Vendetta

by Talaran

Copyright © 2000 by Talaran

(www.talaransrealm.com)

 

Disclaimers: This is my first attempt at fan fiction. It is Uber fiction and it is set in the current time in the fictional city of Larson (think similar to Boston, but a little smaller scale.)

This story depicts a loving between two adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.


 

Part One

The November air held a pleasant chill, which was a welcome change from the humid summer that had preceded it. Whenever the breeze picked up, colorful pockets of leaves danced their way down the solemn city street. A lone street lamp shed the only light on a rather isolated section of the block. That would not have been the case two years ago when Anthony Vinnelli was mayor. Back then the entire street had been flooded with light, as had many of the streets in the eastern part of the city, due to the high crime rate. Now, however, under Mayor Tomson's administration, the streetlights had been drastically reduced to save the city money, as Deputy Mayor Hawthorne all too often reminded the Larson City Police Department.

On this particular night Nic Stone and Jimmy Jamison were more than happy with the darkness that engulfed them. They sat in their unmarked Chrysler sipping tepid coffee from Styrofoam cups and waiting. For the past two and a half hours they had been not so patiently waiting for one Marty Geller, a small time dope dealer and now snitch. Marty was an ex-con who, like most ex-cons, had no desire to do more time. Seems like Marty didn't have a very good time in prison, either due to a lack of his drug of choice or the overabundance of male companionship. So Nic and Jimmy, the two narcotics detectives who had busted him six years ago decided it was time to put Marty to good use. That's what brought them here tonight.

"Where the hell is that little puke?" Jimmy grunted. "It's almost midnight for Christ sake."

Nic threw her empty cup into the backseat. "He'll be here. Marty knows what we'll do to him if he doesn't show."

"Damn right he does. By the way, did I tell you my kid sister called? Sheís coming to town tomorrow. I gotta pick her up at the airport." Jimmy said with excitement.

"Hasnít it been like three years since youíve seen her?" Nic asked.

Jimmy sighed and knitted his brow. "Yeah, three years, one month and ten days, but whoís counting."

Nic peered through the night-vision binoculars. "Good thing youíre not keeping track."

"Well excuse me for caring about my baby sister."

"Jimmy, I think itís cute how protective you are of Carly."

Jimmy scowled, "Yeah well I better not hear any razzin from the guys or youíre the first person Iím gonna be looking for."

Still no sign of Marty. Nic placed the binoculars on the dash and threw up her hands in mock surrender, "Hey I understand. Remember I have a little sister, too."

"Yeah, but you two donít actually get along, now do you." Jimmy rolled his window down and lit up a cigarette that he had slid from the pack in his shirt pocket. "Besides, with this new job of hers I have reason to worry. Sheís always traipsing all over God knows where." Carly became a photographer for National Geographic a little over a year ago. Jimmy was proud of Carly, but heíd prefer a job with much less travel.

"So where is she flying in from?" Nic asked.

"Australia. She was doing something with that thing they have down there," Jimmy said.

Nic smiled, "You mean the Great Barrier Reef?"

"Yeah thatís it. So how would you like to join us for dinner tomorrow night? Iíd like you two to finally meet."

"Sure that would be nice," Nic said.

"Great. Well I gotta take a piss, so keep your eyes peeled. I'll be right back." Jimmy reached up and turned the dome light off, then he quietly opened the driver's side door.

"Make it quick." Nic said, never letting her eyes leave the warehouse at the end of the block. She unwrapped a stick of Big Red gum and slid it into her mouth. The spicy cinnamon flavor tasted refreshing after the coffee. Nicole Stone had been Jimmy's partner for the past two and a half years. In that time they had become a pretty good team, though Nic had been skeptical at the start. She still remembered the look on Jimmyís face when they were introduced. Lieutenant Harold Raimes had paired them up after Jimmy's partner was killed in a holdup. He had been off duty at the time when he took two slugs in the chest at point blank range. Jimmy was quite shaken by the whole thing, so Lieutenant Raimes thought pairing him with a woman, especially a woman who had just gotten her gold shield six months before, would be a good challenge, or maybe a good diversion for him. It took him several months to come to terms with his partnerís death, but during those months Nic and Jimmy had become good friends.

About six months into their partnership Jimmy discovered something about Nic that Nic thought would ruin their friendship, as well as their partnership. Jimmy found out, quite by accident, that Nic was not the least bit interested in men, any men. She had prepared herself for what she was sure would be a huge falling out, not to mention the ramifications of the department finding out. Much to her surprise Jimmy had accepted it and said that it actually made working with her easier. After all Nic was a "knockout", as Jimmy put it, and the knowledge of her sexual orientation allowed him to be himself. Once he knew he didnít have a prayer with her they became more like buddies. Eventually most of the precinct found out over the next two years and most were okay with it, though there were the occasional slanderous statements, usually made whenever Jimmy wasnít around.

Nic spotted some movement at the corner of the warehouse. A small light hung down by the overhead doors and illuminated the loading dock enough for her to recognize Marty as he climbed the stairs beside the dock. Nic leaned over to the driver's side window and rolled it down. She tried to do this without losing sight of Marty. "Jimmy? Jimmy get back here. Marty's going in!" She watched as the warehouse door opened and Marty stepped inside. She placed her headset on, but she heard nothing from the bug they had wired to Marty's chest. She checked the connections, but still nothing.

Jimmy, hearing Nic's call, zipped up his fly and returned to the car. He squatted next to the door and spoke through the open window. "Is he inside?"

"Yeah, but I'm not getting anything on the radio. He must have fucked something up with the wire. We're gonna have to go in. He won't know we can't hear him. He'll be a sitting duck."

"Well let's get going," Jimmy said, sliding a full clip into his Glock and easing back into the driverís seat. Jimmy started up the car and pulled it to within ten yards of the warehouse.

Nic radioed for backup, then tore the headset off and tossed it onto the dash. She unsnapped her underarm holster and removed her 9mm Beretta, then reached down to check the Sig/Sauer in her leg holster. They got out of the car and within seconds they were flanking the warehouse. They both knew backup would take five to ten minutes and Marty may not have that long. Jimmy gave her the signal and he made his way up the stairs leading to the overhead doors. Normally they would both go through the door on the dock, while two other cops covered the side entrance near the back of the warehouse. But without knowing Marty's status inside, they'd have to cover both entrances themselves and hope that backup arrived soon.

Once Jimmy was secured next to the door, he held up his hand, fingers spread, then he closed it and re-opened it signaling a count of ten to Nic. They had done this a hundred times before, each knowing and relying on the other's abilities. Nic made her way to the side entrance, counting as she ran along the side of the warehouse. She was on five when she got to the door. Still counting she tried the doorknob, but it didn't turn! Three, she'd have to blow the lock, two, cause she wouldn't make it back to Jimmy, one, in time. Nic fired one round at the lock and hoped for the best.

Jimmy watched Nic disappear around the corner as he kept count. When they reached the count of one they would each enter the warehouse boxing in the occupants. Hopefully Marty hadn't given himself away by repeating the phrase that would have sent them all inside, "Well I gotta get going." With the wire not working they'd need his testimony for a case. He was down to four, Nic should be at the door by now. Jimmy tried the knob and it turned. Three, he took a deep breath, two, he turned the knob slowly, one he flung the door open as he heard the KAPOW of a shot.

The interior of the warehouse was dim, and before Nic could get inside, several shots ricocheted off the door casing above her head. She dove inside and landed beside a huge pile of wooden crates. Gunfire and footsteps were all she heard. Marty had given them a rough idea of the layout of the warehouse, so she knew approximately where the buy was going down. Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself against the crates, then she returned fire.

Jimmy rolled through the open door and came up in a squat, his right hand gripping the gun, his left palm supporting both. He heard a table crash to the ground and several people yelling. "It's the cops! Let's get the hell outa here!"

There were too many crates piled up around him for him to get a clear look at the people attached to the feet he heard running from the room. He had this door covered and he knew, as well as he knew anything in his life, that Nic had the other door covered, so where the hell was everybody running to, he thought. And Marty, where the hell was Marty? Still in a crouch Jimmy made his way to the edge of the crates and cautiously peered around the corner. BANG! A shot sailed right past him, splintering part of the crate he was standing against. Jimmy backed up a step. If he could just see over the top of these crates he thought. BANG! Another shot. This one pierced the crate directly behind him. "Jesus!" Jimmy said, louder than he wished.

"Hey you, behind the crate. Why don't you come out like a good little piggy," The voice taunted. "Oink, oink," the voice added. Laughter erupted from behind the crates across the room.

"Not quite what I had in mind, but thanks for the offer," Jimmy yelled.

Nic had let off four consecutive rounds from her Beretta before ducking behind a crate. She heard a shot, a single shot. It sounded like it was over near the other entrance. Then she heard someone talking, but she couldn't distinguish what was said. Light fixtures, suspended from the ceiling by thick rusted chains, made the other side of the warehouse brighter. Sliding one of the crates that provided her cover slightly to one side she peered through the crack. From this angle she spotted three guys. Two were crouched behind boxes and one was behind an overturned table. Then she heard Jimmy's voice.

"Listen," Jimmy said, "why don't you guys just drop your weapons and come on out." Jimmy knew he had to stall. Backup should be there any minute, he thought. He hoped Nic was inside. If she were, she should be making her way along the back of the warehouse.

"No, you listen, pig! I'm gonna put a bullet through this piece of sewer slime if you and your partner don't drop your weapons and come out!" The guy behind the table stood up holding Marty by the back of the collar. Marty's shirt was ripped open and the wire wrapped around his throat. "That is after I strangle him with this wire, of course."

Well this plan's gone to hell, Nic thought. Not only is their snitch caught, but he's probably gonna get himself killed and things weren't looking too good for her and Jimmy either. Watching the grease ball who was holding onto Marty, Nic glanced up at the ceiling. She noticed one of the long fluorescent lights suspended from the ceiling was directly above Marty and the grease ball. If she could sever the chains with a couple of shots Marty might have a chance. After all he wasn't a complete idiot. When that light falls, she thought, he'd better get his ass out of the way. She would have a better line of sight a little more to her left. Silently she moved a few feet to her left, still hidden behind several stacks of boxes. Nic hoped Jimmy would be able to take out one of the other two guys, then hopefully the other one would surrender. She raised her gun and closed her right eye. The chain was in her sights. Nic took a breath and fired. The shot hit its target. The chain holding the one side of the light was severed and the massive light began to fall. Nic immediately sighted the remaining chain and fired again. Now the light was heading for the floor and all hell was breaking loose.

Jimmy heard the shot and knew it was Nic. For a split second he was not sure what she fired at, but then it became very clear. Jimmy was crouched behind a crate, but when he realized what Nic was up to he knew what he had to do. Jimmy stood up and pushed one of the upper crates to the floor. This drew fire from the two guys not affected by the light, which had all ready crashed to the floor. Jimmy dove to his left and opened fire. He hit one of the guys, a tall blond, wearing a black fedora, who yelled out, then hit the floor with a thud. The other guy, a heavyset Asian, decided to fight instead of give up. He threw himself over the boxes and was headed straight for Jimmy. Jimmy fired, hitting the guy in the right shoulder, but not even slowing him down. Shit, Jimmy thought.

Nic watched the light crash to the floor, landing on top of Marty and the grease ball. Before she could react Jimmy took out one of guys behind the boxes. The fluorescent light bulbs shattered when the fixture impacted with the table that Marty and the greaseball had been hiding behind. For a brief second she thought it was over. Then she saw the heavyset Asian dive over a stack of boxes. Actually it looked more like he simply plowed threw them like a hot knife through butter. Jimmy was on the floor and the Asian bulldozer was headed right for him. Nic reacted just as she was trained to do. Nic squeezed the trigger. It was an unconscious reflex, almost as second nature to her as scratching an itch. BANG! BANG! The two rapid shots startled Jimmy. His mind was still processing data. Before he could roll out of the way, or get up to mount a defense the Asian was lying face down on the concrete floor of the warehouse. Two shots hit him square in his massive chest. Blood, crimson red, seeped onto the floor from the wounds he had sustained. Jimmy, lying prone on the floor, breathed a sigh of relief. He turned his head and saw Nic shouldering her weapon. She gave him a wink.

"Your welcome," she said as a wide smile spread across her face. Jimmy just started to laugh.

*********************************************

It took an hour to get everything taken care of at the warehouse. Backup had arrived a few minutes ahead of the ambulance. The Asian guy was dead and the blond was unconscious with a gunshot wound to the right leg. Marty had sustained some minor cuts and abrasions, but was far luckier than the grease ball that was threatening to kill him. When the light started to fall Marty shoved the guy away from him and dove to the side, hoping to avoid the crashing light. He was mostly successful. The light landed on top of the grease ball, who by then decided to cover his head and run. It was too late, of course, and the light fixture landed directly on top of him. By the time Nic and Jimmy uncovered him he was unconscious and barely breathing. Three squad cars arrived along with an ambulance. The ambulance transported Marty and Louis Gatto, the grease ball, to Larson Memorial Hospital.

It was two thirty when Nic and Jimmy returned to the 21st precinct. A call to the hospital informed them that Louis Gatto was still unconscious. A six-inch gash on the back of his head required thirty stitches to close and was the obvious cause of his unconscious state. Marty was being held for observation and both men were under police guard. An hour later, having finished their paperwork, Nic dropped Jimmy off at his West Side flat, which was directly above Mama Sirelli's Pizza Palace. The entire block smelled of garlic and simmering tomato sauce. Nic took a deep breath, savoring the aroma. Jimmy stood on the sidewalk holding the car door open.

"You want to grab a pizza? Sirelliís is open till 4:00."

Nic was tempted. "Some other time Jimmy. I should get home."

"Suit your self," Jimmy said, "Iíll see you tomorrow."

Nic said "Night Jimmy," and watched Jimmy enter Mama Sirelliís. She drove her black Nissan Xterra to her house in the east end of the city, nearly twenty miles from the precinct she worked at ten hours or more a day. She liked living a bit outside of the city. She spent enough time dealing with the cityís scum, sheíd be damned if she would live next to them, too. People who knew where she lived were actually surprised, which in turn surprised Nic. For some reason no one expected her to be living in suburban Fairfield Hills. Nic didnít give a shit, though. She never had, nor suspected she ever would give a crap about what other people thought.

She turned onto Kingston Drive and threw a wave to the paper guy who was walking down Mrs. Kramerís driveway. Nic pulled into her driveway and activated the car's alarm system. The street was quiet. The night air was cool and exhilarating. Nic paused in front of the steps and took a deep breath and stretched her long frame to get the kinks out. The night had been exciting and the adrenaline had not completely worn off. Getting to sleep wasn't going to be easy, she thought, even though physically she was beginning to feel the toll the day had taken. She grabbed a stack of mail from the box along with the newspaper and unlocked the door and went inside. A purring pile of fur immediately greeted her. She reached down and scooped the cat into her arms. More purring accompanied by constant kneading were her reward.

"I know", she said, "you missed me." Nic stroked the sleek black fur. "I bet you're a little hungry, too." Harley's tail flicked back and forth, a sure sign of the cat's happiness.

Nic carried the cat to the kitchen and poured out a saucer of milk. Harley was all too happy to get down once the saucer was on the floor. She reached into the cupboard and grabbed a wineglass and uncorked the White Zinfandel she kept on hand in the refrigerator. She headed to the bathroom to draw herself a bath after first retrieving a book from the den. She knew that a hot bath, a glass of wine, and a good book would get her relaxed in no time.

********************

Jimmy sat in his usual booth near the back of Mama Sirelli's with a glass of red wine and a small pepperoni pizza. It was ten minutes past four and Jimmy was the only one in the place. Vinny Grayson, the night manager and an old friend of Jimmy's, told him he could stay until they had cleaned up. Jimmy thought about the eveningís excitement and he smiled. Being a cop was all Jimmy had wanted since he was five years old. The job had its highs and lows, but he had never regretted becoming a cop for a minute. He downed the last of his wine, paid Vinny, and exited the restaurant.

Jimmy knew he had better get some sleep if he expected to pick up his sister in a few hours. He stretched his six-foot muscular frame, then walked up the flight of stairs leading to his apartment. The hallway was dark. Jimmy made a mental note to change the bulb in the morning. He reached his door, but in the darkness he fumbled with his keys. He heard something. He turned to see who was there, but darkness veiled everything. He couldn't even make out his own hand if he held it up to his face. He had the odd feeling he wasn't alone and he started to reach for his gun when a deafening bang broke through the darkness. Suddenly a mind numbing pain ripped through Jimmy's left leg. As his leg began to buckle another shot rang out. This one caught him in the chest. Jimmy collapsed on the floor as footsteps descending the stairs echoed in the hallway.

**********************

Palm trees, scattered along the edge of a deserted beach, swayed in the warm tropical breeze. A brilliant turquoise sea splashed rhythmically onto the beach a few yards ahead. Nic looked around. She was stretched out on a blanket laid over soft, white sand. She was wearing her bathing suit, a stunning one piece with a purple and navy design. She thought she was alone when she heard an unfamiliar voice from behind her. She turned to meet the most amazing woman she had ever seen. The blond, silken hair, lithe body, and dazzling green eyes held her in a trance.

"Letís go for a swim," the woman said as she extended her hand to Nic, who just smiled in response.

"Yes, letís," Nic said. She wanted to get up, go to the woman standing on the edge of the surf, motioning with her hands, imploring her to come. If only the ringing would stop. Where was it coming from, she thought. There should be no ringing here, no ringing at all. Her dream was slipping, slipping slowly away. She didnít want it to, she wanted to hang on, but she couldnít. She was awake. The phone rang. This had better be important. She groped in the darkness for the phone and hit the speaker button.

"Yeah, Stone here," she grumbled, her head still buried in the pillow.

"Stone, it's Lieutenant Raimes." His voice sounded grave.

Nic was startled. Raimes never called her at home. She sat up and turned on the light. It momentarily blinded her, "Yes Lieutenant. Whatís up?"

"Iím afraid I have some bad news, Stone." He took a breath and continued, "Jimmy was shot last night."

Nic picked up the handset. "What? Jimmy was shot? How? When?"

"Around four thirty this morning. Looks like he got ambushed in his hallway." Nic couldnít believe what she was hearing. It was only five thirty. She had dropped him off less than two hours ago. How could this have happened? "Where is he now? Is he alive?"

"Yes, heís alive. They took him to Saint Peterís Hospital. He took two slugs, one in the right side of his chest and one in the leg. You better get over to the hospital A.S.A.P."

"Who did it?" she asked, her jaw clenched.

"We donít know yet. At that hour of the morning there werenít a lot of people around. Weíve got cops canvassing the area. Maybe weíll get lucky."

"Thanks for the call, Lieutenant," Nic said weakly.

"Listen to me Stone. I donít want you going off half cocked, you hear me!" he commanded. "Weíll find the bastard that did this and I want no loose canon fucking up the investigation."

"Iíll be at the hospital with Jimmy," Nic said, not even listening to the lieutenant, who was still talking when she hung up the phone.

Nic was at the hospital by seven oíclock. She dressed so quickly she wasnít even sure what she was wearing. She went straight to the information desk and was informed that Jimmy was being prepped for surgery. The nurse was not allowed to give out any more information, even when Nic flashed her gold shield and informed the nurse that Jimmy was her partner. "Iím sorry, miss. Youíll have to speak to Doctor Austin. You can find him on the second floor."

"Thanks," Nic said as she headed to the elevators.

The west wing of the fourth floor of Saint Peterís hospital housed the intensive care unit. The floor was a flurry of activity. Nurses and orderlies were filtering in and out of rooms, where patients were monitored around the clock. A tall man in his early fifties was standing by the nurses station studying a clipboard he was holding. He was wearing a white lab coat and he sported a gold Rolex on his left wrist.

"Excuse me, " Nic said. "Iím looking for Doctor Austin."

The man looked up from the clipboard. He eyed the woman who was almost as tall as he was. For some reason he felt intimidated, yet he wasnít quite sure why. "Iím Doctor Austin. How can I help you?"

"Iím Nicole Stone, Jimmy Jamison's partner. How is he doing?"

The Doctorís cool demeanor changed to a slightly more compassionate one. He looked into cool blue eyes and a determined expression. "Oh," he said. "Well, your partner is lucky to be alive. He took a bullet in the right side of his chest. It just barely missed his lung. He was fortunate that it didnít ricochet off any bones and lodge in his spine."

"Is he going to be okay?" Nic started directly into his eyes.

The Doctor felt the sudden desire to look away. He returned his attention to the clipboard. "We are prepping him for surgery. We had to wait until he was stabilized. He also sustained a wound to his right leg. The bullet passed through cleanly. I expect Iíll have him in the O.R for two to three hours, depending on what I find when I get in there."

"You still havenít told me if heís going to be all right!" Nic felt herself starting to lose control. If this guy didnít answer her she was thought she might rip his head off, and she doubted he would be any use to Jimmy after that.

Doctor Austin cleared his throat and looked her sternly in the eyes. "Unless I find something unexpected when I get in there, I expect him to recover. Of course heíll be on crutches for a while. A bullet tends to be destructive, even when it isnít lodged inside the body."

No shit, Nic thought, but she managed to remain composed. "Thank you for your time, Doctor."

"Iíll talk to you after the surgery is over," he said and walked away.

Nic returned to the elevators and headed for the cafeteria to get some coffee. She knew sheíd need something to get her through the next few hours. What a great way to start the weekend, she thought. Of course it was too early for the cafeteria staff so she would have to make do with the vending machine coffee, another bonus.

She deposited her coins and made her selection: black. She was rewarded with a paper cup filled to the brim. Gingerly she took a sip. Instantly it started to soothe her frayed nerves. Sure the doctor said Jimmy would recover, but she would believe it more once she saw Jimmy. She looked at the items in the vending machine, danish, bagels, cookies, but her stomach was in knots so food was out of the question. She took a seat at a small table in the corner of the dark cafeteria. Why, she thought, why Jimmy? She held the hot cup between her hands. The warmth felt good. She started thinking about last night and everything that had happened at the warehouse. She needed to talk to Marty. He would probably be released this morning, since they were only keeping him for observation. She would hook up with him later and ask him a few questions about last night. She looked at her watch. Only six ten. Jimmy wouldnít get out of surgery until at least nine. She decided that sitting around the hospital for the next three hours would drive her insane so she left her beeper number with one of the nurses at the nurses station on the second floor and she headed for Jimmyís apartment.

*****************************

Two squad cars were parked in front of Jimmyís building when Nic pulled up. She parked her car in the first spot she could find, which was a few doors up from Jimmy's building. She flashed her badge at the cops guarding the entrance to the building as she stepped over the yellow tape which read "Caution Police Line Do Not Cross". Two technicians from the forensics lab were dusting the doorway for prints. Inside Jimmyís apartment Nic found two detectives from the 21st precinct. Tom Sanders and Paul Mahoney were looking through Jimmyís mail when she entered the room.

Paul Mahoney spotted her first. Her raven hair, still slightly damp, was pulled back into a pony tail. She had on a faded pair of denims, a royal blue t-shirt and a black leather bomber jacket. "Sorry about Jimmy, Stone. How's he doin?"

"He's in surgery right now. Doctor said he was lucky the slug he took in the chest missed his lung." Nic looked at the stack of mail sitting on the table. "So what have you turned up?"

"Not a damn thing, Iím afraid. We were checking the mail to see if there was anything unusual, like hate mail or something," Tom said, dropping himself into one of the chairs that surrounded the kitchen table. "Maybe we'll get lucky with the slug we dug out of the door jam."

"What about any cases you two have been working on?" Paul asked.

Nicís brow furrowed, "I've been going over them in my head, but no one is coming to mind. I'll run a check on anyone Jimmy's arrested in the past five years. Maybe somebody recently got released from the joint." Nic shuffled through a pile of mail, carefully examining the return addresses.

"Listen Stone, not that we donít appreciate it, " Tom cleared his throat, "but you know the rules. This case is too close to home for you. Let us handle it." Tom wouldnít look Nic in the eye because he knew what he would see.

"Fine, officially you will handle it, but if you think for a split second that I wonít be involved, then you must be crazy." Nic just smiled, first at Tom, then at Paul. Both men quietly returned to the mail they were going through.

The last piece of mail in the pile jarred Nic's memory like a lightening bolt. It was a postcard from Australia. It was a gorgeous picture of a hotel, which was completely surrounded by royal blue water. Nic turned the card over. It read 'Having a great time. The water is beautiful and the hotel is fabulous. See you soon. Love Carly'. "Shit!"

Paul looked at Tom, then at Nic. "What's wrong?"

"I forgot that Jimmy's sister is flying in today to visit him."

"Can't you get a hold of her and tell her what's happened?" Tom asked.

"I don't know where the hell she is now. All Jimmy told me was that she was coming in from Australia and that she'd be here today. I don't even know when." Nic started sifting through more of the stuff on Jimmy's table. Maybe he wrote down the time and the airline. "Did either of you see any notes or anything?" She threw them an irritated look.

"No, just some bills, a postcard, and a Sports Illustrated," Paul said.

"I'm going to check his desk. You guys check the coffee table," Nic commanded.

"Yeah sure." Paul said. They both walked to the adjacent living room. A stack of newspapers was on one end of the coffee table and a stack of magazines on the other. They sat on the sofa. Paul picked up the swimsuit addition of Sports Illustrated and started fanning the pages. Tom scanned some miscellaneous papers that were scattered over the table. Most were notes on things to do or pick up at the store.

Paul held up the magazine. "Wouldn't you like to be trapped on an island with this?"

Tom looked up. The blond in the picture was lying on her stomach on a white sandy beach wearing a tiny black bikini. "Anytime, any island," Tom said.

Nic walked into the room waving a small piece of paper. "Bingo!" She said. "Northwest airlines, Flight 17, arriving at eight thirty this morning."

Nic couldn't remember the last time she had seen a picture of Carly and she knew she needed one if she hoped to spot her getting off the plane. Nic walked over to the television set, a twenty seven-inch Magnavox that Jimmy bought last year. On top were several photographs of various sizes. There was a picture of Nic and Jimmy when they received the Governors Medal of Bravery for thwarting a bank robbery and saving the lives of twenty people. There was a photo of Jimmy and his first partner, Jonny Holmes, fishing at Jonny's cabin on Lake Wintocka. There were several pictures of Jimmy with his mother and his aunts and in the center of all the pictures, in an antique silver frame, was a photograph of Jimmy and Carly. Nic figured it must have been taken at least four years ago. Carly was stunning, Nic thought. Blond hair, shoulder length and wavy, a cute little nose and an inviting smile. She looked a little like Jimmy, especially around the eyes and nose. They were standing in front of a Christmas tree. Jimmy towered over her. She couldnít be more that five-foot, five inches. Jimmy had his arm around her and Carly looked like she had just heard a great joke.

Nic looked at her watch. It was already seven thirty. It would take her thirty minutes to get to the airport, maybe forty if traffic was heavy. "Well guys it looks like I'm gonna have to get to the airport."

Tom rose from the sofa and yanked the Sports Illustrated from Paul's grip. "Hey, what did you do that for?" Paul complained.

"We've got work to do! Or did you forget why we're here?" Tom said, sarcastically.

"I didn't forget," Paul said.

The forensics team walked in and announced they were finished. Paul and Tom went over to discuss what, if anything, they found. Nic went to the phone to call the hospital. The receptionist at Saint Peter's put her through to the intensive care unit. The nurse who took the call informed Nic that Jimmy was still in surgery and would be for at least another hour. Nic discussed the forensics team's findings with Paul and Tom before she left for the airport. To her disappointment few fingerprints were found and they probably belonged to Jimmy. The bullet that went through Jimmy's leg was recovered from the door jam and was sent to ballistics. Paul and Tom went down to the street to see if the cops canvassing the neighborhood came up with any witnesses. Nic told them she'd call them later from the hospital to see how things were progressing.

Traffic through the West End of the city was moderate. It looked like it was going to be a fine fall day. The sun was shining and the temperature hung around 45 degrees. Nic drove faster than usual to insure she would get to the airport before Carly's plane landed.

Quincy Airport was in the Northeast end of the city and was still under construction. The old terminal building, which was built thirty some years ago, was partially torn down and would be the site of a new two story parking garage. The new terminal building was an impressive two-story structure shaped like a football goal post. The baggage area and several airport shops were located on the first floor, while the gates to the various airlines were spread across the second floor. Nic parked her car in the short-term lot and checked her watch. She made it with twenty minutes to spare.

Upon entering the airport she studied one of the Northwest monitors to see if Carly's plane was on schedule. Flight 17 arriving from Los Angeles was on time at Gate 5. Nic stopped by the newsstand, grabbed the morning addition of the Larson Chronicle since she didnít get to read the one she had at home, and took the escalator to the second floor. As she walked to the gate, with the newspaper tucked under her left arm so she could keep her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket, her thoughts returned to Jimmy. She prayed he was going to be all right. She wasnít a religious person by any means, but to whatever God there was, she prayed. It wasn't going to be easy to tell his sister what had transpired a few short hours ago. Nic wondered how she would take the news.

She approached the checkpoint and removed her Gold shield, flashing it at the security guard. Once acknowledged she slowly removed her gun and walked through the metal detector. She proceeded on to Gate 5 where handfuls of people were loitering about. Some looked anxious, others just bored. A small boy with a mop of yellow hair crawled along the floor pushing a plastic fire engine amongst the chairs. Nic took a seat by the window and unfolded her paper. She watched the boy for a moment and then wondered where his parents were. She mumbled to herself, "and people wonder how kids get abducted."

*****************************

Across town in a small diner two men were enjoying a greasy bacon and egg breakfast. Salvatore Linetti mopped up the yellow yolk with his butter soaked toast. He loved bacon and eggs and ate it almost every day for the past forty years. He knew it would probably kill him someday, that is if his profession didn't. "This is great," he said, swilling down a mouthful of coffee.

Leo Tolstrom nodded his head in agreement, his own mouth too full to talk. The early morning's events had given him a ravenous appetite. The waitress, a short stout woman in a blue uniform, appeared and added more coffee to their cups. Leo didn't like her. She looked mean as hell and reminded him of his first parole officer. She was a real bitch. Salvatore grabbed the waitress by the wrist before she could get away. "Listen doll," Salvatore licked his lips enjoying the salty taste of the bacon, "bring us some more bacon and toast, okay?"

The waitress glared at Salvatore. "No eggs?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No eggs, just the bacon and the toast, doll."

The waitress jerked her arm away. She yelled to the bald guy working the grill. "More bacon and toast for these two Hank."

Sal looked at Leo. "So you ready to finish this shit today?"

Leo looked up from his plate, his mustache dripping with yolk. "Sure Sal. I'm always ready, you know that."

"So you keep telling me," Salvatore wiped his massive jowls with the napkin he had spread across his lap. "Listen Leo, I know you only been outa the joint for a coupla weeks, that's why I'm giving you a break."

Leo started blinking furiously, "I know Sal, I know."

"So when we finish the job we been hired to do I want to know you're gonna lay low for awhile."

"Sal, of course I will. I'll disappear for a month or two."

"Make it two, Leo. Make it two."

****************************

The plane landed right on time, its wheels touching the runway at exactly eight thirty. By eight thirty-six it had taxied to the terminal and by eight forty-five passengers began to disembark. Nic folded the newspaper up and turned her attention to the incoming passengers. She felt the knot in her stomach tighten. She carefully watched the crowd. An elderly couple appeared first; then a man in a pinstripe suit carrying a briefcase; another man, this one in jeans and a college jersey; another couple, younger than the first, their arms intertwined; followed by a woman with a leather backpack slung over her shoulder. The woman scanned the area, obviously searching for someone. Someone, Nic thought, she wouldn't find. Nic walked over to her. "Hi, you must be Carly."

The woman was taken by surprise. She stared at this rather imposing woman "Who are you?"

"I'm your brothers partner, Nicole Stone."

"Oh," she said, surprised. Carly smiled, "Let me guess my big brother was too busy to come and get me, right?"

Nic hated what she was going to have to say next. "Not exactly, I'm afraid." Nic grabbed Carly's elbow and pulled her to the side out of the flow of traffic. The knot in her stomach tightened more. "Listen, there is no easy way to tell you this, so here goes. Jimmy's been hurt," Nic said.

Nic held her up as she felt Carlyís legs go a little limp. "Hurt, how?" Carly's face grew serious. The smile completely gone.

"Why don't we sit for a moment?" Nic pointed to a row of chairs lining the isle.

"What do you mean hurt?" Carlyís asked, abruptly. "I just spoke with him the other day."

Nic took a deep breath, "Carly, he was shot sometime around four o'clock this morning in the hallway of his building." Carly looked like she had just been hit in the face with a brick. Nic instinctively put a reassuring hand on Carlyís back. Telling her partner's sister, a sister he hadn't seen in three years, that her brother was lying in a hospital was the last, the absolute last thing she wanted to be doing. The woman was visibly shaken and in the verge of tears. Not tears, please, anything but tears, Nic thought.

"Just tell me he is going to be all right." Her green eyes, the color of jade, implored Nic for the confirmation. Green eyes. She had a vague thought about green eyes, but she couldnít quite get a handle on it.

"Miss Stone, he is going to be all right isnít he?" Carly laid her hand on Nicís knee. The woman seemed to have gone to another place.

Suddenly Nic realized that Carly was talking. "Iím sorry, what did you say?"

With a perturbed look Carly repeated her question. "Is he going to pull through?"

"Yes. He is in surgery right now, but I spoke to the doctor this morning and his prognosis is good."

"Heís in surgery right now! What are we waiting for? Please take me to the hospital." Carly immediately rose and Nic followed suit.

The crowd had dissipated a little so they quickly made there way to baggage claim.

"Where was he shot?" Carly asked, weaving a path through a group of an apparently reunited family. Everyone was hugging and kissing and crying. Nic cringed as she followed closely behind Carly. For a relatively short woman she sure could walk fast. Nic took a couple of long strides just to keep up with her.

"A bullet passed through his left leg and he took another shot in the right side of his chest." Carly stopped dead in her tracks, almost causing Nic to slam right into her. Nic grabbed Carlyís shoulder. "Are you all right?"

Carly turned, tears streaming down her face and she just buried her head in Nicís jacket. At first Nic didnít know what to do, but then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she put her arms around the young woman. "Sshh, itís all right. Everything will be all right, Carly, I promise. Jimmy's a fighter. He'll come through fine, I'm sure of it."

Carly looked up and forced a smile. "I know he will." She was reluctant to release her hold on Nic. She buried her head in the leather jacket once more. It was so soft and Nicís arms felt so comforting. She barely knew this woman, though she did live up to Jimmyís description. She was beautiful. Hair as black as the night and she was tall, almost as tall as Jimmy. Carly noticed that Nic didnít seem to be letting go of her either. Carly looked up again and was captured by the cool blue eyes that looked back at her. "Thanks for coming to get me. IÖ appreciate it." She finally released her hold and stepped back wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

"It was no problem. Besides do you really think that I would let my partnerís little sister take a cab from the airport?" No way, Nic thought, especially not when the scene at Jimmyís apartment would have scared her half to death. "Come on, letís get your bags. Oh, and you can call me Nic." Nic smiled as they resumed their journey to baggage claim.

*******************

The blue Ford sedan cruised slowly up Kingston Drive. Upon finding the house bearing number 34, the driver slipped the car into a parking space along the opposite side of the street. Elm trees, their leaves scattered on the street and sidewalks, lined both sides of the block. It was ten fifteen and the street was quiet, except for the occasional dog walker. Sal sat in the passenger seat, an uncomfortable fit for a man his size. His knees were crammed up against the glove box and he was losing the feeling in his feet. By contrast Leo was quite comfortable behind the wheel. He was at least a hundred pounds lighter than Sal. His eyes shifted from one side of the block to the other. "What do we do now, Sal, just sit here and wait?"

Sal, irritated by the question, answered, "No, stupid. I told you weíre just scoping out the area. She probably wonít be back here till tonight. So tonight weíll be waiting, just like last night."

"Ok Sal. Whatever you say." Leo nodded his head nervously.

"Damn right, whatever I say," Sal grumbled. Sal looked first up, then down the street. Thirty-four Kingston was nestled among a row of similar houses with fairly good size front yards and cobblestone walkways.

Sal watched a woman emerge from house number thirty-two. She was a pretty red head dressed in a beige trench coat and high heels. She scowled and started rummaging through her purse. When she found what she was looking for the scowl disappeared. A yellow cab, with the name Tomís Taxi emblazoned in bright red along both the front and rear doors, pulled up the street and stopped at the red headís residence. Sal and Leo watched her descend the staircase. She moved as if she didnít have a care in the world. Sal wondered what it must be like to live in such a neighborhood. It was like another world compared to the slum where he grew up. Then another thought crept into his brain. How did a cop come to live in such a neighborhood? Most of the cars parked in the driveways were sports cars or expensive sedans. Maybe she was on the take? Sal realized that the blue Ford they were sitting probably stuck out like a soar thumb. "We better get outa here, Leo. Iíve seen enough."

Leo nodded his head, "Okay, Sal, okay."

The blonde noticed a rusty Ford sitting across the street when she descended the stairs. It was the kind of car that wasnít usually seen in this part of town. The cab arrived before she got a look at the carís occupants, but she did mentally note the license plate number. After the string of robberies that hit the neighborhood last year, Marcy Bartlett paid a lot more attention to any strange cars or people in the neighborhood. She would give Nic a call at the station later, after her shopping trip, and tell her about the rusty Ford. Maybe she could put Marcyís mind at ease.

********************

Carly and Nic entered the baggage claim area, which was filled to capacity, and made their way to where the bags for Flight 71 would be coming off. People were standing everywhere. Carly could barely even see the conveyor belt.

Carly looked up at Nic, who was keeping an eye on the luggage doors. "My brother has told me a lot about you."

Nic smiled, "All good I hope."

"WellÖ", this got a raised eyebrow from Nic. "He did say you two are quite a team." Now I can see why, she thought. For the first time in two years Carly understood what her brother was talking about. At first she thought he was smitten. He made this woman sound like a god or something. But now, standing next to her, she saw the same power and presence that her brother spoke of. Her mind abruptly returned to Jimmy. She desperately wanted to see him, to touch him. She wanted to know he was going to be all right. "Nic, can we go to the hospital right away?"

"Sure, as soon as we get your bags we'll go straight there. By the way, what do your bags look like?"

Carly responded, "I have one large Pullman, brown leather with a bright red ribbon tied to the handle."

"Great, thatíll make things easier. Stay put and Iíll find it. I have a better shot at it from up here." Right after she said it Nic wished she hadnít. She didnít want Carly to think that she was making a crack about her height. She watched several bags go by, but nothing resembling Carlyís description. Now that the bags were starting to circle things were getting ugly. The crowd around the conveyor belt had doubled. People were jockeying for a better position by which they could spot their belongings. Nic held her ground. A rather large man with a red flannel jacket stepped directly in front of her, completely blocking her view of the bags.

Nic taped him on the shoulder, "Excuse me, but I was standing here first."

The burly man, looked over his shoulder and sneered, "So what. Now Iím here." He turned back around.

Nic could feel her temper rising. She didnít need this. She briefly toyed with the idea of grabbing his left palm and twisting it until the man stepped aside, but then she realized that might start something she didnít have time to finish. She knew how anxious Carly was to get out of here, so she took a deep breath and calmly removed her shield from her inside pocket on her jacket. She tapped the man on the shoulder again, who now abruptly turned around. Before he could say a word she shoved the shield in his face. "I donít think you heard me before. I said I was standing here." She let a smile creep across her face. The man started at the shield blinked a couple of times, then stomped off without so much as a word.

Carly stood there just watching this take place. She was amazed at the commanding presence the woman had. That guy was pretty big, yet Nic wasnít the least bit intimidated.

She shoved a guy, who was too busy arguing with his wife, to the side and reached down snagging the suitcase.

After successfully retrieving Carlyís luggage, they were finally on their way to the hospital. Midtown traffic had increased considerably since Nic had made the trip to the airport. With several streets being paved, construction crews were adding to the traffic congestion. Nic picked up her cellular phone, dialed the hospital and was informed that Jimmy was in recovery and that he was stable. She relayed this to Carly, who looked relieved. Nic sympathized. She was also terribly worried about Jimmy and to make everything that much harder, she was seething with anger over his shooting. She found herself going over old cases, new cases, any threats that had ever been made, anything at all that might give her a clue as to who could have done this. Each time she came up empty, and that fueled her anger even more.

"The city really hasn't changed much." Carly said. "It doesn't even seem like it's been three years."

Nic grinned, "I swear the older we get the more time seems to take on a new meaning."

"Youíve got that right," Carly agreed. "Years feel more like months. I remember when Jimmy and I were kids it felt like a year took forever. Now, they come and go before you can blink."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It's almost like the clock speeds up or something." Nic crossed lanes just in time to beat a traffic light.

"How old are you Nic, if you donít mind my asking."

No I donít mind at all, Nic thought. "Iím gonna be thirty next month, actually. And if Iím not mistaken Jimmy told me you turned twenty six this past June, right?"

Carly eyed her, clearly impressed that she would remember such an insignificant event.

"So, Nic, do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"I have a younger sister, but I don't see her very much. She lives in Arizona."

Carly sensed this was a subject Nic did really want to discuss, so she dropped it. They were stuck behind a line of cars waiting for the construction flagman to wave them on. She watched Nic, who was impatiently tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. She had a striking profile.

Changing the subject Nic asked, "So how was Australia?"

"Beautiful," Carly replied. "The brochures sure don't lie."

"What was your assignment?"

"It was a photo shoot on the Great Barrier Reef's marine life."

"Sounds exciting," Nic commented.

"I think so, but compared to yours, it's probably dull as hell."

"We do have our share, but there is a lot of boring crap, too. Jimmy didnít tell me you were an underwater photographer."

"I didnít start out as one, but my mentor at the magazine, John Tillman, convinced me that I should give it a try. So about six months ago I got certified. And when this assignment came up, John and I went together, sort of an on-the-job training assignment."

They rode the rest of the way in silence with Nic wondering if Carly was involved with her mentor. They took the elevator to the fourth floor Intensive Care Unit. Several rooms, all with a large glass window that allowed visibility to the patient, surrounded the main desk where a heavyset nurse in a white uniform sat.

The nurse looked up when they approached. "May I help you?"

"Yes, could you tell us how James Jamison is doing. He had surgery this morning for gunshot wounds."

The nurse looked back down at the chart on her desk, her eyes quickly roaming the list of names. "Heíll be in recovery for awhile," she said, "then theyíll move him to ICU."

Carly asked, "Is he going to be okay?"

The nurse smiled. "Youíll be able to talk to the doctor in a few minutes. He can better tell you how the patient is doing. Why donít you wait in the lounge and Iíll have him come over as soon as he gets up here." She smiled and pointed to the lounge area a few doors down from the nurseís station. Nic and Carly did as the nurse suggested. Nic wanted to demand an answer, but she knew that it wouldnít get her anywhere.

The lounge had a small sofa and two easy chairs, all decorated in a soft blue floral print. Magazines were scattered over the top of a coffee table that sat in front of the sofa. An episode of Happy Days was playing on a television in the corner of the small room. The lounge was empty. Carly sat down on the sofa and Nic in one of the chairs.

"Well at least he is out of surgery," Nic said, trying to sound optimistic.

"Yeah," Carly said. "But I'll feel better after we talk to the doctor and after I see Jimmy."

Nic played with the silver ring she wore on the thumb of her right hand. She slid it off her thumb and onto her middle finger, something she did whenever she was nervous. She knew she had to be there for Carly, especially if the news about Jimmy wasnít good. Problem was she was struggling with her own fears and worries. Sheíd never lost a partner before and she didnít want to lose one now. Over the past seven years she had forged a tight bond with Jimmy, tighter than she thought she could ever have with any man. She watched Carly, who was sitting on the edge of the sofa and staring blankly at the television screen. Richie, Potsie and Ralph were surrounded by a roomful of small, frenzied children. "Why donít I get us some coffee?"

Carly looked up. "Yes that would be great. Black, please. Iím sorry if Iím drifting. IĎm just exhausted from the flight. I donít sleep well on planes."

"Yeah, me too. I got about two hours sleep when my lieutenant called about Jimmy," Nic rose from the chair, removed her leather jacket and laid it across the arm of the chair. She really didnít think it was even close to that much, but she didnít see the need to worry Carly. Then she thought about it and wondered if Carly would be worried about her. She wanted to think that she would be. "Coffee might do us some good. Iíll be back in a couple of minutes."

When Nic returned with the two cups of coffee she felt her beeper vibrating on her hip. Carly, still seated on the sofa, was leafing through a People Magazine with Cher on the cover. Nic was amazed at good the woman still looked. Carly looked up when Nic entered and reached out for one of the cups. Nic looked at her beeper and saw Lieutenant Raimesí phone number. She had forgotten her cell phone in the rush to leave the house, so she informed Carly she had to make a call and, after finding the nearest phone, she punched in the lieutenantís number.

"Yeah, Raimes here."

"Itís Stone, Lou. Whatís up?"

"Iíve got some news about Geller," he said. "Seems like he up and disappeared. Nurse went to check on him around nine thirty and he was gone."

"Son of a bitch!" Nic cursed. "What happened to the patrolman that was posted outside his room?"

"From what I understand he left the room unattended when he went to take a leak. He was only gone five minutes, but when he returned he never bothered to check on Geller. The patrolman thinks it happened between eight and eight thirty."

"Great. Fucking great!" Nic scowled. "How's the other guy, Gato, doing?"

"He's slipped into a coma. The doctor said that he suffered a severe concussion and there's no way to know when or even if he'll come out of it."

"Any word from ballistics on the slug they dug out of the door jam?"

"Yeah, looks like it's from a Colt 45. One other thing, a Marcy Bartlett left a message for you with the desk sergeant. He figured Iíd be talking to you so he passed it along to me."

"What was the message."

"She wants you to call her at home. Something about a suspicious car parked near her house this morning."

Nic digested the information, thanked the Lieutenant, and hung up the phone. She looked at her watch and was surprised to see it was going on eleven oíclock. With Geller gone and probably no where to be found and Gato in a coma there was no way she would find out what went wrong last night. She needed to get to the precinct and do some checking, but it wouldnít be right to leave Carly here alone. A nurse walked by carrying an assortment of linens. She stopped and looked at Nic, then said, "The doctor is in the lounge talking to your friend."

"Thanks," Nic said and started for the lounge.

Doctor Austin was sitting next to Carly when Nic entered the room. They both looked up then resumed their conversation. "As I was saying, your brother was very lucky. He should make a complete recovery. He'll be in ICU for a few of days, then we'll move him to a private room."

Carly looked relieved. Some color was returning to her previously pale complexion. "Thank you, Doctor." She looked at Nic and smiled. "When will we be able to see Jimmy?"

Nic liked the fact that Carly included her. Doctor Austin glanced at his watch and said, "He'll be in recovery for about three hours, then you'll be able to see him once they move him to ICU. I'm afraid you'll only be able to see him for a few minutes. He needs his rest." He stood, picked up his clipboard from the coffee table and said goodbye to them both.

Nic sat down beside Carly. Tears of relief were rapidly spreading across her reddened cheeks. Nic put her arm across Carly's shoulders and gave them a squeeze. Carly melted into Nic 's body. She had been putting up a brave front. For some reason she couldnít quite explain, she didnít want Nic to think she was weak. Nicís firm, yet tender grasp was comforting. Carly felt safe, yet she felt something more. Nic said, "Sounds like good news. See? I told you Jimmy would be fine."

Carly wiped the tears from her eyes. She looked up at Nic, whose warm smile brightened the whole room. "I'm glad you're here Nic. I don't think I would have handled this very well on my own."

"Don't short change yourself. Youíre a lot stronger than you realize."

"Maybe so, but thanks anyway for being here." Carly gave Nic a hug.

Nic suddenly felt strange and it scared her. She felt herself caring about this woman. She wanted to protect Carly, and that feeling scared her too. Nic placed a finger under Carlyís chin and gently tipped her head up until she was looking directly into her soft, green eyes. They were enticing. She was starting to feel something she hadn't allowed herself to feel in long time and she fought it desperately. This couldn't, wouldn't happen. Nic abruptly stood up, startling Carly. "What's the matter?" Carly asked.

"Nothing. Umm..listen, you must be exhausted and Jimmy wonít be brought to ICU until around two oíclock, so why donít we get you settled in? Then weíll come back."

Carly studied her for a moment. Something happened to cause this sudden mood change. Now Carly, how would you even know if this was a mood change? You barely know this woman. "Okay. You can drop me off at Jimmyís apartment. I can take a cab back here. I donít want to be a burden or anything." She pushed a few errant strands of golden hair behind her ear as she stood.

Nic cleared her throat. "Actually Carly, you canít stay at Jimmyís."

Carly looked at her, eyebrows raised in question, "And why not?"

"Well, for starters, itís currently the site of an on-going investigation."

"Oh, yeah. Iím sorry, I didnít even think of that. Well just drop me off at the nearest hotel then."

Nic didnít know if this was a good idea or not, but she couldnít let Jimmyís sister stay at a hotel, so here goes. "You could stay at my place; I have plenty of room."

Carly thought about the invitation. She liked the idea of not being alone right now. She was still emotionally drawn from this whole thing and a she could use the company. Besides, she found that she liked Nic and it might be fun to get to know her better. "Okay. If youíre sure you have enough room."

Nic smiled, "Yes Iím sure. Come on, letís go."

After they were back in the Xterra, Carly asked, "Does this offer include lunch? I think I might actually have an appetite, now."

Nic laughed a little, "Sure. Iím starved myself."

*****************************

Across town at the Bay Ridge Marina Jake Fulton was enjoying his pipe as he and Samson, his black Labrador retriever, walked along the wharf. His wife, Irene, did not allow him to smoke in the house. So three times a day he took Samson for a long stroll down by the wharf. In the summer, when boat traffic was high, the two of them would sit and watch the boats come in and out of the marina. There would be little boat traffic today, though it was a fine morning for a walk. The sun was bright, the sky clear, and the air slightly cool, as it usually was in November on the East Coast. He always wanted a boat, but Irene wouldnít hear of it. "Money pits, thatís all boats are," she would say whenever he dared bring up the subject. So coming to the marina and ogling everyone elseís boats was as close as he would ever get. They were approaching the end of the docks when Samson pulled Jake so hard he lost the leash. The dog darted to the edge of the dock, clearly agitated by something he spotted in the water. He began barking, and whipping his tail back and forth.

"Samson! What the hell are you doing? What's the matter, boy?" Jake picked up the pace to see what the dog was barking at. Probably a harbor seal, Jake thought. But when he got to the edge of the dock Jake knew it was no harbor seal. A body, face down in the water, was bobbing up and down with the rhythm of the tide. All Jake could see was a red shirt and a pair of ash white hands floating on the surface of the water.

"Holy shit!" Jake said, the cigar dropping from his lips. He groped for Samson's leash without taking his eyes off the body. "We better get somebody down here right away, Samson. Right away!" Jake tugged the barking dog down the wharf toward the marina manager's office.

Joe Tanner and Stan Siegel were deciding where to go for lunch when their car radio announced a floater had turned up in the Bay Ridge Marina. Since they were only five minutes away they were the closest car and they had to respond. That made Stan's stomach growl louder. By the time they waited for the coronerís office to send someone over it would be one o'clock before they could break for lunch. When they pulled into the marina parking lot the manager greeted them. After speaking with him for a moment, the two officers followed him to the end of the wharf where a man, dressed in a tan parka and sporting a red plaid cap, was standing. A black Labrador sat at the man's feet.

Joe Tanner asked, "So you're the one who found the body?"

"Yes," Jake answered. "I was walking my dog and that's when we found it."

"We?"

"Me and my dog, officer." Jake reached down and patted the obedient dog on the head. His tailed thumped in appreciation.

"Oh, yes of course." Joe and Stan smiled to each other and using a pole the manager provided they snagged the body and pulled it to the edge of the dock. From the looks of it the body had probably only been in the water for a couple of hours. They secured the body with a piece of rope, got Jake's statement and address and returned to their patrol car to radio the coroner's office.

Continued in Part 2

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