Disclaimer: This story and the characters are mine.

Caution: This story touches on human trafficking, but that is just a part of the tale. There are no graphic descriptions of things, but bad things are alluded to.

Sex: There is a loving, physical relationship between two women.

Language: Some of the characters have a bit of a potty-mouth.

© June 2006......JAZ

Sands of Change

By J.A. Zollicoffer




Chapter One

When her head hit the wall for the final time, the young girl gratefully gave in to the darkness, allowing her body to slide down the wall in glorious relief, crumpling to the floor in a motionless heap.

“Now look at what ya went and did, Dave,” The scruffy looking dishwater blonde said to her husband.

Audrey Reynolds got up from her tattered and stained recliner to see what kind of damage her husband had inflicted on their fourteen-year-old daughter.

When she reached the twisted form of the unconscious blonde girl, she nudged her in the side with the toe of her threadbare house slipper.

“Shannon…Shannon, wake up girl.”

The girl didn't make a move, or utter a sound.

Brian Reynolds sat quietly huddled in the dark corner, where he had taken refuge when the beating started. He had watched in horror while his older sister was being kicked, slapped and punched by their father.

In his eight short years of living, this was a scene that had unfolded in front of him with sickening regularity, and as always, he felt helpless and afraid.

This time Shannon was being beaten because, instead of buying the cigarettes she had been sent to the store to purchase, she had bought a pack of cheap bologna and a few snack packets of saltine crackers. She and her brother had not eaten in two days, and she knew that she had to feed him.


When Shannon returned from the store she stood frozen on the porch, waiting. She was in front of the opened screen door willing her brother to sense her presence, because if she did anything to tip off her parents that she had returned, her punishment would be coming sooner rather than later. When he finally looked in her direction she put her finger up to her lips, signaling him to be quiet, then she motioned for him to come outside.


Brian slowly opened the door to avoid it making the loud creaking sounds that always alerted his parents to his comings and goings. When there was enough room for him to squeeze through the opening he slid out of the house unnoticed.


His sister took him by the hand and quickly pulled him to the side of the shotgun building they lived in. Before she did anything, she took the time to look around to make sure they were well hidden.


Finally feeling that they were securely out of sight, she opened the bag she was carrying, and told her brother to eat the meat and crackers that was inside.


The little boy greedily stuffed his mouth with the small feast. “Shannon, dad is gonna be really mad about this,” he said, letting a few cracker crumbs spray from his mouth.


“I know, Brian.” She rolled up a slice of bologna and placed it on top of a cracker. “But we have to eat.”


She savored the taste of the food in her mouth, and decided to save worrying about her punishment for later. It had been so long since she had eaten anything that she almost bit the tip of her finger in her haste to experience the flavors.


Summers were always the hardest time for them. Without access to the free breakfast and lunch program that the school provided, finding something to eat became a challenge. The family received a food supplement, but the allotment on the food card was usually traded for cash, fifty cents on the dollar, then the cash was used for their parent's desires. So being in a position to purchase this treat was a rare circumstance.


When Shannon saw her brother reach for another slice of meat she began to chew slower, wanting to take her time. She knew that this might be their last meal for another two days. That, and the fact that there was going to be a lashing waiting for her in the house, made her want to draw out the small respite for as long she could.


Between bites, Brian looked at his older sister. “Shannon, I hate it here.”


“I know, Brian, I do too.”


“I wish we could leave here.”


Shannon just smiled, and thought about the one and only time she had attempted to run off with her brother.




It had been late, maybe three in the morning. She'd waited until their parents had passed out from their nightly binge, and when the house was filled with drunken snores she knew it was time to make her move.


She had already packed them a few clothes in a plastic bag, so all she needed to do was grab Brian and head out of the door. They were about four blocks from their house when a still sleepy Brian started with the questions.


“Where we going, Shannon?”


“Do you remember Bill and Sarah?”


The little boy nodded his head.


“Well, Sarah said that we could come and stay with them anytime we wanted.”


“I like Bill and Sarah. They're like having a grandma and grandpa,” the boy said.


“They sure are,” the distracted twelve-year-old said. She was trying to figure out what direction to go in. She was getting a little turned around and it frustrated her. It was always easier to find her way in the daytime.


“Are they our grandparents, Shannon?”


“No, Brian. I already told you. They were friends with grandma and grandpa Reynolds before they died.”


“Oh, yeah that's right. Are we almost there yet? I'm getting kinda tired?”


Shannon felt like crying. She didn't want to tell her brother, but she thought they might be lost. She was trying to decide what direction to go in, when a car pulled up beside them. That's when the girl's heart started to pound, but when the dark windows came down, panic set in.


“Hey, kid. You lost?”


“N…no,” she stuttered, and began walking faster.


The car followed slowly beside her.


“Where you headed? Maybe I can give you a ride.”


Before Shannon could say anything, Brian piped in. “We're gonna see Bill and Sarah,” the six year-old said, happy to have the answer.


“Well, what a coincidence. I know Bill and Sarah. Why don't you hop in and let me take you to their house?”


When the small boy headed for the car, Shannon yanked him back by the collar of his shirt.


“Ouch, Shannon, that hurt.”


By this time the man had stopped the car and was getting out. Shannon was too busy reprimanding her brother to see the danger approaching.


“You can't get in the car with that man, Brian. He's a stranger.”


The boy knew what that was. He had been taught about stranger danger in Miss Wright's first grade class. He was about to repeat the rules, when he looked over his sister's shoulder and saw the man coming in their direction. His eyes grew wide and he began to scream at the top of his lungs.


“Stranger danger! Stranger danger! Help! Help!”


The man was so startled by the amount of noise that the small boy was making that he turned and ran back to his car, pulling off, burning rubber with his retreat.


That had been enough of an adventure for the young girl. When she was able to stop shaking long enough to make her brain start working again, she took Brian by the hand and headed back to the hell that they knew.


It had taken her a while, but she had been able to find their way back home. Their parents never knowing that the children had been missing. Shannon made Brian promise not to mention their little escapade, and she never brought it up again.




Her brother's voice brought her back to the present. “Shannon, why can't we go to the magic beach and wish ourselves away from here?”


Shannon looked at her brother with quiet understanding. For most of their lives they had heard stories about that beach. Mostly from Bill and Sarah. The legend says that on one special night, when the stars are shining their brightest and the planets are aligned just right, a person could speak their heart's truest wish, and it would come true.


“Brian, that's just a fairy tale, there is no magic beach, that's just something that someone made up to give people hope.”


The little boy didn't understand. “Hope for what?”


Shannon leaned heavily against the house. “Hope that life doesn't have to always be this hard.”


As she slowly climbed back to consciousness, Shannon realized a few things. Most noticeably, she was lying on a soft bed. Also, there was the steady sound of something beeping in the room. Then she became aware of her body, and immediately wished she hadn't. Her face was throbbing, she could feel the sting on her lips where one of her father's punches had split it. Her ribs ached from a well place kick, and one of her eyes was swollen shut from a vicious backhand.

When she was able to push some of the pain to the back of her mind, she scanned the room with her uninjured eye, and saw a nurse at the foot of her bed, writing in a chart.

She tried to clear her throat, but found that a dry lump had formed there, making it difficult. The nurse must have heard the effort, because when she looked up from the clipboard in her hand she smiled, and made her way to the side of the bed.

“Welcome back,” was said in a caring tone. “Would you like a drink of water?”

The blonde answered in a rough whisper. “Yes, please.”

Once her scorched throat had been soothed with the cool liquid, she asked the question that was more important to her than how she had gotten to the hospital.

“Where is Brian?”

“I don't think I know who Brian is, dear.” The nurse answered kindly.

Shannon tried to keep the fear that was crawling into her chest at bay. “Brian is my little brother.”

The nurse took a few minutes and checked the girl's IV lines, giving herself enough time to answer her patient in a way that would keep her calm.

“First, let me introduce myself. My name is Darlene and I'm your nurse,” she looked down at her watch. “Well, at least I will be for the next three hours,” she said, hoping to interject some humor into a situation that was anything but funny.

“Now, as for your brother, I think you need to speak with the police officer that has been waiting outside. He was hoping that you would wake up soon, so that he could get the necessary information from you. I'm sure that he can answer your question better than I can.”

Darlene started moving away from the bed, intending on searching out the officer, but she stopped when a chilled hand grab her wrist.

“How long have I been here?”

Sympathetic blue eyes looked down at the battered girl. “About two hours.”

Satisfied with the response, Shannon released the nurse's arm. Within moments of Darlene leaving the room an officer of average height, wearing a crisp blue uniform entered.

“Hello, Miss Reynolds, my name is Officer Blake, and if you feel up to it I'd like to ask you a few questions.”

The officer had a gentle voice that put her at ease, but before she would give in to any comfort, there was one pressing issue that she needed an answer to.

“Officer Blake, where is my brother?” She wasn't trying to be rude, but Brian was her first priority.

Eric Blake had a look of total understanding on his face. “Your brother is in the custody of social services.”

He saw panic rise in the girl's uninjured green eye, so he quickly tried to calm her fears. “He's fine, Shannon, he was placed in the home of one of the states long time foster parents. They are an older couple with a spotless record, so you shouldn't worry.”

Shannon moved forward without thought to her condition. She wanted to see her brother, but the sudden movement caused a sharp pain to shoot through her head. It forced her to close her eyes and lay back on the pillow.

“I need to talk to him,” she moaned. “He's going to be afraid if he's alone in a strange place.”

Eric patted the girl's arm in hopes of giving her some comfort. “You need to relax. June and Hugh Jensen have been taking in kids for years, they are one of the best foster care homes available to social services.”

He could see from the stiff set to her body that the girl still wasn't convinced, so he pushed forward, determined to reassure her.

“They have agreed to have you stay with them when you are discharged from the hospital.” He could almost see her body flood with relief. “That's one of the reasons they are one of the agency's favorites, because they don't like to separate siblings.”

Once she had the information that she needed, Shannon relaxed and was ready to answer the officer's questions.

“Shannon, can you tell me what happened tonight?”

“My parents sent me to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes…”


When Shannon opened her eyes again, the sun was shining bright in her room. To her right she saw a high table with a tray on it, obviously breakfast had been served while she was still sleeping. Feeling hungry, she struggled and grunted, trying to get herself in an upright position.

When she became too winded she had to lay back down to catch her breath. After enough time had passed, she reached out with both hands, deciding this time to use the sidebars to help her sit up. She was shocked when she felt a thick cord wound around the metal. She turned her head so that she could see out of her good eye, and wanted to smack herself in the forehead when she saw the bed control. She started pushing buttons, and was relieved when the head of the bed started a slow trip forward.

When she was in a comfortable position she pulled the tray table over. Lifting the top, she began taking inventory of the contents.

The plate was filled with watery scrambled eggs, stiff hot cereal, a few strips of bacon, a carton of milk and a plastic container of apple juice. Shannon quickly unwrapped the plastic utensils and dug in. It wasn't the most appetizing meal, but to her it tasted like food from a high-end restaurant.

The night before, Officer Blake told her that it was Brian who had called nine-one-one, but it wasn't until after the child realized that their parents were going to let his sister lay in a heap on the floor and do nothing.

The police arrived and got the whole horrible story from the frightened eight year-old, and took their parents to jail. Dave had put up a fight and Audrey had yelled about the injustice of being arrested for disciplining their own child in their own home, calling the officers pigs and Nazis. This garnered her a ride downtown as well.

Shannon ate her meal in a contemplative silence, wondering what her future held.

Chapter Two

Four Years Later



Shannon closed her backpack preparing to leave the shelter. It had been two weeks since she had moved out of the children's home, now she was on her way to visit Brian. She had made it her habit to stop by the place every evening before she went to work, so that she could spend a couple of hours with him.

She hefted the bag onto her shoulder, ready to leave. On her first day in the shelter she had been warned that, if she left her belongings unguarded they would most likely be stolen by one of the other residents. So, now whenever she left the building she would place everything of any importance into her pack and carry it with her.

Tonight she was excited to tell Brian her news, she thought she might have found a solution to their problem. Earlier she had met with a social worker and had been given information on the independent living program for youths. The program would provide a place for her to live, but she would be responsible for the utilities and other bills. She'd also discovered that because, academically, she'd had an excellent high school career, she was eligible for college scholarships and a few grants. After purchasing a post office box, she returned to her room and started filling out applications to as many local schools and organizations as she could.

She knew that if all this assistance came through that it still wasn't going to be easy, but she was willing to do whatever it took. If she could get a degree in social work, she could not only support her and Brian, she could help the children that came from the same kind of background that she did.

Green eyes scanned the room one last time to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything, then she left to catch the number twenty bus that would take her the thirty blocks to the house where Brian still lived.



She sat on the bus, riding along, paying no attention to the passing scenery. Her mind was two weeks in the past, remembering the day she had to explain to Brian why she had to leave the children's home.


“Shannon, why are you acting so weird?”


Brian was only twelve years-old and had no understanding of the torment that was running through his sister's mind. Shannon was five days away from turning eighteen, and she knew that she was going to be transitioning out of the system. That meant leaving her brother behind in the children's home.


June and Hugh Jensen had died a year before. Killed when Hugh ran off of a dark road, into a ravine that the older man had forgotten was there. Both Brain and Shannon had been at home when an officer came to the door to deliver the sad news. The children had prepared a meal all by themselves, to thank the generous couple for taking them in and keeping them together, but after they received the news the meal went cold and untouched.


After it was determined that the Reynolds children were foster kids, they were immediately taken out of the home, and once again turned over to social services, before eventually being placed in the children's home. Shannon had never even considered the possibility of their parents inviting them to come back home. In the years that had passed since they had been taken from the abusive household, Shannon and Brian had not hand any contact with them.

Dave had done six months in jail for the severe beating he had given his daughter, and the last time she had seen him and Audrey had been in court, four years ago. It seemed like once the kids were out of the house, Dave and Audrey never gave them another thought.


The last year in the children's home had been difficult at best for the Reynolds children. Although Shannon only stood five feet-four, she had been able to fight well enough to gain some respect among the residents, usually giving as good as she got, but there were also the times that she had come out on the losing end of a confrontation.


This aspect of their living situation was what was causing her anxiety, Brian hadn't gone through his growth spurt yet and she feared that in her absence, because of his small stature, he would be abused by the bigger kids.


Everyday that she didn't come up with a solution to getting them both out of the home, her panic rose another notch. For the past year she had been working after school as a waitress at a local restaurant, and now that she had graduated they took her on full time, still, she knew that she didn't make enough money to support the both of them.


When Brian asked her why she was so upset, she sat him down and explained to him why they were going to be separated soon.


“Brian, I'm gonna be turning eighteen soon, and when that happens, I'll have to leave you here.”


Brown eyes went wide with fear. “But why, Shannon?”


She reached over and ran her fingers through his curly brown hair. “Because I'll be a grown-up, and the state will no longer take care of me.”

Her brother didn't understand the problem. “Then I'll go with you.”


Shannon dropped her head and exhaled. “That's not the way it works, Brian, they won't let you come with me unless I can prove that I can provide a stable home for you.”


Brian felt overwhelm by the news and his eyes start to water. “I don't understand, Shannon, can't I live wherever you're gonna live?”


How could she explain to her brother that she was probably going to be living in a women's shelter until she could think of a way to make more money.


She pulled the small boy into an embrace. “I'm not sure what to do yet, Brian, but I'll think of something.”


Even as she said the words, she wasn't positive that she hadn't just told her brother a lie.


Now, as the bus rolled along she was smiling. Maybe she hadn't lied to him after all.

Chapter Three

Morgan McCray was impatiently tapping the end of her pencil on her thigh. She was sitting in roll call waiting to start her sixth week as a trainee for the Maryland State Police.

Hurry up, she thought. I'm ready to get on the road.

Morgan had already spent twenty-six weeks in Sykesville, attending the Maryland State Police Training Academy, and was glad that part was over. The military type training she received there was one of the toughest times she had ever endured, but she also felt like the ethics, teamwork and accountability training that were the hallmarks of the program were making her a better person.

She was in the sixth week of an eight-week program, being supervised by an experienced Field Training Trooper (FTT). When she had satisfactorily completed the field training, she would begin her independent patrol activities, and she could hardly wait.

As the duty sergeant droned on about assignments, Morgan was reliving the last couple of years of her life, and couldn't believe her good fortune.

You should see me now, dad. Your dirty dealings haven't been able to stop me.

Morgan McCray had come from a family of people that lived on the fringes of society. At one time the twenty year-old trainee had been afraid that she would never be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a state trooper, but here she was.

She attributed being allowed to take this next step to the time she had already put into the organization. Before going to the academy she had spent two years as a trooper cadet. That had to be the reason why she was so easily accepted into the program, because if anyone had ever decided to thoroughly look into her father's background they might have given second thoughts to letting her join the troopers.

Michael McCray was a less than honest man, that had raised his children to live by a less than honest code, get yours however you can, because no one is going to give it to you. That was his creed, and he had spoon-fed it to them throughout their childhood. Unfortunately, his sons took to the feedings like they were nursing on mother's milk, and quickly became their father's reflection.

But, not me, Morgan thought. You didn't get me, dad.

To the outside world, her family appeared to be successful small business owners, but in reality, the barbershops they owned were fronts for money laundering, and the car repair businesses were really chop shops for stolen vehicles.

The only legitimate business they owned was the local fast food chicken drive-in. The curb service, and late night hours made it a very popular hang out for the young people, and on warm nights the teenagers would sit around for hours, hoping from one car to another, making out, or just visiting.

Morgan laughed to herself. I wonder if dad knows the kids call him two-piece and a biscuit behind his back?

The tall brunette had always felt different from her family. Had always felt a little set apart from her father and brothers. Their mother had left them when she was four and her older brothers, Kevin and Philip were ten and eight. Sometimes she thought that her life would have been very different if she had stayed.

Spilled milk, she thought, trying to clear her head. She wouldn't allow herself to indulge in self-pity.

Morgan had made the decision years ago that living a dishonest life was the easy road to travel, following the rules was a more difficult challenge…it took more discipline. That was the main reason she had opted for law enforcement as a career, with it's clear-cut morality code and regimented principles, she thought it was the perfect fit for her.

But, she had to admit that there were times that it would have been nice if it allowed for a little impulsive behavior to sneak in on occasion. Unfortunately for her, she would have to indulge her impulsive urges later on in her life. She was fresh out of the academy and ready to set all of the world's wrongs to right.

Morgan McCray had no idea that by the end of her shift an implosive act would change her life forever.

Chapter Four

Shannon entered her former residence and did what she always did, she greeted the night attendant and headed for the common area of the house in search of her brother.

When she walked into the large living room she looked over the area trying to pick out her brother among the many youths that lived there.

She finally spotted him sitting in a corner with his knees drawn up and his head resting on top of his crossed arms, as she slowly approached him, she noticed that a group of kids where huddled together off to the side of the room, looking at her snickering.

When she reached Brian, she dropped down to her knees and started speaking to him in a soft voice.

“Hey, buddy, what's wrong, why are you over here all by yourself?”

Brian never raised his head, instead he chose to answer her with his face still resting on his arms.

“Nothing, I've just been waiting for you.”

Shannon was immediately alarmed, Brian never acted this way when she came to see him. Their time together was always the most exciting part of the day for him.

“If nothing is wrong why won't you look at me?”

Brian's small shoulders dropped, but he still didn't lift his head. “No reason, I just don't feel like it.”

Shannon's heart started beating faster, it was obvious that something was wrong with her brother. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for whatever Brian was going to tell her.

“Look, Brian, I know something is wrong, so you need to just tell me what it is.”

She softened her voice before she continued. “You know that you can tell me anything, it's always been you and me, buddy, come on, tell me what's wrong.”

The curly-haired boy took a deep breath and told his sister what had happened. But it came out muffled because he still refused to lift his head.

“I was in my room getting ready for you to come. After I had got dressed the door opened and Sharla, Connie and Debbie came in.”

Shannon's anger flared. Those were the three girls that she'd had problems with when she lived in the house. They were sixteen years-old and big. Never missing an opportunity use their size to bully the other kids in the house. Connie was the leader of the group, she was already five-nine and stocky, Sharla and Debbie were her flunkies and did everything that the tall gray-eyed blonde told them to do.

“Debbie closed the door and stood guard, Connie walked up to me and pushed me. She said that because you were gone, I was gonna take your medicine.”

Shannon closed her eyes, not wanting to hear the rest of the story. When Brian continued she heard the tears in his voice.

“She hit me on the side of the head, when she did that I got mad and punched her in the stomach. I think I hurt her because she bent over for a second, then Sharla got behind me and held my arms down to my side.”

Brian's voice started to hitch. “Then…then Connie started to hit me in my face and stomach. When I couldn't take anymore, I…I started to cry and fell to the floor.” Brian started crying harder.

“I'm sorry, Shannon, but it hurt so much…I couldn't be strong anymore.” Then Brian's tears began to flow unchecked, his shoulders shaking so hard he couldn't speak any longer.

Shannon pulled her brother closer and tried to calm him down. “It's okay, Brian, you were very brave, don't worry, I'll fix this.”

The little boy was trying as hard as he could to stop crying, but having his sister there to protect him made his feelings of helplessness come to the surface.

“I'll be stronger next time, Shannon, I know I can.”

Shannon pulled her brother tighter to her and reassured him that she would make it all better.

After Brian calmed down, Shannon pulled away from him and ran her fingers through his brown curls. “Look at me, Brian, I want to talk to you.”

When the small boy finally raised his head, Shannon became furious. Her brother's face was covered with bruises and the corner of his mouth had dried blood on it.

Shannon sprung from the floor and headed toward the group of girls that were standing together on the other side of the room.

Without saying a word, she launched her body at the tall blonde and forced her to the floor, her small fist pummeling the larger girl's face with enough force to draw blood.

The commotion that ensued was so loud that the house staff came running into the living room, Beverly, who was one of the larger caregivers pulled Shannon off of Connie's prone body and held her close. But, Beverly had to fight to keep Shannon in her arms.

“What's going on in here?!”

Shannon was beyond reason. “That bitch beat up on my brother. What the hell are you people doing here? Didn't you see the bruises on his face?!”

Beverly held Shannon tighter as she spoke. “Calm down, Shannon, yes, we saw Brian's bruises, but he refused to tell us how he got them.”

Connie rose from the floor holding her swollen jaw. “The little brat is lying. I never touched him.”

An angry Shannon resumed her struggle to pull away from Beverly. “You are the liar. How do you explain the condition of his face?!”

The tall girl shrugged her shoulders and tried to stop the smirk that wanted to spread across her lips.

“He looks clumsy to me…maybe he fell.” Then she eyed her companions. “Who knows…if he's not careful he might fall again.”

Green eyes shot daggers at the trio, and Shannon made up her mind. She wouldn't leave Brian alone in this house another day. Whatever was necessary, she was prepared to do, but first she had to calm down. She pulled in a few deep breaths and forced herself to physically relax.

When Beverly finally released Shannon, she directed her words to the three troublemakers. “Are we going to have anymore problems tonight?”

Connie stretched her arms out to the side in a show of innocence. “Hey, I'm not the one who started it.”

Beverly then turned to Shannon. “If this happens again, Shannon, you will be banned from the house for two weeks.”

Satisfied that the confrontation was over, and Shannon had a clear understanding of the rules, Beverly returned to the front desk.

As Shannon made her way back to the corner that Brian was sitting in, she heard Connie's taunt.

“You won't be here to protect him all of the time, green eyes.”

Shannon ignored the bully and joined her brother on the floor. Her mind was made up. Now, more than ever, she knew what she had to do.

“Brian, I want you to go up to your room and put everything that is important to you in your backpack. Then I want you to meet me at the back door.”

The little boy became nervous. This didn't sound right. “Why, Shannon?”

She helped him off of the floor. “Because we're getting out of here.”

Chapter Five

Morgan stood beside the police cruiser waiting for her training officer to come out of the barracks, she took the extra time to double check the items on her utility belt, making sure that everything was in it's proper place.

When she looked up from her inspection she saw Corporal Jim Driscoll approaching the car. The twenty-year vet was a very tall man and was built like a Mack truck. He wore his reddish-brown hair in a crew cut and his odd colored golden eyes were always alert, surveying his surroundings.

Jim had known Morgan since she was a cadet, and cared for her greatly. Because of what this line of work entailed, he wanted to make sure that she was trained properly, he would make sure that when she left him she would be an exceptional law enforcement officer.

He rounded the car and unlocked the doors. “Okay, McCray, we have been taken off of interstate duty. Tonight we will be patrolling the east side of Skidmore, near the beach.”

Morgan was excited, up until now they had been assigned to driving up and down the Interstate looking for speeders and possible drug carriers. She hopped into the passenger side and belted herself in, excited about the possibility of finding some trouble.


After five hours of patrolling they still hadn't answered any calls. Jim looked at the dashboard clock and noticed that it was ten p.m., but his trainee hadn't made any complaints about eating or taking a break. That was one of the things that he liked about the tall brunette, she never griped about missed meals or having to do grunt work. Whatever was asked of her, she did without a negative word.

“Morgan, what do you say we stop for our dinner break?”

The trainee mentally exhaled with relief, her stomach had been screaming for food for the past three hours, but she knew that revealing she was hungry would drop her down a notch on the trooper's respect post, and she would avoid that at all coast. Having Jim's respect was very important to her.

She responded to him in a nonchalant tone that belied her true feelings. “Sure, Jim, whenever you think it's time.”

One corner of the FTT's mouth raised in humor, he knew she had to be hungry by now, but her easy answer amused him.

“There is a carry-out about a block up, how about we stop there?”

Morgan shrugged her shoulders hoping to project an air of indifference.


When they entered the carry-out, Morgan's eyes immediately started scanning the menu board. She was hungry, but knew that whatever she ordered needed to be both filling and easy to consume. When her eyes fell upon the egg, green pepper and bacon sub, she knew that her choice had been made.

After their orders had been filled, the officers took their dinner out to the cruiser so that they could eat sitting down.

For Jim, that was one of the problems with patrolling in a bad neighborhood, all of the carry-outs had the employees take your order from behind bulletproof glass and they didn't provide the public with a place to sit and eat. In these areas the term carry-out was literal.

Just as Morgan took the last bite of her sub, a call came over the radio.

“Unit thirty-six, a call has come in from the Waverly Children's Home, a former resident has kidnapped her brother from the facility and is now on the run. The suspect is described as Shannon Reynolds, age eighteen. She is a white female, approximately five-feet four inches tall, with long blonde hair, and green eyes.

She was last seen wearing a pair of blue jeans, a black t-shirt and carrying a blue backpack. Her brother, Brian Reynolds is described as a twelve year-old, small male with curly brown hair and eyes. He was last seen wearing green shorts and a t-shirt with the X-Men on the front. Shannon Reynolds was last seen heading west on Cambridge, she is not considered dangerous, repeat, the suspect is not considered dangerous.”

Morgan picked up the mic. “Unit thirty-six responding, we are three blocks away, our ETA is three minutes, unit thirty-six out.” Jim turned on the lights and siren and pulled away from the curb.


Just as the police car turned down Cambridge, Morgan saw a flash of gold out of the corner of her eye.

“Back up, Jim. I think I saw something.”

The FTT stopped the car and put it in reverse. They reached the intersection just in time to see two people, a boy and a girl, run across the street.

“I think that's them,” Morgan said, feeling her excitement rise.

Jim turned onto the block and started the pursuit.

Chapter Six

Shannon heard the squall of a siren and looked over her shoulder just in time to see the brown police car heading in their direction. She pushed Brian ahead of her and told him to run. She steered them in the direction of the park, hoping to lose their pursuers in the many trees that surrounded the area.

Seeing where the kids were headed, Jim stopped the car, knowing that they had a better chance of catching the suspects on foot.

The siblings had breached the tree line and once they were under it's dense cover, Shannon felt a little safer, so she slowed them down. She knew they didn't have much time, but she needed to rest and a few minutes to think.

“Okay, Brian. I think we can stop for a second,” the winded young woman said.

Leaning forward and resting her hands on her knees, she was trying to catch her breath, but Brian was getting anxious. Running away from the children's home and having the police chasing them was almost more than the adolescent could handle.

He looked at his sister with fearful eyes, seeking answers. “Shannon, what are we gonna do now?”

The girl was trying to think, but everything that came to mind led to both of them being caught. Then it hit her. “There is a drink hut down on the beach that is only open in the daytime. I want you to find it and hide until I come and get you.”

“What are you gonna do, Shannon?”

“I'm gonna lead them in the opposite direction.”

Shannon could see that her brother didn't want to be separated from her, but it was the best solution for now. She could run faster than Brian and knew she had a better chance of losing the cops without him. Then she could double back and get him.

“Look, Brian, trust me. I'll come and get you as soon as I can. Now go, I'll be right behind you.”

The boy didn't move, so his sister turned him around and pushed him. GO! NOW!”

When he only stumbled a few feet and stopped, she pleaded with him. “Please, Brian. I'll be right behind you…I promise.”

The boy stared at her for a few long moments until he felt like he could trust and believe what he saw in his sister's eyes, then he ran for the beach hut.


During the game of cat and mouse that was being played out between the cops and the kids, there was another participant on the board, and he had watched as Shannon ducked in and out of the shadows to avoid capture. He had watched as the police parked their car and started a foot pursuit, and he had watched with interest when he noticed that no matter what, the girl always kept the little boy close to her.

“Hmm, this looks interesting,” he said. “Maybe Goldilocks needs rescuing.” He stood, hidden away beside the panel van he used to transport his packages and continued to watch, thinking about the two youngsters.

“This could be a two for one night,” was said with glee. After several minutes he saw the small blonde go streaking by, but this time she was alone. “Oh, well, so much for a two-for. I think she's headed for the beach,” he mumbled before quickly moving into action.

He Jumped into the driver's side of the van, started the engine and drove toward the beach. Once there he parked the van, and waited…he knew it was only a matter of time before he had another package he could deliver.


The two troopers searched the park, looking for the two runaways, but didn't find anything. That's when Jim stopped and came up with a new plan.

“Okay, McCray, this is what we'll do. I'll search the west side of the park and you'll check the east. If I see anything I'll radio you, and you do the same.”

Morgan nodded her head and headed east.

Walking through the woods, she used her flashlight to illuminate the area, sending the beam into the trees, then back to the ground. She was about to change direction when the light caught a glimmer of blonde hair hiding behind a trashcan.

“Police! Don't move!” she yelled.

Shannon saw the light coming in her direction and remained still, but when she heard the trooper's warning, that's when she started running.

“Damn,” Morgan gritted out as she took off behind the girl.

Shannon picked up speed, ignoring the thin branches that were making small cuts across her face. She was running for her and Brian's life and nothing was going to stop her. She put her arm up for protection and never slowed down.

Morgan's long legs were eating up the distance between her and the short blonde and it wasn't long before she was close enough to tackle the suspect.

Just as they cleared the trees and was on the beach, she threw her long body forward and landed on the shorter woman's back, bringing her down in the sand. They laid there for a minute, both women breathing hard, trying to catch their breath.

Morgan slowly lifted herself off of the other woman's body and felt her begin to struggle in an effort to get away, so she straddled her hips and leaned over the girl's shoulder. “Don't move,” she said as she reached to pull out her handcuffs.

Shannon couldn't believe that at a time like this the sultry voice so close to her ear made her shudder. God, help me, she thought. ‘cause obviously I'm an idiot.


Jim was getting worried, Morgan should have checked in by now. “McCray…McCray, can you hear me? McCray respond, damn it!”

While the field trooper was trying to get his trainee to answer his call, a dark threat was going completely unnoticed. Soulless eyes watched from the shadows as the scene between the trooper and the blonde played out in front of him.

But when the cop pinned the young blonde in the sand he walked away. This was going to turn out one of two ways, either the girl would be arrested, or she would get away. The man decided to wait near the park entrance, if the girl came running by he would grab her.


Ignoring her FTT's call, Morgan decided to get the suspect restrained before she responded. She stood the shorter woman up, to get her out of the sand before cuffing her. But, when she got the woman to her feet and shinned the flashlight in her face, she pulled in a sharp breath. The light exposed clear green eyes that paralyzed her. Then she heard a soft voice.

“You've got to let me go.”

In the few seconds that passed before Morgan was able to regain her wits, Shannon saw her chance, and took the opportunity. She punched the tall trooper in her stomach and took off running again.

Morgan recovered quickly, and once again was in pursuit of the swiftly moving blonde.

Shannon didn't dare look behind her. She knew the beautiful trooper was close on her heels. Beautiful? Why am I thinking about how she looks? Damn, I am losing my mind. But, beautiful or not, Shannon had no intentions of letting the woman catch her again, so she ran blindly down the beach.


It's going to take more effort to catch her this time, Morgan thought as she was gaining on her escapee. To be a short person, this girl sure is fast, but, not fast enough.

They were running down the shoreline, where the wet sand was more packed, and the blonde was putting the firmer surface to good use, kicking up the grainy mud, sending it into the tall cop's face.

Morgan was spitting out dirt and wiping mud off of her face, but this only pushed her to move faster. You're not gonna get away from me, so your pretty little ass should prepare to fall.

The brunette nearly stumbled at that thought, but was able to keep moving. She couldn't deny that the view she was getting of said, ass, was mighty fine. The girl most definitely could fill out a pair of jeans.

Then the inevitable happened. Shannon's canvas shoes became waterlogged and they began slowing her down. Not having the same problem because she was wearing her academy issued high-gloss leather shoes, Morgan began to overtake the girl.

Shannon felt herself faltering and knew that the end was near. There was no way she could outrun this determined trooper.

What is up with this woman? Is there some kind of special accommodation waiting for her if she catches me? Shit!

When Shannon felt the other woman's weight on her back, she just went with the momentum and let herself fall to the ground, not putting up a struggle.

Morgan didn't wait, she put the cuffs on the small woman, but this time when she turned her over she could see the stars shinning bright in the desperate green eyes that peered up at her…imploring her, for what, Morgan didn't know. Until, for the second time that night, her captive spoke.

“Please…help us.”


The shadowed menace continued watching and waiting, getting antsy because it was taking so long. Then he saw the tall trooper leading the blonde runaway out of the park and start walking her back to where the cruiser was parked. That's when he knew that this girl was now out of his reach. But instead of getting upset, he shrugged his shoulders at the missed opportunity and set his mind to other things.

“There's plenty of fish in the sea,” he said before he backed away from the area and disappeared into the darkness.

Procuring young girls for the sex trade was his business, and finding his packages had never been a problem. There always seemed to be an endless supply of lost or discarded parcels. He started the van and drove away, never looking back.

But if the man had waited for just a few more minutes he would have witnessed an odd scene when the young trooper change her mind.

She pull the girl to a stop, remove her handcuffs, took a business card out of her pocket and wrote something on the back, before handing over some cash and a house key.

“Are you sure?” was heard on the night air.

“Yeah. Get your brother, call a cab and have it take you to my place.”

“You…you trust me?”

Shannon had told the trooper her entire life story while she was being escorted out of the park, but she didn't think the stoic woman had been listening.

The dark head tilted and a crooked smile appeared on the trooper's face. She scratched her head then rubbed her jaw.

“As crazy as it sounds, yeah I do.” Then her voice dropped to a whisper. “There's just something about you that makes me believe.” Then she quickly shook off the introspection and pushed the girl back toward the beach. “Now get out of here before my FTT gets back. He's already gonna rip me a new one for ignoring his calls.”

Morgan watched as the small blonde took off running in the direction of the beach. “I wonder how this is gonna turn out,” she said as she watched the powerful little body disappear into the darkness.

She put the girl and her brother out of her mind, she would deal with them later, now she had to give her FTT a story that he would believe. She pulled her mic off of her shoulder and keyed the radio. “Jim…Jim, it's Morgan. Do you copy?”

Chapter Seven

Ten Years Later



“Shannon!!! Do you know where I put my gym bag?”

“Did you check the closet floor?”

“Oh, I see it.”

Shannon walked into the bedroom and saw her spouse stuffing a pair of sweats and gym shoes into the canvas bag.

“What would you do without me?” The smiling blonde asked.

Morgan McCray returned her wife's smile and pulled her in for a hug. “I don't know. I don't ever want to know.”

“What do you need the bag for?” the shorter woman mumbled into her mate's chest.

“Yearly physical fitness test. I gotta run an obstacle course today.”

“Awww…sorry to here that, sweetheart.”

“Thanks, but after all of these years I pretty much know what to expect.”

Shannon patted her wife on the chest and was heading back to the kitchen when she remembered something. “Oh…I almost forgot. I got an e-mail from Brian this morning.”

Morgan had a flashback of coming home that first night and meeting the frightened little boy in the X-Men t-shirt. He was hiding behind his sister, and had a death grip on the back of her shirt that he wasn't likely to relinquish any time soon. But that was ten years ago, and Brian had grown into a pretty special young man.

“Yeah? How's the menace doing?”

“He says he has finally gotten around to seeing everything that there is to see, and he can't wait to come visit next month.”

“Is that right? Well, the next time you speak with him, tell Second Lieutenant Brian Reynolds that I said, he's in Japan as an integral part of the United States Air Force, not as a tourist,” the detective said with a smile.

Shannon leaned her shoulder against the doorjamb, and looked at Morgan with loving eyes. “Sweetheart, did I ever thank you for putting us through school?”

The question surprised the tall woman. “There was nothing to thank me for. You put yourself through school with grants and a part-time job, and as for Brian, we both helped him, so thanking me is not necessary.”

“Well, thank you for giving us a place to live while all of that was going on.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I still can't believe you opened your home to two strangers, more specifically, two runaway strangers.”

Morgan zipped up the large bag and set it on the bed before approaching her spouse, then with a gentle hand she caressed the face of the one she loved most in the world.

“No problem. I told you that night, there was something about you that made me believe, besides, I got the best part of that deal,” she looked lovingly at her partner. “I love you, Shannon,” was said in a heartfelt whisper.

“I love you too,” was returned with just as much emotion. Seductive arms reached up and circled the taller woman's neck. “You're the best.” Before the detective could counter, her lips were taken in a passionate kiss.

Morgan felt her toes curl in her shoes, and she had to fight the clinching in her gut that demanded she take her wife to bed. Whenever Shannon kissed her like this she always wondered how, after all of these years just one kiss, one touch, or a certain look could make her instantly swollen, wet and wanting. She broke the kiss and took a step back.

“You're an evil woman, Shannon McCray.”

Shannon turned and walked away. “I just wanted to give you something to look forward to when you get home tonight.”

Morgan watched the sway of the firm backside as her wife walked away from her, and remembered the first time she had admired that particular body part, while chasing her down a moonlit beach.

“God, I love that woman.”


After successfully completing her physical fitness test Morgan showered and got dressed, but before she could return to her office she got word that the Captain wanted to see her.

“Have a seat, McCray.”

Morgan followed the Captain's direction without uttering a sound.

“A file has come across my desk that I want you to work on.” He pushed the folder in the detective's direction. “It's a missing girl case.”

Ignoring the file, Morgan looked at her superior like he was daft. “Sir, am I missing something here? I work on cold cases.”

“I know what unit you work in, McCray. But I need you to look at this.”

Without saying another word she flipping through the pages. Morgan didn't see anything out of the ordinary. There was the standard troubled youth scenario. Minor stays out past curfew. Underage drinking, and truancy. It was the same complaints that usually filled the pages of this type of case.

“It says here, she's missing from Montgomery County, why is the State Police involved? It's their jurisdiction.”

The Captain rested his hands behind his head, and stretched his back out a little. “The chief over there thinks that human trafficking might be involved somehow.”


“Yeah, and since we are a part of The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, we're gonna work with the other agencies to investigate this case. You will be our representative.”

“Why is this case raising red flags?” the detective asked as she flipped through the files for a second time, looking to see if she had missed something. “Her parents aren't high-profile, or connected to high places. It doesn't appear that this kid was an exceptional student, or outstanding athlete. There is nothing in here that suggests this is out of character behavior, or that her parents are involved with special interest.”

“I agree, but the Montgomery County police chief says he is seeing a pattern.”

“And that pattern is?”

“Girls disappearing that don't have a history of that type of behavior. None of the missing girls have ever stayed away from home. Came home late? Yes. But never stayed out all night.”

“There's a first time for everything.”

“You're right about that, McCray, but there is something that doesn't smell right about this. I want you to look at it with a new set of eyes and see if the task force is missing something.”

Morgan gathered the folded. “Okay, Captain.”

She was walking out of his office when he called her back. “Oh, there is something else.”

Morgan waited.

“The girl's mother is waiting for you in your office.”

Blue eyes rolled. “Thanks, Captain.”


The mother that was waiting for Morgan, was not what she was expecting. She made a mental note to check the file again, because the bleached-blonde sitting in her office didn't look old enough to have a fifteen year-old daughter.

“I hope you haven't been waiting too long, Mrs. Edwards. “I'm Detective Sergeant McCray and I'll be working on your daughter's case.”

“It's Miss.”

Morgan gave her an odd look. “Excuse me?”

The woman clarified. “You called me Mrs. I'm not a Mrs. I'm a Miss.”

Morgan realized that she had not read anything about a husband or a father in the file, she had just assumed, and she knew better than to do that.

“My apologies.”

“Not a problem, you are most definitely forgiven,” was said as the mother crossed her legs, exposing an inappropriate amount of skin.

Ignoring the flirtatious behavior, Morgan took a seat behind her desk, and without saying a word, turned a picture of her and Shannon around so that Miss Edwards could see it.

“Oh, so it's like that?” the woman said as a way to acknowledge the obvious relationship.

“Yes, it's exactly like that,” Morgan replied while holding the woman's gaze.

“Okay, okay. There's no need to get all twisted up. I see that you're one of those loyal chicks.”

Growing more irritated by the minute, Morgan, tried to get things back on track. “Miss Edwards let's get to the reason why we are here…your missing daughter.”

As if on cue, the woman's eyes started tearing up. “My baby, my baby has been missing for five days.”

When she realized that Morgan wasn't going to offer her a tissue she began searching around in her knockoff purse for one of her own.

“Can you tell me what was going on before your daughter disappeared?”

Just as quickly as the tears started they were replaced with irritation. “I've already told the county cops everything I know. Don't you guys communicate?”

Morgan made a mental note. Mother has an unstable personality.

“I understand your frustration, Miss Edwards, but this is the State Police, and I need to hear what you have to say from your point of view.”

Exhaling a breath, Miss. Edwards repeated her story for what felt like the thousandth time.

“We had an argument.” She started bouncing her crossed leg. “It was over something stupid. She wanted to bum a cigarette off of me, I told her I didn't have enough. She got pissed and stormed out, and I ain't seen her since.”

“Do you often share cigarettes with your fifteen year-old daughter, Miss Edwards?”

The woman's anger soared. “Don't judge me! Not until you've walked in my shoes. I do everything for that kid. Hell, I had her when I was only fifteen. I think I've done pretty damn good to have been a kid myself.”

Wow, we're the same age, Morgan thought.

“I'm doing the best I can,” the woman continued. “I keep a roof over her head, don't I? I keep her fed, don't I? I gotta keep her in smokes too? Shit, it ain't my fault that she's acting like a brat.”

Then whose fault is it? Morgan asked in her head.

“Miss Edwards, have you checked with any of your daughter's friends?”

“Yeah, but they ain't seen her.” Then she remembered something. “I talked to everybody except, Kathy. She's one of my Ginny's new friends. I've asked around, but nobody's seen her either.” Then it seemed like a light went on in her head. “Hey, you think they might be together?”

Morgan was taking notes. “What can you tell me about Kathy?”

“Not much. She's a year or two older than Ginny. She lives with her uncle, and she has a great weed connection…oops. I guess I shouldn't have said that.”

Morgan mentally rolled her eyes. Like my opinion of you could get any lower.

“Is that all you can tell me about Kathy?”

“Yeah, that's it.”

Morgan finished writing and closed the folder. “Okay, Miss Edwards, that will be all for now. If I have anymore questions I'll be in touch.” Morgan came from behind her desk to escort the woman out of her office.

When Heidi Edwards reached the door she stopped and looked over her shoulder at the detective. “You don't have to wait until you have more questions to call. You can do that anytime.”

Morgan held up her left hand and wiggled her ring finger, displaying the gold band. “Married. Remember?”

Heidi laughed. “Yeah. But…”

Morgan cut her off and gently pushed the woman out of her office. “If we find out anything, someone will contact you.”

Morgan closed her office door and went to the phone. She was going to request copies of the other missing girls cases. “What a piece of work,” was said to the empty room.

Chapter Eight

When Morgan got home she told Shannon about the case, and about her interview with the missing girl's morally challenged mother.

“She was hitting on you?!”

“Calm down, babe. You know I would never give another woman the time of day.”

Shannon rolled her eyes. “I know that. What I'm having a problem with is the mother of a missing child taking the time to flirt before discussing her daughter's case.”

“Oh,” Morgan said, sounding defeated.

“Stop being a baby. You should be happy that I trust you without question.”

“I am,” the detective pouted.

Seeing how disappointed her spouse was, Shannon took on the persona of a jealous lover. She placed her hands on her hips and put an indignant look on her face. “That bitch. That scanky whore. How dare she put the moves on my woman!”

Blue eyes twinkled with pleasure.

“You feel better now, stud?”

Morgan picked Shannon up and carried her to the bedroom. “Let me show you how good I feel.”


“Please, daddy! Stop. Please stop!

Shannon's sounds of anguish pulled Morgan out of a sound sleep.

“Shannon, Shannon. Wake up, baby.” Her voice didn't seem to be penetrating the dream, so she began to gently shake her distressed lover. “Come on, baby, wake up for me.”

Nothing was working. No matter how strongly Morgan shook her, or how loudly she called her name, Shannon would not come out of the dream…

“What have I told you about looking at me like that?”


Dave Reynolds was drunk and angry, and as always, one accompanied the other. That was unfortunate for his daughter, because once Dave was angry he always sought out his favorite target to work out some of his frustrations on.


“I wasn't looking at you, daddy,” Shannon whimpered.


“You talking back to me, little girl?”


This was a scene that had played out over and over again in her young life, and she knew that once her father's rage presented itself there would be no stopping him until his need to release the built up violence was sated. Shannon saw the danger moving closer to her, and curled up into a tight ball…waiting.


The first kick connected with her forearms that were protecting her face, and the force of it rocked her small body. When he pulled his leg back for a second blow she squeezed her eyes shut and let the tears flow. She knew that begging or crying out for help would fall on deaf ears. There would be no reprieve, and no one was coming to save her. Her father wasn't going to stop, and her mother wasn't going to help. When the third kick was delivered a sharp, stabbing pain radiated through her kidney and she couldn't hold it in any longer.


“Please, daddy! Stop. Please stop!”

Shannon suddenly woke up with a start. She sat up in bed, breathing hard. “Shit.”

Large hands began to slowly rub soothing circles over the frightened woman's damp back. “You're okay now. He can't hurt you anymore.”

“It was so real, Morgan. I was lying on the floor, and he was kicking me…over and over, and I couldn't catch my breath, and then my back began to hurt really badly.”

Morgan remained silent and dropped her hand to rub her wife's lower back, trying to easy away the pain of an injury that had healed long ago. Knowing that Shannon needed a calming, soothing type of support right now, she forced down the seething anger that wanted to spew from her core.

“It's over, baby. I'll never let him hurt you again.”

Shannon leaned her head against Morgan's strong shoulder. “Will this ever really be over?”

Morgan kissed her wife's head. “Yes, baby, it will. I promise.”

“Bet you didn't know you were taking on a basket case when you asked me to marry you.”

“Shhh,” Morgan whispered. “Don't say things like that. The day you agreed to marry me was the luckiest day of my life.”

Shannon rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”

“What? You don't believe me?”

“Considering that you've spent the last ten years coxing me out of nightmares makes it kinda hard to believe.”

“Stop exaggerating. Your nightmares are not frequent,” Morgan wiggled her eyebrows. “And if I'm not mistaken, it was one of your nightmares that put us in a position to have our first kiss.”

A wide smile spread across Shannon's face. “Oh, yeah, that is how it happened, isn't it?”

“Yep, I came running into your room because your yelling woke me up.”

“That's right, and you held me close, rocking me until I calmed down.”

“Then you lifted your eyes, and looked at me.”

Shannon reached up and traced Morgan's dark brows. “And that's when I knew that I wanted you forever,” she whispered.

Morgan leaned down and kissed Shannon the way she had that night so long ago. “And that's when I knew I wanted to be yours forever.”

“We had been living with you for what? Nine months by then?”

“Are you trying to be funny? It was more like five months.”

Shannon snorted. “That's right. God, I was such a floozy.”

Morgan barked out a laugh. “A floozy?! It took me another four months to finally get you in bed.”

“Aaand we're back to nine months.”

“You aren't making any points with me, Shannon.”

“Okay, okay, but I gotta admit, it took me four months to say yes because I was terrified.”

Morgan was shocked. “What?! Why?!”

“Because, I had never been with anyone before, and I'd heard horror stories of pain, blood, and soreness.”

“Well, it wasn't like I was an expert.”

“At least you had done something. I had never even been kissed.”

“Yeah, right, I was really skilled. Some kissing, heavy petting, a little dry-humping, that was about it. I certainly had never done anything as intense as what we experienced that first night.”

Shannon snuggled closer to her spouse. “There was no one around to tell me how wonderful it would be to make love to the person that owns your heart.”

“I was out there too. Flopping around like a fish out of water, totally without a clue. I remember this one time my dad sat me down, trying to tell me about the birds and the bees. I thought I would rather go deaf and blind than have to listen to that. Michael McCray telling his twelve year-old daughter about the facts of life was a classic piece of parenting.”

She made her voice deeper, and peppered her language with a lot of slang. “Now listen up, Morgan. One day some wanna be pimp is gonna try and feel you up.” The tall woman laughed. “I slapped my hands over my ears, squeezed my eyes tight, and started to hum, hoping to drown out the sound of his voice. Finally he got the message and stopped, but not before I heard phrases like, “kick him in the balls” and “punch him in the throat”, what a class act.”

“At least he tried. My parents never talked to me about anything. Everything I learned was from my friends, and most of that information was wrong. Do you know that my mother never even talked to me about getting my period? My friends had told me what happened, but they also told me it happened to boys too.”


“You heard me. My bright as a dim-bulb friends told me that boys got periods too. I found out different when I came home from school one day and found a box of sanitary napkins and a book about menstruation on my bed.”

“Well, that was something,” Morgan said, hoping to shine a positive light on the situation.

“I was thirteen years-old! I had been taking care of that problem for a year…on my own, using and reusing old rags that I would stuff in my underwear. My friends had me so afraid and disgusted by the change that my body was going to go through that I was too ashamed to tell my mother. ”

Morgan had to cringe. The thought of washing, drying, and reusing soiled rags was kinda icky, especially at the dawning of the twentieth-first century. The information only reminded Morgan of how cut-off from things her spouse had been while she was growing up.

“There isn't much I can say about that, babe. My dad didn't talk to me about “women's shit” as he called it, but he did get one of his lady friends to have a talk with me and take me to the drug store to show me all the different choices there were.”

Hearing Morgan mention her father again, Shannon had to ask. “Sweetheart, do you ever think about your dad and brothers?”

The question took Morgan by surprise. “Um, no. Not really. I mean, my brothers? No. My dad? On occasion. Especially when I catch a glimpse of him when I'm out, or run into him and we have to carry on some superficial conversation,” she snorted. “I doubt if he knows I'm gay, or that I have a wife. But even though our talks never ventured any deeper than what the weather was like, he would stay on my mind for a day or so.”

“But you never say anything.”

Morgan paused before she answered. She wanted to make sure she said this right. “I didn't say anything because I don't want to hurt you.”

“Hurt me? Hurt me how?” Shannon didn't understand.

“I kinda thought that if I brought up my scumbag father, it might make you think about your dad. I just didn't want the subject to remind you of bad times.”

“I can see how you would feel that way, but you don't have to keep your feelings inside. You can talk to me.”

“Thanks, babe.”

“Besides, Michael was just a shitty, amoral father. Dave Reynolds was an abusive, drunken asshole.”

Morgan snorted. “That's one way to look at it. I mean my dad never hit me or anything. I…I just hated the way he tried to turn us into criminals before we could decide for ourselves.”

“Like I said, amoral.”

Morgan agreed with a sad inflection. “Yeah, amoral.”

Hearing the melancholy in her lover's voice, Shannon turned to look at her. “Sweetheart, do you wish you had a relationship with him?”

Morgan thought for a moment. “No. It's more like I wish I had a relationship with who I wish he was…you know what I mean?”

“I know exactly what you mean.” Shannon looked up into the eyes of the only person she had ever loved. Well, except for Brian, but that was different…very different. The love she had for Morgan was almost like a religion to her, and she kneeled at the alter daily. Her devotion sometimes bordering on fanaticism because when it came to Morgan, Shannon was all in. “I love you so much,” was her whispered prayer.

“I love you too, sweetheart,” came her benediction.

Morgan ran her fingers though Shannon's tangled hair, taking care to remove the knots, wanting to ease into changing the subject. “What do you think brought on the nightmare, baby? You haven't had one of those dreams in quite some time.”

“I'm not sure.” She paused for a second. “I guess it was talking about that missing girl.”

“Why do you think it was the case I'm working on?”

“I don't know. I guess…maybe it reminded me of the time I took Brian and tried to run away…anything could have happened to us that night, as a matter of fact, it almost did.”

“You're talking about the time the man in the car tried to pick you guys up?”


Morgan kissed the side of Shannon's head. “I can just see the little shit now, screaming at the top of his lungs.”

The deep sound coming from Morgan's chest was very soothing, and Shannon found herself smiling, waving her hands out in front of her. “Stranger danger, stranger danger,” she said in a low voice.

A hardy laugh escaped Morgan's throat. “He was your personalized “to catch a predator”, wasn't he?”

“That he was.” She took Morgan's hand and pulled it around her shoulders so that the taller woman could hold her closer.

“Are you feeling better now?”

Shannon nodded her head.


They remained silent for several long minutes. Morgan holding Shannon close, resting her cheek on top of thick, blonde tresses, letting their love flow around them.

“You think you can go back to sleep?” Morgan asked. “Shannon? Shannon?”

There was no answer, the woman was sound asleep.

Morgan eased Shannon back onto the bed, then wrapped herself around the shorter body. “That's right, baby, sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up…I love you, Shannon,” was whispered in the sleeping woman's ear before Morgan joined her in slumber.


As Morgan McCray was making promises to keep her love safe, several miles to the north, a drugged, beaten, and kidnapped Ginny Edwards was locked in a dank basement, wondering where her friend was. The fifteen-year-old was feeling very sorry about the actions that had led her to this place. She'd had no idea that when she went storming out of the house, angry over being denied a cigarette, that it would lead to this place.

“I wish I could do it all over,” she whispered to the empty room…

“Fuck her and her cigarettes,” Ginny said to her friend.


Kathy pulled another drag on the menthol that was dangling from her lips. “That's your mom, Gin, you shouldn't say shit like that.”


The girls had been sitting out in the park for a couple of hours while Ginny complained about her mother being selfish with the smokes.


Ginny snorted. “Some mother she is. She ain't nothing but a low-life stripper.”


“Damn, girl. That's harsh. You really should stop saying shit like that about your mother.”


“What do you know about it, Kathy? You live with your uncle.”


“That's right. My meth-head mother left me to live with a piece of shit perv. At least your mom loved you enough to keep you with her.”


Ginny didn't say anything. She knew about the things that went on in Kathy's home. How her mother's brother always tried to get her to give him blowjobs by offering her money or drugs. That's why the seventeen year-old stayed out in the streets until all hours of the night.


“You got any weed?” Ginny asked, breaking the silence.


“Nope, I haven't seen my guy lately.”


Ginny knew what that meant. Although Kathy was averse to giving her uncle BJ's, she didn't have the same aversion when it came to Frankie and his weed.


“His girlfriend is sticking to him like glue, huh?”


“Yeah, the bitch is going through one of her possessive stages. I hope she gets over it soon, ‘cause I'm missing being high.”


“Me too.”


Kathy looked at Ginny without saying a word. She liked her, but Ginny had double standards when it came to certain things. Like, she wouldn't give a BJ for weed, but she would smoke Kathy's, knowing how it was paid for. Or, how she didn't want to be left alone at a party if Kathy met a guy she liked, but if she wanted to disappear with somebody, Kathy was supposed to just understand.


Oh, well, Kathy thought. I've hung out with worse. Ginny is just a little more spoiled than the others.


They heard a sound, and looked over to the parking lot in time to see two people approaching. It was a guy and a girl, both of them looked to be in their early twenties. When they got close enough, they greeted the girls.


“Hey, what's up?” the man said.


“Not much,” Kathy responded.


“You girls out here alone?” the woman asked.


“Looks that way.” Kathy answered.


You get high?” The woman wanted to know, thinking she had spotted a couple of fellow weed-heads.


“Hell, yeah,” Ginny answered for both of them. Thinking that it was their lucky night. “You got anything?”


“You ain't said nothing but a word.”


The man pulled a blunt from his pocket and handed it over to Ginny, before pulling out a second one for him and the woman he was with.


“My name is Paul, and this is my girlfriend Tammy.”


“I'm Ginny, and this is Kathy.”


The introduction came out a little strained because Ginny was holding in the smoke she had just inhaled, trying to stop it from escaping before she was ready to release it.


After a few silent puffs, Tammy offered the girls a drink. “Hey, we got some beer in the car if you girls want something for the cotton-mouth.”


This time Kathy answered for them. Smoking in the park with strangers was one thing. Going back with them to a car was another. “No thanks.”


Tammy shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself. “


“You girls hang out here a lot?” Paul asked.


“All the time,” Ginny said with a thick tongue. She was beginning to feel weird. She had never gotten this high, this fast before.


Kathy was beginning to feel really strange too. The high that was washing over her was like nothing she had experienced. She felt like her brain was floating in her skull.


“What the hell did you give us?” she heard herself asking from far away.


“It's some good shit, ain't it?” Paul said from underwater.


When she heard a thud, she looked over to see Ginny passed out on the picnic table.


“Oh, shit,” she said, as her eyes rolled up in her head, and the darkness overtook her.


Chapter Nine

Morgan was slowly rising from a deep sleep, then her senses suddenly rushed forward, and she was fully awake…and horny. She looked down, and could see the top of her wife's blonde head, then she felt a warm tongue teasing her nipple. She smiled from ear to ear.

“Well, hello, morning sex. I didn't hear you come in,” she said with humor.

Shannon raised her head from her task, and Morgan could see the passion in her eyes.

“She's been here for a while, but she got tired of waiting for you to wake up, so she asked me for help.”

“Is that right?”

“Mmm, hmm.”

“And being the Good Samaritan that you are, you couldn't say no?”

Shannon moved up her mate's body until they were face to face. Then she traced the edges of Morgan's lips with the tip of her tongue. She didn't say a word as her hand worked it's way down Morgan's tight stomach, and started running her fingers through slick folds.

“Would you rather I did?”

With Shannon's fingers wreaking havoc between her legs, it was getting hard for Morgan to think.

“Did what?” she almost moaned.

“Say no to morning sex.”

Instead of answering she put her hand behind Shannon's head and took possession of her mouth, while her free hand began to wander over Shannon's back until she reached a soft round backside, and started rubbing and squeezing the firm globes with strong fingers.

When Shannon moaned into the kiss they were sharing, she threw her leg over Morgan's hip, opening herself to the cool morning air in the room. Then she started moving against her lover's side, making Morgan aware that she wanted more.

So the tall woman moved her hand further down, and circled her wife's opening from behind. When she felt the warm fluid leaking out over her hand it was almost over.

She moved her kisses from Shannon's lips to her neck. “I want to be inside you,” she said against Shannon's throat.

“What are you waiting for?” was the whispered response.

Nothing more needed to be said as two fingers slid into Shannon, and as soon as the warm silk surrounded Morgan's fingers her heart rate picked up.

“You feel so good, baby.”

“S…so do you,” Shannon stuttered.

Shannon was still half on the bed and half on Morgan, moving her hips to the rhythm her spouse had set, while stroking Morgan's swollen nub with precision.

She knew Morgan was close when she took possession of her mouth again and started sucking on her tongue, right before slamming her legs closed, holding Shannon's hand in place so she could pump her hips into the pressure.

Wanting to join her mate in the journey she was about to take, Shannon began rubbing her clit against Morgan's hip with a purpose.

“Oh, Morgan. Oh, baby,” was said over and over.

Morgan's only response was, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Their bodies sped up, along with their hands, and then the scent of sex filled the room as the women went over the edge with loud cries of love.

Basking in the afterglow, Morgan whispered.

“I love it when we start our day like this.”

“Me, too, baby. Me, too.”


Thanks to Shannon, the drive to Rockville was made with a big smile on the detective's face. This was going to be her first meeting with the task force, and she was anxious to see how things got done. When she found a parking space near the front of the building she felt like her good fortune was continuing.

Once she showed her identification, and told the receptionist why she was there, she was directed to the conference room where the task force held their meetings. She made her way down the hallway with a light step, feeling like she was on top of the world.

When she entered the room there was already ten other people sitting around the large table.

“Good morning,” she said in a bright voice.

She received a few scattered, “mornings,” in return.

I'm not going to let these tight-asses ruin my day, it started off too good.

A quick flash of Shannon's naked, flushed body passed through her mind, and a swirl of heat started in the pit of her stomach, that's when she knew she needed to redirect her thoughts.

She scanned the mostly silent room and noticed that there were a few people taking advantage of the complimentary coffee and Danish pastry tray that had been put out for them, but for the most part everyone was quietly waiting for the meeting to start.

At nine o'clock on the dot, the director and assistant director entered the room, and after taking their seats at the head of the table, the director didn't waste any time with salutations, he got down to business.


“We have a new one. A guy up in, Essex was just arrested.” Gary Dugan opened his briefcase and pulled out the file. “So far this is what we know. We obtained this information from one of the Jane Doe's. He began reading.

Darrel Norris is a twenty-five year old pimp that has been recruiting minors to engage in commercial sex acts. Specifically, Norris obtained “Jane Doe One” and “Jane Doe Two”, each fifteen years-old, and “Jane Doe Three”, seventeen years-old, for commercial sex acts, knowing that they were not eighteen years-old.

Beginning in May of last year, and continuing into March of this year, Norris and a co-conspirator prostituted Jane Doe Three. Norris and the co-conspirator provided, and advertised Jane Doe Three dozens of times during this period for sexual services in Maryland in exchange for a fee, all of which they kept. Norris and others transported Jane Doe Three to hotels, private residences, and required Jane Doe Three to ‘walk' truck stops and Baltimore City streets known for prostitution.

In that time, Norris directed dozens of customers to Jane Doe Three. According to statements, in May of last year, Norris obtained Jane Doe One, Jane Doe Two and Jane Doe Three for the purpose of advertising them and providing them for commercial sex acts. Norris and his co-conspirator provided transportation, clothing, condoms, marijuana, shelter, hotel rooms, food, and a cellular phone to the minors.

Norris and his co-conspirator instructed the minors on the methods and pricing of prostitution and directed at least two sex customers to each minor at a Maryland hotel, where the minors engaged in sex acts in exchange for money paid to Norris and the co-conspirator. The sex customers had responded to erotic ads from the internet that Norris had posted; Norris and the co-conspirator kept all of the money paid by the sex customers.

In the early morning hours of March first, of this year, Norris and his co-conspirator drove the minors to a Maryland truck stop and directed them to walk the area for additional sex customers. The minors were almost immediately retrieved by law enforcement. Norris got away, but continued to attempt to contact Jane Doe Three.

On March fourteenth, Norris created an internet posting advertising sexual services that contained a photograph of Jane Doe Three. On March seventeenth, Norris created a back-page posting, advertising a “two-girl special” that contained photographs of Jane Doe Three and a photograph of Jane Doe One. Norris was subsequently located and arrested.”

Gary closed the folder and looked around the table. “Norris is being charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor, if he is convicted he is facing a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum of life in prison for sex trafficking.”

The director placed the palms of his hands on the table and looked each person in the eye. “Listen, people. We are going to show zero tolerance when it comes to child prostitution, and prosecute these predators to the fullest extent of the law, without a doubt that is our goal.” here he paused. “But what I really want is the lowlife creep that this bastard is fronting for.”

Morgan was a little out of her depth here. She had never worked on a case like this before. Most of her experience was in the cold case unit, where she could shift all the pieces around until she was able to figure out how they fit. But to her, this sounded like the director was talking about making a deal with this Norris dirt bag.

“Are you suggesting some sort of plea agreement with this scum?” she asked.

The director looked at the newcomer and gave her a tolerant smile. “Detective McCray, I'm glad to have you on the committee. Your Captain gave you his highest praise when I spoke with him.”

“Thank you, sir. But are you suggesting giving this guy less time for information?”

Guess this one won't be sidetracked. “Detective McCray, surely there have been times in your career when concessions needed to be made in order to catch the bigger fish.”

Morgan nodded her head, but she didn't like the sound of this. Usually when there was talk of catching bigger fish things didn't turn out well. There would be months and months of surveillance, informant money would be tossed around like it was confetti, and guilty people would go free for rolling over on guiltier people.

But the pisser would come when all was said and done, and none of the big fish were ever caught. More than likely the only people that would get prosecuted would be the lowest faces on the totem pole…the hookers, because their crime would be the only one that could be proven.

These were the thoughts going through Morgan's mind when, almost like a prophecy being fulfilled the assistant director spoke.

“I'm with you one hundred percent, Gary. Theses animals that prey on the emotional and physical vulnerabilities of young girls must be held accountable for their actions. Not just the street soldiers, but the pigs that are sitting behind closed doors making the biggest profit. I think we need to set up a sting operation at one of the truck stops.”

The director agreed. “That sounds like a great idea, Don, and I want Detective McCray to head the team.”


Morgan was still sitting in the conference room. Everyone was long gone, each person off to start on their assignment, but she was still in her seat, wondering what had just happened. She remembered asking about plea agreements, and the next thing she knew, she was heading up a sting operation. She felt like the director and the assistant had bounced her back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

“Bastards,” she whispered under her breath.

She gathered up her items and made her way out of the room, thinking, did I hear a few snickers when I was assigned this task?

She headed out of the door.



Shannon arrived home and walked into a living room scattered with books, reports, and folders. And in the middle of all of the chaos, sitting on the cluttered sofa, was a determined looking Morgan.

She dropped her briefcase, kicked off her shoes and stepped over a few discarded files as she made her way to her mate. Sitting down beside her, Shannon had to pull her skirt up a little to give her legs a little moving around room.

Morgan saw the movement in her periphery and put aside the report she was reading. Turning to face her lover, a lascivious smile pulled at her lips. “Well, well. What do we have here?” She didn't waste any time running her hand up the smooth thigh that was on display.

Shannon smacked the large hand to stop it from progressing further up her leg. “Stop that, and tell me what this is all about,” she said waving her hand around the room.

“I got a new assignment today.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah. They want me to run a sting operation at a truck stop, but…”

Shannon held up her hand. “Wait. A sting? At a truck stop? What are you looking for, truckers stealing diesel fuel?”

“Ha, ha, very funny. No. Girls are prostituted in the lots.”

Shannon's eyes went wide. “Right there in the open?”

“You're full of jokes today. No, not in the open. There appears to be a system to the whole thing.” Morgan picked up one of the sheets of paper she had been reading. “These are the reports from previous arrests. I'm going over them so that I'll have a better idea of how I can best execute this detail.”

When Morgan donned the military bearing and meticulous habits that she had learned in the academy it always made Shannon smile. Early on Morgan had told her everything about her family, so Shannon understood her need for discipline in her life, especially since the social worker also had intimate knowledge of how a lack of order could affect a person's surroundings.

“Has a picture formed in your mind yet?” She knew how Morgan worked and enjoyed hearing her process.

Now that her attention had been redirected, Morgan had forgotten about seducing her partner…at least for the moment.

“I think so. It seems that the standard protocol is to send in undercover officers, posing as truckers looking for services.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Shannon. “Sex,” was said conspiratorially.

Shannon smacked Morgan on the shoulder. “I know that. You have anyone in mind?”

Morgan picked up a folder. “This is a list of officers and truck rental companies that are usually used for this type of operation.”

This struck Shannon as odd. “This seems very scripted, sweetheart.”

“That's what I thought, but after going over it in my mind I figured out that after much trial and error someone must have discovered that this was the most successful approach.”

Shannon got up and headed for the bedroom. “That makes sense.”

“Hey, where are you going? I thought you wanted to hear this.”

“I'm gonna get out of these clothes. I figured we could talk about this over dinner.” She started pulling off garments. “I'm ordering take-out. Are you in the mood for anything in particular?”

Morgan never looked up from the list she had started going over again. “No, whatever you want is fine.”

“Are you sure?” was heard from down the hall.”

“Ye…” Morgan's answer was cut short when a lacy bra hit her in the face.”

The smile that bloomed put every tooth in her head on display. She dropped the paper that was in her hand, and hopped over the obstacles littering the floor, before taking off down the hallway.

“I changed my mind. I know exactly what I want,” she yelled.

To be continued...

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