Vendetta

by Talaran

Part 3

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.)

The two main characters, and I think you know who they remind us of, meet under difficult circumstances. Eventually they succumb to the strong bond that they share. There will be sexual interactions in this story as it unfolds. If this type of material disturbs you, you may wish to read something other than this story.


Part 3

It was three thirty when Nic pulled her vehicle into the parking lot of Burnhamís Market. They had spoken to Dr. Austin, who had assured them that Jimmyís surgery had gone well. He had successfully retrieved the bullet and turned it over to the police. He expected Jimmy to be out of ICU within a day or so, at which time he would be moved to a private room. After stopping in to check on Jimmy, they departed for the market.

Burnhamís had been a local market since 1936, when Joseph Burnham had decided factory work was not his lifeís ambition. He had been an inspiration to many people back then. He borrowed money from relatives, mortgaged his house, and God knows what else, to start his business. The small store had a few aisles of dry goods, some baked items, and some vegetables that the Burnhamís grew in their own garden. Over the years the store grew. A bakery and a delicatessen were added and the size of the produce department nearly doubled. Burnhamís always had a fine selection of goods and their staff was knowledgeable, as well as friendly.

Nic grabbed a shopping cart as they entered the store. Carly was eager to start shopping, so she wasted no time in exploring the storeís contents. She had questioned Nic about her food likes and dislikes on there way to there, so she knew just what she was looking for. First they hit the produce department, where Carly selected two large Russet potatoes. She displayed them to Nic, doing a little Vanna White impression. Nic laughed and nodded her approval of the selection. They skipped over to the carrots. After perusing the offerings, Carly scooped some baby carrots into a produce bag, then started for the meat department. Nic quietly followed her, pushing the cart. Normally Nic hated going to the market, but with Carly it was actually kind of fun. Maybe it was just Carlyís exuberance, or maybe, Nic thought, it was that she simply liked spending time with the young woman.

Carly was already at the meat counter when Nic rolled the cart up. She was holding up her thumb and forefinger to indicate the thickness of the meat. The butcher returned with two, nice sized center cut pork chops, two inches thick. Carly nodded her approval. He handed the wrapped package to Carly and said, "Anything else, today?"

Carly answered, "No thatíll be it, thanks."

Carly looked over the contents of the cart. "Do you want sour cream for your baked potato?"

Nic replied, "You bet. Some diced up chives would be nice, too."

"Ooo! Yeah, that does sound good. What about desert? Any preferences?"

Nic contemplated that for second. "They have a wonderful bakery, here. Why donít we swing through there, just to see what they have." She grinned when she saw the twinkle in Carlyís eyes. Someone has a sweet tooth, she thought.

By four oíclock they had the groceries packed into the car and they were on their way back to Nicís house. Nic had just slid a piece of cinnamon gum into her mouth when her beeper went off, startling Carly. It was the lieutenant again. "Now what?" Nic muttered. She handed Carly her cell phone and asked her to dial the number displayed on the beeper.

"Raimes," the lieutenant barked.

"Itís Stone, sir. You beeped me?"

"Yeah, Stone. Listen, Iíve got the autopsy report on Geller. Can you stop by the station?"

Nic frowned. She was looking forward to going home and unwinding a bit. She thought about it for a second, then said, "Sure. Iíll be there in about thirty minutes, okay?"

"Yeah, see you then."

Nic hit the disconnect button on the phone and returned it to her pocket. Carly looked at her with wide eyes. "Is anything wrong?"

"That was my lieutenant. He needs to see me at the station house." Nic glanced at Carly, who quickly tried to hide her disappointment. "Donít worry, Iíll be back in time for dinner." It felt a little odd to be saying that to someone, Nic thought, but odd in a nice way.

Carly perked up a bit with that reassurance. "Okay. Iíll start dinner while youíre gone. Itíll take a while anyway. Those pork chops are pretty thick." She smiled, which made Nic feel a little better.

Nic pulled the Xterra into the driveway, barely avoiding a squirrel, which scampered out from under one of the bushes in the front yard. They carried the few bags they had into the kitchen and Nic gave Carly a run down of where everything was located. Though Carly protested, Nic showed her how to start both the barbecue grill and the hot tub before she left for the station.

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

On the south side of Larson, Sal and Leo were busy discussing their evening plans over dinner at Lorenzoís, a small Italian restaurant. The place was mostly empty, since it was so early, especially for a Saturday night. Most people didnít even consider dinner until at least six. The place was what most people would consider a Ďhole in the wallí, but Sal found those kinds of places often had the best food. And Lorenzoís had good food. It was, by far, Salís favorite restaurant. They prepared the best shrimp marinara he had ever tasted. They sat at a small, round table, draped with a white tablecloth, near the rear of the establishment. Some violin music was playing softly from the stereo behind the bar. Sal had just finished his second glass of Chianti. Leo was busy swilling down a vodka and tonic while they waited for their entrees.

Sal laid out the plan for Leo, then he went over it two more times, before he made Leo repeat it to him. By then, Sal figured Leo had it down. He realized he didnít want Leo having any more alcohol, thatís for sure, so when the waiter offered refills, Sal waved him away.

"Hey, what did ya do that for? I wanted another drink." Leo tapped his fingers on the table.

"Why do you think? I want our heads to be clear tonight," he thrust his finger at Leo. "Tonight has to go off without a hitch, Leo, or weíre dead!" Salís mouth quirked in annoyance.

"Okay, okay. Donít worry, Sal, it will."

Sal looked across the table at his meager, accomplice. He was starting to think using Leo on this job had been a bad decision, but it was a little late for second thoughts. The waiter appeared with their food and Sal decided to push the negative thoughts from his mind so that he could enjoy his meal. Leo just dove into his plate of pasta and didnít seem to have a care in the world. Sal envied him.

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

Carly unpacked the groceries and began familiarizing herself with the layout of the kitchen. She was impressed with the kitchenís organization, and with the fact that Nic had it well stocked. Either she liked to cook and just didnít admit it, or she hardly ever ate at home, Carly couldnít decide. Since Nic wouldnít be back for at least and hour and a half, there was no rush to start dinner, so Carly decided to finish unpacking her things. Having fallen asleep earlier, she really didnít get much of that done.

She was half way up the stairs when she thought she heard something. Stopping to listen she heard it again. "Meooow, meeooow." Heading back down the stairs she poked her head into the family room, then the dining room, but the cat was no where to be seen. She walked back down the hallway toward the kitchen when she heard it again. She was standing in front of Nicís den. Carly bit her lip. Carly didnít really want to go in there. Though Nic had given her a tour earlier, she had only opened the door to the den for a second, then continued on with the rest of the house. Carly got the distinct impression that this room was off limits. She contemplated waiting for Nic, when Harley meowed again. Carly decided she should make sure the cat was all right, so she eased the door open. The room was dark, with a small amount of light coming from the corner of the room, just behind the door. Now she heard a hum and the gurgle of water. Feeling along the wall she located a switch and flipped it, illuminating the room with a soft glow. Harley was perched on top of the credenza, lazily flicking her tail back and forth.

Carly walked into the room. "Are you suppose to be up there?" She asked the cat, who then arched her back, as if to say ĎPick me upí. Carly was not sure she should even be in here. Nic had given her a tour, but she had only opened the door to the den for a second, then continued on with the rest of the house. Carly figured this was Nicís haven, so she felt like she was intruding by being in here. She could certainly understand if this was her haven, though. The den was quite cozy. A magnificent desk was the focal point of the room. It was made of mahogany, with cabriole legs, and claw and ball feet. If she wasnít mistaken, it was a Chippendale. Carly raised her eyebrows at that realization. Behind the desk sat a matching credenza. Oak bookshelves, filled with reference materials, occupied opposite walls. Most of the books were on police procedures, investigation techniques, forensics, and constitutional law. A beautiful fish tank, probably about twenty gallons in size, was filled with tropical fish, in a variety of colors. >From the coral that was growing in the tank, Carly knew it was a salt-water aquarium. She knew these were the hardest to maintain.

She walked over to a display case that sat next to one of the bookcases. Inside the locked case were four swords, all exceptionally detailed. Directly above the floor case, a smaller locked case hung on the wall. It was lined with red velvet and held several knives of various lengths. "Youíre becoming more intriguing by the second, Nicole Stone," Carly said to herself.

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

The 21st precinct was a large three-story brick structure on the corner of Clark and Maple. The station was its usual flurry of activity. Nic was stopped a half dozen times on her way through the station by fellow officers inquiring about Jimmy. She made her way to the second floor office the detectives called Ďhomeí and she wasnít surprised when she found Sanders and Mahoney at her desk. She wasnít happy, either.

"Well, have you guys found out anything yet?" She stood in front of Sanders with her arms folded.

"No. How is Jimmy doing?" Tom asked.

"Well, heís in ICU, but the doctor said he should completely recover."

"Thatís great news, Nic. Weíre both glad Jimmyís gonna be okay," Paul said, looking first at Tom, then at Nic.

Nic had a feeling something was up, but sheíd wait them out and see what developed. "Listen, I have to see the lieutenant, so if thereís nothing elseÖ"

Tom cleared his throat, "Actually, Stone, we do need to talk to you about the sting that went down Friday night. With Geller dead, and Gato and Jimmy incommunicado, so to speak, youíre the only person who can fill us in."

She gave them both an icy stare. "Fill you in about what? Didnít you read the God damn report we filed Saturday morning?"

Mahoney backed up a step, while Sanders stood his ground. He wasnít going to let her intimidate him. "Of course we read the report. But we still need to ask you a few questions, if you donít mind?"

She smiled, maliciously, "No I donít mind. Iíll stop back here when Iím done with the lieutenant." She turned on her heel, not even giving either man a chance to say another word. The blinds were all drawn inside the Raimesí office, which usually indicated he didnít want to be disturbed. She approached the door and lightly rapped her knuckles on the glass window.

"Come in."

She opened the door to find Lieutenant Raimes staring out the window, his hands folded behind his head. He swiveled his chair around to see who was entering his office. "Ah, Stone. Take a seat." The lieutenant actually looked as tired as Nic felt. He leaned forward and slid a folder across his desk. "Hereís the autopsy report on Geller."

Nic took the folder and opened it, carefully reading the contents. ĎVictim died from excessive amounts of diacetylmorphine in the bloodstream. A puncture mark was found on the left arm. A few small contusions were found at the base of the neck. Approximate time of death: 10:00 am Saturday, November 13th.í Nic looked up at the lieutenant. "So looks like someone gave him a fatal dose of heroin, then dumped him in the water."

Raimes nodded. "You knew Geller. Would he talk without much force being required?"

"If he was strung out, he would sell his soul for a hit. He was probably high at the warehouse last night, so, yeah, by this morning he would have been ready for another hit."

Raimes loosened his tie and sat back in his chair. "So who the hell do you think is behind this?"

"Lou, I wish I knew. First, somebody tries to take out Jimmy, and then someone does take out Geller. The only connection is Friday night and that damn warehouse." She spit out, her now tasteless gum into the wastebasket, then slid a new piece into her mouth.

"That blue Ford turned up this afternoon, too. A patrol unit located it in the parking lot of the Hillsborough Mall. Forensics went through it, but there were no prints, though several fibers were found, but they could all belong to the vehicleís owner."

Nic pursed her lips, "Fabulous."

"Did your neighbor get a look at who was inside?"

"Not really. She said there were two guys, but they sped off once they realized she had seen them."

"The ballistics report came back. The bullet they took out of Jimmy matched the one they found at his apartment. The gun used was a Colt Mustang." Raimes yawned and rubbed his eye with his fist. "How is he doing?"

"The doc said heíd recover. Heíll probably be in ICU for a couple of days, then heíll go to a private room."

"Well heíll be under 24 hour guard till we catch the son of a bitch that did this," Raimes assured her.

"Thanks, Lou. Is there anything else? Iíd like to get home."

The lieutenant looked her in the eye. "I just need you to fill in Sanders and Mahoney about what happened Friday night." He threw up a hand to stop her before she could say anything. "I know, you filed a report, but Iím talking about anything else that might be pertinent. There is obviously a link between these events, so just take a few minutes and talk to them, okay?"

"Sure, Lieutenant, whatever you say," she replied as she rose from the chair and calmly sauntered out of the office.

Returning to her desk, she shot Sanders and Mahoney an icy stare, then picked up her phone and dialed her house.

"Hello, Nicole Stoneís residence."

"Carly?" Nic asked in surprise.

"Yeah, Nic, itís me," Carly responded.

Nic smiled, "Wow, you sound like youíre my maid or something."

Carly giggled at the comment. "Sorry. I didnít expect anyone would be calling me."

"Yes, I can understand that," Nic said. "I just wanted to check in to see if you were making yourself at home. You are, arenít you?"

"Yes, actually I am." A little too much, probably, she thought. "Nic, are you sure thatís the only reason why you called?" Carly suspected it wasnít.

Nic was starting to think Carly could see right through her. "Well, I did want to make sure you were all right." She didnít even know exactly why. She just needed to know it.

"Well, I am. So you can stop worrying."

Nic sat down in her chair. She watched two detectives enter the room with a young man in tow, whose hands were cuffed behind him. "Who said I was worrying?" Forget it, Nic, this woman has you pegged.

"Oh, no one Nic, absolutely no one." She couldnít help but smile. "But thanks anyway."

Nic felt herself starting to blush. She checked the time clock, which hung on the wall next to the message board. "No problem. Listen I should be back by five thirty or so."

"Okay, Iíll start dinner in around ten minutes or so. Nic?"

Nic detected a change in her tone. "Yes?"

"Drive safely, okay?"

"You bet. Bye." Nic placed the receiver in the cradle, then motioned for Sanders and Mahoney to come over.

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

Carly hung up the phone. She had just emerged from the shower when she heard the phone ringing. Luckily there was a phone in her room, or she never would have found one in time to answer it. While in the shower, she had decided a fire might be nice, especially since the night was getting chilly. Changing into a fresh pair of jeans and a light blue sweatshirt, with a National Geographic emblem on the front, she proceeded downstairs.

The family room, which was at the front of the house, was quite large. The walls were light beige and a deep maroon, thick pile carpet covered the floor. A stone fireplace occupied part of the outside wall. A fully equipped entertainment center was on the adjacent wall. It housed a Sony, home theater system, complete with DVD player. Small speakers with the word ĎKlipchí on them were positioned about the room. She turned the stereo on filling the room with the sounds of soft jazz. Clearly the speakers were positioned for optimum acoustics, because the sound was amazing. A stack of wood, held on a black iron grate, was next to the fireplace. Some kindling was inside a box next to the wood. She placed some of the kindling under the grate that would hold the logs. After placing three good-sized logs onto the grate, she struck one of the long matches that were on the mantle, and lit the kindling. Flickers of sparks turned into flames. The dry wood caught easily, and within a few seconds she had a nice fire going. She smiled, pleased with her accomplishment. She took a minute to look at the photographs that lined the mantle. In the center of the mantle was an 8 x 10 photo, which Carly guessed were Nicís parents. The man was tall, with dark hair like Nicís and some graying at the temples. He was standing behind a seated woman, who had wavy, auburn hair, high cheekbones, and a slender nose. They were a handsome couple and they certainly looked happy. Carly wondered where they were now?

Back in the kitchen, she removed the pork chops and potatoes from the refrigerator. She went out to the deck and started the grill, then returned with the grates to coat them with some cooking spray to avoid sticking. Finding the spice rack tucked inside one of the overhead cabinets, she gingerly applied some onion powder, a dash of garlic, and some meat tenderizer to the chops. She pierced the potatoes with a fork several times before placing them in the microwave. Punching 8 minutes on the keypad she hit start, then returned to the deck, to place the chops on the grill. Dusk was settling and the night air was getting crisp. Carly was glad she had a put a sweatshirt on. Returning to the kitchen, she set the carrots on the stove with some water to boil. Harley sat happily on the kitchen chair and watched her every move.

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

After discussing Friday nightís events with the two detectives in charge of Jimmyís assault, Nic nerves were frazzled. She hated repeating herself, especially when it was within the same conversation. She couldnít give Sanders and Mahoney much more to go on than they all ready had. Her and Jimmy had been after the leader of a major drug smuggling operation for the past three months. In that time frame they had only been mildly successful, nailing some small dealers that were at the bottom of the food chain. They wanted the guy at the top and they were going to use Geller to get to him. Gato was definitely higher up in the ranks, but how high up they didnít know. He had a pretty small wrap sheet, and never did any serious time, so someone was either keeping him insulated, or he was just damn lucky.

"Listen guys, itís past five oíclock and Iím wiped. Iím gonna take off."

Sanders looked at his watch. "Okay, Nic. I guess thatís enough for now."

She stood and stretched her arms over her head. "Gee, thanks Sanders, youíre too kind." Throwing her leather jacket over her shoulder, she flipped them a half-hearted wave. "Night fellas." She grabbed the handle of the door to open it, when she was suddenly flung backward into the room.

She struggled to remain on her feet, as Sanders and Mahoney sprang up from their seats, hands reaching for their weapons. A man, in his early twenties, sprawled through the door, not expecting the door to be opened when he slammed into it from the other side. His eyes widened when he saw a tall brunette falling backward as he was falling forward. Nic spotted the man coming straight for her, but she couldnít stop her momentum. The man looked half crazed. He had long, stringy hair, and he wore a tattered T-shirt, with a snake on the front of it. In his right hand he was wielding a hunting knife. Several officers bounded into the room, guns drawn. Nic knew they couldnít shoot with her in the way. So, as she hit the floor she curled up her legs and rolled onto her shoulder blades in an effort to vault the man over her, and hopefully far enough away so that he couldnít use her as a shield. The manís stomach came down squarely on the bottom of her left foot. Using her right foot, she hooked him behind his buttocks and tossed him with her incredibly strong legs behind her. The knife fell from his hand when he hit the floor face first. Four cops were on top of him before he could blink.

Lieutenant Raimes stormed from his office, "What in the hell is going on in here?" His eyes bulged as he saw the four officers on top of a civilian. Looking down at his foot he saw a ten-inch Buck knife.

Nic simple dropped her head to the floor and closed her eyes. Paul Mahoney strolled over to her. "Nice move Stone, are you okay?" Then he saw it! Her left arm was covered in blood. "Stone, youíre bleeding!"

Nicís eyes shot open! She looked at her body and saw blood coming from a gash on her left forearm. She was so tired she didnít even realize sheíd been cut. "Shit! He must of got me on the way down." It wasnít too painful, so the cut couldnít be that deep, she figured. "Mahoney, throw me that towel."

Paul spun around and grabbed the indicated item from the top of a nearby desk. "Here you go." Tossing it to her, she wrapped it tightly around the wound to halt the bleeding. She stood up and came eye to eye with Lieutenant Raimes.

"How bad is it?" he asked, with concern in his voice.

She wobbled her hand side to side, "Not too bad. I think a couple of butterflies should take care of it."

Raimes instructed Mahoney to retrieve the medical kit from the locker room, which he did. When Nic removed the towel she saw that the bleeding had slowed down immensely. From that brief encounter she now sported a two-inch long gash on her forearm. She taped four butterfly bandages over the cut, then wrapped her arm with sterile gauze. A glance at the clock told her it was five fifteen and she wanted to be home before six. Grabbing her jacket, Nic bolted from the station. She felt a little lightheaded from the loss of blood, so when she got to her car she waited a few seconds before she put the car in drive. She made a quick stop on route to the house and by five forty five she was pulling the Xterra into the driveway.

She stood on the deck for a minute, taking in the delicious aroma of grilled pork chops. More enticing smells hit her when Carly greeted her at the door. "Dinner is almost ready. Why are you standing out here?"

Nic smiled, "Just admiring the wonderful aroma." She pulled her hand from behind her back to give Carly the bouquet of flowers she had gotten on the way home. "Here, I thought these might look nice on the dinner table."

Carlyís eyes lit up. "Oh, their beautiful!" She took the bouquet, a mixture of yellow roses, red carnations, and babyís breath.

"There is a vase in the cabinet on the left side of the sink," Nic said, closing the door behind her.

Carly found it and arranged the flowers in the vase before she added the water. Nic removed her jacket and threw it over the back of the kitchen chair. "Would you like some wine?" she asked reaching for a wineglass.

"Yes, please." Carly answered as she turned around and nearly dropped the vase. "Nic, what happened to your arm?"

Nic glanced at her it, "Oh, just a little mishap at the station. It looks worse than it really is." She looked at Carly, who just stood there gawking in disbelief.

"And what, exactly, do you mean by a mishap?"

Nic grabbed a bottle of wine from the refrigerator and filled the two glasses. "Letís just say that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Nic smirked.

"You were in the police station for heavenís sake. How wrong can that be?" Carly was amazed at how nonchalant Nic was being. "Come on. We are eating in the dining room. I hope youíre hungry?"

Nic followed Carly, wineglasses in hand. "Iím famished!" Several taper candles that Carly had placed on the table illuminated the dining room. Two place settings were on opposite sides of the table. Nic placed one glass in front of each setting. "Wow, youíve been busy! This looks great."

Carly put the vase down in the center of the table. She fussed with the flowers, "Well, itís just my way of saying ĎThank Youí. I canít tell you how much I appreciate you letting me stay here."

Nic looked into Carlyís eyes, the soft glow of the room deepening their color. "Itís no problem, really. Now, can I do anything to help?"

Carly shook her head, "No! You sit down and relax!" she demanded. "Iíll be right back."

Nic did as instructed, surprisingly. She sipped some wine and simply enjoyed being home. The house seemed different to her. It was warmer. Not a temperature warmer, either. It was like the house came to life with Carlyís presence. She didnít understand the feelings she was having. After all, she had just met this woman, yet she felt like she had known her for a long time. It felt nice, Nic thought.

Carly returned with a bowl of carrots, and a plate, containing two pork chops and two steaming baked potatoes. "Here we are." Carly placed everything on the table and took her seat. She looked over at Nic, who seemed impressed, as well as hungry.

Nic gave her a sincere smile, her blue eyes twinkling. "Everything looks delicious."

Carly could feel a flush creeping up her neck. "Well, then dig in." She broke contact with those amazing, blue eyes. If she didnít she was sure her face would turn beet red.

They chatted throughout dinner. Nic complimented Carly several times on how wonderful everything was. She loved the carrots, too. Carly told her that the secret was to prepare them with butter and brown sugar, which made the delightfully sweet. After some prodding, Carly got Nic to tell her about the so-called Ďmishapí at the station. Her face had paled a little during the story, which made Nic wish she hadnít told her. She reached out and placed her hand over Nicís. "Are you sure you arenít in a lot of pain?"

"I have a pretty high threshold. Why donít we have desert in the family room?" Nic stood, taking her plate and glass.

"Okay." Carly followed Nic back to the kitchen, where Nic refilled their glasses while Carly sliced up the pie. Back in the family room, Nic added another log to the fire, then nestled herself on the sofa next to Carly. The fireplace provided the only light in the room. A light melody was playing on the stereo, lush with guitar rifts.

"Oh, I like this song," Carly said.

Nic did to. "This is ĎSan Diegoí by Peter White. He is one of my favorite jazz artists.

"I can see, or should I say, hear, why." Carly replied. She kicked off her shoes and curled her legs up under her, so that she could face Nic. Nic stretched her long legs out, putting her now bare feet, on top of the coffee table and crossing them at the ankles. She stared into the flames, watching them lick the logs, causing the wood to crackle and pop. For the first time all day she honestly felt relaxed.

"So, tell me Nic, why did you become a cop?"

The question took Nic by surprise. Her eyes took on a haunted look, and for a moment Carly was sorry that she had asked the question. She could see, maybe even sense a deep pain behind those eyes. "I guess I wanted to make a difference." She was torn with leaving her answer at that, or actually exposing an old and still very painful experience.

"And Iím sure youíve made one, Nicole Stone." Carly smiled and reached out, lightly touching Nicís shoulder. The touch alone warmed Nicís soul and eased the pain she still held so firmly in her heart.

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

The gold Buick made itís way slowly up Kingston drive till it was within two houses of its destination. Sal, sitting in the passenger seat, held up his hand to indicate to Leo that he should stop. "Right here is fine, Leo. No need to get any closer." Sal saw a black vehicle parked in the driveway. The house itself was dimly lit, but the deck lights were still on. Leo parked the car under an elm tree, which provided some cover from the streetlights. This car fit in much better than the Ford did, Sal thought. He rolled his window down flicking some cigar ashes to the street below.

Leo fidgeted. "Sal, itís not even eight oíclock, yet. Maybe we should come back later."

"Leo, we are sticking to my plan. This cop has got to be tired. She was at the bust last night. When the lights go out, weíll wait another thirty minutes or so, then weíll take care of business."

Leo scowled. He would rather be waiting at the bar, where he could at least watch the heavy weight fight that was being televised tonight. He turned the radio on in the hopes of finding a station that was covering it.

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

After finishing their wine and watching the fire burn down to glowing embers they decided to retire. Nic cleared the dining room table, while Carly loaded the dishwasher and tidied up the kitchen. After checking the doors and turning off the lights they went upstairs. Harley was meandering down the hallway when they reached the top of the stairs. She was quickly scooped up by Carly, who nuzzled her soft fur.

"Do you have everything you need?" Nic asked.

"Yes, Iím all set. Thanks again, Nic. I know I couldnít have handled today without you."

"Your welcome. Sleep well." Nic watched Carly put the cat down, then enter her room.

Back in her room Nic stripped out of her clothes. For a second she contemplated taking a shower, then she looked at her arm and decided against it. Pulling on a pair of shorts with the Mets logo on the leg and a matching T-shirt, she slid into bed. Harley jumped up to join her, finally settling near the foot of the bed. Nic lay there afraid that she was so over tired that she wouldnít be able to fall asleep. Her mind kept going over the dayís events. Then her thoughts drifted to Carly and how nice she looked in that sweatshirt. Her golden hair was a beautiful contrast to the red of the sweatshirt. She had never felt so comfortable with someone so quickly. Do you know how you are effecting, Carly, she pondered. Thoughts of Carly carried her to sleep with a smile on her lips.

Carly was snuggled comfortably into her own bed. It had been a full day and she was exhausted, yet she felt like she could have talked all night with Nic. She wondered what had caused that painful look in Nicís eyes. She didnít like the thought of Nic being in pain, physical or otherwise. Whenever she looked into those eyes, something stirred deep within her. Something she could not explain. Sleep finally overtook her as thoughts of Nic carried her away.

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

Sal had dozed off in the car listening to the prizefight on the radio. Leo was too wired to sleep. He had a big bet riding on this bout and he was intently listening to the announcer. He hadnít even realized the lights at 34 Kingston Drive had gone out. The fighter Leo had his money on took the 10th round and Leo was so excited that he slammed his hand on the dash, waking Sal. Sal was so startled by the sudden noise he smacked Leo in the back of the head. Now completely awake, Sal looked over at the house and seeing total darkness there, he smacked Leo again.

"Jesus, Sal, what the hell was that one for?" Leo asked, rubbing the sore spot on the back of his head.

"When the hell did the lights go out over there, Leo? Can you tell me that?"

Leo squinted, then blinked. "I donít know, Sal. Iím sorry. I was listening to the radio."

"You stupid, son of a bitch! You just donít get it, do you Leo?" Sal waved his palm in Leoís face. Leo cringed, afraid he was going to get hit again.

"I do to, Sal, I do!"

"Get your ass out of this car before I fuckin blow you away myself!" the big man saidopening the door and easing himself out. "And be quiet closing that door. We donít want to attract any attention."

Leo nodded his head repeatedly. Gently they both closed their doors and made their way up the street. Donning his gloves, Leo took out his lock picks and worked on the back door. Sal stood on the deck and kept an eye out. For nine oíclock the neighborhood was pretty quiet. The back yard was nicely concealed by a fence along the far side and a row of trees at the back. Sal screwed the silencer onto the tip of his gun. Seconds later they were inside the kitchen. They both turned on pocket flashlights to help them navigate the dark house.

Sal whispered, "Her bedroom is probably upstairs." He pointed at the ceiling with his index finger. They left the kitchen and moved to the front of the house. They had to move carefully, so as not to step on any creaking floorboards. With every step they stopped and listened, but they heard nothing.

Leo leaned in close and said, "Man, Sal, this place is pretty nice. After we off her, can we take a better look around? Maybe weíll find something valuable."

Sal held up his hand. He put his finger to his lips and cocked his head to listen. He could have sworn he heard something. Leo watched and waited. He knew Sal would kill him if he said anything else. Finally Sal pointed his finger at the staircase, then followed Leo as he started up them.

Nic was knee deep in a dream when something caused her to stir. Harley was standing on her chest with her face within inches of Nicís. Her whiskers tickled Nicís face. Reaching up she patted the cat on the head. "What is it, Harley?"

The cat immediately jumped down and ran to the door. Nic raised herself up on her elbow and squinted to see the cat in the dark. Then she heard it. A faint creak. Her eyes bulged! Someone was on the stairs. For an instant she had forgotten about Carly being in the house. She relaxed. Maybe Carly got up to get a glass of milk or something. But then why was Harley so agitated? Sheíd better check it out, she thought. Padding over to the door, she heard another creak. A sixth sense told her that it wasnít Carly on the stairs. She returned to the nightstand and removed her gun. Quickly she checked the clip. Picking up Harley, she placed the cat in the bathroom and closed the door. She placed a pillow under the covers to make it look like she was in the bed, then returned to the door. She stood with her back along the wall so that sheíd be behind whoever came in. Adrenaline surged through her causing her heartbeat to speed up. Now she heard two sets of footsteps. She looked down. The doorknob was turning. Gripping her gun with both hands she held her breath.

Leo turned the knob slowly and eased the door open. Their eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but it was still difficult to see into the room. A meow from the bathroom caused Leo to jump. Sal quickly placed his heavy hand on Leoís shoulder, then gave him a shove to move him into the room. Sal stepped beside Leo as they both leveled their guns on the bed. Two red dots appeared on the comforter. Squeezing the triggers they fired two rounds into the bed. Nicís mind was racing. She needed a plan and she needed one quick. A large, heavy set man stood the closest to her. The other man was much smaller.

"Go check it out, Leo," Sal ordered.

Nic realized this was the break she needed. As soon as the little man was further into the room, she stepped from behind the door and placed the muzzle of her gun into the back of Salís thick neck.

Sal felt the coolness of metal. This was bad, Sal thought, very bad.

"You, over by the bed. Drop your weapon now or Iíll blow your friendís brains out!" Nic shouted.

Leo froze. He dropped the gun, then thrust his hands into the air.

"Okay, now kick it into the corner," Nic instructed. She removed the gun from Salís right hand as she watched the other man follow her orders.

"Whatís going on?" Carly asked, approaching the open doorway.

"Shit!" Nic blurted. She turned slightly, to se where Carly was. "Carly, get out of here!" she demanded.

Sal took this opportunity to come around fast with his left arm. He took Nic by surprise, throwing her balance off and knocking her against the dresser. The force dislodged Salís gun from her hand, sending it crashing to the floor.

Leo, now scared out of his wits, bolted for the door. Carly didnít know what was going on. She heard Nic, but she couldnít move fast enough to get out of the way of whatever was coming at her. The small man hit her with all his weight, enough to throw Carly back into the hallway wall, knocking the air out of her. She slid to the floor in a heap.

Sal knew he was at a disadvantage. The cop still had her gun and his was somewhere on the floor. He charged her, grabbing her left forearm in an attempt to keep her weapon pointed behind her. Nic yelled from the pain his grip imposed on her wound. Before Sal was able to bring his left hand up around her throat, she stomped her heal down hard on his left instep, causing him to screech in agony. He was expecting the next move, a groin shot. He grabbed her right leg as it started to come up. Now he had her in a semi-sitting position on her dresser, her left arm held high over her head, gun still in hand. She could feel blood starting to slide down her arm where her wound had re-opened.

Only one option left, Nic thought. A head butt right into the manís nose. She heard the crack as it broke and blood started gushing over his face. Sal grabbed his face, releasing Nicís arm in the process. Nic came up with a hard knee to his overstuffed midsection. Sal doubled over, his breath taken away. He fell to the floor with a thud.

"Carly? Carly, are you out there?" Nic kept her gun leveled on the wheezing man.

Struggling to regain her breath, Carly finally answered, "Iím here. Iím okay."

Nic was relieved to hear Carlyís voice. She needed her cuffs, but they were in the nightstand. he stepped away from the man and backed up to the nightstand, never taking her eyes off of him.

Sal, laying in a pool of blood, cursed the day he took this job. He knew his options were gone. He wouldnít go to prison and wait for Marconeís men to slit his throat. Heíd go out his way. Reaching down to his ankle he slipped the small revolver from itís holder. When Nic returned to put the hand cuffs on him, he grabbed his chest with his free hand, feigning a heart attack. Bending down to check on him, she almost didnít see the object in his other hand. Sal swunfg it around, but before he could get off a shot, Nic fired. BANG! BANG!

Carly jumped clean off the floor at the sound of the shots. She didnít know if she should rush in or get out. Her heart sank at the thought that Nic had been shot. Then she realized, if Nic had been, she would be next. Seconds seemed liked hours. She was too afraid to breathe.

"Carly?" Nicís voice broke the silence. She reached down and checked for a pulse.

Tentatively Carly peered into the room. She could only see a form to the right side of the bed, but she recognized the form. Hitting the light switch, she temporarily blinded them both. When her eyes adjusted, she almost fell over from the sight before her. Nic was standing over a man who must have been dead. Blood covered his face and chest. His right hand still gripped a small gun.

Then Carly realized Nic was bleeding. "Nic!" she rushed over to her.

Seeing Carly, Nic smiled. She was grateful that Carly was not hurt. "Carly, Iím okay."

"Youíre not okay, youíre bleeding!" She immediately started examining Nicís arm. The gauze was soaked and no longer white.

"Where did the other guy go?" Nic asked, as she placed herself between Carly and the door.

"He took off down the stairs, that is after he nearly knocked me out."

"Listen, I want you to call 911. Tell them what happened, tell them itís a Code 2 and stay on the line till they give you the okay."

Carly walked over to the nightstand and picked up the phone. She looked at Nic who was slipping into a pair of jeans. "Where are you going?"

"Iíll be right back. Iím just gonna make sure the other guy is gone."

"Youíre not leaving me in here with that?" Carly pointed at the corpse laying on the floor.

Nic realized that she was being insensitive. "Okay, go back to your room and make the call. Lock the door when you get inside."

Once downstairs, Nic turned on lights all over the house as she combed through every room. The front door was wide open. Nic wasnít sure if they came in that way or if the other perp left that way. Stepping out on to the porch, she got her answer. The urn she kept on the front porch was now laying on the walkway, broken. The dumb ass must have fallen right over it in his haste to escape. The street was quiet. So much for gun shots waking up the neighbors, Nic thought, as she went back inside.

Back upstairs she rapped on Carlyís door. "Carly, itís Nic, let me in."

The door swung open and Carly, unable to suppress the urge any longer, wrapped her arms around Nicís midsection. Nic, startled at first, returned the embrace. She knew this incident must have rattled Carly. She was impressed with how well she was handling it.

"Well, is he gone?" Questioning green eyes lifted.

"Yes, heís gone. And he broke my urn on the way out!" Nic smirked.

"Nic, I think we should take care of your arm. Youíre still bleeding."

Nic agreed and sat down on the bed. "What did the cops say?"

Gathering supplies in the bathroom, Carly responded, "They dispatched a car. Should be here soon." She knelt down in front of Nic and laid the needed items out on the bed. Nic watched her in silence. Carly carefully removed the blood soaked gauze, revealing the nasty gash Nic had received earlier that evening. "Nic, this looks bad. Why didnít you go to the hospital?"

"Are you kidding? And spend my evening sitting in the ER waiting for someone to stitch it up. No thanks."

The flow of blood had slowed down enough for her to clean the wound with a damp washcloth. Carly doused a cotton ball with some Benzoil Peroxide. "This may hurt a bit," she said, dabbing the wound gently. The peroxide fizzed where it made contact with the infection. Nic didnít even flinch. Placing four butterfly bandages over the cut, she finished by wrapping fresh gauze around the arm.

"Thanks," Nic said. Placing her hand on Carlyís head, she tilted her face up. "Are you sure that you are okay? He didnít hurt you, did he?"

Carly sat down next to her heroic friend. "No, he didnít hurt me. He just knocked the wind out of me." Carly waited a second before asking her next question. "Nic, what were they doing here?"

"They tried to kill me," she answered, absently.

Carlyís face paled. "Why?"

"That I donít know. Yet. But, Iíll bet good money that they are connected to Jimmyís shooting, too."

Anger surged though Carly. She wanted to go in the other room and kick that guy, even if he was dead. And the thought that they tried to hurt Nic, too, infuriated her more. She looked at Nic who now seemed to be lost in thought. "Are you in there?" she asked, waving her hand in front of Nicís face.

Nic blinked. "Yeah, I just realized something."

"What?" Carly asked.

Nicís tone was serious, "You arenít safe here."

Carly hadnít expected that particular statement. It took her a few seconds to react. "Well, neither are you," she stated, matter-of-factly.

"Carly, Iím a cop. Iím never safe. You, on the other hand, need to be safe and I need to make sure that you are."

Carly didnít know if she should consider this sweet or overbearing. "Nicole Stone! I am not a child and I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself." Her tone was harsher than she had intended.

Nic lowered her eyes to her hands, which were splayed across her thighs. She didnít want or mean to offend Carly, but she was her partnerís sister and she wasnít about to let anything happen to her. She remained silent, struggling to phrase her response. Blue eyes looked up into green ones. "Iím sorry. I know you can take care of yourself. I didnít mean to upset you." Returning her gaze to her hands, she continued, "I just want to make sure nothing happens to you. Tonight was a horribly close call and I want you completely out of harmís way." She dared to look up, noticing the green eyes had softened.

Carly felt her anger subside at the sheepish expression on the dark haired womanís face. She knew that Nic was just being protective, not unlike her brother would be in the same situation. She couldnít suppress the need, so she went with it. She lightly rubbed Nicís cheek with the back of her hand. Nicís skin tingled at the touch. "Iím sorry, too. Jimmy is so overprotective that sometimes I feel like Iím always trying to prove that I can take care of myself."

Grabbing Carlyís hand she gave it a squeeze. "Itís okay. I understand. Truth is, it isnít safe for either of us to stay here. So, after the cops leave, weíre going to a hotel. For tonight, anyway." Nic smiled as she stood. She heard a car pull up out front and figured it must be the cops.

Carlyís jumped at the sound of two car doors being shut. Nic placed her hand on the blondeís shoulder. "Calm down, itís just the cops."

"I didnít even hear any sirenís, are you sure?"

"Yes. Remember, I told you to tell them it was a Code 2." Carly nodded. "Well, that means itís urgent, but donít use lights or sirens."

Carlyís eyes signaled her understanding, "Didnít want to freak the neighbors out, huh?"

Nic smiled, "You got it. Come on, letís go talk to them."

After and hour and a half the coroner finally showed up and removed the body from the bedroom. The doors were dusted for prints to try to determine the identity of the manís partner. Unfortunately they found nothing. The corpse had hospital rubber gloves on, so it was likely his accomplice did, too. Once everyone was gone they returned to their rooms to pack some things for the next few days. While she had explained the eveningís events to the police she remembered that Harley was still in the master bathroom. Carly quickly retrieved the irritated feline, who was now sleeping on top of the bed. Dressed in jeans, a long sleeve Polo, and sneakers, Nic sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the blood soaked carpet and simply shook her head. On Monday she would have to call someone and arrange for the carpet to be replaced. An alarm system, long overdue, was going to be needed, as well. Carly appeared in the doorway, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, and watched Nic, who was completely lost in thought. She looked haggard, Carly thought. She must be running on nothing more than fumes. And still she managed to fight off that man, who clearly outweighed her by, at least, one hundred pounds. Sheís amazing, Carly mused.

"Are you ready to go?" Carly asked.

Nic looked up, not realizing Carly had been standing there. "Yeah, letís go."

"Nic, what about Harley? We canít leave her here."

Nic looked at the sleeping ball of fur, which was emitting a soft, droning sound. Picking the cat up, she nestled her on her shoulder and picked up her duffel bag. When she turned toward the door she was not surprised to see a beaming Carly. Okay, Nic, so now she knows youíre a mushball.

An hour later they were tucked into a room at the Sheraton, in downtown Larson. Nic snuck Harley into the hotel inside her duffel. They brought a small plastic bin and some scoopable cat litter so that no accidents would occur. When Nic had requested separate rooms, Carly felt a surge of panic at being alone. The eveningís excitement had shaken her more than she realized. But, after her Ďspeechí about being able to take care of herself, she felt stupid bringing up her insecurities, so she remained silent. When the desk clerk informed them that there were no adjoining rooms available, Carly had all she could do to not let on how glad she was. Nic had asked her if sharing a room would be okay and Carly immediately gave her consent. She was pleased when Nic registered them under phony names. Whoever was after Nic, Carly didnít want them finding her.

The room was nicely decorated, with two double beds covered in a green floral print bedspreads. A television sat on the large dresser and a nightstand sat between the beds. Nic emerged from the bathroom in athletic shorts and a T-shirt. Carly, who was engrossed in something on the television, was all ready tucked into her bed with Harley snuggled into a ball next to her. Carly idly petted the feline.

"What are you watching?" Nic asked, sliding under the covers of her own bed.

"The Honeymooners." Nic arched her brow. Carly didnít see it, but she had a sense that Nic had given her a disapproving glance. "What?" she asked, shrugging her shoulders.

"That thing is ancient."

"Good comedy is timeless," Carly replied with a smirk.

"If you say so." Nic rolled onto her side and was asleep within seconds, with Carly not far behind her.

Continue to Part 4

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