Sheila dove for the phone as it rang for the fifth time. She juggled the receiver and finally managed to bring it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Sheila? That you, baby?"
Sheila smiled at the sound of her lover's voice. "Yes, honey, it's me. Hold on a minute and let me catch my breath."
Sheila sat down on the edge of the couch and patted her chest as she attempted to catch her breath. She had been in the bathroom when the phone started to ring and had dashed down the hallway to answer it. The girls had gone with Benson and an officer Lewis to get some breakfast so she had been the only one home.
"Sheila? Are you okay?"
"Sorry, honey. Yes, I'm fine," Sheila said into the phone as she sat back.
"I thought I better give you the latest news before you saw it on the television."
Sheila's heart constricted with fear. "News? Are you and Ash all right?"
"Yes, we're fine. The meet went off without a hitch. Unfortunately some damn reporter saw us bringing the guy in and it's all over the morning news. Has Lauren seen it?"
"No. We haven't turned on the television all morning. They went down to the deli to pick up something for breakfast," Sheila replied as she scanned the room looking for the remote.
"What? They left the apartment?" Lu barked.
"Honey, calm down. You called and told me you had caught the man who shot Alexi. Everyone was going a bit stir crazy. Plus they were escorted by a policeman and Benson," Sheila explained spotting the remote on the coffee table she leaned forward and pressed the on button. The television blared to life and she quickly hit the mute button.
"What was that?"
"Sorry, I didn't realize Rachel had the volume up loud enough to rattle the windows," Sheila apologized shaking her head. "What channel?"
"All of them."
"All of them? Really?" Sheila asked surprised as she flipped through the channels trying to find one that wasn't on a commercial break. She finally found one with the newscaster sitting before a backdrop that proclaimed, "Campus Shooter Captured." "Oh my god," she gasped staring as the broadcast flashed to a scene before the police station and she recognized her partner standing behind Detective Morrison before they all retreated back inside the building.
"Yeah, it's pretty bad. Morrison is livid and Ash is positive that if Judith has seen this she's history."
Sheila shook her head in disbelief as she turned the volume to low. "I can't believe this," she said as she listened to the reporter.
"We're on our way to Alexi's condo right now. We're hoping to catch Judith there. I just thought I better warn you about the news in case Lauren saw it so you can play damage control."
"Gee thanks, hon," Sheila grimaced. "I guess that means that the cops believed Ash when she said that Judith was behind this?"
"Yeah, Roy told us it was Judith that hired them last night. Plus Alexi said she had overheard Judith on the phone talking about wanting someone dead," Lu replied.
"Oh my god," Sheila whispered closing her eyes in shock. "Please be careful, Lu."
Lu chuckled. "Always. Hopefully we'll see you tonight. I love you."
"Love you too. Watch over Ash," Sheila replied.
"Will do. Later, love."
"Bye," Sheila said listening as Lu clicked off her phone. She sighed and replaced the receiver in the cradle. "I hope this doesn't get ugly."
The sound of the key in the lock warned Sheila that the girls were back and she quickly switched off the television. She turned towards the door as the group bustled into the living room. "So what did you bring me?" she asked with a smile.
"Herbal tea, bagel and garlic cream cheese, plus if you're good a raspberry pastry," Rachel listed as she bounced over to the couch and sat down cross-legged across from her holding out a steaming cup.
Sheila took the cup and inhaled the sweet aroma with pleasure. "Mmm, that smells divine," she moaned.
Lauren giggled as she came around the couch and settled in the overstuffed chair to Sheila's left. "I don't think I've ever seen someone get so much pleasure out of colored water."
Sheila's eyebrow arched in reproach as she said, "Colored water? I'll have you know that tea is the drink of the aristocracy, my sweet."
Lauren shook her head as she took a sip of her steaming latte. "I think I'll stick to coffee. Tea's okay if you're sick, but I prefer java."
"Barbarian," Sheila teased with a disdainful sniff.
Rachel and Lauren laughed at her antics.
"Where's Benson?" Sheila asked noting that the large man was not with them.
"Oh he went back over to the gallery saying something about Louis having a meltdown over something," Rachel said with a dismissive wave.
"Louis having a meltdown is an understatement," Lauren confided to Sheila. Sheila motioned her to spill it. "I guess someone broke into the gallery and messed it up. Louis is livid. I could hear him yelling at Benson to get his ass home and then turning to scream at the police to be careful that if they broke it, they bought it."
"Oh my! Was anything stolen?" Sheila asked.
"Not sure. Benson thinks it's more likely that a bunch of kids broke in and broke up the joint on a dare. He honestly didn't take it that seriously," Lauren replied with a shrug.
"Really? I would think with everything that has been going on he'd be a bit more concerned," Sheila said puzzled.
"Well Ben is pretty level headed until the crisis is over. I'm sure he'll go ballistic if he finds out any of his pieces were damaged-- after the police leave of course. He is pretty much convinced it was just a random act and has nothing to do with what's been going on," Rachel interjected as she dug through the bag before her.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much. The police were there taking a report. I think Louis just wanted an excuse to get Benson home," Lauren said with a shrug.
"Can't blame him," Sheila said softly. "Lu just called."
Two sets of eyes instantly pinned her to her chair.
"What did she say?" Lauren asked leaning forward in anticipation.
Sheila dropped her eyes to study her tea as she tried to think of some way to tell her friends what was going on without having them panic. "Well it seems there's been a development," she began glancing up to see how they would react.
"Development? What does that mean?" Rachel asked.
Sheila sighed. "Well it seems someone hired the shooter to come after you, Lauren." Sheila met Lauren's eyes and saw the surprise register there.
"Hired someone?" Lauren squeaked, her eyes widening in shock.
"What do you mean? You mean someone hired that guy to kill Lauren? That it wasn't random? He wasn't after Alexi?" Rachel bombarded Sheila.
Sheila held up her hands to forestall her. "Listen. You know that someone was out to hurt Lauren before the shooting." They both nodded, Lauren struggling not to cry. "Well, Lu said they found out who hired them."
"Who? Have they caught him?" Rachel demanded.
"No, not yet," Sheila replied.
"What? Why not?" Rachel asked throwing up her hands.
"Rachel, calm down," Lauren murmured patting her friend's knee.
Rachel glanced over at her and then sighed. "Sorry, Lauren. I just thought this was over and it turns out it's not."
"It's over as far as I'm concerned," Lauren replied as she took a sip of her latte. "I can't continue to worry about some asshole out there. I need to just live my life and hope for the best."
"Oh, Lauren, it's not that bad," Sheila assured her. "Lu said they were on their way to Alexi's condo."
"Why?" Rachel asked surprised.
"Because they think Judith is behind it all," Sheila replied shaking her head.
"Judith?" Rachel asked shocked. "As in Judith Sinclair? That psycho bad dye job from the charity auction?"
Lauren nodded a thoughtful look on her face. "Makes sense."
"It does? How?" Rachel asked confused.
"Think about it, Rach," Lauren said leaning forward. "Judith acting all possessive at the charity show. Then calling Ash and so forth. I think she thought if I was out of the way she could get Ash back."
"Well last time I checked, you didn't go about killing the person you were trying to replace," Rachel said sarcastically. "That would seem to turn off any potential lover you would think."
Lauren giggled and Sheila smiled at the comment.
"True, but I don't think Judith is playing with a full deck," Sheila said.
"Well, I hope they catch the stupid bitch," Rachel said vehemently as she tore a bite out of her bagel.
"I'm sure they will, but there is one more thing you should know," Sheila said and the two women looked up at her with trepidation. "Don't look at me that way, it's not that bad. Well, not really."
"Oh gods, now what?" Rachel asked in exasperation.
"It's all over the news," Sheila replied.
"What is?" Lauren asked.
"That the campus shooter was caught and so forth. That was one of the reasons Lu called-to warn us," Sheila replied as she leaned forward to grab the remote and turn on the television.
Rachel and Lauren turned to stare at the television as it came on. A newscaster was just reiterating the earlier report about the shooter being caught and that his name was Thomas Moreni.
"Wow," Rachel whispered as she watched the newscaster disappear to be replaced by a scene in front of the police station.
"This is so bad. Now they'll never leave us alone," Lauren groaned covering her eyes.
Sheila leaned forward and gently rubbed her back. "Your names still haven't been released and no one knows you were the actual target, hon. Hopefully it will stay that way. Besides, you know how these things go, they're hot for a week or two and then something else comes along to draw the vultures off."
"I hope so," Lauren murmured staring forlornly at the television. "Ash must be going nuts."
"Do you think Judith has seen this?" Rachel asked, turning to look at Sheila.
Sheila shrugged. "I hope not."
"Me too," Rachel replied turning back to stare at the television.
"Guess we'll just have to wait and see," Lauren sighed watching the news with chagrin.
No one replied as all eyes were drawn to the news report and all thought was on the two women absent from their midst.
"Shit. This is just a fucking mess," Ash swore as she followed the unmarked police car on the way to Alexi's condominium.
Lu grunted as she flipped through the radio stations and swore as every single one of them seemed to be reporting about the campus shooter being apprehended. "How the fuck do they find this shit out? I swear I hate reporters."
"You know she's already gone," Ash remarked.
Lu glanced up from the radio and saw the stoic mask on Ash's face slip enough to show the rage and fear pulsing beneath. "Probably, but we still got a chance don't you think?"
"No," Ash said shortly.
Lu sighed. "Hey, maybe we'll catch her asleep in her bed. I mean she has been spending all day and night at the hospital. Maybe she went home and passed out and is still there. Hasn't bothered to turn on the television or radio. It's possible."
Ash glanced at her friend and shrugged. "Maybe, but if there's one thing I've learned over the years, don't count on things being easy. Judith is a fucking snake and has luck like you wouldn't believe. I'll be shocked if we catch her this easily."
Lu glanced out the window and saw the condo coming into view. "Well, I guess we're about to find out. Did Morrison say whether or not he still had a uniform watching over the girls?"
Ash pulled in behind Morrison's unmarked car and cut the engine. "Yeah, he said he'd leave a unit there until he had Judith in custody." Ash snorted. "Wonder how those guys feel about permanent duty?"
"Would it kill you to at least try and think positive?" Lu grumbled as she opened her door.
"Yes," Ash replied as she stepped out of the truck and strolled over to where Morrison was directing a couple of cops to circle the condominium to watch the back headed up by Dodd.
Lu watched her go and sighed. "This just sucks. I want to go see my baby and forget about all this shit," she grumbled as she headed over to the others.
"Okay, let's go," Morrison said as Lu came up to them. He turned and headed towards the front door the two women following in his wake.
Morrison knocked on the door and rocked back on his heels.
"You expecting her to be home?" Ash asked derisively.
Morrison looked at her and saw the anger within. "Can't hurt to try now can it?"
"She's gone, Morrison, and this is a damn wild goose chase," Ash replied as she stalked the length of the porch and glared out at the street.
"What the hell?" Morrison asked Lu.
Lu shrugged. "She's got a point. I think Judith is long gone, but I know you have to go through the motions."
Before Morrison could reply the door swung open to reveal a young black man in baggy jeans and a UCLA sweatshirt standing in the threshold. "Can I help you?" he asked politely looking back and forth between them with a puzzled expression.
"I'm detective Morrison with SPD and you are?" Morrison said flipping open his badge case.
The young man stared at the badge and then looked up at Morrison in confusion. "I'm Paul, Alexi's brother. Is she all right? Has something happened?"
"You're sister is fine. May we come in?" Morrison stated as he moved forward.
Paul nodded with a confused look plastered on his youthful face as he stepped out of the way and the trio entered the white marble entryway. The two women strode past him and seemed to be scanning the rooms for someone or some thing.
"Wh-what is going on here? You can't just barge into my sister's home like this," Paul asked gesturing to the two women angrily as he met Morrison's eyes.
"We have your sister's permission to search the premises," the detective said as he pulled out a folded piece of paper from his inside coat pocket and handed it to him.
Paul took and opened it puzzled by all this. "Okay, but why?"
"Are you home alone?" Morrison asked scanning the rooms and noting the staircase. He met Lu's eyes and she shook her head letting him know no one was on the main floor.
"Yes. What's going on?" Paul asked glancing between the three hoping one of them would tell him what was going on.
"How long have you been here?" Morrison asked as he motioned to Lu and Ash to head upstairs.
"Wait! You can't just go up there!" Paul shouted as he moved to block them from going upstairs. "Now, tell me what the hell is going on."
Ash stepped forward menacingly and Lu laid a restraining hand on her arm. Ash brushed it aside. "Listen to me very carefully," Ash said in a low menacing voice as she stood toe to toe with the young man.
Paul's eyes widened and he quickly nodded his assent.
"Your sister's partner Judith is wanted by the police. We need to see if she's still here," Ash explained.
"She's not," Paul stuttered taking a step back.
"She's not here?" Morrison asked coming up beside the dangerous brunette.
"N-no. She left about an hour ago," Paul explained looking between Morrison and Ash. Deciding the detective was more likely to listen he scooted out of reach of the woman and directed his words to him. "I got here late last night. Alexi had given me a key last summer. I got in late. I saw Judith's car in the garage, but I stay in the guest bedroom in the back of the house. I didn't see her until this morning."
Morrison held up a hand to halt the poor man's babbling and saw that he was scared. "Easy, son. You're not in trouble. When did you see Miss Sinclair?"
"I was sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast," Paul began glancing fearfully at the dark haired woman, but when she made no move towards him he continued. "Sh-she came in and I asked if she wanted to ride with me to the hospital. She said no that she had some errands to run first. I was just getting ready to leave when you all came to the door."
"Do you have any idea where she was going?" Morrison asked. He saw the murderous look on Gray's face and knew that she'd been right. But maybe, just maybe, Sinclair hadn't heard the news and there was still a chance.
"She said something about going to the spa. Said she was so wiped out from being at the hospital so much and needed some pampering. She did look really tired," Paul replied after some thought. "I think their card is on the fridge. I remember seeing it and thinking it had a weird name."
Morrison met Lu's eyes and she nodded and turned to head to the kitchen to retrieve the card. "Did she say anything else?"
"No, just asked me when mom was coming and that she'd meet me at the hospital later today," Paul replied.
"Why don't you and I go sit down in the living room and we'll see what else you remember," Morrison suggested as he lead the young man towards the room. He motioned with his head for Ash to head upstairs.
Ash nodded and took the stairs two at a time, even though she knew Judith was long gone. Maybe she'd left some clue behind as to where she was going. "You're not getting away that easily, Judith," she swore as she rounded the corner and glanced into the first room. It was an office and Ash moved quickly across the room to the desk and began searching it.
"Find anything?" Lu asked stepping into the room.
"Appointment book," Ash said holding it up.
"The spa is Golden Touch and the card said she has a 9 o'clock appointment," Lu said as she scanned the office curiously. "Nice view," she commented as she looked out the window.
Ash grunted as she flipped through the appointment book. "I think most of this is Alexi's stuff. Don't see anything in Judith's handwriting."
"Well let's go check out the other rooms then," Lu suggested heading for the door.
Ash followed her down the hall and pushed open the door at the end of the hall that she supposed was the master suite.
"Holy shit," Lu gasped looking around.
The room was huge at least half of the upstairs. Floor to ceiling windows made up one wall broken only by a fireplace centered in the middle. I king size bed sat to one side the covers thrown back and half hanging on the floor. Everything was cream and mocha and really quite striking.
"Put your tongue back in your mouth and help me," Ash said brushing past her star-struck friend to search the room.
"Well, shit, Ash, this room is awesome," Lu said as she walked across the room and opened a cabinet to find a big screen television and all the electronic goodies to go with it. "Cool."
"I can't tell if any of her clothes are gone. There's enough in this closet to clothe a small country," Ash said as she stepped out of the closet and glanced around the room trying to think of something. She spotted a picture askew on the wall and her eyes narrowed.
"Well there's nothing over here that looks out of place," Lu commented as she glanced at framed photos of Alexi and Judith and what she supposed was Alexi's family.
Ash walked over to the picture and pushed it aside. A smile graced her lips as a wall safe came into view. "I found something."
Lu turned and grinned as Ash placed the picture on the floor and studied the safe. "Hot damn! Do you think you can get into it?"
Ash turned and her eyebrows wiggled as she reached out and pulled the safe open. "She didn't spin the dial so it's still unlocked."
Ash turned and began pulling papers out of the safe. She shuffled through them as Lu came up to her.
"Anything?" Lu asked.
"Bonds, stocks, the usual stuff you'd find in a safe," Ash said her brow furrowed. "Wait, what's this?" She held up a manila envelope.
"Looks like an envelope," Lu deadpanned.
Ash ignored her as she walked over to the bed and dumped the contents of the envelope onto it. "Why don't you check out the bathroom while I go through this?"
Lu stopped in mid-stride and turned to head towards the bathroom. "Okay," she said a bit puzzled by her friend's suggestion, but figured she had her reasons.
Lu stepped into the bathroom and shook her head at the opulence. "Marble this and marble that and don't forget the stainless steel," Lu commented as she ran her hand along the creamy marble and stopped before the large mirror with vanity lighting. She checked her teeth for foreign objects before turning to the medicine cabinet. "Let's see what's behind door number one," she said as she opened the cabinet with a flourish and peered inside.
"Typical crap," Lu grumbled as she pushed aside deodorant and aspirin disappointed at the normalcy of it. "Hmmm, seems Judith has a sleeping problem," she murmured as she inspected the labels for a couple of prescription sleeping pills. "Well that's a bust. Guess I better check under the sink."
She knelt and opened the cabinet. "Ah ha! I knew she wasn't a natural blonde!" Lu chortled as she pushed aside the hair color and toilet paper. "But why the hell does she have 8 different hair color washes?" she murmured puzzled. "Guess being a model she has to change it regularly. Shit, nothing under here really. Well, I guess I shouldn't expect her to keep a drug stash or something under here."
Lu stood and stretched her back. "I bet Sheila would love a bathroom like this," she said aloud as she gazed in the mirror at the reflection of the garden tub and separate shower. "Hell, I wouldn't mind it either!" She chuckled as she turned and spotted a closet door that was slightly ajar. She walked over to it and pulled it open.
"Wow!" she gasped as she gazed upon numerous Styrofoam heads with wigs of every description resting on them. "One, two, three… shit there must be 10 wigs in here." She frowned when she noticed that 2 heads were wigless. "Minus two. Interesting." She peered farther into the closet and saw what looked like a spin rack for sunglasses from a department store with sunglasses and regular glasses in all shapes and sizes. "What the hell would you need all this shit for?" she wondered as she idly spun the rack. She shrugged deciding it was one of those model things and headed back towards the bedroom.
"Find anything?" she asked as she stepped out of the bath.
Ash looked up and sighed. "Yeah, I think so."
Lu walked over to her concerned by the flatness of Ash's voice. "What?" Ash held out a passport and Lu took it and opened it up. "Alexi's passport? So?" "So Judith's isn't here and you can bet she has one," Ash supplied.
"Ah," Lu said in understanding. "Well the good news is that means she's probably trying to get out of the country using her own name. I don't think she's changed her hair color, but it does look like some wigs are missing from her stash."
Ash tapped her chin in thought. "I hope she is trying to use her own passport. That will make things a hell of a lot easier. Even if she's wearing a wig, her name will be the same."
"Let's go down and tell Morrison what we found and see what he wants to do next," Lu suggested waving towards the door.
"She's gone, Lu," Ash said as she tossed the enveloped on the bed and headed for the door.
"Maybe," Lu said not wanting to totally give up hope.
Morrison looked up from his notes when he heard the women descend the staircase. "Thank you for your time, Paul," Morrison said as he stood and offered his hand.
Paul shook it and nodded. "You're welcome. I hope you catch her."
"We will," Morrison assured him. "Here's my card and don't forget to call me if anything else comes to mind."
"Yes sir. I'll do that," Paul said as he followed Morrison into the entryway.
"We ready to go?" Lu asked as they paused before the front door.
"Yeah. I talked to a couple of uniforms and they're headed over to the spa now. We'll head over and see what there is to see," Morrison replied as he led the way out.
Paul circled them and quickly opened the door for them. "Good luck."
"Thanks," Lu replied with a smile as she passed him.
"You don't honestly think she's still there do you?" Lu asked as they walked down the drive.
"We have to at least look," Morrison replied as he opened his car door.
"We believe she may have taken her passport and there were some wigs missing," Lu informed him.
"Shit, okay," Morrison swore. "I'll radio it in and get some people out to the airport."
Ash walked past them to her truck and climbed in. Morrison watched her go and then turned to Lu with a questioning look.
"She going to be a problem?" he asked.
"That depends," Lu replied glancing towards her stoic friend sitting behind the wheel of her truck.
"Depends on what?" Morrison asked as he slid into his car.
"On whether or not you catch Judith," Lu replied as she closed his door for him and headed towards the truck.
"Shit. How did I know she was going to say that?" Morrison said to himself as he started the car.
Lu stared out the window and thanked whoever was listening when the sign for the Golden Touch spa came into view. The tension in the truck was thick enough to slice and she hadn't been able to get Ash to say one word since leaving Alexi's condo. She knew Ash was livid and on the verge of blowing, but couldn't for the life of her think of any way to diffuse the situation.
"Guess this is it," Lu said needlessly as they pulled in behind Morrison and found a place to park. She glanced at Ash and felt her blood run cold at her expression. Ash's eyes were narrowed dangerously as she stared at the spa entrance. Her entire body vibrated with barely contained rage. "Ummm, Ash?"
Ash slowly turned her head and burning blue eyes met Lu's. "What?" she asked flatly.
Lu gulped and attempted a smile to break the tension. "You're not going to do anything crazy are you?" Lu asked her voice cracking.
Ash's lips curled into a slight smile. "Crazy? Mmm, no, I wouldn't say crazy." She opened the truck door and Lu, taking her life into her own hands, reached out and laid a restraining hand on her arm.
"Ash," Lu pleaded.
Ash stared down at her friend's hand and Lu quickly released her. Ash looked up and met Lu's pleading gaze. She felt her rage tremble at the concern in her friend's eyes. She closed her eyes and swallowed attempting to fight back the rage that was struggling to descend. She was terrified that Judith was going to get away and continue to terrorize Lauren. She's in danger and it's my fault, she accused. Judith would've never even known she was alive if she hadn't been with me at that damn charity auction. I've put her in danger and I'm the only one who can fix it.
Ash didn't realize she had spoken aloud. "Ash, you can't honestly believe that?" Lu asked.
Ash opened her eyes in surprise. "Believe what?"
"That it's your fault. It's no one's fault, but Judith's," Lu explained vehemently. "Do you honestly think Lauren would've chosen not to love you to avoid this?"
Ash's face darkened. "Wouldn't you?"
Lu rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Ash, sometimes I think you don't have a fucking clue. Lauren would go through hell and back to be with you. Don't cheapen her feelings. I know you love her and I know you think you need to fix this, but don't decide for her. Let her choose whether or not she wants to be with you. That's her call," Lu demanded poking a finger into Ash's chest for emphasis.
Ash glared at her friend as her words penetrated her defenses. She knew Lu had a point. She hated it when people tried to make decisions for her and she knew for a fact that Lauren would like it even less. She recalled their conversation when Lauren told her how people treated her like a dumb blonde and tried to treat her like a kid. I don't want to do that. Lauren is a mature woman. She can make up her own mind about us… when this is over. I have to give her that chance.
Lu watched Ash struggle with her thoughts. She prayed that Ash would take what she said to heart and listen for once. She sighed when Ash's eyes met hers and were clear and their usual intense blue without the roiling rage. "You ready to go check this joint out?" Lu asked nodding towards the spa.
Ash grinned. "Yeah, let's go."
Lu chuckled feeling giddy with relief. She pushed open her door and followed Ash across the parking lot to an impatient Morrison.
"Okay, Gilbert told me that Sinclair's car is that one," Morrison said pointing to a sleek silver Lexus parked a row away.
Lu felt her heart speed up in anticipation. "So she may still be in there."
Morrison nodded with a grin. "Yeah. Let's go take a look."
Lu glanced at Ash and saw to her surprise that her friend was animated and not hiding behind a blank face. Ash caught her staring and winked. Lu almost tripped over her own feet in shock.
"Easy there," Ash commented as she steadied her and then continued towards the front doors of the spa.
"Guess I did reach her," Lu muttered in disbelief as she followed in her friend's wake.
They entered the foyer of the spa and looked around. There was a plush waiting room to the left with butter colored leather chairs with glass and brass tables. A television was on, but turned to some cable exercise show. Two women were sitting in the waiting area and looked up in curiosity when they walked in. The reception desk was an island of faux gold marble and brass floating on a tile floor of more fake marble flooring.
Lu met Ash's amused eyes and made a gagging motion. Ash grinned and nodded.
"May I help you?" asked an uptight woman wearing a pink polo with the name "Taffy" embroidered in gold across her left breast.
"I'm detective Morrison," Morrison said flipping open his badge and lowering his voice, hoping the curious onlookers wouldn't hear.
Taffy frowned as she stared at his badge. "I'm sorry, detective, but this is an exclusive women's only spa. We don't have police discounts either."
Lu covered her mouth to stifle the laughter bubbling up as she watched Morrison glare at the insipid woman.
"I'm not here for a membership," Morrison stated attempting to be polite. "I need to see one of your customers."
Taffy stared at him her eyes narrowing. "Not possible. We respect our customers' privacy and I can't allow you to go barging in there."
Morrison clenched his fists and smiled dangerously. "Miss, I need to know if Miss Judith Sinclair is in the spa," he stated firmly. "Now we can do this the easy way or I can get a warrant."
Taffy crossed her arms and glared at him. "I can't release that information. You go get your warrant," she replied stubbornly.
Morrison gritted his teeth as he fought down his anger. Lu stepped forward and quietly asked, "Excuse me, miss? Ummm… Taffy, do you think you could give my friend and I a tour of your establishment?"
Morrison stared at her in shock and then realized what she was up to. He rubbed his mustache to hide his grin as he stepped back from the reception desk.
Taffy turned her attention to the slightly disheveled woman as the annoying detective walked off and began talking into his radio. "Are you interested in a membership?"
"Yes, my friend over there is a well known musician and will be recording here in Seattle and is looking for a spa in the area," Lu stage whispered nodding towards Ash who appeared to be watching the television.
Taffy looked over Lu's shoulder at the striking brunette and her eyes narrowed as she struggled to recognize her. "I don't recognize her…."
"Oh no! You wouldn't!" Lu agreed. "She's very reclusive and doesn't like a lot of publicity." She leaned forward conspiratorially. "Her name's Ashlin Gray. She just appeared at the Richards' Gallery charity auction?"
Taffy's face brightened as she remembered seeing the article in the paper. "Oh yes!" she exclaimed. She stared at Ash with open admiration. "Do you think she'll choose us?" she asked hopefully.
"Well, we'd like to have the full tour and see what you have to offer," Lu replied. "This spa was recommended to us, but we have a few more on our list."
"Oh! Our spa is the best," Taffy enthused as she came around the counter.
Gotcha. "We'll see," Lu said amenably. She beckoned to Ash and Ash sauntered over with a warm smile.
"Yes?" she asked looking back and forth between Lu and the nervous Taffy.
"Taffy here is going to show us the facilities," Lu explained biting back a grin as Ash smiled coquettishly at Taffy making the woman giggle. "I thought this might work for you since it's close to the studio."
Ash's eyebrow shot up in surprise. Oh, Lu, you are too good. "Oh?"
"Oh yes, Miss Gray. I think our spa will meet all your needs," Taffy gushed.
Ash met Lu's amused eyes and rolled hers slightly. "Well then, Taffy, why don't you show me what you have to offer?"
Taffy's face flushed at the suggestion as she waved them towards the doors leading into the inner sanctum. "Please follow me, ladies," she said enthusiastically.
Ash followed the babbling Taffy through the doors. Lu turned to wave to Morrison and he shook his head in wonder.
"This is our massage area," Taffy informed them as she lead them down a golden hallway and pointed to doors on either side of them. "All are private rooms and our masseuses know a number of different techniques."
Ash pretended great interest as she peered into the different rooms. "What's over there?" she asked pointing to a set of double doors leading into another area.
"Oh! That's the sauna and Jacuzzi area. Would you like to see it?" Taffy asked.
"Yes. Do we need to change?" Ash asked glancing down her jeans clad frame.
"Oh," Taffy said at a loss as she stared at her.
"Do you have a locker room? Maybe a robe I can borrow? I'd love to test some of the facilities while I'm here," Ash asked giving Taffy a winning smile.
"Oh! Of course! Please follow me," Taffy said as she turned and headed towards a door marked "ladies' locker room."
"Go check out the rooms while I keep her busy," Ash whispered to Lu over her shoulder. "I'm sure I can manage to keep her from noticing you're not with us."
Lu chuckled. "Oh I'm sure of that."
Ash winked and then sped up her pace to catch up with the enamored Taffy. "Oh Taffy! This room is absolutely divine!" Ash commented as she stepped over the threshold.
Lu shook her head as she listened to Ash charm their watchdog. I'm glad she uses her powers for good, Lu laughed to herself. She turned and headed to the first closed private room to see who was within.
Morrison had stepped outside to have a cigarette and pace. He hoped Gray and Darkcloud would find Sinclair in there, but had a bad feeling that the woman was history. He took a long drag on his cigarette before dropping it and crushing it beneath his boot. He glanced at his watch and sighed. They'd been in there for over half an hour and he wasn't sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.
Morrison glanced up to see officer Gilbert hurrying towards him. Shit, now what? "What is it, Gilbert?"
"The tow truck is here and they want you to come sign for the removal of the vehicle," Gilbert said waving towards the parking lot.
Morrison swore under his breath. "Where the hell is Dodd? I thought he was taking care of that?"
Gilbert shrugged. "He said he had a call and had to go to the airport."
"What?" Morrison roared in disbelief. That little shit! I'm going to kill him.
Gilbert took a step back and fidgeted with his belt. "That's what he said, sir."
Morrison waved him off as he strode angrily across the parking lot towards Sinclair's car and the towing service. I can't fucking believe this! If that little prick blows this case, I'm going to ring his scrawny neck! He knows I set some plains clothes to watch the airport. What the hell does he think he's doing? Sinclair will recognize him and know we're on to her!
Morrison peered into the Lexus and frowned. What the hell?
Morrison looked up at the interruption. "Did anyone open this?" he demanded.
The man stared at him nonplussed. "No, sir. Not that I'm aware of. I just got here. The CS guys are over there." He pointed to a man and woman carrying heavy cases heading in their direction.
Morrison waited for the Crime Scene technicians to reach him before asking, "Are you the first techs to respond?"
"Yeah, we just got the call about 20 minutes ago," the blonde woman answered setting down her case with a sigh. "Damn that things heavy."
Morrison scanned the parking lot and spotted Terri Gruble, one of the uniforms that was supposed to have secured the scene. "Gruble!" he bellowed. The officer jumped and spun around. Morrison motioned her over.
Gruble trotted over to the detective a worried expression on her face. "Problem, detective?"
Morrison clamped down on his temper and asked in an even voice, "Did you or any of the other officers open the vehicle?"
Gruble stared blankly at him and then at the car. "No, sir. Why? Is there a problem?"
Morrison didn't answer her as he turned to the CS technicians. "I want everything printed and photographed before removal."
The technicians nodded as the man opened a case and pulled out his camera. "Sure thing, detective," he replied as he checked the camera.
The woman pulled out finger printing equipment and pulled on latex gloves. "You didn't touch the vehicle did you, detective?" she asked as she paused by the driver side door.
"No," Morrison replied.
"Just making sure. Don't want to find a great print just to find out its you," she said as she began dusting the door.
Morrison gritted his teeth as he struggled to comprehend what he had seen on the passenger seat of the car. The implications were not good. Shit, this just gets better and better.
Morrison looked up and officer Gruble pointed towards the front of the spa. Morrison followed her finger and saw Gray and Darkcloud striding towards him. "Time to face the music," he muttered under his breath as he walked to meet them.
"Find anything?" he called as they approached.
"Not a damn thing," Ash remarked angrily.
"She was here though," Lu said noting the technicians working on the Lexus. "That her car?"
"Yeah," Morrison said shortly as he guided them further away from the scene so that the ones working there wouldn't overhear what he had to say. "I think we may have a problem, but first tell me why you think she was here."
Lu stared at him a moment and then nodded. "She was in one of the private massage rooms. We found a chart with her name on it and her time of arrival was shortly after 8."
"I take it she was no longer in there?" Morrison asked rocking back on his heels.
Lu shook her head. "According to the chart, she had a massage and then went to one of the back areas where the sauna is."
"There's a back door," Ash added her voice cold and controlled. "She probably slipped out the back while no one was looking and no one the wiser."
Morrison frowned. "Don' they check on people in the saunas regularly? Make sure they haven't passed out from the heat and so forth?"
Lu nodded. "Yeah. I thought of that too. Seems they checked on her around 9 and guess what?"
"What?" Morrison had a bad feeling about this.
"Well, there was a blonde woman in there," Lu replied running her hands through her hair in frustration. "She wasn't too pleased when Ash grabbed her and put her in a headlock."
Morrison's eyes widened and he glanced at Ash. Ash shrugged and met his gaze defiantly. "I thought it was her."
Morrison closed his eyes and swore. "Okay, then what?"
"Turns out the woman's name is Francis Bold and she said that Judith paid her 5 grand to sit in the sauna," Lu replied shaking her head. "Francis said that Judith gave her some story about trying to dodge some fans. It seemed reasonable to her and she needed the money."
"Shit. So when did this go down?" Morrison asked wearily.
"Not sure. They don't wear watches in there so Francis wasn't sure of the time, but she said it had to have been at least half an hour because she had been checked on twice before we came barreling in," Lu replied.
"Shit, shit, shit!" Morrison swore as he began to pace.
"So what's the story with the car?" Ash asked nodding towards the technicians.
Morrison stopped and rubbed his mustache. "I'm not sure, but I think we may have a serious problem."
"Something worse than Judith already being gone?" Lu asked sarcastically.
"Oh yeah," Morrison said.
"You going to tell us or do we have to play 20 fucking questions?" Lu asked glaring at the detective.
"Come see for yourself," Morrison replied as he led them towards the car.
Lu glanced at Ash and saw that she was staring off across the parking lot lost in thought. "Hey? You coming?"
Ash shook herself and met her friend's concerned eyes. "Yeah, in a minute. I need to think."
Lu studied her for a moment and then nodded. "Okay. See you over there."
Ash nodded as she turned and stared off once more. Lu watched her for a moment; then deciding that Ash wasn't about to run off, she turned and followed after Morrison.
Judith, where the hell have you run off? Ash wondered as her brow furrowed in thought. She thought back to her time with Judith and tried to recall where Judith liked to go. Hmmm, somewhere tropical would be my bet. But you know we're on to you, so you know you need to go incognito and somewhere that doesn't get along with the United States. Ash's eyes narrowed as she tried to puzzle out where Judith would go and how. You're crazy, but not stupid. I know you're out there. I'm going to find you and end this once and for all. I can't go forward with Lauren and have to be constantly looking over our shoulders for you. That wouldn't be fair to her… or me. Why me, Judith? Why? You left me, remember? Said I was a frigid bitch and had no talent. So why are you so set on being with me now? Ash shook her head in confusion. She couldn't figure out what Judith's motivation was or why she would suddenly fixate on her.
Ash glanced over her shoulder to see Lu waving at her. She raised her hand to acknowledge she had heard her. Lu nodded and turned to speak to a woman wearing a CS jacket. I have to get Lu out of this. She doesn't deserve to be dragged into this shit. Hell, Sheila is pregnant! She doesn't need Lu tagging along with me and risking herself. Question is how the hell do I get her to just go home? Ash mulled over the problem as she walked towards her waiting friend and the crowd gathered around Judith's car.
Dodd strode through the airport on a mission. He had set his own plain clothes in the airport when he heard Morrison ordering the same thing. He knew Morrison wouldn't tell him what was going on. He's totally blinded by those damn women, he grumbled internally. He knew his partner had been a good cop, but he believed that Morrison had lost his edge on this one. Gone soft. Letting a couple of damn civilians do his work for him. Well, I'm not going to sit back and let it happen.
Worth had called him and let him know that there was no Judith Sinclair listed on any of the outbound flights. Dodd knew she was here somewhere. He didn't believe she'd take a train or drive out of town. No, the only sure way out of the country was by plane.
Dodd had decided to head to the airport after what he'd found in Sinclair's car. His stomach clenched at the thought. He knew he shouldn't have opened the vehicle. That he was violating a potential crime scene, but he had to know. He had seen a black satchel sitting on the passenger side seat and his curiosity had overridden his common sense. He'd ordered the uniforms to secure the perimeter and call the towing service and crime scene technicians. Once they were out of sight he couldn't fight down the urge any longer. He slipped on a pair of latex gloves and tried the door and smiled when it clicked open. Stupid bitch didn't even lock it.
He'd opened up the bag and was startled to find Sinclair's passport, a couple of wigs, changes of clothes, and a huge wad of cash neatly rolled and banded laying in the bottom of the bag. Guess she is still in there; he'd thought staring moodily towards the spa where Morrison and the bounty hunters had disappeared earlier.
Then he'd seen the blood. He stared at the stain on the consul between the seats; finally reaching out and touching it. His finger came away bloody. He stared wide-eyed at it for a full minute. "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," he swore as his eyes came up and scanned the parking lot nervously. He slid out of the car and quickly slammed the door pulling off his gloves and shoving them in a pocket.
Dodd shook his head trying to dislodge the uneasiness that had crept over him. He'd called Worth as soon as he'd gotten out of the car and decided it would be best if he made himself scarce. He didn't believe Sinclair was still at the spa. The woman was too damn sneaky for that. So he'd told Gilbert to get Morrison when the tow service showed up and high tailed it to the airport. The only way he could save his career was to catch Sinclair.
He rounded a corner and spotted the VIP lounge for international flights. "If she's anywhere, she's in there," he muttered as his pace slowed. He spotted one of his undercover agents and met his eyes. He nodded towards the coffee stand to the right of the lounge and the agent nodded and began to walk in that direction.
"Let's see if he's seen anything," Dodd murmured as he strolled nonchalantly over to the coffee bar and perused the menu.
"I hear the mocha latte is really good," the undercover agent said to Dodd.
"Yeah?" Dodd replied his eyes never leaving the menu.
"Yeah, hear no one can top it," the man replied.
Dodd nodded as he stepped up to the counter and gave his order for a plain coffee black to the smiling teen behind the counter. The undercover man had just informed Dodd that he thought there was a potential woman in the lounge. Mocha latte was the code word for that. He paid the teen and took his coffee. "Thanks, but I prefer good old black," Dodd said to the man meaning he was going to take a look but to keep his eyes open.
The man shrugged and grinned. "No problem."
Dodd sipped his coffee as he strolled towards the entrance of the lounge. He glanced in as he walked past and swore when his eyes hit a divider not allowing him to see within. He sipped his coffee as tried to think of some way to get past the guard at the door and into the lounge without raising a ruckus.
"We found blood in the car," Morrison informed them as Ash walked up.
"Blood?" Ash asked surprised.
Morrison nodded. "The techs are taking samples now. There's also a bag in there with Sinclair's passport, wigs and clothes. It appears she left it all behind. What do you make of that?"
"Makes me think she changed plans in a hurry," Lu suggested as she watched the technicians taking samples and talking in a language that only they understood.
"Something must've went wrong," Ash added.
"We have another problem," Morrison said with a sigh.
"What?" Ash asked having a feeling she wasn't going to like what he was going to say.
"Dodd went to the airport," Morrison said and cringed waiting for the explosion.
Ash stiffened and Lu stared at him in shock.
"It may not be that bad," Morrison offered with little hope of being believed.
"Oh right!" Lu scoffed.
The three turned to see an out of breath officer running towards them.
"What?" Morrison asked as he strode towards him.
The officer bent at the waist attempting to catch his breath. "We… found… something… behind the spa," the officer gasped pointing back over his shoulder. "Think… you better… come take … a look."
Morrison nodded and strode off towards the back of the spa. Lu glanced at Ash and Ash waved her off. Lu raised and eyebrow in question and Ash nodded for her to go ahead. Lu shrugged and turned to trot after Morrison.
Ash glanced towards the car and then after Morrison. "What the hell happened, Judith?" she muttered as she stepped forward and peered into the open door on the passenger side. The smear of blood was obvious and about the size of a grapefruit. It was beginning to dry and Ash frowned at what looked like a finger swipe through it. She looked up and asked, "Is this where you took the sample?"
The female technician leaned back on her haunches and looked to where Ash was pointing. "Nope. I took it from the edge. That was there. Weird huh? Looks like someone ran their finger through it."
Ash nodded her eyes narrowing with suspicion. Her eyes scanned the interior of the car taking in every detail; the black bag with the items strewn across the seat, the bloody mark on the consul between the seats, and beyond that how clean the car was like it had just been detailed. You were all ready to disappear. You had your little kit ready to go and then something happened. What? Ash wondered as she paced around the car studying the interior from all angles. Someone come up to you? Startle you? Whose blood is it? Yours? She stopped before the driver's door and leaned in to study the window. There was a definite smudge on the glass, like someone had rapped knuckles against it. She straightened and stared off across the parking lot deep in thought.
So, you pull in here and are getting your stuff together when someone comes up and knocks on your window, Ash formulated. Scares the shit out of you and probably pisses you off. Then what? Ash tried to think of what could've happened next, but hit a wall. She couldn't think of any reason for blood to be in the car. She knew Judith had entered the spa and that no one was suspicious of her. She was positive that Taffy or one of the other employees would've mentioned if Judith had been injured. By the amount of blood in the car, whoever was doing the bleeding was going to be noticeable.
Ash turned and focused on Lu as she strode towards her. "What did you find?"
Lu shook her head. "There's more blood out back. On the exterior door and the ground. They have a tech taking samples. This just keeps getting stranger and stranger."
Ash nodded in agreement. "I think someone came up to Judith in her car."
"Really?" Lu asked surprised.
"Yeah, look," Ash replied pointing out the smudge marks on the driver's window. "I think someone rapped on the glass to get her attention. Who knows what happened after that."
Lu frowned in thought. "Well Morrison wants to head out to the airport. He wanted me to ask you if you wanted to go with?"
Ash thought about it for a moment. "Might as well. I wish we knew whose blood was all over the place. I don't think its Judith's."
"You don't?" Lu asked as they headed towards Ash's truck.
"No. No one in the spa mentioned Judith being injured," Ash explained as she waved to Morrison to let him know they'd follow him to the airport.
"True," Lu agreed as she pulled open the passenger side door and climbed in.
"Has Morrison called in the feds yet?" Ash asked as she settled into her seat and started the engine.
"He was on the phone with them when I headed back to find you. If she's left the states it will be up to them to track her down," Lu replied fastening her seat belt.
Ash sat back and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Lu saw Morrison pull out and wondered why Ash was just sitting here. "You going to follow him or what?" she finally asked turning to look at her friend.
Ash sighed and met her friend's quizzical hazel eyes. "Why don't I drop you off at Rachel's first?"
Lu stared at her in shock. "What? What the hell has gotten into you?"
"Look, Lu, there's no reason for you to come along. I'm sure Sheila is wondering what the hell happened to you," Ash explained.
Lu glared at her as she began to realize what her friend was up to. "Oh no you don't! Don't you start telling me this is none of my damn business!" she growled, poking Ash in the chest. "You are not going to go off on some damn vigilante mission! Sheila would kill me if I let you do that and I don't even want to imagine what Lauren would do to me."
Ash stared at her nonplused. "What do you mean what Lauren would do?" she asked the one thing that struck her.
Lu rolled her eyes and guffawed. "Shit, Ash! Sometimes you are such a clueless ass!"
"Hey!" Ash retorted offended.
"Hey yourself," Lu barked. "Listen. That girl is madly in love with you and if I let you hare off and do something stupid or worse; then my ass is in a sling. Lauren will kick my ass to kingdom come and Sheila will probably help her."
Ash sat back a stunned expression on her face. "Wh-what?"
Lu saw the look and began to chuckle. "For Pete's sake, Ash. You need to realize that people care about you and that you can't fix the damn world." She leaned forward and slapped Ash heartily on the thigh. "Now, let's follow Morrison to the airport and see what's what. If Judith is there, then he'll arrest her. And if she's not…" Lu shrugged. "I guess it will be up to the feds to track her down. Not you!"
Ash shook her head trying to comprehend what Lu was telling her. "But, Lu, this is my-"
"Shut up and drive, Ash," Lu interrupted her in a no nonsense voice.
Ash glanced at her and saw the stubborn set to her jaw and knew there was no reasoning with her. "Okay." She put the truck in gear and headed out of the parking lot.
Morrison strode down the corridor towards the international hub. His plain-clothes detective in baggage claim had informed him that he'd spotted Dodd about 45 minutes ago heading towards the international lounge. "Damn that kid," Morrison muttered as he scanned the area looking for his contact.
A woman in a blue business suit stood up from one of the waiting areas, folded a newspaper under her arm, and walked towards him. Morrison turned and headed her direction. "What you got?" he asked as she came up to him.
"Dodd entered the lounge about 30 minutes ago. I spotted Worth and Valdez wandering around too. I told them to get the hell out of here," she informed him.
"Shit," Morrison swore rubbing his mustache. "Hear or see anything out of the ordinary since then?"
"No sir. No one has come out or gone in since," she reported.
"Any idea how he got in?" Morrison asked fearing the worse.
"No sir. I do know that he didn't flash his badge. I was close enough to have seen that. I think he just sweet talked the attendant," she replied nodding towards the elderly woman in uniform standing at the podium before the lounge.
"Good work, Miller. Keep an eye open," Morrison said dismissing her as he turned his attention on the attendant. She was probably in her late 50's, overweight with unruly black hair pulled back in a bun. Morrison could see how Dodd would be able to flatter his way in. He studied the situation and decided that subtlety really wasn't needed anymore. Sinclair was either in there or long gone.
Morrison walked up to the woman and was pulling out his badge when a blood-curdling scream echoed out of the lounge. The attendant and Morrison both jumped in surprise. Morrison flashed his badge and yelled, "Police!" as he dashed passed the stunned woman and ran into the lounge.
Ash and Lu slowed as they approached the lounge and saw what amounted to chaos. People were shouting and wandering around aimlessly. There were airport security everywhere trying to calm people down and herd them towards a waiting area where some official looking people were standing and trying to talk over the crowd. There were the usual bystanders hanging around the fringes and speculating about what could be happening.
"What the hell?" Lu muttered as they skirted the edge of the crowd searching for someone they knew.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Ash said as she spotted Morrison standing under a sign that proclaimed, "VIP Lounge for international passengers only." "Morrison!" she shouted.
Morrison looked up and scanned the crowd, his eyes coming to rest on Gray and Darkcloud. He held up a hand for them to wait before turning back to say something to the near hysterical woman standing before him.
"Do you think they caught Judith and that's what this is all about?" Lu asked Ash in a hushed voice as she surveyed the crowd.
"No," Ash replied her eyes jumping from face to face. "But I have a feeling Judith was involved and we're not going to like it."
Before Lu could reply, Morrison walked up to them and motioned for them to come through the crowd. Lu and Ash pushed through murmuring apologies until they stood in front of the furious detective.
"What happened?" Lu asked concern coloring her voice at the sight of the detective.
Morrison's tie was askew and his shirt had come untucked in the back. His face was drawn and he was sweating. "I'm not sure," he mumbled his eyes glassy from shock.
Ash took his arm and led him towards the one quiet place in the chaos, which was the entrance to the lounge. She guided him to one of the chairs and pushed him down gently. "Take a deep breath, Morrison," she directed as she looked around for some water. "Lu, see if you can find some water," she said returning her attention to the distraught man before her.
Lu nodded and silently disappeared.
"Morrison?" Ash asked quietly as she sank down on her haunches to be at eye level with him; his head was bowed and he had brought his hands up to cover his face. "Morrison, what's happened?"
"Stupid kid! I told him not to come here! I told him," Morrison muttered through his hands.
Ash frowned. "Who, Morrison? Dodd?"
Morrison raised his head and Ash fought the urge to gasp as haunted eyes met hers. "He came here looking for her," he said and chuckled with an edge of hysteria. "Guess he found her all right!"
"Morrison, what happened?" Ash insisted fighting the urge to shake him.
"He's dead that's what happened," Morrison snapped as he jumped to his feet. "I told him not to underestimate a woman! That they could be just as deadly as a man!"
Ash stumbled back and caught her balance on an out flung arm. She slid out of his way as he charged across the lounge and stood to follow. "Dead?" she whispered as she ran across the lounge to catch Morrison. She grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. "What the hell do you mean dead?"
"Dead as in deceased," Morrison replied his eyes crazed. "The crazy bitch killed him."
Morrison shrugged out of her grasp and stormed across the lounge to stare out the window at the planes taking off. Ash stood frozen in shock. She killed Dodd? Here? How? Her mind spit out the questions, but didn't offer any answers.
"Ash, I talked to security," Lu said quietly as she came up beside her friend.
Ash looked at her with a lost expression. "She killed Dodd?"
Lu nodded. "They found his body in the john. He was stabbed in the chest." Lu waved towards a door that was cordoned off where security was keeping people back and a couple of paramedics were just going in with a gurney.
"How the hell did she kill him with no one noticing? And where the hell is she?" Ash demanded.
Lu shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, Ash. They're piecing it together now. Why don't you come over and talk to Agent Philips. He's the one in charge now."
Ash ran her hands through her hair in frustration before nodding. "Okay. Let's go see what's what."
The two women walked across the lounge towards a silver haired man in a 3 piece black suit. The man was talking to what appeared to be another agent. The agent nodded and gave them a brief smile before heading over to where Morrison was standing.
The silver haired agent smiled and held out his hand. "You must be Ashlin Gray."
Ash took his hand on autopilot and found herself wondering where the hidden camera was. This couldn't possibly be happening. "Yes."
"I'm agent Joshua Philips. I was hoping we'd get a chance to talk. I'd like to hear what you can tell me about Judith Sinclair," he said as he shook her hand and smiled.
"Is she here?" Ash asked looking about.
"No. We figure she left on one of three flights after allegedly killing Detective Dodd," Agent Philips replied.
"Allegedly?" Ash asked in disbelief.
Philips shrugged. "We can't say for sure if she was the one who killed him at this time."
"So where were the three flights headed?" Lu asked trying to diffuse Ash's temper.
"I'm not at liberty to say at this time," Philips replied with an ingratiating smile. "But the agency is taking every step to apprehend her."
Lu gritted her teeth and fought the impulse to smack the shit out of him. "I see."
Philips cell phone rang and he politely excused himself.
Lu watched him walk away and grumbled murderously under her breath. "Can you believe that asshole?" she asked Ash waving towards Philips. When Ash didn't answer Lu turned to look at her. "Ash?"
Ash looked up and shook her head sadly. "She's gone and there's nothing we can do about it, Lu."
"What? That's it? You're just going to walk away?" Lu asked dumbfounded by Ash's sudden change of heart.
"She's a cop killer now. They'll never let it rest," Ash reasoned.
Lu's eyes narrowed suspiciously as she studied her friend. "What are you up to, Ash?"
"Up to? Me?" Ash asked pointing at her chest innocently.
"Uh huh, you," Lu replied stepping closer to her erstwhile friend. "I know you. You're up to something. What are you-" Lu was interrupted when an agent ran past her nearly knocking her off her feet. "What the fuck?" she yelled as Ash reached out and steadied her.
They turned to see the agent rush up to Philips and begin to whisper to him urgently. Ash glanced at Lu and Lu nodded in agreement. They carefully began to slide closer to the agents trying to overhear what was being said.
"-need to look. We think it's related," the red-faced agent said wiping his sweating face with his coat sleeve.
"Why do you think it's related, Jenson?" Philips asked tapping his cell phone against his leg impatiently.
"Sir, I really think you should come see for yourself," Jenson replied, glancing around the room nervously. "I don't think this is something you want everyone to know about."
Philips stiffened at the implied reprimand; and then looked around the room. His eyes narrowed as they landed on the two women standing innocently a few strides away. "Very well, Jenson. Tell them I'll be there in a moment," Philips said dismissing the man as he turned his back and began to dial his cell phone.
"What do you think?" Lu whispered to Ash as they watched the agents.
"We follow Jenson," Ash replied as she casually began to saunter across the lounge looking as if she didn't have a care in the world.
Lu grinned and followed her example. She shoved her hands in her pockets and walked towards the knot of security guards standing before the lounge entrance.
Ash glanced around the room and noticed that the agent with Morrison was questioning him and that Morrison looked on the verge of an emotional melt down. Hold it together, big guy. It's not your fault, Ash silently told him knowing intimately exactly how he was feeling. Blame Judith, not yourself. We'll find her. I swear we will, she vowed as she strolled through the security and out of the lounge. No one stopped her. They were too busy keeping people out to worry about one leaving.
Ash made her way through the crush of onlookers and spotted Agent Jenson hurrying down the corridor. She saw Lu pushing her way through the mob and nodded her head in the direction she was headed. Lu gave her the thumbs up and motioned that she would circle the crowd and follow.
Ash turned her attention to the retreating back of the agent and sped up her gait. Wonder what this is all about? She thought as she tailed the agent through the airport and out the doors leading to long-term parking. She smirked at how easy it was to tail this guy. Where did he get his badge? Crackerjack? She thought incredulously as she slipped down a row of parked cars keeping him in sight. He never once glanced back.
Agent Jenson hurried across the lot towards a black Cadillac where two other men in suits waited. Ash's eyes narrowed as she slowed and began to use the parked cars as cover. Jenson may be unaware of her presence, but that didn't mean one of the other agents wouldn't spot her. She slid along the parked cars until she was within a car length of them. She crouched down and listened.
"Where's Philips?" the crewcut black haired one demanded as Jenson came up to them.
"He's wrapping stuff up and then he'll be here," Jenson retorted defensively. "Anyone come by here?"
"No. Been quiet as a tomb," the blonde said with a laugh as he dropped a cigarette and snuffed it out with the toe of his highly polished shoe.
Jenson glared at him, but the man remained unrepentant. "Watch your mouth, Smith," Jenson warned. "This isn't a joke."
Smith shrugged as he pulled out another cigarette and lit it. "Why haven't we called in the techs?"
"No one does anything until Philips says so," Jenson said angrily as he grabbed the cigarette from Smith's mouth and dropped it. "And no smoking."
Smith stared at him in surprise and then anger flushed his features. "Why you little-"
Crewcut grabbed Smith's arm to restrain him. "Easy, Smith. He's not worth it."
Smith glared at Jenson and then shrugged out of the other man's hold. "Yeah, yeah, let me go, Frank. I'm not going to waste my time."
Frank released him and grinned at Jenson's pale face. "You're lucky day, boy-o."
Jenson stiffened in fury then spun on his heel and walked around the Cadillac to the driver's side to be as far away from the other two agents as possible.
"Philips lapdog is a pussy," Smith remarked as he pulled yet another cigarette out and lit it.
Frank shook his head. "Man, you're walking a fine line."
Smith shrugged. "I'm a better agent than that brown nosing fairy and Philips knows it. He's not going to do anything to me."
"So what do you think happened here? Think it's related to the mess in there?" Frank asked leaning against the Cadillac and crossing his arms.
"Probably. Don't often find a stiff in a car and one inside and not have them be related," Smith said taking a drag on his cigarette.
"Story is the stiff inside is a cop," Frank said thoughtfully. "And this guy here is no cop."
"True. Looks to me like whoever he was working for didn't need him anymore and snuffed him," Smith said.
"Would you two shut up!" Jenson barked across the hood of the car. "Why don't you just take out a damn ad in the paper and announce it to the public?"
Smith and Frank laughed at Jenson's fury, but fell quiet nonetheless.
Ash's mind whirled as pieces began falling together. She slinked back from the car she had been hiding behind and made her way to the end of the row. She scanned the parking lot and spotted Lu a few cars down. She pursed her lips and whistled a birdcall they had used in the past. Lu's head came up and their eyes met. Lu whistled back in acknowledgement.
Ash grinned as thoughts of past adventures past through her mind. She made her way to the edge of the parking lot and down the stairwell she had seen Lu enter.
"I found Judith's ride to the airport," Ash said as greeting.
"Dead?" Lu surmised.
Ash nodded. "Let's get out of here. I need to get to my computer and get some information. We can't learn anything more here."
Lu nodded. "You going after her?"
Ash stopped and thought about it. "I'm not sure."
Lu sighed. "Guess that will do for now."
The two slipped out of the stairwell and headed towards the parking garage where Ash's truck was parked.
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