Part 7...
by Emily Mills

Comments welcome at: batgirl@agog.net

Auset had almost forgotten how much she disliked hospitals. Everything had happened pretty quickly and she hadn't really had time to consider the fact that she hated these places. It wasn't just the putrid smell of medicine, the feeling of illness and death in the air, but also the rather unpleasant memories that she had of either being in a hospital or some place very similar to one. The hospital had killed her brother. The juvenile detention center she'd been held at was very much like a hospital.

The hacker was walking down one of the hallways, on a mission to find out what was being done about finding Reese's assailant. She would have preferred to have gone out and taken care of that on her own, but Reese had made her promise to find out what legal course of action could be taken first.

Auset found the two officers who were friends of Reese's father standing around outside of his room.

"Excuse me," she addressed them. Both turned their heads to look at the tall, dark-haired woman. "I'm Auset, Reese's friend. I was wondering what was being done to find the man that shot her." The men looked at each other and then back at her.

"We've got the situation under control, ma'am. There's an investigation underway as we speak. Don't worry," the taller of the two answered.

"Good to hear. Do you have any witnesses?"

"Eh, the only thing we really have to go off is the blue Ford Mustang, Texas plates, seen driving off and--" the taller man started to say but his companion nudged him in the gut and cut him off.

"The situation is under control, ma'am, like he said," the other officer spoke up, a little impatiently. "It's police business. You should just go keep your friend company and trust that we can handle this."

Auset frowned a little and ran an irritated hand through her messy black hair. "I'm sure you can, but--"

"But nothing," the shorter one cut her off. "It's under control." This was said in a tone that suggested in no uncertain terms that the current conversation was over. Auset's face expressed nothing as she nodded once and then turned and walked back down the hallway towards Reese's room. The two officers looked at each other and grinned slightly.

OK. You tried making nice like Reese asked. That didn't work, so now I do this on my own terms.

Something about all this didn't add up. The protesters at the clinic, they had been alerted by Reese's father, yes, but was there really one among them who was capable of trying to murder someone? Zealots might try violence, it had been done before, but these small town people, was one of them a killer? That didn't seem right. It was possible, sure, but something about it didn't sit right with Auset. The police officers' attitude towards her was also somewhat off. Her intuition had rarely failed her in the past, so why ignore it now?

She pulled a small cell phone from her jacket pocket and flipped it open, pressing one button for a speed-dial. Someone picked up almost immediately.

"Heya, I need you to dig up some police files on a case that was just opened." Pause. "Town is Flora, Illinois. Don't know the case number, but they should be looking for a person responsible for a shooting at a local abortion clinic." Another pause. "Nothing? They're not networked? OK, thanks anyway." And she closed the phone.

Auset didn't trust the local police enough to leave the manhunt up to them. They had kept a man like Reese's father employed, after all. She would deal with this in her own way. The hacker made her way out to the parking lot where her car was and retrieved her laptop from its' case. Sitting on the edge of the front seat, door open and legs planted on the black top, she balanced the computer on her lap and booted it up. After a brief hesitation, the cellular connection linked up and she went to the mail program, where the "new mail" icon was blinking. As her messages downloaded, she mulled over what little information the officer had given her.

Texas plates? A coincidence? She hoped so. The car was really the only thing she had to go on. A dark blue Mustang; it rang a bell somehow. But the Texas plates--the car could have been stolen, someone could have just moved here from Texas, or it could have been someone come up from Texas just for this. But why? The download completed itself and she opened the new message. It was from Sera.

	"Sorry to hear about your friend.  Those pro-lifers are 
	so unpredictable though, yes?  Send dear Reese my get well 
	soon sympathies.

	Thorough job in Texas, you have my nod of approval as 
	always, though you certainly left rather unexpectedly.  I guess 
	it worked out well for you though, what with it turning out 
	your blonde friend had met with such unfortunate 
	circumstances.  Mary was a bit put off with your sudden 
	exit, however.  I think you wounded the poor things pride.

	In any case, you'll be hearing from me as soon as you get back 
	to Chicago.  I suggest you return as soon as possible.


Auset sat back in the car and just stared at the flickering screen of the laptop for a moment. Of course Sera knew about the shooting, the man surely had access to far more information than she did and she would have known about this too even if Andrew had not called. But there was one little thing that Sera had mentioned, something his electronic paws could not have gotten hold of because it was not entered into any systems as of yet. The papers had reported merely that there had been a shooting with one person wounded, naming no names. Because of the "sensitive nature" of what it was that Reese, her brother and Ione had been there to do, they had requested that their names not be given out. The possibility of Sera having got the information off of the police stations' databases, or even the hospitals', was right out because neither of them were on-line or networked to anyone else. The town was too small.

But the fact remained that he knew who had been shot. He knew that she had gone to Flora even though she had left Chicago without telling a soul. So he was tracking her, that Auset could understand even if it did piss her off, but that he knew Reese had been shot--too many coincidences to be coincidence. On a hunch, Auset brought up the DMV files for Dallas and did a search for Mary's car. It was a dark blue Ford Mustang. Son of a bitch!

Next she did a search for any recent uses of a credit card under Mary's name. Any morsel of information that might lead to finding out where Mary was staying. A hotel in the next town over from Flora had her checked in yesterday afternoon.

The hacker shoved the laptop back into its case and slid around so that she was facing forward again. She slammed the door shut, started the engine, and peeled out of the parking lot at break neck speed. Auset was white-knuckling the steering wheel as she navigated the speeding car down the road, eyes fixed intently straight ahead. It took her about ten minutes to reach the outskirts of the next town, the powerful engine of her new car coming in handy, and she spotted the hotel off to the right of the highway. The sleek black car screeched into the crumbling lot and came to a sudden halt behind a dark blue Mustang and Auset, now positively fuming, leapt from the car and went for the door to the room she knew Mary was staying in. Three solid knocks and then silence.

The door opened on a very stunned Mary, wet hair up in a towel and wearing her trademarked slacks and tank top, both varying shades of blue this time. Before the woman could speak however, Auset lunged forward and knocked Mary back onto the floor.

"God damnit!" the brunette screamed as the back of her head connected with the hard ground. She flung her hands up and grabbed Auset's shoulders, trying to push the woman away from her. The hacker was too strong though and was effectively pinning the other woman down. Auset picked up the executive's head and then, with incredible force, she punched her dead on in the jaw, causing her head to fall back to the floor again. In pure reflex alone, Mary lashed out with her right hand and managed to land a blow to Auset's ear which stunned the hacker for a brief moment, long enough for Mary to shove the woman off of her and jump to her feet. Auset jumped up as well and executed two punches that connected with either of Mary's kidneys. The brunette hunched over in pain and let out a loud groan as the pain caused her vision to dim slightly. "Stop! What...the hell...are you doing?" she managed to gasp out as she held up one hand to get Auset to stop her attack. Mary glanced up and saw the woman, her blue eyes the color of pure ice and her face a mask of unadulterated rage. The sight terrified her.

Auset did not dignify the question with an answer, but instead let loose a swift kick the connected with Mary's chin and knocked her to the ground again. The hacker could see blood pouring from the woman's mouth and nose now and it brought her a sick sort of satisfaction. This woman shot Reese. There would be no forgiveness. Auset kicked the half-conscious woman in the side and then punched her in the face again, grinning with almost preternatural glee as she saw Mary fall into complete unconsciousness.

Auset stood then and examined Mary's prone form. The woman's face was all bruises and blood, her body twisted in agony. I should not feel good about this. I should not be pleased with what I've done, and yet I am. I guess in the end, I am what I am.

There were voices coming from outside the room now, the sound of cars pulling up. Auset turned around and saw two squad cars and a few policemen coming towards her. Someone had apparently heard Mary's initial cries and called for help.

No matter, she thought, we will both get what we deserve then.

The first officer reached the doorway and just stood for a moment, taking in the scene before him. He almost didn't want to approach the tall woman standing in front of him, her cool and collected expression unnerving him to the core when he also saw the blood on her hands and clothes, not to mention the unconscious woman on the floor. But after shaking himself a little and puffing out his chest, he moved into the room and handcuffed the completely unresisting assailant.

Auset allowed herself to be handcuffed and lead into one of the squad cars. She said nothing. She had done what she had come here to do.

The hacker watched as Mary was carried out on a stretcher to an ambulance that had pulled up a few minutes after she was shut in the car. When an officer climbed into the drivers seat of her car, she addressed him with a smooth and even tone.

"That woman was the shooter at the abortion clinic in Flora yesterday. I suggest you act accordingly."

The man turned around in his seat and just stared. Then he nodded slightly and started the car. "We gotta take her to the hospital in Flora anyway, so I'll take ya to the police there. 'Twasn't smart, taking matters into your own hands like that."

Auset was silent, watching the landscape roll by as they headed back to Flora. Reese wouldn't be happy, but surely would forgive her for it in the end, right? After all, Auset had done this for her, hadn't she?

The tiled floor of the hallway was cold against her slippered feet. Reese ambled slowly along, accompanied by Dr. Bremner, on her way to her father's room. The doctor had said that he was awake now and that Reese was well enough to get up and move around a little. She didn't rightly know what she would say to the man, but knew that she had to see him.

They came to a door with a small window in it through which Reese could see her father lying in bed with wrists bandaged and a desolate look on his face.

"May I go in alone?" she asked quietly. Bremner nodded.

"I'll be right outside, if you need me," he replied. Reese smiled and went in through the door. Her father watched her come in and move slowly across the room so that she stood at his bedside. There was a moment of awkward silence then, the tension almost palpable. Finally, Reese took a breath and spoke.

"Hello, dad."

"Hello, Reese," he answered, his voice somewhat strained, betraying his grogginess. Another pause and then he shifted so that he could face her. "I'm...sorry. About everything. I know it doesn't make up for what I've done to you, to the whole family, but I just...I just wanted you to know."

Reese had to mentally force herself not to just break down and cry right then. Her father looked so completely broken and small. She had never seen him like that before, never heard him apologize for anything.

"I don't expect you to forgive me right away, maybe not ever," he went on. "I have no right to expect that from you, after what I've done.... I'm just so sorry. I'm going to get help, Reesey, and maybe I can get better. But I've screwed up and I don't expect you or Andy or your mother to forgive me. I don't really deserve it." He was crying now, silently, drops of moisture sliding down his wrinkled cheeks. "I just want you to know how sorry I am."

Reese felt a tear escaping from her eye and falling down her own cheek. She clenched her jaw as tight as possible and swallowed hard. Without saying a word, she reached one hand out and smoothed her father's grayed hair back off his forehead, then leaned forward and placed a light kiss there. Backing away a few steps, she rubbed the moisture from her eyes and looked her father right in the eye.

"I love you, daddy," she half-whispered.

And then she left the room, shutting the door quietly behind her and silently excepting Dr. Bremner's arm as he helped her back down the corridor.

Her melancholy thoughts were interrupted upon entering her own room once more as she saw Andrew standing next to the bed with a pensive look on his face.

"What is it?" she asked immediately. He shuffled his feet and scratched his head.

"Auset was arrested."

"What??" Reese asked, completely taken off-guard.

"She attacked some woman, claiming that she was the one who shot you. They've got her at the station now and the woman she beat up is here at the hospital. And it looks like this woman was actually the one who shot you too, the police found a gun in her hotel room that matches the slugs found...well, in you."

Reese stood with mouth agape as she took this information in. What a crazy day.

"My gods, but they've arrested Auset?" she asked angrily. Andrew sucked on his lower lip a bit and shook his head.

"The woman is in the ER, Reese. Apparently Auset really beat the shit out of her."

Holy crap. Dr. Bremner strengthened his grip on Reese's arm as he felt her lose her balance a little.

"You should lie back down," he suggested and then helped the girl back into the bed. She was in a temporary state of shock but soon snapped out of it and grabbed the doctor's arm.

"We've got to get her out!" she insisted and tried to sit up. The doctor gently pushed her back.

"You've got to get better first. You need rest, and then you can worry about getting your heroic friend out of jail, OK?" Bremner stated with a touch of amusement. He injected a light sedative into the IV that he had just reattached to Reese's arm.

"I hate this. I hate not being able to help her right now," the blonde said dejectedly. Andrew sat down heavily in the chair next to the bed and sighed. Dr. Bremner just smiled and patted her on the arm.

"Rest now, go to her rescue later." This elicited a small grin from Reese and Bremner exited the room. The blonde allowed the drugs to lull her into a deep sleep then, her thoughts still racing at the thought of Auset in jail. I've got to do something, but what? Soon as I wake up....


He stared at the bandaging on his wrist. This is all so damn hard. Coming to terms with the jerk you've been for years all in one day sure take a lot out of you. He lowered his arm so that it rested at his side again. The florescent light out in the hall was flickering on and off. I suppose it's better late the never, right? Not that they'll ever forgive me. Why should they? But I should at least make an effort, no matter how hard it is.

Harold saw his partner and the other officer standing just outside of his door, leaning against the far wall and engaged in idle chatter. He watched as the dark-haired girl, Reese's friend from Chicago--Auset was her name?--approached the two men and seemed to question them about something. When the conversation ended quite abruptly he saw the girl's expression go dark as she turned and walked out of sight.

He didn't think much of it until about half an hour later when his friend came in and informed him that Auset had been arrested for nearly beating some woman to death. Some woman who Auset claimed had been the one who shot Reese, and from the looks of the evidence found at the woman's hotel room, Auset was right. The officer went back out into the hall again and left Harold to his thoughts.

Well aint that somethin'.

Harold chuckled softly and scratched his head, considering something for a moment.

Clearing his throat, he called out to his partner. The man looked up and into the window at his friend. Harold motioned with his hand for the man to come in.

"What is it?" the officer asked. Harold looked back down at his bandaged wrists and took a deep breath before meeting his friend's eyes again.

"I need to call in a favor."

No matter where I go, I always seem to end up back behind bars. Not very encouraging. Auset sat on the cold, dirty floor of the cell with her back to the wall. She was reading the graffiti, the dirty jokes and random philosophical insights, passing time slowly as the sounds of voices wandered in and out of her hearing range.

The officer had informed her that Mary was at the hospital getting fixed up but that she would be arrested upon recovery due to the evidence they'd discovered in her hotel room that linked her directly to the shooting. Auset was glad of that at least. The hacker had only smirked a little when the policeman also told her of the damage done to Mary. As far as the hospital knew of at that time, the woman had a broken nose and jaw, two cracked ribs, a concussion, and some internal bleeding. There could me more, but the information had not yet trickled down to the station yet.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes on a headache that was starting to make it's presence known. Someone was screaming obscenities from their cell further down the hall and beating something metal against the bars. A guard yelled at the person to stop, but this only elicited a louder scream and more pounding.

Auset knew these sounds well. Prisoners acting up and guards retaliating, guards abusing their power and prisoners retaliating. Very familiar.

One month is an awful long time to spend locked in isolation. It was also the longest they were aloud to lock someone up like that legally. She had the honor bestowed upon her for having nearly killed a fellow inmate, Liz. But Auset didn't mind too much, at least not at first. It was the second and third week that really got to her though. She paced for hours, saying nothing out loud but thoughts racing. She went over every damn thing that had happened in her life, everything that had lead up to her being in here. She found that she did not really regret any of it. People had gotten what they deserved, at least in her book, and as far as she saw it, she was getting what she deserved as well.

But being contained in this tiny room was killing her, tormenting her very nature and its' need to be outside and free. Auset lost apart of herself during that time in isolation, but that had been necessary so that she could go out and start doing the job Sera would get for her on the outside. Only when she had met Reese did that cold spot inside of her begin to warm.

By the end of the third week she had been reduced to a snarling, angry animal, pacing back and forth and growling at the attendants who brought food through the slot in the door. She would slam her first into the cement wall for hours, rendering them into a bloody mess.

But then, sometime in the fourth week--she couldn't remember exactly when it was or why it happened--Auset had a revelation of sorts. It was silly to allow herself to be reduced to this, to be weighed down by the institution. After all was said and done, she could still come out on top and better off than half the fools in the place. She didn't want to give up or give in, she wanted to prove to herself and everyone what she was capable of.

And so, when they finally released her after the month had passed, Auset set about acquiring a small library's-worth of books, devouring each of them and absorbing all of the information they included. She took classes that were offered to the inmates, studied, and worked out. That was all she did for the rest of the year until her mother finally took her home. And when she went back to school she was so far ahead of the others that she graduated early. It was also during that time that Sera had contacted her and urged her to move to Chicago, where he had a good job waiting for her. A college in the city had already accepted her and since she was on anything but good terms with her mother, Auset left almost immediately.

The work was challenging and always interesting. She kept up her intense book reading and studying, her martial arts, and all these things combined with her natural intelligence had helped her become one of the best at what she did. And for a long time there were no moral scruples related to her work, as that was what had been lost to her during the time spent in the detention center. It worked so well, for a time anyway.

Reese sat up in bed with a start, waking from a rather distressing dream in a cold sweat. Andrew continued to snooze soundly in the chair next to her and she did not wake him. The blonde looked down at her hands and willed them to stop shaking. What was the dream that had disturbed her so much? Reese couldn't really even remember it now, it was just the lingering sensation of panic and terror that let her know that it had been a real doozy.

Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself down, the blonde relaxed back into her now damp pillow and closed her eyes, attempting through clearing her mind to recapture some of the dreams' images.

Cally's face, twisted into an insane smile. Stone walls, covered with moss. Cool air on her face and stomach, she could feel that. There were voices too, but she couldn't place them. Someone across the space from her, black hair and blue eyes. Blurred though, she only assumed that it was Auset. She hadn't really met anyone else with eyes quite like that, like luminescent ice. Something horrible had happened...to Auset...and it made Reese's heart lurch. It made her freeze in shock and then erupt with viscous anger. There was red, glowing red obscuring her vision. Rage like she had only felt maybe once before in life. And then an intense sorrow, terrible regret, and finally a darkness that shrouded everything.

Reese opened her eyes again and stared up at the ceiling. Well that certainly doesn't make much sense. The images were scattered and nonsensical, but the feelings alone were enough to explain why she had woken up in such a state. Thinking of Auset in the dream made her remember Auset in real life, which made her sit up again and consider how she could help, if in fact she could. The blonde looked around her then, suddenly realizing that it was now very late in the night and that she'd been sleeping for some time. The IV was still attached to her arm. Dammit.

She really wanted nothing more than to go to the police station and bawl the guys out, argue to get Auset released. But what good would that do in the end? Who knew, it might even work against her friend. Frustrated, she puffed a breath up through her bangs and sat back yet again. She vowed to force the hospital to discharge her in the morning so she could get over to the station right away and see what could be done.

Continued in Part 8

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