by Bonnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For disclaimers see Part 1.
“That’s about it.” Dave finished his report and looked at his old partner.
“Not much, really,” Carol sighed. “We need to get Carlos to tell us what he did with the girls.”
“And how many girls there were,” Dave added. “From what I could gather at his house, there have to be quite a few. He’s been doing it for a long time now.”
“I’d also like to get his partners,” the sheriff rumbled low in her chest.
Dave looked at her through his red bangs. “Still trying to clear Anne Patakis’s name? Right now your word and hers are what’s between her and jail, you know.”
“I know.” Carol nodded. “But we both also know that she has nothing to do with this.”
He gave her a boyish grin. “Yeah, yeah. Although I’d really like to know what she did to make him hate her so much.”
Carol simply nodded. She didn’t think it was her place to tell Dave that Carlos was Anne’s brother. Half-brother, she corrected herself. She turned towards the door. “Let’s go talk to him.”
Dave stopped her with a hand on his arm. “There’s one more thing.” He pulled an envelope from the inner pocket of his jacket and handed it to Carol.
“It’s a letter I found among Carlos’s papers but it doesn’t make much sense to me. And since I have the feeling you still know more about him than I do, I thought you might understand what it’s all about.”
Carol opened the envelope while Dave watched her.
“Strangely sentimental for a guy like him to write a letter to his deceased dad, don’t you think?” he asked while Carol read the letter. "We'll have to find out who his father was to see if there's anything to this letter. Maybe it's a code."
“Yeah,” the sheriff replied absent-mindedly. Oh, I don’t like this at all. One particular sentence caught her eye and she read it again: “I know she killed you, and she’s going to pay for it one day.” Something there doesn’t add up, she thought. Although this sure would explain why Carlos hates Anne.
She looked up. “You know what, Dave? I have to talk to Anne Patakis for a minute. Why don’t you grab a coffee before we start interrogating Carlos?”
She opened the door and left, missing the frown on her ex-partner’s forehead.
The wand moved slowly over Shana’s belly while three pairs of eyes watched the small screen to the left.
“Look, there it is,” Andy said with a big smile. “Can you see the heartbeat?”
“That’s the baby?” Shana said with wonder in her voice. Andy nodded while focusing on getting a closer look.
“Is … it … everything okay?” Anne asked quietly, rolling her shoulder to settle the unfamiliar sling that kept her wounded arm close to her body. She winced at the pain the slight movement caused. Guess the drugs are wearing off.
Shana’s tightened her fingers around her lover's other hand, which was also bandaged. There was a shadow in Anne’s eyes that worried her.
“Everything is fine.” Andy started to wipe off Shana’s belly with a paper towel. “Was this your first ultrasound?” Shana nodded. "Shana, I haven't looked at one of those pictures in a long time but I'd say you're about 12 weeks along."
"About ten, actually," Shana said after a swift calculation in her head.
"So, is this the reason you aren't in Melbourne hitting balls right now?" Andy asked, unable to stop her curiosity.
Shana simply nodded. More or less.
"You too, eh?" Andy addressed Anne.
Anne shook her head. "Nah, I picked up some bug in Sydney and just didn't feel like I should be playing a long tournament." Especially not without Shana there. There was no point, really.
Her curiosity both satisfied and peaked for more, Andy smiled. “Okay, the due date should be in late August or early September. Who gets the picture?” She smiled, holding the small ultrasound printout.
Shana was about to answer when there was a knock on the door and Carol stuck her head in. She smiled at Andy and Shana but focused on Anne almost immediately. “Can I talk to you?”
Anne looked at Shana and then back to the sheriff, seemingly deeply involved in her own thoughts and unwilling to move. Her jaw muscles jumped visibly before she finally replied. “Um, sure, but …” She fell quiet.
Shana turned to Carol. “Give us a second here? She’ll meet you outside in a moment.”
Carol nodded but seemed unwilling to leave the room. Andy felt the sudden tension in the room and decided this was a good time to talk to the reticent sheriff and get some information. “I’ll join you outside, Carol,” she said as she walked over to the door. “You can tell me what’s going on here.”
The door closed behind them, leaving Shana to quietly contemplate her lover. I wonder what’s going on all of a sudden. Anne absent-mindedly stroked Shana’s belly as she stared at the door. Shana gently pushed a lock of dark hair behind Anne’s ear and then cupped her chin. “What’s wrong, honey?”
Anne swallowed, unable to meet her lover’s eyes. “Nothing.” She paused. “Really.”
“Hmm.” Shana cupped Anne’s face with both hands now, tenderly forcing Anne to look at her. “Talk to me, Anne. Tell me what’s wrong.” She smiled. “Please?”
Anne closed her eyes. “I … I’m not sure …” She swallowed again. “I don’t know if I can do this, Shana.”
“Do what, honey?”
“It’s so real … now, you know. And I …” Anne shrugged and stopped, not knowing what to say.
“The baby?” Shana asked quietly. Oh, God, please don’t make me choose between you and the baby, love. For a second, the urge to cry was almost overwhelming but she pushed it down. She looked at Anne and focused on her lover’s fingers still stroking her belly. Hmm.
Anne simply nodded. “It’s not … because … you know. It’s more …” She shrugged again and the insecure look in her eyes almost made Shana smile. Anne laid down her head on Shana’s belly and sighed. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Shana ran her hands through Anne’s hair. “I think it’s not the who or how, it’s the what, isn’t it?”
“Huh?” Anne looked, thoroughly puzzled by Shana’s cryptic question.
Now Shana couldn’t stop the smile. “Honey, I think I understand what you’re trying to say.”
“You do? 'Cause I don't.”
“I think it's not so much the way I got pregnant, although I'm sure we both agree that I'd have preferred just about any other possibility." She stroked Anne's hair. "It's probably more that you don’t know if you’re ready for a baby, now that we just got together. Right?”
“Right,” Anne slowly replied.
“I feel the same way,” Shana said with a sigh. “I’m actually looking forward to having a baby no matter how it got there, but I also want to enjoy us … just us … for a while first.” She leaned forward to kiss Anne. “There’s so much I want to explore with you.” She nearly growled before she deepened the kiss and let that speak for itself.
“Um, yeah,” Anne mumbled. “Exploring is good.” She still seemed a bit incoherent but Shana was relieved to see the shadows lifted from Anne’s eyes. She leaned in to kiss her again.
“And we’ll have another six or seven months or so to do that before the baby comes. Do you think that’ll be enough time?” Shana bit down on Anne’s earlobe and chuckled as Anne’s breathing hitched.
Anne took Shana’s face in both hands and stared directly into her lover’s soul. “There never will be enough time, Shay. We have to make up for fifteen years.” She kissed her lightly on the lips, feeling a bit better now. “But it’s a start.”
“I love you,” Shana whispered, suddenly serious again. “We will get through this.”
“Yes, we will,” Anne murmured, unable to tear her eyes away from Shana’s. “But I think I better go and see what Carol wants.”
“Yep. Give me two seconds and I’ll be right behind you.”
“Two seconds? Nah.” Anne grinned. “You’ll need longer than that.” She stood and bent to kiss Shana again. “Take your time.”
At the door she stopped and turned to look at Shana, who was busy getting up. “Love you.” Then she was gone.
Carol was pacing as she waited for Anne. She had given Andy a very short version of what was going on, telling her as little as she could get away with while looking into the curious brown eyes. She sighed. There was something magical in those eyes, and it was hard trying not to get lost in them. And Andy wasn’t really her type anyway. Was she?
She cocked her head she heard voices at the end of the hall. "Oh, great,” she muttered as she easily identified Irene, Kevin, and Mike before she could see them. “The gang’s all here.”
Irene’s voice brought her thoughts back to the letter. She frowned and took it out again to read it again as Andy went to greet the newcomers. I wonder when …
A throat being cleared nearby interrupted her. “You needed to talk to me?” Anne asked.
Carol folded the letter and put it in her back pocket. “Yeah.” She bit her lip, unsure of how to proceed. “When did your father die, Anne?”
“In ’94 … why?” Anne answered after a several surprised moments.
“I need the exact date, Anne.”
“The end of May,” Anne said slowly. “I think it was the 25th or 26th.” She shrugged. “I wasn’t there, and I didn’t even attend the funeral …”
“Where were you?”
“I don’t remember. Paris, probably. It wasn't a great time for me.” Anne sighed. “Listen, Carol, what does that have to do with the price of rice in China? My father’s been dead a long time.” Her voice got a sharper edge.
Wordlessly, Carol took out the letter and handed it to Anne. She watched as the brunette read the letter, then looked on as the blue eyes widened in shock and went over the words once again. Nope, you didn't do it. “The FBI found this letter in Carlos’s home,” she said quietly.
“And?” Anne challenged. “You don’t think I killed my father, do you? He died of a damned heart attack.” She shook her head. “God knows I hated him, but I didn’t kill him.”
Carol stared into the blazing eyes for a second and sighed. “No, I don’t think you killed him.” She held out her hand and Anne returned the letter. “But Carlos obviously does, which explains why he hates you.”
“I stopped expecting an explanation for that years ago.” Her voice sounded weary.
“I think I can convince Dave to forget this letter,” Carol said as she spotted Shana coming closer. “It’s pretty obvious that Carlos was imagining things.” I hope, she added quietly.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Shana asked as she slipped an arm around Anne’s waist.
“Nothing,” Anne and Carol replied simultaneously.
“Right,” Shana drawled. “You're going to tell me later, right?” she demanded, looking straight into her lover’s eyes. Anne nodded, glad that Shana wasn’t insisting. She was still thinking about the letter. There was a thought taunting her somewhere deep down, and she wanted to give it time to either go away or manifest itself.
“So,” Shana turned to Carol, “what now?”
“Now you go join your family, and Dave and I’ll go talk to Carlos,” the sheriff said, not wanting to miss too much of Dave’s initial interrogation.
“I’ll go with you,” Anne stated firmly. “He wanted to kill us, and I want to hear him tell me why.” She felt her lover’s nod against her shoulder.
“Maybe our presence will make him mad enough to talk,” Shana threw in, her emphasis heavy on the “our.”
The sheriff groaned, although she was quietly thinking that Shana might have a point. “You do know that this is police business and you have no part in that, right?” she plaintively asked.
She saw two nods, and two determined faces, and sighed. “Okay, I’ll talk to Dave. If he says it’s okay, you can stay.”
Suddenly, the voices from the lobby became louder, and one was very impatient. "I want to see my daughters!" Irene's voice boomed down the hall, "Now!"
Carol turned to look at Shana and Anne, who both looked like they had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. "Uh-oh," Anne muttered under her breath.
"Yeah," Shana agreed with a sigh.
Carol could barely contain her grin. "I think you two better let her know you're okay." She held up her hands when Anne started to say something. "You won't miss anything, okay? I'll see you in a couple of minutes."
Anne and Shana nodded, and more or less jogged towards the lobby.
"I really wish I could get Irene to work for me," the sheriff said to the empty hallway before she turned and went to the room where they had put Carlos.
"I'm okay, Mom," was the first thing Anne said when she rounded the corner to the lobby. "We're both fine."
Irene whirled around to face her daughter, taking in the bandaged hands and the sling with a frown. "Are you sure, honey?" she asked, all mother now.
"Yes, I'm sure."
"What about you, sweetie?" she asked Shana, who was smiling at back at her.
"I'm fine." She paused and winked at the older woman. "Everything's just fine."
Irene breathed a sigh of relief and hugged both women. The hug was soon joined by Kevin and Mike, who were just as happy to see their friends safe and mostly sound.
"So," Anne asked after a moment, "I take it you found Carlos's car?"
"Yeah," Kevin replied. "He had stashed it up the road a bit." He grinned. "Good thing Carol thought of taking his keys before you guys left."
"Indeed." Anne drawled, happy to have her friends and family around her.
"Where is Carlos, by the way?" Mike asked in the silence that followed.
"They're going to interrogate him now," Anne replied.
"In fact, we should go join them before they start without us," Shana added. "Why –"
"Yes, let's!" Irene agreed and started walking deeper into the medical center. "This I have to see."
"… don't you wait here?" Shana finished her sentence, staring at Irene's back with a sigh.
Anne, Kevin, and Mike just shook their heads, knowing it was futile to try and stop her. They simply followed her.
Anne thought it was all pretty bizarre when they stopped just inside Carlos's room. She could just imagine the look on that FBI guy's face when he found five more people in the room on top of the ones that were already there. She was surprised to see Dr. and Mrs. Hinkel already there, as well as Andy. She just hoped Carol wouldn't get in too much trouble.
She looked around the room and met the eyes of a handsome man who had to be Carol's ex-partner. The man was clearly seething, and for a second Anne was imagining him with smoke coming out his ears. Then Carol pulled him into a corner and started whispering in his ear. They seemed to argue, too low for any one of them to follow what was being said, but in the end she saw his frustrated sigh and a barely perceptible nod. Carol came over to them and addressed them in a low voice. "Dave is having a major fit but I got him to agree. You can all stay, but there are some ground rules: you listen, we talk." She looked straight at Irene, who had the good grace to blush.
"Okay," Shana replied, knowing nothing could stop Anne or Irene from saying whatever they wanted anyway. Or her, for that matter. But they'd give it a try. She scratched Anne's lower back with her fingertips until she could see her lover nod.
Satisfied, Carol led them into the room where Dr. and Mrs. Hinkel stood along the far wall across from the single occupied bed. Dave O'Dowd was standing to Carlos's right, and Carol moved to the left side of the bed.
"What is this, a circus?" Carlos rasped suddenly, slurring his words a bit. He was clearly irritated by the number of spectators in his room. "New investigation technique?"
"Do you have experience with investigation techniques, Mr. Vila?" Dave asked calmly. "I just thought I'd bring all my friends along for a chat."
"Nice friends you have there," Carlos spat, glaring at Anne and Shana.
"Yes, you seem to have some trouble with my friends," Dave replied mildly. "Why did you try to kill them?"
Carlos ignored the question and stared at the ceiling. Anne was fidgeting, wishing she could go ahead and knock Carlos around a little. She wasn’t a really violent person, but right now she wanted nothing more than see Carlos dead.
"Why don't you tell us about your trafficking operation?" Dave asked, his voice showing some steel now. "We know the essentials anyway from the papers in your house."
"If you know everything already, I don't need to tell you anything. Besides, I want my lawyer."
Carol walked over to Anne and Shana. "It's been like this since the beginning now. He just won't give us anything to work with," she said in a low voice. She looked over her shoulder at Carlos with a look of pure disgust. "He knows we have him by the balls but he's not cooperating in the slightest. He knows we want his partners to crack the whole operation."
"He probably thinks he can weasel his way out of most of the charges with a good lawyer," Shana said thoughtfully. "My bet is that he's going to keep you hanging until he can cut a deal for more information on his partners and the girls."
"You could be right." Carol sighed, knowing that that was very likely to happen. "At the moment, the most tangible thing we have on him is your arm in that sling, Anne."
"I know," Anne growled. "Maybe I should ask him some questions."
Carol looked at her for a second, thoughts running through her head. She knew she had told them to stay quiet, and she knew that Anne wouldn't do anything without her okay. Still, it might throw Carlos off guard. She would just have to face Dave's anger later. She stepped aside. "Go ahead."
With a small nod, Anne made a move to walk around the sheriff but was held back by Shana. "Don't do it, Anne. He's just going to hurt you."
"He can't hurt me, Shay. Look at all the people in here."
"I didn't mean physically, Anne, and you know that." She pulled Anne into a hug, knowing she couldn't really stop her. "Don't let him get to you, love. Please?"
"I promise." She kissed Shana's forehead tenderly. "It's going to be okay."
She took Carol's place at Carlos's bedside and just stared at him. Dave O'Dowd let out a small, barely audible sigh but showed no other sign of his irritation if he was feeling any. Carlos, however, seemed surprised as Anne leaned closer to him. He could see the coldness in her eyes, and for a second he felt his confidence slip. It returned just as quickly when he realized her arm was in a sling, and her hands were bandaged.
He smiled coldly and couldn't resist taunting her. "What happened to your hands, Anne? Did you rough up your girlfriend a little?"
Anne didn't show any reaction, even though she had to fight the urge to just hit him. "No, I'd never do that. You wouldn't have no such problems, though, would you? And you're just lucky I don't want my hands to hurt any more or I'd just strangle you and spare us all your presence."
"Ah, that's too bad now, isn't it, Anne?" Carlos still smiled. "With all the cops around you can't do anything to me."
"Are you sure?" Anne asked sweetly and looked around the room. Carlos followed her eyes as far as he could from his position and realized that both Carol and Dave O'Dowd were looking at the ceiling, whistling soundlessly.
"Enough with the pleasantries." Anne paused until his eyes met hers. "Now tell me about those girls. What did you do with them, where are they now?" What she really wanted to know was why he had raped and tried to kill Shana but she realized she couldn't ask that without exposing her lover's secret. Shana had asked her not to talk about it. "You owe us an explanation, you bastard!"
"I'm not going to tell you anything, bitch," Carlos said. "I owe you nothing. You owe me! You took away my life. You …" He stopped and swallowed, realizing he was saying too much. "It's none of your business anyway."
Dave O'Dowd was making mental notes. He was shocked at first when he saw Anne approaching the bed but he realized soon that the suspect was not taking her seriously and was not as guarded with her. He probably didn't even realize what he was giving away while talking to Anne. Until she had shown up, he hadn't even acknowledged any charges against him, but now he felt they were getting closer.
Dr. Hinkel also watched the proceedings with interested eyes. He feared that Carlos would not say anything about the operation and the missing girls, and he needed to know what had happened to his daughter. After so many years, any news would be welcome, even if all they could find out was that Daniela was dead or ... He stopped there, unwilling to think through even more gruesome possibilities. But he just needed to know.
In a way he was happy that his wife had decided to stay back at the inn with Mishka. She didn't need to witness the stubbornness of the man she had so easily brought down with a skillet. He smiled and sent a loving thought towards his wife. You've always been great in the kitchen, my love. And one way or another I'm going to get us the information we need. He already had an idea, but for now he would continue to watch as Dave O'Dowd took over the questioning again.
After about ten more minutes of questions and non-answers by Carlos, the frustration level in the room was beginning to reach epic proportions. Mike was desperately trying to keep a hold on Kevin, who was struggling not to walk over to Carlos and simply beat the information out of him. There was so much the two of them wanted to know, not the least of which was if Carlos really had been behind the attack on Kevin all those years back. He knew that beating Carlos probably wouldn't help but it sure as hell would make him feel better.
Carol and Irene were standing together, both with a murderous glint in their eyes, both unhappy that even Anne's questions hadn't been enough to throw Carlos for more than a couple of seconds. At least he admitted to something, which is more than David got out of him, the sheriff thought with a grimace. Let's just hope they can recover all the information from the stuff they got at his house.
Andy was standing with her back to the small group, looking out the window. With the light inside and the darkness it was difficult to see if the weather had let up a bit, but she was hoping she could get out of the medical center and home sometime this night. The blizzard had trapped her here after her shift had ended, and a quick glance at her watch confirmed that she had been up and about for close to 34 hours now. I need sleep.
Anne had given up her place by the bed and was in the far corner of the room, wrapped around as much of Shana as she could with one hurting arm in a sling and two banged-up hands. She felt her lover's depression and knew that Shana needed the close contact, and she was damned if she would let her injuries stop her from comforting the woman she loved. I should just take her out of here. She loosened her embrace to suggest just that when Shana pulled her arms tighter again.
"Don't even think about it," Shana murmured under her breath. "I hate being here, I hate what it does to you … and me … and everyone else … but for now I need to be here."
Anne simply pressed her lips to the crown of the blonde head tucked under chin and settled back in the corner while her mind was busy studying angles and tossing ideas back and forth.
Fritz Hinkel watched all this with a quiet sigh and decided to put his plan in motion. Straightening his shoulders he walked over to the door, trying to leave the room as unobtrusively as he could. He missed the curious pairs of eyes—one blue, one chocolate brown—that followed him. The last thing he heard as the door closed behind him was a bored "I want my lawyer."
I wonder what he's up to, Carol thought as she watched the old doctor leave the room. Could be just a bathroom break. But somehow she doubted that. She continued to watch the door and was rewarded a short time later by the doctor's return, right hand buried in the pocket of the lab coat he was still wearing. She watched as his eyes moved from person to person in the room, stopping for a while on Andy's back, and not meeting her own. Definitely no bathroom break.
Fritz Hinkel realized that the sheriff was watching him and he couldn't bring herself to meet the inquisitive eyes. He knew that his plan relied on Carol's cooperation and the other doctor's silence. He walked over to where the sheriff stood and leaned close to her. "I have an idea, Sheriff," he whispered. "Please trust me … and don't stop me."
Carol searched the old gray eyes for a long time before she finally nodded once. Guess I'll see what he's up to now.
Fritz Hinkel walked over to the bed and stood quietly by until Dave looked up and noticed him. The agent sent a questioning look over to Carol, who nodded once. Dave walked over to her wearing a huge frown. "You know this is all highly unusual, Carol. We could get our asses kicked in court if we don't do everything right."
"Right," Carol drawled. "Which is why you're questioning him without his lawyer present." She enjoyed seeing her ex-partner blush. "Let it go, Dave. I think the doctor has a plan that could get us some information and, frankly, that’s all I care about right now."
"Why does he even care?"
"His daughter was lured away by Carlos years ago and he's been searching for her ever since." She locked eyes with him. "If this is his chance to find out what happened to her, I'm willing to let him do almost anything." She shrugged. "Besides, I have a feeling he knows something we don't. Watch him." She pointed her head in the doctor's direction. "See how confident he suddenly looks?"
Dave nodded. "And Carlos doesn't know what to make of him." He smiled. "You know, as unusual as all of this is, I think we're doing a mighty good job of keeping him off balance. We might get somewhere yet." He patted Carol on the shoulder and moved back to the bed.
"So, Doc, what's up?" he asked rather cheerfully.
Dr. Hinkel pulled a syringe out of his pocket. "I think our patient is in need of some medicine," he replied while staring straight at Carlos. Then he held the syringe up and pressed some of the fluid out. Carlos's eyes followed his every move.
Andy whirled around. Nobody was giving anybody anything in her medical center while she was there without her knowing what it was. A hand on her arm stopped her, and she bumped into Carol, who only muttered one word under her breath. "Wait."
Andy looked up into Carol's eyes, her whole face one big question mark. Carol put her hand on the smaller woman's shoulder, trying to ignore the tingle the touch caused. "Please trust me, Andy."
Throat too tight to speak, Andy nodded. What else could she do?
"What are you going to give me?" Carlos asked. "I don't need anything, I feel fine."
"Ah, but this will take away all your pain," the doctor said very mildly. He waited until Carlos looked him in the eyes and then moved his own to stare directly at Carlos's chest. Directly where he knew the medical pendant was. "All your pain, Mr. Vila," he repeated as he looked into Carlos's eyes again. He leaned down close to his face. "Forever," he whispered too low for anyone else to hear.
"No." Carlos shrank further back into his pillow. "You can't give me anything. Really, I don't need anything." His eyes searched the room and found Andy. "Hey, Doc," he called out to her, "I'm really fine, I don't need anything right now. Okay?"
Andy walked closer, intrigued by the sudden turn of events. "What's the problem, Mr. Vila?" She looked at the syringe in Dr. Hinkel's hand. "It's only a little shot of –" She turned to the older doctor.
"A shot of penicillin," Andy repeated, trying hard not to show her surprise. "That won't hurt you." Why the hell …? He doesn't need penicillin and I'm sure this old doc knows that. But she remained quiet, trusting Carol to know what was going on. She decided to stay right where she was nonetheless.
In the back of the room Irene's brows contracted sharply. Penicillin? That can't be a coincidence, can it? Oh my God, he must be trying to … She hadn't finished the thought before her feet were moving. She stopped just as suddenly. What do I care? Carlos seems pretty panicked, and that can only be good for us. He's probably bluffing anyway. She settled back in her place, her conscience only kicking her slightly.
She looked up at the feeling of being watched and met her daughter's eyes. Anne's expression was unreadable but she seemed to be thinking hard about something. Irene found it hard to meet Anne's steady gaze and looked away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She can't know, can she?
Anne knew her mother was hiding something but she didn't know what it was. There was just … something … that was slowly biting away at her. She hadn't missed the swift reaction to the penicillin shot Carlos was about to receive, and she wondered what that was about. She was sure her mother wasn't worried about Carlos's well-being.
“Come on, Carlos,” Dave now coaxed, his patience running out. “We have you by the balls. You know, we know it. We have you on at least two attempts of attempted murder, kidnapping, and a whole load of other stuff from the papers we found in your home.” He looked into the defiant blue eyes. “The only thing that can help you now is for you to tell us what happened to all those girls so we can get started on finding them, and to name your partners.”
Carlos looked around the room, finally coming to rest on the syringe in the older doctor’s hand. It looked like he was almost twirling it. Carlos turned towards Dave again. “They’re trying to kill me,” he said hoarsely, pointing his arm around the room.
Dave thought he was talking about his partners. “We can try and work something out, if you talk now.” Carlos remained quiet.
“You know as well as I do that you’re dead meat one way or the other, Carlos.” Dave’s voice was even harder now. “If we have to spend weeks wading though those papers to get our answers, we’ll do that. But you’ll be spending the rest of your life in the seediest prison I can find. I’ll make your life miserable, believe me.”
While Dave was talking, Dr. Hinkel leaned closer to Carlos and grabbed his arm. He had never really planned on killing him, but he was not above teaching him a lesson about fear. Carlos pulled away his arm as if he’d been grabbed by a monster. “Let go of me.” His breathing was slightly ragged, and for the first time his face showed something other than calm boredom. Dave actually thought he saw a tinge of fear in those cold blue eyes. Then again, it could just as well have been madness. He decided not to say anything, hoping Carlos would finally talk.
Carlos realized that his time was running short. Yes, he knew the FBI had him, had even more on him than they probably knew so far. He wasn’t going to tell them, of course, but the material he had at his house contained almost all of the paperwork for the trafficking ring. Their only job would have to be to decode it, since everything was saved in a code only he and his partners knew.
All they needed to crack the code was a starting point, and he knew they would have that as soon as Shana remembered the papers she had taken. They were new acquisitions, and therefore as yet unencoded. Then again, he didn't even know if Shana still had them.
He closed his eyes and made a decision. Opening his eyes, he focused on the red-haired FBI agent. “I want a deal.”
Dave nodded once, watching from the corner of his eye as Dr. Hinkel put a cover on the syringe and put it back in his pocket. Huh?
“I’ll tell you what I know about the girls, and I go free. You set me up with a new identity, a new life, everything.” He smiled evilly. “I know you must have some pull, Agent.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Mr. Vila, but I think you'll be doing some time for your crimes.” Dave knew his superiors would cut a deal anyway, no matter what he said, and he wanted some answers now.
“Oh, you’ll make it happen.”
“That depends totally on the information you give us, Carlos.” The agent suddenly realized that all eyes were on his suspect. Let’s get this show on the road, then!
“Okay,” he focused on Carlos again, “start talking. Start with the girls.“
Dr. Hinkel interrupted him impatiently. “Where is my daughter?” His voice was hoarse and his eyes were pleading. He had never been so close to the information he had been looking for far longer than he cared to remember.
“All right,” Dave added, “that’s as good a point as any to start.”
Carlos smiled. “I’d love to but I don’t know who your daughter is.” He raised one hand when the old doctor bristled next to him and Dave O’Dowd’s face darkened.
“Daniela,” Dr. Hinkel whispered. “Her name is Daniela.”
“When did she go away?” How am I supposed to know all those girls’ names? There were so many of them. He shrugged mentally.
“You took her away in 1989,” Dr. Hinkel answered quietly.
Carlos thought for a minute. That was actually good for him. The distributor they had used at that time was long dead, and they had switched to several other people. If he could keep the FBI on that lead, he could gain some time and, maybe, leverage. “We used someone up in Ontario. She was most probably brought into Canada via Halifax, then sold to the highest bidder or someone who had a special order for a certain type of girl.”
“Where did you sell her to?” Dave took over the interrogation again. “Where do you do your business?”
“I can’t tell you where she ended up, honestly,” Carlos said, enjoying the fact that he didn’t even have to lie to cause someone pain. “Most of our customers are in Canada and the US, though.”
“Private or business?”
“Both.” Carlos grinned. “Whoever can afford the merchandise.”
He hardly had time to brace himself before he felt the doctor move and half jump on him. “My daughter is not merchandise!” he shouted, wrapping his hands around Carlos’s neck.
Suddenly Carol was right there next to him, prying his hands off Carlos’s body. “Please, stop. He’s just trying to torture you.” She steadied him as he let go, and straightened with a groan. “I promise we’ll find out what happened.”
The old man nodded, then walked around the sheriff and joined Andrea by the window. He couldn’t be near this monster for one second longer. His eyes met Shana’s for a second until the young woman looked away, her eyes filled with unshed tears. While Dave’s and Carlos's voices went on in the background, Dr. Hinkel looked outside into the darkness and wondered if Carlos Vila’s soul was as black as the sky outside.
Shana followed Dr. Hinkel with her eyes, feeling incredibly sad for the old man. She had thought that being there, hearing Carlos talk about what he had done, would feel good but now …
“Anne?” Shana said quietly into her lover’s neck.
“Hmm?” came the instant response, complete with a soothing circling of fingers on her lower back.
“Can we go home?” Shana looked up to meet Anne’s eyes when the fingers on her back stopped their motion. “Please?”
“But … I thought you …” Her words were stopped by two fingers on her lips.
“I can’t stand being in the same room with him anymore,” Shana whispered. “I just want to go home and be alone with you for a while.”
Blue eyes searched hers for a long moment before Anne started to untangle herself from Shana. “Let’s go, then.” She waited until Shana straightened herself, then walked over to Carol.
“Hey,” the sheriff greeted them in a low voice. “What’s up?”
“We’re leaving,” Anne bluntly declared. “We can’t stand being in here with him.”
Carol understood that perfectly, and nodded. Then she remembered something. “How do you think you’re going to get home? You don’t have a car, and neither of you is good to drive anyway.”
“I could drive,” Anne and Shana replied as one.
“I’ll drive,” Irene suddenly said from behind her daughter. “I need to get my girls settled at home more than I need to be here, I think.”
“That still leaves you short a car,” Carol reminded them.
“What about the one we came in with?” Kevin asked, joining them with Mike.
“That’s probably already over at the department.” The sheriff nibbled on her lower lip. “I told the deputy to drive it over so we can have a look at it. It needs to stay there,” she said a bit louder to stop the questions she could already see forming on Irene’s lips.
Dave threw her an annoyed look and gave her a sign that told her to either be quiet or get the hell out of the room. Carol walked to the door and opened it, surprised when everyone except for Carlos and Dave walked outside before her.
“You want to leave too?” she asked Dr. Hinkel.
“Yes,” the old man breathed out, his face showing disgust. “This man is a snake. I don't think he's going to say anything you can use until he has just the deal he wants. And I simply cannot stand to be around this … this …”
Carol patted his shoulder. “I understand.” She paused a second the leaned close to him. “Nice trick in there, by the way. One day you’ll have to tell me what that was all about.”
Before he could say anything she turned and walked over to the closest FBI agent.
Anne groaned as she carefully sat down on the comfortable sofa in front of the fireplace. Shana watched her from the door for a second before she pushed down her own exhaustion and walked over to the fireplace to start a fire.
“Don’t bother, honey,” Anne whispered, trying not to show how tired she was and how much her arm hurt. “We’ll go to bed soon anyway.”
“I know, but --”
“Please, just sit down here with me for a minute?” Anne opened her eyes and let them plead with her lover. There was so much going through her mind, so many things to think about, but right now all she wanted was to sit there. She closed her eyes again when Shana nodded.
They were quiet for several minutes, each listening to the other's even breaths. Then Anne cleared her throat. "How're you holding up, love?" she whispered.
Shana didn't answer for a long moment, thinking about how she really felt. She came up with only one answer. "I don't know."
Anne felt her lover's shrug against her arm, and she turned her head and breathed a kiss on the blond head snuggled up close to her. "That's okay," she said with a sigh. "But why—"
"I don't know, really." Shana sat up and looked into Anne's eyes. "I just couldn't bear to be in the same room with him any longer." She cupped Anne's cheek and was pleased when her lover's face relaxed and the blue eyes closed. "You look beat, my love," she whispered. "Let's go to bed and talk in the morning."
Shana leaned down and pressed her lips tenderly against Anne's forehead. Anne used her good arm to pull her close, and sighed. "Yes, soon."
"I think it's a good idea," Irene said from the doorway, where she had been standing and watching her daughter and Shana. "Tomorrow will be soon enough for everything."
"Hey, Mom," Anne greeted her mother, her eyes brightening when she saw the steaming hot mugs in her mother's hands. "Oh, man, hot chocolate?"
Irene nodded and walked into the room, placing the hot mugs on the coffee table. "I thought you could use it but just going to bed might be even better, the way you two look."
"Is Carol back yet?" Anne asked. The sheriff had gone back to town after driving one of the cars out to the inn to pick up Dave and the remaining two agents. One of the agents had been told to stay with the Patakis family, and he was currently getting settled in a nice room upstairs.
"No, she isn't," Irene sighed, "and I don't really expect her back any time soon either." She smiled at Shana who tried to keep her eyes open. "So, go to bed, and we'll talk in the morning."
Anne shook her head. There was something that she had to clear up before she could sleep. "Actually, can I talk to you for a minute, Mom?"
Irene and Shana looked surprised. "Sure," the older Patakis replied. "What is it, honey?"
"In the kitchen, please." Anne turned to Shana. "Why don't you go ahead and go to bed? I'll be right there. I just need to talk to mom for a bit. Okay?"
Shana felt that Anne was trying to get a grip on what had been bothering her the whole evening, and although she felt a twinge of disappointment that she couldn't help her lover, she knew that Anne needed the time with her mother. "Right, I'll sit here for a bit and then I'll be off to bed."
Both women got up, and Shana leaned close to Anne and whispered in her ear. "Don't be long." She kissed Anne lightly.
"I won't," Anne replied, returning the kiss in a promise.
“Tell me about the day my fath… he … died."
Irene sat back in her chair in surprise. Her daughter was sitting across from her, hands wrapped around her mug of hot chocolate, gently swirling the dark liquid around. Her eyes were hidden behind her loose dark hair, and Irene wondered what was going on in Anne’s mind.
“What brought that on?” she finally asked calmly. Then she shrugged. “You know how your father died.”
“No, I don’t know, Mom.” Anne’s voice was weary. “Frankly, at that point I didn’t much care how he died as long as he was dead.”
"So what makes you ask now, after so many years? Why today?"
"Because today Carlos put a hole through my arm for something I don't know anything about." Anne's eyes were staring outside, seeing only her blurred reflection in the window.
"What do you mean? I don't understand … what does your father's death have to do with all this?" Irene was stunned.
Anne hesitated but decided on the truth. "I'm not sure, Mom. But there is this letter …" She told her mother about her conversation with Carol and what the sheriff thought about the reason for Carlos's hatred. "So, Carlos thinks someone killed his father," she finished, "and that that someone is me."
"But you weren't even there!"
"I know that, Mom, and so does Carol. That's why I need to know what really happened, " she pleaded as she covered her mother's hand with her own. "Please, it'll stay between us, but I really have to know." She couldn't bring herself to say that she had a feeling that she knew exactly who had ended her father's life. She just hoped her mother would finally talk to her. "Please."
Irene looked down on their hands and sighed. "The sheriff really thinks Carlos wanted to kill you to avenge his father? But what about all the other things that he did, before and after George died?"
"From what Carlos said he always held a grudge because he was never openly acknowledged as his son, and he let it out on Pete and me. He must have hated us, and especially Pete because I'm sure Dad told him that he thought Pete was not his son." She looked into her mother's eyes. "Mom, what happened?"
For several minutes Irene stayed quiet but when she finally spoke, her voice was toneless. "I killed him."
Anne closed her eyes and sighed. "How? And why didn't anybody but Carlos find out? How did he find out?"
"It was easier than I thought it would be," Irene slowly said. "I mixed a healthy dose of penicillin in his whiskey …" Her voice railed off.
"His allergy came back to haunt him. He drank this huge whiskey in one big gulp and went into shock almost immediately. I went into the kitchen for a while and when I came back, he was dead." Irene closed her eyes. "I put his body into the car and drove to this small park. There I put him in the driver's seat and walked back home."
"How did you manage to handle him? He was a big guy and dead …"
Irene ignored the question. "When they found him, I expected to be arrested but the police only asked a couple of questions. It probably helped that he hadn't been home in quite a while before that night." She shrugged. "I don't know."
"Where had he been?" Anne asked, then suddenly groaned. "Oh, shit, that's so obvious, isn't it?"
"What is, honey?"
"Dad probably stayed with Carlos when he was gone and came back that night for some reason. I think Carlos followed Dad to your house and watched as you drove away with his body. I don't know if he followed you to the park, but when he was found dead he probably just put two and two together, and actually came up with four."
"But why did he think you killed your father?"
"I doubt he did." Anne shook her head. "In his letter he doesn't name anyone. He just figured it was a way of making sure someone would look into it when the letter was found. Plus, he probably just thought that torturing or killing me would hurt you more than anything anyway."
"And he was right," Irene said as a tear snaked its way down her cheek. "God, I'm so sorry, Anne. So sorry."
"Don't, Mom, it's all right." Anne walked around the table and gathered her mother in a one-armed hug. "I'm not sorry he's dead. I just wish you hadn't carried that burden alone for all this time."
Irene slightly relaxed into her daughter's embrace. "So, what are we going to do now?"
Anne sighed. "I don't know, Mom. He's dead, and it won't do any good for anyone if you had to go to jail. Nobody but us will ever have to know."
"I'm sorry but I think it's too late for that," a weary voice said, and Anne and Irene looked up, surprised to see Carol standing just inside the door. The sheriff ignored their shocked looks and calmly addressed Irene. "Could you settle in the other agents, please? I left them in the lobby... I didn't know what to do with them."
Irene took a deep breath and nodded, putting a forced smile on her face as she left the kitchen without a backwards glance. Anne was just about to follow her when Carol held her back. "We need to talk, Anne."
"You know," Anne sighed, "I never much liked conversations that began like that. Will this be one of those?"
Carol walked over to the table and gracelessly sat down on a chair. "Probably."
Anne joined her at the table and decided to get right down to it. "So, you want to talk to me about my mother, I guess. Well, you heard … everything. Are you going to arrest her?"
The sheriff looked into Anne's eyes. "What I'm going to say now has to stay between us. And I mean that. Okay?"
"I really couldn't care less how your father died." Carol sighed, knowing what she she was doing was wrong. It just felt right. She really liked Irene, and she was sure that the older woman probably had to have had a really good reason for killing him. She sighed again but her tone was decisive: "I didn't hear a thing."
"You could get in trouble for that, right?"
Carol smiled. "If you don’t tell anybody, nobody but us will know what happened. Besides, there are things that worry me a lot more, believe me."
"What's up?" Anne asked.
"What I really wanted to talk to you about is this." Carol hesitated. "God, I don't know what to say, really. Damn!" She blew out a breath while Anne tried to look patient. "Okay, it's like this: the old doc was right, Carlos didn't really say anything much at all. As soon as we were all gone, he totally clammed up. Then, after I got back to the hospital, more FBI agents showed up. With them was Assistant Director Walker, my former boss."
Anne got a sinking feeling in her stomach. She wasn't sure why, but the look on Carol's face made it very clear that she wouldn't like what was coming next.
"I don't even know how they made it here so fast in this weather," Carol continued. "But here they were." She looked at Anne and said tonelessly, "They offered Carlos a deal."
"What?" Anne erupted. "They're not really letting him walk, are they?"
Carol held up her hands to stop Anne. "It looks like he will not be charged with trafficking in exchange for giving us the big names behind the operation, a list of the so-called customers, and the possible destination of the girls. He's turning state's witness and will get protection and a new life. They really don't believe he was in it alone."
"No, of course not." Anne laughed bitterly. "They always thought I was working with him! Carol, what if Carlos names me as one of his accomplices?"
"Anne, don't worry," the sheriff said. "Dave knows you have nothing to do with it, and if Carlos names you, Dave will know it's a lie. And with that Carlos would dig himself a pretty big hole."
Anne leaned back in her chair and let out a long breath. "So, he gets off just like that?"
Carol mimicked her friend's position. "Yes, they're going to put him in the witness protection program, and he'll disappear from sight. The good thing about that is that you'll be rid of him. If he values his life, he'll never come out of hiding again. I doubt his customers and partners will like the exposure."
"Can't we find anything else to charge him with?"
Carol shook her head "No, his deal apparently includes immunity for all crimes he committed." The frustration was clear in her voice.
"Even something like –" Anne paused, instantly seeing flashes of her fourteen-year-old self almost raped by Carlos. Her mind thankfully refused to conjure up an image of Carlos as he raped Shana. "Something like attempted murder?" she continued. "Carlos did try to kill Shana by driving her off the road--"
"Anne," Carol continued the sentence. "I don't think the FBI will renege on the deal with him because of something like that. They really wanted him."
Anne got up from her chair, suddenly tired beyond belief. "Probably not." She turned to go. At the door she stopped. "Did you try and stop them from making this kind of deal?" she asked quietly.
Carol was quiet for a long time, so long in fact that Anne thought she wouldn't answer at all. When Carol did answer it was in a curious, conversational tone. "AD Walker offered me my job back, can you believe that? Back to the FBI—"
"Well," Anne interrupted her, "then you got what you've wanted all the time, didn't you?" Her voice was bitter. "Everyone gets what they want: the FBI stops a slavery ring, Carlos goes off free, and you go back to the FBI! And everyone lives—"
"I said no, Anne," Carol said quietly.
"Why? Isn't that what you've always wanted?"
"I don't want to go back, especially not after today," Carol replied. "I like it here, and …"
"And?" Ah, Anne thought.
And then there's Andy, Carol thought with a small grin playing around her lips. "And nothing. Just …" She looked at Anne. "I just really like living here, Anne. I think I can be happy here."
"I really hope so," Anne said sympathetically.
"I did try to stop them."
Anne saw the regret in the sheriff's brown eyes. "I think I knew that."
"Good night," Carol murmured.
Anne closed the door behind her. "Yeah, right."
Shana was still awake when Anne returned to the library. "Hey."
"Hey, back." After a long look into Anne's eyes she pulled her down onto the sofa. She put Anne's head on her lap and tenderly stroked the dark hair. "What's wrong?" she asked when Anne let out a quiet sigh.
"Shouldn't you be getting some rest?" Anne finally asked, rubbing her cheek against Shana's belly. "Hey there," she whispered.
Shana smiled, her eyes filling with tears as she leaned forward and pressed her lips to Anne's forehead. "I love you, Anne," she whispered.
"I love you too."
"Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?" Shana resumed stroking her lover's hair. "Was it something Mom said?"
Anne sat up next to Shana, unable to have this conversation while lying curled up on the sofa. She stretched her arm out on the back of the sofa and unconsciously played with Shana’s hair. Then she told Shana about the deal.
"They really made a deal with the devil?" Shana couldn't believe it. "How could they do that?"
"I think in the end they just want to end the whole trafficking ring and get everyone involved," Anne replied reluctantly. She knew he had to have some partners but she was honest enough to admit to herself that didn't want Carlos to have partners. To her, Carlos was the personification of evil, and she didn't want him to share the blame.
Shana sighed. She was unhappy about the deal but she could also appreciate the positive aspects of never having to face Carlos again. "You know, even though it bugs me that he’s getting off scot-free, I'm kinda glad that he'll be out of our life for good. I wouldn't have wanted to appear in court to testify anyway." She didn't have to specify what she didn't want the world to know. "Now we can continue with our life without his interference." She snuggled into Anne's uninjured side and yawned. "Let's go to bed, I want to feel you."
"Yes, let's." Anne groaned as she struggled to get up. The pain medication was wearing off, and her arm had started to throb painfully the past few minutes. She quickly suppressed the reflex of touching the bandaged wound but Shana caught the tiny movement anyway.
"You need to take some pain pills, honey," Shana said quietly as she led her into the adjacent bedroom. She grabbed up the bottle of pills and shook out two. "Here, take these." She handed Anne the pills and a small bottle of water from the nightstand. Anne looked reluctant. "Take them, honey, or you won't be able to sleep."
"But if I take them I'll be out and I won't be able to feel you next to me." Anne sounded almost like a child. "I want to feel you. I hate pills, you know that."
"Honey, you know I'll always be near you, right here," Shana cooed and tenderly cupped Anne's cheek. She watched as Anne took the pills and chased them down with half the bottle of water. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" she said with a tiny grin. "Now go to bed, I'll be with you shortly."
"You're going to be a great mom, Shay," Anne said seriously as she undressed. She got under the covers and tried to find a comfortable position. She looked at Shana, who was undressing next to the bed. A rakish grin appeared on her face and a tiny growl escaped her throat. When Shana turned around to see where the sound came from, the grin got even wider. "You are so beautiful," Anne whispered, even as the grin turned slightly droopy as the pills kicked in.
"And you're stoned," Shana grinned and put on a robe before she headed to the bathroom.
When she returned a few minutes later Anne had taken off the bandages from her hand and the sling, and was well and truly out. Shana shed her robe and crawled into bed next to her. She got as close to Anne as she could without jarring her injured arm and closed her eyes. Within seconds she was asleep.