Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA and Universal Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. This story contains fairly graphic violence. It also contains a consensual relationship between two women. If this is not legal where you are, or you are not of age, then read another story.
The characters contained in this story are mine, and mine alone. Do not copy or distribute this story without my consent. Characters within this story bearing resemblance to persons dead or alive are unintended.
Another disclaimer I liked: although many of the locations mentioned in this story are real and many of the characters are based on amalgamations of people I have met, I have taken artist license in describing them.
Thank you to my beta author Buxxer.
Thanks also to my beta readers Mercury and Garnet.
The trial entered its third week and her testimony was still in the early stages. In the last three years that she was a part of the Ribisi family, Toni had taken meticulous notes. She was so angry with the family she had called her own. They had almost found out her secret and as a consequence they forced her to take her best friends life.
She had known then that if she hadnt killed Sal that there would have been two victims instead of one. Sal hadnt wanted to die but neither had Toni. When they had finally brought her to Sal he was nearly dead. He hadnt given up any information. He hadnt had any information to give. Typically they assumed that he was simply protecting someone. Toni knew at that instant that even if she could fight her way out of the room that it wouldnt have made a difference for Sal. She had been on the streets too long, and knew that Sal needed relief closure. It helped that he asked her to do it, knowing that even if another blow never came, that he would be dead by morning anyhow. He had told her that evening that he wanted her hand to be the last hand in his ever.
She entered those events onto disks, which she hid away amongst her stories in the safety deposit box in New Jersey. The day before the trial, Tate had sent a Marshal to retrieve the disks. She gave him the ones that contained dates and events, which would help her bring them down. She and Tate had poured over the material to help refresh her memory. She hadnt really needed the reminders because every event was firmly entrenched in her mind. If anything, she wished that she could just forget her former life and move on.
When Toni arrived at Megans bedside she noticed that her scalp had been freshly shaved and the horrendous looking staples had been removed and replaced with stitches. It still looked painful and red but the stitches somehow looked better than the staples had.
Mmmm, Tonis here, Megan sighed to herself. She could sense almost instantly when she entered the room and the smell of her cologne was unmistakable even though it was heavily masked by the smell of disinfectant. She smiled in anticipation of her nightly bath. She could already feel Tonis strong hands caressing her body.
Toni chatted with Nancy as they bathed their patient. Toni actually did most of the work, at her own insistence. They worked together to massage Megans arms and legs so that her muscles would not become too flaccid due to her lack of activity. She told Toni that the doctors had decided today to start slowly decreasing her medication, but that it would probably be a week before the levels were low enough to allow Megan to awaken.
Ah, yeah thats the spot right there. God I feel so heavy and cramped until they do this. Megan thought. She knew that Toni was with her and she was talking, but she couldnt understand what Toni was talking about. There must be someone else in the room with her. When she talks just to me, I understand every word, but when she talks to someone else, its just a jumble.
"Thats good, right?" Toni asked the nurse.
Hey Toni how about a kiss? I could really use one. I wish I could open my eyes. You told me why I cant but I keep forgetting.
"Exceptional. It means that the doctors think that her normal brain activity wont in any way deter the healing process, something they were afraid of at the beginning."
"I knew they were keeping her in a coma, but I guess I dont understand why?" Toni explained.
"Ive worked around a great deal of trauma patients," Nancy began. "Head trauma is especially tricky. Most of the time the doctors want the patient awake as soon as possible so they can determine if there was any major brain damage, but sometimes the brain swells so much, that normal brain activity impairs the healing process."
"So why didnt they do that with Megan?" Toni queried.
Toni? Would you please talk to me? Stop talking to whoever and talk to me! Megan demanded. She got no response.
"One reason was to keep her blood pressure down "
"And the other?"
Nancy posed a question instead of answering. "Have you ever heard of Tourettes Syndrome?"
"Ive heard of it, but I dont know much about it except that people who have it have tics and say inappropriate things or curse."
Toni? Cmon please talk to me? Please? Where am I anyway? I know you keep telling me, but I forget and then you come again and Im not scared anymore.
"Well, several hours after her operation, when the anesthetic wore off, Megan awoke and she began to have outbursts that are like Tourettes Syndrome, so they decided that they should medically induce her coma so that her brain would have a chance to recover so to speak."
"Are you trying to say that the doctors dont know yet if there is any permanent brain damage?" Toni asked alarmed.
Ouch! Megan screamed. She felt Tonis hands squeeze her upper arm hard and it hurt. Please, Toni Im really scared now! Please talk to me!
"Whoa, slow down. Megans Cat Scans and EEGs have come
back normal. She breathes on her own which is a good sign and the swelling has
gone down considerably. But initially, with the swelling and the possibility
of infection the doctors reasoned that normal brain activity was not conducive
to her recovery. She was extremely agitated when she came out of the anesthetic.
She began thrashing around, pulling out her IVs and cursing a blue streak
"Megan doesnt curse unless shes upset," Toni stated emphatically.
"Exactly. And the doctors have seen this in head trauma patients before. So they induced the coma, kept an eye on her brain activity and now they feel that it will not hamper her recovery, so they will slowly reduce the sedatives so that she can wake on her own."
Toni nodded at the nurse as they continued their massage. She wasnt sure that she understood everything the nurse said, but the nurse seemed hopeful so she reasoned that she should as well. Several minutes later, Nancy excused herself and was on her way to other patients.
Toni sat down next to Megans bed. "Hey there, cutie. Did you miss me?"
Toni oh God Toni! I couldnt hear you and I got scared. Megan squeezed Tonis hand with all her might.
"Hey its okay. Go easy," Toni told her as Megans hand clamped down on hers. "Im right here. I love you," she finished with a kiss on Megans cheek.
On the lips silly.
She felt two squeezes. "No? You dont want a kiss?"
Are you trying to tease me? Megan asked, relieved to be able to understand Tonis words for the first time.
One squeeze. "Yes you want a kiss?"
Yes, are you kidding? Megan laughed.
Another squeeze. "Ah, you want a kiss, but not on the cheek?"
Now youre getting the picture, Megan smiled.
Another big squeeze. Toni laughed and gently kissed Megan on the lips.
Yes! Now thats more like it. Do it again! Megan enthused.
"Another?" She felt Megans eager squeeze again. She leaned in and whispered, "Why, Megan Siobhan OReilly, some might think youre insatiable." Or that I am, she thought.
Oh God Toni, I am when it comes to you!
Toni placed another gentle kiss on Megans lips wanting a response, and she knew that she was getting one, even if it wasnt physical. She knew in her heart that Megan knew she was there with her. It hurt her so to see Megan lying here, helpless. But she was glad that she could be here by here side; at least for the hour they gave her every night.
"Hey," Toni began. She tried to bring back some sort a good memory to share with Megan before she had to leave each evening. "You remember the time we went horseback riding?"
How could I forget that? You walked funny for nearly a week! Megan laughed.
"I really loved it you know. I dont think I told you how much fun I had that day, but I do remember grumbling about how stiff my legs felt afterwards. I thought I was going to walk like that for the rest of my life. But the best part was watching you run that horse. You looked so wild and free. I want to learn how to ride like that, okay?"
Okay. I can teach you.
"Will you teach me how?" Toni asked. Again she felt the reassuring squeeze from Megans hand and at the same time heard Frank clear his throat. It was her cue that they had to leave.
"Ive got to go now Megan, but Ill be back tomorrow night, okay?" Megan squeezed her hand. "I love you with all my heart," Toni whispered in her ear.
I love you too Toni. Megan felt Tonis lips brush hers once again and longed for more.
"Go to sleep now. Get some rest. Ill miss you." With that Megan felt Tonis hand slip away from hers. She wanted to cry, but didnt want Toni to be upset so she held back her tears and slipped gently into sleep as Toni had bid her.
When Toni arrived on Wednesday night, the 9th of February Nancy was already in the room giving her patient her sponge bath.
"What, you couldnt wait?" Toni teased taking up her position on the opposite side of the bed.
"Sorry, we had two more patients come into ICU and I have so much more to do tonight," Nancy informed her.
"I could finish up here," Toni suggested.
"That would be great, but I have to make sure she gets her massage as well. I have to document it, otherwise " she trailed off and made a slashing motion across her neck. She didnt see Toni wince at her gesture. They worked together to finish the bath and then started on the massage.
"You could be a professional," Nancy commented. "You have such a way with her. Im positive now that her face does light up when you come in every night."
"Professional, nah, its just that Im fond of her. Id do anything for her, especially if it means shell get better soon," Toni smiled at the nurse.
"I heard the doctor commenting today that her EKG and her blood pressure level off in the evening. I read the notes he made on her chart and they coincide with your arrival. Interesting huh?"
Toni blushed, but the admission by the nurse made her feel overwhelmingly happy. "Im just glad I can be here for her."
"What about you?" Nancy asked her.
"What about me?" Toni asked, a little confused at the question.
"Hows your arm doing?" Nancy inquired.
"Oh that its nothing," Toni told her. She refused to wear the sling when she came in to help with Megan. In actuality her shoulder hurt quite a bit, but the doctors gave her Vicadin for the pain and it the wound had stopped seeping after three or four days. Now it was a dull ache and a funny looking scar on her left shoulder from where the bullet had lodged in the soft tissue of her upper arm. She still had the bullet in a tiny specimen jar.
"I get the stitches out tomorrow," Toni told her.
They kept up their work on Megans muscles. Megan reveled in the sensation, knowing immediately where on her body Toni was massaging and where the nurse was.
"You know," Nancy whispered, somewhat in awe, "I heard you were the Marshal that took the bastard down."
Tate looked up from his magazine briefly and watched the exchange. Toni wasnt going to discourage the staff from thinking that she was just another Marshal. After all, they dressed her in a US Marshal jacket for her visits so that she wouldnt stand out from the others. "Just lucky I guess," she remarked rather embarrassed.
"Lucky hell you hit the creep right between the eyes. He never saw it coming so to speak. Your friend here was lucky, not like that other Marshal, Alex."
Toni closed her eyes for a minute. The young man whose name Nancy had just mentioned had died a couple of hours after the shooting. He had been hit in the neck and they were surprised at how long he held on. I guess Im responsible for she counted mentally on her fingers, fifteen deaths at my own hand counting the rogue FBI agent and three more indirectly, making eighteen. She counted John Taylor, Alex Duclon and the unknown female agent that had died in Seattle. God, the body count just keeps rising. How will I ever make up for these sins? she asked herself.
"Ill see you tomorrow night," Nancy told Toni and Frank as she left the room to care for her other patients.
Toni sighed and sat down next to Megans bedside once again. She wasnt sure if it was her imagination, but Megans face had a little more color to it tonight. "Hey cutie, youre looking good enough to get out of here."
Where? Get out of where Toni? Where am I exactly? Sometimes I think Im dreaming and sometimes I think maybe Im in a hospital. Is that where I am? Megan asked.
"Listen, the doctors says that you are getting better faster than they expected. So I expect you will be driving them crazy by the end of the week wanting to get out of bed."
Not if youre in it! Megan thought wickedly.
Toni looked at her lovers beautiful face, the bruises had faded considerably and Megans lips twitched into a devilish smile. The look reminded her of when Megan had her mind on one thing.
"Get your mind out of the gutter Megan!" Toni whispered to her.
Never! Megan countered.
"Listen you weve got plenty of time for that later. Right now you have to save up your strength to get well."
Get well? Am I sick? Is that why Im in the hospital? Megan tried to remember what happened that would put her in the hospital. Her mind was a jumble. She remembered everything until after they left Cedar Key and the reggae festival. Actually, she thought, I remember we made love until noon stayed in the little motel an extra day and then what? she wondered. We were supposed to go back to Washington for the trial but she stopped trying to remember because it was causing her head to throb violently.
"Hey Megan sweetie take it easy," Toni soothed. She had noticed that Megans features had seemed to change from thoughtful to concerned. She ran her hand gently across Megans brow, softening the worry lines she saw there. "Im fine and you will be good as new very soon," she told her, brushing the bangs from her eyes. She remembered that Megan had been complaining about needing a trim almost two months ago. She wondered how she was going to react to having nearly half of her head shaved.
But Toni, Megan protested, We have to get you to Washington for the trial! Megan suddenly realized that they had gotten to Washington and she had turned Toni over to Frank but what happened after was a blank. She concentrated, trying to remember what happened next.
"Megan please ssshhh, Im here," Toni murmured. She could tell that Megan was becoming agitated for some reason and she hoped that she wasnt the cause. "Hey how about if I give you a kiss? Hmmm? Would that help?" Toni asked.
Yes, please. That would help a lot Toni, Megan told her and squeezed her hand as hard as she could manage.
"Youre getting a grip like a tiger there, sweetie," Toni smiled. She placed a soft, lingering kiss on her lovers lips and that simple gesture seemed to sooth Megan as her hands and voice had not.
"I remember the first time you kissed me," Toni told her.
You kissed me first, they way I remember it, Megan countered.
"I bet you thought I started it, but it was all your idea."
My idea? Ha! You kissed me!
"Im not saying that I didnt want to kiss you because I did. But you had it all planned, didnt you?" Toni teased Megan; her tone was playful and wondrous. "I had been wanting to kiss you for at least a month by then. What Im saying is that I had wanted to kiss you from the first time I saw you. But I wasnt about to make the first move and you knew that didnt you?"
Yeah, I knew that it would be unlikely that you would kiss me first.
"Thats why I know you set it up. You took me to those caves and even though I was acting like a jerk, you knew that once I was in there that I would let go and live. For the first time in my life I felt alive and you knew that would happen. Thats why you kept it a secret and let me act like a first rate bitch. You knew I wanted to kiss you and you knew I was scared. So you took me to a place you knew had I dont know some sort of magical power over me. A power that only you could have led me to and it gave me the courage that I had been lacking before when I so wanted to hold you in my arms and kiss you. And that moment when I looked you in the eyes I saw your desire. I knew you wanted me to kiss you and I knew that I wanted to kiss you and we did." She held Megans hand lightly and felt Megan squeeze her hand. But what delighted her more was the look of ease, comfort and peace that had come across Megans features.
And I have the picture to prove it! Megan laughed excitedly.
"And then I find out that you hired that little scamp Thomas help you set me up and get photographic evidence didnt you?" Toni was so caught up in the lightness of the moment, that she reached her hand down and tickled Megan without thinking. She drew her hand back immediately when she realized what she was doing and was astounded when Megan giggled and twitched, much like she would when Toni assaulted her in a tickle-fest. Those little battles had become fewer and farther between when Megan learned the one ticklish spot that Toni had on either side, right under her middle ribs. Toni realized that she had stopped initiating tickle battles when she couldnt win every time. She had loved the feeling that she got when she made Megan laugh.
I love it and I hate it when you tickle me, Megan laughed. I love feeling your hands on me even when they are making me crazy kicking and thrashing around, unable to help myself because your hands move so fast and I cant cover up all my ticklish spots. And you always stop when I cry "Mercy" or "Uncle". But when I got your number you backed off. I swear you are such a chicken sometimes.
"You know when you found my soft spot it had nothing to do with where I was ticklish. It had everything to do with what you touched in my heart. I think the only reason I never had a ticklish spot is because Ive never let anyone tickle me. And truth be told, Ive never tickled anyone except you."
"Really. Can you believe? Well, yeah you can." Toni paused. She so wished that Megan could hear her words. She prayed every night for Megan to get better.
I believe in you. I believe that you want to change and I know it is hard. But you have to know that I believe with every fiber of my being that we will be together. If not now then another time. I know you, Toni Ive always known you. And I will know you forever. Megan told these words to Toni, knowing that for some reason, Toni couldnt hear her voice, but she also knew somehow that Toni could hear her somehow on a deeper level.
"I feel it too Megan I know you so well and I dont know why? But " Toni tried to hide it but her voice broke and the tears came quickly. "I dont want to live without you now please I need you."
And I need you too Toni. Megan didnt mean to hesitate in her thoughts, because she was sure that Toni was hearing them and she was beginning to feel sleepy again. You told me not too long ago that Jack would live because his love for Bill was strong. Well damn it! My love for you is stronger than that. My every thought is of you! Gods, Toni, dont you know that? Ive been trying to open my eyes and look at you for I dont know how long! And Im tired all of the time just plain tired. Every time I try to open my eyes its as if they are clamped shut. I just dont have the energy to force them open but lately lately the barrier has been broken I dont feel as powerless. And what you say to me becomes more real more focused. Im going to look into those cobalt-blue eyes of yours and I am going to tell you that I love you and Gods, please Toni, please tell me that you love me too, because I never get tired of hearing it from your lips.
"And I guarantee as a special only now offer to always be devoted to you only. This offer only extends to you and is guaranteed for life yours mine ours. The expiration date on this one and only offer says Infinity! Are there any takers?" Toni whispered on. Toni kept there most intimate moments as quiet as she could, whispering and hoping that Frank Tate wasnt listening as closely as he could. If he heard some of the things that she said to Megan, he couldnt help but see that she was in love with Tates most promising Deputy Marshal. So far as she could tell, the conversations Toni had with Megan had never left the room. Megan had respected Frank and he was instrumental in her sort-of safe return so that she could testify.
Me Me Me! Do I have to buy tickets? I have some E-ride tickets still left. I wasnt tall enough at the time.
"Megan! Are you talking to me?" Toni was sure she saw Megans lips move. She thought she heard Me, me, me and then mumble, mumble, mumble.
"Duh!" she squeaked out.
"Wait! Dont talk please one second." Toni begged. Her mind was spinning. Megan had spoken. The doctors had predicted at least three more days before she would regain consciousness. She grabbed for the pitcher, which contained ice chips and hastily poured nearly half the jug in her hand. She didnt care. She grabbed for a small bunch and pressed them gently into Megans mouth.
"Mmmmmm," Megan nodded. She felt very groggy but wanted to be with Toni for a while. She accepted another tiny handful of ice chips from Toni. When her mouth felt moist enough, Megan said, "I love you Toni," and pulled her in for a kiss.
Toni stood up when she felt Megans lips and arm go slack. She looked at the clock on the wall. It read 9:05 and Toni knew that Megans sedatives flowed in around 9pm. She got to come in every night for nearly four weeks and stay for an hour at 8:30pm. Only a half-hour later the sedatives would start running through Megans veins and she would be as unresponsive as a dead fish. "I love you too Megan. Sweet dreams." Toni knew that it wasnt the drugs speaking. Megan had spoken aloud to her, she heard it, and then turned around to look at Frank Tate he had heard her as well. Megan drifted off into an easier sleep then she had had in a long time.
Megan was disappointed when she became aware of her surroundings and Toni wasnt with her. She heard her mother and father talking, mostly to each other. They spoke of mundane things. She heard them say that Patrick and Colin were taking turns staying with Ewan. Apparently her father phoned home each night to speak to them and let them know how she was doing. She wished that she could speak to her parents as she did to Toni. Every once and again she felt her mothers comforting touch on her face or brow. And on occasion she could feel her fathers callused hand hold hers. She tried to squeeze it to let him know that she was aware that he was there, but he didnt seem to have the connection that she and Toni shared and he didnt respond.
"Hi Pat, Hi Margaret," Nurse Nancy greeted them as she came in to check on her patient.
"Hi Nancy," Margaret responded genially. She wasnt used to seeing Nancy there. She was usually ending her shift when they arrived and Cindy was on, but she found out that Cindy was out sick.
"Good news," she started. "The doctor will be here in a few minutes, but from what I understand, the medicine they are giving her will reach its lowest level today because of her amazing progress. The doctor expects that she will be awake some time this afternoon."
Pat picked up on her hint that Megans recovery had been something other than normal for the situation. "Does he say why her progress is so amazing?"
"Actually, yes. It seems that her vitals stabilize in the late evening and it has given her brain tissue the relaxation it needs to stop swelling as badly," she explained in her best lay terms.
"What do you mean?" Pat asked referring to her explanation of the late evening progress.
"Well, in order for the swelling to go down, they have given her drugs to keep her in an induced coma. It helps decrease the stress and blood pressure levels that have given her brain a chance to heal," Nancy told them.
"I understand that," Pat said, "But why does it level off in the evening?" he asked, getting back to his original inquiry.
"Oh well, Im not sure, but she seems really relaxed when the other two Marshals come to see her."
"What Marshals?" Margaret asked.
"Oh, well I guess they can only come after hours because of the job, but theyre here every night."
"Who are they?" Pat asked curiously, not knowing that some of Megans co-workers were seeing her in the evening, especially every night. They were both aware that nearly half a dozen Marshals were on hand every time they visited, but they tried to remain unobtrusive and none of them actually went into the room.
"Um the older one, his name is Frank and the younger womans name is Toni," she supplied unknowingly.
When she left the room Pat exploded. "How dare they! Dont they have any respect for us? First they tell us she is dead and now they go behind our backs to bring that mobster in here? How dare they keep putting her life in danger!"
Daddy! Please stop yelling. Its okay. I want Toni here and Frank too. Please dont be upset, Megan pleaded quietly. She couldnt help herself as the sobs began to rack her body. She retreated within herself, not knowing that her heart monitor was setting off alarms. Nancy rushed back into the room.
"What happened?" she asked as she rushed to her patients side and sliding the blood pressure cuff on while feeling her heart rate.
"Im not sure," Margaret told her, half-heartedly knowing that Pats outburst had somehow upset their comatose daughter. He had settled down immediately when he saw that his daughter was in distress. The doctor followed only moments later and her sedative was again increased. Margaret tearfully led her husband from the room so the doctor and nurse could work.
They didnt speak until they reached the cafeteria. They each got a cup of coffee and sat down. Pat started. "Its just amazing," he said.
"What is?" his wife asked him.
"That they have no respect for us whatsoever."
"Pat, honey, Im sure that they werent trying to hurt us "
He cut her off. "Sure as hell they were! They told us that our little girl was dead. For crying out loud Margaret, we were forced to attend her damned funeral! They dont care who they stomp on in pursuit of their goal. They used our daughter. She protected this damned mobster from harm for over four months, almost three of which we thought she was gone dead and they didnt even apologize for their cruelty. Megan did. She was the one who sent us the letter telling us that she was fine! And now I find out that the mobster that she has been protecting is getting visiting privileges like she was a family member, and can come and go without our even knowing. Damn it that hurts!"
Margaret held her husbands hand. "Pat really we dont know that the person Nancy was referring to was That Toni".
"Do you really think I need to ask Nancy for a physical description?"
She couldnt understand why they would let the woman in to see their daughter either, but it didnt surprise her. "Pat you know our daughter. She has a tendency to instill the most incredible loyalty in others. Maybe she touched this woman this mobster in ways we cant understand. Could it be that this Toni has forged a friendship with Megan and wants to make sure that she is well?"
"A leopard cant change its spots Margaret. And I dont give a damn about how she feels about our daughter. All that I know is that she has put our daughters life in jeopardy on several occasions and I dont think it will stop now. They are bringing her here every night the nurse said. How much longer should we wait to see if those damn mobsters dont try to finish her off? Frankly I dont give a rats ass how many attempts they make on her, but as long as she is allowed access to Megan, Megans chances of harm increase."
Margaret realized that her husband was right. Even though she knew that anyone who had gotten to know her daughter over the course of several months couldnt help but love her, she knew that she also wasnt willing to risk her daughters life for anyone else. "We should go back up," she told him.
They visited with their daughter for several hours. She was heavily drugged again. Margaret tried to encourage her to wake up, but her efforts were in vain. Her husband had left a half-hour ago to make some phone calls.
Patrick OReilly called Frank Tate and was told that he was not available. He insisted that he would be waiting for him at the hospital if the man couldnt find time to call him. Tates secretary relayed the message to her boss.
When he received the message, Frank Tate knew that somehow, Pat OReilly had learned of their late night, clandestine visits to his daughters room. He dreaded the conversation that would result in their meeting.
Tate had his secretary schedule an appointment with Patrick OReilly the hour before his and Tonis regular visit to Megans room.
"Mr. OReilly," Frank said, extending his hand. Pat looked at him and then sat down in a chair opposite, without reciprocating the greeting. "You wanted to talk?"
"Mr. Tate," Pat OReilly began, venom dripping from his every word. "How dare you bring that woman in to see my daughter every night. I had expressly forbid her from seeing my daughter, yet you went behind my back to make sure that she did "
"Mr. OReilly " Frank tried to interject into the one-sided conversation.
"No! Do not interrupt me. These visits will stop immediately. As far as Im concerned, you no longer have jurisdiction over my daughters life. You cant come and go as you please "
"Mr. OReilly please let me explain?"
"I dont care what you have to say and I will have a court order by morning forbidding her presence in my daughters general vicinity." He jumped up as he pounded his fist on the desk in front of him.
"Mr. OReilly I understand your concern "
"Obviously you dont or you wouldnt have gone against our wishes!"
"If you will stop interrupting me, I will explain my actions to you," Frank Tate told him rather abruptly. "Sit down now!" Tate ordered. Having been a career officer, he still took orders well. He sat down in the chair provided.
"Go ahead," Pat waved him on. When Tate took his seat he began.
"As you well know, Megan was the controlling agent on our federal witness. She and " he hesitated for a moment wondering if he should refer to her by her name or her generic title again. He decided that he should personalize the situation. "She and Toni have become very close friends. I controlled their situation from here. When the situation became volatile I insisted that Megan relinquish the case, but she wouldnt. She insisted on staying in control of the witness. I insisted that she turn the witness over to other agents but she would not. To be honest with you, I dont know why she chose to stay on the assignment when I gave her the opportunity to back out. But this was Megans decision. Mr. OReilly, I dont pretend to understand the connection that they have with each other, but they do have one. They have spent the last four months, 24/7 with each other and they are very dedicated to one another. And Im not sure if you have talked to the doctors lately but it seems that Tonis visits have had a very good effect on Megans condition "
"Ive heard that," Pat cut him off again, "But Im not banking on her saving my daughter. This woman has an entire mob family after her. And you have opened the door for my daughter to be in further danger. Hasnt she done enough for you? Do you need her to die in order to prove her dedication to her job?"
"No sir. Im certainly not in any way trying to invite harm to Megan. But, to be perfectly honest with you our witness declined to testify against the Ribisi family unless we allowed her to visit your daughter nightly "
Pat cut him off again. "So youve allowed a murderer to dictate to you what my daughters fate will be?"
"Please Mr. OReilly weve got a dozen Marshals on duty throughout the day "
"For what? There were a dozen Marshals surrounding your witness, but someone tried to kill her anyway. And in the process they shot my daughter. How do you expect me to trust you? I asked you not to allow this mobster to visit my daughter, but you ignored my wishes "
"And she has been safe for three weeks. AND according to the doctors, Tonis visits have improved her well being "
"Thats a crock! I believed you would respect my wishes and instead youve flaunted your authority to make a universal decision to put my daughter in danger over and over again."
"Mr. OReilly the man that made an attempt on your daughters life was the last person that will ever get near her again. But Toni is different "
"How? How can you guarantee me that Toni will never be a target again? Weve both found out the hard way that anyone can be bought. What makes you think that this man was the last resort? What makes you think that no one will try to kill this woman for the duration of the trial? And why should you expect me and my family to simply step back and allow you to walk all over our wishes?"
"Frankly Mr. OReilly, I dont. I dont expect you to sit back and take no action. But you have to know this: our witness will refuse to testify unless she is allowed access to your daughter. I have been present in the room for every hour of every visit and I see nothing but good coming from their time together!" Frank Tates voice was raised now with a bit of ire. He had reluctantly agreed to the visits in order to get his witness to testify against one of the most predominant crime families in the country and had become privy to a bond that he had never seen between two human beings in his entire life. At this point he felt nearly as protective of Toni as Megan had been during her four months with the former mob enforcer and he saw the person that his young Marshal saw. "I understand your anger I have children of my own but you do not know the person that Toni is, like I do. You might take a moment to meet and get to know the person who your daughter saw fit to protect for four months before you pass judgement on her. As for her safety I have had Marshals on duty day and night keeping her safe. And if you are not willing to meet me at least half way on this I too will obtain a court order, because we have been trying to put the Ribisi family out of business for nearly twenty years and this is the first break we have ever had toward that end." With that, Frank finally wound down. He hoped that the man sitting across the desk from him, a fellow officer of the law would understand him and work with him instead of against him.
Pat OReilly looked steadily at the man across the desk from him, taking in his words. He was so afraid for his daughters life that he hadnt been ready to hear a plea as passionate as the one that had been presented to him. He pondered his options and after a few minutes, conceded to meeting the woman who insisted on visiting his daughter. He wasnt happy about it and he would meet her with a preconceived notion of who she was and would always be. But he had to take into consideration the fact that Megan had insisted on protecting this woman when she could have been off the case and the fact that the trial against the mob family would come to a standstill if he resisted in making this peace offering.
"Okay well meet her. But I want you to know that I dont agree with you. I feel strongly that my little girls life is in danger because of her connection to this mobster and I dont think meeting her will change my mind."
"Fair enough. And for the record, I disliked Toni Ferenci the first time I met her until I saw her with Megan," Frank told Megans father.
Frank left for the jail to pick up his charge and take her to the hospital for her visit while Pat OReilly left for Megans condo where his wife was waiting for him to return from his meeting with the Federal Marshal.
Margaret OReilly paced around her daughters condo when her husband left for his meeting with Frank Tate. She had cleaned the place thoroughly although it was very tidy, having been used very little in the last four months. She and her husband were staying there to cut down on the cost of their trip. When they knew that they were going to have an extended stay, they had moved from their hotel room to Megans place.
Nervous and unable to find a task to occupy herself, Margaret decided to log onto Megans laptop to check her email. She and Pat had only had their own computer for a little over two years and email was the only thing she used it for. Ewan had his own computer and since he was on it all of the time they had decided to buy their own computer. She found it a useful tool, as some of her cousins, even in their later years had found that email was so much easier than letters or phone calls.
As the computer came to life, Margaret froze. She wasnt sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her, or if she was seeing what was actually before her. She rubbed her eyes and the image was still displayed. It showed her daughter and the mobster known as Toni kissing in what looked like a cave. She sat for several minutes mesmerized until the screen saver took over and shook her out of her daze. She manipulated the mouse and quickly found a file titled "photos". Unable to stop herself from what was obviously an intrusion into Megans privacy, she opened the file and brought up nearly a dozen photo files. They were all dated during the four months that her daughter had been hiding her witness. She enlarged one dated in November and saw a picture of Megan, a woman who must have been her witness Toni, and a youngish man standing on what looked like the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. They were hamming it up for the camera wearing snorkels, masks and swim fins. It looked to her to be a vacation photo. She looked at several other photos and saw the developing relationship that Megan was having with Toni.
It took her several more minutes before she realized what she was looking at. She and her husband had been recently told by their son Sean that his sexual orientation was different from that of his brothers and sisters. They hadnt really blinked an eye, having known for some time that their young son was different. They had talked of it and had come to the conclusion that they would love him nonetheless. They had wondered to each other whether Megan had the same sort of orientation. But they had shaken their heads, deciding that she was simply reluctant to commit to any one young man because of her devotion to her studies and then her job. But now it was staring her in the face. Her daughter had stayed on the job to protect this woman because she cared for her was "in love" with her. She wasnt sure whether to laugh or cry at the revelation. She wanted to laugh because the photos she was looking at showed her daughter happier than she had ever seen her. She wanted to cry because a former mob enforcer was eliciting the look from her daughter.
Margaret barely heard Pat knock on the door after his meeting. She closed the laptop and opened the door for him. She tried to judge by his demeanor what had happened, but he looked as bewildered as she felt. She had a pot of coffee on and brought him a cup as he slumped down at the kitchen table. Unable to read his thoughts and unable to bear the silence any longer she asked, "Well? What happened?"
"I talked to Tate," he stated. Another heavy, pregnant pause followed.
"Well? What did he say? Is it her?" Margaret asked almost exasperated at her husbands reluctance to talk.
"Yeah its her. It seems she forced the Justice Department to allow her to visit Megan in return for her testimony." He was unable to focus his thoughts enough to tell his wife about their conversation because his mind was still swimming with the details and ramifications of what they talked about.
"Did you tell him that we dont want her to have access to Megan?"
"Yeah. And he told me that if her access was cut off that she would stop testifying."
Margaret swallowed this information before continuing her questions. "What did you say?"
"He asked us to meet her this mobster before we passed judgement on her. He said that the doctors said her recovery was due in part to " he had trouble speaking her name. He was afraid that if he spoke her name it would humanize her in his eyes and he was determined not to let that happen. But he found that he couldnt talk about her as "that woman" or "that mobster" and still hold an intelligent conversation so he made an effort. "Tate said what the nurse said that Tonis visits have had a good influence on Megans recovery."
Pats inflection when he spoke Tonis name was not lost on Margaret. "So are we? I mean are we going to meet her?"
"Yeah. I said that we would. But I dont really think that will change my opinion of her. She has been nothing but trouble for Megan."
"Pat I think you should see something before we meet her."
"What?" he asked, still feeling numb.
Margaret opened the laptop once more and showed him the background picture that was on their daughters laptop. He stared at the picture in disbelief. "Margaret please tell me this isnt what Im seeing?" Is this what Tate had been trying to tell him that his daughter his Megan was in love with this woman?
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