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.
Thank you to my beta author
Also thanks to my beta readers
Mercury and Pawkat.
All comments can be sent to
Toni drove through the early
morning. They decided to head toward Baton Rouge so that they could rest and
regroup. Megan had told her that she wanted to make sure that Diana was all
right as well, which would mean a call to Frank Tate. She knew that Diana wouldn't
be in any serious trouble, but that Deputy Billings might. After all, he had
arrested the young woman on a bad charge. Not false, she reminded herself, but
bad, since there would be no way he could prove that she had a Deputy Marshall's
badge in her possession. But, it would definitely come up that he was sure he
had recognized Toni Ferenci. This knowledge was what precipitated their exit
from New Orleans, which they had hoped would be their last stop. Certainly this
faux pas on Deputy Billings part would reach the ears of others in their ranks.
They were disappointed that they couldn't stay. They had become very comfortable
there and had wanted to spend the next couple of months hiding out in this town
that had accepted them so openly.
They also knew that it was possible
that Diana might be scared enough to provide the Marshalls with descriptions
of them both, but even if she did, they now had a head start, and Megan had
kept a vigilant watch as they drove, that no one was following them.
They settled on a small motel
room and fell into an exhausted sleep in each other's arms.
Morning came and Megan went
through her ritual of listening to the Herald ads. She heard Tate's voice and
quickly wrote down the beeper number he provided and dialed it immediately.
It was nearly a half an hour later when he dialed the pay phone back.
"Hello," she answered cautiously.
The first response she heard
was a light chuckle. "New Orleans, huh?" he asked.
"Yeah, how did you ever guess?"
"Well, besides the fact that
we may be looking at a false arrest lawsuit, and the fact that that young hot-head
in New Orleans is sure he recognized your chargeÖnothing," he chuckled again.
"Sorry. We were doing fine there
until he decided he recognized someone. I stayed out of sight, so he was unable
to connect me with her," she added, keeping the conversation vague.
"Well, you would probably like
to know that the young lady, Diana, denied everything. The boy looked like a
fool, but word is out that your charge is there."
"Not anymore, but I'm sure you
know that by now."
"Look, I downsized some of the
non-essential staff around here, and everything's been quiet. So I'm hoping
that our leak was one of those people, but I'm not taking any chances. Move
"MeganÖI know this was not your
fault. I don't expect that the two of you can sit in some dank motel room for
the next two or so months, and that this was just a fluke. But watch your back.
Based on the information provided, several of the indictments have come in,
but not all of them. Of course, the big guy fled. Probably to Switzerland, or
maybe some Caribbean island, but there are still others who we don't have in
custody working behind the scenes. Keep low and do the best you can."
"Thanks, I'll try," Megan assured
"I know you will. Megan," he
paused, unsure how to tell her this bit of news, except to just say it. "Your
father is very angry. He has insisted that we order a full inquiry into your
death. He suspects that there was someone inside, as well, who blew your cover,
and he is not letting it go."
"HowÖhow is my mother? Have
you seen her?"
He really didn't want to relay
this information, but he knew that she would see right through him if he lied
to her. "She's not taking it well at all. Unfortunately, their outrage over
what happened makes the false trail legitimate. They were extremely upset that
we would not let them view the bodyÖbut I'm sure you know why we did that."
"YeahÖI guessÖ" Megan told him.
He could hear the pain and defeat in her voice.
"Hey, listen, I know it's hard.
And I know that it is even harder on them than on you, and I've tried to rationalize
telling them the truth, but I believe that their reaction is going to save their
lives. Believe me when I say, that if I had to take it back, I would have pulled
you off the case."
"NoÖI wouldn't have let you.
I can't say I'm pleased that we are putting my family through this, but I do
understand why you did it. It justÖhurts," she couldn't help herself as she
"MeganÖwe still canÖif you want.
I'll just assign someone else."
"No," she answered forcefully,
regaining her composure. "I'm going to see this through to the end. I'm going
to make sure she is there for the trial. I'm sorry I lost it."
"Don't be. I understand Megan,
but I can't say I know what you are going through, because I don't. I just want
you to be safe."
"I amÖwe are," she assured him.
Quietly they terminated the connection.
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.
Thank you to my beta author Buxxer.
Also thanks to my beta readers Mercury and Pawkat.
All comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Toni drove through the early morning. They decided to head toward Baton Rouge so that they could rest and regroup. Megan had told her that she wanted to make sure that Diana was all right as well, which would mean a call to Frank Tate. She knew that Diana wouldn't be in any serious trouble, but that Deputy Billings might. After all, he had arrested the young woman on a bad charge. Not false, she reminded herself, but bad, since there would be no way he could prove that she had a Deputy Marshall's badge in her possession. But, it would definitely come up that he was sure he had recognized Toni Ferenci. This knowledge was what precipitated their exit from New Orleans, which they had hoped would be their last stop. Certainly this faux pas on Deputy Billings part would reach the ears of others in their ranks. They were disappointed that they couldn't stay. They had become very comfortable there and had wanted to spend the next couple of months hiding out in this town that had accepted them so openly.
They also knew that it was possible that Diana might be scared enough to provide the Marshalls with descriptions of them both, but even if she did, they now had a head start, and Megan had kept a vigilant watch as they drove, that no one was following them.
They settled on a small motel room and fell into an exhausted sleep in each other's arms.
Morning came and Megan went through her ritual of listening to the Herald ads. She heard Tate's voice and quickly wrote down the beeper number he provided and dialed it immediately. It was nearly a half an hour later when he dialed the pay phone back.
"Hello," she answered cautiously.
The first response she heard was a light chuckle. "New Orleans, huh?" he asked.
"Yeah, how did you ever guess?"
"Well, besides the fact that we may be looking at a false arrest lawsuit, and the fact that that young hot-head in New Orleans is sure he recognized your chargeÖnothing," he chuckled again.
"Sorry. We were doing fine there until he decided he recognized someone. I stayed out of sight, so he was unable to connect me with her," she added, keeping the conversation vague.
"Well, you would probably like to know that the young lady, Diana, denied everything. The boy looked like a fool, but word is out that your charge is there."
"Not anymore, but I'm sure you know that by now."
"Look, I downsized some of the non-essential staff around here, and everything's been quiet. So I'm hoping that our leak was one of those people, but I'm not taking any chances. Move on."
"MeganÖI know this was not your fault. I don't expect that the two of you can sit in some dank motel room for the next two or so months, and that this was just a fluke. But watch your back. Based on the information provided, several of the indictments have come in, but not all of them. Of course, the big guy fled. Probably to Switzerland, or maybe some Caribbean island, but there are still others who we don't have in custody working behind the scenes. Keep low and do the best you can."
"Thanks, I'll try," Megan assured her boss.
"I know you will. Megan," he paused, unsure how to tell her this bit of news, except to just say it. "Your father is very angry. He has insisted that we order a full inquiry into your death. He suspects that there was someone inside, as well, who blew your cover, and he is not letting it go."
"HowÖhow is my mother? Have you seen her?"
He really didn't want to relay this information, but he knew that she would see right through him if he lied to her. "She's not taking it well at all. Unfortunately, their outrage over what happened makes the false trail legitimate. They were extremely upset that we would not let them view the bodyÖbut I'm sure you know why we did that."
"YeahÖI guessÖ" Megan told him. He could hear the pain and defeat in her voice.
"Hey, listen, I know it's hard. And I know that it is even harder on them than on you, and I've tried to rationalize telling them the truth, but I believe that their reaction is going to save their lives. Believe me when I say, that if I had to take it back, I would have pulled you off the case."
"NoÖI wouldn't have let you. I can't say I'm pleased that we are putting my family through this, but I do understand why you did it. It justÖhurts," she couldn't help herself as she sobbed openly.
"MeganÖwe still canÖif you want. I'll just assign someone else."
"No," she answered forcefully, regaining her composure. "I'm going to see this through to the end. I'm going to make sure she is there for the trial. I'm sorry I lost it."
"Don't be. I understand Megan, but I can't say I know what you are going through, because I don't. I just want you to be safe."
"I amÖwe are," she assured him. Quietly they terminated the connection.
"Where now?" Toni asked, knowing that they needed to move at least a fair distance from New Orleans.
"I really don't know," Megan admitted. "I'd like to have stayed where we were."
"Yeah, me too, but that's not an option. But maybe we could go somewhere similarÖI mean, someplace that will accept usÖyou knowÖbeing together."
"You've got a good point. It was easy for us to blend in there, because people weren't paying any attention to us. The only places I can think of off hand are San Francisco and Key West. And if that doesn't sound like a clichÈ, I don't know what does."
"Have you been to either place?" Toni asked her, ignoring the clichÈ comment.
"Yeah, Key West, of course. I mean, I grew up in South Florida, and I've been down there a few times with friends."
"SoÖour choices would be somewhere we've never been, which is quite a ways away, or someplace you have been which is much closer," she said, matter-of-factly. She would rather go to someplace Megan recognized, than someplace they would have to hunt for acceptance again, but she wanted Megan to make that decision.
"Would you like to see Key West?" Megan asked her lover.
"Only if you were the one showing me around," Toni smiled back at her. The decision made, they decided to leave the next morning.
They figured that their best route was to go right towards Tallahassee Florida, which had them briefly crossing Mississippi and Alabama before they hit Florida's panhandle. They reached Tallahassee in just over ten hours with a stop for lunch. They secured a motel room outside of the city, hoping to avoid the college crowds.
Toni couldn't help looking over Megan's shoulder as she studied the map in front of her, seemingly to search out the best route to Key West, at the southernmost point in Florida. She noted that Gainesville was a convenient stop on that route.
"Have you figured it out?" she asked Megan.
"UmÖyeah," Megan told her, folding the map up.
"You want to stop in Gainesville, don't you?" she asked gently.
"I'm sorryÖI can't help it. I want to see Sean."
"I know baby," Toni assured her, wrapping her up in her arms. "But it's not a good idea. If anyone found outÖ" she let the thought linger, not wanting to express the horrible things that might happen to Megan's loved ones if they knew she was still alive.
"I know," Megan answered, snuggling into her embrace, "but I can't help it. I can't stand the thought that they think I'm gone. And I wonder what it will be like for them in a couple of months when I'm there, and they've gone through all this grieving. They'll hate me for putting them through this."
"No they won't MeganÖthey'll be so happy to see you, that they will forgive you anything, even this cruel deception."
"I hope you're rightÖI just can't stand it."
"I'm sorryÖthis is all my faultÖ"
"No it isn't," Megan told her, stopping her with fingers to her lips. "Tate and the Justice Department decided on this course of action. No one asked them to, and I certainly wouldn't have suggested itÖbutÖwellÖ" she hesitated before finishing, "Tate offered to take me off the case againÖ"
"I told him no. I don't want to be away from you ToniÖcan't you understand that?"
"Yes, because I don't want you to go. But I don't have anything to loseÖyou do."
"Yes you doÖyour lifeÖyour freedomÖdon't you want that?" she asked passionately.
"Not without you I don'tÖnot anymore," Toni said, kissing Megan on the forehead. "When I started on this path, I wanted revengeÖfor my father and for Sal. I didn't care whether they hurt me in the process, but when your partner John was killed, I realized that my desire for revenge would take a heavier toll than them just seeking me out. And nowÖnowÖI would just as soon turn myself over before seeing anything happen to you. I don't care about revenge anymore. . I don't even care if they are brought to justice. I only care about you. And I hate what I'm doing to you and your family Megan. Please let Tate take you off this caseÖso I know that I'm not causing you any pain."
Megan was taken off guard by this frank admission from her lover. Now she saw what Toni had been trying to do in New Orleans. She hadn't been rejecting her, but she had been trying to save her from this grief. "No way," Megan responded her voice husky with tears. "If I let him do that, then I won't be with youÖI won't be here to protect youÖand I don't want to be away from you. I can't give you up ToniÖnot for anyoneÖnot even for my family. I've never felt this strongly in my life, and unless you want me to goÖunless you don't want me hereÖI'm stayingÖuntil the end," she said with a finality to her voice.
"But I don't want you in this positionÖI don't want you to hurt because of meÖdon't you get that, damn it?" Toni fired off.
"And I won't see you compromised because of me. I am the only one who cares enough to see you through thisÖand I'm doing it because I love youÖdon't you get that?" Megan shot back.
They looked at each other steadily, both knowing that they weren't trying to hurt the other, but trying to rationalize their need to be together despite the great personal costs. Megan was overwhelmed and needed to be reassured by her lover that what they had would continue and go beyond the hurt they were causing. She moved in for a kiss. Toni responded, much to her delight with a slow, lingering kiss that dispelled any doubts from her mind. Their passion became feverish within moments, and they didn't hesitate to reassure one another that this was something worth fighting for.
They packed up their belongings and were on their way the next morning. They had to travel south on I-75 right past Gainesville. The nearer they came to the Gainesville exits, the more agitated Megan became Toni noticed. Finally she couldn't stand it anymore. She pulled off.
"What are you doing?" Megan asked, knowing that she was so close to two of her brothers, Sean especially.
"There's a Waffle House down there," Toni responded in a nonchalant manner, "I'm hungry."
"ButÖyou can'tÖwe can'tÖstop here. ToniÖwhat are you thinking?" Megan demanded.
"I'm thinking that I'm hungryÖand that you really want to stop here, even if it is just for an hour." She smiled shyly at her distressed lover. She had decided that even if they only stopped here overnight, it would bring a small amount of peace to Megan, and she was determined to talk Megan into it over breakfast. She could tell her lover was very uneasy, but she let the waitress bring them to a table and she buried herself in the menu, ignoring Megan's glares.
Looking around, Megan was glad she didn't see anyone she recognized, or anyone who would recognize her. She hadn't spent a lot of time in this particular town, but enough to know that Sean loved it, and Duncan was having a great time. Yeah they knew people, and had introduced her to many, but like any other town; the people she had met probably wouldn't recognize her out of contextÖin other words, without one of her brothers with her. She relaxed a little and studied the menu. She was still pretty aggravated with Toni for making this stop, and for insisting that she was the reason she did so. She admitted to herself that she wanted to stopÖbut her main reason was to visit Sean. If she couldn't do thatÖthen what was the point? The waitress brought them coffee and they ordered their breakfast.
The food came rather quickly, and Megan hadn't had time to muster her argument to Toni. They ate in silence for several minutes.
"It's nice here," Toni commented between bites.
"YeahÖ" Megan began, and then remembered she was supposed to be mad at Toni. "You stopped here on purposeÖyou told me soÖwhy?"
Toni put down her fork and reached across the little table and grabbed Megan's hand. "Because I was tired of seeing you hurting. I know you want to be here, even though you shouldn't. Maybe we can stay for a couple of days. Maybe you can see that Sean and Duncan are alright and then we can move on."
"That would be nice," she said reflectively, thinking back to better times with her brothers, "but how?"
"Well, they do go to school here, don't they?"
"SoÖwe can get a roomÖwalk over to the campus and see themÖyou knowÖfrom a distance. Then you will know that they are still thereÖstill goingÖ" she dropped her train of thought. Toni had no idea how someone could keep going after losing Megan, and she hoped that her brothers were at least coping. She wanted Megan to see them, going on, living their lives, despite the recent trauma, but she realized what she was saying to her lover is that they can go on without youÖand that wasn't what she was trying to convey. "I meanÖyou can see that they are alright."
"ToniÖyou can be so sweet sometimesÖespecially when you aren't trying to. I would love to stay for a couple of days. And peek in on Sean and Duncan. I do want to know that this hasn'tÖruined their lives. It would make me feel a little bit better."
"Great," Toni said with a smile at her little triumph. "Do you know a place we can stay?"
"YeahÖthere's this great little motel right around the corner from campus called the Rush Lake. It's very secluded and quiet. And just a stones throw from campus. I just hope we can get a room, considering it is football season," she added with a gentle smile.
They were able to get a room. It was a Wednesday, the 3rd of November. Although they both had misgivings about what they were doing, they did it anyway. Toni knew that Megan wanted to be there, and Megan, despite her better judgement, wanted to be there. There was a burger joint across the street called the Steak and Shake, and they had great burgers and even better shakes. They decided to "look in" on Megan's brothers the next day. Duncan lived on campus at the athletic dorm, but Sean had an off-campus apartment, just down the road from the hotel.
They arose early the next morning and drove to Sean's apartment complex. They parked a ways down from his apartment and waited, Megan having spotted his car in the parking lot. When Sean emerged, Toni thought her hand was going to be crushed by the hold Megan suddenly took on it. Although she had seen a couple of pictures of Megan's closest brother, she was totally thrown by the resemblance. There was absolutely no mistaking the young man for a relative of Megan's. He was probably a couple of inches taller than she was, but he had the same shape face, and the same strawberry-blonde hair color. He wore his hair past his shoulders, but kept it in a neat ponytail and sported a neatly trimmed goatee. They watched as he got into his Jeep and exited the parking lot. Megan started the car and began to follow at a discreet distance. They followed him onto campus, but were stopped at the guard shack. He obviously had a parking pass which let him enter, while they were turned away. Disappointed, but determined, Megan led them to a lot, which on the weekends served as a church parking lot, but during the week, they allowed others to park for a fee.
They were on foot now. "Where might we find him?" Toni questioned.
"I'm not sure. I know the computer labs are this way," Megan told her, leading her across the University of Florida Campus. They walked in amiable silence, both of them reminiscing about their own college days. They watched as students rushed from one place to another, backpacks slung across their shoulders, and remembered what it was like. The day was brisk, but not necessarily cold, although some students were dressed as though it was snowing.
It brought Toni right back to her own college days. Mostly, it reminded her of a recurring nightmare. She would awake, having dreamed that she missed some final or another, because she had not gone to class, or they had moved the final, or changed the time at the last minute. She shuddered at the memory. She had never once missed a class, nor a final, and so never understood that particular nightmare. She watched her lover closely. Megan was nervous, she could tell, mostly because she was looking around constantly, as if someone might recognize her, which Toni didn't doubt, someone might. But they made their way across the campus, slowing as they neared the computer sciences buildings.
"Hey," Toni suggested, "why don't you wait here, and I'll poke my head in some doors? Okay?"
"Yeah, I guess," Megan agreed, not really wanting to stop. What she really wanted to do was to talk to Sean, let him know that she was all right, and not to worry, but that wasn't why they were there, and she knew it was something she couldn't do. So she encouraged Toni to go ahead, and she took a seat on one of the many convenient benches.
Toni walked through the corridors, familiar, yet not, and looked through the windows to the rooms as she passed. Finally she looked through, and saw Megan's brother. Megan had told her he was a teaching assistant, but she hadn't really expected to see him teaching a class, yet there he was, at the front of a class, obviously lecturing. She entered the room quietly, knowing that she probably wouldn't be noticed, much, since there were at least a hundred people in the class. She sat at the first seat she could find in the rear to listen for a while. He was lecturing about computer language, something that was totally foreign to her. She saw that he looked tired, and sad. After a few minutes, she heard a couple of the students nearby talking.
"What's going on?" one guy asked the girl sitting next to him.
"No ideaÖbut I don't think I've ever been so bored."
"Christ, a couple of weeks ago he made this stuff sound like a lot of funÖnow he sounds about as interesting as my accounting professor."
"Well I hope he gets over it, or I'm gonna drop this class."
"Shit, it's almost over, just ride it outÖI'm sure he'll be himself soon," the young man assured the co-ed he was seated next to.
At this point, Toni wanted to slug both of them in the jaw, but knew better. It was obvious that Sean's students didn't know his personal business, and it wasn't her place to point it out, no matter how much it disturbed her. She listened for about ten more minutes, then left to find Megan. She found her just where she left her, but now she had one of those vending machine coffees in a poker cup, in her hands.
"HeyÖwhatÖdid you find him?"
"Yeah. He's lecturing just down the hall."
"How is he? I meanÖdoes he look okay?"
"He looks fineÖbutÖhis students were talkingÖthey know something is wrong. They say he is not himselfÖI'm sorry," she noted the disappointed look on Megan's face, "I just don't know how else to say it. Apparently his class is usually more interestingÖand now he sounds like a textbook." She took Megan's free hand and squeezed it sympathetically.
"It's okayÖI meanÖI wouldn't want you to lie to me, and tell me that he is great. I know Sean. He is very emotional. He wears his heart on his sleeve. I didn't guess he would act differently. I'm just sorryÖthat I'm putting him through this," Megan told her. Her head was turned away, but Toni could hear the tears in her voice, she didn't need to see Megan's face to know that she was crying.
Toni pulled her in close, and kissed the top of her head. "He'll be fine, and more so when he knows that you are too."
"YeahÖjust wish I could tell him now."
"I knowÖI know," Toni agreed, again cursing herself for her own part in Megan's misery.
"Hey, what about DuncanÖdon't you want to see him too?"
"YeahÖbut I have no idea what he's studying besides football," Megan allowed with a wry laugh.
"Don't they usually practice in the afternoons?" Toni asked.
"Yeah, but I don't think we'll be allowed to see a practice."
"I know, but he still has to come and goÖdoesn't he?" she asked again, wagging her eyebrows as though she had an idea.
"Okay," Megan allowed, "what do you have in mind?"
"What say we go get some lunch and then hang around the football field afterwards?"
"Sounds like a plan," Megan said enthusiastically, wiping the tears from her face.
"Do you have any place in mind?" Toni asked as she followed Megan across the campus once more.
"As a matter of fact, I do," she smiled, taking Toni's hand and leading her. "Once when I came to visit Sean, we were walking down that street up there," she pointed towards the street they were headed toward, "and we just stopped. We smelled the most amazing thing. Fresh burgers grilling. There was absolutely no mistaking that it was not coming from a Burger King. We simply followed our noses, and it led us to this little cafÈ, tucked behind all these other shopping centers. Its called CafÈ Gardens, and they make the best burgers, and fried mushrooms you've ever had," she smiled as she took Toni on a tour.
They ateÖas per Megan's recommendation, the best burger and the absolute best fried mushroomsÖmainly because they served them with a "to die for" tiger sauce. They wandered the campus near the stadium until it became clear that the players were done with classes and were getting ready for practice. They sat on a bench and watched. Finally Megan saw Duncan, dressed in his practice uniform. Toni realized only soon enough, that Megan had been so anxious to see him that she was about to yell out to him, she grabbed her and settled her down, just in time. They watched as he headed into the stadium with his teammates. Unfortunately from her perspective and from Megan's, Duncan looked subdued. Megan was again, near tears, as Toni tried to comfort her. Dejected, they headed back towards their motel room.
They ate again at the Steak and Shake, mostly because it was inexpensive, but also because it was close. As they were leaving the little burger joint, Megan cast a wistful glance across the street. There was a pool hall called the Players Club.
"Would you like to go over there and maybe get a drink?" Toni asked.
"If you don't mind," Megan responded.
"Not at allÖmaybe I can even play a game of pool, if you don't mind?"
"Why should I? In fact, maybe you would like to challenge me to a game?"
"You shoot pool?" Toni asked, surprised.
"Wouldn't you like to know," Megan responded with a little bit of her normal good humor.
They crossed the street and ordered a couple of bourbon and cokes and got a table. A couple of games later they found that they were pretty evenly matched which surprised both of them. Soon, others were asking for them to play, and they agreed, as long as they got to be partners, two against two opponents. They spent the evening having quite a bit of fun, and getting pleasantly buzzed, knowing that they had only to walk across the street to go to sleep.
They awoke the next morning, both a little hung over, because they had wagered drinks, as to who would win each game, and they had ruled supreme. They had had to buy one pitcher of beer, and their own drinks had been bought for them as winnings from their shooting prowess. Now they both regretted it.
"Tell me what the hell we did last night," Megan lamented as they tried to rise.
"Either we kicked assÖor ass kicked usÖI'm not sure," Toni chuckled lightly, holding her aching head.
"We should leave," Megan told Toni, sadly.
"Megan, I'm not sure that either of us is in any condition to drive. Maybe we should just sleep here one more night, and then go."
"You've got a point," Megan agreed, "I'm sure I couldn't possibly get behind the wheel. I suppose I was hoping that you felt slightly better."
"Nope, sorry," Toni shrugged, knowing that she could probably drive about an hour before wanting to doze off again. "Let me go down and make sure we can have the room one more night. We'll spend a quiet evening in, and then we'll leave in the morning. Okay?"
"Sounds like a plan," Megan agreed.
Toni secured the room for a second night and they decided that they were too tired to go out, so they ordered a pizza for delivery. They ate their lunch in bed. After a while they both fell asleep in each other's arms. Toni awoke. It was evening. The clock at the bedside read 7:30pm. Megan was still fast asleep. Having devoured the pizza, Toni knew that they would need something to eat for dinner. She wrote Megan a quick note and quietly left the room.
At first, Toni's only motive was to get dinner, but as she pulled out of the motel parking lot, her thoughts changed. She headed towards Sean's apartment. When she arrived, she saw that his Jeep was not in its space. She wanted to take this as a sign, not to interfere, but decided that sometimes signs needed a little time to play themselves out. She walked up the stairs and sat down on his doorstep. She had waited only fifteen minutes when she saw him come from the parking lot. As he mounted the steps, she stood. He approached warily, as the steps ended at his landing only.
"Can I help you?" he asked hesitantly.
"IÖI need to talk to you," was all Toni could muster.
"Look, if you need notesÖtalk to your classmates."
"NoÖthat's not why I'm here," she began; knowing that what she was doing was to her own detriment, but to Megan's benefit.
"Well, make it quick, I've got things to do," he told her, fitting his key into his lock.
"I'm here about MeganÖ"
Sean spun around to face her; the look in his eye caused her to take a step back. "I don't know what paper you're from, but I don't have anything to say to you," he snapped as he opened his door and stepped inside, attempting to slam the door. Had she not been so stunned by his reaction, Toni might have been able to say something, instead, she found herself slamming bodily into the door to keep it from closing on her.
"SeanÖI'm not from a paperÖ" she tried, pressing against the door. "I know MeganÖI just need to talk to youÖplease," she pleaded, her shoulder hurting from the effort.
The words she said, "I know Megan", as if she was still alive, made him so angry, he flung the door wide, and she stumbled into his arms. "What more do you people want from us?" he yelled angrily gripping her by the shoulders as she attempted to regain her balance.
"Listen to meÖpleaseÖI'm not a reporter. I know Megan, and I need to talk to youÖprivately," she emphasized as she stood upright and pushed her way past him, into the apartment.
"How dare you!" he growled, outraged that someone would just intrude on him at a time like this.
"Sean Trevor O'Reilly, do me a favor, and sit your ass down, and shut up for a minute."
To say he was shocked by this imposing woman's behavior would be an understatement. But he felt compelled to do so. He crossed the room and sat heavily on the couch. She gently sat down next to him.
"I'm not sure how to tell you this, and I'm definitely sure I shouldn't beÖbutÖshe wants you to knowÖdesperatelyÖ"
"Stop babbling about my dead sister like you know her and say what you want, and then get out," he stated defiantly.
"I do know herÖand SeanÖshe's not dead."
At this point he became extremely angry. "Get out!" he shouted, grabbing her physically by her shirtfront and dragging her towards the door.
He was very surprised when she tore his hands away and grabbed him instead. "I'm not lying, and I'm not trying to hurt you. The Justice Department reported her death to your family, to keep them out of harms way."
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded breaking her grip.
"My name is Toni Ferenci," she stated simply, watching his bewildered reaction.
"You bitch!" he growled again, trying for her throat.
"Damn it," she countered, punching him in the stomach to stop his attack. "Will you fucking stop for a minute and listen to me?"
Unable to stand upright, the only thing Sean could do was cough and nod yes.
"Your sister is fine, she is alive, and the reason the Justice Department stated that she was killed in that attack in Seattle was because they were convinced that the Ribisi family would try to "buy" her by threatening her family. So they led you all to believe that she was dead, so that she could continue to hide me until the trial."
"WhyÖwhy are you telling me this?" Sean asked trying to regain his breath.
"Because Megan misses her familyÖyou in particular, and I'm tired of seeing her hurting."
As Sean tried to register this news, they both heard a key in the lock. Toni moved quickly into the adjoining kitchen, out of immediate sight of the front door.
"Who is it?" she whispered.
"My roommate Greg," Sean told her.
Greg stepped in, unaware of what was going on. He stepped up to Sean and planted a kiss on him, before Sean could stop him. Toni tried not to intrude on the obviously private scene, but was unable to get away. Greg stopped when he realized they were not alone in the apartment. Sean started to stammer an explanation, when Toni emerged from the kitchen.
"Look, Mr. O'Reilly, I suppose I can get the notes from one of the other studentsÖI didn't mean to impose, but I thought it would just be easier to get them directly from youÖI'm really sorryÖ" she presented her hand to Greg, "Lila Morgan," she told him as she shook. "Look, I'm really sorry again, we can talk about this later," she suggested.
"UmmÖno, waitÖLilaÖ" Sean blurted out. "Greg, listen, I just need to talk to her for a minute, okay?" he asked gently.
"No problem," Greg agreed, making his way toward the bedroom.
Toni was making her way to the door. "Where is she?" Sean demanded.
"Here, in GainesvilleÖbut, you can't let anyone knowÖnot even your roommateÖand definitely not your family. If you agree, I'll tell you where you can meet her."
"YesÖanythingÖanything you askÖbut this had better not be some sick joke, or so help meÖ" he stopped, unable to continue his threat out loud.
She gave him the address to the motel room they were staying at, which was just down the street. "Bring dinner, and you won't be disappointed," she told him with a gentle smile.
After she left he stood in shock at the revelation she had just made. Was it possible? He asked himself. The things she said rang true, but the reality was so surreal, he wasn't sure if he had just dreamed the entire encounter. He reflected a moment and decided that he would never know, unless he did as she asked.
A few minutes later, Toni was back at the motel room.
"Where did you go?" Megan asked, obviously still tired, "I thought you were going to bring back dinner?"
"Well, I couldn't find anything to bring back, so I ended up ordering delivery."
"What did you order?"
"It's a surpriseÖI hope you like it," Toni told her, hoping that Sean would show up after all. She rejoined Megan in the bed and took control of the remote. Nearly a half an hour later, Toni was convinced that Sean was not going to show, and was feeling the pressure of her deception to Megan. She was going to have to find them some food soon and own up to her actions, when a light knock came on the door. Toni breathed a sigh of relief.
"Are you going to get it?" Megan asked.
"Nope, it's your surprise dinner, so I think that you should answer the door," Toni told her.
Megan bounced up off the bed taking a pillow with her, and throwing it back at Toni as she reached for the door handle.
She opened the door, and nearly fainted. Standing in front of her was her brother Sean. He had something in his hands, but not for long. Whatever it was hit the ground as he took her into his arms. She threw her arms around him in return, thinking that she was having the most glorious dream. After nearly a minute, Toni became worried that someone might see them, and crossed the room gently dragging both inside by tugging insistently on Megan's elbow. She saw the discarded bags sitting on the door stoop and picked them up, closing the door behind her. Neither Sean nor Megan had released the other. In fact, they were both crying quite steadily and yet, hadn't spoken a word. Toni felt tears begin to form in her own eyes, and quietly moved into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Finally Megan found her voice. "SeanÖhowÖhow did you know?"
"Her," he stated, looking around, and seeing no one. "WhereÖwhere did she go?"
"Toni?" Megan asked looking around, seeing the bathroom door shut. She started to move towards the closed door, but was stopped by Sean's insistent grip.
"MegÖwhat's going on? Is that really? You know? The bitch you've been protecting?" he indicated the closed door.
It was all Megan could do, not to slap his face. But she resisted, knowing that he knew nothing about Toni, and he had already drawn conclusions about her lover, and now she would have to dispel them.
"SeanÖlistenÖit's not what you think. Obviously you've met Toni."
"So, she's not the bad guy she's been made out to be."
"What difference does that make?" he asked angrily.
"This was obviously her idea. SeanÖno one is supposed to know I'm alive. Not mom, dad or you. The people that are after her have been relentless in their pursuit. They were afraid that they would target you guys to get me to give her up. That's why they did this."
"And when were "they" planning to tell us it was just a fucking lie?" he snapped, not angry at Megan, just at the world in general for making them all feel this way.
"When it was overÖafter I got her to trial."
"Do you have any idea what mom and dad are going through?"
"Yes, damn it! Do you have any idea what I'm going through?" she countered.
He suddenly realized that he and his parents weren't the only ones suffering through this deception. "I'm sorryÖIÖreally don't have any idea what it has been like for youÖonly for us."
"YeahÖwell, no one was supposed to knowÖin factÖit was Toni's idea to stop here in GainesvilleÖso I could see youÖI meanÖsee that you're all right." She realized that Toni had been hiding in the bathroom the whole time. She moved purposefully towards the door and twisted the knob, only to find that it was locked. "ToniÖopen the door."
Sean was somewhat perplexed. The tone his sister was taking with this mobster was not a diffident, authoritative tone; in fact it sounded more like pleading.
He waited and heard the lock click back, and the door slowly opened to reveal what an hour ago was a very assertive, almost threatening person, and instead showed a very chagrined woman.
"What were you thinking?" Megan demanded as she yanked Toni from the bathroom.
"That you wanted to see SeanÖI'm sorryÖI just couldn't stand it anymore," she told Megan almost shyly.
Sean watched the interplay and would have been delighted under normal circumstances. But right now, he was hurt and angry, and he blamed the woman who was now cowing to his sister.
"ChristÖwe could be in a lot of trouble here." She turned to Sean. "Did anyone know you were coming here?" she asked, very businesslike.
"NoÖshe told me not to tell anyone, not even Greg."
"Greg?" Megan inquired.
"Yeah," Sean smiled almost wistfully. "He's my new roommate. I think he's the one."
"The one "what"?" Megan asked teasing him with a familiar routine they went through every time Sean found a new boyfriend.
"MeganÖI didn't even tell him where I was going. She made it perfectly clear that I shouldn't," he nodded towards Toni.
"Her name is Toni, Sean."
"All rightÖToni made it perfectly clear that no one should know where I was going. So I didn't tell anyoneÖbesides, I thought that this was some sort of joke. I meanÖwhat else was I supposed to think?"
"Okay," Megan acquiesced. "I get it. How about we just sit down and talk for a while."
Megan explained their whole adventure thus far to Sean as they ate the Chinese food he had brought with him. Toni had been able to salvage everything but the soup. Sean listened eagerly, interrupting only a few times to ask questions.
"I don't understand Megan," he finally told her when she had finished her tale, "why didn't you let your boss take you off this case?"
Megan glanced briefly at Toni. She had not told her brother about their involvement with each other and she looked to Toni, as if to ask permission to do so.
Toni took this as her cue to leave. She had kept silent throughout Megan's explanation and she hadn't wanted to press the issue. But when Sean questioned Megan's judgment, she knew that Megan's only recourse was to tell him why she stayed with the case, despite this hurtful injury to herself and her family. "I think I'm going to go across the street and get a drink while you two talk," Toni stated as she rose and grabbed her jacket.
"Toni, wait, you don't have to go," Megan told her softly.
"I know, but I think I had better let you talk alone. You can join me when you're done," she said as she slipped out the door. She had so wanted to take Megan in her arms and kiss her soundly, but she didn't want Sean to find out about them like that.
"Just what exactly is going on?" Sean questioned his sister gently, knowing that there was something important that she was leaving out.
"I'm in love with her Sean," she stated simply and directly.
"What?" he asked, his face becoming red with fury. "This is why you are putting us through this? Because you have a crush on the pretty mobster?"
"How dare you!" she shouted at him, torn between a desire to slap him again or to merely throw him out. Tears were falling freely from her eyes as she tried to reconcile the fact that the one person, who understood her the best, obviously didn't understand her at all.
"How dare I? How dare you put mom and dad through this, not to mention the rest of us, because you are infatuated with this woman."
"Have you even been listening to me? I don't have a crush and I'm not infatuated. I'm in love, and she's in love with me," she told him as she sank down on the bed, her head in her hands. "I thought that you, at least, would understand and be happy for me, I guess I was wrong."
"Megan," he began as he knelt down in front of her, removing her hands from her face so that she had to look at him. "I do understand you, but I think that you are too close to this situation to see clearly. She's using you. You said yourself that people in your own agency are being bought left and right. Several have even been killed. Of course she's going to tell you thatÖyou've been keeping her safe, when others couldn't. This is a great way for her to insure your loyalty."
"I'm glad to know what you think of my judgment. You act as if I can't tell the difference between being in love and being used."
"You sure as hell didn't know with Laura, did you?" he shot at her, unable to contain his real anger any longer.
"Thanks, Sean, that was a cheap shot coming from someone who wouldn't know love if it bit him in the ass. Maybe you should take a look at your own life. Every time you meet some guy you think he's the one," she bit back, not really wanting to hurt him, but unable to help herself.
They regarded each other for a few moments. They were closer to each other than any two siblings they knew and had never fought like this before. Both were crying at this point. Finally they just knew, by mutual consent that they would not end their relationship like this, even for another person. Gently they wrapped their arms around each other until they both stopped sobbing.
"I'm sorry Meg, I'm just scared for you. I don't want to see you hurt. I especially don't want to be told that you are really dead. I don't think I could live without you in my life," Sean confessed to his sister. "It's been very hard these last couple of weeks, and if it weren't for GregÖ" he ended his morbid thought before telling her how he had really been feeling.
"Do you know why I know this is real?" she asked him rhetorically. "Because she has tried harder than Tate to get me to quit this caseÖbecause she is the one who insisted we stop here to see you, when she knew that it might lead to her discoveryÖand because I look into her eyes every night and I see just exactly what I'm feeling reflected back at me."
Sean looked into his sister's eyes and knew that what she was saying was true. He just hoped that this mobster wasn't some sort of master manipulator who knew just what strings to pull to convince his sister that she was on the level. "Hey, I believe you. And most important, I love you. I just want you to be safe."
"I know. I'm sorry about what I said earlier, I was hurt andÖ"
"Yeah, defending yourself? I know, I'm sorry about that Laura crack, it was mean-spirited, but I was scared. I don't want to lose you Meg," he told her as he held her closely.
"I don't want to lose you either Sean."
They held each other for a long time, needing to feel the comfort that their closeness had brought to them through the years.
"Hey," Megan said pulling away gently, "someone's waiting for me across the street. Why don't you join us and get to know her better. Then maybe you'll understand."
"Okay, I can do that," he agreed amiably. They grabbed their jackets and made their way across the street to the pool hall that her and Toni had spent the last evening in.
Megan felt a moment of panic when they entered the brightly-lit pool hall and she didn't see Toni. Then she remembered that a small doorway near the back of the room connected the liquor bar to the pool hall. When her eyes adjusted she spotted Toni immediately.
Toni had nursed her first drink thinking that Megan was never going to come and join her, but when she saw them enter, she signaled to the bartender for two more bourbon and cokes. As they approached, even in the dimly lit bar, she could see what Megan had been going through.
"You've been crying?" she asked, gently placing her palm on Megan's cheek.
"I'm okay," Megan assured her, "we talked things out."
Sean was ordering a drink from the bartender. Not caring who saw them, Toni pulled Megan against her. When Sean turned to look he found a very tall, very dangerous looking woman glaring at him.
It became clear to him in that moment that this woman cared deeply for his sister. Despite his own misgivings, he knew then that she loved her as well. He grinned at her, and then flinched when her glare became increasingly fierce.
"Toni," he began, knowing that it was up to him to make the apologies, "I'm really sorry. I misjudged you entirely. But I believe my sister. She's in love with you, and I do believe you feel the same. I suppose I just needed to see that for myself. And I believe I just did," he finished with a rather sheepish look on his face. "Why don't we sit down over here," he indicated as he took his drink and moved to a table.
Megan had missed the small exchange of looks, while she sought comfort in her lover's arms.
"I got you a bourbon and coke, okay?" Toni asked.
"Yeah, that's fine," Megan told her as she took her drink in one hand and Toni's hand in the other and led her to the table Sean was sitting at.
The three sat in an uncomfortable silence for several minutes, no one knowing quite what to say. Finally Megan broke the barrier. "Tell us about Greg," she prompted Sean. Glad for a subject to break the ice, Sean told them all about Greg.
A couple of drinks later, they were chatting amiably. Toni excused herself to use the restroom.
Sean sighed in relief. "God Megan, could you call her off for a little while?"
"What are you talking about?" Megan asked, unsure of what was going on.
"Look, I'm really sorry I made you cry earlier, but I don't think she believes it. And frankly, it's making me kinda nervous."
Suddenly Megan knew what he was talking about. Toni was a bit on the protective side, and she did know that she had been crying when they walked in the door. "Did sheÖ"
"No, but I get the distinct feeling she would like to take me in the alley and knock me around a bit. Her punches pack a wallop, and I'm not sure if I can handle any more," he smiled at Megan.
"Her punches?" Megan repeated, astounded.
"OhÖumÖ" was all he could say before she launched herself from her chair and headed after Toni. "MeganÖwaitÖ" he tried to call after her. "Oops," he said to no one in particular.
As Megan came through the bathroom door, Toni was washing her hands. Her face lit up at the sight of her young lover, but became immediately subdued under the look she was receiving from her.
"What exactly did you do to my brother?" Megan demanded. She wasn't really angry, just confused.
"Look, I'm sorryÖhe made you cryÖ"
"And when exactly did you beat him up?"
"OhÖumÖwellÖI was trying to talk to himÖand he sort of attacked me. I didn't punch him hardÖI swear."
"Why is he sitting out there right now thinking that you want to pummel him?"
"I suppose, maybe, it's the way I've been glaring at himÖ"
"Damn it Toni. We shouldn't even be here. Sean shouldn't know anything about thisÖand you've been sitting there all night intimidating him?"
"I didn't mean toÖI was just sore at himÖI'm sorry," she tried again, hoping Megan would lose some of her steam.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," Megan told her.
"Okay, I give. I'll apologize to Sean if you'll do one little thing?"
"What?" Megan asked warily.
"Kiss me, please," Toni pleaded with a tiny grin.
Megan found herself unable to resist although she tried. "WellÖokay," she agreed throwing her arms around her tall lover and planting her lips against Toni's, needing the contact almost desperately.
Toni wedged her foot against the bathroom door so that no one could enter and disrupt them. Megan found herself extremely aroused by the notion that Toni was trying to protect her, defend her honor. It wasn't until insistent pounding on the bathroom door broke their revere, that they stopped kissing. As they emerged, they apologized to the flustered co-ed that had been trying to get into the bathroom.
As they approached the table, Sean could see immediately that Toni's demeanor had changed. She no longer looked threatening, in fact, she looked rather sheepish.
"Sean, I would like to apologize for my behavior. I'm sorry," Toni told him honestly. Megan nudged her in the ribs and she continued. "I would also like to apologize for slugging you earlier, it was uncalled for." She turned her attention to Megan, "How was that?" she asked. Megan rolled her eyes in response and Sean laughed out loud for the first time that evening. Their conversation was much more relaxed and all three were surprised when the bartender called last call for alcohol.
Sean quickly checked his watch. "Oh shit, I told Greg I was going to the computer lab. It closed nearly two hours ago. He's going to be worried. I need to get home. I don't know what I'm going to tell him," he stated frantically, grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair.
"Stay as close to the truth as you can," Toni told him, "Just tell him that you went out with some of the other computer geeks, and you lost track of the time."
"Yeah, thanks Toni, you're probably right. Listen Meg, I don't want you to leave. I want to spend some more time with you," he told her, pulling her into an embrace.
"I know, but we can't stay Sean. We're heading to Key WestÖmaybe you can come down during the Thanksgiving holiday and we can spend a few days togetherÖokay?"
"How will I find you?"
"How about if we meet, the Friday after Thanksgiving at Fat Tuesday?"
"You had better be there Meg," he told her firmly, as he tightened his grip on her. It was all they could do to let each other go. But they did. With the explicit agreement that no one was to know what had transpired this evening. Megan assured him that after January 17th, the Justice Department would inform the family that Megan was fine and they would take on the onerous task of explaining their actions to them.
Continued in Part 9.