agreements are off. I want to know everything you have on whoever you were talking about in the meeting this morning, and I want to know now."
For a moment, a tidal wave of guilt poured over Conner, as she realized that if she had agreed, and filled the captain in earlier in the day, Johnson may still be alive. Alex read all of the familiar emotions, then reached to touch Conner's shoulder, and glared at Peterson. "Conner, from what you've told me tonight, there is nothing that could have been done to prevent this." "No one," Looking back at Peterson to emphasize her words, "No one could have known this would happen, so don't even go there with the guilt. We need to stay focused, if we're going to solve this thing, OK?"
Alex continued to glare at Donald, silently warning him to back off. "I suggest that we get out of here, and go somewhere private where we can talk. Conner's made a lot of progress on this case today Jack, and I think you want to hear it."
Peterson agreed, and went back inside to finish his handing out orders to the other officers, and detectives. When he was out of hearing range Conner turned to Alex, "You didn't have to do..."
Alex cut Conner's words off, "No, I didn't have to, but he was out of line Conner. No one could have prevented this, based on the evidence we have right now, and you know it." Not caring what anyone around them thought, she took Conner by the shoulders and turned her until they were facing. "You're a damn good cop Conner. I'm glad that you're on this case with me. Together, we're going to bring these bastards down. I need you focused on the next few days, not the past, and certainly not what happened here tonight. If we're going to get through this, alive and well, I need you a hundred percent. Can you give me that?"
Conner leaned her head back and drew in a long, deep breath. "Yeah. Yes, you've got me."
Peterson joined them a few minutes later, and they decided to go to an all-night diner for their talk. The conversation was long, and intense, and it was close to two in the morning, before they arrived back at Alex's.
They quietly, walked through the house, locking doors, and turning out lights. Conner lay in the bed with her back to Alex and tried unsuccessfully to silence her sobs. Alex turned and gently pulled on Conner's shoulder until the woman was snuggly cradled in her arms. The tender gesture broke down what was left of Conner's resolve, and Alex lay there, in the darkness, whispering soothing words, and gently rocking Conner, until she finally fell asleep from the exhausting sobs.
Alex lay in the darkness, holding Conner as she slept, thinking over the events of the last few days, and contemplating what was to come in the next few.
Continue to Part Nineteen of Storm Surge
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