Fandom: Xena Uber
Summary: Trace Sheridan is a dirty cop in trouble with time running out. How can a dead woman walking get her life back?
A/N: This is my first Uber attempt. It started out as an Olivia/Alex Uber but when writing it, I just couldn't picture those two, I kept seeing Xena and Gabrielle - which is odd because I have only seen four episodes of "Xena Warrior Princess" (don’t ask…it’s complicated) but I have read and been intrigued by many Xena Ubers. So, I went back and tweaked the beginning with a few changes to make it fit the characters as I know them...which may or may not be way off base. With that said, no infringement is intended to the powers that be at MCA/Universal. Other than that, the story is mine, the characters are mine, the fantasy is mine.
I am not an American history buff...which will be quite evident to anyone who is. So please bear with the glaring inacuracies.
This story also contains a recollection of a rape, although not graphically depicted, it is there, nonetheless, so be forewarned.
This is for Canna who helped me get my notes back after they were accidentally deleted. I owe you one...
Archive: Only with permission from the author
She was powering herself forward, sure by now she was running on pure adrenalin alone. Sweat was running down her face, into her eyes and ears, trickling down her back, pain and strain reminding her of her limitations, muscles and ligaments screaming at her, "enough, already!" But it was not enough, it couldn't be. She had not caught up to him yet and, damn it, this time she was not going to let him get away. The burn in her legs had long passed and now it felt like she was sprinting on two stumps. Thankfully breathing was automatic and not something she had to think about doing because right now her only focus was to catch the man who shot her partner. But not for any reasons of nobility, as one might expect of her. Her quest was not to capture this man and bring him to justice, but to finish him off for self-preservation.
It had happened so fast. They hadn't been on duty that long when one of her most valuable confidential informants called her and asked for a meeting. Told her he had certain knowledge of a situation that would probably garner her another commendation. Told her that Vincent DeSienna, once a cohort, now the bane of her existence, had resurfaced and her CI knew where she could find him. The fact that she would act on this information was a no-brainer.
Responding to the requested area, Tracey Sheridan and her partner, Robert Montesano, pulled their vehicle into a secluded alley, the usual dark, obscure place to talk, and sat in their car, looking for Boney Jackson, her snitch. Checking her watch, Trace remarked to Bobby that it was unlike Jackson not to be right there. That's when they saw a shadow move in the foreground and mistakenly assumed that person was the one who should have been there to meet them.
Complacently, almost lazily, Bobby Montesano opened the driver's side door and was about to get out when a series of shots rang out, one striking the young detective of almost two years in the shoulder. Reacting quickly, Trace reached over and pulled him down level on the seat as two more bullets slammed into the backrest of the driver's side seat, where Montesano's head had been merely seconds earlier.
When the sound of gunfire stopped abruptly, Trace surmised whoever was shooting at them had emptied his clip and utilized the three seconds it took to slap another magazine in, to exit her side of the vehicle with her portable in one hand and her Glock in the other. Crouching by the wheel, hoping the engine block was between her and the shooter for some protection, Trace raised up quickly and unloaded her clip in rapid succession, drawing fire away from her wounded partner. Ducking down, she released the empty magazine, replacing it with a full one as more shots rang out, flying over her head, at least three striking the front grill of the sedan.
She was about to put out an emergency 'shots fired, officer down' call, when she heard Bobby's voice, strong but in definite pain. "Trace! You all right?"
"Still here," she yelled back. "You?" More gunfire. "Bobby! Hit the brights one time!" As he did, she laid prone on the pavement, peeking in the direction the vehicle's headlights were pointing. Recognizing the blinded face, a startled Trace hesitated while the ramifications of this development registered, which gave the shooter enough time to dive down behind his trademark BMW. "Son of a bitch," she whispered to herself, "It's DeSienna. Fuck." She yelled to Bobby to call it in and she moved her aim to the Beamer's tires, flattening two so that he could not escape by vehicle.
"Can do. Go get that bastard," he told her, as it was suddenly silent except for the sounds of footsteps running away. Jumping to her feet, Detective Tracey Sheridan took off after the fleeing figure as though she had been jettisoned from an idling spacecraft. If anyone could look into her normally alluring ice blue eyes right now, growing darker by the second, they would not see life in them, they would see death. Murder, to be more precise.
She had to have been chasing him for at least a mile. The only sound she could hear was her own breathing. The cadence of two sets of footsteps was no longer registering in her brain. On a casual day, Trace could do that length in eight minutes. With her intentionally putting on the speed, she knew she had covered twice that distance in the same amount of time. And yet she still had not caught up to him...but she was gaining.
Damn, she was fast, he thought as he could hear her behind him, almost on top of him. He hadn't thought this out fully, hadn't planned on not killing her, or at least wounding her. What had gone wrong? Well, first, the bitch disabled his car, so he couldn't make a quick getaway and, second, a back-up plan would have been good, maybe have one of his men at a rendezvous point to pick him up in case things had not worked out as intended. Well...spilt milk and all that, he was just going to have to keep running and stay ahead of her.
He had impatiently waited for them, set up the ambush, his vendetta against her so thorough and raging. She had been his father's favorite dirty cop, taking money to make evidence disappear in any case involving his family. Then she suddenly stopped, defecting to an even more corrupt influence, and it appeared as though she was on a calling, trying to personally eliminate his family members one by one. She had been instrumental in the arrest of his father, a man who had been like a father to her, also - at least financially. She had been in on the apprehension of his younger brother, used her connection with him and knowledge of his deep anger issues to provoke him into taking a swing or two at her, resulting in jail time. Then she expertly entrapped and testified against his cousin, the family attorney, which helped get him disbarred.
He had laid low for a while, felt it was necessary for his own survival but her being such a traitor ate away at him, eroding what emotional security he might have had remaining. She left him with no choice, he needed to get her before she got him. He was the only one left to run the family empire, if he went down, the dynasty went with him. His other relatives were idiots, he couldn't rely on them to keep the family on top where they deserved to be. He had to get this bitch. He had to. This mission couldn't be left up to one of his flunkies, he had to do this himself, had to have that satisfaction.
It should have been so easy. He coerced one of her most faithful confidential informants into requesting a meeting. Then he killed him. Hey, the guy was useless anyway, working with the cops, betraying his streets, he didn't deserve to live. And, the fact that the dirtbag informed to her just made said dirtbag's demise even sweeter. Then all he had to do was wait for them to come into the alleyway expecting to meet with her CI and eliminate them both. He was really only after her. Capping her partner would have just been an added bonus.
His biggest mistake, he knew, was that he had underestimated her. Again. As much as he despised her, he couldn't deny the bitch knew her shit. He should have had someone else take her out, someone who was expendable, just in case. But no, he had to do this himself, had to be the one claim bragging rights on this one. He would be damned if she would get him, too. He had to be the one to stop her, to eliminate her as a problem, it was only right. He owed it to his family to kill her.
But, as usual, her reflexes had been too quick, she was just too smart. He had kept himself adequately hidden and protected. Hitting her first had been his intention but she hadn't been driving, her partner had. He'd started firing at them the second the car stopped and the doors opened, had unloaded two full clips thinking he couldn't miss. Yet he had.
Missed her. And now, the sound of her gaining on him pushed him harder, even though he knew he was almost out of steam. And, as he was out of bullets, he knew if she caught him, she'd kill him.
DeSienna had led her through a labyrinth of back alleys which crisscrossed over several deserted side streets. He knew this territory well as he had spent most of his childhood here. He was running out of places to divert off to until he could hear music and noise up ahead, emanating from the usually overcrowded craft street fair that littered the next eight blocks. Turning the corner, he was relieved to enter a sea of people occupying the street and he quickly, gleefully, got lost in the haphazard throng.
She was so close, not even ten steps behind him. She watched him turn the corner and disappear from her sight. She came bounding around after him and before she could slow down, she smashed into a young couple, who were heading toward the alley to get a little more privately acquainted. The force of the collision sent the two lovebirds crashing to the ground. Barely losing her balance, Trace recovered by turning out of the fall and was about to continue her foot chase when a hand reached out and grabbed her ankle.
"Hey! Where the fuck do you think you're going?" the older teenage boy spit at her, his ego bruised more than his body.
She so did not have time for this, some little ham head trying to prove his machismo to some chick he probably didn't even know. Looking at the crowd of people lining the street for the next eight blocks, she knew she had lost DeSienna. And even if she hadn't, it would have been too dangerous to pursue him in this setting. Whirling, she stomped her free foot down on the young man's wrist, which prompted the automatic, immediate release of his grip on her ankle. Howling, he let fly a string of uncomplimentary expletives that almost made Trace blush. Almost.
"Shut up," Trace advised him, evenly, displaying her badge and pointing her gun at him...not so much for threat as for emphasis. She wasn't sure but she thought he might have pissed his pants. She scanned the people enjoying the evening's festivities and then realized she needed to catch her breath.
Bending at the waist, leaning the palms of her hands on her knees, she closed her eyes as perspiration continued to drip down her forehead, neck, chest and back. It was then and only then she realized how hard she had been pushing herself. Straightening up, she paced a bit, trying to regain a somewhat normal respiration.
"Shit! Son-of-a-bitch! Fuck!!" She sputtered, trying to collect her composure before she keyed the radio. A few deep breaths later, she reported in and cursed herself again for losing him. As she walked back toward the alley, she sneered at the man still on the ground, however, extending a hand toward the young woman, whose eyes were glued to her Glock, which had just been holstered. Accepting the offering, the girl rose to her feet easily with the help of the woman pulling her to a standing position. "You okay?"
"Yes...I'm...I'm fine, thanks," the girl responded, a little nonplussed by the last couple of minutes.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, sincerely.
"Hey - what about me?" The young man asked bitterly, still seated on the sidewalk.
She looked down at him, with a smirk, shaking her head. "What about you?"
Detective Sheridan walked toward the ambulance to where her young partner was about to be wheeled on and moved to a hospital. The EMT attending to him had given him something for the pain and it was starting to take effect. "How are you, Bobby?" she asked, clasping his hand, tightly.
"Great now," he grinned, then grimaced. He indicated the paramedic. "Hector here gave me some good stuff, which I'm sure must be illegal," he stumbled over his words, "and I feel pretty darn good, comparatively." When Hector smiled down at him, Montesano looked at the nice looking Hispanic EMT and said, "If I weren't straight, I'd marry you."
Winking at Trace, Hector then patted Bobby's arm and said, "First, that would make you a bisexual bigamist and second, you just love me for my drugs."
"I never said I wasn't shallow," Montesano retorted.
"A couple minutes, Detective, then we need to get him out of here," Hector advised Trace and then walked to the front of the vehicle.
"So I guess it's not life threatening, huh?" she smiled at her usually dark complexioned, ruggedly handsome, twenty-eight-year-old partner who was now extremely ashen.
"No. Thanks to you."
"Aw, come on, Bobby, I was only doing my job."
"You saved my ass, Trace," Detective Robert Montesano conceded, graciously. "If you hadn't reacted so fast, we'd be the lead story on the eleven o'clock news."
"You probably are anyway." Looking up, she spotted their boss, Lieutenant Quintana, exiting a police cruiser. This was routine, so she wasn't surprised to see him. His presence was required at any incident that involved his officers getting shot or discharging their weapons for any reason.
Behind him was Lance Eaker from the Internal Affairs Division. That wasn't unusual, either, given the circumstances. She was grateful that it was Eaker, as he was one of the nicer IA officers, less obnoxious than most. Having run the gamut with nearly every officer from IAD, her being the focus of several investigations, which never amounted to anything, she liked Eaker the best. She also took full advantage of the obvious, hammering unrequited crush he had on her. Trace understood Internal Affairs had a job to do and they usually weren't as bad as they were portrayed in the movies or on television, but if you had something to hide, they could be repugnantly relentless. As well they should have been. It was dirty cops that ruined it for the rest of them. If they got caught, she mused to herself, a satisfied smile curling her lips.
"Sorry you didn't get him," Bobby told her, sincerely.
"Me, too, the bastard," she spit out. "If DeSienna didn't have such a hard on for me, none of this would have happened. This isn't over yet, partner. He still is going to have to explain what his car is doing here and why bullets registered to his gun are everywhere, including in you and our sedan." And, hopefully, not explain to them why he was really trying to kill her.
"And in Boney Jackson," Montesano supplied.
"What?" Shocked, Trace turned to see the coroner's office loading a bagged body into their van. "No..."
"Sorry, partner," Bobby consoled. Jackson was not a model citizen, he had an arrest record as long as his own arm, but he had redeemed himself by becoming Trace's informant and he had done a damned good job. She could feel her blood pressure rise just at the thought that DeSienna most likely killed him because of her, that he would have killed Bobby because of her. That he would have killed her without a second thought.
She would make sure Jackson got a funeral and a proper burial. It was the least she could do. DeSienna's blood money in her alias account should cover the expenses just fine. Or at least cover what she spent from her own pocket.
Hector reappeared and strapped Montesano securely to the gurney. "Okay, Detective, it's time to go."
As they lifted him slightly and rolled him backward, the legs of the stretcher collapsed, fitting nicely into the back of the ambulance.
Just as Quintana and Eaker stepped next to Trace and before the meat wagon's doors were closed, Bobby grinned at his partner and slurred, "And if you were straight, I'd marry you, too!"
Laughing, Trace looked over at the stunned faces of her boss and Eaker. Oops. Oh well. Although she had never been blatant about anything neither did she go to great lengths to keep her orientation a secret, either. They had to know. They couldn't be that dense. Or could they? Most of the men she knew or worked with were guided by their little head, rarely, if ever, thinking with their big head, so...her male colleagues probably couldn't get passed the fact the she was naturally beautiful and had a body a bishop would have given up his vows for.
Even though she knew she wasn't considered 'stereotypical' with her long black hair and mannerisms neither masculine nor feminine, she also didn't own a dress or skirt, never carried a purse, always wore men's jeans, was always 'one of the guys,' the fact that she never showed up at company functions with a date and - oh yeah, there was that 'scandal' two years ago when she picked up the gorgeous, recently divorced, female district attorney and left the holiday celebration with her. Even if none of the other signs clued them in, that incident should have been the kicker.
She specifically remembered that division Christmas party where she showed up late, had a few drinks, flirted outrageously with and, shortly thereafter, left with the city's DA. It had been the talk of the surrounding precinct men's bathrooms and workout rooms for months. Had they or hadn't they? Neither was talking which only seemed to stimulate the rumor mill more.
And, boy, had they! Okay, so it was a one-night stand, as the sex did last one night, all night, and at a few points, they were standing. But she was the envy of all her co-workers, even though no one had the gonads to say anything to her about it. They all wanted the intelligent, deliciously sensual DA, a fantasy that dominated locker room conversation and personal dirty jokes between partners - but it was Trace Sheridan who got her.
Even the dayshift watch commander, the most conservative of cops, couldn't help but be jealous - not that he approved of any form of homosexuality - but...just the thought of what the two women must have done in bed together, especially with them both being individually so hot and sexy, and that he would have preferred to be the one in bed with either...or both...or watching them...it was a scenario that stayed with him and the others a very long time. A lot of them thought that Trace and the DA were still secretly seeing each other but both women mutually agreed that it wasn't a good idea. Not that one time in the sack was nearly enough but even if Trace did do relationships - which she didn’t - an affair between them would have been much too distracting. For everyone.
She never really thought about the possibility that most of her male colleagues did not want to believe she was a lesbian because a majority of them wanted her for themselves. It wasn't that she was a great cop (because she wasn't, the only thing she was really good at was being deceitful - not that any of them knew anything about that part of her life), it was more that Trace Sheridan was a looker.
The tall detective was a striking woman by anyone's standards. She had expressive, intense, light crystal blue eyes, almost a shadowy aqua when angry or aroused, under inherently long, dark lashes, sculpted cheekbones and a strong set to her jaw which was somewhat reminiscent of a proud, noble tribal warrior from generations past. She had a spirituous, sensuous mouth which, when she smiled, parted to reveal an easy yet almost carnal grin. Her mahogany-streaked ebony hair always fell playfully tousled around her tanned, expressive face
She also had a body to die for stretched over a six-foot frame, and she knew this because she worked very hard at keeping it that way. It was not her initial intention to attract anyone with her figure as it was more to stay in shape just in case she had to rely on her own physical resources in situations like tonight. She ran five miles at least every other afternoon before her shift began, worked out for forty-five minutes three days a week at the gym and taught women's unarmed self-defense classes at the local YMCA once a week. That and random good genes blessed her with the body now coveted by nearly all her male co-workers and a few of her female ones.
But even if Trace did do relationships, she didn't want them or have time for them. It was difficult to commit to anything other than her profession and the times she had attempted something more than just a few dates had all ended badly. Going out with anyone 'on the job' proved either too competitive, too familiar or too much of a gamble at being found out as a cop on the take and dating a civilian was too difficult because they never really understood the dynamics of her profession and she got tired of explaining why she was always late, always being called away, always canceling plans.
It worked out better for her to rely on special 'friends' who didn't mind sharing a bed now and then or meet someone when the mood and circumstances were right to satisfy her healthy sexual appetite. She wasn't the most discriminate lesbian in town and she never had a problem finding accommodating women.
Shaking her head, the detective turned to them, resting her fist on her hip, waiting for either one of them to speak. From the looks on their faces, it might be a while.
Opening a can of Canada Dry, thirty-year-old Detective Tracey Sheridan took a long drink, allowing the harsh carbonation to conquer the dryness all the way down her throat. She knew even the minute amount of ginger in the beverage would help settle her stomach somewhat. She wasn't trying to calm herself from being afraid, on the contrary, she had been angry. Frighteningly angry. Had she got her hands on Vincent DeSienna, the ball-less, gutless little prick, she might have not had any need for her trusty service weapon, so incensed had she been at his cowardly attack of her and her partner. She was well aware of the risks that came with being a 'double agent,' so to speak, and that what had happened earlier was always a possibility but it didn't make her any less furious. Getting even with her was one thing but taking out those around her, who had nothing to do with their personal fight, enraged her.
Looking across the table of the gray, dull but practical interview room at IA Officer Lance Eaker, Trace watched as he finished adding some information to his report. He glanced up and studied her intently. Of all the luck...his Greek Goddess was a dyke. He had heard the rumors but his feelings for her helped him deny them. Well - that didn't mean he still couldn't fantasize. She was staring at him but it was obvious her mind was a thousand miles elsewhere. Eaker snapped his fingers to bring her back to reality.
"I know it's been a wild night there, Sheridan, but try to pay attention so we can both get the hell out of here and go home." His words were playful but his eyes were humorless. Maybe it was perfect timing to find out that Detective Sheridan was gay and he didn't stand a chance with her because he knew she wasn't going to be around too much longer. She had already been on borrowed time with her systematic but barely legal elimination of the city's most notorious crime family. Anyone who pissed off a DeSienna was a moving target and it was only a matter of time until she was taken out. Who she was or what she did for a living or who she knew couldn't save her. Trace Sheridan was a dead woman walking.
"What else do you need, Lance? We've been over everything four times," she sighed, wearily.
"Just want to make sure we didn't miss anything - for your sake," he replied, reviewing his paperwork one last time. "You going home or up to the hospital?"
"I'd be too antsy at home," she answered him, not daring to mention she was concerned DeSienna might be waiting for her there with another sneak attack on his agenda. "I'm going to see Bobby. I hope someone called his wife."
Tracey Sheridan didn't know she wanted to be in law enforcement until the month before she applied to the police academy. The decision was as much of a surprise to her as it was to everyone around her. Especially her mother, a former crack whore who'd spent more time in jail than out of it.
Zelda Sheridan had been cycled into the foster care system when she was three years old. Her biological parents had abandoned her and she journeyed through one abusive situation after another. At sixteen, she ran away, finding more love and compassion on the streets with strangers. She also learned she was sitting on a gold mine and used her natural 'assets' as a way to earn money. At eighteen, she looked thirty, acted fifty and found herself pregnant by an unknown john, who could have been one of many. For reasons even she didn't understand, she cleaned herself up and decided to have and keep the baby.
After Tracey was born, Zelda actually settled down, secured a legitimate job and became a doting mom to her little girl. Until her daughter turned six. By then, the twenty-four year old woman was bored with a routine nine-to-five workday and barely earning minimum wage. She regressed to her former profession getting much more caught up in it than before, turning her little girl into a feisty, independent but protective, latch key kid.
Trace had always been spontaneous - as a child, an adolescent, a teenager - and headstrong. When she made up her mind to do something, she did it and never worried about the consequences of her choices until it was too late. That got her into more trouble than it was worth, usually. But not with her mother...Zelda had her own issues to deal with...like where her next fix was coming from. This left Trace to basically bring up herself.
From an early age, she learned how to get around the law, how to dodge any authorities looking for her, how to get what she wanted by manipulation and, more than anything, how much money was the passport to everything in life. At least in her life.
She also knew soon after she hit puberty that she liked girls much better than boys. She witnessed too frequently how men treated her mother, who was normally a kind, sweet woman who just happened to look for love in all the wrong places and through a syringe. As Trace matured, she realized that her predilections were inborn and not environmental, even though her experiences with the opposite sex were rarely positive. The difference between her and her mother, though, was that men never scared or intimidated her.
Then fate intervened and she got hooked up with a man named Vittorio DeSienna. Not by choice but by a mistake of her mother's. Zelda and her 'man of the minute' found themselves dangerously beholden to the most notorious mob boss in three states for assaulting one of his 'lieutenants' who was walking back to his car after a payoff and stealing the money to support their drug habit. Trace came home from school one day and found her mother a bloody mess and the lifeless body of Zelda's boyfriend on the kitchen floor. It was a warning. Since the DeSienna's got most of the money back, they left Trace's mother alive. Barely. If Vittorio did not get the rest of the money, Zelda would pay for it with her life, which she had little of, since she'd already paid for it with her soul.
The defiant but enterprising eighteen-year-old went directly to DeSienna and offered to work off her mother's debt. DeSienna took one look at her and immediately wanted to employ her as a high-priced prostitute. When she told him just exactly where he could stick that offer, instead of being angry, he was amused by her courageous obstinence. He soon learned that Trace could get into places and accomplish things his sons and ‘family’ could not. And she found that she liked it - her mother was safe and the money was great. Then, two years after he took on Trace, Vittorio suggested she try to get into the police academy, wanting nothing more than to have his own personal cop on the payroll.
Liking the idea, she submitted her paperwork, aced her written exam, charmed her way through an oral board, easily passed her physical and smoked her psyche evaluation. The entire time she was in training, she had no contact with the DeSienna family or anyone affiliated with them. She wanted no previews of complicity or hint of impropriety in her behavior or associations, the promise of unlimited income so great if she could pull this off.
Graduating at the top of her class, Trace spent four years on patrol in Union City's downtown station, the busiest area in the county, the precinct Vittorio ran his operations in. Trace learned quickly what she could and couldn't do to be effective in her job and work for DeSienna on the side. Or, more correctly, be useful for DeSienna and work as a cop on the side.
The trouble started when Vittorio's son, Vincent, became obsessively jealous of the attention his father was lavishing on the statuesque, stunning woman and, also, after he realized that he could never make her his mistress. Without his father's knowledge, Vincent began to undercut everything Trace did, not only making her look incompetent but raising suspicion in Vittorio's eyes that the woman might be double-crossing him. Knowing the old man would always side with his number one son, regardless of how many times Vincent had disappointed him and she hadn't, Trace realized her 'career' with the infamous crime family was coming to an end.
Trace was not a stupid woman. Before she could be completely cut loose, she sold herself to the highest bidder, who happened to be the nemesis of Vittorio DeSienna and his nasty brood - the Union City Police Commissioner. She knew the commissioner was not the sterling character his publicity staff and PIO made him out to be as she had dealt with him a few times in the past in underhanded deals and agreements with the DeSienna family.
Her first assignment was a big one and one that would really prove her mettle with the highest police official in the county. She got promoted to Detective 2nd Grade following a single-handed take down of her former boss. Trace had previous knowledge of the day, time and place, the racketeering top mobster and two of his cronies were planning to personally torture a long time but traitorous colleague in an abandoned store in the old warehouse section of town.
That particular incident raised her to nearly legendary status which, for a brief time, almost became much more of a hindrance than a help. Keeping as low a profile as possible under the circumstances, she eventually had to be transferred out of the downtown precinct for two years while the dust cleared. In that two-year period, she took down another DeSienna, Vittorio's youngest son. Angelo "Andy" DeSienna was a reckless punk who stupidly (and drunkenly) confronted her outside a cop bar one night. She had been on her way in after her shift when it happened. While in jail, awaiting his trial, hot head Andy killed another resident who he claimed made sexual advances, which earned him twenty-five years in an out-of-state prison.
After that, Trace requested to go back to the downtown station and was paired off with a rookie detective named Montesano. Their first week out, she subtly arranged for them to be in the right place at the right time to witness a bribe being taken by Evan Lenoci, the DeSienna family attorney and cousin of Vincent. Testimony given by Trace (but not her partner, who wasn't completely sure of what he saw) resulted in Lenoci being disbarred. Vittorio's oldest boy then stepped up his gunning for her before she could remove him from his rightly inherited throne in the DeSienna kingdom.
Vincent DeSienna had been arrested the next day for the murder of one Reginald "Boney" Jackson and the attempted murder of Detectives Robert Montesano and Tracey Sheridan. Those were the major charges. He was being held in the county lock up with more charges pending. There was so much solid evidence against him even his crooked, high-priced attorneys couldn't get him out of this one. She had even gone to visit him, just to rub his nose in it and to insure he would keep his mouth shut about her, very unprofessional she knew but it was too good an opportunity to pass up, regardless of the ass chewing she got from her boss.
If looks could indeed kill, Trace would have been a victim of multiple fatal wounds, courtesy of one Vittorio Vincent DeSienna Jr.'s steely gray homicidal orbs. It was a shame he was such a vindictive, loathsome person because, despite that, he wasn't a bad looking man, a trait Trace was sure, got him places his muscle and influence ordinarily wouldn't, even though it got him nowhere with her.
But this had been a deadly game of one-upmanship between the two of them for too long and she had finally won, she had destroyed the mighty DeSienna snake pit. Sure, other distant relatives would slither in to take Vincent's place as the head of the 'empire,' but she had been the driving force behind the demise of the truly powerful family members. It was a good feeling. It was a better feeling that her reputation would be fiercely defended by the police commissioner, regardless of what he had to do to keep their little secret.
The first thing she did, after personally informing Bobby, who was still in the hospital recovering from shoulder surgery, was phone her dear friend, Mark Teranovich, her very first patrol partner who had quit the force after his leg had been shattered during a gun battle with a few of the DeSienna entourage. Mark had barely been out of the academy four months when the attack occurred. Even though he was getting full disability and compensation for his line duty injuries, he was still sour at the abrupt end to his law enforcement career at the hands of the infamous family. This incident occurred on a day Trace wasn't at work and even though Vittorio always denied it was intentional, she wondered if it was a warning to her to be loyal. Mark and Trace had remained fast friends, though, and she tried to take a day out of every two weeks or so and spend it with him.
Since then, Mark had become somewhat of a hermit, buying a small house in the mountains and wallowing in his hobby of inventing. He had made a fortune on a simple, silly little thing constructed from foam rubber, cloth and velcro, used to wrap around the hard plastic handles of a laundry basket. They were distributed in supermarkets, drug stores and discount stores, places that sold out of the product the very first week it went on the shelf. The income from that and his police pension allowed him to live very comfortably and lavishly indulge in more complex, technically innovative creations. He missed being a cop but he found his niche in inventing, in fact, the more eccentric, the better.
Following that phone call, she had gone out to celebrate with her best friend, Sandy Cline, but Trace had been so exhausted from the recent activities, that she really could not enjoy the evening. Returning home earlier than either would have really liked, Sandy and Trace agreed to go out at the end of the week and really make a night of it.
The next day she arranged for Boney Jackson's services. That took a good chunk out of her legitimate savings but it was something she knew she had to do. Paying for the funeral out of her illegal savings would have been easier but unwise, as she was sure an investigation would be launched into where she got that much money. Regardless if the commissioner squashed any inquiry, the suspicion would remain. She would file a requisition to be reimbursed by the city, knowing it probably wouldn't happen and, even if it did, she more than likely wouldn't see the money until one of her retirement checks.
A majority of the rest of the week had been spent on paperwork, documenting the DeSienna bust, making sure all the 'T's were crossed and 'I's were dotted so that when this case went to court there would be no mistakes, no loopholes, no tricks the defense attorney could pull out of his ass to weaken the state's case against good old Vinny. At least through no fault of the detective's, that was.
Trace and Sandy had been out on their planned celebration night, blowing off steam. It had been four days since the shooting and the chase and three days since DeSienna's arrest and, as there had been no further incidents, it was almost off the detective's mind - almost - when the inevitable happened.
The night had started out pleasantly but went consistently downhill from there. Trace had barely got through the door and ran smack into one of her exes (and a prime example of why the detective didn't do relationships). And, unfortunately, an ex who was not pleased with the break up and still not ready to let go of the tumultuous relationship. Karen Wong was attractive and, for all intents and purposes, congenial...to everyone but Trace. She hid her insanity well and Sandy used to tease Trace about her and Karen skipping down the psychopath of love. Or lust, more accurately. She became dangerously obsessed with the police detective, a fatal attraction of sorts, and Trace had to file a temporary restraining order against her after they broke up.
Since then, Karen had only tried to contact her once and that gesture was met with serious reprisal, so it had not happened again. However, there were times that they ended up at the same places, out of coincidence and Trace left it alone as long as Karen kept her distance. Tonight, they found themselves standing shoulder to elbow at the bar. Trace acknowledged her politely, civilly, and walked away with two Coronas for Sandy and herself. Karen just glared at her, eyes boring holes into her back, resenting her for being there with anyone, even knowing Sandy was just a friend.
Trace tried not to let it bother her that Karen was there and did not want to possibly aggravate an already tense situation even more by insisting her ex leave the bar, as the TRO required Karen to stay at least five hundred feet away from the detective. Sandy was more disturbed that the obviously spiteful and unstable woman was there than Trace was. Looking back on it, she would have much rather dealt with Karen at her worst than what eventually transpired.
Dancing, drinking, releasing all the tension in her body that had built up over the past week, Trace hadn't let her guard down and enjoyed herself like this in what seemed like forever. The club was crowded and she danced with everybody. Or it felt like everybody. Except Karen.
She was having such a good time, in fact, that she couldn't hide her annoyance at Sandy, who elbowed her way across the dance floor and grabbed her quite roughly, and escorted her toward a wall.
"Wh -? What are you doing?!" Trace yanked her arm out of her best friend's grasp. She swallowed her anger, however, when she saw the look of sheer panic and fear on Sandy's face. "What's wrong?"
Leaning in, to be heard over the pulsating, loud music, Sandy said, "DeSienna is here...and I think he's brought his whole gang with him."
"That's impossible - he's in jail..." Following the direction of Sandy's subtle pointing, Trace was sure her heart stopped beating...after it jumped into her throat. There, at the front entrance, was Vincent DeSienna, surrounded by three of the biggest goons she'd ever seen. All she could think of was the tuxedoed, gorilla door man in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" in triplicate. Her instinct pushed her automatically toward the back door but once again, Sandy stopped her. "Don't bother, I checked. They're back there, too."
Crestfallen, stopping short of being downright panicky, she ran her hand through her long locks in contemplative frustration. "Fuck! How the fuck did he get out of jail?"
"Hello...! Earth to Trace...! He's a freaking DeSienna, I'm surprised he was in jail as long as he was and you should be, too."
"How the fuck did he know I was here? I know no one tailed us. I was extra cautious on that...how -?"
Realization struck them both at the same time. "Karen!" they furiously chorused.
"Son-of-a-bitch!" Trace's mouth went dry. "How could she do this?" Her head swiveled back and forth between the front entrance and the hallway leading to the back door as though she were intently watching volleying in a tennis match. Had they seen her yet? Hopefully not. She reached for her cell phone to call in reinforcements, feeling around the area where the device was normally clipped to her belt. It was gone. Physically looking down, she visually searched her own waistline and then the immediate area around her. "Shit...Sandy, my cell's gone!"
"What do you mean?" Now the fear was beginning to rise in Sandy. Trace was never without her phone and Sandy did not have hers as she had dropped it and damaged it that afternoon. Suddenly this was turning into a real Murphy's Law kind of a night.
"I mean I don't know where it is...!" She was still frantically looking around.
"Did you leave it in the bathroom?"
"I haven't been to the bathroom yet." Trace's eyes suddenly locked with Karen's, who was standing at the bar, a smug yet contemptible expression crossing her normally delicate features. In an exaggerated movement, she raised her arm high into the air so that it could be seen above the heads of the other bar patrons. In her hand was Trace's cell phone. "That bitch!" the detective bellowed, her voice roaring with anger.
Sandy scoured the bar until she focused on what Trace saw. "Man...she wants her revenge. Bad."
"She's signed my fucking death warrant, whether she's realized it or not."
"Let's borrow someone else's cell...show 'em your badge, tell 'em it's a police emergency. Take your gun out, and -"
"No. No time. Besides, I don't want to do anything that might provoke these idiots to open fire in this crowd." Trace ushered Sandy toward the restroom area. "We've got to think of something fast or I'm never going to make it out of here alive...and you might not, either."
"Fire," she suggested, quickly.
"We can't start a fire, Sandy. Jesus, people might get hurt or killed."
"Who said anything about starting one? All we have to do is yell it and then we can move out with the crowd."
A look of satisfaction and relief washed over the detective's face. "No one would hear us over this noise...but if we could set the sprinkler system off..." she pulled Sandy into the ladies room with her.
Trace was never more grateful that Sandy smoked than at that moment. Sandy helped brace the detective who climbed precariously onto a stall wall, directly under a sprinkler valve and flicked on the lighter she had passed up to her.
Just then, a bar patron walked in and stopped, startled, by what she saw. "What are you doing?" she asked the two women. Before either of them could respond, she began to back out. "I'm going to get the manager..." and with that threat, she was gone.
"Yep, go ahead," Trace muttered, continuing her task. "I may get banned from this place but I'll be alive." In a matter of seconds, water was spraying everywhere and an ungodly loud alarm began sounding. Jumping down from her perch, getting soaked, she handed Sandy her lighter back. "Let's get out of here."
It should not have worked as well as it did, both women thinking that it was almost too easy. But they had escaped, losing themselves in the thick of the crowd that moved quickly toward the exits, out into the streets, passed the henchmen watching the doors. The frenzied bar patrons had shot out of the club entrances, literally pushing DeSienna and his stooges out of their way, knocking a few down in the process, just enough confusion to distract the gangster from his worst intentions.
"Wow. That was close," Sandy remarked, unnecessarily, as they ran to her car parked two blocks away. "Now what?" she asked, unlocking the doors with her remote.
"Just...just drive," Trace told her friend as she climbed into the back seat and laid down.
Starting up the car, shifting it into drive, Sandy pulled away from the curb. "What are you doing?"
"I don't know if they know your car or not or what Karen might have told them but even if they don't, they'll be looking for two people not one. It may not work, but I'll just stay down here until we get out of the city."
"Where are we going?"
"Head west, get on 105. I'll tell you from there."
While they drove, Sandy continued to check her rear view mirror for headlights following them. Once they made it past the city limits, they were pretty much alone on the highway. Slowly, Trace rose from the backseat, cautiously looking around before she sat up completely. There were no lights behind them and no tail lights ahead of them.
"How much gas do you have left?" the detective rubbed her eyes, trying to regain her focus.
"Half tank. Where did you want to go?"
"I...uh...I think I want to go to Mark's."
"Where is that?"
"In the mountains. I'll tell you where to drop me off."
"Drop you -? Are you insane?"
"I'm not going to tell you where exactly Mark's place is, Sandy. If you don't know, no one can torture it out of you."
"You think they won't kill me, anyway? Christ, Trace! No one will ever believe that I don't know where you are. Take me with you, where ever it is," she pleaded, desperately.
"No. I won't turn you into prey with DeSienna as the hunter. You don't deserve that. It's bad enough one of us is going to have to be looking over her shoulder the rest of her life, both of us shouldn't have to."
"Come on, Trace, you can't leave me now..."
She was shaking her head before Sandy could finish speaking. "No. You will be fine as long as you're nowhere near me. Just - just don't go back to your place tonight, let things cool down." Reaching in her pocket, Trace took out ninety dollars in cash and handed the wad over the seat to Sandy. "Take this and get yourself a room somewhere. Tomorrow, call Bobby and tell him what happened...depending on what's going on, he'll be able to advise you from there."
Sandy continued driving, concerned silence filling the time. Finally she said, "What about you? What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I'll think of something at Mark's. If DeSienna finds out where I am, by the time he gets to me, hopefully I'll have a plan together and be out of there." Pointing to a poorly lit gas station/convenience store, Trace said, "Stop up there and let me out. I'll call Mark from that pay phone and tell him where to come get me."
"When will I hear from you?" Sandy inquired, slowing the car to a stop.
"When I feel it's safe. I'll call you." Trace exited the car and walked quickly around to the driver's side, leaning in the window and hugging Sandy. "Take care of yourself. Don't take any shit off anybody."
"You take care of yourself, Trace. I'm frightened for you."
Smiling ruefully, the tall detective told her, "I've been playing Russian Roulette with the DeSiennas for years. It was only a matter of time before I took the bullet."
"Don't say that! Jesus, Trace..."
"You need to get moving, Sandy. Now." Trace commanded her, stepping away from the car. "We'll talk in a few days, if not before."
"Promise." She watched as the Firebird eased back onto the highway, heading further away from the city.
"You just can't keep yourself from stepping into a pile of shit, can you? Not going to come up smelling like a rose on this one, huh?" Mark commented, rhetorically. He maneuvered his pick-up truck uphill through a thickly forested, dirt road that wound around the mountain he called home. Taking nearly an hour to reach the house, it was close to midnight by the time he and Trace pulled in to his driveway.
He had picked up his phone on the second ring, alerting instantly on Trace's tone of voice, somewhere between forced composure and agitation. He didn't ask her why, when she asked that he come get her, knowing she would explain once they were together. After hanging up the pay phone at the store where Sandy had dropped her off, Trace then hiked directly into the woods for about a mile and a half, remembering the path that took her to the gravel road where she told Mark she would meet him.
After hugging him gratefully, she buckled herself in and unloaded her "story" to him as they drove. She neglected to advise him about the real reason Vincent was after her, knowing that he was too intelligent not to figure out that Trace may have been the reason he got shot and pensioned out all those years ago. Mark was too good a friend to ever have him find out any of the bad things she did, so she unraveled a tale of woe he would buy. He shook his head, sympathetically, cursing the DeSiennas for once again ruining another life.
Once inside Mark's humble abode, he cracked open a Budweiser, handing it to her, and embraced her again for comfort. He could tell she was angry but also ready to break down and cry, an emotion he knew she considered weak and would never reveal to him unless keeping it in would literally cause her to implode. Holding her so close benefited him, as well...it wasn't often he got to put his arms around such a sensuous woman. He knew Trace was a lesbian, that there would never be anything sexual between them but, respectfully, it didn't stop him from having his fantasies.
Finishing her beer, she asked if he minded if she took a shower. Handing her a fresh towel, he provided her with an old but clean set of sweats for her to change into. Afterward, sitting on the futon where she would sleep, sipping on a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea, she seemed to physically relax, at least more than he'd seen her since she got into his truck.
"So," she paused, looking around at all the contraptions and gadgets that cluttered Mark's den, "invented anything interesting?"
"Well...interesting to you and interesting to me are two different concepts. I'm working on a few things that might tweak your shorts."
"Yeah? Like what?"
"Aw, come on, Trace, you know you're really not interested," Mark grinned at her.
She regarded him seriously. He was an attractive man, in a "B" prison movie sort of way. Kind of rough and swarthy, muscular, with short hair and almost always a two or three day stubble, very much contradicting the science geek image that he conveyed to anyone who had never personally met him. He had an even, white smile that enhanced that playboy look and an untapped charisma that only Trace rarely got a glimpse of. If she had been into men, she would have gone after Mark in a heartbeat.
She sighed. "I need to take my mind of my troubles, Marky-Mark, so tell me what you've been up to."
"Well...if you mean it then let's do the rounds."
He took her on a tour around his den and office, showing her and explaining about all his new inventions, some that were finished and quite clever and a few that were still crude and in various stages of creation and completion. The internet had provided him with a plethora of areas that aided him in his research and the knowledge he gained was invaluable when combining it with his imagination.
Downstairs, in his basement, he led her to what looked like a seven-foot plexiglass tube, and beamed at her, contentedly. "And here is my baby...my pride and joy, my future Nobel Peace Prize winner."
Trace studied the cylindrical shaped object before her with question and amusement. "What is it?"
"This? In lieu of a more scientific name which I doubt you would understand anyway, I call it my retro molecular transference device."
She shook her head, laughing. "That sounds like something Frankenfurter and Riff Raff would come up with. What does it mean?"
"It's a...uh...time machine."
Nearly choking on her tea, Trace looked at the tube, then him. "You're kidding. You mean like in 'Time After Time' and 'Back To The Future'?"
"Well, not quite as elaborate or dramatic but...yeah, something like that."
"Seriously? Have you experimented with anything yet?"
"Just plants and objects and a few annoying rodents."
"And...nothing...I'm not sure anything has made it to where I've sent it and
I haven't figured out a way to get anything back yet. And don't ask me why I can't just reverse the process because, for some reason, it doesn't work that way."
Trace nodded, "Damn, Mark...still, that's pretty impressive."
By the time Trace woke up and roused herself from the warmth of the comfortable futon, Mark had already been down to the store and back, having retrieved his mail, two coffees, two cheese danish rolls and a local newspaper. Accepting the cup from him, Trace couldn't help but notice the somber expression on his face. In contrast to his sunny, talkative, friendly mood the night before, he was silent and brooding.
"What's wrong?" she looked up at him after taking a long swallow of coffee.
"Um...what kind of car was Sandy driving last night?"
Hesitantly, with dread, she answered, "A 2002 burgundy Firebird...why?"
Mark just shook his head, solemnly and tossed the paper to her, walking to the kitchen to get napkins for the danish pastries.
"NOOOO!!!" It was a wail, a voice of pain like he had never heard from anyone, especially his ex-patrol partner. "Those fucking bastards!! Why? Why her?? I'm the one they wanted...!!"
"They haven't identified the body yet, are you sure it's her?" Mark asked, sitting beside her on the futon.
"Oh, God, I'm positive. An African American woman, dressed in a black leather skirt and a lilac-colored blouse, found dead in a totaled maroon Firebird?" Trace fell back against the pillow, her arm covering her eyes, not being able to control the tears. "How did they find her? No one followed us..." She sat up quickly. "Mark. I've got to get out of here. You're in danger...anyone around me is in danger now."
Grabbing her before she catapulted off the futon, Mark put a reassuring arm around her. "Okay, just settle down a minute. Sandy's car went off the road about a hundred miles from here in the other direction. So unless they talked to her first, they won't have any clue where she dropped you off. And, even if they did, the guy who owns the gas station never said anything about any strangers around asking any questions about anyone. And, trust me, he is the highway busybody, if anything out of the ordinary was going on, he would have told me." His tone was as soothing as it could be but it didn't stop Trace from hugging her knees to her and rocking.
"You know these guys, Mark...they won't stop until they find me, until I'm dead. I am not going to be responsible for your murder as well."
"Trace, come on, you can't just leave, you have to have a plan. Now calm down and lets put our heads together here."
There was an awkward silence between them as they both thought the same thing: Trace was a dead woman, regardless of what they came up with. Her premature end was inevitable. Unless...
"Mark! What about your time machine?" She blurted, suddenly.
Eying her incredulously, he responded, "What about it?"
"Can it transport me?"
"What!? Are you nuts? I am nowhere near close to that kind of experimentation yet, and even if I was, I can't get you back!! And...and...like I said, I don't even know if the objects I've played around with have made it to wherever they go alive and in one piece!!"
"So what? Either way, I'm dead. I have nothing to lose."
He looked at her, almost pleadingly. "I do."
"Then help me do something. I can't stay here and I will be a target wherever I go. Please, Mark...I am desperate...!"
"Then move to the Swiss Alps, to the jungles of Central America, to Alaska, somewhere remote where it won't be worth it to them to look."
"This man will never stop looking until he physically sees my dead body. I am not going to spend the rest of my life hiding, waiting to be ambushed, waiting to die."
"Trace...I'm not -"
"Look, Mark, think of it this way, if I make it, you can start working toward your Nobel Prize."
"But I won't know if you make it, that's my point." He scratched his head, exasperated. "Trace, even if I was positive it worked, honestly, you're not exactly the woman I'd handpick for this experiment."
"Because it's set for over a hundred years ago - the old west. You know nothing about the culture, don't own a dress, every other word out of your mouth is 'fuck.' Five minutes of listening to you and they'd hang you for…for God knows what."
"I could learn..." she argued, unreasonably.
"In a day? Even I'm not that much of an optimist." And then he got an idea.
Looking at the finished product, Mark was pretty pleased with himself. Standing at arms length from him, Trace was dressed in the comfortable, old pair of Frye boots she had worn the night before, a pair of Mark's black jeans that hung a little loosely on her, which Mark assured her was a good thing and a faded black denim shirt Mark couldn't wear anymore. The hardest part for both of them was binding Trace's chest down with a bandage used to wrap the body to protect broken ribs. The brunette was pretty well endowed, a fact that needed to be hidden if she was going to be successful at this. Her face scrubbed of all make-up, all earrings and other modern jewelry removed, her hair now clipped in a shaggy boyish cut, Trace looked like an exotically adorable younger man. It just might work.
He knew he was crazy to go along with this but he also knew she was right. If she was going to die anyway, at least (he hoped) it wouldn't be horrifically excruciating or at the hands of the DeSiennas.
"Okay...you'll need money..." he continued.
"That's not a problem, I have enough money to get me started," she told him.
"Uh, no," he smiled at her, patiently. "Money looked different back then. We need to find you jewelry and trinkets you can used to pawn for money, things that aren't too modern or don't look too suspicious." Mark ran to his bedroom and, was gone for less than five minutes and returned with his hand closed. "Here."
Trace displayed her palm and dropped onto it were two gold bands, a small diamond ring, two diamond earrings, a pearl, sapphire and a jade necklace. "What's this?"
"My great grandmother's jewelry."
"No, I can't take this -"
"Yes, yes, you can. You have to. You'll need it. And it's style and design is closer to the era you'll be in. I won't miss it. It's just been sitting there in this small cedar box for a few generations."
They studied each other for what felt like an eternity before he pulled her into a strong embrace. She pulled away and kissed him on the cheek. "You ready?"
"Yeah," he told her quietly. "Are you?"
She didn't expect to be dropped from mid-air...she had mistakenly thought if she made it at all, she would just 'beam' there like Captain Kirk. When she hit the ground, it was with a bone-crushing thud that knocked her unconscious.
To be continued...
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