Morrison watched his partner out of the corner of his eye and managed not to laugh at the look of disapproval painted across the younger man's face. He had agreed to meet with the two bounty hunters mostly out of curiosity, but once he saw how much it bothered the younger detective he felt a sense of wicked glee at the prospect.

"Do you know anything about these women we're meeting?" Dodd asked grumpily, peering around the coffeehouse.

"Only their names and that they've both worked as apprehension agents," Morrison replied leaning back in his chair and taking a sip of his coffee.

"You mean bounty hunters," Dodd corrected with a frown. "Probably a couple of hardened old hags working barely within the law."

Morrison shrugged dismissively. "They have their uses. I've heard of both of them before. Darkcloud works mostly out of Spokane, but Gray is pretty well known all over." He rubbed his mustache thoughtfully. "Though I heard she had retired a couple of years back. Wonder what dragged her back in?"

Dodd's frown turned into a scowl. "Heard about them? From whom?"

"Informants on the street, other cops, the feds-"

"Feds?" Dodd interrupted in astonishment.

Morrison nodded. "Yeah the feds. Gray worked with them a couple of times. I have a buddy in the local office and he used to love to go on and on about old cases. He told me Gray helped them out when he was stationed down in Texas. Didn't give me much detail. Told me it was still classified, but that Gray was one woman he would not want to get on the wrong side of."

Dodd looked at him with disbelief evident on his face. "You can't be serious. Some female bounty hunter has a federal agent shaking in his boots?"

Morrison chuckled. "Guess we'll just have to see for ourselves, won't we?"

Dodd nodded and fell quiet with a pensive frown. Morrison had a feeling that he didn't take women too seriously as potential threats. He better learn quick or he's dead, Morrison surmised turning back to his contemplation of the room.

He noted two women step into the coffeehouse and his eyes narrowed as he studied them. Both were obviously physically fit, but in this day and age that wasn't enough to draw his attention. What did was the way both scanned the room instinctively noting escape routes and potential trouble. He grinned raising his hand to rub his mustache to hide it. Both were above average in height and wearing long black dusters that were dripping from the storm outside. The taller of the two suddenly turned and he jumped when piercing blue eyes met his and seemed to look straight into his soul. A signal seemed to pass between them-the acknowledgement of two hunters meeting on neutral territory. The tall raven-haired woman nodded minutely and released him from her gaze as she turned to say something to her companion.

"You all right?" Dodd asked.

"What? Of course," Morrison replied gruffly, trying to shake off the effect of that brief penetrating glance and wondering what she had seen. "I think they've arrived." He pointed to the two women who were now making their way towards them at the back of the coffeehouse.

Dodd turned his head and eyed the two women with a disapproving air. "They sure don't look like bounty hunters," he said out of the corner of his mouth, a note of surprise in his voice.

Morrison chuckled. "What are bounty hunters supposed to look like?"

Dodd shrugged. "I don't know, but not like that."

Morrison coughed to cover his need to laugh and stood as the two women approached their table. He noted Dodd rising beside him and was thankful the boy at least seemed to have found his manners somewhere amongst all that righteous indignation.

"Detective Morrison?" the Native American looking woman asked holding out her hand.

"Yes," Morrison said taking the offered hand. "You must be Lu Darkcloud."

Lu nodded and tilted her head to indicate the woman next to her. "This is Ashlin Gray."

Morrison extended his hand and the woman with the piercing blue eyes clasped it firmly. Their eyes met once more and Morrison fought the urge to look away first. "It's a pleasure to finally meet the infamous Gray Wolf," he said watching her stoic face for a reaction.

Ash's lips curled every so slightly at the corners and one elegant eyebrow arched. "Infamous am I?" she replied in a low melodic voice.

Dodd's eyes widened when the tall exquisite woman spoke and uttered a small gasp. Dazzling blue eyes turned to meet his and he found himself falling into their crystalline depths.

Morrison watched all this with growing amusement. Seems young Dodd has fallen under the sway of a-what did he call them?-oh yes-hardened old hag. Dodd's face was slack and Morrison half expected him to start drooling at any moment. Guess I better save the poor boy from death by embarrassment. He chuckled silently. Not what you expected at all. I have a feeling your horizons are about to be broadened-a lot! "Please be seated," Morrison said waving towards the table.

Ash turned back to him releasing poor Dodd from her basilisk like stare and gracefully took a seat across from him. Darkcloud took the seat next to her and looked up at the two detectives expectantly. "You going to stand there all day or take a seat?" she asked through an amused smile.

Morrison elbowed Dodd breaking him out of his trancelike state. Dodd blinked, blushed, and practically fell into his seat. Morrison took his seat and folded his arms before him on the table. "You said on the phone you had some information for us regarding the Reid shooting?" Morrison asked glancing between the two women wondering which one would take the lead. It was even odds, but he was betting on Gray.

The two women looked at each other and a silent conversation seemed to pass between them in that brief glance. Gray nodded slightly and Darkcloud leaned her elbows on the table and met Morrison's eyes with a serious expression. Guess I was wrong, Morrison thought as Lu began to speak.

"Ash was approached by one of her informants claiming to know who the shooter is," Lu began keeping her voice low so as to not attract attention in the crowded coffeehouse.

Morrison's eyebrow rose and he noted Dodd stiffen at his side. He surreptitiously let his hand slide off the table and come to rest on Dodd's knee giving it a warning a squeeze. "Go on," he said keeping his voice level and hoping Dodd would keep his damn mouth shut. This was the first break they'd had in this case and he wasn't going to let the rookie blow it by ruffling feathers.

"The guy has given good information before and Ash has no reason to doubt his word since she was able to confirm it with information she already possessed," Lu replied.

Dodd opened his mouth and Morrison clamped down on his knee as he said, "What information would that be?"

Dodd gave him a murderous look, but kept his mouth shut. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms across his chest defiantly. Morrison wished once again that his old partner, Grant, hadn't retired last year. He would've at least heard the woman out before going off half-cocked.

"I saw the shooter," Ash announced in a low quiet voice.

Morrison's attention was immediately drawn to her stoic features. He stared at her trying to hide his astonishment and a growing anger. If the woman had known who the damn shooter was why hadn't she come forward before now? "When?" he asked trying to keep his voice level.

"When it happened. I saw him. I chased him. He got away," Ash replied smoothly with no inflection.

"Why the hell didn't you tell the police?" Dodd burst out his voice rising not being able to hold back his indignation.

The young detective leaned menacingly over the table and Morrison thought for a moment he would start frothing at the mouth. People turned to look in their direction, but thankfully didn't seem to take much interest and returned to their own conversations when Gray didn't leap across the table and take Dodd's arrogant head off.

In fact, Gray didn't seem phased by Dodd's abrupt attack at all. She just met his angry eyes levelly with one elegant eyebrow rising in challenge. Morrison watched it all fascinated. He knew he should step in, but part of him wanted to see what Gray would do to his upstart partner. Dodd was obviously seething, but his anger seemed to roll off of Gray like water off a duck's back. He decided to just let it play out and hoped for the best.

"Well? Are you going to answer me or just sit there?" Dodd demanded through clenched teeth looming over the table and invading Ash's personal space.

Oh boy. This guy is a dumbass. Lu sat back with a malicious grin and waited for Ash to give the young pup his due. If there was one thing Ash didn't have patience for it was an upstart snot-nose telling her what she should and should not do. She noted Morrison doing much the same. Bet you're about ready for him to get the what for too. And you can't really do it, so you'll let Ash nail his ass to the wall, she thought meeting the older detective's eye and winking. Morrison winked back and a small smile tugged at his lips as he sat back and waited for things to unfold.

Morrison watched as Gray's demeanor suddenly shifted from relaxed to that of the hunter. He felt the hair on the nape of his neck stand up and a chill swept over him. Gray leaned forward ever so slightly and smiled. A smile that made Morrison swallow hard and he prayed silently that Dodd wasn't so caught up in his arrogant self-righteousness to note the change.

"I'm telling you now," Ash said in a low controlled voice her blue eyes narrowing dangerously. "The information I had was merely conjecture before and wouldn't have aided in your case."

"You should've told the officers at the site! Not gone off like some damn vigilante on a crusade!" Dodd growled his face contorted in outrage. "This is police business and it's our job to catch this guy not yours!"

Ash leaned back in her chair her face going blank. Only her eyes showed any sign of life-they were burning with an inner fire that made Morrison and Lu both cringe. Dodd seemed oblivious to the danger and continued his self-righteous harangue.

"It's your duty as a citizen to come forward with any information you possess. It's an obstruction of justice if you don't! What the hell did you think you'd accomplish by not telling us?" Dodd demanded leaning forward and pointing his finger accusatorily at Gray.

Uh oh, Lu thought letting her eyes slide to Ash's stoic face and wondering if her friend would just get up and leave at this point. She had talked Ash into coming to the police and not doing this on their own, and this rookie was proving to Ash that she was right all along.

Ash was suddenly standing before the table, Dodd's hand twisted in hers and bringing him to his knees before her. Morrison and Lu both blinked in surprise-neither had seen her move. Dodd let out a strangled gasp and raised his other hand to grab Ash's forearm, trying to pry her vise like grip away from his trapped hand. Her eyes were ablaze as she leaned over the prone Dodd and said in a cool quiet voice, "Don't you ever tell me what I have to do as a good citizen."

Morrison stood trying to block the scene from the curious restaurant patrons. Lu stood as well and laid a restraining hand on Ash's shoulder.

"Let him go, Ash," Lu pleaded quietly. "This isn't the way to go about this."

Ash held Dodd for a few more moments and then with a disgusted snort, released him. Dodd fell back clutching his injured hand to his chest his face twisted with outrage and shock at the attack.

"Arrest her, Morrison!" Dodd ordered his partner as he scooted back from the two women and began to stand.

Morrison looked at him and shook his head before turning back to the two women. "I don't think so."

Dodd began to splutter, but Morrison ignored him.

"Let's go, Lu. I told you this was a bad idea. We can just call the DA directly and see about getting a deal," Ash said flatly as she grabbed her hat from the back of her chair and turned to leave.

"Wait, please," Morrison said holding up a hand not daring to touch the woman who had so effortlessly immobilized a man that must outweigh her by a good 50 pounds.

Lu laid a restraining hand on Ash's arm. Ash halted but did not turn around. Lu met Morrison's anxious face and asked, "What?"

"My partner is a cocky ass fool who doesn't know how these things really work," Morrison explained gruffly. "I should've told him to shut the hell up before this got out of hand. That's my fault and I apologize. Please don't throw away the opportunity to get this bastard because of one self-righteous S-O-B."

Morrison fell silent and waited, praying that Gray would accept his apology and allow him to have the information. He was kicking himself for not keeping Dodd on a shorter leash, but he also didn't think Dodd would be taking women for granted any longer.

He watched as Darkcloud pulled Gray a few feet away and leaned in to talk to her in a low urgent voice. He hoped she was trying to talk Gray into talking to him. He glanced back towards Dodd and saw that the fool had gotten up off the floor and was now sitting in the chair that Gray had toppled him out of. He was glaring at Gray with sullen anger as he flexed his injured hand.

"That was really stupid, Dodd," Morrison said in a low voice turning to his partner, but keeping one eye on the conference between Darkcloud and Gray.

"Why the hell didn't you arrest her? She attacked me unprovoked!" Dodd accused angrily.

"Unprovoked? You have got to be kidding me," Morrison said shaking his head ruefully. "You took the bull by the horns and got gored, boy. Learn something from it. I tried to warn you, but you didn't listen. So take your lumps and shut the hell up."

Dodd stared at his partner a scowl darkening his features. "Well, I'm not going to be a party to this bullshit. You're on your own, partner," Dodd replied as he stood. He yanked his coat from the back of his chair and spinning on his heel stormed across the restaurant and out the door.

Morrison watched him go numbly. Guess the captain is going to have a few choice words for me once Dodd gets done filling out his report. I hope Gray agrees to give me the information. I may need it to save my ass and my job.


Morrison looked up to see Darkcloud and Gray returning to the table. "Sorry about that."

"I take it you may be in for a bit of heat at the department?" Lu asked sympathetically as she took a seat followed by Morrison and Ash.

"You could say that," Morrison replied shaking his head. "The boy needs to learn that the world isn't black and white. Especially in police work. There's a lot of gray areas."

"Well if you're willing to listen, Ash here is willing to talk to you under a few conditions," Lu said grabbing the carafe in the middle of the table and pouring a cup of coffee.

"What are the conditions?" Morrison asked accepting the cup from Lu with a nod of thanks.

"We do it my way, no questions asked," Ash said quietly meeting Morrison's eyes with obvious challenge.

"That's fine with me," Morrison replied and smiled at the evident shock on both their faces. "You're both professionals and I know your records. I want to nail this bastard and I don't have any qualms getting help wherever I can get it."

Lu relaxed noticeably and a smirk graced her lips. "Glad to hear it."

Ash nodded and leaned forward to steal Lu's coffee. "Thanks, Lu. You should pour yourself a cup. It smells great."

Lu opened her mouth to protest and then just shook her head and reached for the carafe once more. She realized that Ash swiping her coffee was a good sign-meant the wolf was back in its cage.

Morrison chuckled and let the tension drain as he realized that they were going to trust him and give him the information. He pulled out his notebook and flipped it open to a clean page. He set it before him and looked up to give his full attention to the women before him, a growing sense of excitement filling him at the prospect of wrapping up this case in time to save his career. "So what do you have to tell me?"

Ash glanced at Lu and then turned to meet Morrison's eyes calculating whether she could trust him or not. Deciding she really didn't want to have to try and fight through the red tape at the DA's office she said, "I know who the shooter is and I have a feeling I can bring him in if you don't fuck it up."

Morrison grimaced acknowledging Gray's right to doubt his abilities. "I'm willing to help. Let me know what I can do."

"First I want to be assured that you'll keep Dodd and whatever other yahoos you have working for you under control, or I walk right here," Gray said in a no nonsense tone.

Morrison nodded. "You have my word. I'll hogtie Dodd and stuff him in the trunk if I have to."

Lu chuckled. "You may have to."

Morrison smirked and shrugged. "You leave Dodd to me. He won't be an issue."

Lu glanced at Ash for her approval and felt a wave of relief when Ash nodded her agreement. "Okay. Here's the deal," Lu began, leaning forward, and resting her forearms on the table before her. "We believe that the shooter was hired and wasn't working on his own."

Morrison glanced between the two women and was assured of their sincerity. "I suspected as much."

Lu's eyebrows rose. "You did? Why?"

Morrison shrugged. "Just a hunch. I just haven't been able to piece together a motive."

"One of the guys involved wants to come forward and squeal, but he wants a deal," Darkcloud explained glancing repeatedly at Ash to be sure she approved.

Morrison sat back and rubbed his mustache as his mind whirled. "And you want the one behind the shooter, and want to see if I can maneuver a deal with the DA to get the information," he surmised.

"Basically, yeah," Lu agreed with a nod.

"What kind of deal?" Morrison asked.

Lu looked at Ash and she nodded and leaned forward. "That's just it-we don't know," Ash answered.

"What?" Morrison asked his brow furrowing.

"I know the guy I'm meeting with is involved. I saw him at the scene. I also know that the shooter is his brother. Why he came to me and not you is a mystery, but I think it's on the up and up," Ash replied.

"I take it you're not willing to give me names?" Morrison asked without much hope.

"No," Ash said shortly.

Morrison sighed. "Didn't think so."

"Ash is going to meet with him tomorrow at 2 p.m. and we need something to offer this guy or he's going to run," Lu said.

Morrison rubbed his mustache as he thought it over. He knew there was more to this than some druggie firing randomly and just happening to hit someone famous. His eyes narrowed as he studied the two attractive women before him and wondered why the hell they were involved. That part still didn't synch up. "Why are you involved in this?"

Gray stiffened and her eyes blazed once more. Lu reached out and laid a restraining hand on her arm before turning to him. "Do you really care?"

"No," Morrison said. "Just plain curious is all."

"Maybe when this is all over, we can talk about it, but not now," Lu replied releasing her hold on Ash.

"Do you think you can get the DA to help or not?" Ash asked abruptly.

"Yeah, probably. He owes me a favor," Morrison said not taking offense at Ash's impatience.

"Good. We'll call you with the details later then," Ash replied and stood to leave.

"Hey! Aren't you going to tell me where this damn meet is?" Morrison asked as he stood.

"No," Ash said in a dangerously quiet voice before placing her Stetson on her head and turning to leave.

"She's afraid some of your gunho officers will show up and blow it," Lu explained as she stood and watched with Morrison as Ash glided across the restaurant and out the front door. "I better go after her or I may find myself walking."

"She doesn't fuck around does she?" Morrison asked as he threw a handful of crumpled bills on the table and followed Lu across the crowded room.

"No. And you better pray that she doesn't see any officers anywhere near the meet or spots a tail," Lu warned as they reached the front door and paused.

Morrison nodded. "Don't worry. I'm not that stupid. I'll trust you to get the information. I have a few loose ends I need to tie up, and I'll go have a little chat with the DA while I wait for your call."

"Good," Lu said offering her hand that Morrison happily shook. "Glad we could come to an agreement."

"Me too," Morrison agreed, releasing Lu's hand and holding the door open for her. "Let me know as soon as you can what kind of deal we need so I can let Brad know. I hope Gray isn't expecting miracles or this informant of hers is expecting to get off Scott free, because Brad isn't into giving those kind of deals," Morrison warned.

"Ash knows the system. She knows what you're capable of and what's not possible," Lu assured as she stepped through the open door and glanced around for Ash. She spotted her leaning against the truck waiting. "I better get my ass in gear. We'll be in touch."

"Sounds good," Morrison said as he watched her cross the parking lot and climb into the passenger side of the large 4 X 4 black truck. I hope Brad's in a good mood. I have a feeling I'm going to have to pull out all the stops for this one. Morrison shook his head in amusement. Of course I'm sure his boss is screaming about getting this damn case closed too.

Morrison turned and made his way towards the unmarked squad car thankful that he had the keys. Guess Dodd walked, he thought with a laugh as he opened the door and slid into the driver's seat.


Roy slowly hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. Mark had come through and was able to set up the meeting with the Wolf. "Now all I have to do is talk Gary into going along with it all," Roy said thoughtfully.

"Talk Gary into what?"

Roy turned his head spotting Tommie as he entered the kitchen. Tommie looked like he had just stepped out of the shower with his hair still wet and slicked back off his face. His shirt was damp as if he hadn't fully dried himself before pulling it on. "Nothing you need to worry about," Roy replied watching his brother go to the refrigerator and pull out a beer.

Tommie popped the top off the beer and took a long draught as he leaned against the counter. "What you up to, big brother?" Tommie asked eyeing his brother suspiciously. "You've been creeping around and jumping at shadows since we got here."

"Well what the hell do you expect?" Roy demanded as he stood and made his way to the refrigerator. Seeing Tommie drinking the beer had made him thirsty. "Thanks to you we're stuck out here in the backass of nowhere waiting for the heat to die down."

"I did not fuck up!" Tommie shouted startling Roy and making him almost drop his beer.

Roy turned to stare at his brother and felt his skin crawl at the crazed look he found twisting his brother's features. "Sure, Tommie, sure," he said slowly trying to placate him.

"I saw her go down! I saw the blood!" Tommie yelled gesturing wildly with his beer and sloshing it all over the floor and down his shirt. "It was beautiful, man. You should've seen it." A maniacal glee lit up his face as his eyes glazed over. "Pow! And down she went in a spray of blood."

Roy took a long swig of his beer and nodded. "Okay, Tommie. You got her. Good job."

"Damn right I got her!" Tommie said nodding his head with vigor. "Pow!"

"Why don't you go play your game while I call Gary and take care of some business?" Roy suggested trying to sound calm as his heart hammered in his chest.

"Yeah! I just made another level! It's totally cool, Roy. You should come play with me," Tommie said enthusiastically his face suddenly switching to childlike innocence.

"Just let me make these calls first, okay?" Roy said gently turning his brother around and pushing him towards the door.

"Okay. I'll go get it started," Tommie replied practically skipping with eagerness. He stopped at the threshold of the kitchen and a scowl skittered across his face. "You are going to come play with me aren't you, Roy?"

"Yeah, Tommie. I will. As soon as I'm done here," Roy agreed.

"Promise?" Tommie asked plaintively his lip beginning to protrude like a pouty 3 year old.

"Promise," Roy said bringing up his hand and crossing his heart. "Now go get started and I'll be there in a few, okay?"

"Okay! Don't be too long!" Tommie replied as he turned and dashed down the hallway towards the back bedroom.

Roy leaned against the counter with relief and wiped the sweat from his brow. He's totally gone over the edge. Damn, but I didn't realize it hadn't gotten this bad, Roy thought his heart plummeting. I have to talk Gary into this. Tommie needs help bad. His resolve hardening he reached for the phone and dialed the number Gary had left him.


Louis rushed across the apartment and seized the phone on the fifth ring and managed a ragged hello as he collapsed into one of the barstools lining the breakfast bar.

"Louis? Is that you?"

"Harrison? Yes--sorry. Just-let-me-catch-my-breath," Louis gasped as he patted his chest breathing deep.

"Take your time," Harrison replied in his deep bass.

Louis gulped in a few more breaths of air and closed his eyes willing his heart to slow. "Sorry about that. I heard the phone from the hall and came running in here to try and catch it," Louis explained still a bit breathless as he opened his eyes and stood to make his way into the kitchen and get himself a glass of water. "What can I do for you?" "Well I was wondering if you had heard from my daughter? She had promised to give me a call and let me know how things were going, but so far I haven't heard from her," Harrison said.

Louis nearly choked on his water at the reason behind Harrison's call and quickly swallowed. "Ashlin? You're calling about Ashlin?"

Harrison chuckled. "Last time I checked, that was the only daughter I have. Have you seen her?"

"No," Louis answered his voice clipped and a touch of anger colored his tone.

"No? I thought for sure she'd contact you and Benson when she got back to Seattle. How's Lauren doing?"

"Lauren? You know about Lauren?" Louis asked surprised.

"Yes. She's all Ash could talk about while she was here. Louis, what the hell is going on? You sound upset with Ash and I'd like to know what is happening there," Harrison said in a voice that brooked no argument.

Louis scowled as he set his glass in the sink and wondered if he should tell Ash's father exactly what she had been up to and her abhorrent behavior in regards to Lauren. "Well since you asked I feel obligated to inform you that your daughter has been acting like an unmitigated ass since she got here. Lauren has been beside herself with worry--not to mention the trauma of surviving a madman shooting at her--and Ash hasn't even bothered to go see her."

"What?" Harrison roared.

Louis almost dropped the phone in shock. He fumbled the receiver and somehow managed to bring it back to his hear. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" Louis demanded clutching his chest.

"What the hell do you mean shot at?" Harrison demanded ignoring Louis's indignant response.

"You didn't know?" Louis asked surprised.

"No. Tell me what the hell you're talking about, Louis, or so help me I'll drive out there and shake it out of you," Harrison demanded.

"Don't you people get the news out there?" Louis asked in disbelief as he tried to process the very idea that Harrison had no idea about what had been going on.

"Of course we get the damn news, Louis, but why the hell would the news here be featuring a story about a shooting in Seattle?" Harrison asked with irritated sarcasm.

Louis scowled at the tone. "Maybe because a famous person was the victim that's why."

"Would you just tell me what the hell you're talking about, and what this has to do with my daughter?" Harrison asked exasperated.

Louis fought down his own rising irritation and began to explain in a slow controlled voice. "Lauren and Rachel were on campus Sunday when Alexi Reid-who just happens to be the latest rising star in jazz-came looking for them. Alexi had just stopped to speak to them when some madman came up to them and opened fire. Alexi tackled them and ended up getting shot and has been in intensive care ever since. It's been all over the news. I can't believe you haven't heard anything about it."

"My god," Harrison swore. "Are Lauren and Rachel all right?"

"Other than being scared out of their wits, yes," Louis replied.

"Where was Ash when all this happened?"

"All of us would like to know that," Louis said shaking his head once more disgusted at Benson's favorite cousin's behavior. "She hasn't shown her face since it all happened. Supposedly she's off trying to track down the madman and has dragged Benson and her friend Lu along with her."

"Lu's there?"

"Yes, she and her partner Sheila came over on Monday," Louis replied leaning against the counter and glancing at his watch. He was supposed to be at Rachel's by four and he had already been running late. It seemed the girls would just have to wait a bit longer for their necessities.

"And Ash hasn't seen Lauren at all?" Harrison asked.

"No. I don't know what the hell your daughter is doing, but she's tearing Lauren apart by her callous attitude," Louis said indignantly.

"You have her all wrong, Louis," Harrison admonished.

Louis stiffened at the tone. "What do you mean? She's gone off on some fool's errand and left Lauren beside herself in pain and worry. No, Harrison, you're daughter has acted like a selfish brute and I think Lauren is better off without her."

"You didn't see her when she was here, Louis. You didn't see how torn up she was when she found out Lauren may have been hurt in Spokane and she wasn't there. She was wallowing in guilt and self-loathing to the point that I thought she'd never find her way back. She's terrified and afraid she's let Lauren down. Don't be too hard on her. She punishes herself hard enough without anyone's help," Harrison explained sorrow coloring his every word.

Louis blushed at the dressing down and tried to open his mind to what Harrison was saying. He was still angry to the point of wanting to pummel Ash senseless, but her behavior was a bit more palatable when he knew that she wasn't as cold-hearted as she had seemed. "So why the hell hasn't she gone to Lauren?" he asked perplexed.

Harrison sighed. "Probably because she wasn't there to protect Lauren, so feels obligated to stop the guy who attempted to hurt her. She's afraid to face Lauren because she thinks Lauren will reject her and blame her for not being there-like you are."

Louis blinked at the observation. "I'm not-"

"Aren't you?" Harrison interrupted.

Louis snapped his mouth shut and thought about it. He realized that yes he did blame Ash for allowing Lauren to be put in danger, and then not being there to protect her. "You're right. I guess I was so angry and upset over Lauren that I didn't stop to think how Ash would see it all."

"Don't be cruel, Louis. Trust me, Ash is hurting just as much as Lauren. She needs to find her own way through this, but I think she'll find her way to Lauren sooner or later," Harrison said softly.

"I hope you're right, because Ash totally cutting herself off from Lauren is really tearing her up," Louis said shaking his head.

"I'm sure it's tearing Ash up just as much even if you don't see it," Harrison replied.

"I'll think about what you said and try not to judge her, Harrison, but if she doesn't get her head on straight and get her ass back to Lauren soon it may be too late," Louis said.

"I'll call her and see if I can talk some sense into her, but I'm afraid she's set on tracking this guy down and won't be swayed until she does," Harrison said.

"Well last time I talked to Benson he said they had a good lead, so hopefully it will all be over soon," Louis said trying for a note of encouragement.

"Good. I'm glad to hear Benson and Lu are with her. Maybe their presence will help her think more clearly," Harrison replied.

Louis rolled his eyes not wanting to cause Harrison anymore reason for concern so he didn't say how he doubted that anyone could talk sense into Ash's thick head. "I hope you're right. I'll tell Benson you called and maybe he can get Ash to call you if you're not able to reach her."

"Thanks, Louis. Please keep me informed to what is going on there since it seems I can't rely on Ash to do so," Harrison requested.

"Sure, I can do that. Say hello to Eleanor and the boys for us," Louis replied.

"I will. Take care and I'll talk to you soon," Harrison said.

"Bye," Louis replied and heard the distant click as Harrison hung up the phone. He lowered the phone and set it carefully on the counter his forehead furrowed in thought. The sound of the front door opening made him jump and his head snapped up to see Benson stride into the apartment. "Benson!" he shouted joyously as he scurried out of the kitchen and flung himself at his tall lover.

"Whoa!" Benson laughed as he caught Louis and lifted him into a bone-crushing embrace. "I missed you too."

Louis stood on tiptoes and placed a gentle kiss on Benson's lips. "Where's Ash and Lu? Aren't they with you?"

"No, they went to meet with the detectives in charge of the case to give them some information," Benson replied setting Louis down gently.

"Oh, well that's good. I'm glad to hear Ash has come to her senses and is letting the police handle this," Louis said with relief.

Benson glanced around the apartment not wanting Louis to read the half-truth in his eyes and spotted the bags of groceries sitting on the kitchen table. "What's all this?" he asked gesturing towards the bags as he strode towards them.

"Oh, Sheila called and asked me to pick up a few things. Seems Rachel's kitchen leaves a lot to be desired. Big surprise," Louis answered dryly. "I had just gone down to the gallery to check on a few things and had come up here to grab them when the phone rang."

"Who called?" Benson asked as he looked through the bags curiously.

"It was your uncle Harrison asking after Ash. It seems she's been a tad remiss in keeping him up to date," Louis said.

Benson glanced up from his inspection when Louis didn't continue. He saw the smug look on his lover's face and figured he was in for a shock. "And?" he prompted.

"Harrison had no idea about the shooting," Louis replied.

"How could he not know?" Benson asked surprised.

"I asked him the same thing. It seems the news hasn't reached the hinterlands," Louis said shaking his head. "Why don't you help me get these groceries down to the car and I'll tell you all about it? I'm sure the girls are starving, and you can tell me all about your great adventure with the crazy lesbians."

Benson chuckled as he gathered up the bags of groceries. "Well we do have one little job we need to do on the way out," Benson said.

"What would that be?" Louis asked looking up at his tall lover curiously.

"We get to go mess with the reporters downstairs," Benson replied with a sly wink.

"What? Why?" Louis asked puzzled.

"Ash wants to make sure they don't get wind of anything that the cops or she might be up to, so we get to play decoy and get them to follow us," Benson explained as he led the way towards the door.

"Oh, that makes sense," Louis said following in his lover's wake. "How are we going to get them to follow us?"

"I've been thinking about that on my way here," Benson said as he pulled the front door open and waved Louis through. "Let's go through the gallery and have a loud discussion about where we're headed and who we're going to go see. I have a feeling that's all it will take."

Louis giggled. "You are so devious, my love."

"Runs in the family," Benson deadpanned as he led the way downstairs.


Lauren idly ran her fingers up and down the cool leather case of Ash's guitar as she wondered where the talented musician could be. She had had a lot of time to think over the past few days and had come to the realization that she hadn't been completely fair to Ash. She had been in such a hurry to grab things she thought she would need before heading over here to Rachel's, that she hadn't realized that the note Ash had left her when she went to Spokane was with the stuff. She had found it this morning while going through her things in search of something and it had hit her like a ton of bricks. She had read and reread it a dozen times and could do nothing but sit on the bed and cry.

She loves me and I've treated her like crap, Lauren thought sadly as she wiped her nose. I shouldn't have yelled at her… I was the one who ran off to Spokane. She didn't even know I was coming. And she did leave a message on my machine-laugh-and it wasn't her fault I wasn't there to get it! Lauren sat back on the bed and sighed. Why did I blame her for that stupid car almost hitting me? It wasn't her fault… was it? She frowned as she mulled the idea over in her head. No, of course not! That's ridiculous. I overreacted. I was upset and she wasn't there, so I took it out on her when she called. Oh, Ash! Can you ever forgive me?

An errant thought intruded-but then why after the shooting didn't she come to see me? She's right here in Seattle after all. Her brow furrowed as the idea sank into her soul and her heart clenched painfully. She told you why… That was just a lame excuse! Her mind shouted in sudden anger. She could leave it to the police! She doesn't need to be out there playing the hero! I need her here! Why doesn't she understand that? She felt the tears well up once more and angrily brushed them aside.

Wait, wait! She ordered taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. We've both made mistakes. I overreacted and she's just doing what comes naturally to her. She told you she doesn't deal well with emotional stuff, so she's out doing something physical trying to "fix" things. She leaned back and thought about it and couldn't argue with the logic.

I just hope she knows what she's doing. I'm sure Lu can keep her from doing something crazy-can't she? Her heart sped up at the thought, but then Sheila's serene demeanor floated into her mind's eye. Right. Sheila wouldn't be so calm and put together if she thought Lu was in danger. She nodded. Ash is a grown woman and she has done this sort of thing before. I'm sure she's fine, she attempted to reassure herself.

Wait! I've felt her before! Her mind supplied helpfully. She bounced in excitement at the idea. Yeah, but how? Her mood deflated slightly as she racked her brain trying to remember how she did it before. The first time was when Lu got hurt, she remembered and frowned in concentration. So, I guess she has to be feeling a strong emotion? Does she feel me? She leaned back against the headboard and closed her eyes as she thought about it. Yes, I think she does. She said something about knowing I was in danger when she called me in Spokane. So if I can feel the bad stuff and she seems to be able to feel the bad stuff-doesn't that mean we should also be able to feel the good stuff? Her heart sped up at the idea. I don't see why not. So now all I have to do is figure out how to project my love and concern for her.

A knock at the door pulled her out of her musings and she opened her eyes to stare at the door curiously. "Who is it?"

The door opened and Benson's head peeked around the corner. "Hey, Irish. It's me. Mind if I come in?"

Lauren sat up and waved him in. "I don't suppose you have your cousin in your pocket?" she asked trying to make her voice light.

Benson strolled into the room and sat down on the bed next to her. "No, unfortunately I don't," he said taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "But I can tell you that her every thought has been about you."

Lauren snorted. "Sure, Ben."

Benson's eyebrow rose. "I mean it, Irish. She wants to catch this bastard so she can be with you and not be worried about some other nut job coming after you. She feels responsible for this whole mess and is trying to make it right."

"But it's not her fault! Can't she see that? I don't want her out there trying to catch this guy! I just want her to be here," Lauren cried passionately.

Benson shook his head sadly. "I know. Me too. But Ash just doesn't work that way. She feels it's her responsibility to catch this guy and no one is going to be able to talk her out of it. I tried. Lu tried. She can be pigheaded when she wants to be."

Lauren sighed and studied their clasped hands as she tried to bring her rolling emotions in line. "Benson? Can I ask you something?"

"Sure. You know you can ask me anything," Benson assured her quietly.

"Do you… do you believe in soulmates?" Lauren asked softly not daring to look up and meet Benson's eyes.

"Soulmates?" Benson repeated slowly surprised by the question. Lauren nodded. "Yeah, I believe in them. I'd like to think I found mine in Louis, but I guess only time will tell. Why? Do you think Ash may be yours?"

Lauren nodded. "I think… I think she might be." She shrugged. "So much has happened in such a short period of time that sometimes I think I'm just going crazy."

Benson nodded in understanding. "True," he agreed softly. "Want to talk to me about it?"

Lauren shrugged. "I was just thinking about it before you came in." She laughed. "To tell you the truth, that's all I've been thinking about for the last week! I was so happy when I was with her, Benson. She just makes me feel so… so… oh I don't know how to explain it!" Lauren cried exasperated. She raised her head and met compassionate blue eyes so much like Ash's that she felt a lump rise in her throat.

"I know. And I can tell you for a fact that I have never, and I do mean never, seen Ash so happy as when she was with you," Benson replied with fervor meeting almost desperate green eyes. "I've never seen her so animated and full of life. Well, not since she left home," Benson said thoughtfully scratching his beard. "You brought that back to her-that joy of life. Do you know what she told me?"

"No. What?" Lauren asked in a small voice.

"She said that you had brought joy back to her music," Benson replied reverently. "That she would always be thankful for you for that."

"Really? She said that?" Lauren asked a blush creeping up her face at the thought.

Benson nodded. "Yep. I think she's decided you're her muse."

Lauren laughed. "Oh please, Ben! Be serious!"

"I am," Benson said solemnly.

Lauren studied his serious face and saw the truth lying there. "You are serious aren't you?"

Benson nodded.

"Do you think this will ever end? Do you think we can go back to the way things were and forget about all this crap?" Lauren asked plaintively.

"I think so, Irish. I really do. She cares about you and I know you care about her. You'll work it all out. Just give yourself some time," Benson assured her with a smile.

"I love her, Ben. That's why this is so hard. I don't know where she is or if she's okay or anything!" Lauren said sniffing back a tear.

"Well, she was fine when I left her," Benson promised. "They were going to meet with the detectives about some information they had. Hopefully this will all be over by tomorrow or the next day."

"Really?" Lauren asked hopefully.

Benson laughed. "Really."

"Oh thank the gods," Lauren swore closing her eyes in gratitude. "Do you think she'll come see me then? Do you think she'll forgive me? Oh, Ben! I was so awful to her on the phone!"

"Whoa! One question at a time there," Benson chastised lightly holding up his hands to quell the barrage.

Lauren's mouth snapped shut and she blushed chagrined. "Sorry. Go on."

"First, I think it would take a force of nature to keep her from running to you once this is over. I don't think she really wants to be apart from you and it's killing her, but she feels she has to do this thing."

"I know," Lauren sighed. "I kind of figured that out."

"As for forgiving you-well I think that's going to be a two way street," Benson said thoughtfully. "After hearing what Louis told me Harrison said-"

"What? Who's Harrison?" Lauren interjected sitting up straight and leaning forward curiously.

"He's Ash's dad. He called looking for her right before we left to come over," Benson explained. "I guess he was worried since he hadn't heard from her and he gave Louis a tongue lashing he's not likely to forget anytime soon!"

"He yelled at Louis? Why?" Lauren asked confused.

"I guess Louis came down pretty hard on the way Ash has been acting and Harrison pulled him up short and set him straight on a few things," Benson replied.

"What did he say? Harrison I mean?" Lauren asked curiously.

"Oh, that Louis was being too hard on her and that he needed to lighten up. I guess Ash really fell apart in Montana when she was at their place when she found out about what happened to you in Spokane," Benson explained quietly. "Harrison told Louis to be so judgmental of Ash. She was good enough at beating herself up without his help."

"Wow. Really?" Lauren asked softly.

"Yeah." Benson nodded. "Ash has always taken responsibility for things. Even when what happened was an accident and nothing could've prevented it. I guess Harrison was really worried about her and wanted to know what was going on. He asked after you too."

"Me?" Lauren asked pointing to herself in surprise.

Benson chuckled. "Yeah you. Seems you were all Ash could talk about while she was there. I guess the news of the shooting hadn't reached there yet and Harrison was a bit surprised by that. Of course he knew exactly what Ash would do and told us to just let her do it."

Lauren shook her head in wonderment. "Not like we could stop her."

"True," Benson replied with a laugh. "Feeling better now?"

Lauren took stock of herself and found to her surprise that she did feel better. Hope had returned and a growing anticipation of seeing Ash again was well on its way to eclipsing all the trepidation and fears. "Yeah, I think so," Lauren replied with a small smile. "I just hope Ash gives me the chance to explain."

"Oh, I'm sure she will," Benson assured. "Why don't we go out and see what Louis and Sheila have managed to rustle up for dinner and I'll regale you of my exploits with the dangerous duo?"

Lauren giggled. "Dangerous duo, huh?"

"Oh yeah," Benson said nodding his head emphatically. "Those two are definitely not to be taken lightly. I almost feel sorry for the bad guys."

Lauren shook her head as she pulled herself off the bed and stretched. "Well, I'm looking forward to hearing about it. I'd like to know what Ash is up to and I'm sure Sheila is worried about Lu."

"Let's go then," Benson said rising from the bed and leading the way towards the door. "If all goes as planned, this should be over by tomorrow night at the latest."

"I hope so," Lauren prayed as she followed Benson from the room.


Judith yawned and glanced at her watch to see it was just after eleven. The doctor had assured her that Alexi would more than likely wake up this morning and she was starting to get impatient. She glanced at the still body of her lover and frowned. Wake up, Alexi! Damn it! I have things to do! Judith angrily thought as she gently took Alexi's hand in hers and brought it to her lips for a kiss.

Alexi moaned and her eyes fluttered. Judith leaned forward eagerly. Come on, come on! Just open your eyes, she thought impatiently as she watched Alexi struggle to consciousness. She quickly schooled her features to one of concern as Alexi's deep brown eyes fluttered open.

Alexi blinked and finally focused on Judith. Judith smiled. "Are you with me, honey?" she whispered softly, stroking Alexi's hand.

Alexi stared at her blankly for a moment and then gave a minute nod.

"Good! Do you remember anything? Do you know where you are?" Judith asked in a soft urgent voice as she studied Alexi's face for any significant change.

Alexi's brow furrowed as she thought. Her eyes came up and met Judith's with a pleading look.

"Oh honey! I'm sorry! I forgot you can't talk right now!" Judith apologized shaking her head as her mind whirled trying to think of a way for Alexi to convey information to her. "Ummm, how about I ask you yes or no questions and you can just squeeze my hand for yes, okay?"

Alexi squeezed her hand and Judith grinned. "Good! Okay, do you know where you are?"

Alexi frowned and then squeezed her hand.

"Do you know why you are here?" Judith leaned forward and met Alexi's eyes with a piercing stare.

Alexi's eyes closed and then she gently squeezed Judith's hand.

"You were shot on campus, Alexi. You went there for some reason. Do you remember why?" Judith asked pointedly.

Alexi's eyes flickered open and met Judith's cold penetrating stare. She swallowed painfully, but did not squeeze Judith's hand.

Judith scowled. "You don't remember going to the campus?"

Alexi managed to minutely shake her head.

Judith sighed and reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose as she thought about what to ask next. "Why don't you squeeze my hand twice for no? Moving your head must be painful," she suggested leaning forward once more with a look of concern plastered across her features.

Alexi squeezed her hand once and closed her eyes.

"No! Alexi, stay awake!" Judith ordered panic rising. Alexi's eyes slowly opened as she squeezed Judith's hand once more in reassurance. "Oh good! You're still with me!"

Alexi mouth turned up slightly at the edges as she squeezed Judith's hand. She was terrified as she looked at the statuesque blonde sitting next to her bed. I should've realized she'd be here, she berated herself as she tried to fight through the drug haze and keep her wits about her as Judith began questioning her once more.

"Do you remember what happened?" Judith pressed earnestly.

Alexi squeezed her hand twice, praying that Judith would believe her.

"Nothing?" Judith demanded in a low voice, studying Alexi's face for any sign of falsehood.

Alexi squeezed Judith's cool hand twice more. Where's a nurse when I need her? She thought with growing agitation. I don't know how long I can keep this up! I'm so weak! What if she realizes I'm lying? What have the doctors told her? She closed her eyes once more to buy herself some time as she struggled to remember. What had that doctor said to her? She chased the elusive memory down and quickly examined it. She sighed in relief as she realized that the doctor had given her the perfect out. He had told Judith that there was a chance her memory would be affected due to her injuries. Oh thank god! Now I just have to pray she believes me!


Alexi slowly opened her eyes and met the deep brown of Judith's and wondered how she could've missed the calculating coldness in their depths. She squeezed Judith's hand to let her know she was still awake and waited with growing fear for the next barrage of questions.

"You don't remember going to campus or why?" Judith asked wanting to make sure.

"No," Alexi answered in the established signal.

"Do you remember why you came home from the shoot early?"

Alexi frowned and decided to answer in the positive. That had happened before the shooting and she didn't think that her "memory lapse" would cover that.

"Damn! I wish there was some way you could talk!" Judith said frustrated by the circumstances. She struggled for some way to discover when Alexi got home. "Did you come home before going to campus?"

Alexi felt the sweat break out on her forehead. "No," she finally replied as she tried to think of where she could've been instead.

Judith sighed inwardly in relief and then frowned as a thought struck her. "Where did you go then?"

Alexi looked at her helplessly unable to answer and Judith swore under her breath.

"Sorry. Yes or no questions only. Okay," Judith said. "Did you go somewhere with your agent?"

Alexi jumped on the idea and quickly answered in the affirmative.

"So you went somewhere with Malcolm?"


"Back to the agency?"


"Why did you go to campus then?" Judith demanded her eyes narrowing dangerously.

Alexi's eyes widened as fear swept through her. She had no way to alleviate Judith's suspicions and she realized she was extremely vulnerable and at Judith's mercy. How could I have not seen how crazy she is? She wondered desperately as she stared into the crazed eyes of the woman she had been sharing her life with for the last year. Was I that desperate to have someone in my life that I never saw it?

Judith noted Alexi's discomfort and leaned forward to give her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'm sorry, darling. I know you don't remember why you went. I'm just curious," Judith said giving her a bright smile.

Alexi squeezed Judith's hand briefly and wished for anyone to come in and save her from Judith's interrogation. The drugs were making her feel fuzzy and she was terrified she'd slip up and give herself away. And god only knows what Judith would do then, she thought as she met Judith's eyes once more and shivered.

"The doctor told me it was likely you would have no memory of what happened," Judith explained as she carefully tucked the blanket around Alexi. "So don't go worrying your pretty little head about it."

Alexi tried to relax and smiled as Judith sat back and took her hand once more.

"I guess we may never know," Judith sighed shaking her head regretfully.

Alexi closed her eyes in relief. It seemed her ruse had worked and Judith was satisfied with her answers. As soon as I can, I have to let someone know what I know. But how? Judith will probably be here twenty-four seven. She was pulled out of her thoughts by the sound a knock at the door and Judith telling someone to come in. She slowly opened her eyes and spotted a silver streaked dark haired man in a rumpled suit in the doorway. He looks like a cop, Alexi thought as a wave of relief washed over her. About time the cavalry showed up. Now how do I tell him Judith is a psycho and get her the hell away from me?

"The doctor informed me that Miss Reid would be awake today," the cop said as he turned towards the bed and met Alexi's eyes. "Ah, you're awake. I'm detective Frank Morrison. I've been assigned to your case," he said as he stepped to the side of her hospital bed and gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"She doesn't remember anything," Judith said scowling at the detective.

"Oh?" Morrison asked his eyebrow rising. "Well, I'd like to hear that for myself if you don't mind, Miss Sinclair."

"She just woke up and is weak. Do you really need to come in here and start barraging her with questions?" Judith demanded standing up and clutching Alexi's hand painfully.

Morrison glanced to Alexi and then back to the defiant Judith. "Just a few questions I assure you," Morrison said placatingly. " I can see that Miss Reid is still exhausted by this ordeal."

"Fine. Ask," Judith said taking her seat once more and shooting daggers at the detective. She smoothed her face and smiled warmly at Alexi. "All right, honey. Just answer the officer's questions and he'll go away."

Alexi slowly turned her head and met the concerned blue eyes of the detective. She let all the fear and helplessness well up in her eyes and prayed the detective would see it. Please, please, for the love of god! Get this woman away from me! She begged with her eyes.

Morrison held Alexi's eyes and frowned slightly reaching up to rub his mustache in an unconscious gesture of thought. "Miss Reid, do you remember anything about the shooting?"

"No," Judith interjected.

"I didn't ask you," Morrison reprimanded Judith his eyes never leaving Alexi.

Judith snorted derisively. "Look. It's very hard for her to communicate and she obviously can't speak. I've already asked these questions so why don't you just let me tell you what she said and save her the struggle of trying to answer you for herself?" Judith asked glaring coldly at Morrison for his insensitivity.

Morrison sat back and rubbed his mustache thoughtfully. "And how did she answer you, Miss Sinclair?"

"We worked out a signal system for yes and no," Judith replied and then scowled darkly. "But that's besides the point. Alexi told me she didn't remember anything about the shooting, or even why she went to campus. The last thing she remembers is returning from her shoot and going to the agency with her agent Malcolm."

"I see," Morrison said jotting down a few notes. He looked up and met Alexi's eyes once more and gave her a small smile and nod. "Well, I can see you're exhausted, Miss Reid. I'll come back later when you don't have"-he glanced significantly at Judith and then back to Alexi-"so much company. Rest well."

Alexi felt a small glimmer of hope take flight as Morrison stood and exchanged farewells with Judith. Did he understand? Did that comment mean he knows about Judith? She pondered it as she listened to Judith escort the detective out of the room and return to the side of her bed and sit down.

"Glad he's gone. I doubt he could find his ass with both hands," Judith grumbled.

Alexi felt her hand lifted and placed in Judith's once more. She fought the urge to pull it away and kept her eyes shut feigning sleep. She could feel Judith's eyes on her and struggled to keep her breathing even.

"Well, I guess I should've expected you to fall back to sleep," Judith said quietly as she released Alexi's hand now that there was no reason to keep up the premise. "I think I'll go make a few phone calls and then see if you remember anything else when you wake up."

Alexi listened as Judith stood and made her way out of the room. She cracked her eyes open and was relieved to see the room empty. Now how am I going to get that detective back here and let him know what I know? Judith has to be stopped!


Morrison strolled down the hospital corridor deep in thought. He could've sworn he had seen stark terror in Alexi's eyes and he'd bet his badge it was not to find herself in the hospital-but the woman sitting beside her that caused the anxiety.

"Morrison, wait up!"

Morrison turned at the sound of his name and saw his wayward partner trotting down the hall. Oh great. Now what? He inwardly grumbled as he waited for the younger man to catch up with him.

"Did you speak with Miss Reid?" Dodd asked as he came even with Morrison.

"Yeah," Morrison answered shortly as he turned and continued down the hallway with Dodd falling into step next to him.

"Why didn't you wait for me?" Dodd asked

Morrison stopped short and gave him an incredulous look. "You're kidding me, right?"

Dodd met Morrison's gaze and then bowed his head to inspect his highly polished shoes. "No. I mean I am your partner and on this case. I should've been included in the interview."

Morrison snorted. "After your display yesterday? I figured you'd be busily writing up a report to the Captain and yelling about injustice and how I was a no good cop."

Dodd had the grace to blush before he raised his head and met his partner's eyes. "Well, I had a bit of time to think about it all while I was walking back to the station," he said quietly. His lips curled into a small smile. "Never realized what a long walk in a rain storm could do for my common sense."

Morrison rocked back on his heels and crossed his arms waiting for Dodd to continue.

"I realized that you're the senior here and you probably know what the hell you're doing," Dodd said and Morrison nodded in agreement. Encouraged Dodd continued, "So I thought about it and realized that solving the case and getting this nut job off the street was the main goal. How we go about it really shouldn't matter as long as it gets done."

Morrison chuckled in surprise. "Well, you're learning, kid," he said reaching out and patting Dodd on the shoulder. "I do suggest that you don't be so presumptuous about someone's abilities just because they're good looking."

"Good looking?" Dodd questioned with a shake of his head. "Damn, Frank! Are you blind? That woman could be a model or something. You're right. I shouldn't have been so careless."

Morrison cocked an eyebrow at him and waited. Dodd blushed and shrugged embarrassed.

"Okay, okay or so self-righteous and uptight," Dodd said.

"You just might make it to retirement then," Morrison replied as he started down the corridor once more.

Dodd fell into step next to him and asked, "So what did Reid tell you?"

"Not much. Seems she doesn't remember a thing according to Miss Sinclair," Morrison informed him with a frown.

"Somehow I don't think you're telling me everything," Dodd replied eyeing his partner knowingly.

Morrison shrugged. "Sinclair did most of the talking. Seemed she has asked Reid some questions when she first woke and was adamant that I didn't tire her by going over the same old thing. I just seemed to me that Miss Reid was terrified of Sinclair. Something in her eyes…" he trailed off as his thoughts turned inward.

Dodd pulled Morrison to a stop and met his annoyed blue eyes. "Wait. Are you trying to tell me that you think Reid is afraid of her lover?"

"That's exactly what I'm telling you," Morrison replied gruffly. "I could tell she wanted to talk to me, but her eyes kept sliding to Sinclair and she was afraid, Joel. Flat out terrified."

Dodd frowned. "Why would that be?"

"I don't know but I mean to find out," Morrison swore emphatically.

"Hey, what's going on with those bounty hunters?" Dodd asked.

"Gray is going to meet with the brother today around two, and no I don't know where so don't ask," Morrison replied.

"Did you find out what that whole deal thing was about?"

"Some," Morrison said as he stepped into the lobby of the hospital and noting the chaos quickly turned to the side to skirt the lobby. "I need to call Darkcloud and let her know what Brad arranged."

Dodd nodded following his partner as he glanced around the lobby and wondered what the hubbub was about. He spotted a few cameras and then saw a press pass and groaned. "What's the press doing here?"

Morrison paused and looked around the crowded lobby. "Guess that guy," he pointed to a bespectacled black man in a pristine three-piece suit standing behind a podium, "is going to make some kind of statement." He squinted trying to bring the man into focus. "I think he's the press agent for Reid's label. Probably going to let the press know about her condition."

"Think we should stick around and here what he has to say?" Dodd asked completely forgetting about the bounty hunters as his interest focused on the scene before him.

Morrison thought about it for a moment and then nodded. "Might as well."

The two officers slid around the periphery of the crowd until they were next to the stage where the press agent was set up and attempting to quiet the crowd so he could make his statement.

"Ladies and gentleman if you'll please settle down I will make my statement," the officious looking man said into the microphone. Feedback reverberated through the speakers in a high-pitched whine causing people to wince and a few to clap hands over their ears. The man stepped back and smoothed his tie nervously as he motioned to a tech to come look at the microphone.

The tech rolled his eyes and said something to the man that was inaudible to the officers. The man straightened his tie as he nodded and then stepped towards the microphone to a barrage of questions from the gathered press.

"Is Miss Reid out of ICU?"

"Will she be able to sing again?"

"Why was she on campus?"

The questions overlapped as reporters yelled and shoved forward trying to get the man to answer their questions. The man adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. "Please, if you'll just give me a moment," he said into the microphone.

The reporters began to quiet, tossing out only a few more questions, before they fell silent.

"Thank you," the man said glancing down at the podium and shuffling the papers there. "I have a prepared statement and will not be answering any questions today."

A general groan went up from the gathered reporters at the announcement. Morrison glanced at Dodd and gave him a knowing wink. Dodd grinned back.

"Alexi Reid is out of ICU and seems to be recovering nicely. She is conscious and healing well. The injuries to her throat were severe but the doctors are optimistic for a full recovery," the man said reading from his notes.

"Who were the other women involved?" a foolhardy reporter yelled out.

Morrison scanned the crowd, but couldn't pinpoint the source of the question. "I was afraid of that," he murmured to Dodd.

Dodd nodded as he too began to scan the crowd.

The agent cleared his throat once more before continuing. "The shooting is still under investigation by the police and no information will be released until it is final."

Morrison sighed in relief. He had hoped that the record company would take the police ban seriously, but sometimes they didn't listen and valuable information was released making his job that much tougher.

"Thank you for your time. I'll keep you updated as information becomes available," he said as he stepped back from the podium. A din rose from the gathered reporters as a few more questions were tossed out which the agent ignored.

"Guess that's it," Dodd said watching the agent leave the stage surrounded by security to keep the eager reporters at bay.

"Yeah. Let's get out of here before one of them recognizes us and comes after us," Morrison said as he turned to head for the door.

Dodd nodded as he followed his partner through the crush of reporters and out into the overcast day.


Lu snapped the cell phone closed and stuffed it back into her pocket. "That was Morrison," she said as she walked over to where Ash was scanning the crowd around the Space Needle.

"And?" Ash said her eyes never leaving the flow of people.

"He got an open ended deal from the DA. Basically if Roy sings he'll get a suspended sentence and probation," Lu replied glancing around the courtyard. "Sure am glad it stopped raining."

Ash nodded. "What time you got?"

Lu glanced at her watch and replied, "Quarter to two."

"Guess I better get up there," Ash remarked nodding towards the Needle.

"Guess so," Lu replied. "You want me to do anything?"

"No," Ash replied shaking her head. "I checked out the perimeter when we got here. I don't think we were followed and I didn't spot any cops other than the uniforms who would normally be here. I think Morrison was true to his word."

"Figured he would be," Lu said. Ash turned to look at her and Lu shrugged. "He's a good cop. He knows the score. He just has an idiot partner."

Ash let a small smile grace her lips. "True."

"I'll wait for you here," Lu said leaning back against a convenient railing. "You better get going."

Ash grinned openly and nodded. "Keep your eyes opened."

Lu rolled her eyes and made a shooing motion. "Get out of here. I know what I'm doing."

Ash laughed as she turned and walked towards the base of the Needle. A growing sense of anticipation tingled through her body and the idea that this would really be over soon was taking hold in her heart. Then I can find Lauren and beg her forgiveness and get on with my damn life, she thought happily. She waited patiently in line to get her ticket to go up to the top of the attraction and hoped Roy would be prompt. I hate waiting. He damn well better be on time! If he makes me wait… I may just have to hurt him, she joked to herself as she smiled at the attendant handing him her money.

She rode the elevator to the top and stepped out into the brisk day. She scanned the crowd and quickly spotted Roy Marino twenty feet away leaning against the railing and looking nervous. She strolled towards him studying him as she approached. He looks like death warmed over. Looks like he hasn't been sleeping and if the blood shot eyes are any clue, he's been drinking his dinner, she surmised as she stopped a few feet away.

His eyes met hers and he gave her a nervous smile. "Glad you made it," he said waving her forward.

Ash stepped forward and casually leaned against the rail looking around like she was sightseeing. "You asked me to be here, so talk," Ash said quietly.

"First you have to give me your word," Roy said nervously as he too turned and leaned against the rail.

Ash's eyebrow rose, but her posture didn't change. "My word? For what?"

"That you'll do what I ask," Roy replied swallowing nervously. He knew he was playing with fire, but he had to get her word to help Tommie or this was all for nothing.

"Tell me what you want and I'll let you know," Ash said giving Roy a sidelong glance.

"I… I don't want much. It's just that Tommie's sick. I want him to go to a doctor not jail," Roy gushed nervously running his fingers through his hair.

Ash managed not to laugh out right in surprise at the request. "You want me to get Tommie into a doctor? Is that right?"

"Yeah," Roy replied nodding his head vigorously. "He's not right in the head. Locking him up isn't going to do him any good. He needs help. You give me your word he'll go to a doctor and not jail, and I'll give you the information and Tommie."

Ash lowered her head letting her hair drape her face to hide it as she thought it over. It seemed reasonable enough. She didn't really care about Tommie and if all she had to do was make sure he saw a doctor instead of the inside of a prison cell she was willing to do that. Especially if the information Roy had is what she thought it was. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as an image of Judith entered her mind's eye. I have you, Judith. You're not going to get away with it.

"What about you, Roy? What do you want?" she asked turning her head to appraise him.

Roy shook his head. "I want forty-eight hours to clear out."

Ash chuckled. "You can't be serious? I can't let you go, Roy."

Roy's face turned stubborn as he crossed his arms across his chest. "I'll give you Tommie, the gun he used, and the information about who hired us. I just want a forty-eight hour head start. If you or the cops catch me after that-then you got me fair and square."

Ash turned and leaned against the railing as she thought it over. She didn't give a rat's ass about Roy or Tommie. It wasn't her job to bring him in-not anymore. Let the cops chase his ass down if they want to, she thought. Tommie should be able to corroborate Roy's story and with the weapon Morrison shouldn't have any problem with getting the DA to agree to the deal. Besides, if Roy thinks he's sick-she glanced at Roy nervously shuffling back and forth-then he probably is. Probably wants him to go to rehab for the drugs. That shouldn't be too hard to arrange. And once Tommie tells what he knows-Judith will be on her way to a cellblock. A feral grin graced her lips at the thought of Judith behind bars. Roy's not asking for me not to have Tommie prosecuted--just to get him help first.

"Okay, Roy," Ash said causing Roy to jump nervously.

"You'll give me your word?" Roy asked eyeing her hopefully.

"Yes. I give you my word that I'll make sure Tommie goes to the doctor's first and I'll allow you a forty-eight hour head start. After that, all bets are off," Ash replied.

"Okay! Great!" Roy said with a grin.

Ash held up her hand to forestall him. "But, I want Tommie, the gun, and the information tonight at the latest."

Roy frowned. "Umm, okay. I think we can do that. Can you give me a moment to make a call and see what I can arrange?"

Ash nodded and Roy spun on his heel and walked a few feet away pulling out a cell phone. Ash glanced around the platform and people watched as she waited. The reality of the possibility of this really being over as early as tonight began to sink in and she fought a losing battle with the grin that wanted to appear. I'll be able to go and see Lauren and explain everything to her, she thought gleefully feeling her heart speed up at the thought of seeing the woman she loved again. Gods, I hope she'll understand. Her smile slipped for a moment. No, she'll understand once I explain everything. She loves me she said so. Her heart skipped a beat and a warm wave washed over her. She loves me! And I love her. Gods, do I love her. I'll make this right and we can put this all behind us and move forward. If-if she wants to that is.


Ash glanced back at the sound of Roy's voice and met his nervous brown eyes. "What?"

"I talked to my people and it's a go," Roy replied coming to stand beside her.

"Where and when?" Ash asked shortly.

"Tonight. Late. They were going to move us anyway and we'll just lose the guards and meet up with you. Here," Roy said holding out a folded piece of paper.

Ash reached out and took it from him noting how his hands shook slightly. She opened it and saw that it was directions. She read over them quickly and nodded. "What time?"

"Two. That will give us enough time to lose the tail and get there," Roy replied rocking back on his heels.

Ash nodded. "Okay," she said as she stood upright and pinned Roy with a steely glare. "Don't fuck with me, Roy. You better be there with the information and Tommie or I'll hunt you down. You got me?"

Roy's eyes widened and he quickly nodded. "Sure, Wolf. I'll be there. I won't screw you over. I swear," he promised taking a nervous step back.

"Good. See you tonight then," Ash replied as she turned on her heel and headed for the elevator.

Roy watched her go swallowing his fear. He prayed he'd done the right thing. Hell, it was the only thing I could've done! The family was going to kill Tommie. At least this way he has a chance, he thought as he watched the lethal dark haired woman step into the elevator and disappear from view.

Ash walked across the parking lot towards an impatiently waiting Lu.

"Well?" Lu demanded striding towards her.

"Done deal," Ash replied with a grin. "We'll pick him up tonight and this will be over."

"Hot damn!" Lu crowed doing a little gig.

Ash laughed at her friend's antics and felt almost giddy with the idea of getting to go see Lauren. "Let's go call Morrison and see how we need to go about this."

"Yeah. I'll need to call Sheila too. When we going home?" Lu asked as she pulled out her cell phone.

Ash frowned thoughtfully. "Well, the meet is at 2 tonight. If all goes well we should be able to have breakfast with them don't you think?"

Lu grinned. "I was hoping you'd say that. I miss that woman of mine."

Ash shook her head as she headed towards where her truck was parked. "Yeah, I miss mine too," she said softly.

"What was that?" Lu asked trotting up to walk beside her the cell phone pressed to her ear.

"Nothing," Ash replied waving her hand for emphasis. "Just talking to myself."

"Oh okay," Lu said absently as she listened to the phone ring. "Sheila? Yes, honey, it's me."

Ash grinned as she lengthened her stride to give Lu some privacy. She stepped around the side of her truck and quickly unlocking the door slid into the comfortable confines. She leaned her head against the steering wheel and let all the conflicting emotions flow over her.

Twelve more hours and I'll have Tommie. Then we'll just have to turn him over to Morrison and give him the info and we can go to Rachel's. This will all be over, she thought with joy. She let her mind toy with the dream of knocking on Rachel's door and having Lauren answer it. Seeing Lauren's surprise and joy at seeing her and being able to sweep her into her arms and kiss her passionately. I want that so much it hurts, she thought longingly.

The door of the truck opened and Lu swung up into the passenger seat. Ash sat up and smiled in welcome. "Here, Lauren wants to talk to you," she said holding out the phone.

Ash blinked in surprise and took the phone from Lu's outstretched hand. Her heart was pounding so hard she didn't think she'd be able to hear anything else. She brought the phone to her ear and found that her mouth had suddenly gone dry. "Hello," she managed to croak.

"Hi, honey. How are you doing?" Lauren's sweet voice asked through the phone causing Ash's throat to tighten as what felt like her heart leapt into it.

"I'm… I'm good," Ash replied feeling like she was drifting outside herself and watching the events unfold.

"Lu was saying you're going to get this guy tonight and then this will be over," Lauren said softly. "Will you be coming home then?"

Ash swallowed trying to dislodge her heart. "Yes, I think so."

"Good. I miss you."

"I… I miss you too," Ash said inwardly shouting at herself to snap out of it and talk to her.

"Don't forget we have a date on Saturday."

"Saturday?" Ash mumbled stupidly as her thoughts ran around in circles.

"The Halloween party. You do remember don't you?" Lauren asked hesitantly.

"Oh! The party! Of course I remember," Ash hurriedly reassured her smacking the side of her head for being such an idiot. "I wouldn't miss it."

"Did you find a costume?" Lauren asked.

Ash grinned. "Oh yeah. I think you'll really like it," she replied as the sound of Lauren's voice soothed her aching heart.


"Yes, honey?" Ash asked seeing Lu clap a hand over her mouth to stifle her chuckles out of the corner of her eye. She turned slightly away from her guffawing friend and ignored her.

"Be careful, okay? I know you know what you're doing, but I really don't want to find any more scars on that body of yours, okay?" Lauren said quietly.

Ash felt the tears sting her eyes at concern and love evident in Lauren's gentle voice. "I promise. No more scars," Ash whispered, wiping at her eyes.

"See you soon, honey. I love you."

"Love you too. Soon, I promise," Ash swore as she flipped the phone close and leaned her head back letting her eyes close.

"You okay?"

Ash turned her head and opened her eyes to meet Lu's concerned face. "Yeah."

"Sorry about the not warning you, but I was afraid you'd blow me off," Lu apologized.

Ash grinned. "That's okay. I'll let you live this time."

Lu chuckled. "Well let's go get this over with so we can get back to our lady loves."

"Sounds like a plan," Ash agreed as she started the engine and pulled out of the parking spot.


Part 19

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