Violence/Language Disclaimer: This story does have scenes of mild violence and/or their aftermath. It does contain bad language and angst.
Hurt/Comfort Disclaimer: This story has some parts that me be deemed as such.
_______________ Chapter 30______________________
In the brilliant sunlight beneath a canopy of trees she jogged down the dirt path. Her feet pounded an easy cadence moving down the lane. Amazing, she thought, it doesn't hurt anymore. I'd forgotten how good it felt to run. She inhaled deeply and a broad smile crossed her lips.
Off the path Pax darted between the trees. She easily hurdled over the downed log and landed in stride. Through fallen leaves and dead branches her legs drove her forward arms pumping faster and faster.
The edge of the forest was up ahead and like magic her speed increased to superhuman capacity. She literally came to a screeching halt just outside the tree line. A light sheen of sweat across her upper lip and her breathing was normal. She looked upon the crystal blue lake and her heart filled with joy. She'd finally reached the end of her journey.
Eyes fastened upon the lake she took one step and then heard the hissing and rattle. Pax looked down to her feet and saw the coiled snake, mouth open fangs dripping. The rattle snakes tail shook violently on the other side of her foot.
The snake uncoiled and buried its fangs deep into Pax's bare ankle…
Pax gasped loudly and her eyes sprang open. Chest heaving from a vivid nightmare and the phantom ache of the diamond back's bite in her forearm. It was the soft arm tightening about her waist that relieved her confusion and panic. Her eyes slowly focused through the darkness onto a snout and a pair of eyes staring back at her. Pax's body jumped shaking the bed.
"Damn dog," Pax said tapping her pounding heart in comfort. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" Teela moaned and turned over. Thumper licked Pax across cheek. "Ugh thanks a lot." She propped up on an elbow and looked down at the canine. "What do you want dog?" Thumper placed her paw on the bed. "Oh all right, I'm up. Let's go."
Knowing that she wouldn't disturb a sleeping Teela, Pax climbed out of the bed and softly cursed as she rustled into her pajamas. "Why did you wake me instead of your mommy? Our bonding doesn't start until tomorrow when she leaves for her conference." Teela could sleep through just about anything except being wakened by her dog.
Pax shuffled into the kitchen and opened the back door to let a prancing dog out into the back yard. While Thumper was out back doing her morning thing, Pax began her own ritual with the coffee maker.
Two hours later, Teela stepped into the kitchen and directly into Pax's arms. She looked adorable in Pax's sweat shirt; feet covered in sweat socks and tossed hair.
"Good morning love," Pax greeted and squeezed her tightly.
"Morning," Teela mumbled.
"Not that I am complaining but you forgot your pants."
"I'm trying to lure you back to bed."
"I'm sure you can convince me to go willingly."
"That's the point," Teela said and kissed her deeply.
"Oh yeah," Pax sighed when they parted, "very willingly."
"Yes, but first coffee."
"Have a seat and I'll get you a cup. I just made a fresh pot."
Pax retrieved Teela's favorite coffee mug and decided to tell her about the dream she'd been having for several weeks. She was always running in the woods, jumping over the same log and then the lake came into view. Violently shaking its rattle the angry snake quickly uncoiled to sink its fangs deep into her ankle. What the hell is all this supposed to mean? Her eyebrows lowered over the bridge of her nose as she thought, unable to decipher the implications if any from the dream.
"Teela?" Pax started and sat at the kitchen table.
"Something's bothering me."
"I've been having the oddest dreams lately and I can't make head or tails of them."
"I wondered when you were going to say something." Teela placed her coffee upon the table.
Pax told Teela about the collage of odd images and the presence of friends in bizarre situations. She laughed in describing what she thought of as typical dream situations that didn't make sense or have logic. Somewhere in the midst her dream she was transported to the woods running only to end with a snake bite in the ankle.
Teela listened intently and agreed with Pax, the images were jumbled and she couldn't find the relationship between her and Boney rabbit hunting or Pax walking into the zoo office nude. She thought the zoo part was comical.
"As for the rattle snake," Teela sighed heavily, "I'm just as stumped as you. Actually maybe it's some sort or subconscious feelings you have regarding being bitten."
"I've thought of that too," Pax said. "Not to mention the fact that I hate them."
"I wish I could help you more."
"It helps being able to tell someone about it."
"Ya know," Teela's eyebrow rose higher. "I am a social worker and we tend to help people."
"Is that right?" Pax grinned over the rim of her coffee cup remnants of the dream forgotten.
"Yes. However, we did this wrong. You were supposed to be lying on the couch and then tell me about your dream."
"Uh huh. I thought that was psychoanalysis or something like that?"
Teela straddled Pax's lap. She immediately felt the warmth on her bare skin and the fire ignited between her legs. "Well we social workers do borrow concepts from other mental health disciplines sometimes."
The lascivious grin spread across Teela's face as her center pressed against Pax's stomach. Fingers caressed the scars of Pax's cheek before placing a whisper of a kiss upon the scar trilogy. Face lightly grasped between Teela's hands, her head was lowered as soft lips brushed against her forehead. The soft supple lips brushed against each eyelid, the tip of her nose and burned her when they made contact with her mouth. Their kiss deepened and Teela's hands left Pax's heated cheeks to grip the back of the chair for leverage with her undulating hips.
Pax's hands were everywhere. They glided over the smooth skin of Teela's thighs, traveled up and down her back, into the blonde hair and back again. Her hands couldn't stop their roaming and feeling. Teela pulled away enough for Pax to remove her sweatshirt and the room air jolted her nipples erect. Teela tugged at Pax's t-shirt and it too went flying somewhere in the kitchen. They heard a soft growl. Thumper stood and shook the shirt from her body before leaving the room.
"Oh god that feels heavenly," Pax groaned when their bare chests came together.
Teela's desire chose the sensual rhythm. Her breath came in short spurts as her pelvis moved against the firm stomach. Pax groaned at the slickness and warmth of Teela's arousal through the thin barrier of her bikinis. Grip secured on the chair Teela leaned back giving Pax's hands room to massage and kneed her full breasts and the leverage to maintain the movement of her hips.
"Jesus Pax, that feels so good," Teela cried out.
Pax's hand slid over Teela's smooth skin until she reached where their skin met on her stomach. Her fingers brushed over Teela's swollen center. Pax's fingers taunted her with brushing strokes front to back and around her equally swollen lips. Teela couldn't prevent the whimper. Her legs spread wide across Pax's lap shamelessly seeking harder contact.
She needed it. She was ready. She was open.
"You're so wet," Pax said. She took a sip of the hot coffee to wet her parched throat.
"Don't tease me, please."
Pax held a large amount of the hot liquid between her lips savoring the heat and the taste of the hazelnut. Then she wrapped her other arm around Teela's small waist.
Teela's head was thrown back and eyes closed wondrously lost to the sensations her body create because of Pax. Only Pax had the ability to play her like a fine tuned instrument and make her soul hum.
Pax shuddered as the stream of her own arousal flowed between her legs. She swallowed the hot coffee and lowered her lips upon the hardened nipple. Teela gasped her hips jerked forward as Pax moved aside the soaked material and entered her simultaneously
Tongue circling around and around Pax laved on the nipple with Teela's waist firmly in her grasp. Teela wildly rocked on her fingers. Soon her orgasmic screams shattered the silence of the kitchen. A burst of brilliant colors danced behind her eyes. Her muscles clenched the two fingers that moved in and out so tauntingly slow. Pax continued until Teela shuddered once more and dropped against her weakened.
"Oh shit," Teela panted through dry lips, "damn baby. I can't move."
"You are very welcome." Pax chuckled and kissed her shoulder. She waited another moment before she withdrew her fingers from the warm cocoon. "That was so hot."
"No what you did was hot." Teela's body shook in the orgasm's aftershock. "Mm I love coffee."
The door chimed and Thumper barked signaling they had company. "Oh you've got to be kidding me," Pax said against Teela's neck.
"Maybe they'll go away."
"Yeah," Pax hoped until the bells chimed once again. "Someone better be dying that's all I've got to say.
Teela languidly removed herself from Pax's lap. On weakened legs she found her shirt and tossed Pax hers. Pax watched Teela trying to smooth her wild yellow mane and smiled before going to answer the door. Several minutes later Pax returned and stepped into a hug.
"Amanda is here and she wants to speak with me," Pax said.
"Is somebody dying?" Teela said with a little too much sourness than she meant to.
"No." Pax felt Teela's body tense.
"What could be so important so early in the morning?" Teela pulled out of Pax's embrace.
"It's ten a.m. and I though we were over this?"
"She's my friend. You're my girl," Pax said and sealed her statement with a searing kiss on Teela's lips.
Teela's eyes remained closed as she breathed. "Hmm, you're girl."
"I'll talk to her while you get dressed."
Teela walked into the living room holding Pax's hand. Hair in a pony tail pulled through the back of her baseball cap, red fleece sweater and jeans, Amanda appearance was relaxed but her rigid posture said otherwise. She greeted her and suddenly turned her head upon noticing that Teela was partially dressed.
"Sorry to interrupt your uhm…morning."
"Don't worry about it," Teela waved her away, "Pax will make it up to me." She kissed Pax on the cheek and left the room for a shower.
"I uhm, about that problem I have…" Amanda began.
The stinging of the hot water spray across her back made Teela groan with pleasure. The scent from the shower gel filled her nostrils as she inhaled deeply. She loved the scent of amber colored liquid. She loved it more when she smelled it on her lover.
Amanda, Teela thought, I have to stop thinking about her and Pax. There's nothing there and I should trust her when she says that there isn't. Actually I'm being foolish about this whole thing. It's nothing but…jealousy. Am I jealous or overprotective because Amanda is tall, beautiful and a single lesbian? She lathered the body sponge and began to wash her torso. Ok so I'm built closer to the ground. I'm not bad looking. I mean people don't throw up when they see me so that's a good thing. Pax is mine. All mine. So I should stop this nonsense and move on. She's not Bess.
As she came down the stairs dressed in jeans and a v-neck sweater, Teela descended the stairs and heard peels of laughter coming out of the kitchen. At the table, Pax sat in the same chair they had shared an hour ago. The butterflies took flight within Teela's stomach remembering what Pax did to make her body tingle and the hot mouth on her breast.
"I take it things are all right?" Teela asked.
"Fairly alright," Amanda said calming her laughter.
"I'm glad," Teela gave Amanda a genuine smile. "Are you joining us for breakfast?"
"I'd love to but I have an appointment I must be getting to." She turned to Pax with resolution, "I've stalled long enough this morning."
"You weren't stalling you just over slept, the alarm didn't go off," Pax grinned. "Come on I'll see you out."
"Have a good day and be safe."
Teela's backside stuck out from behind the refrigerator door when Pax returned to the room. Her grin turned lecherous as she moved stealthily over to the open door. She lightly caressed the firm buttock in slow circles as if she was calling forth the genie from her own sensual magic lamp.
"Are you trying to ignite a fire Miss Baldwin?"
"Igniting you is what I'm best at Miss Pheamster."
Teela stood upright and looked at her lover across the open door. "In this case you are Miss Baldwin."
"Guilty as charged," Pax chuckled and kissed her.
"Hmm you are definitely guilty." Teela was right; Pax was an arsonist for her kiss fiercely reignited her passion and craving. "We should go upstairs for this and not in front of the fridge."
"We will but not yet." Pax turned and refreshed her cup of coffee.
"Oh?" Hurt pervaded across her heart that Pax didn't want the ravaging to begin immediately as she so fervently desired. She fought not to let her thoughts turn sour for the second time that morning. "Is everything all right?"
"Yes sweetie. I was just thinking about Amanda."
"Oh? Is everything okay with her then?" Teela asked with as much sincerity as she could.
"Hmm that depends on how you look at it."
"What do you mean?"
"She's met someone."
"That's good news," Teela said barely controlling her elation.
"She's not certain if she wants to pursue it. It has something to do with her ex girlfriend."
"Is the ex is still an ex?"
"Physically yes, emotionally I'm not so sure."
Teela shrugged and sat in the seat she had been in before, don't go there. Not now, Teela chastised and sipped her coffee. Or there either, she repeated to her nipples that hardened with the warmth of the coffee. "What's you're opinion on the new interest, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I just listened and let her talk her way through. Amanda said that she needed to hear some things out loud in front of someone."
"Like being in front of a jury?"
"I guess so," Pax smirked. "I also told her that the only one who knew if she should or shouldn't pursue the woman was herself."
"That's true," Teela agreed. "Most people tell you to forget about the past and go for the woman. I know that's what Jo and Boney were always telling me about Bess." It was the first time she had mentioned Bess in ages. She was surprised at the sadness she'd always felt when thinking or mentioning her former lover was no longer there.
"Do you…miss her?" Pax asked.
"The way you miss Jen sometimes I believe." Teela stood and coaxed Pax out of her chair. She laid her head on her chest and arms circled Pax's waist. A heart beat strongly beneath her ear. "She will always be apart of the foundation that helped to create who I am with you. Just like Jen will always be a part of you. Nothing can take that away. I think with each relationship we learn things about ourselves and the idiosyncrasies of being a couple. And those lessons helped to prepare us for one another today. Does that make sense?"
"Yes but you are thinking way too deep this morning."
"I do have my moments." Teela squeezed her tighter.
"Well it shouldn't be before breakfast." Pax extracted herself from Teela and opened the refrigerator door in search of food to cook.
"Wait aren't you going to finish what we started earlier?"
"I could," Pax teased, "but I'm hungry. Besides I need more food stuff for energy to keep up with you my little vixen.
"I most certainly am not a vixen."
"Ok guilty as charged. How about you cook breakfast here and I'll cook dinner tonight at my place?" Teela said.
"Would love too," Pax gathered the eggs, toast and sausages, "but tonight is dinner with the family. My brothers are going to meet Emily."
"I forgot you told me that was today. I still can't believe that she's your sister. I know you've told me how it all happened but it's just too unreal."
"I bet she's a nervous wreck."
"That's probably an understatement," Pax said.
"What do they think about her being a lesbian?"
"I don't believe Zander and Damian know."
"You didn't tell them?" Teela asked.
"Teela, I'm not outing anyone. That'll be her call to make."
"I hope Zander takes the news well."
"That's what worries me," Pax confessed. "He has changed a lot in the past few months. I have to give him credit for trying to accept me. I'm just not sure how he will react to another lesbian in the family."
"It should prove to be an interesting night."
"I think I'll go see how Jo is doing. Will you come by the house when you're done? It's our last night together before I leave."
"I think I could be persuaded to stop by." Pax grinned.
"I'm so glad you can be persuaded."
"Will you two just relax?" Pax asked for the fourth time that hour. Damian paced the living room and Zander wrung his hands incessantly or checked his watch. "Remember, she is just as nervous as you are."
"That's easy for you to say. You've known her for months and didn't tell us," Damian said.
"Damian, how was I supposed to know she was our half-sister? I just thought it was uncanny that we looked alike. You know how that can be."
"I know but still," he said and continued his trek.
"When she gets here…." Zander started as the doorbell rang. He got to his feet and wiped his hands on his pants. "You can let her in."
Pax grabbed her cane went to the door and opened it on her sister. Emily stood ram rod straight with her hands deep inside the pockets of her full length leather coat. It was only then that Pax herself became nervous at their meeting. Pax now wondered if Emily and Zander would like one another. She never worried about Damian.
"Hey," Pax greeted as casually as she could.
"Hey." Emily's breath floated on the fog and continued in short bursts.
"Come on in before you freeze."
Emily stepped past and waited. Pax motioned for Emily to remove her coat and gloves. Once hung, she turned and smiled. "Ready?" Emily nodded.
For the first time Pax took a good look at her brothers. They were tall and handsome with coal black hair and brilliant blue eyes. Both of them were a younger version of their father. Now one more was about to be added, Emily. Pax felt the tension roll from her half-sister and patted her should in support.
"I'm Damian," he stepped forward extending his hand, "the best looking one of the bunch."
Their laughter provided a release of tension for the group especially for Emily. She'd had reservations about meeting her half-brothers and had picked up the telephone three times to cancel. Harley insisted that she keep her promise and meet with them.
"I'm Zander." He extended his hand also. Pax was right; they do look alike. "Come on in and make yourself comfortable. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No I'm fine thank you… Zander," she stammered from her lips. Does he really look like my father? She scrutinized the eldest of her new siblings. I'll ask him about a picture later.
Pax began to break the ice by telling Emily about herself. She already knew so much from the investigation and the times they'd spent together socially. Pax told her about moving to California, living there and only recently returning to Michigan to be closer to family. From the corner of her eye she saw Zander squirm a little in his chair when she mentioned leaving town and returning. She surmised what was going through his mind, whether she had or would tell Emily about their past and forgiving his actions.
During Damian's diatribe about himself and the restaurant, Felicia returned home from dropping the boys off at their friend's home for the evening. She and Zander debated whether to have the kids present when they met Emily. In the end they both had decided it would be best to save meeting their new aunt for another time.
"Hello Emily, I'm Felicia, Zander's better half." She laughed and Zander nodded in agreement.
"Felicia, nice to meet you."
"I'm sure we'll have a marvelous time getting to know one another. Pax likes you and that is good enough for us. Right Zander?"
"Of course," he agreed without hesitation.
"Zander, you didn't get Emily something to drink." Felicia gave him a reproachful look.
"What a lousy host you are, really." She turned to Emily and smiled sweetly. "Emily what can I get for you? Would you like coffee, tea, or a shot of whiskey to calm your nerves?"
Emily chuckled. "The whiskey is tempting, but I'll settle for coffee if you have it."
"Great, Pax come help me with the drinks and then I'll put the sauce on. Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes." She motioned for Pax to follow her into the kitchen.
Damian waited until they'd left the room before anxiously turning to Emily and asked, "Pax says you're a cop. Ever shot anybody?"
"Damian you idiot." Zander threw a pillow at his brother.
The silhouette of early evening darkened the room and shadowed the naked woman asleep on the davenport. One leg was placed upon the floor and the knee of the other was bent against the back of the leather couch. A hand shyly covered her red-haired mound and her other arm was thrown across her breasts in protection.
As if startled, her body twitched awake with eyes wide and breathing labored. She lay very still for several moments to get her bearings and listen. She's not here. Autumn sighed. Moving her leg would mean pealing it away from the leather where it was stuck. She grimaced at the sound of her skin pulling away from the material and knew that her bare behind and back would be just as uncomfortable. Oh God I hurt.
Autumn gingerly sat on the sofa cushion not because doing so would make her buttocks adhere to the leather again but because of the soreness in her groin. This latest round of sex with Tanesha was a little more animalistic than usual and would take a day or two of inactivity for the soreness to completely fade.
Why do I do this? That's a damn good question. Oh great now I'm answering myself. I have lost my fucking mind. She bent to retrieve her pants on the floor and then her shirt cursing that both had to be thrown away. Tanesha had ripped her blouse and slacks off her body.
In the bathroom she flipped the switch and winced instantly blinded from the bright light and the pain in the back of her shoulder. It was when she reached for the toothbrush did she see what made her shoulder throb incessantly. A circle of indentations marred her skin. Just a little harder and Tanesha would have broken the skin. Autumn remembered Tanesha's hiss that it was the Rattler marking her territory. You've marked me for the last time.
I've got to get away from her. She began to cry. How did I let myself get this fucked up? I came over for the bowling league papers and my novel I'd left. I wasn't planning on anything else.
Tanesha had a horrific day with clients and had shown a vulnerability Autumn had never seen before. She told Autumn she needed "a little comforting". A little tender stroking and cuddling would make the stress go away. Autumn gave in and what began as comforting resulted in the weary face that stared back at her in the mirror.
Turning her head to the side Autumn took in her reddened earlobes. The hanging gold hoops made them feel hot and uncomfortable, as though they were stretched to her shoulders. She pulled one hoop slowly from her ear and hissed as the lobe stung and swelled. She breathed deeply to prepare for removal of the other earring. Bitch better have something for me to put on my sore earlobes.
"Never again, I'm through." Through her fingers it slipped to the floor and rolled beneath the display cabinet in the corner. "Shit," Autumn grumbled and grunted as she knelt upon the floor to retrieve her jewelry.
Unable to see or feel it underneath, she got to her feet and braced to move the lightweight cabinet aside. Against the floor board laid her earring. Above it was a removable piece of drywall. She ran her fingers along the crack and easily pulled the piece out.
"What the hell?" she whispered seeing the gun, a black case, and a pair of khaki pants. Autumn reached out to touch the gun but quickly pulled back as if burned. "What the fuck is this?"
Autumn stared at the contents behind the hidden panel for a moment longer then sprang into action. She returned the bookcase to its original position and had removed any evidence that she had been in the room.
I've got to get away from her. She'll find me though. What'll I do? Autumn panicked. "I need help." Then she remembered the detectives and decided. If only Tanesha hadn't shredded their cards. Autumn stalked into Tanesha's bedroom and threw open the closet door. She would borrow a pair of Tanesha's sweat pants and shirt.
As hard as she tried, Emily could not find anything about the Baldwin family to dislike. Midway through dinner she found herself thanking Harley for forcing her to keep the date with them. She took to Felicia's sense of humor almost immediately. The concept of having nephews would take some getting used to, however.
Pax was correct in her description of Damian, the peacemaker. At any hint of an argument between the siblings he would interject what seemed to be reasonable compromise. Emily wondered why he wasn't involved in politics.
The conversation during dinner was light and did not approach the subject of her life until a lull in the interaction as Felicia was serving dessert. Throughout the night Emily wondered how she was going to come out to her new siblings. Doing it the first time with her mother and father was emotionally draining more than anything. Did she want to go through that again? My father, Fredricko Oliverez… She smiled secretly at the claim.
"So Emily you know all about these clowns…" Felicia said.
"And now you want to know about me?"
"If you want to share," Felicia said. "Consider it a practice run for when you meet our inquisitive boys. Pax can tell you, they love to ask questions."
"Yes they do," Pax agreed. "Must be something they get from their father."
"If you're uncomfortable then don't," Damian said and touched her arm.
"Actually there isn't much to tell. I was a cop and now I'm a private investigator."
"Is that more exciting than detective work?"
"Hmm, I don't know yet. I haven't been a PI long enough to have an opinion yet."
"Why did you change?" Damian asked.
"Listen guys, she's not here for an inquisition ya know," Pax said hoping to spare Emily from discussing her injuries and eventually her lifestyle.
"Sorry Emily, it's just that we're so keen on getting to know you," Damian replied.
"I understand." Emily nodded. "I was wounded in a shootout last year and I retired shortly after that. So to answer your very first question Damian," she smiled at her half-brother, "unfortunately I have shot people and twice as many have shot at me.
"For a while there we had matching canes," Pax said.
"That we did, but now that the leg is better I signed on with a friend of mine as a PI. So far it's not as dangerous as undercover work, but it lets me be home with Harley every night."
"Harley? Is he your husband or boyfriend?" Felicia asked.
Oh boy now what? Emily thought. I had to mention Harley's name. It was bound to come up sooner or later. Can't be all that bad of a reaction, they seems to accept Pax ok. She glanced at Pax and saw the neutral expression there. "I don't have a boyfriend or husband. Harley is my partner.
"Partner," Zander said, "as in…" he absently pointed towards Pax.
"Yes. We've been together for six years."
"You're a lesbian then?" Damian said.
"Yeah, if you got a problem with that tell me now," Emily challenged, feeling her anger rise.
"No I don't," Damian said quickly.
The remaining Baldwins turned to Zander and waited. Pax chewed her bottom lip as the moment she feared most had arrived. The kitchen fell silent as she watched him sip his coffee and then place it on the table.
Zander sighed heavily then both eyebrows were raised high. "Does that mean you own power tools?" A smile slowly developed across his face and Pax snickered.
"What?" Emily asked.
"Oh Zander…" Pax and Damian said in unison.
"My husband has had lesbian sensitivity training since Pax came back into our lives. But I don't remember that particular topic in any of the discussion groups." Felicia playfully smacked him on the arm.
"Listen Emily," Zander leaned toward her, "if you do own some of those tools, I have an idea for a built-in shadow box for the living room. You can help me with it."
"Sorry, I have a hammer and Harley rarely lets me use it." She laughed. "And before you ask, I have two flannel shirts and they're in storage with the camping gear." They're alright with me as a lesbian. Why did I doubt that they would be? Pax was so mysterious about what her family was like. They're not bad. The ringing of her cell phone brought her out of her musing and she excused herself from the table.
"You could have told us Pax," Damian said.
"I could have but like I told her, it was her choice to make not mine."
"It doesn't really matter; she's our sister. That is if she wants to be," Damian said.
"We should talk about Dad," Zander said.
"Not in here, let's go to the living room and get comfortable first," Felicia suggested.
"Good idea honey."
Emily returned and looked at her new family. "I'm really sorry but I have to get going."
"Oh no," Felicia said.
"I'm afraid so. There's a new lead on the case I'm working on."
"Well if you have to," Zander said. "but come on into the living room."
The group followed Zander to the living room and watched as he picked up the envelope from the mantle. He placed it in her hands and covered them with his own. Deep blue eyes penetrated her as she looked up into them. Zander had good five or more inches of height on her.
"We didn't get a chance to talk about our father tonight. I guess we're all too busy feeling each other out to see if we would like one another." Zander looked at Damian and received an encouraging nod. "At any rate, Dad did leave this for you."
"I don't think…"
"This is yours. You can throw it away, burn it, or put it in a drawer and never open it. But Dad wanted you to have this piece of him. It's not as good as the real thing, but…"
Emily slowly took the thick envelope hesitantly and put it in her jacket breast pocket. With a soft pat and grin, she said, "No offense about all of this it's just…going to take some time for me to wrap my mind around…with all this." She waved her hand.
"I know but we are off to a good start right…Sis?" Damian's exuberance made them all laugh.
"Right." She turned to Pax and nodded. "The peace-maker."
"Hey what has she been telling you about me?" Damian nearly pouted.
"Sorry," Emily laughed, "sister to sister privilege."
"Oh great!" He threw his hands in the air, "so now it begins."
Emily stepped into the fluorescent lights of her favorite diner. Outside of the cook and the waitress two other people were in the brightly light diner. Sierra met her questioning gaze as she approached the table."
"Ladies…" Emily stood next to the table.
"Hey," Sierra slid over to make room for her.
Emily sat in the booth and signaled the waitress for refills of coffee. She waited until they all had fresh cups before she addressed Sierra. "Unusual place for a questioning don't you think?"
"Actually," Sierra hesitated and twisted her coffee cup. "I didn't want Autumn to be around the guys at the station. It's hard enough for her without being subjected to those…"
"Insensitive goons," Emily finished for her.
"Yeah something like that."
"So why am I here?" Emily asked candidly staring at Autumn. Her eyes were puffy from crying and her nose reddened.
"It's okay. Tell her," Sierra said.
Autumn sipped her coffee and gathered her thoughts. It was uncomfortable telling Sierra about her afternoon with Tanesha. She felt embarrassed repeating her story. When she told Sierra initially, for the first time she realized how incredibly stupid she'd seemed to others for remaining as long as she had with Tanesha.
"I woke up tonight in Tanesha's apartment. I went to the bathroom and that's when I found them."
"Found what?" Emily asked.
"A gun and a black box," Autumn whispered.
"Autumn, it's not against the law for her to own registered handguns." Emily sighed and gave her a sour look, You called me for this? We are definitely going to have to talk about what's deemed an emergency and what can wait until the next day.
"I know that. They were hidden behind a cut out piece in the wall."
"Even better for protection against possible theft," Emily countered.
"That doesn't make any sense. What is your problem?" Sierra growled at Emily.
"I'm just pointing out the obvious." Emily said. "Sierra you know how I feel about Tanesha, but this stuff is not damning."
You snobby bitch! "And then there's this." Autumn laid a photograph on the table before the PI and detective. She leaned back and sipped her coffee. Sierra had seen the picture and now awaited Emily's response.
"Where did you get this?" Emily asked looking at the photograph of her friends.
The picture was taken in front of a golf course club house. Jo, Boney, Teela, and Pax smiled for the camera with arms around one another's shoulder. Something made the four laughed and looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Someone didn't like the foursome and made them a target. A circle drawn in red marker with a line through it surrounded Jo and Boney's heads. A neat circled was inked over Pax's left breast and one side of her face was inked black. Teela's face was not marred. A thick red heart surrounded her head.
"From Tanesha's closet."
"What were you doing in her closet?" Emily asked.
"I needed to get something to wear after she ripped…" she trailed off and shuddered, "to wear. I went to Tanesha's closet and pulled down these sweats." She pointed at the dark burgundy pants and sweat shirt.
Autumn told them how the stack of sweat togs fell from the shelf atop of her head and then onto the floor. Lying next to the clothes was the picture. She recognized Boney right away and her partner Jo. How could she forget Teela after the way Tanesha had stared at her New Year's Eve?
"When I saw this and the gun it really started to creep me out. I thought it was important and I wanted to give it to you."
"It doesn't mean a whole lot and if it did, we couldn't use it anyway." Emily said shoving the picture across to Autumn.
"How can you say that? She is our prime suspect and this picture just adds to the suspicion."
"That's all it is Sierra, its suspicion. Look, you've got people who don't like Tanesha. That's not a crime anywhere. In return, Tanesha doesn't like those same people. It's still not a crime. Marking up a photograph like a pissed off school girl is not against the law either. It's all suspicion and doesn't amount to anything. The captain is going to ask you where you got this," she pointed at the picture. "What are you going to tell him? Go ahead and tell him that your suspect's girlfriend did an illegal search and seizure of Tanesha's closet and he will throw you out of his office so fast your butt will shoot sparks as it slides across the floor."
"At the very least it gives us a reason to question her again." Sierra said.
"Oh no you can't," Autumn panicked. "If you show her that photo she'll know it was me who gave it to you and who knows what she'll do…" Autumn said the last part quietly.
Silence fell over the three. It didn't need to be spelled out what Tanesha's reaction would be if she thought her girlfriend had snooped about her apartment and found the photo.
"You're right though. She hates those people." Autumn pointed to the photo. "She despises all of them especially someone named Pax."
"What did she say?" Emily leaned forward.
"Mostly that Jo was uppity; Boney was a countrified imbecile, and that Pax was a thief. She said that they should all die and give humanity cleaner air to breathe."
"Autumn, you started to answer my question that night at Tanesha's apartment until she walked in. So I'll ask it again. Where was Tanesha the night Jo was attacked?" Emily asked.
"That was a Wednesday night couple weeks ago right?"
"Yes that's right," Sierra confirmed.
Autumn was stopped from responding when the waitress came to refill their cups. After she walked several feet away she said, "She was with me that night."
"All night?" Emily said.
"I believe so. I remember that night."
"It was odd because Tanesha usually has appointments about three or four nights a week. She…Tanesha called me up and told me that she wanted to spend time with me that evening. She insisted that I get a sub for bowling and spend the evening with her."
"What time did you get there?" Emily asked.
"Around six I think."
"So you spent the evening with her?" Sierra asked.
"Yes we had dinner at her apartment."
"Were you with her the whole night?" Emily asked.
"Yes. I fell asleep after…after you know."
"Was she asleep with you?"
"I guess so. I do remember waking up sometime later having to use the bathroom. Tanesha was just stepping into the shower." Autumn stared into the brown liquid in her cup and recalled how sore she was and the stinging in her groin.
Tanesha groaned as the hot water hit her skin and Autumn surmised she too was sore. The groan quickly turned to curses as Tanesha's anger was shouted above the shower spray when Autumn had flushed the toilet and made the water turn cold.
"What time was that?"
"I'm not sure really, maybe ten or ten thirty."
"And she never left the apartment?" Sierra asked.
"Not that I'm aware of. Why?"
Sierra and Emily exchanged glances. "I'm just being thorough. We're trying to piece things together."
"Like you said Sierra, we can question her again," Emily said.
"She's leaving town in a couple of days."
"Leaving?" Sierra asked.
"She's a speaker at a conference in Chicago."
"Really?" Emily asked.
"Yes, she's been talking about it for weeks."
"And where will you be if we have more questions for you?" Emily asked.
"I'm not sure really." Autumn shrank into the booth. "I'm breaking up with Tanesha and I'm too afraid to go back to my apartment because she'll find me there."
"What about a friend's house?" Emily said.
"Tanesha has managed to alienate most of my friends. I'm not sure any of them will speak to me."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Emily glanced at Sierra. "What about your parents or a cousin?"
"I don't want my family involved. I'll come up with something and then let you know."
"You can stay with me tonight," Sierra volunteered and two heads snapped her way. "What? I have a spare room where she can stay the night and we can figure something out tomorrow."
"Can I speak to you a minute Sierra?" Emily said teeth clenched. She stood and walked several tables back towards the front of the diner. As soon as Sierra was within range she turned and hissed. "Are you out of your mind?"
"What are you talking about?"
"She can't stay with you."
"Where is she going to go huh?" Sierra challenged, "Just the other day you wanted to help her and now you don't. What's up with that?"
"Sure I wanted to help but not by letting her stay in my apartment," Emily said. "It isn't a good idea any way you want to look at it. You and I both know how something so innocent can be turned into something else."
"I am giving her a safe haven for the night. That is all," Sierra said.
"You're a single lesbian and some asshole somewhere says Autumn's staying with you is improper."
"Sort of what you're doing now," Sierra said.
"I can understand that. Let me ask you this, what do you think Tanesha's going to do to her now that she's breaking things off?"
"Take her to a safe house or something Sierra," Emily said.
"I've thought about that. I have more space and privacy. It's just for one night Emily. I can take her there tomorrow if she wants."
"I hope you know what you're doing." Emily sighed heavily.
"Before you go there's one more thing," Sierra said.
"Forensics report came through. Both of the footprints were made with a common steel toed work boot that can be purchased at just about any retailer. The one in the garage had traces of elephant feces in it and the one at the karate school had traces of guano."
"What the hell is guano?"
"Bat shit," Sierra said blandly.
"So our perp likes to play in animal shit?"
"I called Rod. He's going over to the Metropolitan Zoo tomorrow and poke around."
"That would free us up to have another talk with Tanesha in the morning."
"Good deal. I'll pick you up at your place at eight. Go on home to Harley."
"Now that is a wonderful idea." Emily finally smiled at the thought of snuggling against the warm body beneath the flannel sheets.
Sierra's car came to a stop across the street from Tanesha's apartment building. The humming engine echoed inside the car. Sierra knew something was different about Emily the moment she closed the door. Emily had been unusually silent and introspective. It was unnerving Sierra that the woman didn't utter a sound but kept her gaze straight ahead.
"Is everything alright with you Emily?"
"I'm fine," Emily flatly replied.
"You'll forgive me if I don't believe you. Look if you want I can drop you off at the Metropolitan Zoo with Rod to dig around and we can do this later."
"I'm not going to spend the day with that...that..."
"I'm worried that you won't keep your cool in there," Sierra said.
"I said I'm fine. You only have to tell me once about my manners."
"Then what is it?"
For the moment she found her glove-covered hands very interesting before turning towards the passenger window. The envelope given to her last night weighed heavily in her breast pocket. She hadn't told Harley about it because she wasn't sure if she wanted to read what was sure to be John Baldwin's parting words if not a purging of his guilt. Her indecision caused her to keep it from Harley and that deception made her stomach cramp painfully.
"Personal," Emily said and opened her door. "Let it go alright?"
Sierra turned off the car and caught up to Emily at the steps to the building. I need you to focused not be preoccupied because of a fight with Harley, Sierra thought.
Luck would have it that a couple was leaving the building at the same moment they wanted to enter. Emily stepped into the lobby followed by Sierra.
As they neared Tanesha's apartment door then Emily spoke. "Since you're so keen on interviewing I'll let you handle this. I'll watch and read."
Before they reached the door Sierra touched Emily's arm getting her to momentarily stop. "Listen, if you ever need help with anything or if you just want to…talk." She looked deep into the cerulean eyes wanting Emily to see the offer as genuine.
"Thanks, I'll uhm keep that in mind."
Emily let Sierra take the lead and knock on the large door. She was prepared to knock again when the door swung open to a very perturbed and revealing Tanesha. Wearing a sheer black silken teddy and matching bikini wear there was little hidden for the imagination. Years of karate training and conditioning shaped her body with muscles. The defined four-pack never wavered as she breathed.
"Can I help you detective?" She placed a hand upon her slender hip.
"We have a few more questions to ask you Dr. Evans." Sierra said eyes focused somewhere above the woman's shoulder.
"Do I have a choice?"
"Yes." Sierra forced herself to meet Tanesha's gaze.
"I have a choice. Sure I do. If I say no, then you two will annoy me within an inch of harassment until I do. So…" she stepped aside and waved her arm inviting them in. The movement caused the tops of her breast to rise higher. "Please make it quick."
"Expecting someone?" Emily asked following behind Sierra.
Tanesha led them to the living room and they sat in the exact same places they were several days before. Hands folded in her lap, Tanesha crossed her toned legs at the ankle neutralizing the threat of further exposure.
"Dr. Evans we wanted to know a little more about your relationship with Dr. Forrester," Sierra said.
"I've told you all that I know Detective."
"Do you have any cause to want to harm Dr. Forrester?"
"I answered that question last time," Tanesha said. "The answer is still no."
"Actually Dr. Evans," Emily said sweetly and immediately wanted to spit out the sour taste the woman's name left in her mouth, "last time it was any knowledge of a client that might want to harm Dr. Forrester. This time Detective Mollier asked if you wanted to harm Dr. Forrester."
"I went to her home the other night with flowers because I was concerned for her. You should know you were standing there watching the whole thing. That does not seem like malicious intent to me. But to answer your question, I have no desire to harm anyone."
Oh man she is definitely a cool one, Emily thought staring at Tanesha's relaxed posture and easy cadence. Uh huh you're lying. I know it and you know it. "Excuse me but can I use your bathroom? She turned to Sierra and chuckled, "One too many latte's this morning."
"Down the hall first door on right," Tanesha said.
"Thanks." She stood and put her hand on Sierra's shoulder giving it an almost imperceptible squeeze. "Don't talk about the good stuff without me. I'll be right back."
Emily closed the bathroom door and surveyed the larger than typical bathroom. Nicely decorated in cream color, burgundy and brass, Damn bathroom's huge. Emily gaped. She went to the small cabinet just where Autumn had said it would be. Quietly, she moved it to the side.
A small section was roughly cut into the dry wall. Emily took the small folding knife from her pocket and worked the blade into the cut section of the wall. An easy tug jarred it loose. Emily shook her head; the area was empty.
Emily cursed as she reattached the small cut out and the cabinet back to its original position. She flushed the toilet and then washed her hands in the lavender smelling gel. She returned to the living room and waited for the right moment to signal Sierra that she'd found nothing.
"Are you alright Oliverez?"Sierra asked.
"Nothing major." Emily held her gaze for a few seconds longer than needed.
"Dr. Evans, you said that you have no ill will toward Jo and Teela. What about Pax Baldwin?" Sierra asked. Emily watched the nearly imperceptible twitch in Tanesha leg at the mention of Pax's name.
"What about her?" Tanesha threw back.
"I would think that if someone had beaten my ass in public I'd want a little payback," Sierra said.
Tanesha calmly reached for the coffee cup and took a sip. Sierra shivered inwardly at the coal black eyes latched onto hers. She was filled with an unexplainable coldness that Tanesha's next words didn't portray.
"Let me save us all some time Detective," Tanesha began. "Your conversations with others have no doubt uncovered my dislike for Baldwin. It's not a big deal for people to dislike one another, but let me answer your next question as to why I don't care for her."
"You're being very open this morning," Sierra said.
"I have nothing to hide." Tanesha said with arms opened in gesture. "Simply put, she took something invaluable from me. She lured a very beautiful and sensitive woman from my arms and into hers." She paused and forced her jaw to unclench. "Am I bitter? Wouldn't you be? I was cheated out of a world title fight with her. That reduced my chances for endorsements, appearances; you name it. Am I angry? I was extremely angry." She paused and studied her hands for a moment. Then her face softened and Sierra was amazed that the woman could appear wounded. "I thought that I could take back what she stole from me." She shook her head. "I was wrong."
"Thought you could take it back how?" Emily asked. I'm not buying this remorseful act you're putting on.
"I fought her at a park a few months ago. " Internally Tanesha struggled to keep her voice calm and her rage under control. Admitting failure was something she never did well. "I lost. That loss cost me my woman, my last title belt, and a job that I loved." She inhaled deeply. Keep it together Neesha. Keep it together. "Do I wish her harm? Yes. Am I deranged enough to do it?" She met each of their gazes. "No. I've given her enough. She's not worth risking my freedom." The hands that lifted the coffee cup and saucer to her lips were steady.
"You realize that you're a Person of Interest in our investigation?"
"You wouldn't be here if I wasn't already, Detective. I've merely verified the gossip that my former colleagues at the Women's Center have probably mentioned." She watched Emily nod twice. "And the woman, as you also know, is Teela. So I have nothing to hide."
_______________ Chapter 32______________________
"Hello Nica," Tanesha greeted the social worker at the ARCC.
"Hello Dr. Evans I am so happy to see you."
"Uh huh, when people are so happy to see a psychiatrist it usually means something's horribly wrong."
"I do have a few interesting cases for you today." Nica guided her around the nursing station and into her office.
"How about I start with Teela and work my way back to you?"
"I'll have to help you through Teela's three." Nica steered Tanesha towards her office.
"She's not here today? I hope she's not ill or something."
"No. She's at a seminar and won't be back in the office until the day after tomorrow. Cassandra, the Unit Manager, is here to help answer questions if you need her."
"I'm sure you'll be just as helpful."
"In case you can't see everyone we have on the list, any chance of getting you here again Friday early afternoon?"
Tanesha checked the calendar on her PDA and saw that she had three to eleven blocked out several times that week, Friday included. "Unfortunately, I too will be attending a conference for the next few days. Then I'm off to my cabin up north for some needed R &R. For future reference though, my schedule generally has only mornings available. However, I see that changing in the next week or so but not this week."
Sierra and Emily waited in the ARCC parking lot for over three hours waiting for Tanesha to finish and leave. Emily's toes and fingers had started to go numb.
"We have nothing solid on her. You know that right?" Sierra asked.
"A solid hunch. Plus she admits to motive."
"Your hunches won't get very far with my captain when I'm called in for harassment."
"We are not harassing her. It's called being under surveillance," Emily said.
"We've had her under surveillance for two days and she hasn't done anything out of the ordinary."
"She will. I know she will." Emily was convinced. "But I understand what you're saying. We don't have very much to go on with this entire case."
"I hate to admit it but maybe we should forget about Dr. Evans and start over. There could be something that we've overlooked." Disappointment resounded in her voice as she'd hoped Tanesha would do something that would tie her indisputably to the case.
Emily thought for a moment and then sighed heavily. They had very few solid leads but her gut feeling told her that the psychiatrist is connected somehow. Proving it was the problem.
"We could tail her for the rest of the day. If nothing pans out, then we put her aside and move on," Emily said.
"I guess I'll have to live with that."
Sierra's cell phone rang and she flipped it open. Emily listened to the one sided conversations and surmised that Sierra was talking to Rod Odesser.
"Did Rod find anything at the zoo that we could work with?" Emily asked as Sierra returned the phone to her breast pocket.
"No one has ever heard of Dr. Johanna Forrester. Besides being a stickler and a general pain in the ass, no one seems to hate Pax enough to want to hurt her. She's suspended pending the investigation into the death of a chimp under her care. But that's about it."
"But that doesn't make any sense. Someone from that place has got to know Jo. Where else would the guano and elephant shit come from?"
"Rod assures me that he questioned everyone from the offices to the cleaning crew to the animal handlers."
"Someone's lying," Emily said. "It's about time. My ass is frozen off." She shook her head in the direction of the facility entrance. They watched Tanesha walk to her car, get in and drive away. Sierra pulled out of the parking lot at a discrete distance.
They had followed her from the ARCC to another nursing home and then to the Forensic Geriatric Services office building. She remained there for the remainder of the afternoon until twenty minutes ago when she left. Daylight had started to fade when they pulled to a stop across the street from Cybil's and watched as Tanesha strutted into the night club.
"Her day was so hard that she needs a drink?"
"Must have been," Emily said. After several minutes of silence, she asked the question that had been bothering her for sometime. "Have you heard from Autumn?"
"I have," Sierra replied slowly, gaze trained upon the clubs entrance.
"Was she able to find a safe place?"
"Yep," Sierra said after a long pause. When Emily didn't say anything further, she turned to Emily and said, "She's staying with a friend of mine."
"Sierra," Emily warned.
"Oh all right. She's staying with me."
"Sierra, are you nuts?"
"Autumn said that she'd feel safer going back to her apartment after Tanesha leaves town." Sierra said.
"Seriously. I spend more time at the station than I do at my apartment anyway."
"That justification doesn't make a bit of difference. You do realize that you are risking this case with her staying there don't you? Do you have any idea what the D.A. will have to say about this?"
"I do," said Sierra.
"And you're doing it anyway?"
"She needs our help Emily. You were convinced of that the other day."
"And when Tanesha returns from Chicago what then?" Emily said.
"By then she should have a better support system in place."
"Look, if you want to be savior to abused lesbians that's great but do it without jeopardizing our case."
An hour later Tanesha emerged from the club. She wasn't alone. Draped on her arm was a woman whose skin was a creamy caramel. Sierra and Emily watched as Tanesha helped the woman into the passenger side of her car and then made her way to the driver side. Once more, they trailed her at a distance as to not be discovered.
"I can tell how badly she's missing Autumn," Sierra said as her grip tightened around the steering wheel.
Emily's lips parted to make a response when the ringing of her cell phone interrupted her. "Oliverez…hey Pax," Emily's call with her half-sister was short while Sierra steered through traffic.
Tanesha led them across town to a home on the west side of the city. Her companion exited the car and ran into the home. She returned with an overnight bag a few minutes later. Sierra then followed the couple to the place where she and Emily started their morning, outside Tanesha's apartment building.
"Three guesses as to what she'll be doing," Sierra grumbled.
"Are you bothered by something Sierra?"
"No. Are you?"
"Good then we understand one other," Sierra said with finality.
Parked across the street from the building they watched Tanesha leave the car park with her companion. The woman had a look of pure adoration as she stared at Tanesha. From the passenger seat Emily saw Sierra's body tense and heard the creaking as her leather gloved hands squeeze the wheel tighter. She was concerned at Sierra's see-saw attitude towards Tanesha.
Their target stood on the landing and encouraged the woman through the opened door. It was at that moment that Tanesha turned and looked directly at Sierra. She gave her a piggish smile before entering the building.
"She knows we're watching," Sierra said. "That bitch probably knew all along."
The chilling cold of winter surrounded the outside of the car and made the temperatures inside fall quickly. Cold weather made her right leg stiffen and Emily needed to stretch it. She remembered a gas station a block away and hoped they served palatable coffee. Emily volunteered to make the trip on foot.
For the next hour or so their eyes never left the front door of the twelve unit apartment building. It was a busy place. Various tenants and visitors came and went in a near constant flow. Sometimes they were in pairs or threes. Sierra scrutinized every woman leaving the building for Tanesha or her companion.
Tanesha sat on the edge of the bed and stroked the sleeping woman's face. Her libido cried for relief, for her to return to the bed and take possession of the sensual body that lay beneath the sheets. Her engorged clit rubbed against her pants and made her groan.
"Oh Carly you look good enough to almost make me change my mind," she kissed the woman's cheek, "almost."
She stood and twisted her hair around her head placing multiple bobby pins to keep her long hair in place. In her mind, she ran over her list making sure she would not forget anything. She checked her duffle bag in the living room and shrugged into her jacket. She would go out and be back before Carly awakened. Then they would continue their night together.
Hand poised to turn the knob, she snapped her fingers. She'd nearly forgotten. Long legs carried her quickly into the bedroom where she grabbed the wine glass from the nightstand beside Carly. Grinning at her ingenuity, Tanesha propped a neatly hand printed note where it would be seen should Carly awaken.
My Delicious Carly,
I had a craving for ice cream and went to get some. Please stay. Back soon.
She hurried back through the apartment into the kitchen. The wine was poured down the drain and the wine glass hidden in the cupboard beneath the sink. I'll take care of that later, she thought. Tanesha poured another glass half full of wine and returned to the bedroom. She placed it beside the note. There, everything in its place.
"Damn," she said and wiped the sweat from her forehead and upper lip. "It's fucking hot in here with this stuff on."
Emily and Sierra peered through the windshield as the snow fell in large flakes. A group of three women and a man left the build bundled against the bitter temperatures. The stream of tenants and their visitors had slowed their coming and going from the building across the way.
"I think she's in for the night," Emily said.
"You may be right."
"And I'm cold."
"You are definitely right on that." Sierra squinted against the bright lights of a car as it passed.
"Let's give her another thirty minutes and then call it off. We can start over tomorrow."
"I guess you're right," Sierra said.
"You and Harley have plans for this evening?"
"No, I'm meeting Pax," Emily said.
"If she has additional information, I'd like to be there to hear it."
"She's my sister." The more Emily said the word the easier she felt comfortable to say it. More over, she liked how it sounded. This is my sister, Pax.
"You're sister? You didn't tell me that."
"I didn't know it until a few days ago."
"No shit." That doesn't even come close to expressing it, Emily said.
Pax limped from her kitchen carrying two plates of hamburgers and French fries. Thumper sat straight and pretty in the living room patiently awaiting her return. She heard Pax and stood with a nub that wiggled so violently it caused her entire backside to wobble from side to side.
Pax couldn't help but laugh at the sight. "I'd say that you're happy to see me but I know you just want the hamburgers." Inside she frowned. She'd almost hoped that maybe Thumper could've genuinely been happy to see her.
By the time she was able to lower herself to the couch and removed the metal brace, Thumper had devoured half of her two plain jumbo burgers and large fries. Pax managed to get two bites of her own burger before the dog stood in front of her licking its chops expectantly.
"Oh no, if you'd have chewed your food instead of inhaling it you'd still be eating. This," she pointed, "is mine. Besides, if your mother ever found out that I'd given you this stuff we'd both be in trouble. Yeah both of us because I'd take you down with me."
Thumper barked once and stared defiantly at Pax. Refusing to look away. Pax found herself in a stare down. It lasted almost a full two minutes before Thumper huffed and nudged Pax's leg with her head before walking away. I won! I won! Pax silently shouted in victory.
On the HD television that Boney sinfully coveted, Pax watched an alligator stalk unsuspecting prey. At the moment of attack Pax jumped an inch off the couch as the door bell rang and Thumper bark.
"Thank you girl, I hear it too." Thumper stood in the vestibule at the ready. Pax smiled and patted the dog on the head. She looked through the peephole and groaned. Her poker face in place, Pax opened the door.
"Hello Pax," Tammy's breath drifted in puffs of smoke.
Pax waited for her to say something more. Instead the woman just stared at her through the large round glasses. Is there something seriously wrong with you? "Can I help you?"
"Oh yeah, sorry," she lisped heavily and extended a tube container in her hands. "Dr. Caldwell asked me to deliver these blueprints to you. I hope it's not too late?"
"Thank you." Pax took the tube and waited again. A low growl from behind her was Thumper's way of saying she had her back. The corner of her lip turned upward. But when she faced the dog it was gone, and her voice was commanding when she said, "Go now." Thumper hesitated a second before doing as ordered. "Sorry about that."
"Protective dog," Tammy said.
"May I use your phone to call my parents? My car broke down a few blocks away."
God I don't want you in my house. You're just too damn odd, Pax wanted to say aloud. "Sure, come on in." Was the more neighborly thing to say and she knew it.
"The dog…" Tammy peered around Pax with trepidation. "I don't really like dogs much."
"She's fine." Pax closed the door behind Tammy careful not to touch her. "Come on." Pax hobbled back in the living room. This had better be quick. She threw the tube on the couch and retrieved the cordless telephone.
"Thanks, I truly appreciate this." Tammy smiled at her from the archway.
"No problem, I'll just be in the other room until you're done."
Pax heard a loud pop like and then felt the blinding pain in her right hamstring. She yelled in pain and crashed to the floor on her good knee. Her hand clutched the muscle around the embedded red feathered dart.
"What the Fuck!!" Pax yelled and pulled the dart from her hamstring and threw it on the floor.
"Didn't you mean to say…Oh shit I'm fucked?" Tammy laughed.
Thumper trotted into the room and stopped. Pax couldn't believe the dog was assessing the situation as she looked from her to Tammy. Pax wanted to cheer the dog for coming to her rescue. She also wanted the yell for the dog to run.
Thumper lowered her head and gave the woman holding the gun trained on Pax a warning growl. She took a step towards Tammy and the rumble increased when Thumper snarled and bared her teeth.
"I've got ya covered mutt. Don't do it," Tammy said and slowly withdrew her other hand from her jacket pocket.
On Thumper's third step Tammy raised the other gun and pulled the trigger. Pax would never forget that sound. The heart wrenching yelp from Thumper as the dart pierced her hind quarter. Pax yelled to Thumper as she dropped to the floor and whimpered.
"You bitch. I'll kill you," Pax hissed and crashed to the floor on her good knee. Oh Jeez Thumper. I'll kill you Tammy! I swear I will.
"Not if I kill you first," Tammy said and laughed as Pax struggled to pull herself to stand on her left leg leaning against the couch. Oh this is fun.
"Why?" Her voice sounded strange from the ringing in her ears.
"Because I can," Tammy hissed and delivered a solid front kick to Pax's stomach that sent her toppling over the back of the couch. She bounced off the cushions onto coffee table scattering the content before hitting the floor with a loud oomph.
Eyes clenched against the stars that danced around her head, Pax swallowed pushing down the hamburgers that threatened to come back up. She fought panic and focused on crawling away from the menacing woman above. Thumper was out of her sight. Not knowing if she was alive or dead, Pax stopped the tears that threatened.
She managed to get over to the chair and put her back on the chair to support her upper body. Pax glanced about her looking for something to defend herself against Tammy's attack. Her cane had been knocked far out of her reach as well as the telephone. Nothing was within her reach. Pax reached behind her leg and cried out as she pulled the dart out and threw it to the side.
"What do you want?" Pax ran through what she knew about Tammy. It wasn't much. She had avoided the woman as much as possible at the zoo. She had no reason to associate with her so why was she doing this?
Tammy approached with a murderous grin about her face. As she neared, Pax's left foot kicked out and missing Tammy's knee by inches. The missed attempt depleted her store of energy.
"Was the best you've got?" For an overweight woman, Tammy moved surprisingly fast to close the short distance between them to deliver a booted foot across Pax's face. Satisfied at the limp form before her she laughed.
Tammy stepped back and peered over the side of the couch at the still dog. Piece of cake, she congratulated herself and watched Pax watching her through a haze. Tammy pulled two more darts from her pocket and reloaded each gun. She glanced at the large TV and then grinned, Oh that is sweet. I bet it cost a fortune.
"Nice TV." In one fluid motion, Tammy scooped up the cordless telephone on the floor at her foot and hurled it into the television screen. Pax watched the screen as it shattered and little yellow sparks flew and fizzled out from behind the hole in the middle.
"Wow, did you see that? I guess we should have unplugged it first huh?" Tammy laughed and kicked the magazines at her feet.
Pax's anger filled her arms with energy and she pushed herself upright from the floor. Goddamn bitch! That was my TV. I'll feed your tits to the tigers for this! Head pounding from the kick, the adrenaline surge buried any feeling of pain for the moment. "I haven't done anything to you," Pax managed through clenched teeth.
Tammy leaned down close to Pax and peered into her faded blue eyes. Her breath was hot and heavy and increased Pax's discomfort at the closeness. Pax couldn't help the shiver that ran through her body. Tammy's eyes were so cold, so black and filled with hate. For the first time, she feared for her life.
"I haven't done anything to you," Tammy mocked and then punched Pax in the stomach. "You bother me just by living! I hate…" another punch to her face and Pax's head wobbled to the side, "…you!"
Pax summoned the strength for a combination technique. She blocked Tammy's next blow and threw a punch to Tammy midsection. Her fist was absorbed into Tammy's stomach and she didn't flinch. It fueled her rage instead.
"Was that supposed to hurt?" Tammy leaned closer into Pax's face. "You are so pathetic." Tammy shifted her weight and trapped Pax's hand beneath her knee. Pax cried out with the woman's full weight on her hand.
A growl interrupted Tammy as her fist was poised to strike Pax again. Her head snapped to the side to see the Pit Bull teetering on four wobbly legs trying to take a step. Tammy lifted the gun from behind her back to fire again at the dog.
"No!!" Pax yelled and feebly shoved at Tammy with her free hand.
The dart sailed far left of Thumper. It must have taken a lot for Thumper to fight what ever it was in her system to come to her rescue. But that fight went out of her as she dropped back to the floor where she stood. The room filled with Tammy's evil laugh.
"That dog made the same thud Johanna did when she dropped"
"It was you." Pax eyes grew wide the color of ice. "You fucking bitch, you almost killed her!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah we've already established that I'm a bitch. But I'm a bitch with the gun and two working legs. I'll soon be the bitch with your girlfriend." Tammy waited. Oh yeah, let me see it. Let me see it sink into that thick skull of yours that you're fucked and I get the girl.
"What are you talking about?" Pax blinked to clear the haze. Teela? What's she got to do with this?
"You shouldn't worry your ugly scarred face about anything but how much longer you have to live." Tammy's lisp was barely detectable now.
"I'll see you in hell."
"Enough of this shit." Tammy hissed and moved a few feet away. She raised the gun towards Pax and shoved the other one into the belt in her back. "You know, it would have been so much easier if you'd just eaten one of those apples instead of that stupid monkey."
"You fat fuck!" Pax could only mumble as one side of her mouth was swollen. Cloe, Pax cried silently, OOh Cloe.
"While you're having a precious reunion with your Cloe, I'll be getting acquainted with your lady friend." She smacked her lips and licked them tauntingly at Pax. "My, my, my. Is she as tasty as she looks?"
"Fuck you." Pax struggled to get her limbs to function so she could do something, anything to have a fighting chance.
"It will be such a shame for her to lose two lovers at such a young and pretty age," Tammy said and then laughed at Pax stunned look. "Oh yes, I know all about her. I did some checking. The poor woman will probably think she's bad luck or something. That is until I show her what a good time she's missed being with your crippled ass. I mean really. Did she take pity on you or what?"
"Fuck you. There's not enough desperation in the world for her to date a fat, homely-assed cow like you."
Tammy pulled the trigger savoring Pax's scream as the dart bit into her left thigh.
"What the fuck are you shooting me with?" Tears dripped from her eyes. Hand shaking, Pax reached for the dart to pull it out. Just as quickly a foot landed in her stomach and she almost doubled over. Tammy was taking extra delight in delivering punishment to her.
"Touch it and I touch you!" Tammy yelled. "I went to a lot of trouble to get that."
Caldwell that bastard, she spat silently. He won't be groping anyone else for a while. She laughed at the though of breaking the man's wrist when she had twisted his hand to get it off of her behind.
Pax knew she was fading, but the burning of the new dart in her thigh kept her conscious. Her limbs felt as though they weighed two hundred pounds each. She had not the strength to raise them to fight back. Teela, she thought. I love you baby. I'm so sorry about Thumper. I'm so sorry baby.
"The first one was a little something to take you off-kilter. I didn't want you to be able to do that bull shit you call karate on me. No we couldn't have that at all. I do hope that you're not allergic to anything," she giggled. "No but seriously, this one here," she knelt down and pushed the dart deeper and laughed at the additional pain that streaked across Pax's battered face. She struggled to keep the scream sealed behind her closed lips determined not to give Tammy the satisfaction. "This is compliments of your little friend, the diamond back. He was a little angry that you got away before he could finish the job."
"Oh god," it came out as a whisper from her bruised lips. Her mind raced as to what she could do. Legs, they were useless she couldn't stand. Her hand felt like it was crushed and the fingers barely moved. Her limbs weighed a ton and her vision doubled. Frighteningly, she saw two Tammy's. No phone, no one to help. A dart filled with venom was just as lethal as a true bite. The venom had been injected directly into her bloodstream.
"I would be making my peace with God if I were you. You'll meet him soon."
The fine leather that covered Tammy's hands did nothing to cushion the blows she delivered. She drew back to strike Pax once again when a loud knock sounded at the door. Tammy paused, her heart beat triple time as her hand covered Pax's mouth preventing her from calling out.
Fuck, did I lock the door or not. Damn it!! Tammy ran to stand on the blind side of the entry way. She flattened her bulk as best as she could against the wall. The barrel of the gun firmly held in her hand. She held her breath and waited.
"Pax," Emily called. "Pax it's Emily where are you?"
In the silence of the room the sound of the door opening was loud as crickets singing in the night. Tammy let her breath out quietly and inhaled once again as she recognized the voice. Gave up on the stake out so soon?
Emily crept into the home and managed to enter the doorway. "What the…" seeing the dog with a blue dart sticking out of its hide upon the floor. She spotted Pax across the room and reached for her gun.
Emily saw the shadow out the corner of her eye too late. Pain exploded at the base of her skull and she dropped to the floor. The blow from behind left her fuzzy and just as enraged. A boot crashed into her stomach and Emily curled into the fetal position for protection. Hot shards of pain coursed through her ribs.
Tammy bolted from the room and flung the front door open wide. She didn't care if the door crashed into the wall. She hoped it would leave a hole. More importantly, she hoped that she could get away from Pax's house. Getting caught was not in her plans. Before Emily interrupted she'd planned to watch Pax greet death.
Tammy jumped over the three steps to the ground and plowed into Amanda. Both tumbled to the ground. The gun in her hand skidded across the snow covered ground. Tammy hit her knee but her fall was cushioned, as she landed atop Amanda.
"Watch where the hell you're going!" Amanda said and groaned as her back instantly protested.
Tammy drove her knee into Amanda's groin and punched her in the face. "Fuck you bitch!" She scrambled to her feet to run limping down the street.
"Emily what the hell is going on? Who the hell was that?" Amanda demanded as Emily staggered from the house. Amanda couldn't decide which injury to rub first, her throbbing groin or throbbing jaw.
"Which way did he go?" Emily said. Amanda pointed and Emily looked in time to see a lumbering figure pass under the street lamp. "Pax is in the house and she's hurt. Call the police and an ambulance. The dog needs help too." Emily ran after Tammy.
"Wait, where are you going?"
Head pounding in sync with her thundering heart, Emily kept her feet moving one in front of the other as she ran down the street after Pax's attacker. Her breath came as puffs of smoke in the chilling night air as she ran. Keep him in sight. Focus Emily, she fought against the blurring vision.
Emily saw her target skid to a halt and duck between two houses near the corner. Only a couple of seconds behind, Emily braced herself against the side of the house before she entered the darkened driveway.
She tried to slow her breathing and drew her gun. It was a futile attempt with the adrenaline coursing through every muscle and fiber of her body. Emily listened to the sounds of the night for footsteps somewhere ahead crunching in the snow, for labored breathing that wasn't her own.
Steps slow and quiet as possible in the snow, she crept along the homes siding. She edged her way to the corner of the house leading to the back yard. A shovel swung from around the corner at her face. Emily's reaction time was much faster than earlier in Pax's living room. The edge of the shovel gashed her check as she ducked. The shovel pinged as it slammed into the side of the house. Off balance Emily fell backward onto the ground grunting and her gun skidded back down the drive.
Emily was yanked to her feet by the lapels of her jacket. She expelled a cloud of air as a knee was driven into her midsection. Emily recovered enough strength to drive two quick blows to Tammy's stomach. Take that you fuck! Emily screamed but her punches sunk into the woman's flesh and she didn't as much as flinch.
"Bitch!!" Tammy screamed. Enough is enough. She grabbed Emily once again to slam her into the side of the house.
Suddenly the backyard sprayed with light from inside the house. Emily could see that Pax's attacker was black, with shoulder length hair under the knit cap.
Tammy delivered several quick blows to Emily's torso and one to the solar plexus. The last caused Emily's eyes to cloud with tears from new pain riddled areas of her body. As she was falling to the ground, she managed to grab a hold of Tammy's jacket and pull the woman down with her. Tammy landed with a grunt as she fell on top of Emily. Emily felt something hairy hit her face and landed beyond her head.
"Shit!" Tammy yelled. She leapt to her feet and kicked Emily once more. She retrieved her hair and lumbered away to leave Emily sprawled in the drive.
"Who's out there? A man yelled. "My wife's calling the cops right now."
Emily groaned and struggled to her feet. The man walked from the backside of his house in a wide arch with his shot gun. He aimed it at the woman that leaned against his house.
"Wait! Don't shoot. I'm a private investigator," Emily said with her hands raised in the air.
"How do I know this? You could have been breaking into my home to kill me and the missus."
Emily's patience was spent. Pax was hurt; I'm not sure if she's alive or dead and now this jackass is trying to shoot me. She needed to get back and check on Pax. But first I need to get Mr. Commando here to put down that shotgun. "I assure you that I'm a private investigator and I mean you no harm. I was chasing a criminal as we were fighting in your driveway. That's all."
"Sounds farfetched to me. I'm calling the cops."
"Ya know what mister, call them. Call the police and tell them to send Detective Sierra Mollier over here." She shook her head and realized what a bad mistake that was.
"I don't believe you." He raised the barrel a little higher and pointed it at her.
"Look, I'm going to reach into my back pocket and get my ID."
Slowly she removed her wallet and handed it to the man. Emily leaned against the home again and waited for him to make up his mind. After several moments of studying the photo ID he lowered the shotgun a few inches but not completely.
"Now I'm going to go over there and get my gun," she pointed down the drive, "and then I'm going to walk back down the street."
Hands in the air Emily moved with slow exaggerated movements. She prayed the jumpy old man didn't accidentally pull the trigger. She came to her gun and slowly reached down for it groaning from the sore ribs and throbbing head. As an added measure to ensure he did not shoot her, Emily picked up the gun by the barrel and continued out of his sight. In the distance she could see the flashing red and blue lights coming up the street near Pax's home.
Pax's neighbors had donned their robes and jackets to come out into the cold and gawk at the sudden clamor of siren and emergency vehicles. Emily shuffled through the small gathering into the yard where she saw Amanda speaking to a uniformed officer.
"Oh here she is." Amanda bounced excitedly. "Emily what happened?"
"How is Pax?"
"They don't know. The paramedics are with her now."
"Officer I'm Emily Oliverez, a Private Investigator. Can you," she grunted and half pointed down the street, "make sure someone goes down to 4035 and speaks with the man in the house."
"Why's that?" The officer looked suspiciously at the battered woman, a trickle of blood from the corner of her lip.
"Because he can tell you I fought with the woman that did this," Emily said.
"Woman?" Amanda directed at Emily's back as she walked towards the front door.
"It was a black woman. That much I do know."
Emily entered the house. She noticed the dog had been removed but she wasn't able to see Pax's face for the paramedics hovered around her. A fire burned deep in the pit of her stomach as she watched the lifeless body of her sister lying between the two men. She saw the right foot move. That was something.
The paramedics lifted Pax on the gurney and moved towards the door. For the first time, Emily saw her sister's face and tears fell silently. Pax was conscious and glimpsed her sister. Her hand fell weakly out to touch her.
"Wait," Emily told the men.
"We have to get her to the E.R. We're racing time here," one of them said.
Pax's fist closed around Emily's and she bent close to hear what she had to say. Ear pressed next to Pax's lips she heard her whisper, "Tammy Reynolds."
Emily righted herself and looked down into the blue eyes so much like her own and said, "I'll make her pay for this. I promise you."
Tammy opened the door to her apartment. She stopped and listened. I don't hear a thing. Perfect. On the way to the bathroom she peeked into her bedroom. Seeing that all was well she continued into the bathroom. Tammy closed the door and engaged the lock.
Her eyes were closed tight against being blinded when the light switch was flipped. After a moment she pried her eyes open to face her wild reflection in the vanity mirror. She was tired. The adrenaline had subsided to a low rumble that left her weakened.
Her hair looked as though she had taken it off her head, shaken it, and then put it back. In essence, that's exactly what had happened. No amount of smoothing could have brought it back to its usual tame style. It remained wild and unmanageable. Thank God I didn't get stopped. What a mug shot that would've been.
An easy tug on the wig, and it was tossed to the floor. It lay like a Yorkie puppy overdue for a clipping. A groan escaped her lips as she reached up to pull on the upper false teeth. Blech, I hate the way that stuff tastes, she said about the adhesive used to hold them in place. She then slowly peeled away the latex nose and the discolored baggy patches underneath her eyes.
Next to the hair landed her uniform shirt and slacks. She bent forward slightly to inspect her knee from when she fell. It's a scrape at best, and easily explainable.
Tammy turned and faced the back of the door. In the full length mirror she stared at her reflection. "It was beneficial knowing you but ya gotta go."
She grabbed the zipper and slowly moved it downward. The two sides of the customized body suit peeled away like layers of a banana. Beneath the padded suit Tammy's t-shirt was visibly wet. To run with an extra twenty pounds as I had would push even a seasoned tri-athlete to the brink.
The body suit dropped to the floor with a solid thud and the coolness instantly embraced her. "Now that's what I call dropping the weight of the world from your shoulders." She surveyed her true self for a moment longer, "Tammy Reynolds has just dropped dead."
She turned and gathered Tammy Reynolds' remains then retrieved the duffle bag from the hidden panel behind the cabinet in the bathroom. Inside it she shoved the padded body suit that was Tammy. She rolled up the zoo uniform, the wig, boots, glasses, make-up; everything that defined Tammy was crammed into the leather bag to be burned later.
Tammy Reynolds would be wanted for the attacks on Pax, for Cloe's death, the assault on Jo and the arson at the dojo. Amazingly, she's disappeared without a trace, Tanesha chuckled and climbed into the shower.
Pax should be a distant memory by now if that old bastard told me correctly about the amount of venom three viper bites would inject. Glad I don't have to deal with that creepy asshole anymore. No she wouldn't have to worry about Dr. Max Caldwell any longer.
Max had asked her into his office on the pretense of having her pick up the plans she was to deliver to Pax. His timing was impeccable as, she had picked them up the night before and learned about Teela's being out of town that morning.
Once she had grabbed the cardboard tube, Max had grabbed her. That was unacceptable. His lips were like a pouting fish trying to kiss her. That was disgusting. His hands brutally squeezed her padded behind. That was reprehensible.
Max found himself looking up at Tammy from the floor of his office. His face was contorted with pain and astonishment. Max yelled that he'd been nice to her, exceptionally so. That he had done so much for her and taught her so many things. She owed him and he wanted her. What he received was a dislocated finger and pain to various areas on his person. Tammy struck him once more and rendered him unconscious.
Tammy grabbed his keys from atop his desk. Thanks to his good teachings she knew which keys unlocked the weapons locker and the drug cabinet. She returned the keys to his desk and took the plans to be delivered to Pax. As promised.
She stepped out of the shower in time to hear a rap on the door. "Tanesha are you in there?" Carly asked.
"Yes baby be right there."
Tanesha wrapped herself in the towel and hurried to open the door. Steam rolled from the room and Tanesha gathered Carly into her arms and held her tenderly.
"You smell good," Carly said and stuck her tongue out to lick the drop of water from Tanesha's shoulder. "I thought you were going for ice cream?"
"I was but I felt so sticky. I thought a shower was better. Now we can finish what we started."
"What we started? Did I…did I fall asleep on you?" Carly hid her face in her hands from embarrassment.
"Honey, don't worry. I assumed you needed a little power nap. Everyone needs them. I fell asleep too." Tanesha hesitated before saying, "I think it may have been the wine. It can put me to sleep sometimes. Maybe you're the same way?" More to the point of what I added to your wine put you to sleep. Come on I need you to believe me on this.
"I'm afraid it could with the…" she hesitated, "lesser expensive wines."
"Oh, we'll I guess you'll have to help me improve my selections then." Tanesha chuckled and led them toward the bedroom. For the sake of satisfying her lust at the moment, she would let Carly's reply slide. Just this once.
_______________ Chapter 33______________________
From the moment she'd spoken, Teela knew something was wrong. The sound of Jo's voice increased Teela's sense of foreboding. The strain in Jo's voice told Teela that something had happened to Thumper or worse, to Pax. Teela something has happened to… that was all she heard as she sat heavily on the bed and shut her eyes to stave off what she was hearing.
Teela had been plagued by an odd sensation throughout the day. A feeling she couldn't name, a sense of dread perhaps. Dread became fear as Jo's words penetrated her mind… someone had attacked Pax and Thumper.
Panicked, Teela threw her suitcase upon the bed and shoved her clothing and belongings into it. She didn't care if her suits were wrinkled or if the cap on the shower gel or shampoo were on tight for the trip. Into the suitcase it went in a heap along with everything else. Time was of the essence, she had to get home to Pax and Thumper.
Four hours later she was exiting the highway two miles from the hospital. Teela shoved the car into park and jumped out running. She didn't care about the ice and snow that covered the ground. What she cared about was her lover somewhere inside fighting to stay alive.
Boney waited for her at the emergency room entrance. As the doors opened Teela stepped out and into Boney's arms. They hugged and swayed comforting one another.
"Where is she? What's happening?" Teela asked.
"She's in the I.C.U. for now until they have a room for her. A bit of luck in her favor is that the doctor who treated her snake bite the last time was on rotation tonight." Boney hustled to keep up with Teela darting through automatic doors.
"What did the doctor say?" Teela stopped so abruptly that Boney nearly ran into her.
"According to Damian and Zander it was a near lethal dose of snake venom."
"My God," Teela said feeling faint.
Boney stepped to her side quickly and held her. "The bastard tried to kill her but didn't. She'll be ok Teela." Boney kissed the top of her head and whispered, "She has to be."
"I can't believe this is happening. Who would do something like this?"
"It was one of the workers at the zoo. That's all we know." Boney hugged her tighter. Her heart broke for her friend.
"Jesus, Thumper," Teela pushed away from the comforting arms eyes wide with fright and glistening tears, "Boney what about Thumper?"
"Harley's with her at the veterinarian hospital. We told to authorize what ever was necessary to treat her." Boney guided her the remaining short distance to the room where Pax's family and Jo were waiting for news.
Pax fought her way into consciousness forty-eight hours later. Her body twitched and pale blue eyes flickered open to concerned green ones peering down at her. A second of disorientation, she didn't recognize to whom they belonged. She didn't recognize the room or understand what the hushed voices were saying nearby.
Then she remembered with a sharp intake of breath.
It all came flooding back to her, Tammy in her home, shooting her, shooting Thumper. Instantly, the tears flowed from her eyes and ran down the side of her face. Her heart pained for the brave dog that had came to her rescue.
"Oh sweetheart," Teela dabbed at the swollen eyes with tissues. She would wipe away her own later. "Ssshh it's okay love. You're safe now."
"Teela." The dryness in her throat made her voice croak.
"Ssshh, don't speak," Teela said then called over her shoulder, "Someone, get the nurse. She's awake." There was a shuffle from behind her.
"Thumper… I'm so sorry." Pax's shoulders shook with her sobs for the dog and the pain the movement caused. Her body was on fire with the pain and her heart shattered from her grief over the dog she had finally come…come to love. "She tried… to protect me."
Teela brushed the tears away and kissed her cheek. "Ssshh, my love. Don't worry about Thumper. Ssshh," she said.
Pax closed her eyes and immediately drifted into a restless sleep. Teela turned to their family and friends gathered in the hospital room. A mixture of emotion filled their faces.
Four days after her first awakening, Pax was able to stay conscious nearly two hours before fatigue would set in and sleep claimed her. Her brothers were having a field day harassing her about Teela feeding her lunch when Emily and Detective Mollier walked into the room.
"Hey you're awake," Emily called.
"For now," Pax said. "You're just in time. Shoot them for me would ya?"
"No," Emily flatly said. "Damian, Zander why does she want me to shoot you?"
"We have no idea." They both innocently shrugged.
"Yeah right," Emily said.
"Have you come to tell me that you've found Tammy Reynolds and the SWAT team opened fire on her for resisting arrest?" Pax said as Teela took her hand.
"That's a visual sis," Damian shook the image away.
"For what she did to you I wish we could," Emily said.
"We can't find her," Sierra said.
"What do you mean you can't find her?" Zander asked.
"The address the zoo had on file for her was an abandoned warehouse."
"What about the college? Someone must know where that psycho is," Pax said.
"She dropped her classes after the second week. No one has seen her since."
"You've got to be kidding," Teela said.
"So what you're telling me is that she's going to get away with damn near killing me?"
"No, she's not going to get away." Emily stared back at her.
"We have APB's out for her all over the state," Sierra said.
"We'll find her and kick her ass then throw her under the jail for what she did to you," Emily added.
"Not just me. That bitch killed Thumper," Pax said spat vehemently.
"Honey, you don't remember me telling you?" Teela asked. "Thumper is alive."
"Alive? But I saw her…" Pax looked at Teela incredulously as tears dripped from her eyes in relief.
"She's at the vet hospital for another day and then she can come home." Teela kissed Pax's forehead and stroked her hair. "I can't wait to have both of my girls home."
"I saw her." Pax heart pounded in remembrance. "What did she shoot her with?"
"The vet said that it was an animal tranquilizer."
"Thank God she missed with the second dart," Sierra said.
"She tried to shoot her again," Pax said, "but I hit her and she missed."
"Thank you." Teela kissed Pax's lips gently. "You saved her life."
"We spoke with a Dr. Caldwell at the zoo," Sierra said.
"He was always with Tammy. Surely he knows how to find her."
"I'm afraid not. He's feeling pretty used at the moment," and foolish, and stupid more likely. "It seems that Tammy showed an interest in him only to gain access to certain areas, the tranquilizers, and you," Sierra said.
"Your assistant, Gary, took inventory and found several darts and two guns missing," Emily said.
"She used them on me and Thumper," Pax finished.
"And that bastard gave her the perfect excuse to come to my home." Pax balled her fists and gritted her teeth. He anger raged inside at Max. She knew he was being led by the short hairs all these months. The zoo was abuzz with the rumors of him and Tammy.
"Who is this Tammy person anyway?" Zander asked from across the room.
"That's what we are trying to find out," was Sierra's flat reply.
"Pax you must know her; you worked with her."
"Zander I stayed away from her as much as possible, she creeped me out. All I know is that she was an Environmental Tech and she was with Max most of the time."
"This Tammy is good at covering her tracks, almost too good," Emily said. "We didn't get any clear prints from the equipment she used at the zoo or from your home."
"She wore leather gloves at my place and latex mostly at the zoo." Pax said.
"I know about those leather gloves. I felt them." Emily pointed to the bruises across her cheek then at Pax's questioning look. "I must have interrupted her when I came to your house that night. I chased her and we fought." Pax involuntarily yawned. "We should come back later when you've rested."
"She told me she attacked Jo," Pax said.
"When she shot Thumper she said Thumper dropped to the floor just like Jo did."
"You're certain?" Sierra asked.
"Does Jo know her?"
"No," Emily said.
"And then she mentioned you Teela," Teela shrugged her shoulders. "She said that after I'm dead she'd become your lover."
"I don't know any Tammy, and I'm only interested in you."
"It was uncanny. The way she talked about you she sounded like Tanesha." Pax shivered.
"We both thought about that," Sierra said taking a glance at Emily, "and we paid a visit to Dr. Evans."
"She has an alibi for that night," Emily added. "She was with someone all night and the woman verified that they were together."
"So what now?" Pax yawned widely.
"Now you're going to get some rest while we all clear outta here," Zander said.
"We can do that," Sierra said. "I have a uniformed officer assigned to your room. He'll be with you for a while."
"Great, now I know how Jo felt."
"Better safe than sorry sis," Emily said.
A hundred miles to the north rays of sun beamed through the trees and sparkled blindingly off the lake. A fire burned behind a small cottage deep into the woods. Plumes of black and gray smoke billowed and filled the air with the nauseating stench of burning rubber and hair. Tanesha wrinkled her nose as she angrily poked the fire sending sparks into the air.
That bitch is still alive. If that fucking PI hadn't arrived she'd be dead by now and I could be with Teela. Tanesha groused. She jabbed at the fire once again. She'd been defeated by Pax Baldwin once again. She hated to lose. But something is protecting your ass. Twice I have beaten the shit out of you and you've come back. This time you had help and they almost caught me.
Tanesha hadn't expected anyone to be at Pax's that night. It was by luck she'd managed to get away from the private investigator and back safely to her apartment without being stopped. She knew that she would be questioned again following the attack but she didn't think she would be drawn from her bed so early the next morning by pounding upon her apartment door.
Initially agitated, she screamed her way to the door threatening to murder the person on the other side. She flung it open to find Sierra and Emily standing there. Her demeanor calmed to an insufferable smugness. Her hair unkept and she pulled the long terry cloth robe around her.
With faint annoyance she stepped aside and allowed them into her home but no further than just inside of the door. She was not going to make them comfortable at that hour in the morning. Now that she was awake, she could think of better things to do with her time than talk with them. At that moment, her alibi walked out of the bedroom and called her name.
Tanesha checked her watch. Carly would arrive in an hour. That should be plenty of time for the remnants of Tammy Reynolds to turn to ash.
She smiled as her body goose pimpled at the thought of the deliciously sensual Carly. So unlike Autumn who squawked at a little roughness while having sex, Carly welcomed it. That woman makes me weak in the knees. Maybe soon I can say, Teela who?
Four months later:
The elegantly scrolled candle stood majestically in the center of the ivory linen covered table. Intricately carved petals layered downward to reveal intertwined colors of blue and deep buttermilk. Etched throughout the pillar were pairs of tiny doves that circled the North Star.
On each side of the five-pound candle were the matching tapers that had been lit by Jo and Felicia several moments before. The small flames danced in the light breeze.
Pax's raven hair lifted in the gentle breeze to spray across the shoulders of her cyan colored double-breasted suit. Pax stretched out her hand and beckoned for her love to come to her. Teela grasped the hand of the woman soon to be her wife for now and ever more. Blue merged with green in a gaze of unadulterated passion. The gathering of guests before them inhaled collectively as a wave of love emanated from the two women swept across out across the lawn.
Throughout the tearful haze, Teel and Pax looked upon their friends and family sitting below as witnesses to their pledge always and forever to be connected. Pax ignored the uneasiness that invaded her senses. She surveyed the guests briefly and wondered why the cold chill crept down her spine. Her smile beamed at Teela as they each lifted a burning taper and together lit the unity candle. It would be some time before the swirls and doves etched into the candle would be able to throw shadows as it burned. The inner candle would need to melt considerably before that would happen.
"I love you Pax. Now and forever more."
"I love you Teela." Pax swiped at the tear threatening to fall. "Now and forever more." Pax leaned into Teela's touch and turned to press her lips against the palm that cupped her cheek.
Hands clasped and fingers solidly entwined, the couple made their way around the table. They stood in front of the minister who faced the watchful spectators for this part of the ceremony. She smiled down at the two proudly as each of her hands reached out to cup their cheeks. She looked up at the audience, stretched her arms wide in invitation.
"Friends, family, join Pax and Teela in celebrating their union..."
"NO! NOT NOW. NOT EVER!!" Came a reverberating shout from somewhere behind them.
Teela and Pax's smiles of bliss faded with the recognition of the voice behind them. Like a picture film the scene slowed to an agonizing frame per few seconds. Their movements ticked along as if hands of a clock. All heads turned towards the back of the lawn to see where the cry had originated. Pax and Teela's eyes grew wide as they resumed normal speed and in unison they spoke a name they hoped to never hear again, "Tammy!"
Pax startled awake rapidly blinking her eyes. Momentarily disoriented she swayed in the hammock beneath the large tree. Hastily she checked her body, hands scanned her torso. No bullet wounds, no blood. She blew a sigh of relief as the light breeze kissed her skin and dried the sweat from her face and neck.
"About time you wake up sleepy head," Boney shouted. "The steaks are almost ready."
"Yeah about time," Zander picked up a fork and tried to poke the steaks while Boney's head was turned. Boney caught him and viscously slapped his hands.
"I've told you Zander. Never mess with a lesbian's grill."
Pax blinked her eyes open and squinted at her friend and brother a few yards away. It was a dream a stupid dream. "Sorry guys."
"You okay?" Boney questioned at a sweaty and pale Pax. "You don't look so good."
"Well you're not Miss America yourself." Pax chuckled at her friend in the brilliantly colored Hawaiian shirt, University of Michigan basketball shorts and chef's hat and sandals.
"I am to Jo. I hold every crown there is in this world in her eyes."
"Somebody's gotta love ya looking like that," Pax mumbled and rapped her lightly on the back.
"I agree there," Zander mumbled and received an elbow in the gut.
"Hey, you're a guest. You're supposed to praise my attire to my face and talk about me on the way home. Now get away from my grill," Boney said waving her spatula at him.
"Sorry bro, them's the rules," Pax chuckled and slapped him on the back. Wounded, Zander sauntered towards the sliding door.
A deep bark sound followed by several smaller yelps. Pax looked out to see Thumper trotting across the yard in her U.S.C. football jersey followed by the Rottweiler puppies in their University of Michigan football jerseys. Thumper dropped to the grass on her belly. The dog was instantly pounced upon by two smaller puppies. They chewed on her ears and jumped over and about the older dog. Surprisingly, Thumper allowed them to do it. Suddenly Thumper lifted a paw trapping one of the puppies beneath it. It squirmed and wiggled but was unable to get free. Thumper began to lick the puppy's ears.
"I'm serious Pax, how have you been really?"
"I'm okay Boney. Nothing major," Pax said.
"Yeah right," Boney waited.
"Ok, so I have some tingling in my shoulder every now and then like I said nothing major."
"You took a hefty beating there pal I'm surprised you don't have more lasting effects. Or if you do you're hiding it well from Teela."
"I'm not hiding anything from Teela. Her eyes have been too sharp for me to hide anything," Pax said.
"She does have eagle eyes sometimes," Boney chuckled.
"I think this whole thing has brought us closer together. I mean, we talk more about the little things that go on in our day. No matter how trivial it sounds. You know what I mean?"
"Sure do." Boney grinned.
"We've even talked about a future. I kind of shied away from that in the past because of everything else that we've been through. I believe we're both ready to trust one another completely."
"Is that a good thing?" Boney asked.
"I think it is. Teela has proven to me that she's with me for the long haul. She didn't push me away like last time. If fact, she damned near smothered me."
"Hey those smell wonderful," Emily said stopping next to the grill. "One of those well done burgers for me?" She asked pointing at the steaks.
"One of those beers in your hand for me or are you going to drink all three?" Boney said and taking the one offered to her. "Thanks and yes one is for you."
"I didn't know you were here," Pax said to Emily.
"I came while you were sleeping."
"You know I can help you plan the menu for the house blending bar-b-que party," Boney said.
"House blending what? What are you talking about?" Pax looked at her confused. She'd never heard of such a thing.
"Teela told us you were moving into the house. So if you take your belongings and put them with Teela's, you have a house blending. That calls for a celebration." Boney smiled at her ingenuity.
"You are very strange," Emily said.
"We were supposed to make the announcement together."
"Well you know how women are." Boney laughed.
"I'll tell Jo you said that."
"I'm not afraid of that woman. I wear the bra around this here joint." She puffed out her chest.
"Yeah right," Pax chuckled, "I tell Jo you said that and you'll be wearing jail house orange in the hoosegow."
"Oh no, I won't be wearing orange but I know someone who might be soon," Boney said and took a long pull of her beer.
"What the hell are you jabbering about?" Pax scratched her head and stared at her friend. You are so weird my friend.
"Anyway, Tanesha may be on her way to jail. After she gets out of the hospital, that is." Boney said.
"One of the clinic nurses called Jo a little while ago. She said that Tanesha's new girlfriend landed in the hospital a few nights ago. Apparently Tanesha had beaten her something horrible."
"You're kidding me?" Pax said.
"You mean you haven't heard?" Emily asked.
"No. Wait a minute, new girlfriend? You mean she's not dating that woman that you work with anymore?" Pax asked Boney.
"The woman I work with? Who Autumn? No I don't think so. How should I know?"
"Autumn and Tanesha broke up a few days before your attack Pax," Emily said. "She's moved on."
"How do you know?" Boney asked.
"I just do," Emily said and hoped that Autumn had found happiness at last.
"Good for her. Anyway, Tanesha's new girlfriend then pressed attempted murder charges on her. So she might be on her way to jail."
"Good for the new girlfriend. So why is Tanesha in the hospital?"
"Last night, the girlfriend's brother took a crow bar and beat the crap out of her. Isn't that wild?"
"You've got to be kidding?" Pax took Boney's beer and sipped from it. The whole tale sounded so unreal.
"Wish I were. Man, I knew she was a little off, but I didn't think she was that crazy though."
"Well, now you know. I never new that Tammy Reynolds was a nutcase either until it was too late."
Boney placed the plate of steaks on the picnic table next to the covered platter of hot dogs and hamburgers.
Squeals of laughter came from around the side of the house and got unbearably louder as the Pax's nephews ran into the yard. They chased one another with large super-soaker water guns that Boney joyously had given them to play with. Thumper stopped licking the puppy as the boys drew closer and dropped to the grass. They were immediately pounced upon and covered in doggie kisses.
"Have the police discovered anything more on her?" Boney asked.
"No and I seriously doubt that they ever will. It's scary to know that someone wanted you dead and that they could be somewhere out there waiting to try it again."
"I know I try not to think about that very same thing. I mean, Jo still can't figure out where she's connected to Tammy. I know it drives her crazy sometimes. I can tell when she's thinking about it because she gets this distant look in her eye and then she's anxious for a while."
'That's understandable," Pax said.
"But we'll survive and continue to move forward, right?"
"You've got that right."
"Come on, I'm starving," Boney said and bellowed for Jo. Her partner opened the sliding glass door and waved.
Jo carried a platter of corn on the cob and a tub of butter. She was followed by Teela talking to Emily and Harley each carrying a platter or a bowl. Damian, Zander, and Amanda brought up the rear. Felicia focused on settling her wild boys down to a table of their own.
They were seated and had started to pass the plates when Deanna came from around the front of the house. Jo stood and greeted her daughter. "Honey, I thought you weren't coming in until Monday."
"I know mom."
"Why didn't you call? I would have picked you up," Jo said.
"That's okay mom, I was able to manage," Deanna said and shyly looked Amanda's way. How could she tell her mother that she'd managed to get to and from the airport four times in the past several months without her help or knowledge?
Jo followed her daughters gaze and got the feeling that she was not the only reason her daughter decided to make another trip to Michigan to see her. "We'll talk later, yes?"
"Sure mom," Deanna said and found that Amanda had made a spot available next to her.
The conversation flowed easily and laughter filled the back yard. Jo looked around the picnic tables at her friends and felt her blessings were plentiful. She spied the newest members of her family, Effraim and Luke Baldwin openly feeding the dogs from their plate and chuckled. Through the canopy's cover, she felt the warmth of the sun upon her face and the fullness in her heart.
She stood and raised her bottled water high, "A toast," she said as the others laid down their forks or ears of corn to raise their bottles. "To family, friends, and lovers, may we celebrate life; love strong, among one another."
"Here, here," the chorus of voices rang and bottles rapped together.
Extended Intentions comments can be sent to the bard at Jynaki@aol.com
Extended Intentions comments to the bard at Jynaki@aol.com
Return to the Academy