by Talaran



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 7

"Aunt Rose, don't worry, please. I told you Jimmy is doing much better and they've moved him out of ICU, so isn't that proof that he's going to be okay?"

"Yes, dear, but I still think Irene and I should come up. What about when he comes home from the hospital? Who's going to take care of him?" the elderly woman asked.

Carly pulled at the phone cord in frustration. She loved her Aunt Rose dearly, but she was overprotective, more so since Carly's mother passed on, and a bit high strung, too. Aunt Irene, on the other hand, was much more relaxed. "I told you I'm going to take a leave of absence and stay here and take care of Jimmy." Plus it'll give me time to get to know Nic better, Carly thought.

"Dear, do you really think that's a good idea? Maybe they won't let you. You know you have only been with them for…what's it been now…six months?"

"Over a year, Aunt Rose, and I'm sure they'll let me take the time." She loved her aunt to pieces, but sometimes she could be so rigid Carly felt like she could just scream.

"Did our flowers arrive? Did they brighten his room?"

"Yes they did. They're lovely." Carly spotted a familiar tall, dark and gorgeous figure exiting the elevator. "Aunt Rose, I have to go now. I'll call you and Aunt Irene tomorrow, okay?"

Nic had seen Carly hold up a hand indicating she wanted her to stop, so she leaned against the wall and waited. She noticed Carly had taken her braid out, letting her hair fall evenly over her shoulders, making her look very sexy.

"All right, dear. Send Jimmy our love, will you?"

"I will, bye." Looking at Nic she suddenly felt the urge to explain whom she was talking to. "That was my aunt."

"I think Jimmy's mentioned them before."

"I'm sure he has. They are both very sweet and dear to us, but they can also be terribly overprotective." Carly walked beside Nic as they made their way down the hall.

"They care about you, so it's only natural that they would be."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right. Hey…guess who sent Jimmy flowers today?"

Nic thought about the question for a second. "Who?" she finally asked.

"Sue and Liz! It's a beautiful arrangement, too."

"That was sweet of them," Nic commented.

Jimmy was watching the news when they entered the room. "Hey, you're back."

Nic immediately notice the three huge, colorful bouquets of flowers that sat on the window ledge on the opposite side of the room and asked, "Nice flowers. Who are the other two from?"

"Aunt Rose and Aunt Irene sent the one on the right, Sue and Liz are the middle and the guys at the office sent the other one. Pretty nice, huh?"

"I’ll say." She sat in the chair at the foot of the bed, while Carly took the one next to it.

"So, how was your meeting with the shrink?" Jimmy asked.

Nic twitched her lips, "Not too bad, actually." Carly and Jimmy both had look of surprise plastered to their faces. "What?"

Carly answered, "Nothing." Jimmy just sat there, wide eyed.

Nic rolled her eyes. "Would you two have preferred hearing that I broke her into tiny pieces and flushed her into the sewer system?"

Carly couldn't help but chuckle at the mental image that question caused. "No, of course not, Nic. I'm glad you were…okay with it."

"Yeah, me too. I just wouldn't have believed it if I wasn't hearing it from you," Jimmy stated honestly.

"Very funny, you two. You make me sound worse than Genghis Khan."

Jimmy laughed, then groaned from the pain the laughter caused. "I hate to do this to you guys, but I'm feeling kind of beat and I know you," he looked at Carly, "must be tired of sitting around here all day." He turned to Nic, "Why don't you take my sister out for a nice dinner, and I don't mean in the cafeteria."

Nic looked at Carly who seemed very receptive to the idea, her green eyes sparkling in the fluorescent light. "Sure, I love to. We could go to Garcia's. They make the best fajitas in town!"

"That sound perfect. It'll give you some time to catch a few winks and not feel guilty about me being here." She shook her finger at her brother, who just smiled back at her. Carly had a feeling her brother had other motivations for his suggestion, but she wouldn't pursue that now.



Daylight exchanged places with its other half and the rain, which had fallen in varying degrees throughout the afternoon, was not gone, leaving a musty scent in its wake. Garcia's, a reproduction of a plantation home, with an enclosed veranda filled with lush hanging plants and fig trees, was a short drive from the hospital. Nic walked behind Carly and held the door for her once they scaled the stairs. Inside, Mayan sculptures, pampering waiters, and strolling mariachis abounded. A young Hispanic man, dressed all in white with a colorful sash tied about his waist, escorted them to a cozy corner table bathed in soft candlelight. Their waiter, a slightly older man with a gentle smile and dark hair, appeared instantly and they both ordered margaritas and quesadillas for an appetizer.

"This is a nice place," Carly commented.

"Yeah, it's pretty popular, especially on the weekends." Nic gazed at her companion across the table, the candlelight throwing varying highlights into her golden tresses.

"Well, thanks for taking me here." She glanced at the menu, which was spread out in front of her. "So, what are you going to have?"

Nic surveyed her own menu, "Steak fajitas, I think."

"Umm! That sounds good." Carly's eyes drifted over the menu. Everything sounded delicious. "I think I'll have the Chimi de Pollo…or the taco platter…or…" Nic smiled at her companion's indecision.

The waiter returned, placing their drinks in front of them. "Your quesadillas will be out in a minute. Are you ready to order?"

Nic looked at Carly, who was still engrossed in her menu. "Can you give us a second?"

"Certainly senorita. I will return in a few minutes."

"Thanks." Nic watched her friend go through the menu from cover to cover three times before the waiter returned. When Carly announced 'chicken fajitas' as her choice, Nic started to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing really, it's just that I wouldn't have guessed that would have picked that, since you didn't mention you were considering it."

Carly batted her hand at the air. "Oh, I do that all the time, just ask Jimmy. He's always surprised at what I actually order."

The appetizers arrived and they each dug into them, smearing salsa and sour cream over the tortillas before gobbling them down. The soft sounds of the mariachis drifted in from the other room, adding an air of authenticity to their surroundings. Carly glanced at Nic, who was busy looking at the various decorations that lined the walls. She was glad that her brother had pushed them into dinner away from the hospital. Taking a sip of her drink through the salty rim of her glass she watched her dinner companion. Nic's eyes were constantly moving, as if they were perpetually searching for something. Not a person passed by the table that Nic did not observe in some way. Maybe, Carly thought, it was part of her inherent nature to be observant, as well as cautious. After all she is a cop and a damn good one from everything her brother ever told her.

Nic finished off the last of her quesadillas and pushed the plate aside. The restaurant was mildly busy for a Monday evening, though the table they were occupying was fairly isolated from the rest of the restaurant's patrons. Nic noticed Carly was picking at her plate, seemingly lost in thought. "Don't you like them?" Nic asked.

"They're delicious," she replied, dipping a forkful into the salsa. "I guess I was just admiring the surroundings."

"You look a little tired. Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm fine, really, but yes, I am a bit tired. I was up rather early this morning and it's been a long day."

Nic idly played with the wooden napkin rings, twirling them on her finger. "I'm sorry to hear that you didn't sleep well."

"Oh, I slept fine. Your cat, on the other hand, decided that the break of dawn was a perfect time to wake me up." Carly took in a mouthful of the cheesy delight and chewed contentedly.

"I should have warned you about that, sorry." The dark haired woman shrugged her shoulders.

Carly shook her fork at her friend. "I'll get you for that."

Nic caught sight of the restaurant's owner, a stocky little man in his fifties, with a full, round face and a thick, black mustache. Waving his hand at her he approached the table with a purposeful stride. "Nicolita, it is so good to see you again."

"Hello, Manuel." Nic smiled as she offered her cheek.

Leaning over he placed a kiss on her cheek, then gave an approving glance to Nic's dinner companion. "And who is your lovely friend?"

"Manuel Garcia, Carly Jamison." Carly smiled and lifted her hand, which to her surprise the man grasped and brought to his lips.

"It is a pleasure to meet you," the man said, his black eyes twinkling in the candlelight.

"Likewise," Carly responded.

The man straightened and turned to Nicole. "Now, why is it you have not been here in such a long while, Nicolita?"

"It hasn't been that long, Manuel."

"That is where you are wrong, my friend. Every day that passes is like an eternity." He realized that their glasses were empty, so he clapped his hands twice and instantly the waiter appeared. "Get them another drink, and there is no charge for their dinners, either."

"Manuel…" Nic groaned. "We've talked about this before."

He waved his hand at the dark haired woman, "I know Nicolita, but I can not allow you to pay for dinner. Do not argue with me, por favor." His eyes implored her to cooperate.

Carly sat there and watched the pair. The man was very charming and obviously taken with her friend, though who could blame him. Nic looked at Carly and smiled. "This is the last time, do you hear me Manuel?"

"Si, I hear you." He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Now, enjoy your evening, please." He bowed to them, then walked away.

"Wow! What was that all about?" Carly asked.

"Oh…, I was in here last year when a disgruntled employee burst in and threatened everyone with a gun and I took care of it, that's all." The waiter arrived with two new drinks in hand. Nic thanked him and took a sip of hers. The wide-eyes stare she was getting from Carly almost made her spit her drink out.

"That's all? I'd say that's quite a lot. How did you do it?"

"It really wasn't as bad as it sounds. Body language and eye contact can mean the world when you're trying to diffuse a situation like that. Then it's just a matter of getting close enough to disarm the perp."

With a dumbfounded expression Carly stated, "It's no wonder he adores you. Hell, I adore you and I barely know you." Carly almost swallowed her tongue when she realized she said the last part out loud.

"Huh? What did you just say?" Nic put her glass down and searched the green eyes across from her.

"I said that you probably floored him…with your abilities and all."

Nic shook her head slowly, "That's not what I thought I heard."

She dropped her eyes and stared at the table. "I…umm…I said that…I…adore…you." Carly had to tug the words out. She was so nervous she twisted her napkin into knots, which looked to her a lot like her stomach felt.

Nic reached across the table and stopped Carly's fidgeting hands. Carly refused to look up. "Carly?" She continued to stare at the table, too afraid to look into those incredible blue eyes. "Carly, look at me, please?" Slowly she complied until her eyes were held in Nic's gaze. "You… adore me?" Nic still couldn't believe her ears, even when she said it.

This time Carly didn't look down. "Yes. I'm falling in love with you, Nic." Their eyes never wavered. "I know that sounds crazy…we hardly know one another and all, but that's how I feel."

Nic digested the words, words she never thought she'd want to hear from anyone. A joyous smile crept across her face. "Well…that's good to hear." Her eyes sparkled. "Because I think I'm falling in love with you, too."

Carly looked catatonic. She wasn't even sure her heart was still beating. Jimmy was right! This woman, this absolutely gorgeous, exhilarating woman said she felt the same way. Carly wanted to leap right out of her chair and kiss Nic right then and there. A mile wide grin appeared on her face, just as an odd sound behind her caught her attention. Their waiter returned with two sizzling platters of steak and chicken that smelled amazing. The pair reluctantly released their hands allowing the waiter to deposit their food. "We'll have to continue this conversation after dinner," Nic said with one eyebrow raised.

Carly eagerly nodded her head. Looking at her plate, she realized her hunger for food had completely dissipated. Though it certainly looked and smelled enticing, it couldn't compare to the dark haired woman across from her.


Carly managed to make a descent stab at her dinner, though she spent a good deal of that time gazing intently at Nic, who was pretty much doing the same thing.

Brushing some errant strands of hair back behind her ear, Nic polished off the last vestiges of her fajitas. She figured the two of them must look like a pair of lovesick puppies to anyone who watched them for more than a few seconds. Inside, she chuckled at the thought. Her, Nicole Stone, in love and with someone she's known for less than a week. Didn't she tell Susan that there was no way she would complicate her life, and certainly not with a straight woman. A low chuckle rumbled up getting an interesting look from her dinner companion. There must be something in the water she mused.

Back outside the night air was cold and still. Leaves, soggy from the earlier rain, were plastered everywhere making the sidewalk somewhat slippery. The mass of clouds that had blanketed the city for much of the day had parted, allowing the moonlight to stream down, casting odd shadows over the sidewalk and street. Carefully the duo walked to Nic's car, which was in the parking lot across the street. Nic started to open the passenger door when Carly abruptly turned and faced her. "What you said inside…you meant it…right?"

Nic peered into the blonde woman's eyes, their normally green hue much darker in the moonlight. "Yes, Carly, I meant it."

"So, you weren't trying to just get through dinner, before you let me down easy?"

Pursing her lips, Nic replied, "No."

"Cause I would…" Before she could get anything else out Nic ducked her head and captured the blonde woman's lips, and her heart, in an intense kiss. Instinctively Carly laced her hands around the back of Nic's neck and urged her closer. A low groan escaped her as she felt Nic's strong hands moving up and down her sides. Their passion grew to a feverish pitch before Nic broke the contact, getting a complaining moan from the smaller woman.

"Now, you were saying?" Nic asked, an impish grin crossing her face.

Carly could barely breath, let alone talk. She also realized she couldn't feel her legs either and they began to buckle, but a strong arm curled around her waist and effortlessly lifted her up. "Hey there. You okay?"

"Yeah…I'm fine."

With her arm still firmly around Carly's waist, Nic opened the door and before Carly knew what was happening she was deposited, ever so gently, on the seat. "There you go. How's that?"

As Nic started to duck her head back out of the car, Carly placed a tender hand against Nic's cheek, causing her to stop in mid motion and turn her head towards the blonde. Carly leaned closer and pressed her silky smooth lips against Nic's, instantly re-igniting their fire. Nic could have spent the rest of the night, hell, the rest of her life in that moment. She breathed in deep the scent of wildflowers and sunshine that just radiated from the woman she held so firmly in her arms. Carly's finders tangled in Nic's dark hair, the scent of leather and musk infiltrating her nostrils and furthering her excitement. Both their bodies tingled with desire. Reluctantly, Nic broke the kiss. She was out of breath, but she managed to mutter, "Whoa! We need to slow down."

Carly batted her green eyes at the dark haired woman, out of breath herself. "Why is that? I thought things were progressing rather nicely."

"Well, for one thing I'm going to have a hard time dropping you back at the hospital if we don't." She lightly kissed the tip of Carly's adorable little nose, getting a smoldering smile in return.

"I'm still unclear on the problem." Carly remarked, sliding her hand up Nic's arm, feeling the taunt muscles that shifted beneath the surface of the leather jacket.

"You know very well what the problem is. You have to go back to the hospital and I have some work to do tonight." Nic wondered how on earth she was going to accomplish anything this evening. She was so totally distracted she could hardly think at all. "Besides, I think we should take things slow. We've both been through a lot this weekend and I feel like my head is spinning."

"Okay, okay. I don't want you driving off a bridge or anything."

"Thank you, I guess." Nic closed the passenger door, then walked around and got into the driver's seat. Starting the car she eased it into the street and pointed them back toward the hospital. Before they were out of the parking lot Carly slid her hand onto Nic's thigh, resting it there. Feeling the hard muscles just beneath the material made her heart skip a beat.

Nic reveled in the warmth and the contact of Carly's hand. Placing her own hand over top of the blonde's she wrapped her long fingers around the smaller ones and smiled, on the inside, as well as the outside. Suddenly Nic realized what song was playing on the radio and the lyrics echoed in her head.

All I wanna do is make love to you

Say you will

You want me too

All I wanna do is make love to you

I've got lovin' arms to hold on to

Visions of her and Carly swirled in front of her causing her heart to noticeably speed up. Reaching over she quickly turned to the jazz station.

"Hey, what did you do that for? I liked that song." Carly admonished.


By the time they reached the hospital Nic was wishing with all her heart that she could just take Carly and run away some where, but she was also afraid. Afraid that tonight had been a dream and that she'd wake up alone like she always did.

"Nic? Do you believe in destiny?" Carly asked, so quietly that Nic almost didn't hear her.

"I don't think I did much, at least not until now." She squeezed Carly's hand and raising it, brushed her lips across the smaller woman's knuckles, sending a chill right through her friend. She drove into the hospital parking lot and immediately spotted Sue's BMW. Pulling into the space next to Sue's car she killed the engine, then half turned to face Carly.

"I thought maybe I was just being crazy or something, but I've felt this connection between us since I met you at the airport." Carly looked into Nic's penetrating eyes. She could get lost in there for a lifetime, she thought. "God, that was only three days ago, yet if feels like a lifetime in some respects."

"I know what you mean," Nic assented. "If you think about what we've both faced in the last few days, it's kind of incredible, really."

"Nic, I want you to know something." Her eyes turned serious. "I have never felt this way…this strongly about anyone else in my whole life."

The dark haired woman absorbed the words. "That puts us on even ground then because I, most definitely, have never felt like this before."

The blonde smiled. Not just because Nic felt the same way, but because she had a sense that this was bigger than both of them. There was a deep, wondrous bond between them. They could both feel it pulling them together like the some cosmic magnet was at work. In some ways it was actually frightening. Maybe when you find the person you are meant to spend your life with this is how it feels, Carly mused. "Nic, can I ask you a question?"


"What sort of work do you have to do tonight?"

Nic considered her possible answers. She didn't want to needlessly worry her friend, but she didn't want to lie to her either. "This afternoon I got a tip on where I might find our skinny friend who tried knocking you through the wall."

"Really? Can you tell me where?" Carly knew she had little right to interrogate Nic on her work, but if she had some idea what she was going to be doing she'd worry less, hopefully.

"It's a place called 'The Cage'." Nic regarded the blonde, who now had a troubled look on her face. "I'll be careful, I promise."

"I know." She regarded the dark haired woman with pensive eyes. "Cone on, let's go inside, visiting hours will be over soon." Carly opened her door and was out of the car before Nic could blink. Carly's abrupt departure concerned Nic. She wondered if Carly could get used to the career that was so much a part of her now that it defined her. She fretted at the thought as she exited the car and caught up with Carly.


Sue, Liz, and Jimmy were all conversing when Nic and Carly entered the room. All at once three pairs of eyes tracked to them. They both felt like a pair of deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

"What?" Nic asked, eyebrows raised.

Sue and Liz exchanged glances before Sue answered. "We were just taking about you two." Sue was still dressed in her work attire, a black suit coat and matching tailored shirt, accented with a bright red silk shirt.

"Yeah. How was dinner?" Liz, who was seated next to Sue at the foot of Jimmy's bed, asked. She looked much more comfortable in a pair of black denims and a violet sweater with a snowflake design across the chest.

Nic walked over to the window and half sat on the heater, which was comfortably warm. "Dinner was good." She looked at the blonde, who sat on the chair by the bed looking as innocent as a schoolgirl caught smoking in the bathroom. "Didn't you think so, Carly?"

The blonde nodded, "Yes, it was splendid."

Jimmy gave his sister a suspicious look, then followed it up with a question. "So, what did you have?" A three-day growth of sandy hair was covering his face, making him look rugged.

"We both had quesadillas and fajitas. They were delicious." Carly answered, intentionally avoiding his eyes.

"Hmm. Sounds better than what I had. Chipped beef on toast."

"Oh, it was, believe me." Carly assured him with a coy twinkle in her eye.

This got a knowing look from both Sue and Liz, who in turn eyed Nic curiously. Nic just smiled and steered the conversation in another direction. For the next thirty minutes they all chatted about their day, until a pudgy nurse in a tight white uniform waddled in and abruptly informed them that visiting hours ended in five minutes. The nurse then gave Jimmy his medication in a small paper cup, which he dutifully swallowed. Sue and Liz said their good-byes and filtered out into the quiet hallway.

"I'll see you tomorrow, partner. Get some rest, okay."

"Yes, Mom." Jimmy retorted, getting a raised eyebrow along with a smirk from his partner as she left the room.

After fluffing her brother's pillow and tucking in his blankets, Carly placed a kiss on his cheek. "I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see you looking better. Do you need anything?"

Jimmy mulled the question over, then responded, "Maybe something to wear besides this," he pulled at his hospital gown, "and my shaver would be great, too."

"You got it. I'll see you in the morning." She leaned down and gave him a hug, being careful of his arm. "Goodnight."

"Night, squirt." Jimmy smiled at his sister and closed his eyes, the day finally taking it's toll.



Out in the hallway Nic was speaking with the officer on duty, instructing him that no one should enter this room if he didn't recognize them. Sue and Liz were standing by the elevators, while Sue talking on her cell phone occasionally waving her hand in the air in what appeared to be frustration. Carly walked over and leaned against the same wall Liz was supporting.

"It was nice that you guys got to go out to dinner. You must be tired after spending most of the day here?" Liz asked.

"Yeah, I am kind of beat today. How was Harley when you two got home?"

"The little angel was sound asleep on the sofa. Of course, she did munch on two of my African violets, knocked the napkin holder off the kitchen table, spilled her water dish…"

Carly held up her hand, "Okay, I get it. I shouldn't have asked."

Once Nic arrived, Sue ended her call and the foursome rode the elevator to the lobby. "Could you two give us a second?" Carly asked.

Sue interlaced her hand with Liz's and they started for the car. "Sure, we'll be in the car." Both women held odd expressions on their faces as they walked away.

Carly turned and placed her hand on Nic's arm, stress lines etched across her fair brow. "Promise me you'll be careful tonight."

Nic wasn't quite sure what had come over her, but without hesitation she wrapped her long arms around her friend, who willingly accepted the embrace. "Don't worry. I promise I'll be very careful." She felt the blonde's breath catch and knew she was fighting the urge to cry. Gently, like a feather on the wind, Nic kissed the top of her head and whispered, "I promise."


Nic was preoccupied with thoughts of Carly the entire drive through the downtown area to the West Side. Trumble was one of a half dozen streets in the lower West Side that was known collectively as The Pits. Mayor Tomson, having also reduced the lighting in this part of town, improved things for the nocturnal predators that called The Pits home. One more reason the police department was not his biggest fan. Nic parked the Xterra at the end of the block, away from the cadre of streetwalkers, drunks, vagrants and other miscreants. She put full clips in both her regular gun and her backup, which she had in her leg hostler, before she exited the car.

The tall, dark haired woman strode with her usual confidence about half a block before two curvaceous women in spiked heels approached her. "Hey, baby. You lookin for some love tonight?" a tall redhead asked. Her partner, a shorter brunette, who was wearing a hot pink jacket over a black leather skirt, added, "Yeah, honey. The three of us could have a REAL good time."

Without slowing her pace or turning her head Nic responded, "LPD. Back off!"

Both women took a disappointed step back. "Too bad, honey. You look mighty fine. We could have had us some fun tonight."

Her lips curled into a lascivious grin at the thought of her and Carly and what they could have been doing this evening. She shook the thought away knowing she was all ready far more distracted than she could afford to be, especially in this part of town. Still, she felt a noticeable tug at her heart when she thought of the young woman. Holding the blonde in her arms felt incredible, so much so that Nic wondered what making love to her would be like. Her grin returned, but dissipated just as quickly when her destination came into view. The Cage was a medium sized brick building with green neon lights over the door promoting the bar.

Nic strolled up to the front door and stepped inside. A square bar sat in the middle of the room with a large metal cage suspended above it holding two scantily clad women who were gyrating to the pulsating sounds that boomed off the walls. Two men, who could have easily passed as WWF contenders, manned the crowded bar. The room was filled with a motley assortment of men and very few women. To say that Nic stuck out was an understatement, but that didn't stop her from sidling up to the bar.

She hated these types of establishments, wall-to-wall drunks all looking for something they would never find anyway. After enduring, what seemed like an eternity between two foul smelling men, one taller than she and one remarkably shorter, the bartender acknowledged her.

"What can I get you?" he shouted.

"Scotch and water, on the rocks." The bartender nodded and began filling her request. She was surprised at how busy the place was for a Monday night.

"Here you go."

Dropping a ten on the bar, she grabbed the glass and downed it in one gulp, feeling her tensions ease as the alcohol did its work. When the bartender laid her change on the bar she quickly grabbed his wrist, surprising him with her strength. Steel blue eyes engaged him. "I need to speak with you for a minute."

The man looked at her with lustful eyes. He was well over six feet tall and must have weighed around two hundred and eighty pounds, Nic figured. Glancing at his watch he responded, "I'm on break in ten minutes."

"This will only take a second.""

"I don't know who you been talking to, but I last longer than that." He leered at her.

Her impulse to smack that look off his face was hard to curb, but she managed to. "Listen asshole, I'm not in the market for a lay, okay? I just want you to look at a picture for a second."

The leer was replaced by a snarl, "You're a fuckin cop, aren't ya?"

Before the man knew what was happening Nic had her right hand firmly attached to his neck. His eyes bulged! "Now what kind of language is that? Do you talk to all your customer's that way?" The man murmured something unrecognizable. Nic noticed his right hand balling into a fist. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. Assaulting a police officer is never a good idea." Nic wiggled her left finger at the man, who was fighting to breathe. Everyone on her side of the bar had abruptly backed away in anticipation of a bar brawl. The other bartender made steps in their direction, but she froze him in place with an icy glare. Returning her attention to the man she was choking she said, "Now, I want you to look at a picture and tell me if you've seen this man in here, okay?"

The burly bartender nodded his head as much as he could. This woman was half his size, yet she held him firmly in place and he imagined she could pull him right over the bar if she wanted to. Releasing him, Nic sat down on a barstool and waited for the man to catch his breath. "Everyone, go back to what you were doing. Show's over."

"He doesn't…look familiar to me," the bartender choked out. His face was red and beads of perspiration dotted his forehead.

"Are you sure?"

"Listen lady, I haven't been on duty since Friday and I don't recall seeing this dude, okay?"

Eyeing the other man behind the bar she smiled and motioned for him to approach. "What about you? Have you seen him?"

Tentatively the other man stepped close enough to see the picture. "Yeah, I've seen him in here."


"Last night, real late, had to be around four or so."

"Was he alone?"

"Yeah. He was also drunk out of his mind and he was flat broke, or at least that's what he was telling everyone."

"Do you have any idea where I might find him?"

"Beats me, lady. I'll tell you one thing, though."

"What's that?"

"He smelled pretty bad, like he'd been living in an alley or somethin."

"Thanks for your time, boys." Dropping a twenty on the bar she headed for the door.


Four somber men were seated in high-backed chairs around a rectangular dining table. Four sets of laced hands were resting on the table. Four pairs of eyes stared blankly at their counterparts across from them. Frank Torelli stood by the door, back erect, eyes focused in front of him, while Victor Marcone paced around the table, where he occasionally punctuated a sentence with his fist. "Does everyone understand the plan that I have just laid out?"

Four heads nodded in unison.

"Good. Now this is going to go down flawlessly or each one of you will see a wrath like you could never imagine." Marcone scrutinized each man looking for a sign of uncertainty. He found none. "You're dismissed."

The four men stood in one fluid motion and retreated from the room without saying a single word.


The liquor store, which was just down the street from the bar that he'd gotten completely wasted in the other night, would be closing in another thirty minutes. Leo stood in the shadows across the street from it and had been for the past hour, watching and waiting. The plan he had formulated that morning was not a great one, but he knew it was all he had, so after getting some courage up he decided to go through with it.

Sal was dead, Leo had read that in the paper, and Leo was most definitely screwed unless he could get the hell out of this city. But he needed money to do that and this was the only way he knew how to get it. With both the cops and Marcone's goons looking for him his time was running out faster than water on a hot griddle. Steeling himself, he checked his pistol, then strode across the street and entered the now empty liquor store.


Upon exiting the bar Nic surveyed the street to determine where she should start looking for the little man. He could be anywhere in the six blocks that defined 'The Pits' or he could be in some other part of the city. Figuring her best bet was to start around the bar, she took the first alley, a dark, foul smelling passage that separated the bar from a two story building which housed a tattoo parlor on the second floor and a pool hall on the first. A dim light over a door near the rear was the alley's only illumination. Carefully Nic maneuvered through the alley, avoiding the numerous garbage cans that peppered the small space. Several cans were lying down, their contents spilled onto the ground. The rotting garbage created a pungent stench causing Nic to crinkle her nose and wish she had a gas mask. Up ahead she spied some large objects that she decided to check out, but first she removed her gun from her holster and with it raised near her right ear she approached as soundlessly as possible.

The sound of scampering claws could be heard with each step she made, making her sorry she didn't have her night goggles on so she could blow away the filthy creatures. Her thoughts turned to what she could have been doing tonight and she cursed silently. Now is not the time to lose focus, she scolded herself. The two objects, which had been unidentifiable at the mouth of the alley she now realized were cardboard boxes, both uninhabited. With a swift kick she launched one into the brick wall at the back of the alley causing a flurry of scampering feet and screeching sounds to echo off the walls. An almost overwhelming desire to unleash a few rounds at the disgusting creatures that scurried away came over her. Gritting her teeth she made her way back out of the alley and into the mildly brighter street.

"I'm definitely showering as soon as I get out of this hell hole!" Sliding her gun back into the holster she leaned over and brushed her pants off. When she straightened back up she noticed a man crossing the street a few building away. He walked with a purposeful stride in the direction of the liquor store across the street and he certainly matched the physical characteristics of one Leo Tolstrom. Following her instincts Nic proceeded in the same direction.


Leo casually strolled around the liquor store to make sure it was empty, except for the night cashier, who barely even looked at him when he entered. A slow smile eased across his face as he checked the last aisle and found no one there. This was going to be easy, he thought. He picked up a bottle of Jack Daniel's, opened it and slugged down some of the liquid before he reached the front, where the cashier was busy reading a magazine. Leo slipped the gun from pocket of his suit coat and shakily pointed it at the unsuspecting man behind the counter.

"You…open the drawer now!" Leo shouted, grabbing the man's attention instantly, his eyes bulging from their sockets.

"Dios Mio! Do not shoot, por favor!"

"Get the drawer open and I won't!" Leo bellowed, then took another drink of the liquor.

The cashier grabbed the bills from the register and stuffed them into one of the brown bags that sat on the counter. His hands were shaking so bad that he dropped several bills on the floor.

"You're droppin my money, asshole. Be fuckin careful, will ya." Leo waved the gun at the man, which only caused him to shake more.


As Nic was about to enter the liquor store she heard a man shot inside and immediately she drew her weapon and crouched out of view of the front windows. Call it instinct or call it experience, but when you were in this part of town and someone in a liquor store started shouting, it usually only meant one thing; a hold up.

She reached for her cell phone, then remembered she'd left it in the car. "Shit!" Peering up over the top of the door she spotted the man she was following. He was standing in the front of the counter, one hand wrapped around a pistol, the other wrapped around a bottle of liquor. Her eyes darted to the cashier who looked like he might have a heart attack at any minute. Ducking back down she contemplated her options. If she waited, the perp could wind up killing the cashier. If she barged in, she put both of them at risk, too. She heard the perp shout again and without hesitation her decision was made. Both hands firmly on her gun, she shouldered the door open and went inside.


The tiny thread of patience that Leo had when he entered the store was now gone. The cashier was screwing up the simple task of handing over the cash and he had just about had it. He cocked his gun and leveled it at the man who was still fumbling with the bills, which were now scattered over the counter top. "I'm gonna count to 3 and is you don't have all my money in that bag when I'm finished, I'm gonna blow you're fuckin head off."

The man nodded incessantly. "Okay, okay, I will hurry!"


The man scooped up the bills as fast as he could.


"Dios mio!" Four bills were still on the floor and he knew he couldn't get them in time.

Just as Leo started to mouth the third number the front door flew open and a dark figure bounded inside. The sudden entry completely disrupted Leo's concentration. He didn't know where to point his gun and before he could make the decision the figure was right next to him with their gun pressing against his left temple.

"Drop your weapon now or I'll kill you." The command was given in a cool and oddly relaxed tone, but Leo knew that the person meant every word. Leo did as instructed, and before he knew what hit him the bottle of Jack Daniel's was crashing to the floor. A second after that he was face down on the same dirty floor with a knee stuck in his back.

He heard the jingle of handcuffs as his wrists were being bound.

"You're under arrest."

Leo was in shock when he heard the voice. A woman! He'd just been taken down by a woman? His eyes almost fell from their sockets when he was hoisted up and was staring into the cool, blue eyes of the woman he and Sal tried to kill two nights ago. "Shit!" was all he said.

A feral grin spread across the dark haired woman's face when she realized her instincts were right on target. "Hello, Leo."

The cashier crawled out from behind the counter, tears of relief streaming down his bearded face. "Muchas gracias, senorita! Muchas gracias!


By ten thirty Nic and Leo were at the precinct, having waited thirty minutes for a patrolcar to come and process the attempted burglary. Nic had requested that Leo be brought from his second floor holding cell to one of the interrogation rooms. She sipped some of her coffee as she made her way there, accepting congratulations from officers that she passed in the hallway.

The windowless interrogation room was at the far end of the hall. A two-way mirror offered an observation point from the adjacent room. Nic had asked Mike Flanners and Joe Trinotti to sit in there, just in case Leo tried to cry police brutality or anything like that. She checked the observation room and got the thumbs up sign from Mike and Joe before she entered Interrogation Five.

Leo was handcuffed to the table and didn't even bother looking up when he heard the door open. He knew his life was over and at this point he really didn't give a shit.

Nic strolled over to the chair opposite Leo and sat down, placing her almost empty coffee cup down on the table, along with a folder holding Leo's extensive arrest history. "Well, Leo, it sure looks like you've kept yourself busy for the past twenty years."

Leo grunted, but refused to look at her.

"Hmph. I see we aren't feeling very talkative this evening. That's a shame, really. Cause if I were you, I'd be spilling my guts right about now." Leaning back she balanced the chair on its back legs and placed her own on the table.

Leo thought about what she said and wished he had eaten his gun instead of trying to rob that liquor store.

Nic waited. She could be patient in matter like these. The man was obviously tired and quite hungry. She figured he must have been hiding out since Saturday and alleys didn't make the best accommodations.

"What do you want to know?" Leo mumbled at an almost inaudible pitch, head bent and eyes staring glumly at the worn table.

"For starters, why don't you tell me why you and your friend tried to kill me the other night?"

Leo sat in silence deciding what he wanted to do. Finally he looked up and asked, "If I talk, can I have a cigarette and something to eat?"

"I think that could be arranged." Nic replied, shifting her eyes to the mirror and nodding her head. Mike instantly exited the observation room to fill the request.

"Okay. Well…Sal and I were brought up here to do a job for someone and… we kinda got forced into knockin off you and your partner."

"Forced by who?" Nic asked, her eyes boring into his beady ones.

"Are you kidding? If I tell you that, I'll be dead for sure!"

"Now, Leo, who could possibly scare you so much that you think they could get to you inside here?" She was bating him and she hoped he fell for it.

The little man shook his head wildly. "I'm not fallin for that! Let's just say it's someone I don't want to mess with!"

Mike arrived with a plate of food from the all-night diner down the street and a pack of cigarettes. He deposited everything on the table directly in front of Nic, giving her a wink and closing the door behind him when he left. Leo's ravenous eyes tracked the food the second he smelled it at the door and they never left it. Nic smiled, knowing this would be her leverage point.


Carly was finally nestled into the bed in the spare room at Sue and Liz's place. After returning there from the hospital the trio had enjoyed a cup of soothing chamomile tea while they discussed some of the day's events at the kitchen table. Harley had been waiting for them at the door and immediately wound herself around the blonde's legs. This got her picked up and carried into the kitchen, where she was treated to a bowl of milk.

Now she idly stared at the picture of a pastel colored seascape that hung on the pale pink wall across from her. The nightlight was on and a barely started book was lying face down across her lap. She had made several attempts at reading the pages, but each time her mind drifted back to Nic and the kiss they had shared in her car. Leaning her head back against the headboard she closed her eyes and transported herself back to that moment. A moment of utter splendor, she mused. Where are you right now, Nic? Are you safe? Are you thinking of me, too? These questions and a thousand more swirled around in her head until she surrendered her exhausted body to the sleep that it craved.


"That's what I said!" Leo stated firmly.

"You're telling me that Victor Marcone, of Marcone Imports, ordered the hit on me and Jimmy?" Nic asked, incredulously.

"Are you deaf?" Leo asked, receiving a biting glare from the woman across the table from him.

"For what reason?"

"It's personal." Leo munched on the burger and fries that sat before him. "You two are responsible for his nephew being in the hospital."

Nic's eyes widened at the information. "Gato is his nephew? We checked into his background. There was no connection to Marcone in anything we found."

Leo grinned, "I don't know the whole story, Sal did. But they're related, I know that! And that's why we were supposed to take you out. Marcone wouldn't stand for anyone hurting a member of his family."

"Son of a bitch." Nic declared flatly. It all made sense now. Now it was clear why Gato had never done time. Marcone was the man she and Jimmy had been after for the past few months. One of the wealthiest men in the city was a drug smuggler disguised as an upstanding businessman. She laughed at the thought. Wait till Jimmy hears about this! She wished she could tell him right now, but looking at her watch she knew she'd have to wait till morning.

Leo puffed out a swirling cloud of white smoke. "You know, if you want to make a deal, I have some other info that may be of use to you."

A slender dark eyebrow raised in question as a salacious grin made its way across the detective's face.


Not quite an hour later Nic had garnered more information from Leo than she could have imagined. Back at her desk she typed up everything he had told her. Sal and Leo had been hired to retrieve some sensitive information from one of Marcone's former employees, then they were to eliminate that person and dispose of the body. Apparently that employee was blackmailing Marcone and Marcone didn't want anyone easily traceable to him involved in the murder. If what Leo said was true, they would need to get a warrant in the morning to retrieve that information. With that in hand and with Leo's testimony they would be able to take Victor Marcone down. She printed a copy and left it on the lieutenant's desk with a note that she'd call first thing in the morning. Tomorrow would be the day of reckoning that she'd been longing for and with that thought firmly in her mind she strolled out of the station in search of a hot shower and a warm bed.

Continued in Part 8

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