Lauren hung up the phone and turned to meet the smiling, dark eyes of Sheila. She grinned and walked over to sink onto the couch next to her.
"I take it all is well?" Sheila asked with a small smile; eyeing the practically glowing Lauren.
"Oh yeah. Everything's great," Lauren replied with a heartfelt sigh.
Sheila laughed and patted Lauren's knee. "Good to hear. Now what was that about Saturday and a costume?"
Lauren giggled. "Oh, some friends of mine are throwing a Halloween party and before all this began I asked Ash if she'd like to go. She said yes, so I was just asking her if she had found a costume and hadn't forgotten."
"I see. And has she got a costume?" Sheila asked marveling at how one simple phone call from Ash had invigorated the despondent young woman.
"She said she did and that I'd like it," Lauren replied her eyes dancing with barely contained joy. "I can't wait to see what she's come up with. Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do."
"You don't have a costume yet?" Sheila asked surprised.
"Well… no… not really," Lauren said with a slight blush. "I was just going to throw on a toga or something and call it good, but now with Ash coming I've been rethinking that."
"Any clue as to what she's going as?" Sheila asked.
Lauren threw up her hands in exasperation. "Not a clue!"
Sheila laughed. "Well, knowing Ash it could be anything."
"I know and I really want to look good for her," Lauren said her brow furrowing in thought. "Got any ideas?" "Hmmm, I think Rachel would be the better one to ask, but I'm sure we can come up with something that will knock Ash's socks off," Sheila said.
"Speaking of Rachel, where the heck is she?" Lauren asked glancing around the cluttered living room for her missing friend.
"Oh, she went downstairs to see if the reporters were still out there," Sheila replied, shaking her head. "She said something about messing with their minds and I didn't ask anything further."
"Oh boy," Lauren said rolling her eyes as she wondered what her crazy friend could be up to.
"I'm sure they'll live," Sheila reassured with a sly wink.
Lauren giggled. "Yeah, question is will they want to when she's through with them?"
The two women's eyes met and they began to giggle at the image of Rachel stalking the poor unsuspecting reporters and wreaking havoc on them.
"What did Lu have to say?" Lauren asked as her laughter finally started to subside.
"Not much," Sheila replied with a shrug. "Just that they'd be picking up the shooter tonight and that they were able to get the detective in charge to go along with it. I guess the detective talked to the DA and worked something out."
A surge of anxiety shot through Lauren at the thought of Ash confronting the man who had only days before fired a gun at her. "You don't think Ash will do something crazy do you?"
Sheila's brow furrowed as she thought about it. She was hoping that Lu had been honest with her when she said that Ash seemed to be keeping it together and wasn't on a vengeance kick. "No, I don't think so. Lu seemed pretty relaxed and was even joking about it. I don't think she'd be that laid back if things were going badly. How did Ash sound?"
"To be honest, a bit dazed. I think Lu blindsided her by handing her the phone," Lauren replied a thoughtful look descending on her gentle face.
"Wouldn't surprise me. Lu told me she's been trying to get Ash to call you for days and Ash always managed to wiggle out of it. She probably just handed her the phone and said, here," Sheila said shaking her head at her oh so subtle partner.
"But why wouldn't she want to talk to me?" Lauren asked a tendril of doubt marring her happiness.
"I think she was afraid, honey," Sheila soothed giving Lauren's knee a reassuring squeeze.
"Afraid of what?" Lauren questioned meeting Sheila's sympathetic eyes with a look of confusion.
"Afraid of you being angry. Afraid of being distracted by thoughts of you at a critical moment," Sheila explained and then shrugged. "Ash is a very complex woman and I don't fully understand what moves her to do things, but I think she's afraid of getting sidetracked and for some unknown reason she feels it's her responsibility to catch this guy."
Lauren nodded. "That's basically what Benson told me yesterday. That Ash takes on responsibility for things even when it's not her fault or even her duty." Lauren fell silent as her mind turned inward thinking about how much she still needed to learn about the woman she loved. She so wanted the chance to delve into all those layers. She looked up to see Sheila patiently waiting for her to come back. "Sorry, guess I got lost there for a moment."
"That's okay," Sheila said with a gentle smile.
"I just want to put this all behind us and move on. I love being with her. The way she makes me feel when we're together is indescribable," Lauren lamented with a sigh.
Sheila chuckled. "Oh I think I can relate. She makes you feel giddy and like your walking on air. She makes your heart race and your blood pound when her eyes meet yours. She kisses you and you feel like the world disappears and your brain is going to explode."
"Wow! You nailed it," Lauren replied in astonishment.
Sheila laughed at the look on Lauren's face. "I should, that's exactly how Lu makes me feel."
"Really?" Lauren asked curiously.
"Since the day we met, Lu has set my heart racing and made me ache to be near her. I hate it when we're apart even for a few hours," Sheila explained, quiet joy lighting up her face at the thought of her lover.
"That's exactly how Ash makes me feel. When I woke up and she was gone, I felt like a part of me was missing," Lauren said her eyes glazing slightly as she considered. "A part of me that I didn't even know was missing until I met her."
"I know," Sheila said quietly.
Lauren's eyes focused and she smiled. "Guess we're both in the same boat then. I just hope Ash and I end up as happy as you and Lu."
"Well it's not all roses and fireworks," Sheila warned gently. "We have our disagreements and misunderstandings."
"True, but you always work it out right?" Lauren asked.
"Yes," Sheila nodded. "Half the battle is knowing your own faults and getting to know your partner's. I have a horrible temper and will blow up and Lu will just let me be until I can think reasonably again. Then she'll come talk to me."
"You have a temper?" Lauren asked incredulously.
Sheila laughed. "Oh yeah. I see red and start screaming in Chinese and Lu knows that's her cue to make herself scarce."
Lauren giggled. "Somehow I have a hard time picturing that." Sheila looked at her curiously and Lauren attempted to explain. "It's a bit hard to wrap my mind around the image of you caterwauling like a fish wife and oh so butch Lu ducking for cover."
Sheila roared with laughter at the analogy. "Well I wouldn't go that far, but I guess it's not far from the truth."
"I have the Irish temper that's for sure. And Ash has gotten the rough edge of my tongue already because of it," Lauren said sadly.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much. Once you two start seeing each other on a regular basis and getting to know one another's quirks, she'll understand that she just needs to let you cool off and then come back and talk with you," Sheila assured her. "I bet you always feel horrible after you rip into her, right?"
Lauren nodded. "Oh yeah, once the anger passes I feel like a total bitch for blowing up. Most of the time its not even Ash I'm mad at but the situation."
"I'm sure she realizes that to some extent," Sheila replied.
"I hope so. I really want this to work between us, but part of me is afraid that all this crap will form a wedge between us and we won't be able to get past it," Lauren said forlornly.
"Only if you let it, Lauren," Sheila said softly.
Lauren looked up and met determined dark eyes and saw the sincerity there. "But what if-"
"No. Don't play the "what if" game. That's a sure way to drive yourself crazy," Sheila interrupted. "Trust me, I've done that before and it will destroy your relationship faster than anything else."
Lauren nodded. "Okay. I guess I'll just wait and see what fate has in store for us and just go with it."
"Fate brought you together, so she can't be all bad," Sheila quipped with a wink.
Lauren giggled. "True."
"Why don't we go hunt Rachel down, and figure out what we want to do for dinner?" Sheila asked as she rose from the couch and stretched. "Are the boys coming over tonight?"
"I'm not sure. Benson didn't really say. I guess we could give them a call," Lauren replied as she rose from the couch.
Sheila nodded as the two headed for the apartment door to hunt down their wayward friend. "I sure hope Rachel didn't do something completely nuts," Sheila remarked as she opened the front door.
"Don't count on it," Lauren replied, shaking her head as she followed Sheila into the hall.
Judith slammed down the receiver and glared at the phone. She had been trying to get a hold of Roy for days now and the number she had been given was now no longer in service. "God damn him! Where is he?" she muttered aloud.
She tugged at her suit jacket in frustration as she tried to think of someone else to call to get information. A name popped into her head and she smiled. She grabbed the receiver once more and dialed in the number. She tapped her fingers impatiently as she listened to the rings.
"Yeah?" a gravelly male voice answered.
"Johnny T?" Judith asked unsure.
"Yeah? Who wants to know?"
"This is Blondie," Judith replied with a face of disgust for the nickname she had been dubbed with.
"Ah. You're in deep shit, Blondie," Johnny T said with a nasty chuckle.
Judith stared at the phone perplexed. "What do you mean by that?"
"Word is the brothers are singing which means your ass is in the fire," Johnny T explained.
Judith's eyes narrowed dangerously as her anger seethed. "Who they talking to?"
"Why should I tell you? What's in it for me?"
Judith gritted her teeth. "I'll pay you for the information. Just tell me."
"I want a G," Johnny T said.
"Fine. Done. You can pick it up at the usual spot. Now give me the information," Judith ordered losing patience.
"I hear the brothers are crying to the Wolf. Made some deal with the man," Johnny T informed her smugly. "It's going down tonight so I suggest you make yourself real scarce."
Judith's mind spun with the contingency plans she'd have to make. "I have a job for you, interested?"
"How much does it pay?"
"Enough that you can retire," Judith offered brusquely, wanting to get this over with so she could put her plans in motion.
"Hmm, okay. What do you want me to do?"
"Meet me at this address tomorrow at nine-thirty in the morning," Judith said repeating the address a couple of times to make sure he had it. "I'll pay you when I see you."
"You got it, Blondie," Johnny T agreed eagerly.
Judith hung up the phone and briskly headed down the hall to the elevators. I need to make an appearance in Alexi's room, she decided as she depressed the up button and waited for the elevator to arrive. I'll tell the nurse that now that Alexi seems to be out of danger, I feel I can finally go home and get a shower and some much needed rest. A smug smile tugged at her lips as she thought of the gullible nurses. They'll be oh so sympathetic and assure me all will be fine. Besides, it's obvious Alexi doesn't know a thing. There's no reason for me to stick around here.
The elevator door dinged and she glanced up as the doors opened. She smoothed her jacket as she stepped into the car and pressed the number for Alexi's floor. I have everything I'll need in the wall safe at home. Glad I kept that stuff around now, she mused as she watched the display of floor numbers ascend to her floor. The doors dinged and slid open. She hastily stepped out of the car and hurried down the corridor. She stepped around the corner and stopped dead at the sight before her.
The two detectives were standing before Alexi's door talking to a pair of women. Judith felt her heart leap as one turned enough that she could see her chiseled profile.
Ash! Beloved! You've come to me! She cried as she took a step forward her worries forgotten at the beautiful sight of her beloved waiting for her.
Stop! A voice shouted in her mind.
Judith froze in astonishment. What? She's here! She's come back to me! She's come to comfort me and tell me she loves me!
Judith! Look who she's with! Do you seriously think she's here to console you? The voice demanded.
Judith tore her eyes away from Ash's elegant form to take in the entire scene before the door. Her stomach clenched as she realized that Ash was standing with the two nosey no good detectives and some other woman who looked vaguely familiar to her.
Lu Darkcloud, Judith, Ash's mentor. You remember her don't you? Ash introduced you. She's a bounty hunter, Judith. Why do you think they're talking to the cops, hmmm? the voice asked condescendingly.
I… I don't know. But surely it's not about me! Ash is here to comfort me! She just happened to arrive when the cops did, Judith argued vehemently her face twisting into a pout.
Judith, get out of sight. We need to talk, the voice ordered coldly.
Now Doris! Move! The voice shouted.
Judith jumped in shock, but quickly slipped into the unoccupied room she was standing next to. Don't you ever call me that again! She screamed at the voice in fury.
I'll do whatever I have to, to get you to listen. Now shut up and do so, the voice replied dryly.
Judith sank down onto the bed sulking. What? Why won't you leave me alone? I want to go see Ash.
She's not here to help you, Judith. She hates you. Face that fact.
No! She loves me! She does! It's that little tart Lauren's fault! Ash would be mine right now if those idiots hadn't messed up! Judith argued plaintively.
Judith, listen. You need to leave. Forget about Ash. Forget about getting her back. Things haven't worked out this time. You need to cut your losses and go before the brothers reveal you were involved, the voice reasoned.
Judith cocked her head to the side as she listened to what the voice had to say. She couldn't argue the logic. There was always tomorrow. She could come back and Ash would be hers. She would be! She nodded making up her mind and rising from the bed. Okay, I'll do it your way for now, she thought decisively.
The voice did not reply. Judith scowled. Fine. Don't talk to me. I don't need you anyway!
She peeked out of the room and saw that the cops and Ash were gone, but the uniformed officer was still stationed in front of Alexi's room. She took a moment to straighten her clothes and school her face to one of weariness mingled with hope. She checked her reflection in the mirror and nodded in delight at her performance.
She stepped out of the room with confidence and slowly walked towards the nurses' station to set her plan in motion.
"I can't believe that damn doctor!" Dodd growled as he stomped down the hall next to his partner furious that the doctor wouldn't allow them in to see Reid since she was sleeping.
"It's his right. I'm sure he's getting a lot of pressure from everyone and is just protecting his own ass," Lu interjected as she followed the two detectives with Ash at her side.
"Well I'd really like to know what she knows," Morrison said as he halted in front of the elevators and hit the down button.
"Do you really think she knows something?" Ash asked softly as she watched the floor indicator lights.
Morrison scratched his chin. "Yeah. Something fishy is going on there between her and Miss Sinclair. Not sure what it is, but I have a feeling Reid isn't too happy about her being there."
"Oh?" Lu questioned surprised glancing sideways at Ash. Ash met her eyes and gave her a minute nod in acknowledgement.
Morrison shrugged. "Just a hunch."
The elevator dinged and the foursome stepped in.
"Frank thinks Reid is afraid of her," Dodd offered.
"Really?" Lu asked trying to sound only mildly interested in the theory. She saw Ash's face go blank and decided she didn't want them revealing their theory behind Judith's involvement just yet.
Morrison glared at Dodd who gave him a "what?" look and shrugged. "Like I said it's just a gut feeling. I won't say more about it until I have a chance to speak with Miss Reid alone."
"You mean you haven't?" Lu asked surprised.
"No." Morrison shook his head regretfully. "Miss Sinclair has been at her side since this happened and acted like a damn pit bull with puppies when I tried to question Miss Reid."
Lu grinned at the image that provoked. "Well I'm sure you'll get your chance. I mean Judith can't possibly stay there all the time can she? And now that Reid is better I don't see why you couldn't think of some premise to get Judith out of the room."
"True," Morrison agReid as the elevator doors opened. "Let's go down to the coffee shop and hash out the details for this meet tonight. I called Brad and left a voice mail. He should be calling back any time now."
The other three murmured their agreement and followed in Morrison's wake as he led the way down the hall.
The four arrived at the coffee shop and quickly bought their beverages of choice, then retired to a back booth out of the main flow of traffic. Morrison settled into his seat and waited for the two women to tell him the situation hoping that Dodd would keep his head and not be an idiot again.
"Before we begin," Dodd began and Morrison cringed. "I would just like to apologize to you, Miss Gray, for my behavior yesterday."
Morrison stared at his partner in astonishment. Shit, maybe the kid is starting to use his head! His eyes traveled to Gray's face and though it revealed no emotion, her eyes were alight.
"That's quite all right, detective. Just don't let it happen again," Ash replied dryly a crooked grin curving her lips.
Dodd laughed with only a note of strain marring it. "It won't, trust me."
"Well now that that is over, can we get down to business?" Lu asked pointedly.
Gray waved her compliance and sat back to sip her coffee leaving the ball in Lu's court. Morrison and Dodd looked at Lu expectantly and she rolled her eyes at Ash's ability to put her on the spot.
"I called Gary Beauchant, the DA, with the information you gave me when you called," Morrison said breaking the silence. "He said he'd go over the details and get back to me."
"When?" Lu asked taking a sip of her coffee and deeming it average.
"Should be anytime now. How's this going to go down?" Morrison asked.
"We're going to meet them at a chosen location at two a.m., take the shooter into custody, and get the agReid upon information," Lu supplied.
"What about the other guy? The one that helped the shooter get away?" Dodd asked looking back and forth between the two women.
"No. He'll give me the information and we'll let him go. That's part of the deal," Ash replied in a low voice.
"What? Let him go?" Dodd asked his voice rising.
Morrison glared at him. "Dodd, shut up."
Dodd looked at his partner and then snapped his mouth shut. He folded his arms across his chest and sat back letting Morrison take the lead.
Huh, guess he did learn something, Morrison thought amused before returning his attention to the women. "Why not bring them both in?"
"Part of the deal was I'd give him forty-eight hours to get out of town. In exchange not only do we get the shooter, but the gun he used. That should pretty much cinch your case," Ash replied coolly, eyeing Dodd to see if he'd blow again.
Morrison rubbed his mustache briskly. "Okay, so after the forty-eight hours expires?"
"I give you his name and you can do whatever you want with it," Ash replied with a nonchalant shrug.
Morrison grinned. "I can live with that."
Ash nodded with a smile. "I thought you could."
Just then Morrison's cell phone rang. He picked it up and saw the DA's number displayed. He stood and walked a few paces away to talk to him. An awkward silence fell as the three waited for his return. Dodd sipped at his coffee and tried diligently not to fidget under the watchful eyes of the seasoned bounty hunters. He tried desperately to think of something to say to break the tension.
"How'd you learn to take a man down like that?" he blurted unable to think of anything else to say.
Ash's eyebrow rose perceptibly and Lu laughed.
"She's a musician with deadly combat skills," Lu quipped bumping Ash's shoulder with hers good-naturedly.
"Musician?" Dodd asked stupidly staring at Ash in bewilderment.
"Yeah, musician. You know, plays an instrument," Lu explained miming playing a guitar.
She is having way too much fun with this, Ash thought as Lu toyed with the poor young detective. Dodd seemed to be getting more confused the longer Lu went on and Ash decided to intervene. "I'm a classical and folk guitarist. That's what Lu is talking about. I've been doing a variety of martial arts since I was a small child, thus the deadly combat skills," Ash remarked calmly her eyes never straying from Morrison as he quietly talked into his cell a few feet away.
"Oh," Dodd said nonplussed. "I see."
Lu chuckled. "Hard to believe, but it's true. The only thing she does better than dismember people is play that guitar. You should hear her sometime."
Dodd's face registered his doubt and caused Lu to start laughing even harder. Ash rolled her eyes, but said nothing.
"What's so funny?" Morrison asked returning to the table and sliding into his seat.
"Oh just educating your partner is all," Lu replied through her chuckles.
"I see," Morrison said letting the matter drop. "Well Brad said it's a go. You bring the guy in and he'll make sure he sees the shrink first."
"Good," Ash said the tension draining from her. She hadn't realized how worried she was about the DA's reply until Morrison had reassured them.
"He wants you to wear a wire," Morrison said looking at Ash apologetically.
"No," Ash said shortly.
Morrison sighed. "That's his part of the deal. He wants you wired so he can hear the confession first hand even if it isn't permissible in court. Thought knowing Brad, he'll think of some way to use it."
Lu turned to Ash. "I don't see why not. Not like it can hurt anything. You never told him you wouldn't be wired."
Ash's face went blank as she considered it. "Fine."
Morrison grinned. "I know it's a pain in the ass, but thanks."
Ash shrugged. "Anything else?"
Morrison glanced at Dodd not sure how his partner would take this next suggestion. "I'd like you all to take an unmarked police car." Morrison held up his hand to forestall any arguments. "I have my reasons so hear me out before you go off."
Lu shrugged and Ash leaned back with a nod. Dodd stared at Morrison wondering what the hell this was about, but decided the best way to find out was to sit back and keep his mouth shut.
Assured no one was going to argue, Morrison continued, "First there's a bulletproof partition between the front and back seat. I know the two of you can more than handle this guy, but I'd feel better knowing he's contained. Second, the cars are equipped with a tracking beacon so if the shit hits the fan, we'll be able to find you."
Lu glanced at Ash and was surprised that she seemed okay with the idea. "You're not going to track us and do something stupid are you?" she asked the one thing that had bothered her about the arrangement.
"No. Not if you keep in radio contact and let us know all is going as planned," Morrison replied.
Dodd actually grinned. He was overjoyed that they'd be able to keep track of the women and be able to take over if necessary. He applauded his partner silently for maneuvering them into it.
"I want your word that you won't move in without Lu or I saying so," Ash said quietly meeting Morrison's blue eyes with steel in hers.
"Agreed," Morrison replied with a nod.
"Well then, I guess we should go get Ash wired for sound and check out these wheels," Lu remarked glancing around the table.
"Okay, we'll meet you at the station in say," Morrison glanced at his watch, "a couple of hours. Give you all time to get some dinner and give us time to get everything set up."
"That's fine," Ash said as she stood followed by the rest.
"See you at a little after six then," Lu said offering her hand to Morrison and then Dodd.
"Sounds good," Morrison agreed as the two women turned and departed the coffeehouse.
"That was really smooth," Dodd said smugly.
"What do you mean?" Morrison asked turning to look at his partner.
"How you got them into a cop car so we could track them. Now it will be easy to follow them and make sure things go right," Dodd replied gleefully.
Morrison shook his head. "Did you learn nothing?"
"What?" Dodd asked hurt by Morrison's tone.
"We trust them to do their jobs and we do ours. You don't screw your allies, Dodd," Morrison said scathingly as he spun on his heel and walked away.
Dodd watched him go nonplussed. "Shit," he grumbled as he hurried to catch up with his partner and make amends once more.
Gravel crunched under the tires as Lu pulled the sleek black sedan to the edge of the road and threw it into park. She turned in her seat to meet questioning blue eyes. "I want to go over the plan one more time before we get there," she explained.
Ash fought the urge to roll her eyes and nodded. She knew that this was the way Lu dealt with tense situations-go over and over it until you were blue in the face.
"Wish I could get one of these beauties," she said absently stroking the steering wheel.
"I don't think they sell them wholesale, Lu," Ash replied dryly.
Lu glanced up from her contemplation and smirked. "True, but it would still be nice to have one."
"I thought you were retiring?" Ash asked wondering why they were discussing the damn car and not the meet. She must be more nervous than I thought.
Lu shrugged. "I am."
"Okay," Ash said drawing the word out.
Lu met her eyes and blushed. "Sorry. This isn't about the damn car or my career choices."
"No," Ash replied waiting patiently for Lu to get around to what was eating at her.
Lu chewed her bottom lip and then let out a gusty sigh. "Okay, here's the deal," she began turning in her seat and meeting Ash's eyes with a grave expression. "I don't want you doing something crazy."
Ash's eyebrow rose. "Why would I?" she asked calmly.
Lu snorted. "Because these idiots went after Lauren and you have a tendency to go ballistic and start tearing people apart when the ones you love are in jeopardy," Lu replied knowingly. "I just don't want that to happen here. Let's just pick up Tommie, get the info from Roy, and get this thing over with."
Ash admitted that Lu was right. She did have a tendency to bash heads and ask questions later. Especially when someone she cared about was involved. She delved into herself and discovered that in truth all she wanted was for this to be over. The surge of excitement and the high of the chase were missing this time. For once all she wanted was to turn everything over to the police and go home.
"Ash?" Lu asked hesitantly eyeing her friend warily.
Ash looked up and smiled to reassure her. "You're right."
"I am?" Lu asked surprise written across her face.
Ash chuckled. "Yeah. You better write this moment down, because I doubt it will ever happen again."
Lu stared at her for a moment and then laughed. "True. Let me see here," Lu said as she searched her pockets for a pen. She found one and pulling it out began to jot down the date and time. "Ash admits that I'm right," she murmured as she wrote.
Ash laughed and gave her a playful shove. "Ha ha, very funny."
Lu gave her a toothy grin and winked. "Okay, back to business."
"What?" Ash asked glancing at her watch impatiently.
Lu noted Ash's growing agitation and decided it was best to wrap this up before she annoyed Ash into doing something rash. "You got your rig on?"
"I'm hoping that was rhetorical," Ash replied drolly, her eyebrow rising in question.
Lu grinned. "Yeah, I suppose it was," she apologized. She inspected Ash from head to toe and nodded. "Guess you'll do."
"Gee, thanks," Ash said sarcastically. "Can we get going now?"
"How do you see this going down?" Lu asked.
Ash shrugged as she turned and peered out into the blackness beyond the windshield. "I figure I'll take Roy aside, talk to him, and you'll take Tommie back to the car and wait for me."
"Do you think they'll be anyone with them?"
"Probably," Ash replied unconcerned.
"Shit," Lu grumbled.
Ash turned to look at her. "What?"
"This just has the potential of going really bad," Lu replied.
"It won't," Ash assured her confidently.
Lu ran her fingers through her hair and nodded. "Okay, if you say so. I just hope Morrison is as good as his word and keeps Dodd from doing something stupid."
"We'll handle it if he does," Ash replied her voice going cold.
Lu nodded as she squared her shoulders and put the car in gear. "Well, let's go get this over with."
Ash nodded and stared moodily out the window as Lu pulled the car back onto the road. Butterflies were flitting around in her stomach as she carefully went over every detail in her head. She didn't want any mistakes and the best way to avoid them was to plan for any contingency. She heard Lu pick up the radio and check in with Morrison as the car began to slow. She peered out the windshield and saw a dark SUV parked on the verge about a quarter mile ahead.
"That must be them," Ash said pointing. "Pull over here."
"Right," Lu said putting action to words.
The car rolled to a stop about a hundred feet back from the SUV. The headlights bathed the SUV in an eerie light through the fog that had rolled in making the scene seem surreal. Lu placed the car in park and sat back. They watched as both front doors of the vehicle opened and two men stepped out.
"Guess you were right," Lu murmured as she squinted out the windshield.
"I usually am," Ash replied as she opened her door and stepped out.
Lu grunted and exited the car. She slammed the driver's door shut and walked up to meet Ash by the hood. "Want me to go with you?" she asked quietly eyeing the two men who had stepped to the back of the SUV.
"Yeah, just stay behind me and keep your eyes open," Ash replied as she began striding towards the waiting figures.
"Right," Lu said as she followed Ash a couple of steps back and to her left.
One of the men stepped forward to meet them when they were about twenty feet away and called, "That's far enough."
Ash halted. "Where's Tommie, Roy?"
"He's in the car," Roy answered jabbing a thumb over his shoulder.
"Who's your friend?" Ash asked nodding towards the man standing behind Roy in the shadows.
Roy glanced nervously over his shoulder and then returned to Ash. "He's the one helping me. You don't need to know anything else."
Ash nodded and waited. Roy shifted uncomfortably and glanced back at the other man frequently as if looking for guidance. Ash rolled her eyes and finally said, "Are we going to do this or just stand here?"
The man behind Roy chuckled and pushed Roy forward. "Go on, Roy. I don't know how much time we have."
Roy stepped forward and waved Ash forward. "Come on around the side of the car."
Ash followed Roy, keeping a watchful eye on the other man. He was tall and well built wearing dark suit pants and a raincoat. She couldn't make out his face in the dim light, but she was willing to bet he was some relation to the brothers. She felt the comforting presence of Lu come up behind her and turned her attention before her knowing Lu would watch her back.
Roy opened the back door of the SUV and stepped back. Ash eyed him questioningly, but Roy refused to meet her eyes. What the hell? She wondered as she stepped forward and peered into the backseat of the vehicle. Tommie was slumped over against the far door. Ash felt her heart stop for a moment thinking he was dead, until the steady rise of his chest reassured her. She turned and pinned Roy with a deadly glare.
"What the hell is this?" she demanded waving towards the interior of the vehicle.
Roy shuffled his feet and stared at his boots. "They drugged him," he replied in a quaking voice.
"What? Why?" Lu asked as she leaned over to see inside the SUV.
Roy shrugged and looked up with a helpless expression. "Tommie was wigging out. He didn't want to leave where we were. So some guys came in and pinned him down and gave him a shot of something. They said to calm him."
"Oh that's just great," Lu muttered as she leaned into the vehicle to check Tommie's vitals.
Ash stepped to the side to guard Lu's back and eyed the two men with growing anger. "What's he on?" she demanded. She knew Morrison was going to have a fit and to tell the truth, she wasn't very happy either.
"I don't know," Roy replied retreating a couple of steps under that deadly glare.
Ash turned to the man beside Roy and the man shrugged. "I don't know either. I just know they sedated him."
Ash closed her eyes and willed herself to calm. This was not in the plan, but she could improvise. She opened her eyes and made a quick decision. "You," she pointed to the man beside Roy, "Help Lu get Tommie to our car while I have a little chat with Roy."
The man glanced at Roy who nodded. He made his way around the SUV and pulled open the door Tommie was leaning on and caught him before he fell.
"Oh this ought to be fun," Lu muttered as she crawled across the seat and helped shove Tommie out of the backseat.
Ash watched the progress with a blank face, trying hard not to smile at Lu's ribald comments as she pushed and shoved the deadweight of Tommie out of the vehicle. Lu and the man took Tommie by the arms and started dragging him towards the waiting sedan. Ash turned her attention back to Roy who was watching them with a lost look on his face.
"Why don't we sit down?" Ash suggested waving towards the interior of the vehicle so recently vacated.
Roy met her eyes and nodded knowing it really wasn't up for discussion. "Okay," he said as he climbed into the backseat of the SUV.
Ash waited for him to get seated before slamming the door shut and walking around the vehicle to the other door. She glanced towards her waiting car and saw that Lu and the other man had managed to maneuver Tommie to it. Figuring Lu had everything well in hand she opened the car door and slipped in beside Roy.
She settled into her seat noting Roy's every move. He was sweating and running his hands up and down his thighs in a nervous pattern. He's scared spitless. Well, he should be. What the hell is Morrison going to say when I bring him a comatose prisoner? I better find out what Roy knows, because I think that may be my only chance in finding out if Judith is behind all this.
"So…" Ash said drawing the word out.
Roy jumped and his head jerked up. He licked his lips nervously and attempted a smile. "So," he repeated into the silence. He fumbled in his shirt pocket and pulled out a cassette tape holding it out to her with slightly shaking hands. "Here."
One elegant eyebrow rose in question. "What's this?"
Roy looked at the cassette and then to penetrating blue eyes. "It's… it's the information you wanted," he explained nervously.
Ash eyed the cassette before reaching out and taking it. Roy slumped back in relief and managed a weak smile. "Don't get all excited, Roy. I still want to hear what you know. I'm just going to keep this for my own information," Ash said as she pocketed the cassette.
Roy frowned, but managed to nod. "Okay. What do you want to know?"
Ash leaned forward and pinned him to his seat with an icy stare. "Who was the real target?"
Roy swallowed his fear and squeaked, "The little blonde-umm-Lauren O'Shea."
Ash nodded and sat back grinding her teeth. She figured that would be the answer but she had to know for sure. "Who hired you?"
"I… I didn't know her name at the time," Roy began running his hands through slightly greasy hair.
"But?" Ash prompted.
Roy gulped. "I found out who she was when that newspaper story came out about that charity thing you did. Her name's Judith Sinclair."
Ash's eyes narrowed at the confirmation of Judith's guilt. "Why?"
"Huh?" Roy asked confused.
"Why did Judith want Lauren dead?" Ash asked in a low dangerous voice.
Roy shrugged. "Dunno. She just wanted her dead and wanted us to make it look like an accident."
Ash's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "A shooting is an accident?"
Roy blushed. "That wasn't planned. Tommie went nuts."
"Look, we needed the money. If I'd known how absolutely nuts that chick is I never would've taken the job," Roy tried to explain leaning forward and waving his arms for emphasis. "That woman is one scary ass bitch. I even thought about getting out of the contract when we found out Lauren was connected to you, but there was no way I was going to cross her. She's out of her fucking mind."
"So crossing me was less dangerous than crossing Judith?" Ash asked menacingly.
Roy's eyes widened and he held his hands up defensively. "No! No, but at the time you hadn't really entered the picture. Not until the shooting. I thought maybe we could do away with the little blonde and disappear before you knew what had happened."
"Wrong," Ash said quietly.
Roy nodded vigorously in agreement. "You got that right."
"Why'd you turn over, Roy?" Ash asked though she was pretty sure of the answer.
Roy sighed and closed his eyes. "'Cause the family wasn't too thrilled when you and Darkcloud starting poking around. Tommie had royally screwed the pooch and it was only a matter of time before they decided to toss him to the wolves to protect themselves," Roy said his voice edged in bitterness. "Tommie may be a total fuck up, but he's still my baby brother. I figured turning him over to you and getting him some help, even if he did end up in prison, was better than seeing him dead."
Ash nodded. "Does Tommie know all this?"
Roy shrugged. "Not sure. He's gotten so weird lately it's hard to know what he knows and doesn't."
"He has to be able to testify against Judith, Roy, or having him doesn't do me or the cops any good," Ash reminded him. "And if he can't… well… you know what that means."
Roy nodded. "Yeah. They'll be coming after me."
Roy wiped the sweat from his brow and frowned in thought. "What if I was able to give you something that would clinch your case?"
"Go on," Ash encouraged.
Roy slipped his hand into his coat pocket and froze as Ash's hand was suddenly around his throat. "Please, it's in my pocket," he croaked around the steel grip as he let his hands fall to his lap.
"I'll get it if you don't mind," Ash replied as she reached inside Roy's coat pocket and felt something hard wrapped in plastic. She pulled it out and glanced down to see a gun in baggie.
"It's Tommie's gun. The one he used," Roy babbled.
Ash released him and leaned back holding up the gun to see it more clearly in the meager light. It could very well be the gun used. It was the right caliber. This might be enough to assuage Morrison when he sees Tommie is drugged, she thought.
"I got it from him and put it in the baggie as soon as I could. I used gloves. He hadn't cleaned it or anything so it's just like it was after the shooting," Roy said hoping to convince Ash of his sincerity.
Ash pocketed the gun and pinned Roy with a deadly glare. "You better hope so, Roy, for your sake. I suggest you make good use of the next 48 hours and get as far from here as is humanly possible."
Roy nodded letting out a relieved sigh. "I will."
Ash opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle. Roy patted his chest in relief before steeling himself to follow.
Ash turned to look over the car at the shadowy figure of Roy. "I hope we never meet again."
Roy swallowed and nodded unable to speak. He watched the most dangerous woman he had ever met as she strode away towards the distant car. I pray to anyone who's listening that we never meet again, Wolf. I have a feeling I just got off easy. He wiped his brow and walked around the SUV to the passenger side and waited impatiently for Gary to return.
"Here comes your friend," Gary said pointing to the distant figure with the butt of his cigarette.
Lu glanced up and spotted Ash striding towards them. She stood up from where she had been leaning against the hood. "Guess so."
"I better get my ass out of here," Gary said as he flicked his butt into the night watching the glowing trail until it disappeared. "No offense, but I hope we never have the pleasure of meeting again."
Lu chuckled. "I second that."
Gary offered his hand and Lu shook it with a smirk firmly in place.
Gary nodded and spun on his heel and began the trek back to the SUV. He nodded to Ash in passing, but she didn't acknowledge him. He shrugged and continued on wanting to hear what Roy and she had talked about.
"You get it?" Lu asked as Ash came up to her.
"Yeah. Let's get out of here," Ash said making her way to the passenger side.
"Best idea I've heard all night," Lu replied stepping to the driver's side and sliding in. "Where to?" Lu asked as she started the car.
"Police station," Ash replied glancing over the seat to see Tommie slumped in the backseat. "Any problems with him?"
"Nope. Other than he weighs a freaking ton. You wouldn't think such a skinny guy would weigh so much. I think I strained something," Lu griped as she flipped a U-turn and headed back the way they had come.
Ash snorted. "Poor baby. You getting old?"
Lu shot a glare at her friend before returning her attention to the road. "I suggest you call Morrison and let him know we got the package before his gunho partner sends in the swat team or something equally as asinine."
Ash grinned at the change of subject, but dutifully picked up the radio and made the call.
Francis DeWitt swore under his breath as a cold trickle of rain seeped down the back of his neck and wondered for the thousandth time why he had given up his nice cozy job as a copy editor to become a reporter. Oh yeah, the glory, he remembered with a derisive snort. He squinted through the cold mist of rain towards the back of the police station where according to his informant something big was about to go down. It damn well better be soon. I'm freezing my balls off here, he grumbled internally as he glanced at his watch once more. It read 3:30 a.m. and he realized he had been standing out here for over two hours with nothing so far to show for it. I'll give it another thirty minutes and then I'm outta here, he decided as he checked to make sure the rain hadn't damaged his camera.
He leaned back against the building wishing the wind would change direction so that it would offer some cover from the drizzle. He sighed. What the hell am I doing out here? This is probably just a wild goose chase. He frowned as an unpleasant thought surfaced. This better not be another goddamn practical joke by that asshole Murphy. His eyes narrowed as he thought of the veteran reporter who made it his goal in life to make his life miserable. Murphy had set him up more than once to make an ass of himself, and thought it was hilarious to send the rookie out on snipe hunts. Well, not this time. My source is good. No way could Murphy know about this, he reassured himself smugly.
He was pulled out of his musings by a flash of headlights. He stood up and peered towards the back of the police station. A black sedan had pulled into the lot and parked in front of the back entrance.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" he asked as he pulled his camera out of his coat and brought it up so he could use the telephoto lense to see better.
He watched as two women stepped out of the vehicle and sucked in a gasp as he recognized them. "Holy shit! That's none other than the Wolf herself and Darkcloud!" he crowed in excitement as he quickly focused the camera and began snapping off pictures.
The two women turned as the back door of the building opened and two men in suits stepped out. DeWitt focused his camera on the two men and felt his face split into a shit-eating grin. "Eat your fucking heart out, Murphy! That's Morrison and Dodd, the detectives on the Reid shooting!" He cackled as he continued to snap pictures wishing he had someway to hear what was being said. "This is going to be a front page story and I got it!"
He watched as the dark haired beauty known as the Wolf pulled something from her pocket and held it out to burly detective Morrison. DeWitt zoomed in on the item and gasped as he recognized it as a pistol. "Holy shit! Holy shit!" he exclaimed excitedly practically dancing.
The four stood in a group talking for a few moments and then the Wolf led them to the back of the car and opened the back door. Morrison peered in and then turned and waved angrily.
"Damn. What the hell are they saying?" DeWitt grumbled as he tried in vain to hear. He lowered his camera and scanned the area trying to see if there was some place he could hide a bit closer and overhear what was being said. His eyes fell on a dumpster about 30 feet away from the foursome and his eyes lit up. He stowed his camera and scurried from his hiding place towards the dumpster, praying the foursome was too busy arguing to notice him.
He crouched behind the dumpster his heart pounding and feeling light headed by the adrenaline rush. He took a deep breath and slid to the edge of the dumpster and peeked around the edge to see his quarry less than 30 feet away. He held his breath hoping to be able to hear what was being said. Well, its not like they're being quiet about it, he smirked as he listened to the raised voices carry over the deserted parking lot.
"… fucking great!" Morrison swore.
"It wasn't my idea," the Wolf replied in a flat voice.
"How the hell are we going to question him if he's out cold?" Morrison demanded.
DeWitt settled down on his knees and pulled out his mini recorder. He placed it in his shirt pocket and began to dictate every word he heard into it as he brought his camera up and focused it once more on the tableau before him.
"Not my problem," the Wolf replied crossing her arms across her chest defiantly.
"I knew we should've followed them!" Dodd roared throwing up his hands in disgust.
"What the hell could you have done differently?" Darkcloud demanded angrily stepping forward.
The Wolf laid a restraining hand on her friend. "Why don't we take this inside?" she suggested scanning the parking lot.
DeWitt gulped and ducked back behind the dumpster. Shit! Did she see me? He fought down his fear and curiosity finally won over caution as he poked his head around the dumpster once more.
A couple of uniformed cops had come out and were pulling what looked to be a man out of the backseat of the black sedan. DeWitt quickly shot off a couple of pictures hoping he'd be able to tell whom the man was when the pictures were developed. All he could really make out was long stringy blonde hair.
He watched as the uniformed officers hauled the unconscious man through the door of the building with Dodd on their heels.
"We need you to come in and tell us what you learned," Morrison said to the two bounty hunters.
"Why? You got it all on the wire," the Wolf stated as she pulled something from her shirt and tossed it at him. It hit Morrison on the chest and fell to the wet asphalt of the parking lot.
Wow. What is going on here? Is that the guy that shot Reid? Why are the Wolf and Darkcloud involved? Is that a wire? DeWitt fumbled with the camera and tried to get a good look at the item on the ground at Morrison's feet. He had no idea what a wire would look like, but he couldn't think of anything else it could be.
"Please, Gray. Just come inside and brief me. Hopefully Marino will come out of it soon and be able to collaborate your story. The judge is going to want more than hearsay to get us that warrant."
Warrant? Marino? Where have I heard that name before? DeWitt frowned as he racked his brain, but nothing came to mind. He shrugged. I'll just have to dig it up in the archives when I get back. Wonder what they want the warrant for?
Darkcloud took the Wolf by the arm and led her a few paces away to talk to her. DeWitt snapped off a few more pictures his curiosity practically eating him alive. He saw Morrison cross his arms across his chest and wait with his foot tapping impatiently.
Finally the Wolf nodded and the two returned to Morrison. "Okay, Morrison. We'll come in, but you have to guarantee we'll be allowed to go with you when you get that warrant."
Morrison frowned. "I'll do my best," he said and held up a hand to forestall them. "I can't make any promises, but considering the footwork you two have done, I can try."
Darkcloud looked at the Wolf and she nodded in acceptance. "Okay. Let's get in there and get this over with. I have a life to get back to you know."
Morrison nodded and walking over to the door held it open for the two women. Darkcloud and the Wolf entered the station with Morrison on their heels.
The door closed and DeWitt sank down against the dumpster his mind reeling at what he had learned. "I got the biggest damn story of the year!" he said in awe. He grinned as he pulled himself up and hurried towards his car parked a few blocks away. He fumbled in his pocket for his cell phone and finally finding it pulled it out quickly dialing the paper.
He hummed happily as he listened to the rings. "Who's this?" he asked as the phone was answered.
"Okay. I need to talk to Harris. He needs to hold the front page," he said forcefully and frowned as laughter was his answer.
"Hey! I'm not kidding here! I got the biggest damn story and believe me Harris is going to want it to be on the front page!" he argued defiantly as he reached his car and unlocked the door. "Just put Harris on the phone. I'll tell him myself."
He slumped into the driver's seat and patted his pockets in search of his keys as he listened to the canned music waiting for his boss to pick up the line.
"Harris? Yeah, it's DeWitt," he said as he started the car. "You have to stop the presses."
He jerked the phone away from his ear as Harris erupted.
"No! Wait! Trust me on this. I got a huge story for you," he shouted into the phone trying to be heard over his boss's angry diatribe. Deciding that he needed to give Harris more to get him to listen he said, "I got the Reid shooter."
Dead silence answered this announcement. He frowned and tapped the phone thinking he had lost signal when he heard Harris say something. He quickly brought the phone back to his ear. "What was that, boss?"
"Yeah. The Reid shooter," he reiterated as he put the car in gear and headed towards his office. "I got pictures and everything. Wait 'til you see them! You're going to go apeshit!"
DeWitt smiled in triumph as Harris told him to get his ass back to the office ASAP. "On my way," he replied as he flipped the phone closed and tossed it on the passenger seat.
Lu rocked back in her chair and toyed with her coffee cup as she watched Ash pace back and forth in the small confines of the holding room like a caged panther. It was exactly ten strides across and she swore Ash had probably paced at least five miles as they waited. Dodd had escorted them to this infernal room and then disappeared. A peon from the DA's office had come in and debriefed them and then he too disappeared into the bowels of the station and was never seen again. That had been almost four hours ago and Lu was surprised Ash hadn't blown up yet. No one had come in to tell them anything and Lu had to admit that even her patience was wearing thin.
The door swung open, Ash paused in her pacing to stare at the disheveled figure of Morrison as he strode into the room and perched on the edge of the conference table.
"Well?" Ash demanded crossing her arms over her chest and piercing the detective with a deadly glare.
Morrison bowed his head and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Well he's finally conscious."
Nothing else was forthcoming and Lu decided she better intervene before Morrison found himself picking up his teeth. "What did he have to say?" she asked as she stood and interposed herself between the detective and her irate friend.
"Oh he had plenty to say," Morrison grumbled as he looked up and met the eyes of the waiting women. He knew they were as frustrated as he, probably more so since they had been shut up in here with no word for hours. "Problem is not much of it makes any sense."
Lu could practically feel the coiled tension flowing off of Ash behind her. "Where does that leave us?" she asked quickly. "Was he able to identify Judith as the client? What did the DA have to say about what Ash found out from Roy?"
Morrison stood and walked around the table and fell into a chair wearily. "He said it was all circumstantial." He held up a hand to keep both from exploding. "Sure we have Tommie no problem. The gun made sure of that, but the evidence against Sinclair is circumstantial at best."
"What?" Ash boomed causing Lu to jump in surprise and whirl to face her.
Ash stood with her hands clenched at her side. Her face showed no emotion but her eyes were burning with a fire that caused Lu to take a step back. Lu swallowed her fear and whipped her head around to see if Morrison recognized the danger he was in. Morrison had sat up straight and met Ash's penetrating glare head on. Lu stepped back out of the line of fire and silently prayed.
"Tommie is totally fried, Gray. We'll be lucky if his damn attorney doesn't get him off on a damn insanity plea. The kid is whacked," Morrison explained in a low calm voice. "No judge or jury is going to accept his word about anything. Which means we don't have any hard evidence against Sinclair."
Ash stared at him for a full minute before she spun on her heel and strode to the other side of the room. Lu and Morrison stared at her stiff back and then at one another. Morrison raised an eyebrow in question and Lu shrugged not having any answers to offer.
The room was deathly quiet; the only sound the creaking of Morrison's chair as he readjusted his seat. Lu studied her friend and hoped to anyone who was listening that she didn't decide to go vigilante. She was afraid this is what was going to happen and she was terrified of what it might push Ash to do. Sheila will kill me if this goes bad, she thought absently as she leaned up against the wall and waited for Ash to break the silence.
Lu and Morrison both looked up at the sound. Ash had turned and was standing before the table with her palms flat on its surface pinning Morrison to his seat with her gaze. Neither had seen or heard her move.
"Wh-what?" Morrison managed after a moment of stunned silence.
"Alexi Reid," Ash repeated leaning forward intently. "She can collaborate what Tommie told you. She's afraid of Judith, she knows something, and she's a perfect witness."
Morrison sat back in his chair and stroked his mustache in thought. Lu slowly walked over to the table and sank into a chair. She had to agree with Ash. Alexi would be the perfect witness if she did know something.
Morrison suddenly clapped his hands and stood. "You're right. Let's get our asses to the hospital and see what she has to say."
Ash's lips curled up at the corners in a feral smile. She winked at Lu and then turned to follow Morrison out of the room.
Lu stared after them for a moment and then stood to follow. Well, if nothing else, this ought to be interesting. I hope Alexi can tell us something and that sweet Judith is right there to be arrested, she thought, hope stirring. If Morrison can just arrest Judith then this will be all said and done and we can get back to our lives.
Lu caught up with Ash as Morrison stood a few feet away conferring with a couple of uniforms. Ash turned and gave her a welcoming smile. Lu grinned back and slapped her heartily on the back.
"You ready?" Morrison asked as he came up to them.
"Yep," Lu replied as they fell into step behind him as he made his way to the front doors of the precinct.
"Jenkins just got off duty over at the hospital and he said there hasn't been any activity around Reid's room," Morrison said as he pushed the door open and stepped out.
Lu's statement was cut off by a barrage of questions shouted at them as they stepped out of the building and were blinded by flashbulbs going off in their faces. Lu reflexively threw up her arm to protect her eyes.
"What the fuck?" Morrison swore as stopped in shock and was inundated by reporters shouting questions at him.
"Is it true you got the campus shooter?"
"Are these the bounty hunters that brought him to justice?"
"Why was he carried in?"
The questions went on and on overlapping one another to the point of almost being insensible. Morrison scowled and pushed the two women back towards the door of the precinct. "No comment!" he shouted over the tumult as Lu and Ash retreated back into the building.
"What the hell is going on?" Lu demanded when Morrison was finally able to get back within in the relative safety of the building and had shouted to a couple of uniforms to go out and clear the area.
"How did the press find out?" Ash asked peering out the doors to watch the police push the unruly crowd of reporters back behind barriers.
"I have no fucking idea," Morrison grumbled running his hands over his tightly cropped hair in frustration. "Obviously someone saw you bring Tommie in."
"Shit," Lu swore angrily. "Now what?"
"Now we go out the back way, take an unmarked car and high tail it to the hospital and pray that the officer on duty has done his job and not allowed anyone near Reid. Let's hope this hasn't hit the morning news cast."
Lu shook her head in frustration as she and Ash followed Morrison through the maze of corridors and out the back door they had only hours before entered. "I hope Judith isn't the type to watch the early news or she may already know we're on to her," Lu lamented.
"She was never an early riser. There's hope," Ash replied as she quickened her stride to catch up with Morrison.
The trio made it to the hospital without incident and quickly made their way to Reid's room. The lobby had been full of reporters, but Morrison had deftly evaded them and led them up a back stairwell. He had radioed ahead to inform the officer on duty to not let anyone near Reid's room.
They turned the corner and the officer on duty face showed his relief as Morrison came up to him and asked him to report.
"No one's been in or out since I took over at 6, sir," the officer replied.
Morrison glanced at his watch and saw it was almost eight. "Good. We're going in. Don't let anyone, not even a doctor or nurse in. Understand?"
The officer nodded and quickly took up his post beside the door.
Morrison pulled the door open and ushered Ash and Lu in.
Alexi was awake watching the television on low. She glanced towards them with fear evident in her eyes. She visibly relaxed when she recognized the police detective who had been there before. She was puzzled by the presence of the two women but she was sure he'd explain.
"Miss Reid, how are you feeling today?" Morrison asked kindly as he strode over to the bed and offered his hand.
Alexi smiled and took his hand weakly. She pointed towards the television and Morrison turned his head to see what she had been watching. His face darkened as the newscaster continued to say how the "campus shooter" had been caught under mysterious circumstances that the police were not willing to comment on.
"Yes, we got him," he said as he turned his attention back to Alexi. "Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?"
Alexi studied him for a moment before glancing at the two women with him and then back to him questioningly.
"Where are my manners? These are the women who captured the man who shot you," Morrison said gesturing towards Ash and Lu. "Lu Darkcloud and Ashlin Gray. They're apprehension agents."
Alexi frowned as she studied the two women. She had seen the one with the piercing blue eyes before, but for the life of her she couldn't place where. They both looked exhausted and their clothes were rumpled like they had been sleeping in them.
Lu and Ash came forward and greeted her before stepping back and allowing Morrison to do the talking.
"I need to ask you about Judith Sinclair," Morrison said gently.
Alexi froze as terror washed over her. Her eyes darted around the room and then she seemed to visibly relax. She nodded.
"I know you're not able to speak right now but do you think you could write down your answers?" Morrison asked pulling out a small notebook and pen from his jacket.
Alexi took the items in question and nodded.
"Why are you afraid of Miss Sinclair?" Morrison asked.
Alexi stared at him a moment and then bent over the notepad. She began to write something slowly. Finishing, she handed it to him.
Morrison read the short reply-phone call.
"Phone call?" he asked glancing up at her. She nodded. "Did you overhear her on the phone?" Alexi nodded. "Why did that frighten you?"
Alexi took the notepad back from Morrison and laboriously wrote something down. She handed it back.
Wanted someone dead was the short reply.
"You overheard her telling someone she wanted someone dead?" Morrison asked.
Alexi closed her eyes and nodded.
"Did it sound as if she had hired someone to kill someone?"
Alexi opened her eyes and tears shimmered in the corners before slowing making their way down her cheeks. She nodded.
"Do you know who she was speaking to?"
Alexi shook her head no.
"Is that why you were so afraid to speak to me with her here?" Morrison asked gently.
Alexi nodded reaching out for the notepad. Morrison handed it to her. She slowly wrote something before handing it back to him falling against the pillow exhausted.
She's dangerous. Crazy. Be careful.
Morrison read the short note and handed it to Lu. They both read it; faces grim.
"I promise we'll be careful. When was the last time you saw her?" Morrison asked.
Alexi opened her eyes and shrugged unsure.
"That's all right. Don't you worry about it," Morrison replied kindly as he patted her hand. "I'll tell the officer at your door not to allow her in here okay?"
Relief washed across Alexi's face as she nodded in thanks.
"Would you mind if we took a look around your condo?" Morrison asked.
Alexi's face showed her puzzlement, but she nodded her agreement.
"Would you sign this permission?" Morrison asked as he quickly wrote down a request and held it out to her to sign.
Alexi nodded and after reading the page signed it. She handed it back to the detective and he smiled thankfully.
"Thank you, Alexi. Take care of yourself and we'll talk again later," Morrison said as he moved towards the door followed by the woman who had been introduced as Lu Darkcloud.
The woman with the piercing blue eyes walked over to her bedside and took her hand gently. "Thank you," she whispered sincerely before she bent at the waist and placed a gentle kiss on Alexi's forehead.
She turned and was out of the room before Alexi could form any kind of reply. What was that all about? She wondered as she stared blankly at the slowly closing hospital door.
"Yes sir," the officer standing before Reid's door asked coming to attention.
"Have you seen Miss Sinclair this morning?" Morrison asked glancing up and down the deserted hospital corridor.
"No sir," Hawkins replied. "I looked in on Miss Reid when I arrived and saw she was asleep and alone. Miss Sinclair usually went out to get some coffee and something to eat around 5:30. She's usually back by now, sir."
"I see," Morrison said rubbing his mustache. "Thank you, Hawkins. If Sinclair shows up, do not allow her back into the room and radio me immediately. Try to stall her, but if she gets belligerent arrest her."
"Arrest her, sir?" Hawkins asked surprised.
"Yes, arrest her. Got it?" Morrison asked in a no nonsense manner.
"Yes sir. No problem," Hawkins swore.
"Good," Morrison said as he turned on his heel and headed down the corridor.
"Now what?" Lu asked falling into step beside him
"Now we go to Alexi's condo and turn it inside out," Ash replied coming up to walk on Morrison's other side. "That was pretty smooth."
Morrison grinned. "Well she owns the joint. She's the one that has to grant access not Sinclair."
"You better hope she hasn't flown the coop, Morrison," Ash warned as she opened the door to the stairwell.
"Why would she?" Morrison asked as he led the way down the stairs.
"Judith may be crazy, but she's not stupid. If she saw that news report, she's going to know we're probably on to her," Ash replied her words echoing eerily in the stairwell.
Morrison glanced at his watch. It was just barely after 8 a.m. and Reid's condo was a 20-minute drive. "We'll get her, Gray."
Ash didn't reply. Lu glanced at her and saw that deadly calm fall across chiseled features once more. Damn, for your sake and Lauren's I hope he does, she silently prayed as she followed them out of the hospital.
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