"I got three more!"
The adrenalin was pumping through every officer at the mid-town precinct. Missing children reports were being dragged from the bottom of desk drawers and out of file cabinets marked ‘cold cases'. There was a stack of fresh faxes from all over the city, and now they were being joined by out of state and federal agencies who wanted to match a face or two, to a long list of unforgotten children that went missing years ago.
Vivian squeezed past the bodies jamming the central hall and into the detective room. She weaved around uniformed and plain clothes officers with her latest bundle of files. She looked at Maggie as she plopped down into her chair. Her partner was on the phone talking animatedly, her hands punctuating her spoken words with wild gestures. The redhead had taken over Tom's desk for the time being. It made it easier to communicate with one another. "Problem?" She asked with a raised eyebrow. Maggie put her hand over her phone's receiver and lowered it to her chest.
"Fuckers at Channel 3 demand we release the names of the victims, claim it's for the good of the public. They say that by withholding them we appear to be partaking in a farce, and I quote the fuckers 'Concocted by the fascist Para-military state that consists of the LAPD and its governing body the City Council. ' End quote." The younger detective cocked her head to the side with a look of exasperation.
Vivian blinked several times processing the fact that Maggie Donner just used a variant or the ‘F' word, twice. Then an evil smile edged her lips as she reached for her extension, she pressed the small rubber button next to a steady red light, "Hullo? Yes, this is the fascist in charge of this case. My name is Vivian Walsh, W A L S H, Sergeant Detective, badge number 2368." She paused as the hopeful reporter on the other end of the line was jotting down her information, "Ready?" She asked receiving an affirmative answer, "Fuck off. Have a nice day. We'll call you." She hung up the receiver and turned her attention back to the files on her desk.
Maggie slowly hung up her receiver and gaped at the blonde, "You can't tell the press to fuck off Viv, and give them your name? Don't you remember you have a press conference with them later tonight? They are going to eat you alive!"
"They can go to hell. They're wasting our time. We have sixty-seven kids to match up with families. We have hundreds, HUNDREDS, more to track down according to Franklin's well-kept records. They want a piece of me then they're gonna have to take it, because I'm not giving nothing away until these families have all been notified."
Maggie settled into her chair opposite her temporary partner. It had been forty-eight hours since the horrific find at the storage building, and no one had rested. They had made a quick side trip to the hospital where Vivian had a very one-sided conversation with a stubborn Quin McKee. A short twenty hours later the PI was missing from her hospital bed, and a very pissed off Detective Walsh had been on the warpath ever since. Maggie closed her eyes and rolled her head and shoulders to relieve the stress of the last two days. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She calmly looked across at her partner who was now skimming through a file in front of her. "Viv?"
"Hmm." Came the uncaring reply.
"Do you want me to call Quang, see if he's seen or heard from her?"
Vivian's head dropped a bit, then red-rimmed eyes lifted toward the red head, "I'm not going to chase after her. I don't have time for it. You don't have time for it, and these kids don't have time for it. She's a big girl, and there's nothing you, I, or even the ever trusty Quang can do to prevent her from doing harm to herself, or others for that matter. So let's focus on the here and now."
Both detectives held a long moment of eye contact before nods of agreement and small, joyless smiles set the issue aside as they returned to the task at hand.
Quin pulled her left shoulder up to her ear and felt the satisfying pops along her spine, her right shoulder was a no go for that activity so she moved on up to her neck, moving it right then left and sighing as the vertebrae put themselves back into something resembling a normal alignment. She adjusted the hood of the sweat jacket she stole from some unsuspecting employee at the hospital, who was also kind enough to donate a loose pair of jeans and a faded black t-shirt. She had to cuff the jeans considerably so they didn't drag on the ground. The only piece of clothing she was able to salvage from her own things were her trusty greasy Doc's, that currently were held on her feet by several rubber bands. It seemed the ER crew found it necessary to cut her bootlaces to remove them. She stood about fifty yards from a Budget Inn, waiting. She had been waiting for about three hours, and darkness was closing in fast as the sun sank into the Pacific Ocean a few miles away. Quin looked up at the sky painted in brilliant oranges and purples. It was a beautiful fall night. She wished she was spending it quietly sipping hot cider on the porch of her house in the company of Vivian, but the sooner this case closed the sooner she could indulge in the finer things of life.
The brunette lit a cigarette and dragged the smoke deep into her lungs, letting the gold lighter twirl between her fingers as she waited. She heaved a sigh of relief as a large Cadillac Coup Deville pulled up in front of her and lowered a dark tinted window revealing a bulky man with olive skin and a baldhead. She sent the cigarette flying with a flick of her fingers and walked over to the car. "What do you have for me Charlie?"
The man smirked and pulled a crumpled paper bag from the passenger side seat. He let the bag rest in his lap as he placed the car in park, leaving it to idle while he conducted business. "You look like yesterday's puke McKee." He reached into the bag and brought out a polished chrome gun. "Nine millimeter auto." He stated as he slid back the barrel of the gun and let it slip back, loading a round into the chamber. "It's not clean." He handed the gun to the small woman who inspected it.
"Any thing bigger than a nine in that bag?" Quin asked freeing and inspecting the magazine, finding it fully loaded.
The man raised an eyebrow, "You call in the middle of lunch, demand a piece and then get choosey? I may have to reconsider doing business with you McKee."
"I like a gun that stops what's coming at me Charlie. I'm not big and brawny like you." Quin winked at the man.
"Sorry babe, but that's all I could get on such short notice. Don't carry it too long though, and wipe it clean when your done. It's very dirty."
"Thanks Charlie. I owe you one."
"The great Quin McKee owes me a favor. I'll have to write this down when I get home." The man chuckled at Quin's rolling eyes.
"Get out of here Charlie. Chances are that cops won't be far behind."
Charlie dropped the gearshift into drive, "Be careful McKee, call if you need anything, anytime. I still owe you plenty."
Quin smiled and nodded. "Take care, Charlie." She watched as the Caddy turned at the corner and disappeared into the quickly cooling night. She checked the gun one last time then tucked it in the small of her back, settling the sweat jacket over it. She crossed the street as the sky turned from purple to black and entered the office of the small motel.
The clerk motioned her over to the Formica-covered desk with a conspiratorial wave, the bright fluorescent lights glared off the plastic plants that lined the counters corners. Quin idly thought that someone must spend a lot of time polishing fake leaves, and then she wondered just how much a leaf polisher makes an hour. She smiled to herself and shook her head to dismiss the train of thought as she leaned slightly over the counter to receive the whispered information from the clerk. Another smile tugged at her lips as she looked around the deserted area, wondering exactly why it was the man was whispering. She nodded politely and received a room key. Life was so much simpler with a key. Quin thanked the man for the info and instructed him to call the police in ten minutes. She pushed the office door open and exited into the cool night air. She knew the room was up stairs and suppressed a groan as she approached the climb, she took a deep breath and tested her battered legs on the first riser. Finding it to be a bearable pain she took the second step with more confidence. By the time she reached the top she was gritting her teeth so tightly she was sure she busted a filling or two. She rested at the top and probed a finger along her bottom teeth, sighing in relief to find everything in tact. Several more deep breathes and she was able to almost breath normally again. She looked at the room key, just making out the worn number, then looked up at the orange doors to determine which way to go. Quin took one step to the right and a pain shot from her toes up to her head, blurring her vision, and taking her breath away. She doubled over gasping for air once again.
This is stupid, she berated herself as she sank down to sit on the top step her eyes closing from fatigue and pain. I'm stupid, she chuckled disparagingly. She tipped her head back and took a deep calming breath, wiling the pain to ebb away. Her eyes fluttered open, and blinked away the blur revealing a dusty cobweb long abandoned by its maker. A cool breeze fluttered the pale web in tiny waves below the dingy eaves that sheltered the upper level of the motel. Someone else could crash into the hotel room and subdue the bad guys, she was tired and hurt. She made her way down the stairs and slowly walked across the street to a pay phone.
Vivian felt a bit overwhelmed as she stared out over the throng of reporters. She wasn't totally inexperienced at giving press conferences, just totally inexperienced at media circuses. She raised her hands in an effort to quiet the raucous crowd of reporters, "If everyone will take their seats and settle down we can start." ‘Start', now there's a word, settle in folks, for I have a bizarre tale of slavery, greed, and police corruption to spin for you. She thought with a grim smile. The room began to calm down and soon all eyes were on her. "Three days ago, as you all know, we made a gruesome discovery of fifty-seven children between the ages of six and fourteen being held in deplorable conditions…"
McKee jockeyed for position in the crowded room trying to get a better view of her lover. She growled as a woman pushed her from behind making no apologies as she scooted around Quin to grab the last remaining seat. Vivian had already started speaking as the brunette side stepped to lean against the wall with a sigh of relief just to be still for a moment. Vivian went on about the gruesome details of the case as the PI scanned the room. Almost everyone's eyes were on the tall detective as she spoke except for a rail thin blonde woman that had assumed the same position against the opposite wall across from Quinn. Pale blue eyes locked with her own gray as the woman's head dipped just slightly and her thin lips said a silent ‘thank you' towards Quin, who reflexively looked about for the person the woman was speaking to, but found no one else in her immediate vicinity. She made eye contact with the woman again and pointed a finger at her chest in question. The woman smiled and nodded then put her arm around the person next to her giving the young man that stood there a gentle squeeze. Quin glanced at the young man who beamed a teary smile at her it was Christopher Dawson. The PI nodded in acceptance and offered a silent ‘you're welcome', toward the pair who smiled in acknowledgement, then turned their attention back to the press conference. Quin raised her eyes to the podium where Vivian continued to lay out facts for the throng of reporters and cameras. Her heart filled with love and for the first time Quin reflected on how truly lucky she was to have fallen in love twice in her lifetime. Certainly that was an odd occurrence and she vowed not to squander such a gift. She would be making changes to her behavior and to her life, in order to guarantee that she would be around to enjoy this newfound love.
There was a long pause in Vivian's monologue as a uniformed officer whispered something in her ear. She cleared her throat and scanned the crowd before her looking for one face in particular as she began to speak again. "I've just been informed that two more arrests have been made in this case, bringing the total to seventeen. Thanks to an anonymous tip we were able to take into custody two men we believe to be very close to the top of the organization that conducted this trade in human flesh." Her eyes finally found Quin propped against a wall to her left and she gave a slight nod and a small smile in the PI's direction before beginning to speak once more, "Again I'll reiterate what I said two days ago: anyone who has information that can lead the police to more children or suspects in this case should call us immediately. These people need to be brought to justice, and lives need to be returned to those unjustly enslaved for profit. In exactly three days a list will be released to the press of all the remaining children and young adults that we will not have been able to match with parents. Until then the current hotline number will be up and running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week." Vivian took a deep breath and pushed her hand through her hair, "I'll answer a few questions now."
Quin took the opportunity to slip out of the crowded room as the noise level shot up and reporters vied for the attention of the blonde detective. She only got down the hall a few feet when a reporter yelled above the crowd, "Did the Angel of Justice assist the police on this case? Is tax payer dollars going to pay for vigilantes?" The PI was back in the crowded room and closing in on the man who was shouting above the other reporters, his question going unanswered as Vivian chose to ignore him and opted for one of the numerous TV reporters up front close to the podium. The room quieted to hear the exchange between reporter and detective. Quin could hear the man just in front of her mumble to himself, and his pen tap against the open notepad that he held at the ready. As soon as Vivian concluded her answer the voices rose again to garner her attention, and just as the man started to raise his hand and opened his mouth to once again bellow his question toward the podium, Quin clasped her hand around the back of his neck, and gave a firm squeeze, an action that did not go unpunished as her cracked ribs slipped against themselves causing her grip to intensify until she heard a little gasp from the man in her grip. She raise just a bit on tip toes to whisper in the man's ear, "You will step outside with me." She relaxed her grip just a bit to let the man turn his head to regard her. As he looked her up and down, obviously determining the threat if any she posed, she lifted her shirt to show the shiny 9mm pistol snuggled between her belly and the borrowed jeans she wore. The man paled, as the realization seemed to hit him that to ‘step outside' was not a request it was a command. Quin tangled her hand in the loose windbreaker the man wore and guided him out of the conference room and then silently down the hall, through a heavy steel door that led to parking garage full of empty police cruisers. A quick glance left than right and small satisfied smile as she spotted a nice out of the way niche behind two concrete pylons, which would give just enough cover from eyes, human and electronic. The man gave some resistance as she maneuvered him toward the alcove. She didn't manhandle him too much, mainly because she was in no condition to do so, but also because she just wanted a word with the reporter, not cause him any harm, permanent or otherwise. She settled him against the cold concrete wall and smiled her best disarming smile to put him at ease. "My name is Quin McKee, I'm a private investigator. And you are?"
"You are or you are not, which is it?" Quin asked with a smirk.
The man nodded quickly, "I am. I am." He confirmed.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Ivan. I'm going to ask a favor of you. I assure you that I'm good for this favor, and you may call it due anytime you like. Do you understand me so far?" A quick nervous nod, "Of course, if you don't want to grant me this favor, we have nothing to discuss, although I can't guarantee that my future behavior will be," She paused searching for the correct word, "proper." The word left plenty to the imagination.
"What do you want?" The man cautiously asked.
"Drop the Angel of Justice bit. There is no such person."
"But Scott Peers…" the reporter protested.
"I found Scott Peers."
A few blinks, "But Donald Peterson was…."
"He caught me on a bad day." Unapologetic smile.
Silence. Raised dark brow.
"I could name you."
"And I would deny anything you print, so will the police." That's an over confident assumption McKee, she thought to herself.
"What exactly do I get in return?"
"There will be a time in your life when you will need a favor above and beyond anything friends or family can provide. I will be able to grant that favor." Quin said as she took the man's notebook from his tightly clutched hand. She scribbled a few lines and held the book up for the man to inspect what she wrote, "Do we have a deal?" She watched his eyes dart from the notebook then to her steady gaze. She knew his decision had been made as he took the notebook from her hand. Quin watched as the reported tore the page from the notebook, folded it, and then placed it safely in his wallet.
He looked left than right then directly at Quin. "Deal."
Tom Ross had quite literally escaped from his neo-natal parental duties by volunteering to go to the store. Some would say that he had literally jumped at the opportunity to do this mundane chore. Witnesses would have seen him go from a prone position on the floor in front of yet another Blues Clues episode — a marathon it seemed and his three-year-old son would not be swayed to watch anything else — to fully upright, with shoes on, forgoing any socks for time was of the essence if he was to make his escape to the outside adult world without complications of tag alongs. His wife had supplied him with a list and a crumpled twenty-dollar bill. In his rush he nearly forgot his keys and wallet, and literally frowned as Ruth pushed his cell phone into his jacket pocket. "The store." She had said to him in that no bargains brokered tone that meant he shouldn't deviate from the plan set before him. He had simply smiled and nodded and skipped to the car basking in the sunshine and cool autumn air. Freedom was his, and he would do as he pleased for the next hour. He was off to find some adult companionship, and what better place than the precinct house.
His gleeful childlike smile faded as he entered a deserted detective room where ringing phones went answered by voice mail after the pre-requisite six rings. A movement off to his right caught his eye as one of the many task chairs swiveled around to reveal one Quin McKee.
"Ruth get tired of you, or did you run away?" The brunette asked already knowing the truth.
"I'm going to the grocery store." Tom said with a smile, "This is a shortcut."
"If you give me a dollar, I won't call your wife."
"If you call my wife, she'll no longer be focused on my little detour, but on the fact that the MIA patient of the week is calling her. You'll only buy me more time, and if you think she's pissed, you should talk to your girlfriend." Tom retorted as he sat in his own wheeled chair and scooted closer to the now frowning PI.
"Girlfriend is an inadequate term." Quin thought out loud.
"Might not have to worry about the terminology my friend, ‘cause you are in deep trouble. I fielded seven phone calls, and two visits myself from the honorable Sgt. Detective Walsh. The only reason I am able to be here today to speak with you is because I told her I made her the guardian of my six children if something were to happen to me." His toothy smile surfaced once again, "That put an end to her threats, not that I had a damn clue where you'd gotten off to." His brow narrowed and his lips pursed, "You could have least called." The detective could feel Quin's anxiety, it radiated off her.
"I'm sorry for that. I know I've been an ass about shit like that." Quin said with a sigh. "Do you think she's so pissed she won't have anything to do with me?" Her voice wavered doubtfully. Quin had spent the better part of the last thirty minutes going over the details of her bad behavior the last three days. What she concluded was that she nowhere near deserved the likes of Vivian Walsh, and that whatever may come as way of fruit of her recent past, she would accept that, even though she hoped beyond hope that Vivian would at least like to remain friends with her.
Tom scooted closer and grabbed the scraped and scarred hands that trembled in Quin's lap. He held them gently, "I think she is in love with you, and I think that you need to talk to her, and I think that you have to stop this self destructive shit, and I think you need to get into counseling to deal with all the crap life has handed you, and most of all, I think you need to let people help you: People like me and Ruth, and Teddy, and Quang, and most certainly Vivian Walsh." Wow, thought I would never get to say half that to Quin McKee. Tom thought to himself. He looked around the deserted detective room, "Where is everyone anyway?"
Quin sniffled and raised an arm to wipe her tears on a convenient sleeve, "Press conference." She replied, happy that Tom gave her a moment to deal with all he had said without pushing for anything further from her.
"Ahhh, well…" Tom paused and looked around then grinned at McKee, "Wanna rifle through some desks?"
Quin couldn't help the giggle that fluttered up. She sniffled and swatted his broad shoulder, "I've already done it."
Tom snapped his fingers, "Rats! I'm always too late for the desk rifling."
The tension eased between the two just as people began to fill the room marking the end of the conference and the return to work for the detectives. Tom noticed that Quin's attention had left him for something happening over his shoulder. He followed her gaze to see Vivian and Maggie entering the room together engaged in animated conversation. He had a fleeting moment of envy not to be participating in this epic case. He watched as Vivian took notice of either him or Quin, and a thin smile appeared and disappeared in almost an instant. A quick glance at the PI indicated she too had caught this tiny display of happiness and discontent. He shook his head and childishly spun in his chair causing Quin to give him a lopsided grin as she shook her head from side to side dismissing his behavior with a roll of her eyes.
Vivian's eyes locked onto Quin's as she made her way to her desk. She broke eye contact just long enough to answer an insistently ringing phone. She turned and regarded her best friend and her lover as Ruth Ross gave specific directions to her incase she saw her husband who was not back from the grocery store yet and, according to Ruth, had time to go and return home twice since he left. The sharp click of the phone being unceremoniously hung up caused Vivian to raise a blonde eyebrow in the direction of the AWOL father who was engaged in a slap fight over a paperclip caddy that Maggie was trying to retrieve from her desk. Vivian sighed and walked over to the scene of playground activities that was really just a side effect of paternity leave cabin fever. She ignored Tom and Maggie as she sat on the nearest desktop to Quin. "Simon Days and David Gentry huh? How in the hell did you find them?" Vivian asked while smiling at Tom's antics. He had secured a rubber band between two pencils and was taking aim with the few paperclips he was able to wrestle from Maggie at an unsuspecting desk sergeant who was bent over the water fountain in the hall.
Quin looked over her shoulder and grimaced at the pain it caused. She decided turning the chair was a better course of action and was soon facing the object of her love and desire. She smiled softly and sighed, "I have friends in very low places."
"You should be in a hospital."
Vivian blinked twice at the admittance. That was not the smart-ass response she had expected, "Then why aren't you?"
"Excellent follow up question Detective Walsh." Tom snickered as a masculine yelp echoed down the hall, celebrating his successful hit on the uniformed officer's rear.
Quin craned her head just enough to scowl at Tom Ross. "I'll go back. I just wanted to finish." It came out a pathetic childish grump.
Vivian slid off the desk and offered her hand to the PI, "I have it on good authority that they won't have you back, so you're coming with me." I have you now Quin McKee! She thought to herself as she shook her hand at the passive brunette. "Come on. I'm way past done here for tonight." A soft smile edged her face as Quin's smaller hand fitted into her own. She gave a small heave, lifting Quin from the chair to stand beside her. Then using her free hand she cuffed Tom Ross in the back of the head, "Your wife said to tell you that if you aren't back by the hour, she will have to take drastic measures to assure your continuing cooperation and performance of parental duties."
Tom stopped in mid aim of Maggie's rear, and cocked his head to the side, "That doesn't sound good."
"Her exact words were, ‘Tell him to get his ass home now or else.'"
The silver-headed detective placed his hastily constructed toy on a near by desk and stood, "I was leaving anyway. I'll walk you two out." He hooked one arm over Quin's shoulder and the other around Vivian's offered arm. The threesome made their way silently out of the precinct into the cool, evening November air. Vivian and Quin sent Tom off. Quin watched his mini van pull out of the parking lot as she settled into the front seat of Vivian's car.
"Do you think we should follow him to the store?" The PI joked as Vivian helped her to fasten her seat belt, knowing somehow that she was less than able to pull the strap herself.
"Naaa, he'll be a good boy. He doesn't want to tangle with Ruth." The detective fastened herself in with a soft laugh that was echoed by her car mate. "Are you hungry?" She asked as she started the car.
"When did you last eat?" The car backed smoothly from its space.
"I had some coffee that I filched from the detective room about thirty minutes ago."
"It's a wonder you're standing." Vivian mumbled getting a little grin from the PI.
"I've had worse." Quin rolled her head and shoulders the popping noises quite audible in the small car.
Vivian studied her passenger for a long moment before pulling into traffic. She looked so small and vulnerable for just a second as the pain registered across her pale features. The headlights and taillights of the traffic going by illuminated the car in a muted shifting light. Without much thought she put the car into park and leaned over to Quin, turning her head gently and kissing her lips softly. They shared a few breaths before Vivian spoke, "You're in trouble. You know that right?"
Quin nodded slowly.
"If you're good for the next few days, I might be compelled to forget that I'm pissed at you. The department Psych has put me on leave for a week, so guess where I'm spending it and with whom?"
The brunette's eyes looked out the windshield as her lower lip found its way under her front teeth. She then blinked as she brought her eyes back to stare into those marvelous blue depths, "At my house, with me?"
"You're very smart Quin McKee." Vivian punctuated this statement with another soft kiss.
"Thanks, I think." Quin said softly in a pleasurable haze from the delicious kisses, her eyes had fallen shut. She felt Vivian's thumb brush across her lips.
"Not your color sweetheart."
Quin's eyes fluttered open as Vivian scooted back to her own seat and pulled the car into traffic.
Return to the Academy