DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
Archiving: Only with the permission of the author.
Adult rating: There is sexual content and violence and moderate language.
General Note: I recently started watching some of the episodes again and it offered great inspiration.
Questions or Comments: Feel free. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorraine Bell was in her early forties. No children and a husband to survive her when he finally beat her to death. She was a legal aid seduced by a sweet talking cop with brass balls and hair like James Dean. Twelve years later, still in the profession of writing binding contracts her husband's James Dean hair thinned out visibly balding.
Detective Jo Polniaczek watched two uniforms be charmed by their fellow boy in blue. They were laughing on the porch and offered beers they declined. The senior officer, Mitch Bell, knew better to even offer. After the brief rapport and assurances to keep the noise down the uniforms drove off. Jo made a conscious decision not to bring her weapon with her. The smiles were genuinely indifferent to the victim inside. They'd been there for a fifteen minutes and were already leaving without having been inside. And if a gun had been in Jo's reach she would have been tempted to release some tension using it.
They walked away at the word of the attacker while blood still stained his fist. She wasn't any better standing across the street in the shadows watching. When she first met Bell she was naïve. A streetwise kid from the Bronx could be naïve. For several reasons involving her teenage years at a school with certain roommates had lowered her guard.
She remembered her and her partner at the time had been given a disturbance of the peace call. She eased the victim down to sit and talk, but she was too frightened to say a word. Jo had been so concerned because by the woman's fragile state she hadn't noticed the family photos littered about the yellow den. The interview was cut short by what she thought was cavalry at the time. She was given a pat on her back for a good job by her partner and the husband donning his badge with a shit eating grin. Recognition washed over her and then rage. It was her career or this woman, she chose her career. With too much to prove at the time she turned a blind eye eventually forgetting as time passed. Five years later she crossed paths with a weeping Lorraine in a bathroom at a cop barbecue.
Incredibly helpless even as she was surrounded by cops who'd sworn an oath to protect and serve. There were no comforting words. Just a look of sympathy and she walked away.
Jo usually stayed for another half hour when everything was quiet. Bell would leave her alone to lick her wounds. If he hadn't already an apology was coming. It would sound nice just like all the others Lorraine heard, but it wouldn't be sincere or permanent.
Randall Weller sized up the smiling women he sat across from. The actress and the reporter, they were both easy on the eyes, but they couldn't compete with his arm candy. Blair had insisted he meet her ‘other family' over a dinner Blair prepared. He was surprised by the invitation to intrude on the infamous girl's night out, but he jumped at the chance.
Blair's beauty rivaled her brain; she knew what she wanted and went after it. He knew modern men that were fine with allowing their women to be more aggressive. He didn't consider himself one of them. The perk of being on the arm of Blair Warner was only surpassed by her last name and both made up for her other faults.
They had all convened to a round dinner table Natalie and Tootie talking conspiratorially like teenagers sharing gossip. Blair watched them endearingly, her arm wrapped around her new beau.
Natalie was a reporter for the Times. She was stuck on the finance circuit hungry for something grittier as she liked to say. Dorothy was an actress he recognized in a save the arts commercial and made for TV movies.
“I think all this girl talk is boring Randall,” Dorothy pointed out.
Randall shrugged his shoulders, “not at all. Forgive me but I grew up with the idea that women traded compliments to insult each other. It's an adjustment.”
“Oh, sounds like our Eastland days,” Blair glowed with nostalgia.
Natalie smirked, “oh yea,” she continued, “That was the only full contact sport Blair considered civilized enough to play.”
Randall smiled curiously, “full contact?”
Tootie stepped in lightly shoving her best friend, “it's not as hands on as Nat makes it sound.”
“Nothing like girl on girl action mind you,” Natalie explained, she ignored the two glares focused on the only face eating this up. She enjoyed attentive listeners. “I meant metaphorically. Girls never walk the same after one round with Blair.”
“Natalie you make it sound as if I were some school yard bully,” she pointed out incredulously.
Randall felt left out with the knowing look each woman exchanged. The feeling grew even more when they burst out laughing. He smiled appropriately confused.
Randall, as the minority, spent most of his time observing as it was hard to get a word in. The night for the most part became the Tootie and Natalie show. When the two of them were together, it was as if the last few years of adulthood were the dream and they were back in school. Blair delighted in the proverbial blast from the past. It made resenting the absence of a certain Bronx native easier. It would also prompt a visit from a very vexed former roommate.
She walked Tootie and Natalie to the door promising them a lunch later in the week. She wouldn't interrogate them about how they felt about her ‘friend' just yet. Closing the door behind the duo she returned to see Randall waiting for her on the couch her friends had vacated.
She curved her head curiously at the statement.
“For this,” he motioned around the absent room, “the whole evening,” he explained. He rose easily from the couch and headed over to where she stood only half inside the room. He closed the inordinately large gap to mere inches.
“I'm glad you enjoyed yourself Nat and Tootie can be a handful,” she smiled endearingly. Her friends were an extension of a side of Blair very few people were privileged to glimpse. Randall had been a kind, intelligent, and smart addition the exclusive group of people she considered friends. They spent a lot of time together. They could talk about poetry, art, books, and business. Blair hadn't realized how much she enjoyed talking about those things until she actually had someone to.
The evening held a lot of expectations for them. Randall wanted to mature their physical relationship. She wanted to take her time. It was so long since had played the game, but she fell in step quick enough. Like riding a bike, she smiled at the adage until she realized her smile may have been misread by her companion. His eyes darkened and all it took was a step and a lean and his lips would be on hers.
“Well that was delicious!” Natalie yelled unnecessarily to the rest of the occupants as she came back inside.
Randall stepped away. Blair smirked at the shadow of aggravation over his normally glowing face. She turned her head slightly, “you turning in?” she asked Natalie before she headed down the hall to her room.
“Yea,” she exaggerated her show of fatigue.
“Goodnight,” Randall nodded, “I should be going,” he volunteered collecting his things when Natalie returned the congeniality and headed to her room.
She knew all she had to do was object and he would stay. They spent some nights together. Nothing went beyond kissing and him holding her. Although his darkened looks of lust were becoming frequent reminders of the consequence of her proximity. She never feared he would be anything more than a gentleman. Though she didn't want to be the object of resentment, she cared for him. If things were different she would have asked him to stay and given in the way he wished. If things were different she would have been eagerly courted, engaged, and negotiating an amicable seating list for the reception to their wedding.
He took her in his arms holding her close to him. He ducked his head to plant a chaste but gentle kiss on her cheek. “You charm me with your company, I initiate intimacy, and you pull the roommate card,” he kept his tone playful.
Blair pulled back, “Randall…”
He interrupted her with a kiss. She responded to it only to pull back all too soon. A hand brushed up against her face. His eyes were closed, too transfixed with sensations, which eyes would dull with the reality of his situation. He had fallen for an unattainable woman that loved him to an extent. Efforts like tonight, where she shared more of herself, gave him hope. Like a double edged sword he knew after her contribution she would withdraw.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening Miss Warner,” he whispered. He pulled her with him as he walked to the door and in a moments goodbye he was gone. She frowned truthfully wishing that things were different.
Teodor's Garage was closed on Wednesdays. The owner had allotted this day for the past four years to spend the day with his wife. Parts from the insides of two cars and a bike were placed neatly in a system that made sense only to the mechanic who put them there. White sneakers walked across the concrete sea stained with ripples of grease and oil. The office door opposite the garage opening was cracked open. Tootie knew Jo was there long before she heard the snoring. So it didn't surprise her to see her friend spread across a plaid couch. She looked to be the same clothes she may have worn the day before.
A stream of slob made a hot dog shaped puddle. Leaning against the wooden frame her mouth warred with disgust and humor at the thick drool. She'd made it a point to bother Jo on her off days when she couldn't use work as an excuse to ignore her friends. It was on a similar occasion of intrusion, at Jo's apartment, she discovered Jo was on leave without pay from the force. Long story short as Jo's partner had offered, the guy bumped into the wall too many times in Jo's care for the higher ups to ignore the concussion he sustained. Jo swore her to secrecy when she found out.
Tootie had taken a concerned interest in her ever since she heard about Jo's suspension. Natalie and Blair were oblivious because for once in her life Tootie had kept a secret. The department was tight lipped about the whole incident, which only made her worry. Jo wasn't offering an explanation even after three months.
The brunette used the time off to work at a family friend's garage. She knew her uncle Sal wouldn't mind the help. Teodor or his employees wouldn't ask her questions she didn't want to answer. That seemed to be the best incentive to work for the older mechanic. Glimpses of Jo before Eastland bothered the actress. Groans coming from the mechanic's direction pulled Tootie back to the present. In mid groan Jo stretched out of her sleep. Her head rolled to the left with her eyes barely open until she was startled surprise noticing her visitor. She jerked from the couch losing her balance to fall with a thud. She groaned and Tootie replied with a giggle.
“Where'd you come from?” Jo glared.
“The front door,” she thumbed in the direction she came.
“Breaking and entering Tootie,” the words came out as more of a whine than intended.
The actress jingled keys.
“Why?” Jo groaned from the floor. Jo had made a copy that only Tootie and she knew about. The keys were permission to intrude in Jo's life. Despite how annoying the younger woman could be, she liked the reminder that she was cared about.
The dark skinned woman leaned over her, “I called you all week.”
“I thought you would take the hint when I ignored you all week.”
“You don't have to go out of your way for me to know you're a jerk,” Tootie countered.
Jo glared up at her youngest friend. Lifting herself up from the floor she rested her bottom back on the couch.
“O yea…” Tootie looked past Jo's sarcasm. She took it for what it was, Jo being Jo.
“I've got this reshoot for my show this afternoon. You're coming with.” Jo had leaned back into the couch yawning. “It's good for you to interact with things that don't just go vroom vroom you know.”
“Sometimes we mix it up around here with beep beep,” she defended through her yawn.
Jo could have remained obstinate until Tootie gave up. J o knew from experience the woman wouldn't be thwarted that easily. Sighing into her hands she stood to stretch. Jo headed in the back room. It served as her home away from home. Teodor, the owner, and his wife had had a rough patch some years ago and he renovated the back to a livable space. He used it for a four months until they reconciled. Teodor offered the room's history when he offered the place to Jo after finding her behind wheel of a Buick. She appreciated the gesture remembering the way her body ached after that night. She had trouble with the pull out bed so she always ended just sleeping on the couch.
The older woman washed herself off. She sniffed the clothes she wore to make sure there wasn't an odor. The Laundromat was on her list of places to visit, fortunately the clothes she picked out today were decent enough to be seen out in public with.
A glimmer of curiosity in Tootie's eyes greeted her when she returned to the office.
“You're not taking very good of yourself Jo.”
The brunette shrugged her shoulders. Their careers didn't afford them the luxury of seeing each other as often as they use to. Other responsibilities, friends, interests took a toll on their friendship.
It was easy for the brunette to get stuck inside her own head. That was the worst place for her to be by herself. Jo knew she was tired of her own inner struggle. She didn't want anyone inside her head to see how close she was giving into the side of her Eastland had tamed.
The soap opera Dillinger's Whistle sounded like more of an old western stop shop to Jo. She sat quietly looking at the bustling set. It reminded her of the rhythmic havoc of every morning of everyday she shared one bathroom with four other women.
The show essentially centered on an apartment complex called Dillinger's Whistle. The owner was an old woman who plays matchmaker with her six tenants. Tootie played one of the victims of the owners meddling, a clothing store clerk slash night student. This episode was where she's conned into a date with the owner's nephew, who is allergic to everything.
Jo, never one to fall head over hills for some of the trash on television, admitted the antics were amusing to watch. The story lines were over the top, but it was a popular comedy that one of her best friends starred in. That was enough for her to find time to watch it. Tootie sauntered over to Jo ignoring the call of sweets the mechanic lounged beside.
“You staking out the food table Jo?”
A brow quirked at the younger woman and then the table, followed by a lackadaisical shrug, “that sandwich over there has been giving me a look.” Jo's reply may have been noncommittal but the sandwich wouldn't stand a chance against the Polniaczek appetite.
“How's my favorite costar?” a short man with sandy blonde hair came up Tootie plucking a grape in his mouth.
“Hmm tired, but ready to be sneezed on,” she quipped.
His eyes immediately went to the actor practicing different sneezes. Jo followed his gaze and cringed.
“What are you doing later a bunch of us are going for lunch,” he queried.
“I already have plans with this one,” she pointed to Jo.
He followed her gaze smiling politely. He had seen her with Dorothy before. The actress made friends with everyone Jo looked like a light tech. It wasn't strange to see them sitting down on the job.
“Why don't you two join us then the more the merrier,” he added belatedly.
Jo looked at the way he eyed Tootie. From the moment the guy sidled up to her best friend she saw a change. “No thanks,” she said permitting little room to be persuaded otherwise.
“Uh… ok,” he nodded towards the two of them before he left with an uncertain smile.
Tootie watched him walk away before chuckling at her friend. Jo shrugged smiling in answer.
“Miss Ramsey, you're on in five,” Tootie nodded to the intern with the brown clipboard.
“You and me dinner after this?” the actress queried.
“Just keep the bad friend barbs to a minimum and I might think about letting you feed me.” The younger woman grasped her friend's arm reassuringly before she left with the intern wearing the headset.
The set was called silent as the scene started with a sneezing man walking in behind the actress playing the owner. Jo had to hold in her laughter. Tootie's facial expressions alone made her a comedic genius; few people had that effortlessness depending on their lines to get them by.
Jo didn't mind the behind the scenes look. Tootie hardly did theatre anymore. Seeing her live was a treat she didn't realize she had missed until now. Jo had been missing a lot lately. Caught up in her own fantasy of being a hero she left relationships untended. The dedication she gave to the job seemed in vain. Her badge could only do so much when people like March hid behind their power when victims resign to silence. What good was the oath if scumbags found a loop hole?
Charles March a thirty five year old mathematician had the money to back any project he desired. He used his genius to make a lucrative company that created computer programs for children. On the surface with his donations to non profits he looked as normal as any rich guy making a buck. The crack in his perfect world was his weakness for little girls. Unofficially the case was to handled with kid gloves. The mathematician was accommodating despite the heinous charges. Everyone was willing to let it go after a week of no solid evidence. The only thing that nagged Jo was the little girl Sophia Rodriguez, the groundkeeper's daughter.
The first time Jo saw her she was playing outside in the back by the bushes. She spoke quietly to her doll as if divulging secrets. The brunette remembered smiling at the innocence until Sophia's gaze met hers. Jo's stomach dropped and she knew. Something had been taken from this little girl. Every time Jo made an excuse to visit the house when she knew Sophia would be there she became attentive to her mannerisms. Her interaction or rather lack of interaction with March was very curious. It was even more peculiar when a handful of the staff mentioned offhandedly how fond March was of her. From what she had seen however March never acknowledged the girl. Each story had an instant where the speaker held a sad look in their eyes. Their eyes telling more than words ever could.
Looks and hunches or woman's intuition would just get her laughed out of her Captain's office and it had. Cases with kids were always hard. In her division there were very few cases with kid's they had to deal with, but her department was known for keeping things quiet. Their Captain was a political monkey, who specialized in discretion. Unofficially they were to investigate and find nothing and go on with their day. It didn't sit well with Jo, but she followed the rules. Playing by the book was something that had been engrained in her early enough to tame undomesticated proclivities.
She pushed her thoughts to focus on the present. It was a conscious effort to separate the two whenever she hung out with friends outside her brothers in blue. The occasions where she had hung out with her friends had become too far and between. Tootie was more hands-on, which usually ended with Jo being kidnapped like today. She was grateful to feel like the old Jo at least for a few hours. Natalie had become a workaholic desperately hanging onto the dream of becoming a world famous journalist. Blair was just as dedicated and a lot more complicated to be around.
Most of her morning and the beginning of her afternoon having been claimed by her talented friend, Jo made promises she wouldn't keep to stay in touch. Tootie just took the promises in stride already plotting to kidnap Jo as her plus one for a party being hosted by the Warner's. Of course by the time Jo found out there would be no time to recover without purposefully hurting Tootie's feelings. Despite Jo's change of behavior, there were some things that didn't change, and Tootie had more than enough faith in the taming powers of the Warner heiress.
Blair stared aimlessly at the belongings of her corner office. She designed the room with great care. There was color, but not enough to be the punch line of a joke whenever she entertained colleagues or guests. She congratulated herself on the balance of femininity and professionalism, an oxymoron in close minded circles.
Recruited by her father after she graduated she was given her place. Unfazed by the ease in which she earned it she worked long hours to build a reputation. The details of her job were to ensure the legality of commercial transactions. She was the legal mouth piece for Warner Industries, being formerly groomed to one day inherit all the responsibility her father now had.
“Miss Warner your mother on line one,” her young assistant, Vesper, announced over the speaker.
Blair picked the phone up lazily wondering what her mother could want, last time she heard, she was in a quiet villa near the Mediterranean with her baby sister. “Hello darling,” her mother bubbled from the other end.
“Darling how goes the life of a corporate lawyer?” she queried jovially.
Blair answered carefully. Even in at age twenty six her parents battled for her affections. To say the least Monica felt like she had lost a battle when Blair announced she accepted her father's job offer. Blair considered her a prize for any man, but to think that her parents shared the perception still stung on occasion.
They provided for her in every material way. They shaped her in their dual images. Fortunately there was a balance, with a bigger part of the quintessential Blair to keep the two personalities in check.
“I'm happy to hear that you're doing well dear,” she offered never missing a beat, “I know that you have such a busy schedule, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind watching your sister for a while.”
“Mother…,” Blair warned, but her mother would not be deterred.
“Maxwell and I want to have some time to ourselves and Bailey does miss her big sister, you know how she adores you.”
“Just adores you darling, she reminds me so much of you when you were her age, it's charming to hear her attempt to pronounce Louis Vuitton.”
“Mother I would love to,” Blair conceded quickly. There were several versions of Blair's childhood, and she didn't need to be reminded of her mother's edited account.
“Wonderful darling wonderful I can have her on a flight within the hour.” Blair visibly frowned when she heard the words.
They chatted idly about gossip, clothes, and relationships. By the end of it when Blair hung up, the ringing migraine that was her mother, still resounded in her head. She would have to compromise her schedule to spend time with Bailey; it would make her feel guilty if she hired a nanny for all of her sister's stay. However the visit was very short notice, calling from the airport, short notice.
She called her assistant in to ensure that her afternoon would be cleared. Blair kept a room full of Bailey's favorite toys. She would have it ready by the time her sister's flight came in, but that included cancelling on Randall for their dinner; she wasn't sure how she felt about him meeting her baby sister quite yet.
Randall was a nice man, a good man, everything she thought she wanted to marry and even as they spent more time together she could feel something missing. It was a nagging feeling that notoriously tugged on her whenever she could feel a relationship coming to an end. She'd invited him on a girl's night out, to perhaps be inspired again by doting friends that called them the perfect couple. Before the night even drew to a close she knew it was fruitless. No, she wouldn't string him along any further. She would let him and her father down gently.
Her father's unusually proactive interest in her relationship was a new development. He introduced her to Randall. After their first date, which she had never told him about, he brought Randall up in every other conversation. The way Blair saw it her father was getting older and he wanted his little girl to find happiness.
She wanted happiness. She knew that in all probability Randall wouldn't be the one to make her happy. Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her phone. She answered turning her thoughts to work, leaving other personal musings of contentment for later.
Sweaty and sated from a backseat tryst with a lovely stranger he would never have to meet again Donald Herring smiled at a night well spent. All his friends were married with kids and cheating on their wives. Why play games when you know you're a bastard? He didn't need or want a wife and he hated kids. Kicking women out of his backseat on his way home was a perfect arrangement he'd perfected since college. If it isn't broke don't fix it, he thought to himself.
He'd begun to doze off when the car finally stopped. The sound of his driver's door slamming shut startled him. Sitting up to wipe the drool from his mouth he grabbed his jacket as ungracefully as he exited the car. The ugly rundown building in front of him was the first clue that he wasn't in Kansas anymore. It was an deserted building with a loading deck aged by use and abandon.
“What the…” his eyes landed on the driver as soon as he'd finished taking in the unfamiliar world around him. “Get back in the car and take me home.”
The driver didn't respond.
Donald Herring's five eleven frame would have been intimidating in some circles, but the driver didn't back down when the wealthy man stalked toward him.
“Mr. Herring,” a voice called out from the building.
Herring's frown hardened when he heard the voice of a woman. His gaze trailed along the broad shoulders of the driver to the shadows where a brunette in black emerged. Being a male first and foremost he noticed she was easy on the eyes. “Who are you?”
Jo took a seat on the landing eyeballing him.
Herring scoffed looking around, “you as deaf as lurch here?” he pointed to the tall man, who had yet to utter a word.
Jo looked at Remy. The tall Cajun was a talker on most occasions, but he could play the strong and silent type better than most. “Donny you've been a very bad boy, in the thirty six years you've been living you haven't contributed a single good thing to society. You're responsible for some shady stuff I don't even want to mention, I could, but I won't.”
“What the hell is this?”
Remy's meaty hand swiftly connected with Donald's stomach. Keeling over in pain gasping for breath Jo didn't bat an eye. She was more than familiar with his list of offenses unofficially documented. His money made it easy to avoid accountability. Associates of his had been collared on smuggling, but nothing could concretely link Donald Herring to the crime. A lot of innocent people had been hurt so that it seemed like his hands were clean, too many to count—too many even on sleepless nights.
That's what Jo thought of as Remy hit him over and over. Remy took great care to leave his face, but his body wouldn't be the same after tonight.
Crumbled in the dirt smelling of blood, sweat, and sex Jo's noise twitched at the musky combination. Her boots crunched under the dirt and broken glass, she lifted a shard with her gloved hand. “Drunks and kids always looking to spruce a place up,” she threw it aside waiting for Donald to recover.
“Wha…wha…why?” he barely managed the monosyllable.
“Tomorrow after you've had your run in the park and flirted your married secretary out of her pink lace panties, your driver Hal's going to take you to work, like he does every morning. And you're going to go to your office on the twenty first floor with one change.” Jo placed the contract within inches of his face, “this isn't the first time you've seen this and it won't be the last.”
“At you're meeting at nine thirty you're going to sign this.”
“The hell I will,” Herring glared first at Jo then the larger man.
“You've got a busy schedule Donny anything could happen to you between the times you wake and get to work. Life's unpredictable that way.”
There was no mistake in Jo's threat and from the look in his eyes he understood it. Jo felt like her point had been made. Donny would sleep on what had happened tonight. And just in case he needed any more incentive they had left a nice surprise for him when he got back home. Remy threw him into the back seat.
The red lights faded as the limo receded into the dark. There it would just be another car on the road of the sleepless city. Jo sighed and looked at the time. Louie, her former partner, had invited her for drinks at his place. She'd been putting him off for the past few weeks making excuses. He didn't deserve the cold shoulder. It was eleven thirty now he probably expected her a lot earlier if he hadn't already gone to bed. It was presumptuous on her part to walk to knock on his door and anticipate the owner to answer. Louie was five years her senior, but he had a lot of qualities that reminded her of an old man.
“Damn Po,” he had a habit of calling people by their last names. He claimed to shorten her name because the thought of how long it was made him too tired to say it.
Jo stepped into the house after he greeted her. The décor hadn't been changed since his mother passed away nine months ago. Jo had had the pleasure of meeting and being fed the late Beatrice Underhill. She was always fondly reminisced in Jo's mind as the mother-in-law that got away. Louie being born a man and ruining Jo's chance at the world greatest mother-in-law was a long standing joke. Louie had even entertained the idea when they first started working together. It didn't take long to see however that they worked better without physical anticipation. It wasn't until later on that he was privy to Jo's preference for women.
Jo could see that he had probably been asleep. Nevertheless he headed into the kitchen, his mother's pride and glory, and retrieved the beers he'd bought for that night. To say he was pissed when Jo hadn't showed after a noncommittal maybe was an understatement.
They drank quietly eying the other.
“Your friend Ramsey called me today,” he swallowed.
Jo smirked bringing the bottle to her lips, “et tu Lou?”
“I'm your friend Po no matter how it looks.”
“That sounds familiar,” she snorted.
“You come here with the explicit purpose of being an ass?”
Sighing heavily scratching the back of her head, she settled into a chair against the wall closest to the kitchen entrance. “Not the explicit,” she defended with a smile.
He answered with a chuckle. Their relationship was an uncomplicated one. They lived by a code of loyalty both had grown up with. Louie took a bullet for her when she didn't secure a house properly. The crack head they were going after had an older woman drugged up and wrapped around his finger. The woman hadn't had the good sense to understand they were the good guys. Jo covered for Louie when a stripper named Helen became obsessed with him on an undercover assignment after he dipped his proverbial pen in the ink. The ordeal jeopardized the four month operation. All involved were happy that stalker Helen now resided in a Rhode Island psychiatric facility.
It was easy to share anything with someone knowing the answer to any question would be unconditional loyalty. She had that with Louie and he had that with Jo. However, some things couldn't be said aloud no matter how understanding the listener.
“How's life under the hood,” he asked.
“Same ole,” Jo shrugged. Louie became a regular at Teodor's garage. Since Jo wasn't as eager to visit him he made it a point to pop up with ‘car problems'.
“The car is making some weird sounds when I make turns,” he offered offhandedly. Jo knew where he was going, but started on a third bottle without comment. He caught her up on the precinct gossip. It was the safest topic and he knew she'd be curious even if she didn't ask. Prostitute Joan, a black woman in her early fifties with a long flowing silver wig, was a regular. She bragged about knowing the ‘shoe sizes' of the ‘suits', a term not so endearingly used for their bosses. He related her latest escapade in the precinct. She was high as a kite propositioning anyone who gave her a glance. It wasn't until later that evening she was found outside her cell with a rookie named Marv Gentry in a very compromising position.
In the wake of the story Jo's beer sprayed from her mouth and Louie drank in Jo's reaction with a grimace. It was priceless. “Ugh nasty,” she growled wiping her chin and looking down at her wet jeans. Joan may have been a looker thirty years ago, but now she had the look of a woman gang banged by too many vices.
“I'm not goin' to be the only one taking that image to the grave with me,” he shared.
After another hour Jo left. Louie had a job and while she had the day off she'd probably go in and work anyway. The garage was closer than her apartment so that's where she headed.
Natalie smiled at ‘little Blair'. The young girl was a spitting image of her roommate, an ode to Blair's youth as she liked to say. Even when she opened her mouth it wasn't hard to gather this kid had Blair's genes. The girl had already discovered her favorite subject and it looked her in the mirror every morning.
Blair had been catering to Bailey ever since she arrived, which was about the same time Natalie did. Both sisters were self absorbed, but there was no denying how much they enjoyed being around each other. She hadn't realized until that evening how much of a bonding experience whipping hair from shoulder to shoulder was.
Spooning her cereal out of her bowl, she looked over her notes for her breakaway article that would put her in the big leagues. All this number news was giving her a headache, and her heart wasn't in it. She saw the job as a stepping stool. It put her one step closer to the award winning writer she was destined to be.
Until that day she had her notes and the duty to introduce Bailey to the joy of eating cereal during dinner time.
Blair swept into the kitchen carrying a bag of groceries. She stopped short when she noticed her little sister and Natalie and their one course meal. “Care explaining this?”
In mid chew Natalie paused, “dinner,” she started back again. Bailey continued eating happily never noticing the distraught look on Blair's face. It was never an issue that Natalie never cooked before. Blair was never around and almost always eating out.
Her mother would never forgive her if Bailey returned with bad habits, she would have to keep an eye on her little sister a little more, and perhaps for a while pay a nanny to come by help out when she wouldn't be around.
“So….what would you like to do tomorrow sweetheart?”
Bailey looked up from her bowl. No one asked her that often so she looked dumbly at her big sister who awaited her answer. She was always followed someone else's agenda. It didn't surprise Blair when she gave her a wide eyed look. She pondered the thought and then resigned to saying what she said whenever she knew her mother was only asking for convenience.
“I don't know… what do you want to do?”
Blair eyed Bailey, but didn't press it. “Well, I was thinking maybe we could head to the movies, or the zoo.” Bailey's eyes brightened and Blair continued, “I know this great ice cream parlor I know you'll love.”
Bailey anticipated being spoiled for her visit. It wasn't like her mother where she felt like a life sized doll for her mother. Blair and her friends actually asked her questions and expected an answer. She liked the freedom of that. Her sister was everything she wanted to be when she got older. She was beautiful and she smelled like a princess.
When Bailey was tucked in she made her way back into the kitchen where Natalie sat working. She went into the fridge pouring a glass of wine. Natalie didn't look up from her notepad when she started talking about how much Blair looked like a mom.
Natalie missed the blush when she accepted the comment with a thank you.
“Working on something new?”
Natalie just nodded inching in front of her notes so Blair couldn't read it. “So was Randy feeling randy when he found out about the imperfect side of Blair Warner?”
Ribbing Blair good naturedly was like a sport Tootie and she enjoyed. Being younger they were apprehensive. Blair Warner's reputation as school didn't dare be sullied by things she wasn't good at much less those things being spoken aloud.
Blair drawled evenly, “no such side exists.” Natalie answered with a snort, “don't stay up too late,” Blair warned heading to her room.
She closed the door behind her. She took her time changing into her evening clothes. Donning her dark rimmed reading glasses and her Danielle Steele book from her side desk she began chapter twelve. Books helped her get in touch with the idealistic side of her still in love with love. When she was done reading for the night and the residual weightlessness subsided she would settle into her seats and think about her love life. A picture sat in the first drawer beside her bed. She knew it was there because every night for the past couple months, since she'd banished it to the drawer, it begged to be turned over. Out of sight and out of mind she thought stubbornly.
The practical side of her knew differently. Her unconscious would remind her of how wrong her conscious musings were. She could say all day how she was over Jo. Yet, when the sun goes down left to her thoughts like clockwork her thoughts were no longer in her control.
“Blair,” a small voice interrupted her thoughts.
Blair looked up from her book and smiled at her little sister standing just inside her door holding her princess doll. The jewelry she had been playing with was replaced by night clothes Bailey took great care to cloth her in.
“Hey sweetheart,” Blair could only describe the feeling as something warm filling her up when she first saw her baby sister. The feeling increased watching her grow and holding her. It made sense that they wouldn't be close with the drastic age difference, but the reality was that she loved spending time with Bailey. The little girl reminded her so much of herself. Her mother had shortcomings that hadn't changed, and Blair wanted to spare her sister some of the growing pains of being her mother's daughter.
Bailey was suddenly shy when she started toward the bed, “what are you doing?”
Blair looked down at her book and pulled her glasses off, “I'm reading,” she answered simply.
“Oh,” the young girl paused before continuing, “What are you reading?”
“A romance novel,” Blair placed the book down when it didn't look like she'd be getting back to it anytime soon.
Small eyebrows furrowed, “what's romance?”
Blair smiled watching her inch to the bed with every question. She patted the spot beside her and Bailey eagerly sank into a plush pillow placing Princess beside her. She maneuvered the doll to make sure she was just as comfortable and looked at Blair with a curious gape. Blair's face was starting to hurt from smiling so much, but it was a response that only Bailey of late could provoke. Suddenly she felt bad for ever thinking that having her around was a bad idea.
“It's a story about love between two grownups,” the response was simple enough, but the little girl still had a confused expression prompting Blair to question it.
“Like mommy and Maxwell?”
Blair stopped her brows from rising. Her mother had introduced Maxwell in Bailey's life, but she still wasn't sure if he would be a stable companion or just another notch. “Um…something like that sweetie,” she kept her answer intentionally vague.
“You know Romeo and Juliet?” she asked Bailey as she made herself even more comfortable at Blair's side.
“No,” the girl shook her head. She pressed against Blair's stomach, but it wasn't uncomfortable so she didn't discourage the girl from laying there. She talked about the spark of love between the two. She left out the unhappy ending. Bailey wasn't like her in this instance. She felt the girl would have a cool head on her shoulders when it came to love. Blair wasn't displeased with the thought. Both sisters lay quietly until Bailey's curiosity resurfaced.
“Who do you love?”
Blair was aware of what her sister was asking, but chose to avoid it. Instead she started tickling her and answered, “I love…..small little girls with blonde hair named Bailey.” The fits of giggles coming from the room amused Natalie, who had resigned her personal project for a report due at ten the next morning. She bit down on her pencil in anxious habit. It was going to be a long night.
Word spread fast for a loose jawed polish community of cops and housewives. Jo was suspended, no real details other than incompetence on her part. Incompetent wasn't something Teodor would have used to describe Jo. Though he figured if she wanted to talk about it she would. Teodor wasn't one to press for details, especially if it rocked the proverbial boat. Hiring her was one of his better investments. Jo was a popular mechanic that worked on any car, truck, and bike that came in. She'd even brought in new clients, that actress off of the drama he couldn't think of came by a lot. When he finally braved speaking with her, she volunteered her autograph for his wife. It gave her bragging rights to all her envious friends for a month.
His wife had a kind heart, and was a stout believer in food being able to help the soul along for healing. That belief had him heading back to the garage after hours with a plate of his wife's Kielbasa and Cabbage. She insisted he run it over to Jo. His wife had strange views on the subject of food, but that didn't stop him from enjoying her cooking. Jo for the last few weeks had been enjoying the fruits of his wife's cooking on Wednesday s when his wife found about Jo.
“Hey Jo got somethin' for you,” he yelled over her music. She turned and nodding her head before she ducked back under the hood. Very few things made sense in Jo's life anymore, so she clung to the things that did. Working under a hood was as natural to her as breathing; she enjoyed the familiarity of it.
Teodor walked over. The car was a two door sedan a luxury car. It came in with problems almost every month. Teodor considered the owner to be a lucky man. All the trouble he had a habit of getting himself into, from married women to jilted exes, he was lucky that all that got damaged was his car. Jo watched it come in without batting an eye and just went to work; it wasn't new for Jo to work late.
“You calling it quits any time soon?”
Jo straightened her back. “Probably in another hour or so I want to make sure all the sugar is out.”
The older man shook his head scoffing. “You think he'd learn,” he said it more to himself than to Jo. She wasn't much for idle chatter, at least not to him. The brunette went into the back room to wash her hands.
“Thank your wife for me will ya,” Jo took the plate pushing the aluminum back diving in with a plastic spork.
“Will do.” He walked out without a backwards glance. Jo couldn't help but like the guy. He didn't pry and he respected her silence.
Jo passed the night away with the radio and her tools as her only company. Her mind wouldn't let her sleep. It had become routine for the past few months to work until she dropped. Tonight was no different. Teodor had only missed David Warner by minutes. The corporate tycoon was becoming too comfortable on the wrong side of the tracks just to spoil Jo's day.
Jo remembered when Dave's head was flecks of gray, now the majority of his head was full of white. Distinguished would be the word to describe the look the white gave him. Jo wasn't impressed. Beyond the pressed suit, expensive hair cut, and equally expensive image was a man. As imperfect and dangerous, perhaps more dangerous with his means to buy whatever he wanted.
He strode into the garage as if he owned the place. It was a rich people habit Jo accredited to the omniscience courtesy of a gargantuan bank account. He held an envelope under his arm. There was no need for her to inquire about it since she knew he'd hand it over.
“Everything I do is for my daughter,” as if that excused every cruelty he was ever guilty of. For a man that claimed to have no regrets he started to habitually justify his actions to her. It was kind of ironic especially since Jo was the one getting her hands dirty.
“You don't give her nearly enough credit.”
“What kind of father would I be if I didn't protect her,” he stated solemnly placing a yellow envelope beside the grease stained hip.
The details of the envelope were unfocused under her lazy gaze. They could discuss philosophy, ethics, and the infallible bond between daughter and father. Jo's employer was a man use to getting what he wanted so there was no use wasting her breath trying to reason with him. An attribute his daughter inherited with the subtle grace of an elephant waltzing on ice.
Staring at the engine not really paying attention to the hardware Jo enjoyed the effortlessness of doing nothing, for the moment at least. Only someone who kept busy appreciated being still.
“Protect her or your legacy?”
“Is there a difference?”
Jo scoffed. She knew Blair had always struggled with being enough for the only two people, who never seemed to be sated. Blair was smart, compassionate, witty, daring, and funny everything a parent could hope their child to become. In their eyes she was a trophy. Blair had once described herself as a trinket. She was to be brought out in fine dresses and jewelry to satisfy daddy's quota for public face time. Thoroughly disgusted Jo accepted the envelope.
Money corrupts, David knew that more than most people because he'd had a box seat for over thirty years. Joanne didn't work that way. She was about honor and loyalty. He didn't have to bribe her with money when his daughter was the object of her affections. When he first found out about the two he was livid. He could have gone with his first reaction and orchestrated a series of unfortunate events to Joanne's career and personal life. However, a man in his position didn't earn all that he now possessed acting rashly.
Instead he waited patiently. He allowed the affair to continue. Blair was young and privileged and he wouldn't deny his daughter her toys. He was too cynical to believe in fate or destiny. He never considered that Blair was actually in love with a woman. Joanne was under the impression the feelings were real when he confronted her with their affair. It didn't much matter what had been real or not. It was no longer relevant. Blair was dating a proper suitor. And he was grooming Joanne to be an exceptional pawn.
Fortuitous was the word that first came to mind when he'd heard about Joanne and Charles March. David only played a small role in extending her suspension. Her Captain had his priorities in order when it came to money and allegiance. Very aware of Joanne's qualms he disregarded them. In his eyes he owned her.
“You're dangerously close to sounding like a broken record,” Jo dipped her head curiously eyeing the superman ice cream through the glass. The color filled vintage soda shop was one of the best places in the city to get great ice cream. Tootie wanted something sweet and Jo wouldn't be denying herself of the city's finest.
“And the unhappy blonde force of nature you've been ignoring for the past few months?” Tootie watched Jo's reaction. It didn't take a genius to see that Jo still had a thing for Blair. It didn't hurt that an inebriated Jo admitted she was still very much in love with Blair.
Jo rolled her eyes, “You do know Nat's not a natural blond right?” Their former roommate was trying something new. Jo was convinced too much one on one time with the queen of peroxide blonds had gone to her head literally.
“I'm talking about the other one.”
Jo knew she was being petulant, but it served the sitcom star right for being annoying, “what other one?”
“The one walking in behind you,” Tootie answered with a smile that widened when she moved passed Jo to greet the duo.
First her shoulders tensed. Next sweaty palms, a jolt in her stomach that warmed the rest of her body and her tell tale heart drumming in a thrilled cadence. At the mere mention of Blair's name Jo's body betrayed her. Seeing the heiress in person contrasting feelings bottle necked in Jo's throat.
She hated herself for the reaction. She spent the better part of her life teasing this woman about her beauty. Despite that every dig was a lie any half hearted sap could repute with one look at Blair Warner.
The heiress occupying Jo's musings looked curiously at the detective. There were subtle changes to Jo's look, not all of it entirely cosmetic. Her wardrobe, already in a dire need for color had gotten darker. Jo's wardrobe matched her mood of late. The heiress couldn't imagine the horrors she experienced on a daily basis as an officer of the law. It was poetic Jo's rise from gang ridden adolescence to a crime fighting career in law enforcement.
Jo's throat was still caught managing a simple nod before she turned back to her ice cream, making a mental check list of how she was going to make Tootie pay. “The chocolate dream looks good,” a small voice commented as an equally small face inspected the selection inches from Jo's head.
“Eh, ya think?”
“I know,” the little girl said as if nothing were ever more certain. Jo smiled at the endearing delivery.
“She's becoming a regular connoisseur since we've been coming here.” Blair came up behind Jo. Her face resting in the impossibly small gap made from Jo and Bailey's heads.
Blair was probably wearing some ridiculously expensive hard to pronounce perfume. Her smell and her proximity drove the brunette insane. Being a cop gave her an uncanny skill to use her senses to asses a room and everything in it. For now Blair monopolized all those senses. She didn't want to make her personal musings fodder for another one of their fights. And oh how she wanted to fight with Blair. To see her chest heaving up and down to watch her breasts press against the silk from the motion. Her eyes glaring at her and passed her and through her, damn those eyes. She needed to get out here.
As if sensing Jo's retreat when she stood Blair stopped her in her tracks following her rise. Toe to toe like they'd been all their life—it seemed climatic despite the dancing sundae twirling a cherry on the décor of wallpaper.
“If I recall you were a big fan of cookies and cream.” Blair's words were whispered and deliberate, knowing the hitch of Jo's breath came from the same memory she herself was recalling.
Jo's eyes darkened icing the lustful haze Blair stirred, it was a low blow. Recalling the best few months of Jo's life with Blair was a double edged sword. She stayed away from the memories for her own survival. She stayed away from Blair to stop herself from wanting to remember. She loved Blair for the life of her she couldn't stop. It had been two years since the eight months they were a couple. She tried to rally every resentful feeling into a ‘reasons to keep away from Blair' mantra.
She tried to move passed Blair but the blond was relentless.
“Don't,” Jo's words were hard with lust.
“Don't?” Blair challenged her chin rising a little more. Her lips parted staring at the lips across from hers. It would be easy to lean in and taste what Jo was determined to deny her. But there were too many eyes to do what she wanted to Jo.
“Just don't Blair,” Jo's voice lowered aware of a curious Tootie eying them. The actress distracted Bailey with questions about what she should try.
“Make me understand Jo.”
Jo hated the series of events that put it in her head they couldn't be together. She wondered how she managed keeping everything to herself as a kid, because now it was unbearable. Blair made it even worse by looking at her like a woman scorned. The truth was she had been. Jo was guilty of being too angry and afraid and before she could do anything mature, she had already set in motion her life to this point.
“Blair,” Bailey tugged her hand. The blond looked down and smiled at the ice cream cone being handed to her. Tootie handed Jo her large Superman ice cream cone. Jo looked at it and didn't like the implied ‘you're staying'. Taking it would mean more time around a woman she really needed to get away from. The suspended cop relented and followed the other three to a table by the window. Bailey tuned out the world to focus on devouring her cone. Blair and Jo exchanged glances leaving Tootie to act like she wasn't watching.
Baiting didn't work for this Jo, at least not in the same petty way it had once did. That didn't mean Blair didn't have anything up her inordinately expensive sleeves. She licked reflexively slowly scaling the monolith of ice with her tongue. She would have never noticed the effect she had on Jo if not for an uncomfortable sound emanating from Jo. Her eyes jumped curiously. She wasn't hallucinating. She knew all the signs of an aroused Polniaczek. Once upon a time she treated these signs as undiscovered treasures to study and savor.
Jo eyed Blair recognizing her ‘I found a spot I like' look. She allowed herself to be tortured for the hours it seemed to take Blair to finish her treat. Her guilty pleasure was to watch—and she even remembered to lick once or twice when she remembered she had a cone too. For the most part she focused on sitting comfortably while her reactions below the belt made sitting blankly very painful.
Tootie and Bailey sat across from each other talking about acting. Tootie shared her misadventures as a young girl with ambitions to act. While Bailey shared that she wanted to one day do the same. Tootie thought it had a lot to do with the attention she smiled encouragingly. Three devoured ice cream cones later the Warner's headed the small group when they were ready to leave.
“That ice cream sure put you in a good mood,” Bailey commented innocently. Blair continued to hum swinging their hands as they walked.
Tootie and Jo followed behind quietly while Blair agreed her mood had improved. Polniaczek's discomfort however went unnoticed by the little girl content to think the powers of ice cream could solve anything.
A single folder of charges from a garage was the last of Blair's business for the day. An accountant noticed the receipts were for questionable amounts of money. It made less sense that the company wouldn't use the in house mechanics that worked on the company trucks. All the company vehicles or perk cars as they were fondly called were serviced in the Bronx garage starting from six months back. Now that Blair was an aware with a thorough look over the folder she shared the accountant's alarm.
She picked up the phone to call the number for the garage provided in the folder. On the third ring Blair unconsciously smiled hearing the thick Bronx accent answer. She introduced herself as a Warner Textiles lawyer and continued on to inquire about the services the garage provided. From his voice she knew he was older late forties perhaps maybe even older than that.
Teodor Adamanski was the owner, but his best mechanic had brought the business in. She heard the pride in his voice when he spoke of the hero in stained overalls. However she couldn't appreciate the fact that money was being taken inconsistent with the work done. Jo had taught her a thing or two about cars and shady mechanics. It was a lesson Blair took to heart for reasons not entirely concerning polishing her automotive savvy.
“Polniaczek's a good worker, damn honest, anything—.”
Blair blinked, “Polniaczek?”
“Yea, the name of the mechanic,” Teodor clarified as a matter of fact.
“He worked for you long?” Blair was curious but suspicious emphasizing ‘he'.
“She,” Blair's heart pounded at the correction, “has been working with me for a couple months now, but I've known her since she was a kid. If there is anything wrong with the books it's on your end not ours.”
Several things were going through Blair's mind. She remembered Jo had a cousin. She wondered how popular that name was in the Bronx. How many were female, who worked on automobiles?
“What is this Miss Polniaczek's first name?” she asked as if about to write it down. The mechanic unaware Blair's pad was imaginary helpfully spelled out the last name after he confirmed her suspicions. As far as she knew Jo was still a member of the NYPD, a compromise to a quota, but a zealous member.
Mr. Adamanski repeated Ms. Warner for a fourth time before she answered that she would keep in touch. As an afterthought she suggested they keep the conversation between them. If fault did belong to the company it didn't warrant disrupting anyone else's confidence.
The phone was hung up slowly. She stared at the handle questions swimming and none of it making sense. She knew Jo wasn't staying in her apartment anymore, not consistently anyway. The blond discovered that after waiting perhaps obsessively for a glimpse of the woman, who rejected her. She could have assumed Jo had taken a lover, but Tootie would have mentioned it to Natalie. Then they would try to hide guilty exchanges with the secret. No, something was going on with Jo that didn't involve another lover. She was too caught up in her thoughts to hear the commotion outside. True to Natalie's nature she let herself in at the inopportune moment. Blair's assistant flew in after her. More from habit rather than the desire to be in Natalie's company the blonde waved a flustered Vesper away.
“Blair,” Natalie plopped down in abrupt gracefulness. “Long time friend and present roomie anything juicy and potentially lewd you'd like to share?
“What?” Blair was genuinely confused.
“Just think recent as in, and this is me spit balling, about an hour before you dropped Bailey off with the nanny.”
Blair frowned. She didn't like smug Natalie asking questions for answers she already knew. It was a game she was in no mood to play, but Natalie was incorrigible. It was until a few choice hints later that Blair realized Tootie had probably shared their ice cream outing.
“Surely in reporter school you were taught to be a bit more subtle.”
“I'm just curious what Blair was thinking, going Mary Magdalene on an innocent ice cream cone.”
Blair lowered her gaze and fought the rising blush, but she managed a response. “With Tootie's dramatization and you're exaggeration you'd have a recipe for an addictively hazardous tabloid.”
“We hope and dream,” Natalie smiled sarcastically, “what's going on Blair?”
“Nothing,” the answer sounded lame to even her hears. Natalie wouldn't stand for it and if she were in her position she wouldn't either.
Natalie wouldn't leave until she got what she wanted. And the lawyer wouldn't give her what she wanted. They were at a standstill. Natalie wasn't budging. While Jo was the only thing on Blair's mind, she was the last subject she wanted to talk about. The only solution was a compromise. The papers on her desk made it look like she was still busy. It was after three, but ever since Bailey's arrival five was the longest she stayed at work. That gave her two hours to figure out how to stall Natalie more and continue wondering why Jo was working in a garage. She suggested that they finish this when she was swamped with work.
Natalie felt for Blair. The latest boy toy hadn't impressed her or Tootie. Blair's forced gushing was more pathetic rather than obnoxiously annoying. When Blair and Jo started dating it was oddly romantic. Her attraction to Ben, the handy man, from their Ft. Lauderdale spring break at her grandmother's condo made sense. The man version of Jo was more acceptable to society and the part of Blair that cared about what society thought.
Fast forwarding to now perhaps going beyond the point of no return in their friendship was a bad idea. Jo turned out to be the one who couldn't handle them as a couple. Tootie and she noticed the fire simmering from Jo's rejection, disinterest, and absence. The one-a-day boyfriends were just for show. Any doubt of that had eroded with Blair's reaction to Jo that afternoon.
For those reasons and more she agreed to respect the lawyer's silence, for now.
Paul Eames glared at the beautiful day. Showers of light came in through his office window, but he wasn't impressed. He looked at the view because he was tired of looking at the clock. The brunette in black had told him the contract would be by at four fifteen. He had twenty minutes to glower and contemplate the series of events that brought him to this moment.
He had worked hard to get where he was. Business didn't allow him to indulge in humane thought processes. It may have given him a mechanical quality, but he was rich from it. His success and wealth put a target on his head. The target welcomed gold diggers, parasites, and blackmailers. Yesterday he stopped himself from throwing a weasel he had of a coworker down the stairs—today he was a target for blackmail. If he was partial to ‘signs', then hot coffee spilled on him that morning, warned of something destined to go wrong today. When the envelope arrived with no address he thought it was a curious addition to his formal mail. He made a point to finish everything he needed to do with his invoices and memos before he actually opened it. By that time he it was after two and he figured he had time enough to peek.
Opening it he saw pictures. The photos weren't flattering, not that would have been the photographer's intent. The faces were clear and easily recognizable. It wasn't good for business to be seen with a tech assistant of a competing company. The photos of the clandestine meeting were shot motion to motion until the final hand off. He had been uncharacteristically chipper that day, he had pictures for posterity.
He remembered that morning well. He stopped at his favorite restaurant for brunch before he left for, what he thought, was a secure bridge for the exchange. He hadn't thought to make sure if anyone was following him. It wasn't something that his job required. Obviously he was wrong.
He could lose his credibility and position with his company if the photos were ever found out. Insider trading was frowned upon punishable by time in prison. He hadn't given the contract a second thought the first time he'd seen it, but he recognized it. The document was the last thing he retrieved from the envelope. There was a call that he thought was odd, but he didn't think of himself as one to be bullied and threatened. The woman on the other end hadn't gotten her complete proposal out before he hung up on the phone. He hadn't taken a second thought with the envelope when it crossed his desk, but the photos had made an impact.
A short blond popped his gum annoyingly when Paul's secretary let him in. Hoping the messenger choked on it was wishful thinking that Paul allowed himself to indulge in. It lessened the blow of being caught with his pants down so to speak. He handed the envelope and the white collar professional signed with the ease of man use to signing his John Hancock. Within in moments the courier returned the contract to his yellow folder and went on his way. The brunette had promised him a hundred dollar tip if he returned with the signed contract within the hour. He had fifteen minutes by his watch so he hurried.
Paul watched the biker go eagerly. He sneered at the back. He would go home burn the pictures and entertain thoughts that there weren't any incriminating copies. When the second phone call came he made sure he listened to everything she had to say, the pictures garnered his undivided attention. He had asked if there were, but her answer was ominous. It was too good to pass up more blackmail from a man of her persuasion. He anticipated another call, not knowing his signature was the only thing wanted from him.
Jo watched the courier speed in her direction. She was outside a café she'd been sitting in earlier. She escaped the crowd inside to enjoy the weather. The sun was out and beating on the walking population. There were some clouds and Jo could've sworn on cluster looked like a donuts being eaten by a larger mouth with no teeth. His bike skid to a stop its rider delivered the package with a toothy grin. As a woman of her word she handed him an envelope with the extra tip. He looked inside his eyes brightening. Tipping his gloved fingers from his forehead to her he smiled wishing her a good day.
It was a good day.
“Two down,” a thick Cajun voice rang from behind her. She hated when he highlighted his words using the rhythm of show tunes.
Jo didn't bother acknowledging the driver. Remy liked Jo. She was easy on the eyes with an attitude to match. Nothing was dull around the former cop and it worked out well, because he didn't like to be bored. He stood over her, but he had learned early on that his height and build wasn't something to rely on with her. He opened the door and she got in.
“Where to boss?” He already knew where they were going, but he enjoyed provoking Jo.
Jo for her part only responded with a glare. He knew how much she detested the frivolity of having a driver. Like nursing an open wound with vinegar he kept their relationship interesting by jumping into the role of manservant.
When Mr. Warner first gave him the assignment to work alongside Jo he was curious. Up until then he was basically an instrument with eyes and ears. His mouth wasn't all that important, but he took liberties with Jo. Deep down he thought Jo liked him. He thought he kept things pretty interesting, if anything interesting was a quality that worked for him. She threatened him a few times, and felt that he had read her right to mean that threats were a good thing.
“You know you're a product of your surroundings,” he talked while he drove them through traffic.
Jo stared out the window pretending not listen. This could go on all day considering whose mouth it was moving.
Silence didn't faze the driver, “the only healthy emotional outlet of your emotions in your adolescence was violence. It's your comfort zone, hence your choice of a career that sees your aggression as a positive contribution to society.”
The brunette sighed heavily drumming her fingers on the glass. Glaring at traffic wouldn't make it go faster, but it wasn't for her lack of trying.
“….insults, threats of bodily harm are really extensions from that comfort zone to show affection.”
Jo smirked meeting his eyes in the mirror, “why don't you come back here so I can show you how much I like you.”
Laughter rang from the front seat, but he kept his mouth shut for the rest of the ride. He consoled himself with the fact that Jo liked him, even as the divider was being rolled up.
Since enlisting the help of a nanny, Natalie took full advantage of the cooking skills via Bailey. The little girl didn't mind being helpful and often enjoyed the food that Natalie hinted she should ask the nanny to make. On such a night Natalie had been in the mood for lasagna. It was still hot when Natalie relieved the nanny smiling happily at the wonderful smell of cheese and meat. Blair usually came home minutes after she did. Bailey was in the den playing with her dolls and jewelry. She was the only kid she knew that had real diamonds hanging from the necks of her dolls.
“Hey kid,” Natalie dropped her satchel by the couch.
“Hello Natalie,” she picked up her princess doll, “Princess say hello to Natalie,” on cue the little girl changed her pitch greeting the writer.
“Will Princess be joining us for dinner?” Natalie played along with Bailey. She knew what it was like to have an inanimate companion. She shared some of her most intimate hopes with her purple hippo Hal. He was great as a pillow too.
The young blond looked to Princess and declined graciously befitting a princess. She wanted to watch her figure. Natalie nodded and smiled. Sometimes it was easier to speak through something else than take responsibility for the words yourself. Natalie wasn't a parent, but it didn't seem like a good parent would push their health issues on their own daughter. She smiled indulgently before she headed into the kitchen to taste the spoils. Opening the oven the smell of lasagna filled her lungs. Her stomach grumbled reflexively.
“Third degree burns are in your near future if you decide to climb in there Nat,” Blair's warned amused. Natalie greeted her with a grin of chagrin as Blair leaned against the counter top.
Natalie closed the door sighing, “Some things are worth getting burned for.”
The flicker of humor faded. Natalie realizing what she just said opened her mouth to change the subject, but Bailey beat her to it.
“Smells yummy in here, I don't think Princess really cares about watching her figure anymore.”
Blair looked questioningly at Natalie, who answered by turning and retrieving plates from the cabinets. She and Bailey helped set the table, while Blair went upstairs and dressed down for comfort. She leaned into a Langley sweat shirt she stole from Jo when they started dating. She brought it to her nose and inhaled.
The finest smells in the world had nothing on perfume Polniaczek, a heathen and feminine blend she wouldn't bottle up to share. Jo still loved her, or at least still wanted her, from her reaction in the ice cream parlor. She smiled into the shirt. Thoughts of Jo led to more thoughts of Jo leading to the interesting question of why she was working in a garage. She was focused on keeping busy with her career and flaunting new men every other day in her social life. It was easy to lose track of someone she was trying desperately to get over.
Natalie nor Tootie had said anything. They all had aspects of their careers they tended to, but they kept each other current. Surely Jo would have said something after making a drastic career change. Jo didn't talk to her anymore unless she had to. It took Tootie's scheming to get them in the same room together, and she wasn't even sure how well that went. If anyone knew about what was going on with Jo it would be Tootie.
She frowned at the thought. For the longest time it was Jo and Blair. Tootie and Natalie were of course valued members of the musketeers, but they were each closer to the other. She felt foolish to be jealous of Tootie, but she was. She had been Jo's shoulder for a long time. Was she so easily replaced? By Tootie of all people she groused to herself. The woman had a mouth that could run a marathon with all the secrets she couldn't keep.
Sighing heavily she decided to arrange a friendly lunch to get Tootie talking. It wouldn't take much once Blair worked her magic, not that she would need to work hard.
“Jo,” she moaned. Looking longingly at the shirt she had plans for later that evening. For now she had an adolescent to amuse and a nosey roommate to keep at bay.
Lorraine fought the dark pulling her in. She wanted to live no matter what her choice to stay with Mitch might have said to outside eyes. She knew being with him wasn't good for her health, but she ignored the warnings in the back of her head most of the time. Once upon a time she believed the man smashing her face in would die before laying a hand on her. Once upon a time was for fairytale's and her life was anything but. She would have an end and from the looks of it wouldn't be happy. Would she be identifiable after this? He was killing her. He said she would and he was.
She lay still waiting for him to finish the job. She heard sounds—maybe more yelling she was in too much pain to figure out why. There were more loud noises as if he were throwing things. Her eyes were swollen shut so she relied on her hearing, and even then she couldn't concentrate. Pain was something she'd gotten use to. Unfortunately Mitch tested her tolerance with tirades like tonight. She was a reposed bruise unable to stand or defend herself.
She heard the footsteps. She whimpered words that hopefully sounded like stop don't hurt me. Waiting for another punch, it never came. A hand caressed her face. Then her body was being lifted from her place on the floor. She was in pain, but she was floating. Strange feeling, maybe she was dead and this was what it felt like to be lifted from earth. The smile would have been nice, Remy thought as he carried her out, if her teeth weren't coated in blood and vomit.
He disappeared with her through the backdoor. The neighbors weren't sound asleep so he kept in the dark of the backyard until he ducked through a patch of trees and headed to the road on the other side. He placed her in the backseat of his car and placed his jacket over her. It wasn't particularly cold, and she wasn't shivering, it just felt like the right thing to do. He closed the door locking it then headed back to the house to grab Jo.
Remy in his own mind didn't think grabbing Lorraine then jogging back took more than five minutes. When he entered the house Jo in black and in a mask stood over Mitch. Jo in five minutes had ruined the man. Remy eyed the rise and fall of his chest relieved that Jo hadn't killed him. That was another kind of mess entirely. At this moment the Cajun didn't know who would win an ugly contest between Mitch and his wife. Jo stared down at Mitch with rage. Like an angry painter staring down at a macabre masterpiece. Jo took one step back and then another in Remy's direction.
The rage was controlled. If she had gone any further Remy wouldn't have stopped her. The man didn't deserve mercy. Their eyes met for an instant through their masks. Remy saw her rage and Jo saw his understanding. She hadn't felt guilty, the way she saw it she was playing by the rules Mitch were.
There would be no evidence of who gave Mitch Bell the beating of his life. Lorraine would disappear without a second glance to her life before. Whatever friends and family she had would sell her out to an angry husband bent on retrieving his ‘property'. Jo would place a mirror in front of her to show how far she had fallen, drunk in her fear and misguided sense of loyalty. Jo would make her cry, watch her weep, and hold her and tell her that life was short and why play with the odds living with a nut case.
Lorraine wouldn't ask what about the police. Jo didn't even suggest calling the boys in blue. When she was ready to travel she would disappear. This would be another thing David could hold over her head, but a woman was alive because of it.
“Thank you,” Jo heard the words mumbled out. She didn't bother responding, Lorraine passed out again.
Remy looked at Jo behind the wheel of the car. It wasn't often that Jo drove the car. He hardly allowed it since the car belonged to David Warner.
“You ok?” He asked out of habit. He wasn't particularly concerned with Jo unless she was flirting with the part of her that enjoyed smashing people's heads in.
For a long time Jo didn't say anything. She heard him and felt his eyes on her, but she didn't acknowledge either. Tonight had been unexpected. Remy had been driving her around. They ended up in a rural neighborhood when Jo unconsciously recalled the address aloud. Passing by the familiar home Jo saw a man dragging his wife inside. Outside of her screams and Remy's car the street was dead. Neighbors would eventually call 911 when the noise got too loud, until then they stayed to themselves.
Jo reacted. When she told Remy to go around the corner she closed her hand around the handle when Remy held her shoulder. She glared at him not willing to be stopped. He handed her a mask. If she had been of sound mind she would have questioned why he had masks on hand, but she took it in stride. She wanted to get into the house as quickly as possible. There was a back entrance to the house that annoyed Bell, because the neighborhood kids would get in and mess up his yard. Bell's ‘feud' with the neighborhood kids was notorious and he made sure anyone within hearing distance knew about it.
Getting in was easy enough. There were still some skills from her ‘gang days' that she used when they came in handy. Tonight, she needed to break in. Fortunately the lock wasn't tricky enough to cause her any trouble. She mused about the street wise kid she used to be and the complicated adult she had become. The thoughts didn't last long when a crash had triggered an urgency to hurry inside.
Her heart was still pounding against her chest. Her fingers were shaking from adrenaline. She willed them to stop by gripping the wheel of the car tighter. They were heading to an apartment that David gave her. She never used it. When David offered anything there was a catch. This one time Jo would relent. The woman needed somewhere clean, comfortable, and discreet. If there was anything rich people did well it was discretion.
“Jo,” Remy called quietly but kept his voice firm. He didn't want to disturb the woman in the backseat.
“Yea…” she worked on calming her temper. It wasn't her intention to bark, so she worked hard not to do it. It would imply that she had little control over what she did next. Control was important to her. More so now than any other time she could think of. It kept her from turning around and finishing what Bell started on his wife. She kept her eyes trained on the road, satisfied by the quiet breathing from the back as the only signal that the battered woman was ok.
Jo relayed the plan in her head testily. When she was done he sat back placated for the moment.
Watching Bailey off sent a chill of sadness through Blair. Her mother had sent for her like a package to be returned unharmed. Blair obliged with a promise that she would visit soon. The sisters embraced at the terminal. Blair giving strict instructions that her sister is looked after with great care. The impression that if the child were to even receive a lukewarm meal, jobs would be at stake was duly noted.
Her mother could make an art of poor parenting. Bailey had stayed for two weeks. Blair had uprooted her schedule to accommodate her sister's arrival. She had anticipated her stay would be longer than two weeks. Blair could only assume that their bonding had been cut short by mother's mood. Maxwell would have responded in kind, by taking away what her mother coveted most, attention. Explaining why her sister was being shipped across the world to attend to Monica's flights of fancy.
Her thoughts were purely speculative, but they were plausible, because Blair's knowledge of her mother was absolute.
Sighing at the speck of a plane flying in the distance Blair checked her watch. She wasn't in the mood to return to work. She took very few liberties. Being the president's daughter she was subject to expectations to act like a privileged brat. Sticking her hands in the pockets of her thigh length purple coat today she wouldn't disappoint. A hint of a smile curved her mouth upward at the corner. She had something more interesting planned for the rest of her day.
She made the necessary call to Vesper cancelling everything. She made sure that the meetings she needed to attend could be pushed back or she could just be briefed later. Nothing on the list of things to do was urgent and she was pleased that playing hooky wouldn't set her back too much. After more calls to Natalie and her favorite restaurant, she was stepping out of her car looking at a god awful building that made her stomach swell.
She let herself in with a copy of the copy of the key Jo asked returned when they broke up. She let Jo think that she was being magnanimous about their break up.
She had to pay extra for the restaurant to deliver in this part of town, but she didn't mind. Making herself at home, the apartment was clean and neat and all Jo. She smiled at the smell of Jo wafting from every surface. Memories came with the smells. Sensations came with the memories. She started the bath first. The candles were where she left them in the pantry under the shelf with the bath cloths and towels. Jo wasn't one for candles, so she had plenty to litter around the bath tub. Padding around in thin black stockings she turned on Jo's stereo. The volume loud enough to hear Peabo Bryson in the comfort of the bath she was running.
She unintentionally left a trail of clothing to the bathroom. She hummed happily stepping into the warmth of the water enjoying the calm of flickering candles. She could question the ethics of breaking into her ex girlfriend's apartment to escape from the world, or opt to ignore societal perceptions of normal behavior. She didn't expect Jo to come home. That didn't stop her from imagining Jo, in her fantasies, arriving home happy to see her. Lust filled eyes drinking in her body, with curious hands leaning closer to break the blanket of bubbles hiding her womanhood.
Blair smirked at her own imaginings. A hand slid between her legs while they parted easily acquiescing unconsciously to the lawyer's need. She rubbed teasingly, in the way Jo would tease. She flicked a finger over her clit jumping at her own touch. She could smell the brunette. She could see her eyes staring at her with reverence and lust. “Jo,” she moaned biting her lip softly moving her hips to the fingers that played with her opening. She moaned again. Her hips moved to the rhythm of the music while her fingers teased in the way Jo use to.
“Please baby…” she moaned to the apparition she desired, more than anything, to be flesh and blood.
She rocked back and forth her eyes closed imagining Jo pumping in and out of her. She bit her lip harder, her moans becoming a throaty growl too primal to be lady like. She was close. Jo's smell pushing her beyond the brink of simple imaginings to a living breathing woman standing in the doorway watching Blair pleasure herself. Hooded eyes popped open and the moan of climax turned into a scream of horror and more horror.
Immediately jerking from her reposed position she pushed candles to the white fluffy mat she gave Jo to girly up her bathroom. Jo jumped into action when the rug caught on fire. Blair stood still screaming holding the shower lining to her forgetting the material was transparent. Jo stomped out the fire dancing on the flames until the smell of burnt rubber and rug surpassed the scent of apple cinnamon. Stepping off the rug, it was ruined with dark spots and holes where it had burned through before Jo could get it out.
Settling water and heavy breathing loaded the room with tension. Jo stared at the rug ready to pounce as if it was going to spontaneously combust. She didn't dare look up at Blair. The blondes' sounds had sent her reeling when she realized what she was hearing. She drank her beer pausing when she realized she wasn't going crazy. The sounds she heard were indeed human and female. When she started toward the bathroom the trail of clothes made her even more curious and then she heard her name being moaned. The shadows of the dancing candles fell on the part of the hallway parallel to the open door. She'd stopped to listen and then peeked in leaning one arm against the door biting her finger listening. She knew if she made a sound Blair would stop. She hadn't counted on the woman opening her eyes.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Blair yelled.
Jo reacted, “What the hell are you doing here?” her retort was a lot huskier than she would have liked.
“Taking a bath!”
Jo scoffed, “I see we were being thorough.”
Blair glared her body heated from embarrassment and anger, “get out!”
“This ain't your ivory tower princess, my place,” Jo pressed her thumb to her chest. “You get out,” she finished smugly.
“Joanne Marie so help me I'll….”
“What?” Jo smirked challengingly, “deflower the rest of my furniture?”
Blair opened her mouth to respond but no words came out. Propriety hadn't prepared her for situations like these. What should she do with her lust when all her anger did was feed it? Even as she stood there clinging to her anger and the lining she wanted physical closure.
Jo walked out self satisfied that she hadn't ripped through the lining to get to the body behind it. Groaning into her bottle of beer she leaned against the counter for support. It would be so easy to take Blair, to kiss her lips and worship her body with feathered kisses. Feathered kisses? What the hell Polniaczek? Jo groaned again finishing her beer in large gulps.
Jo heard the door slam shut. She glared in the direction but decided to keep quiet and grab another drink. The knock at her door was unexpected, but she figured that was the theme of the day. Pushing off the counter she looked through the peephole and frowned.
“Delivery,” the boy on the other side yelled.
Sighing heavily Jo looked around the room for Blair's purse. She didn't see it. Growling she opened the door asked how much and providing exact change and tip. He smiled happily at the tip like the courier from the other day. A pleasurable aroma wafted from the plastic container through the confines of the paper bag to Jo's nose. She looked to the bathroom again and then set the food out.
“What are you doing?” Blair had commandeered Jo's blue robe. Blonde tresses fell to her shoulder making her too sexy to look intimidating.
“Eating,” Jo stared back at her plate diving into the pasta with her fork.
Blair frowned snatching the fork to take a bite. She moaned at the taste and Jo's sex jumped at the familiar sound. The lawyer's smell didn't help matters much either. “Good?” she questioned focusing on the lips the fork slid out of.
Nodding in answer Blair sidled closer for better access to the food. They ate in silence, Jo was too lazy to get up and get her own fork, so Blair willingly shared. The duo didn't speak for fear of breaking the companionable silence. It was easy and familiar and it felt so damn good.
The Warner heiress ever aware of how she looked eyed Jo, who wiped at her own mouth, gesturing for her to do the same. She wiped dumbly until Jo, frustrated, pushed her hand away. Jo's thumb wiped at the white pasta. She licked her finger clean. Blair moaned audibly and Jo's eyes flickered back to the willing woman within her reach. If she closed the distance between them Blair wouldn't object.
Blair was hers if she wanted her. And while Jo desperately wanted her, she wouldn't close the space. Getting up awkwardly she opened the fridge. The motion was more to cool down than actually finding something to eat.
Whipping around angrily Blair pushed the door closed and then the woman who would dare put it between them. Jo's back pressed hard against the wall. Her eyes were wide with surprise then lowered in lust when she saw the fire burning in Blair's gaze.
“What are you doing?” Jo clung desperately to words.
“Jo you watched me touching myself in your tub moaning your name and you haven't mentioned anything about it since.” The woman spoke slowly, closing the small gap between them. “As if this kind of thing happens all the time,” Blair took another impossibly intimate step.
“How do you know that it doesn't,” Jo decided to provoke her. If a pissed Blair couldn't end the mood then she didn't know what could.
“Because I'm a regular in that tub Jo,” Blair admitted “I would have noticed.”
My tub? With naked Blair? At that moment so close ready to give in to the primal urge to ravage Blair she noticed Blair had her father's eyes. Those eyes that demanded and wanted in the same way Blair demanded and wanted and usually got. Jo hardened her resolve. It was one thing to be at the mercy of one Warner let alone two. Her mind and body reacted to the privileged spoiled life sized ‘I get what I want' Barbie ogling her.
“You should go,” Jo's voice lowered dangerously. She was no longer in a lustful stupor that Blair could manipulate.
The lawyer pulled back. She looked into Jo's eyes looking for love, compassion, anything resembling the friend and woman she fell for. She saw nothing. Her Jo was gone. Replaced by someone she didn't understand.
“You love me Jo,” she stated with conviction. The logic in her said that she should walk away—get on with her life, Jo had. But her heart was being pulled in all directions that ultimately led to this woman.
“I don't think so Princess,” Jo pushed passed her. She didn't want to be suffocated to death by the smell of Blair.
“I love you Jo,” Blair said weakly.
Jo shook her head, “you don't know me anymore Princess.” The last word came out softer than the others.
Blair looked at the resigned back of her former lover, “let me know you.”
The silence lasted for moments in an illusion of eternity. It could go one of two ways. Blair hoped for an outcome that included Jo berating herself for her behavior over the last ten months.
Without warning Jo turned. She grabbed Blair roughly and kissed her hard. She nipped at Blair's bottom lip with her teeth and she could feel the blonde whimpering. She thought the blonde would push her away. She handled the princess roughly, probably more than she should have.
The kiss was raw and hard. There had been gentle kisses. There had been passionate kisses. Though all their lips knew were that each meeting was born of something beautiful and transcendent. This kiss was not. Jo pushed her rage and anger into the kiss. It wasn't fair to Blair, but her whole damn life hadn't been fair to Jo.
“You wanna know me still?”
Jo's hand pushed insistently at Blair's center, barreling through the fabric of the robe. Her fingers sank into to the wet need.
The slap that came after wasn't unexpected.
Continued in Part 2
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