Storm Surge

by KatLyn


Rating: NC-17

Status: WIP

Disclaimers: There mine. Do not use them, steal them, or abuse them.


Part 5

Chapter Fifteen

Alex found Donald's personnel file, and searched unsuccessfully for Catherine's phone number in Gainesville. She did not feel comfortable rifling through Donald's desk, but knew she had to locate Catherine as soon as possible so she went back to his office. Conner was in the far corner of the room talking to one of the detectives, and looked her way as she entered the room. The investigators were finishing up the crime scene search, and although they all knew there was little possibility that anything would turn up, they pursued all avenues.

Alex walked to Donald's desk and pulled on the belly drawer, and not surprisingly found it locked. Looking in the direction of Conner, she motioned the other woman over when she caught her attention. Conner quickly ended the conversation she was having with the other detective, and walked over to the desk.

"What's up?"

Pulling again on the drawer, Alex sighed in frustration. "I need to get in touch with Donald's wife. She's currently in Gainesville in Law School, and his personnel file doesn't have a phone number for her there. As much as I hate to do it, I need to search his desk to see if I can find any information here, but its locked. Have your guys finished up over here?"

Conner yelled over her shoulder at a member of the CSI team. He indicated that they were finished, and Conner turned back to Alex. "Ummm, are you planning to bust into your bosses desk, here Alex?"

"I don't see as if I have much choice. I can't seem to find the information anywhere else. My only other choice would be to go break into his house. Personally, I think the desk is the least intrusive avenue to take."

"Ok, but why don't you let me bust the lock? I can always say it fell under the umbrella of evidence collectionŠthat way your covered in case he gets pissed."

Alex thought about Conner's suggestion and knew it made sense, although she did not like to hide behind the ruse of evidence collection as a way of gaining access to the contents of the desk. However, she pushed herself away from the desk giving Conner access to the drawer. Conner walked over to the CSI kit, and withdrew a long thin piece of steel. She inserted the steel between the desktop and the drawer and pulled up sharply splintering wood, as the lock broke free. Stepping back, she waved Alex forward, "There you go, search and find."

Alex searched through the drawer until she found a small address book. Pulling it out she flipped through the pages, until she found Catherine's number in Gainesville. Just as she was pushing the drawer closed, she saw a folder all but buried beneath the menagerie of items in the drawer, with her name on it. Pulling the folder out she looked at the outside of it with a keen interest.

Conner had walked away as Alex began searching through the desk, but as she glanced back in the direction of the other woman, she caught the frown that was now forming on her face. She strolled back towards Alex, and stopped on the other side of the desk.

"You ok Alex? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Alex could not believe what she was seeing, and simply passed the folder to Conner, as she sat down heavily in her boss's chair.

Conner flipped through the pages in the file, and let out a low whistle as she raised her head to look at Alex. "He's been having you followed for months AlexŠwhy?"

Alex was in shock from the sudden revelation that Donald had been spying on her, and could only shake her head in confusion. "I don't have the slightest idea."

"Maybe he was making sure no one was watching you." Conner could not understand what the man's reasoning could be, but was trying for Alex's sake to justify the file. "I mean, weren't you severely injured in some raid, and had to take a leave for a while? Maybe he was just protecting you while you recovered."

Alex looked at Conner with a sad expression. "So you know about the raid?"

"Well, no not any of the specificsŠjust what I've heard through the usual channels. It was kept pretty quiet actually."

"Did you know who I was before we met at Mike's the other night?"

Conner looked around the room, noticed the CSI team had finished up, and left, leaving them alone in the office. "No I didn't Alex." Conner's voice was a little harsher than she had intended, but she was tired of Alex being so suspicious of her.

"All I had heard of about the raid was that the infamous 'Shadow' had almost been killed during a warehouse raid. It wasn't until Peterson went into his commentary the other morning that I put two and two together, and realized that it had been you in the raid."

"So why didn't you ask me about it?"

Conner shook her head in frustration, and glared at Alex, "Because I assumed that if you felt like telling me about it you would, Alex. I was not going to pry. If you want to talk to me fine, if you don't fineŠI don't put conditions on my relationships Alex."

The jab shocked Alex out of her defensive mood. "Damn Conner, I'm sorry. I'm just not sure of who I can trust anymore, and now finding this, well," Alex fell silent as she looked up and saw Jose' walk through the door.

"What the hell happened her Alex?" Jose' looked around the room noticing the remnants of the dusting powder the CSI had used in their attempt to gather fingerprints. His dark unapproving eye fell on Conner. "What are the locals doing here?"

"The JPD is here Jose' because until we know further this was a simple interrupted B&E, and we needed to get a jump start on the investigation." Alex sighed heavily, knowing Jose' would question her every move.

"Umm, but shouldn't we be handling this in-house? We have a lot of sensitive files laying around here, and you never know who might decide to take one home for a little leisurely reading." Jose's eyes locked on Conner's.

Alex could see that Conner was having some difficulty holding her mouth at Jose's obvious insults. "Jose' until Donald is capable of resuming his duties here, I'm in charge, and I don't appreciate your questioning my judgment. Furthermore, I have already placed a call to the Orlando office, and they will have someone here first thing tomorrow morning to begin an internal investigation.

Jose' turned back to Alex with a surprised look on his face, "What do you mean an internal investigation?

"Look around you Jose', there aren't any signs of forced entry, and as far as we can tell at the moment nothing was stolen. I think that calls for an internal investigation, don't you?"

"Well what about the desk, somebody obviously forced that open." Jose said eyeing the desk

Conner opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Alex. "That was me. Donald's wife is in school over in Gainesville, and since there wasn't a phone number for her there in his personnel file, the only other logical place to look would be in his desk, don't you think?"

Jose' looked between the two women

"Anyway, I had Officer Harris here witness my entry into Director Fairfax's desk, and the only thing I am leaving here with in my possession is his address book. Is that ok with you Agent Gonzolas?"

"Whatever, you say Agent Montgomery."

Jose' continued to eye Alex suspiciously and walked over towards the desk trying to get a look inside the drawer. Alex noticed the approach and slid the drawer closed before he had a chance to peer inside.

"Officer Harris do you have a crime scene seal on you. I think I would feel better if we secured the Director's drawer so no one will be tempted to rummage through it before he returns."

Conner smirked, and turned to the bag. She slipped the folder containing the information on Alex into the side pocket, then reached in the main section and removed a seal, and handed it to Alex.

Alex took the seal from Conner, pulled the protective film off the back, and placed the seal over the seam of the drawer. "There, now we'll know if anyone tries to open the drawer." She took a marker from the cup on Donald's desk, signed, and dated the seal.

Jose' glared at Alex as he realized that he was the reason she had sealed the drawer. "Well, I'll be going. See you tomorrow." He turned and walked out the door. A few seconds later, they heard the sound of the back door closing.

"Is he a jerk or what?" Conner had taken about as much of Jose' as she could handle, and her anger was apparent.

Alex placed her index finger in front of her lips, as she walked to the window and peered out. She relaxed her shoulders as she saw Jose' walk down the sidewalk. "Yea, a big one."

"Look, I need to call Catherine. Why don't I meet you over at Baptist Medical, in a little while?"

"No way, I'm not leaving you here alone. Make your call, I'll wait for you in the reception area."

Alex smiled, and nodded her head in surrender, as Conner left the room to give her some privacy. Catherine answered the call on the second ring. Her elation at hearing Alex's voice faded quickly when she heard the serious tone to the other woman's voice. Alex filled he in on the events of the evening as best she could. Catherine, of course said she would be at Baptist Memorial in a couple of hours. Alex promised to call Catherine on her cell phone if she learned anything more when she got to the hospital. She quickly locked up and found Conner patiently waiting in the outer office, and they were soon walking back down the hall to the back door.

"Where are you parked Alex?"

She had to think for a minute before she could remember. "Umm, I'm in the garage across from the landing."

"Well let me give you a lift, I know you're in a hurry to get to the hospital."

Alex snorted as she spied Conner's car, half on the small patch of grass surrounding the building, and the other half angled across two parking spaces. "Umm, well ok, but only if you promise to drive better than you park."

"Very funny. I wasŠummŠsort of in a hurry when I got hereŠya know."

Silently smiling at Conner's stuttering, Alex lowered herself into the sport's car.

The drive to the garage was short, and Conner waited as Alex got in and locked her car door. Alex could not help but smile at Conner's protective behavior. Well, she never has met 'The Shadow', and obviously doesn't know I can take care of myself, Alex mused to herself. She still thought Conner was cute playing protector.

They arrived at the hospital only to find that Donald had been taken to surgery. The hit on the head had been severe enough to fracture his scull, and cause the small blood vessels under the thick dura mater protecting the brain to burst, causing a subdural hematoma. The surgeons were now in the process of drilling a small hole in the skull to relieve the pressure and allow drainage of the hematoma.

They were told the surgery could take anywhere from an hour to several depending on what the doctors found when they got started. Frustrated, Alex ran her hand trough her hair, and decided that she might as well call it a night. She wanted to wait and talk to Catherine, but knew it would be over an hour before the woman arrived, and she was dead on her feet. She glanced at her watch and noticed it was well after midnight. She jotted a quick note to Catherine, leaving her pager number in case she needed her during the night, and said she would be by first thing the next morning.

Looking around she spotted Conner talking with another officer, and waited until she had finished her conversation before approaching the woman.

"I'm going to head out now. There's nothing more I can do here tonight, and tomorrow is going to be hell what with this, and our meeting. I'm going home, and if youŠahhh want to come over when you finish upŠI'll be there." Alex looked everywhere but into Conner's eyes. She knew she had not been easy to deal with the last twenty-four hours, and would not blame Conner in the least if she told her to go to hell.

Conner gave Alex a tired smile, reached out to gently squeeze her arm. "I'll be here for another thirty minutes or so, I want to check in with the lab guys to see what they have, then I'll be on my way. That is if that's not too late to be coming over?"

"No, it's not. I'll leave the light on for you, ok?

Conner gave Alex's arm on last squeeze before she dropped her hand. "Ok, I'll see you soon."

Alex walked out through the automatic doors, and headed to her car. As she dropped into the seat of the Jeep, she felt the wariness in her body, and could not wait to get home.


Conner hung around for a few minutes after Alex left, and then called the lab to see if they had anything yet

"Hey Jan, this is Conner. Have you come up with anything yet on the prints your guy's lifted from the FBI office tonight?"

"Hello Conner. I'm great, thank you, and how are you." Janice Houghton was one of the best technicians in the local crime lab, and had stayed well past the shift change to work on prints.

"Sorry, Jan. I didn't mean to be so blunt, it's just this case is hot and I'm trying to get any kind of lead I can. How are you?"

Janice laughed. "I'm fine Conner, but I know you didn't call to check up on my mental health. All I've been able to come up with so far is a lot of good prints that had no reason not to be there. Everything I've found so far matches personnel assigned to that office."

"Great, so in other words, I've got nothing to go on at the moment." Conner could feel the tension in her shoulders, and shrugged them several times trying to works out the stiffness.

"Well, we haven't even started on the fibers we picked up. Why don't you call it a night? Hopefully, we'll have something for you later this morning, ok?"

"Ok, Thanks Jan. I know your doing all you can. Talk to you later, bye."

Conner placed the receiver in the cradle, and thought about the woman she had just spoken to on the phone. Janice Houghton, was a very attractive woman in her mid thirties, and she and Conner had shared a lonely night together not long after she and Sam had broken up. Janice had just recently moved to Jacksonville, after a nasty break up with her partner of ten years, and was looking for a temporary reprieve from the pain. They had ended up back at Janice's, and spent the next 18 hours in bed, trying to push their respective demons out of their heads.

When the sun came up and their heads cleared out, both women acknowledged that they were not ready or willing to go beyond the one night. She and Janice had taken their one night and used it to build a comfortable friendship. Conner had thought back on the night several times in the last couple of years, and often wondered if there could have been more if the circumstances for both had been different at the time.

She called into the station and signed out for the night. Heading out the door of the hospital, Conner felt the weight of the day press down on her shoulders, although her gait got a little lighter when she thought about where she was headed next.

When Conner pulled into the drive, she noticed that Alex had left the light on for her. Climbing the steps, she rang the doorbell, and stepped back to wait for Alex to open the door. After two more pushes on the button, Conner peered in the glass beside the door. Seeing no movement, she walked around to the back of the house, and stopped short when she saw Alex asleep in the deck chair.

Conner did not want to frighten Alex by walking up on her, so she made a quiet coughing sound in an attempt to rouse the woman. After several tries, Conner decided she had no choice but to go onto the deck. She Bent down in front of the sleeping woman reached out to gently shake Alex's shoulder. Before she knew what was happening, Alex had brought her elbow up, and placed a sharp blow directly between her eyes sending her reeling backwards.

"Oh shit Conner, are you alright?" Alex bolted out of the chair and kneeled beside the woman lying flat on her back. All Alex heard from the other woman was a soft moan, and, knew she had pinged the woman well. A large bump was forming between the woman's eyes, and Alex felt terrible for being the cause of it. She sat there gently caressing Conner's face as she worked her way through the fog, and back to reality.

"Hey there." Alex gave Conner one of her best 'I know I'm in trouble' smiles.

Reaching up to feel the still rising lump on her head, Conner moaned. "Damn, what did you hit me with, a baseball bat?"

"Umm, no just my deadly elbow." Alex continued to stroke the other woman's face.

"I hope you have a permit for those things, they're deadly."

"Umm, I guess I should have warned you about sneaking up on me. I have a tendency to react before I look."

Struggling to a sitting position Conner growled. "Sneak up on you? I did not sneak up on you. I rang the front bell three times, and walked around here when you didn't answer." She continued to rub the sore spot between her eyes. "After that I made stupid noises out in the yard trying to wake you up. Damn, I think I could have fired my gun by your head and you'd still be asleep, as long as I didn't touch you."

"Well, I am sorry. It's not something I have a lot of control over, so consider yourself warned. Come on let's go put some ice on that lump, or you'll look like Mohammad Ali in the morning." Alex stood and reached out her hand to help Conner to her feet. She wrapped her arm around the other woman's waist and helped her through the door, and to the sofa, then headed back to the kitchen for some ice.


He lay in the dunes, and used his night vision binoculars to watch as 'The Shadow' lay sleeping. She looked so frail, and he was a little disappointed to realize that she was no longer a worthy opponent. He continued to watch, and was surprised when he saw the woman walk from around the house. She had stood there for a few moments watching 'The Shadow' sleep before stepping up on the deck.

To his amazement, he watched as 'The Shadow' effectively took the other woman down in one quick movement. He had underestimated her resolve, and realized at that moment that she was not going to be as easy to stop as he had originally thought. He would give her credit for her determination. He did not know of anyone else who could have survived the injuries she had, much less, have the drive to come back.

Tucking the binoculars into his backpack, he moved through the shadows until he was back at the car a mile down the road. He sat there in the darkness, watching the smoke from his cigarette drift in the night air thinking about 'The Shadow'. She was a smart one, he knew this time his intelligence, and skills would be tested as never before. The dark man felt a surge of adrenaline run through his body at the thought. Turning the key in the ignition, and bringing the car to life, he decided that this time he could not let there be a possibility of her return. This time he would stay behind long enough to make sure she was finished off, once and for all.


Chapter Sixteen

Alex brought Conner a bag of ice and a beer, and sat down beside her on the sofa. "I really am sorry for pinging you out there." Alex leaned over, lifted Conner's chin tilting her head back, and placed the cold bag on Conner's forehead.

"No apology necessary. It was my fault I shouldn't have startled you." Reaching up and lifting the bag off her head, Conner gave Alex a mischievous grin. "Just be prepared, because the next time I'm just going to stand out of the away and toss a bucket of water on you." She lay her head back down and groaned as the weight of the bag pressed against her head.

"Hmm, well I'll probably deserve that one."

Conner reached out blindly and captured Alex's hand in her own. They sat there in the semi-darkness, talking about their newest case, while Conner held the bag on her face. Alex drew soft circles in the palm of Conner's hand as they talked and she felt the tension drain away from the other woman. After a few minutes, Conner became quiet and Alex realized she had fallen asleep. She rose and went into the bedroom to pull the sheets down on the bed, then returned to wake Conner. Luckily for Alex, Conner did not have the same reaction upon being touched as she did and only groaned a sleepy groan when Alex shook her shoulder.

Conner pulled the ice from her face and Alex returned it to the freezer. Taking Conner's hand, she pulled her up and led her down the hall to the bedroom. Conner came full awake when she realized that Alex had led her into the master bedroom.

"Umm, Alex, if you would rather I sleep in the guest room."

Alex cut Conner's words off with a tender kiss. "No, I want you here beside me tonight." Alex led Conner to the bed. She pulled on the hard leather of Conner's service belt and gently dropped it to the floor. Starting at the top of her shirt she slowly unbuttoned Conner's shirt and slide it off her shoulders, then reached down and unclasped the snap of her pants sliding the zipper down. Tucking her thumbs into the sides of the pants, she pulled them over her hips and gently pushed Conner backwards, sitting her on her bed.

Conner was still a little dazed from the blow she had sustained earlier and could do nothing more than watch as Alex slowly stripped her. Alex knelt in front of Conner, untied, and removed her shoes and socks, before pulling her pants and underwear over her feet. She stood once again and took hold of the bottom of Conner's t-shirt.

"Raise your arms"

Conner did as she was told as Alex pulled the shirt over her head taking great care not to make contact with the tender lump on Conner's head. Conner felt a chill run over her body as her bare skin was exposed to the cool air, but the chill was replaced with a searing heat as Alex leaned in and gently captured her lips in a tender kiss. Alex reached between Conner's breasts and unclasped her bra, sliding it off her shoulders. Conner was now completely naked and pulled on Alex's shoulders trying to draw her nearer. Alex knelt between Conner's legs causing the woman to jump as the cloth of Alex's pants made contact with the sensitive skin between her legs. They continued to explore each other's mouths, until Alex finally broke the kiss with a gasp.

Taking a slow deep breath to gather herself, Alex pushed Conner back, lifted her legs to the bed, and pulled the covers over the naked woman. Leaning in for one more kiss, she whispered. "I'll be right back, I'm going to lock up and turn out the lights." Alex straightened and gazed down at the woman lying in her bed before picking up Conner's clothes on the floor and quietly leaving the room.

Alex felt herself tremble as she walked down the hall to the kitchen. There had been no one in her life since Feryle and it was strange seeing someone else lying in their bed. Alex walked through the house to the laundry room and put Conner's clothes in the washer. She retraced her steps through the house, turning out the lights and checking the doors, before returning to the bedroom. She could tell by the rhythmic breathing that Conner was asleep and headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

Alex eased into the bed beside Conner and felt the woman stir as she settled in. Conner turned and threw her arm across Alex's stomach


"C'mere" Alex lifted her arm and Conner nuzzled her head in Alex's neck. Pulling the woman closer, Alex lay there in the darkness and thought about how right it felt to hold Conner in her arms. It was not long before Alex heard Conner's rhythmic breathing again. She planted a gentle kiss on the top of Conner's head. Laying her cheek against the silky hair, Alex fell off into a rare, comfortable, and dreamless sleep.



A soft light was peeking through the clouds when the alarm sounded. Alex reached over and quickly hit the snooze button. Conner stirred behind her and pulled Alex closer into the spoon she had formed with their bodies during the night. Alex released a quiet moan as she lay there enjoying the warmth radiating from Conner's body.



Chuckling, Alex remembered that Conner was not a morning person and turned to lie on her back. Conner groaned at the movement, but quickly snuggled back closer to Alex, as she settled.

"As much as I hate to, we need to get up. We both have busy days today," Alex said planting a kiss on the small lump on Conner's forehead.

"Sleepy," Conner whined as she buried her head beneath the pillow.

"I know you're sleepy, but you need to rise and shine," Smiling, Alex reached out and brushed her fingers across Conner's nipple.

The other woman's eyes shot open, fully alert from the sensual caress. "No fair" Conner whined. "You can't do that unless you're going to finish what you start."

"You're such a baby in the morning," Alex teased and placed a gentle kiss on the lump between Conner's eyes, "I'm really sorry for pinging you last night. How does it feel?"

"Not too bad," Conner reached up to feel the lump. "How does it look?"

Alex bit her bottom lip and winced, "Hmm, looks like you've been pinged between the eyes. I am sorry," Alex bent down and gave Conner a quick peck on the lips, before grinning and throwing back the covers.

"Noooo, come on, ten more minutes."

"No way. If I stay here ten more minutes in this bed with you...naked, we'll be here for two hours. Come on get moving. I'll go start the coffee," Alex slid from the bed and pulled on her robe. She got another robe from the closet, placed it on the bed for Conner, and headed down the hall.

Alex put Conner's clothes into the dryer, started the coffee, and went back to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Conner was beginning to stir as she walked through, and she chuckled again at how child-like the tough cop could be in the morning.

Alex had just set the coffee on the table when Conner padded in rubbing her eyes with her fists. She walked over to Alex and gave her a sleepy hug.

"Morning," Conner tucked her face into Alex's neck and inhaled her spicy scent.

"Good morning again, to you too. Did you sleep well?"

"Umm hmm, what about you?"

"I slept okay too." Leaning down, Alex drew Conner in for a proper good morning kiss. They allowed their lips to explore and linger as they enjoyed the early morning tenderness.

"This robe smells good," Conner nuzzled Alex's neck and nipped her ear.

"Thanks," Alex could only whisper, as she took in the scent of both Feryle and Conner at the same instant.

Conner picked up the unspoken words and went still in Alex's arms.

"God Alex, I'm sorry. I'llŠgo get dressed, and."

"No, you don't have to do that. I'm the one that gave it to you to wear, remember? You're welcome to wear it...ahh, that is, if it doesn't bother you."

"No, it's just that I don't want it to upset you Alex."

"It doesn't. Somehow, I think Feryle would approve." Alex gave Conner a gentle smile and gently touched her lips to Conner's.

Conner's eyes widened in disbelief at Alex's declaration and before she could respond, Alex, again, captured her lips for another kiss. The two women stood in the kitchen holding each other for a long while, savoring their newfound emotions. Conner finally broke the silence and whined for coffee.

"God, you're impossible in the mornings. Maybe tonight, I will put you in the guest room." Alex teased.

"Well now, does that mean I'm invited back?" Conner asked nipping Alex's ear as she slid by on her way to the coffeepot.

"Maybe" Alex smirked, walking over to the cabinet to retrieve a couple of cups.

Alex pushed Conner towards the breakfast nook and prepared their coffee, before sliding in beside her. The two women sat silently as they delighted in the first few sips of the hot energizing liquid, enjoying their morning.

Conner let her mind wander back to the events of the previous two days. She had been certain that Alex would turn away after her involvement in the Hernandez case was revealed. Although Alex had tried desperately to do just that, Conner knew Alex couldn't deny the feelings they had shared on the island any more than she could.

"What are your plans for the morning?" Alex shook Conner out of her musings, as she spoke and placed her soft hand on Conner's exposed thigh.

Conner cut her eyes towards Alex and reached down in a bold move to pull the other woman's hand closer to the heat she was feeling, stopping just short of the soft down between her legs.

"I know what I'd like to do. However, I need to look up one of my informants and see if there is any new information on Hernandez's arrival plans." Conner gave Alex a sideways glance, trying to gauge the other woman's reaction as she spoke of their, now, shared case. "I also want to get another look at the warehouse, just to see if I can find any breaches in their security." Conner groaned. "Damn, and sometime this morning I have to go to the island and check on Magnum."

"Oh Conner, I forgot about the poor little thing. He must be starving." Alex's hand tightened on Conner's thigh, sending a surge of heat up her legs.

"Starving hell. I'm worried about the house. He has plenty of dry food out so I'm not worried that he's hungry." Conner waved her hand in the air dismissing Alex's concern for the cat-from-hell. "I'm worried about what he's destroyed in the last twenty-four hours." Conner let her face fall into her hands, remembering the destruction she had walked into a few nights ago. "Anyway, I got a call from Seth yesterday. They decided to stay and extra night, but he'll be home sometime this evening, then I won't have to worry about the little shit any longer."

"Does that mean you'll have to go back to the island tonight to meet Seth?" Alex continued to gently stroke Conner's thigh, as she looked into the flushed face of the woman beside her.

"Well," Conner wiggled one brow at Alex. "If that invitation comes through for tonight, I'll just bring him back with me. Buet will spoil him rotten till Seth comes to pick him up."

Smiling Alex saw the gleam in Conner's eyes and reached out to place a tender kiss on her eager lips, "Consider the invitation delivered," Alex let her tongue slide over Conner's bottom lip in a seductive invitation. "Bring him back with you this afternoon. OK?"

Conner groaned, and wiggled her eyebrows in a bad Groucho Marx imitation. "Your wish is my command, Agent Montgomery"

The women laughed at Conner's bad comedic attempt and regretfully decided they needed to get moving if they were going to get to work on time.

Conner went off to the guestroom to shower, while Alex retrieved Conner's clothes from the dryer and put them on the bed. She called the JPD precinct and left a message for Jack that she needed to postpone their meeting until nine, since she wanted to go by the hospital to see Catherine.

Setting the phone down, she turned to face the closed bathroom door in the guestroom. Biting her lip, she glanced at the clock as a thought formed in her mind. "What the hell," she mumbled and stripped off her clothes.

Conner' senses came to full alert when she felt cool air touch her skin. Her body shivered as Alex slid in behind her and wrapped long arms around her waist.

"I thought we might save a little time if we...umm, both showered together" Alex's voice had become low and husky as she tucked her head and placed a kiss on Conner's neck.

"Mmm, I'm not sure that was a wise idea, Agent Montgomery, if you want to be on time for work." Conner reached behind her and drew Alex's body closer. They stood there savoring the nearness, as warm water ran across their bodies. Pulling away slightly, Alex reached for the soap and silently covered Conner's body with a spicy cinnamon lather. Conner reached her arms out to steady herself and gasped, as Alex's hand's moved between her legs making contact with the sensitive nerves below.

"Mmmm." Conner groaned, as her breathing became fast and ragged.

Smiling to herself, Alex turned Conner so the spray could rinse the lather from her body. Conner stood with her eyes closed, savoring the sensual caresses, when she felt a hand on her shoulder, gently turning her around. Alex gave Conner a tender kiss, then bent and captured a hard nipple between her lips.

Conner's hands wrapped around Alex's head and she pressed the woman closer. "God, Alex, that feels so good. IŠI've missed you so much."

Alex rose and placed one hand on each side of Conner's face, as she looked deeply into her eyes. "I'm sorry, I was wrong about you. I know that now. "

Conner answered Alex by claiming the woman's mouth in a passionate kiss. Hands searched, tongues probed and passions ignited, until Alex backed Conner against the cool shower wall and knelt before her. Alex's hands slide across Conner's stomach as her body moved downward. She lifted one of Conner's muscular legs and pulled it around her shoulder, as she looked up into the dark sultry eyes of the woman above her. She allowed her eyes and hands to roam over the taut muscles of Conner's body as she reached up and took a hard nipple between her fingers, pinching it gently; and at the same time moved in to capture the swollen bud of nerves between her lips.

"God, Alex" Conner's voice was ragged and low as her body responded to the sweet onslaught of Alex's tongue. She held onto the built in towel bar for support, praying it would hold up against her weight.

Alex continued her exploration and soon had two fingers buried deep inside the woman. She felt the muscles tighten around her fingers as Conner climbed higher and higher. Alex looked up and saw Conner watching her from above.

"I love to watch you make love to me."

Alex smiled and gave Conner a cute wink, just before she added another finger, and drove deeper into the hot core.

'Ahhhh." Conner's eyes closed and her head fell back against the shower wall in response to the rapid change of pace. She let her body ride the wave up, higher and higher, as Alex's tongue softly stroked her hard shaft, and her fingers found the spot that always sent her over the edge. Looking back down at the stunning women below her, she felt the first hot contractions deep in her core. She buried one hand in Alex's wet hair, drawing the woman closer, and screamed out as the orgasm overtook her body.

"Aleeeex! Yes, don't stop!"

Alex continued pumping until she felt Conner sag against her shoulder, and then slowed her ministrations as she licked the warm juices from Conner's swollen lips and thighs. She allowed the woman to bask in the aftershocks of their lovemaking, before rising and wrapping her arms around Conner's waist. Alex held the exhausted woman in her arms as she buried her face in the warm clean crook of Conner's neck. They stood there, bodies trembling and minds reflecting, until the strength returned to Conner's shaky legs.

"Damn, What a wake up call." Conner leaned back against the wall and pulled Alex down to her lips.

"Mmm, well, you had better get a move on or we'll be late for our meeting. Get out of here so I can shower." Alex kissed the lump on Conner's forehead and gave her a tender swat on the ass as she pushed her towards the shower door.

"You don't play fair, you know that? I didn't get my turn." Conner whined.

'You can have your turn tonight, OK?" Splashing water in Conner's face Alex teased, "I'll make it worth your wait."

Conner's eyes turned dark and she started back towards Alex with and evil gleam in her eyes.

"Out! Now!"

"OK, OK, I'm going." Conner stepped out and left Alex to finish her shower.

Grabbing her towel, she quickly dried and walked out into the bedroom to find her clean clothes lying on the bed. Looking back at the closed door, Conner felt a warm heat fill her heart and knew she was falling fast and hard for this dark, dangerous woman they called 'The Shadow'.

By the time Alex had finished dressing and returned to the kitchen, Conner had scrounged around and found some bagels. Handing a travel mug of coffee and a bagel to Alex, they headed out the door.

"I need to go by the hospital to check on Donald and see Catherine. I'll see you back at the precinct. Will you tell Jack I'm sorry for bumping the meeting to nine, but I really need to do this, OK?"

"I really don't think he'll have a problem with it, Alex. He knows and likes Donald too, and understands that this has to be a priority for you this morning."

"OK, just tell him I'll be there as soon as I can."

Alex climbed into the jeep and Conner into her Jag, as they both headed out to their respective jobs.


Alex walked into the ICU waiting room and spotted Catherine asleep in a chair. She was quietly backing out to not wake the woman when she heard a weary voice call her back.


Alex walked over and sat next to Catherine, pulling the woman's hand into hers. "Any word?"

Sighing heavily, Catherine pulled her free hand through her hair and looked at Alex with heavy eyes. "I talked to the surgeon at about 2am and she said the procedure went well. They put in a shunt to relieve the pressure are optimistic that he will recover. They let me see him for a few minutes around five this morning, but he didn't wake up."

"I am so sorry, Catherine. I wish there was more I could do." Alex was gently rubbing her thumb across the top of Catherine's hand, trying to provide at least some comfort to her friend.

"Just find the person who did this Alex. That and getting Donald healthy again is all I want and need."

"I intend to Catherine. You just concentrate on Donald and get some rest yourself. You're not going to be any good to him if you sit here 24/7 and wear yourself out, ok?"

"I will. I'm going to go home to take a nap and shower after they let me see him again."

Alex stood, still holding on to Catherine's hand. "Good. You have my pager number, will you call me if anything changes?"

Catherine nodded, and stood to embrace the woman who had become an adopted member of her family. They said their good-byes and Alex headed out of the hospital. She had one more stop to make before her meeting back at Precinct One.


Conner called the precinct and Buet told her Captain Peterson wanted to talk to her. She waited until the line clicked and heard her Captain's voice.

"Harris, what's happening in the Fairfax case?"

"The lab has all the evidence that was gathered at the scene. I called sometime after midnight and Janet was staying to work the prints. I'm headed over there now to see if they have anything new."

"Ok, let me know what you find out. Get in touch with Agent Montgomery. I need to postpone our meeting until after lunch. The FBI guys from Orlando will be here around ten and I have to meet with them. I'm not sure how long that will take, so let's just meet back here at 1 o'clock."

"Sure Captain. I'll pass the word." Conner hit the end button on her cell phone then dug in her console for the number to Alex's pager. Once she sent the voice mail on it's way, she decided to spend the morning tracking down her contacts to see what else she could come up with on the Hernandez case. She also wanted to check out the warehouse again, and decided she would do that on her way to the island to pick up the 'cat-from-hell'.

Conner headed down to Union Street. She was looking for Reggie Walker, a one time Hernandez wannabe, who couldn't even keep his own pushers in line. He had been a middleman somewhere in the Hernandez Organization, but too many snorts of the white powder, and far fewer breaks, had landed him on the streets peddling for the new middleman.

Conner shook her head as she thought about Reggie. He could have made something of his life at one point. His father was a well-known investment banker, and his mother, a principal at one of the local high schools. To his parents' dismay, Reggie had taken a wrong turn early in his adolescence and was eventually arrested for the first time when he was eleven. He was caught selling pot to some kids behind the gym during a basketball game at his mother's high school. From there, he slid downhill until finally his father kicked him out of the house on his eighteenth birthday. He had now been living on the streets for almost ten years. Reggie knew the territory probably better than most and Conner was determined to find out what he knew.

She spotted Reggie coming out of 'Buddy's Pool Cue' and cut him off at the next alley with her car. He looked up just as her tires screamed on the pavement and the Jag came to swift halt. He turned and ran in the opposite direction, but Conner's youth and good health was too much of a match for the worn out junkie. She reached him in less than half a block and sent him sliding face first on the sidewalk as she tackled him from behind. Before he had time to recover, she grabbed the back of his smelly leather jacket and pulled him to his feet, shoving him against the wall.

"Where you running off to in such a hurry there, Reg?" Conner had twisted his arm behind his back and pulled up just enough to get his attention.

"Come on man, I didn't do shit."

"Then why are you running?"

"Shit, every time I see you coming you hassle me, what'dya 'spect me ta do, send you an invitation?"

"Don't get smart with me Reg. You know I'm not too happy in the mornings and beating the crap out of a little shit like you might be just what I need to start my day off good." Conner twisted the junkie's arm higher between his shoulder blades driving her point home.

"By the look of your face, somebody else's day started off good," Reggie knew the instant he made the comment that it was a mistake. He heard Conner growl, then felt a sharp pain in his face as the officer pushed him harder against the brick wall. "Ok, Ok, Damn, Whatcha want?"

"I want you to tell me whose been supplying you with the bad dope you've been selling on the street lately. I know you're a runner for them. I've hauled some of your customers to the hospital in the last few weeks. You tell me what I want to know and I'll let you aloneŠfor a while. If you don't, then I'm taking you downtown to our friendly little bed and breakfast, and you know Reg, I'll bet I could arrange it so you get to travel up to Starke and see Frankie. Maybe I could even work it so you two could be cellmates. What do you think of that?"

Conner's patience was wearing thin. She knew Reggie knew more than he was letting on and with the rumors of Hernandez's reappearance just two days away, she was getting desperate for some answers. Conner reached around and patted his pockets. Digging her hand inside the grimy jeans, she came up with three little squares of coke.

"Come on man, you know Frankie'll kill me." Reggie was whining and Conner thought about how pathetic he looked.

Frankie had been the man that took over when Reggie was booted from the Hernandez Organization and he had always sought his revenge. Conner had arrested Reggie in the fall of the previous year, dealing dope to some tourist down on Beach Boulevard. She had nabbed him with a pound of pot, thirty hits of cocaine and a variety of other recreational drugs. He was looking at ten to twenty, until he rolled over and gave Conner the name as his supplier - Frankie.

A few nights later they raided Frankie's hideout and came away with almost fifty pounds of pot stashed away in the cellar and two kilos of cocaine buried in hundred pound, flour bags in the pantry, but not before Frankie took out a rookie cop. Frankie was now doing life without parole at the State Prison in Starke.

'Well, it's your call Reg, talk to me, or I'll make sure you get to share a cell with Frankie. Personally after what you did to him last year, I think I'd talk." Conner pulled up on Reggie's arm again and heard the cartilage grind as the joint began to give under the strain.

"Ok, Ok, just ease up on the arm." Conner released the pressure just enough to satisfy Reggie, but kept him well within her control.

"I'm waiting"

"All I know is there's something big happening this weekend."

"Tell me something I don't know, Reg. It's the middle of tourist season, something is always happening on the weekends." Conner was beginning to get pissed. She had a lot to do before her meeting and was tired of playing games with the junkie.

"OK, have it your way" She reached around to her back and pulled the handcuffs from the holder on her belt.

Hearing the familiar sound Reggie gave in and spilled his guts. "Whoa now, OK. I'll tell you everything I know."

"Five seconds Reg and you're going with me."

"OK, word on the street is that 'the man' is coming to town for a big deal."

"And?" This much Conner already knew. She needed something more concrete to take into the meeting with her today.

"Suppose to be at some warehouse out by the Brewery." Reggie was sweating and the smell coming off him was making Conner green.

"So, who's the big guy meeting with out there?"

"I.I don't know." Reggie hesitated just a fraction of a second too long and Conner went in for the kill. She slammed his arm up behind his back forcing his face into the brick wall.

"Don't fuck with me, asshole, I want names and I want them now."

Reggie howled as his nose hit the wall and he felt his shoulder begin to pull out of the socket. "Sarantos. It's Papa Paul, and Hernandez. They've got a huge deal coming down, even better than the one that was messed up last year by that other lady cop. They ain't taking no chances this time. I hear the place is locked down tight. Can't get within a hundred yards of it without getting electrocuted, eaten up by a Rottie or shot by a sniper."

Conner released Reggie's arm, more from the shock of what she had just heard than anything else. Reggie turned around and rubbed is shoulder, staring at Conner. "Hey, I know my advice don't mean shit to you, but I'm giving it to you anyway. You want to live to see Monday, stay the hell away from there. Those dudes tote some serious weapons. Better than you'll ever touch." Backing away and seeing his chance to flee Reggie gave her one last warning. "They're expecting trouble, ya know? They know 'The Shadow's' back in town."

Conner almost missed his last words as the junkie turned and ran down the sidewalk. She stood there staring him as she ran her hand through her hair. "Fuck, they're trying to set us up."

Conner walked back to the Jag and pulled out onto the road heading towards the interstate, and the warehouse. She wanted another good look at the layout during the daylight to see how much, if anything, she could make out of their security.

She drove down the road at a normal speed, eyeing the fence and surrounding property as she passed. She pulled in at the Colorado Container to turn around, and as she was backing out of the drive, she spotted a movement on top of the building. Trying not to act too obvious, she glanced around trying to appear lost and saw another dark figure on the other end of the structure. She shifted the Jag to drive and drove away from the building, speeding back to the interstate.


Chapter Seventeen

As Conner drove north on I-95, she couldn't stop thinking about the men she had seen on the rooftop of the Colorado Container building. Why would a container manufacturer have armed guards on the rooftop? Unless? Conner pulled her cell phone from her backpack and dialed Buet at the precinct.

"Hey Buet, it's Conner. Listen, I need a huge favor and fast."

"Sure kid, what's up?"

"I need you to make a few discreet calls and see what you can find out about the Colorado Container Corp. I need to know if they have had any changes in management, ownership, anything, for the last year. No, make that the last two years."

"Does this have something to do with the Hernandez thing?" Buet had been keeping close tabs on the Hernandez case. When he was younger, he could have sunk his teeth into a case like this. Now though, he could only watch from the sidelines and hope that Conner didn't get in too far over her head.

"Yeah Buet, that's why I need it kept quiet. Do it yourself, alright? I don't want anyone else to know where I'm going with this right now."

"You got it. I'll see what I can come up with."

"I'll be back around one o'clock. I'll check in with you when I get there." Conner pulled the phone away from her ear and was about to push the end button, before she stopped herself, lifting the phone back to her face.

"Hey Buet? In case I haven't said it lately. Umm, thanks."

"Gee Conner, you're getting me all misty eyed. Just go do what you gotta do and I'll see you later." Buet hung up the phone before Conner could respond. He always had a soft spot for the woman. Somehow, she did not seem to tarnish like most other cops after putting in a few years. Back when they were partners for a while, he had done his own background search on Conner and found out to his amazement that she was a multi-millionaire several times over. To this day, he couldn't understand why she continued to crawl around in the gutters scraping trash off the streets, when she could be on some beach tanning her cute little hide. All he could figure was that she must damn sure love the job.

Conner arrived at her condominium around eleven. She was gathering up all of Magnum's toys when the phone rang.

"Hello!" Conner only heard silence in the background.

"Hello! Anyone there?" There was a long pause before she heard the deep whispered voice speaking to her.

"Keep your distance, or you'll regret it."

"Who is this?"

"Just think of me as your guardian angel."

"OK, Angel. We'll play it your way. Just what is it you think I'm doing?"

"You're out of your league, Harris. I'll only tell you once, stay away."

A chill ran up Conner's spine as she realized that someone had spotted her by the warehouse. What made it even more eerie was that she had an unlisted phone number. The caller had to be someone that knew, not only her number, but also where she lived, and that she was at home this very minute.

The connection went dead in Conner's hand and she stood there staring at the receiver for a moment before replacing it in the cradle. She shook off the sense of dread as she finished gathering Magnum's things, went to pack an overnight bag for herself and headed back to the city. Driving along the interstate, she was aware of other drivers around her. She could not spot a tail on her, but knew someone was out there lurking.

When Conner arrived at the precinct, she pulled Magnum and his luggage from the car and walked inside. Giving Buet a pleading smile, she asked him to watch the cat until Seth could come by and pick him up later. Buet was not thrilled about cat sitting, but given his fondness to Conner, gave in fairly easy.

"Thanks Buet, I owe you one." Conner yelled over her shoulder. She stopped as she remembered the information she had asked Buet to check on earlier. Walking back to the desk, she leaned in close. "Did you find out anything about Colorado Container Company?"

Buet looked back over his shoulder and caught the eye of another desk junkie, calling him over to watch the desk while he took a break. Motioning to Conner, he led her outside to the parking lot.

"Hmm, must be juicy to get me all the way out here?"

"I think you'll be surprised to see this. It took a little digging to get through the dummy corporations until I found names, but here it is in black and white." Buet pulled out several folded pages from his back pocket and handed them to Conner. She read over them quickly and looked up at Buet with shocked eyes.

"How can he afford this?"

Buet just shrugged his shoulders, offering no comments. Conner ran her fingers through her hair as she re-read the information.

"I think the group will think this is very interesting. Although I don't know exactly what Agent Montgomery will say."

Conner reached up and planted a sloppy kiss on Buet's cheek. He turned a deep red at the open affection he had just received from Conner.

"Umm, welcome."

Conner just laughed at his embarrassment and turned to walk back inside.

"I'll always love ya, Buet."

Conner went to her cubbyhole and sat there thinking about the morning's events. She had left Alex's, went downtown to have her chat with Reggie, then to the warehouse and then home. Someone had to have been tailing her. What she did not know was when they had picked her up and wondered if they knew she spent the night with Alex.

Conner thumbed back through the papers Buet had given her and glanced around the office. She studied her notes and before she knew it she looked up to see that it was almost one o'clock. She gathered her files and headed down the hall to the conference room.


Alex was sitting at the long conference table looking over her notes when Conner breezed in through the door. She snapped her head up at the sudden noise and her face broke out in a wide grin when she saw Conner. Their eyes locked as Conner returned the smile and she could not help but recall the last time they had met in this room.

"I sure like this reception better than the last." Conner's voice was light and cheerful. She wanted to make sure Alex knew she was playing, so as she walked by on her way to grab a cup of coffee, she reached out her hand and gently stroked the woman's neck.

Clearing her throat and sitting up straighter in the chair, Alex fought to control the warm feeling Conner had elicited in her lower body, with the gentle caress.

"How was your morning?" Alex asked in a throaty voice, still not having her emotions under complete control.

"Interesting, very interesting." Conner continued to stir her coffee as she thought about what she was going to say next.

"Umm, Alex can I ask a favor of you?" Conner came around the table and sat directly across from the other woman.

"Sure Conner. Is everything OK?" Alex set down the files she had been reading and looked up at Conner expectantly. She could see the fine lines of worry etched around the woman's eyes.

"IŠwellŠif I act a little evasive in here today, don't push me to expand OK? A lot has happened this morning and I have found that at least one member of our precinct has turned rogue. Well, maybe, anyway. I don't want to give up any more information than I have to until I find out if there are others."

Alex arched an eyebrow at the other woman. "Are you going to fill me in or do I have to play the guessing game too?" Her question came out a little harsher than she had planned, but she did not intend to let Conner keep information that was crucial to the investigation from her.

"Of course I'll tell you. Just not here, and not now." Conner's eyes blazed back and Alex instantly knew that her last question had hurt the other woman.

Alex opened her mouth to respond, but her words were cut short as Captain Peterson walked through the door.

"Good afternoon Alex. Conner. I'm sorry we had to postpone the meeting until now, but with the events of last night and the Investigators from Orlando arriving this morning, well, it couldn't be helped.

Peterson dropped the files he held onto the table and sat down as he focused his attention onto Alex.

"Is there any word from Fairfax?"

"The last I heard Donald was waking up, but with all of the drugs combined with the trauma he sustained, his recovery could take a while." Alex pulled her gaze from Peterson, looked at Conner, and asked her own question.

"Do we have anything else in from the lab?"

"Nothing yet. From the prints that were lifted, they all either matched an FBI Agent assigned to the office or one of the police officers on the scene." What Conner did not tell him was that one of the prints belonged to the same police officer that was now a major part of her investigation.

"Well, keep on it and lets give them as much help as we can. I know the feeb's don't like our help...uh, present company excluded, so they certainly won't ask for it."

Peterson sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. "Does anyone know where Johnson is?"

Both women shook their heads as Peterson rose and walked out to track him down. The two women's eyes locked and Alex leaned in to speak to Conner in a whispered voice. "Meet me at Huey's at three o'clock, OK?"

"Sure" Conner said as Peterson walked back in and sat down once again. "I'm having Buet page him to get his ass in here. We're not waiting though, so who wants to go first?"

Alex decided to go first. Peterson and Conner listened intently as Alex filled then in on what she had found out about Gonzolas and his personal covert operations.

"You know, something that struck me as odd last night at your office Alex, is that not once, while Gonzolas was talking to us did he ask about SAC Fairfax's condition." Conner tilted her head and shrugged her shoulders. "I wondered about it then, but forgot to mention it to you after he left. Have you considered him a suspect in the assault?"

Alex leaned her head back and stretched the muscles in her neck. "Actually, he was the first person that came to mind. However, without some evidence pointing in his direction, I don't think I have enough to even question him about it." Alex let out a slow sigh." Donald and I have had several conversations about Jose's actions since I returned, but as far as I know I'm the only one he has spoken to about his concerns."

"Umm Alex. I hope I'm not going to step on anyone's toes here, but has there been a complete background check completed on Gonzolas?" Peterson looked a little hesitant, knowing how the FBI felt about the local police force.

"I'm sure one was completed when he signed on with the Agency. Other than that random checks are usually down monthly, so I can't say when the last one was completed on him"

"Well, if you think it's appropriate, I can run a check from here. I know it wouldn't be as detailed as the FBI's, but it may give us something."

"That's a good idea Jack," Alex sighed, "I know I can't run one in-house without drawing some attention to it, and if Gonzolas is involved he will be watching every move I make." Alex bit her bottom lip as she mulled over the thought. "Do it and if you get a hit on anything, then I'll follow up on it." Alex knew that this could bring her trouble from, not only Gonzolas, but also everyone in the FBI. Agents did not like to have their loyalty questioned, especially by a fellow agent. However, Alex could not take a chance on this one. She had to know where Gonzolas' loyalties lay.

Alex looked at Conner, then at Jack. She hesitated before she spoke, knowing what she was about to ask could be crossing the line. "Jack, I need you to run one more person through the system too."

Conner knew what Alex was about to request and knew she was struggling with the idea that Donald may not be what he appeared. She and Donald had had a long, trusting relationship. When Alex glanced her way, Conner returned the unspoken question with an almost indiscernible nod.

"I need you to run Donald through the system."

Jack's face registered shock as Alex made the request. Releasing a heavy sigh, he studied the woman for a few seconds before responding.

"Alex, that's a big request. Do you want to tell me why you want a background check on your boss"?

Once again, Alex nervously glanced at Conner silently asking for her support, "Last night I was trying to find Donald's emergency contact information. He hadn't updated his personnel file since Catherine began Law School in Gainesville so I didn't know how to contact her. The only other place I knew to look was in his desk, but it was locked. I had Conner witness my breaking the lock to search for an address book. Anything that would give me Catherine's number."

Jack watched Alex, noticing the stress lines that had formed across her brow.

Taking a deep breath, Alex continued. "Anyway, while I was searching the desk, I found a folder with my name on it." Raising her hand to ward off any admonitions from Jack, she continued. "I looked through the file and saw that Donald has had me tailed from before the warehouse incident."

Alex's eyes swept between Conner and Jack. Her hands were in fists on top of the table and Jack not only heard, but could also see the turmoil Alex was experiencing. In an apprehensive voice Jack asked, "Why do you think he had a file on you Alex?"

"I'm not sure Jack. Conner seems to think it may only be a protective tail, butŠI think. Damn it. I don't know what to think. Donald and I have always been open and honest with each other. If it has been for my protection, I think he would have told me." Alex ran her hand through her hair. "All I know is I have to know where everyone stands and who I can trust," Alex gave Conner a torn look, "This thing is about to come to a head and I don't want anyone to be caught in the crossfire again."

Conner tensed as she took in the emotional look from Alex and knew the comment had been made more for her benefit than for Jack's. Her heart lurched as Alex voiced her fears. She knew that the information she had yet to share with Alex would only reinforce her conviction that someone inside was deeply involved in the operation. She looked at Jack, saw the uncertainty on his face, and knew she had to do something to tip the scale in Alex's' favor.

"Captain, I ran down one of my informants this morning and I have information that is pointing not only to someone at the Agency, but also someone from our own house being involved in this." Conner saw her Captain's look of shock and headed off his next comment with a raised hand, "I can't go into it until I've followed it up more this afternoon, but I think Alex is right, we need to know who we can trust."

Jack leaned both elbows on the table and faced Conner. "Harris if you have any information concerning one of my officer's, I want it, and I want it now." His eyes bored into Conner, as the tension in the air got noticeably thicker.

Taking a deep breath, Conner spoke the only words she could at the moment. "Sorry Captain, I can't do that."

Jack balked at the statement from his best detective. "Harris, I'm ord."

Conner cut off his demand. "Captain, I can't. You know yourself what happens when an officer's loyalty comes under scrutiny. Even if it is later proven unfounded, there is always a mark. Always a hint of doubt. I will not let that happen. If this guy is innocent, then I'll drop it, if not, then you'll be the first to know."

Jack sat back and ran a hand over his face as he sat and stared hard at Conner. Blowing out an exasperated growl, finally conceding to his ace detective, he pointed a finger directly at her face, "OK, Conner. I'll give you some leeway on this one. However, it only goes so far."

Turning to face Alex, he shook his head in resignation. "Gonzolas - well, you can have everything I find on him. As for Donald, I'll run the check, but the information stays with me. If I feel there is anything relevant to the case, then I'll give it to you on a need-to-know basis. That's all I can give you on this one Alex."

Alex released a pent up breath. She knew what she was asking was tough for Jack, but she had to know. As for Donald, if he was innocent in all of this, she hoped he would never find out about her reservations. However, if he did, then all she could do was hope for the best, and ask his forgiveness.

Jack growled as he straightened the files on the table in front of him. "We'll meet back here tomorrow morning at ten o'clock, otherwise you can page me if anything comes up." Jack turned towards Conner, "Oh, and tell Johnson I want him in my office the minute he shows."

Jack stood and walked to the door, then turned and looked back at the two women. "I don't know of two other officers I trust more that the two of you. Don't disappoint me on this one." Jack turned and walked out the door, shutting it a little harder than he had intended to, but damn it, he was now in the hot seat. If this thing blew up in their faces, his pension would be down the toilet and all three of them would not only be in the unemployment line, but in the sights of every cop and agent in the city.

Alex and Conner sat at the table in silence for a few moments, both mentally exhausted from the meeting. Finally, Alex spoke in a tired voice. "Well, we just opened the can, now let's see if any worms come crawling out."

Conner gave her a nervous smile and stood as she crammed her files into the satchel. "Let's get out of here and go somewhere we can talk."

The two women gathered their files, headed out the door and down the hallway to the front desk. Conner asked Buet to locate Johnson and tell him the Captain wanted to see him ASAP, then turned and walked out the front door of the precinct beside Alex.


The man watched as the two women walked out of the precinct. He didn't get a good look at the woman on 'The Shadow's' deck the night before, but he was almost certain that it was the same person. The dark man pulled a long drag from his cigarette then tossed it in the gutter as he pushed off from the wall. Strolling towards his truck, trying to look inconspicuous, the man kept a close watch on the two women now entering the parking garage. Sitting in the truck, he lit another cigarette and waited patiently until he saw the women exit the garage in 'The Shadows' jeep. As he pulled into traffic, a safe distance behind them, a plan formed in his mind.

Conner could tell Alex was still upset from the meeting and remained quiet as they made their way to the restaurant. She could see the darkness seeping out from behind the blue eyes, and knew 'The Shadow' was once again in her presence. It was not that Conner feared 'The Shadow' per se, but rather the drastic transformation the soft, gentle, woman she had shared the past weekend with made.

Alex pulled into the parking garage across from The Landing, shut off the engine and turned to Conner. "You've been quiet since we left the office, what's on your mind?"

Conner stretched her neck trying to work out the kinks and tried to put her thoughts into words. "I don't know. I just see how this is all getting to you. And I want to do something to help you through it...but I don't know what to do."

Alex saw the pain in Conner's eyes and reached out to take her hand. She looked out the window of the Jeep for a moment before turning back to her. "I don't need you to help me through this. I need you to help me finish it. Conner, IŠI know the other night when I shut you out. Well, I was wrong." Her voice shuttered as she remembered the fear that overcame her when she realized Conner was deeply immersed in the case. "IŠahh...didn't respond very well, and wellŠI want to say I'm sorry."

Conner gripped the other woman's hand tighter, as she gently stroked the soft skin beneath her thumb. "Alex, it's OK. I know."

"No it isn't OK, Conner. I know you're good at what you do and I did not, and do not, have the right to tell you that you can't do it. It's just thatŠI've already lost someone I love to this madman, and it scares the hell out of me to think I might lose you too." Tears welled up in Alex's eyes as she looked at Conner. "IŠI'm wellŠI'm finding out every day that you're becoming more important to me. I don't want to lose you before I."

"Stop it. You can't think that way. Don't you think I'm scared too, Alex? We have to work together on this...all of it, the case, the relationship, everything. I know there isn't a defined separation point for either, but I think we're both professional enough that we will do whatever we have to do to bring this to an end."

"Will you answer one question for me?" Alex knew she was putting Conner on the spot, but something inside told her she had to know the answer.

"Sure, if I can."

"Tell me who you made your promise to?"

Conner held Alex's eyes with her own for several seconds before she turned and stared out the window. They sat there for several silent moments before Conner turned back, "Alex, why is it so important to you?"

"I don't know. Something just tells me it should be."

"Can we talk about this later?" Conner began to pull away but Alex pulled her hand back, forcing the other woman to face her.

"No, we can't."

Realizing she had no choice but to answer the question, she faced Alex as a single tear formed and ran down her cheek. "Feryle. I promised Feryle.

Alex's heart pounded in her chest as the words slammed into her brain and she suddenly felt an overwhelming need to escape the confines of the car. She gripped the handle, shoved the door open, and practically fell out of the Jeep. She hesitated, not knowing where to go or how to escape the nightmare she now found herself living.

Seeing the look of panic on the other woman's face, Conner got out and ran to the other side of the vehicle. She reached and touched Alex's shoulder, but found her hand shrugged away.

Alex struggled for words, but found herself utterly speechless. She turned and walked to the railing of the garage, four levels above the street, and leaned on her elbows as tears formed in her eyes blurring her vision. She tried to get her emotions under control and tensed as Conner walked over and leaned next to her.

Conner didn't say anything as she allowed Alex time to gather herself. The wind whipped through their hair. She almost didn't hear Alex when she finally spoke a few moments later.

"Did...did you know her?"

"No, I never met her."

"Then how?" Alex toyed with her keys as she looked through her tears, down at the street below.

Conner took a deep breath and knew the time had come to explain it all. She knew one day it would all come out, but as she stood here in the garage next to Alex, she wished they had a little more privacy. "Can we go somewhere a little more private?"

"No! You tell me now! Here! If this involves Feryle, then I have a right to know," Alex glared at Conner through red eyes.

She could see Alex's hands trembling as she played with the keys. Conner took a deep breath and turned to lean over the railing. "Well, you know Sam and I used to be together. Right?" Conner did not wait for a reply. "Anyway, it took a while, but after we broke up we managed to salvage our friendship. When she and Kelly got together, we had not worked our friendship out yet and it was during this time, they ran into you and Feryle at Antonio's and your friendship began."

Alex remembered the night Conner was speaking about. She and Feryle had gone to Antonio's for dinner, to get a break from working on the house. The restaurant had been more crowded than usual and as they waited on a table, Sam and Kelly had walked in. After introducing Kelly and talking for a while, Maria came up and announced that their table was ready. Knowing Sam and Kelly were in for a long wait, Alex invited them to join them for dinner. The four women had enjoyed the evening and made plans to get together again that weekend. Soon, the four women had formed a solid friendship and met often for dinner, or weekend barbecues.

"Why didn't we ever meet?" Alex voice was a whisper as she pulled herself from the memory.

"I don't know. It took a while after Sam and I called a truce for Kelly to warm up to the idea that we wanted to keep the friendship. Sam and I would usually get together for drinks after work, and we kept in touch that way. Kelly did not exactly like it, but after a while she realized that I was no threat to their relationship, and began to drop by as well. The three of us managed to develop a friendship, but it was usually just the three of us when we did get together. I don't know, but I think Kelly thought it was strange that we were all friends and thought everyone else would as well, so I never pushed the issue. I love Kelly like a sister and I know she makes Sam happy. A lot happier than I could have ever done."

Conner took a deep breath to clear her head and continued her story. "IŠahh...was going through a rough timeŠummm...basically taking all my frustrations out a bottle and releasing my stress with whoever was willing. I got pretty wild there for a while and I don't think I would have really fit in with the barbecue crowd that gathered at Sam's on the weekends, even if Kelly had been comfortable with the idea."

Conner heard Alex smirk and decided that her honesty, at least for the moment was working to ease the tension. "Anyway, last year after theŠumm...accident, Sam was pretty torn up about it all. The four of you had become great friends andŠwell she was in a lot of pain. She didn't feel like she could talk to Kelly about it and so she talked to me. I have never before, or since, seen Sam in so much pain."

Alex lifted her head to look out at the river beyond the building and Conner could see the tears streaming down her cheeks. She reached over and gently took the crying woman's hand in hers. Alex didn't pull away and Conner intertwined her fingers with Alex's as she gently caressed the soft skin with her thumb. "Sam's pain was so raw and during our conversations about the two of you I felt like I got to know you both as well. It wasn't but a few weeks after Feryle's death that you were almost killed. That sent Sam over the edge and neither Kelly nor I thought we would get her back after that happened."

"I never knew," Alex whispered. She had been quiet throughout the entire story. Listening to Conner speak of Sam's pain and grief. She had been so caught up in her own torment and anger during the time that she had not realized that other people had also been devastated by Feryle's death.

"Sam is like that. Always the happy friend, ready to lend a helping hand, but never letting anyone else know when she's in pain or needs someone else. It was only because she was so overwhelmed that she reached out to me."

"I'm sorry, finish your story." Alex wiped the tears from her face and glanced at Conner. She saw the stress etched on the other woman's face and knew this was agonizing for her. Unconsciously, Alex tightened her grip on Conner's hand, offering an encouraging gesture.

"After you were taken away, Sam almost went crazy. All anyone would tell her was that you were aliveŠnothing more. I sat up with her all night one time when Kelly was out of town on business and the look I saw on her face that night scared me, Alex." Conner ran a hand over her face as she remembered her friend's pain, "She was soŠso lost. She didn't think they would let you come back until the murderer was found and kept asking me about the progress in the investigation."

"We had both been drinking that night. She finally passed out and I got her to bed sometime early that morning. I had been up for almost two days working a case and desperately needed a shower and a change of clothes. I left to go home for a while and as I was driving, I rode by Pinecrest Cemetery. I remembered Sam saying that was where you had buried Feryle. I don't know what made me stop, but I did, and spent over an hour searching before I found her grave. Before I left the cemetery that morning, I promised Feryle I would put an end to this."

Conner reached out and turned Alex's face towards hers. With a gentle thumb, she wiped a tear off her face and took a ragged breath as she fought to keep her emotions under control. "I knew Kelly and I needed Sam backŠand we both knew Sam needed you."

Conner ran a trembling hand through her hair and released a frustrated sigh. "The case I was currently working on involved some bad drugs. Junkies were dying left and right. It wasn't happening in one isolated area, it was all over central Florida. I knew it had to be a well-organized ring and I finally followed the trail back to one of Hernandez's groups. I went to the Captain, told him about the link and asked to be let in on the case. Since then, that's been my main priority."

The women stood quietly for a while, looking out over the street below, and gathering their thoughts. Conner could tell there were still question in Alex's mind, but felt better now that the truth was out in the open.

"So you knew who I was that morning when we first met at the precinct." Alex shot Conner a piercing glare.

"No, I didn't. I didn't realize it until later that night when you told me about Feryle's death. In fact, when Sam introduced you, I didn't even know. Sam always called you feebee." Conner gave a sad snicker. "I always thought she was calling her friend Phoebe, you know, P-h-o-e-b-e."

"Anyway, even after I made the connection, I still couldn't say anything. I knew you were going back to work, but I had no idea they would let you back on the case. Information was being passed out on a need to know basis and everyone was under a gag order. We didn't even talk about it amongst ourselves, unless we had a team meeting...everyone reported directly to the Captain. I couldn't say anything about it to you, Alex...I just couldn't."

Conner took Alex's shoulders and turned her so they were facing. "I would have told you if I could. I know I shouldn't have let things progress as far as they did last weekend, but we were having such a good time. I was and am attracted to you Alex...and I could feel the same thing from you."

Conner looked Alex in the eyes, silently challenging her to deny that one truth. "I know in the end, it was a selfish thing to do, but I've never met anyone like you Alex...never had the feelings that I find myself having for you. I know you don't understand."

Alex cut off Conner's words. "I won't pretend to understand everything that's happened during the last week and I'll be honest with you and say that I'm still...hurt, and confused that you could make love to me knowing all of this, and not tell me.

Alex turned again to face the river, taking a ragged breath, remembering all the times she wanted and needed to talk to Feryle about her cases and couldn't. "However, I also understand the job, and know it's not easy to maintain the security we are required to keep while preserving the honesty we need to have with the people we care about."

Alex bit her bottom lip, shook her head, and looked at Conner as she continued. "I also can't deny the attraction I feel for you, Conner. I can't, and won't, make any promises to you. It's going to take some time before I truly trust you on a personal level."

A hard look passed from Alex into Conner's eyes, and she could feel her heart constrict as she listened. "Even if you couldn't tell me about the case, you could have, at the least, told me you knew who I was."

Conner looked down at her feet knowing she had probably made the worst mistake of her life in keeping this information from Alex. She felt a warm hand touch her chin and lift her face until she was once again looking into dark blue eyes. "Honesty is one of the most important factors in a relationship. We don't stand a chance without it." Alex felt a pang of guilt as she spoke the words, knowing she herself had not been completely honest with Conner over the past week. Her own guilt eased some of the anger and hurt she felt while helping her form the next question. "I want that chance," Alex smiled. "Are you willing to be totally honest with me about everything in the future, Conner?"


It was one word but Alex felt the emotion and commitment behind the simple statement. "Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn't easy and I do appreciate it."

Conner's mouth curled up in a slight smile when she realized that Alex was going to forgive her, giving her another chance. "I'll do whatever it takes to make it up to you, Alex. I don't want to lose this chance with you."

Alex could see the regret in Conner's eyes, as they stood quietly in the garage. In an attempt to break the awkward silence that had fallen between them, and to release some of her pent up frustrations, Alex slugged Conner hard in the shoulder. She turned and yelled back over her shoulder as she walked towards the stairwell shaking her throbbing hand, "Come on thenŠyour first penance is buying me lunch."

Alex missed the gleaming grin that broke out over Conner's face, as she rubbed her stinging shoulder and trotted to catch up.


Alex and Conner sat on the patio overlooking the river, at Huey's. After their previous discussion, both women were a bit hesitant in starting another conversation. As they sat across the table from one another, they each thought about the last few days and how the case and their budding relationship was going to affect them.

The silence was broken as the waiter arrived at the table to introduce himself and give them menus. Thankful for something to occupy their thoughts for a moment, they gazed over the selections. After a few minutes of hiding behind the menus, Alex closed hers, placed it on the table, and waited for Conner to do the same.

"Need some help?"

Conner peered over the top of the menu and smiled. "No, just looking at everything they have hereŠcan't decide what I want."

Biting her bottom lip in frustration, Alex shook her head, reached across the table, and snatched the menu from Conner's hands. Surprised, Conner looked up, "Hey, what did you do that for?"

Rolling her eyes, Alex let out a frustrated sigh. "Conner, it doesn't take that long to read the FBI Handbook. You're avoiding meŠwhy?"

Conner chewed on her fingernail and looked out over the river. "I don't know Alex. I just feel awful for upsetting you the way I have the last few days. It seems like everything I've said and done has been wrong." Pulling her hand through her hair, Conner growled, "I'm tired of screwing up."

Alex chuckled and raised a single brow to Conner.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?" Conner threw her hands up, as she voiced her question rather loudly.

Alex noticed several nearby patrons had looked their way. Leaning towards Conner so she would not be overheard, Alex grinned, "I seem to remember several things you've done very well the last few days, Officer Harris." Alex winked and let out a soft moan, which caused Conner's face to turn crimson red.

Taking a ragged breath, Conner reached for her water glass and brought it to her lips with a shaky hand. After taking a huge gulp, she sat the glass down and looked across the table. Alex was sitting there with a smug look on her face, very proud of herself. "You'll pay dearly for that, Agent Montgomery."

Alex only wiggled her brows at Conner and then turned to get the waiter's attention. They placed their orders and conversed comfortably about Sam and Kelly. They had both been invited to a barbecue the following Sunday, and Conner and Alex were laughing at their friends attempt at matchmaking, paying no attention to the man who sat at the table next to them.

"Actually, I was hoping we could go sailing Sunday afternoon. Hopefully this mess will be over by then, and we can get a chance to relax for a while."

"Ummm, sounds nice." Alex purred. "Hey! I thought the boat was broken."

Conner laughed at Alex's terminology and shook her head. "Its not broken Alex, just, wellŠa little sick. Anyway, I asked Bennie to get her seaworthy by this weekend. I was hoping we could cruise with the group this weekend. I know that's not going to be possible, but maybe a day cruise would be do-able."

"I hope so, I loved Cumberland Island."

"Cumberland is one of my favorites too. I also want you to see Blackbeard Island. It's a barrier island off the coast of Shellman's Bluff, Georgia. It's much like Cumberland, although there are many more people milling around." Conner raised a brow at Alex and smiled.

The waiter brought their lunch as Conner continued to tell Alex about the surrounding islands and other places she wanted to share with her. After finishing their meal, the women ordered coffee and decided to share a slice of cheesecake.

"God, I'm going to weigh a ton if you keep feeding me like this," Alex growled.

"You need some meat on those bones. I'll not have you falling overboard. I intend to set the sails the next time we're out and you're going to need your muscles for thatŠgotta keep you healthy."

They finished their dessert. When the waiter placed the check on the table, Alex passed it to Conner with a stunning grin on her face. Conner paid the check and as they were standing to leave, Conner felt a hand on her arm.

"Excuse me?"

Conner heard the baritone voice behind her and turned to look at the man sitting at the next table. "Yes, can I help you?"

Looking slightly embarrassed, the man stood and offered his hand to Conner. "My name is Richard Jones, andŠwell, I couldn't help but overhear your conversation about the sailing in the area."

The man shook Conner's hand then extended it to Alex. "I really didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I'm new to the areaŠjust moved here from New Orleans, and I am an avid sailor too."

Conner eyed Alex, and then turned back to the man. "Well, what can I help you with Mr. Stone, was it?"

"Jones. Richard Jones. Well, I'm having my boat brought around in a couple of weeks and I was wondering if you could give me the names of some Marinas in the area."

"Sure, Mr. Jones. What area of Jacksonville do you live in?" Conner was always happy to help fellow sailors. Several of the sailing club members took her under their wings when she bought 'Shady Lady', and she liked to help others out in return.

"I'm currently staying with some friends here in Jacksonville until I get settled. Frankly, I've had my fill of the city and would like to get a place somewhere in the surrounding area. I've been looking at a few places north of here, since I travel to Georgia often on business." The man looked between Conner and Alex as he spoke.

"Hmmm, well there are quite a few marinas in the area. On the intercoastal, there's Clapboard Creek and Dunn's Creek Marina's, or if you're looking to get farther away there's always Saint Mary's or Amelia Island." Conner was trying to think of other marinas in the area, while Alex silently listened in on the conversation.

"I've heard of Amelia Island. Isn't that north of here?" The man furrowed his brow trying to remember the exact location.

"Yes, actually that's where I have my boat, at the Amelia Yacht Basin. It's the smallest of the three marinas on the island, but the slips are well protected and the channel is well kept."

"Do you have the Dock Master's number by chance? I think I would like to give him a call and maybe pay them a visit."

"Umm, sure. I think I have it here somewhere." Conner pulled her wallet out of her backpack and searched through her address book for the number."

She wrote Benny's name on a slip of paper along with the number and handed it to the man. "Here you go, just ask for Benny and tell him Conner sent you."

"Well thanks for the information ladies. I'm sorry to have kept you. You have a good day." The man shook Conner and Alex's hands, and then watched them walk away. `That was just too easy. Maybe 'The Shadow will not be as much of a challenge as I thought.' Smiling to himself, the man dropped two twenty's on the table and strolled away from the restaurant.


Alex and Conner walked in silence for a few moments, before Conner spoke. "Why are you so quiet Alex?"

Shaking her head, she bit the inside of her lip. "I don't know. There was something strange about that man in the restaurant. He seemed so familiar to me, but I couldn't place where I've seen him before."

"Come on Alex. Aren't you getting a little paranoid? He just moved here from New Orleans. Hell, he even had that low country drawl." Conner eyed Alex and saw her concern. "He just wanted information about marinas. What's so spooky about that?"

Taking a deep breath, Alex tried to shake off the foreboding feeling she was having. "Yeah, you're right. Maybe I am getting a little too paranoid for my own good."

The women walked to Alex's Jeep, and headed back to Conner's office. "Why don't you come on over when you get off work? I'll make some dinner for us, then we can pour over all the information we have so far. And you can tell me all about this new information you got this morning."

"OK, It's three o'clock now. I need to check in with the office and make a few calls. How does five'ish sound?"

"Sounds like a plan. I'm going to swing by the hospital and the office, and then I'll be home. Umm, there is a key to the back door in the motor housing of the Jacuzzi. If I'm not home when you get there, go on in and make yourself comfortable."

Conner gave Alex a shocked look and smiled as she realized Alex was extending her a new chance for trust. "OK, thanks. I'll pick up some beer. What do you need for dinner?"

"Nothing, I have everything I need at the house, but you can pick up a bottle of wine." Alex sighed and smiled to herself as she thought about how domestic the conversation sounded.

Alex dropped Conner off at the precinct and headed for the hospital. She was so lost in her thoughts over the pleasant lunch they had shared, after the uncomfortable confrontation n the garage, that she did not see the truck tailing her a few cars behind.


Chapter Eighteen

Alex drove back to the hospital to check on Donald. Not seeing Catherine in the ICU waiting room, she inquired at the nurse's desk as to his condition. To her surprise, she was told that Donald had improved, and had been moved into a private room on the fourth floor. Alex walked to the elevator, pressed the call button, and waited. She heard a sound to her left and turned to see Gonzolas exit the stairwell.

"Well Jose, I'm surprised to see you here." Alex had a smug look on her face as she acknowledged his presence.

"Why is that Alex, Donald is not only by boss, but a friend as well."

Alex snorted, and rolled her eyes, "I guess that's why you were so concerned about Donald last night, that you didn't even bother to ask about his condition." Alex then turned to face the elevator again.

"You know Alex, I don't understand the problem you have with me. I worked my ass off after you left for your vacation, and closed most of your outstanding case files. You should appreciate me more. I could help you, you know, but that condescending attitude you have with me will have to go." Jose' growled and stepped closer to Alex.

The two agents stared at one another for a long moment, before Alex smirked and shook her head. "Jose', I don't trust you to help me with anything. Trust is something you have to earn, and you've never shown me one reason why I should." There it was, finally out in the open. She had just drawn the line in the sand, now it was time to see where it took her.

"And what does one need to do in order to gain the trust of the high and mighty Agent Montgomery?" Jose' was too caught up in his hostile reverberation to realize he had just opened himself up to Alex's attack.

"You want to gain my trust Jose', fine. I'll be back at the office in an hour or so. Have all of your notes, and files concerning the Hernandez case on my desk when I get there." Gotcha you little slim ball, Alex thought. You might be able to fool DonaldŠnot me.

Jose' glared at Alex for a moment before he turned back toward the stairwell. He was halfway through the door when he heard Alex call out.

"Oh, Jose'! Remember, I want everything you have. I've been inside the organizationŠI know how it works, and who's who. Don't think you can pull anything over on me, like you did Donald." Alex's eyes revealed the dangerous dark side of her persona, "You try to lead me down the wrong path, and I promise you, you'll regret it dearly." The elevator doors opened as Alex voiced her warning. Stepping into the car, she pressed the button for the fourth floor.

Only when the doors closed did she release the pent up breath she had held inside. Alex rubbed her head as she felt a headache start to form behind her eyes. As she rode the slow car to the fourth floor, she tried to gather her thoughts, and prepare herself to see Donald. Her cell phone rang just as the elevator reached her floor, causing her stomach to lurch at the unexpected shrill ring.

"Montgomery." Alex held the phone to her ear as she made her way down the hall to Donald's room.

"Hey. What ya doing?"

Alex smiled when she heard Sam's highly energized voice on the other end of the phone, and stopped to lean against the wall as she continued her conversation.

"Well, at the moment, I'm walking down a hospital corridor. What are you up to?"

"God Alex, are you OK?"

Alex could not help but laugh. Sam was always so high strung, always fearing the worse, especially since the accident. "Calm down, I'm fine."

"What are you doing in a hospital Alex? Oh, no, it's not Conner is it?"

"Saaamm! Will you please, calm down? No, Conner's fine, I just left her a few minutes ago. I'm here checking on my boss. He got bumped on the head last night, and they wanted to keep him for observation." Alex did not like the blatant lie she was telling Sam, but she knew if her friend were aware of the dangerous path their case was taking, she would only worry more.


"So Sam, did you just call to say hello?" Alex was trying to lead the conversation back to safer ground. Although she was rushed to see Donald, she was also glad to hear from Sam.

"Uhh, no. I was calling to see if you were going to make it over this weekend. Kelly really wants to see you, you know." Sam added the last comment to spur Alex's guilt, and assure her presence at their house on Sunday.

"Yes, I'll be there. What do I need to bring?"

"Nothing, everything is taken care of. Just your presence is required."

"Well at least let me bring the beer. How many people are going to be there so I'll know how much to buy?" Alex bit her lip to stifle her laugh. Sam had no clue that she and Conner were both aware of the other's invitation.

"Umm, it's just a small get together. Just grab a couple of twelve packs. That should be plenty." Sam was stammering, and feared that Alex could hear it in her voice. "Well, I've got another call holding. See you Sunday, Alex."

"OK, Sam. I'll talk to you soon. Bye." Alex flipped the phone closed, and smiled as she continued down the corridor. You Think you're so sneaky, my friend. Just wait until you really see what I've been up too, lately." Alex's smile was cut short as she thought about her two best friends. I hope they're happy for us. If not, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Just because Sam and Conner were once lovers doesn't mean we can't see each other. Alex pulled herself from her inner deliberation as she reached Donald's room. She took a deep breath, and quietly tapped on the door.

The door opened slightly until Catherine saw Alex. With a grin on her face, she swept the door open wide, and pulled Alex into the room.

"Donald, Look who's here." Catherine's excitement over Donald's improvement was apparent in her voice, and body language, a complete change from the woman she had visited earlier in the day.

Donald opened one eye at Catherine's excited squeal. He tried to sit up, but was overwhelmed as pain tore through his injured head. Falling back onto the pillow he scowled at Alex. "What the hell are you doing her, Montgomery? Why aren't you in the field tracking the son-of-a-bitch that did this to me?

"Donald!" Although Catherine was ecstatic that Donald's condition had improved, she shocked at his conduct. "You behave yourself. Alex has beenŠ"

Alex held up a hand to stop Catherine's admonition, and laughed. "Oh Catherine, he's fine. He acts like this all the time at the office." Alex raised a brow to Catherine. "Obviously, you've been able to train him better than we haveŠyou must tell me your secret."

Alex moved to the side of the bed, and looked down at her boss. "Nice to see you too, Chief. How are you feeling?"

"Sorry Alex. I'm just not a very good patient." He pulled the sheet higher on his chest, embarrassed, and feeling exposed in the thin hospital supplied gown.

"Humph, Most overbearing, control freaks aren't Donald, and you could be the national poster boy." Catherine was determined to get her reprimand in to her husband. Alex meant a lot to them, and she wouldn't stand for Donald's verbal abuse, even if he were hospitalized.

"Get me out of here Alex." He glanced at his wife, then back to Alex, "please."

"Hell no! First, you yell at me for being here, then want me to rescue you from your wife, who, by the way, is absolutely right." Alex's eyes were sparkling as she carried on the teasing banter. "Absolutely not, suffer my friend."

Catherine laughed, picked up her purse, and headed for the door. "Well, now that I see neither of you are going to draw blood, I'm going to take a break, and get a little peace and quiet." Giving her husband a stern look, she shook her head, "You be good, and behave yourself. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Alex walked Catherine to the door, and mouthed a silent 'thank you', as the woman left. Alex knew Catherine was leaving to give them some privacy. There were things the two agents needed to discuss, and though Alex trusted Catherine implicitly, there were some things spouses, and significant others did not need to be privy to. For a moment, she was taken back to the confrontation she and Conner had in the garage earlier. Sighing, she closed the door and turned back to her boss.

"Well, now that we're all alone. How are youŠreally?" Alex sat on the side of the bed and reached for her friend's hand.

"I'm goodŠa hell of a lot better than last night, from what I'm told." Donald shook his head in disbelief. "I can't believe I let myself be waylaid in my own office."

"Well Donald, your office isn't exactly a dangerous place to beŠusually."

"Do you have any leads?" Donald absently reached up to rub the lump on his head, "Catherine wouldn't tell me anything, and hasn't allowed anyone near me all day, so I'm a little out of the loop."

"We're following up on some leads, but right now, nothing looks promising." Alex knew she had to get to the point of her visit. She was concerned about Donald, but she also had to know why he had a file on her in his office."

"Do you think it has anything to do with this Hernandez case?"

"I can't say at the moment, maybeŠI just don't know." Alex sighed I frustration, "Donald, I need to ask you some questions."

"OK, shoot. Whatever I can do to help, Alex"

"Well, IŠummm, I couldn't find Catherine's number in your personnel file, so I, sort of, had to break into your desk."

"Well, that's understandable Alex. I'm not going to blame you for doing what you had to do, in order to reach Catherine." Donald could see Alex's hand trembling, and knew something else was bothering her. "This isn't about me being mad because you broke into my desk, is it?"

Alex took a long sigh, and looked past Donald, and out the window. "No Donald, it's not." Turning back to face her boss and friend, she asked the question that had been tormenting her. "When I was searching for Catherine's number in Gainesville, I also found a folder with my name on it." Alex stood and walked to the window, her back to Donald. "Donald, you've been having me followed for months, why?"

Donald's head fell back on the pillow and he let out a ragged breath. "It's not what you think, Alex."

She gave her boss and friend a curious look as she once again turned to face Donald. "Then why don't you tell me exactly what it means"?

Donald hand swept over his face as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Alex, after you were injured in the warehouse incident, we ran out of leads. You were on the inside of the organization, and knew more than anyone else what was going on. With you out of the picture, well we didn't know where to go with the case."

Alex shook her head in frustration, "Donald, that still doesn't tell me why?"

"I'm getting to that." Donald watched Alex pacing, "Will you please sit down? You're making me dizzy."

Alex sat in a chair at the end of the bed. Alex's move to place some distance between them did not go unnoticed by Donald, as he closely watched the agent. "This wasn't and easy decision to make Alex. I was getting a lot of heat from higher upŠwe needed to close this case. The decision was made to leak your location to people we thought were in the Hernandez organization, and see where it led. We put the tail on you in hopes of picking up anyone that came after you."

Alex stared at Donald in disbelief. "Damn you, Donald. I was unconscious for a week after the accident, and flat on my back for almost a month after that. You're telling me, you sent Hernandez's goons after me when I couldn't even defend myself?"

This was not going well, and Donald was desperate to make Alex understand, "Alex, we had someone on you the entire time. We were protecting you."

Alex turned and glared at Donald with the dark, blank stare he had come to attribute to 'The Shadow', "No, Donald, you were protecting yourself," Alex's words slammed into Donald, "How dare you set me up."

"Alex, please, hear me out." Donald was trying to sit up, but the pounding pain in his head kept him prone.

"No, Donald! You hear me. I have given everything to this case. I've lost Feryle, and Karen. Hell Donald, I may have even lost my soul to this case." Alex stood by the bed and glared down at him. "I will not stand here and let you sacrifice me for your precious cause, Donald." Tears stung Alex's eyes as she whispered, "Don't you think I've sacrificed enough, Donald?" Alex held Donald's eyes. She saw his regret and pain, but it did little to alleviate the betrayal she felt.

"Alex, please, you haveŠ" Donald words were cut short as Catherine entered the room. The tension in the room was almost palpable, as she observed the stare down between the two agents.

"Umm, I didn't mean to interruptŠI'll come back later." Catherine turned and headed back towards the door.

Alex, broke the stare, and walked to pick up her purse from the desk. "No Catherine, I was just leaving."

Alex walked over and hugged Catherine. "It was good to see you again. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you."

Catherine embraced Alex, and could feel the tension in her body, she whispered, "You OK?"

Alex nodded her head as she pulled away. She gave Catherine a sad smile, and then with a hard glance at Donald walked out the door.

Catherine stood in the doorway until Alex was out of sight, then closed the door and faced her husband. "OK, Donald. What the hell have you done now?"

Donald turned away from his wife of twenty years, lost in his thoughtsŠpondering his regrets.


Alex was thankful for the twenty-minute drive home. She had stormed out of the hospital, her emotions a mixture of rage, hurt, and betrayal. How could Donald have allowed her to be set up? It was an acceptable practice to use agents as bait on occasion, but they were aware of the situationŠand the consequences. Using an agent, in the condition she had been in, was completely inexcusable.

Alex decided half-way home that she didn't want to spend all night in the kitchen, so she stopped by the grocery store and picked up a couple of steaks for dinner. Pulling into the drive, she didn't see Conner's Jag until she had driven to the rear of the house. Sitting there by the garage was the sleek machine, and a smile crept onto Alex's face as she remembered she wouldn't have to suffer through the evening alone.

She walked into the house, called out to Conner, as she dropped the groceries on the counter, and made a beeline for the bar in the den. She poured herself a healthy shot of Scotch, and finished off half of it in one swallow as she headed back towards the kitchen. She was standing at the sliding glass door, when she felt arms wrap around her waist from behind, followed by a soft warm kiss to the back of her neck.

Conner could feel the tension in Alex's shoulders release as she leaned back into the embrace. She raised a brow as she peered over Alex's shoulder and saw the drink in her hand.

"Hmm, looks like your afternoon didn't go so well?"

Alex smirked, and reached behind herself to pull Conner closer, "Yes, a very bad afternoon."

"Wanna talk about it?" Conner didn't push, but wanted Alex to know she was there.

"Hmmm, yes, but after dinner, OK?" As Alex turned around, she tried to mentally wipe the events of the afternoon away. What she needed, at the moment, was to escape the day.

Alex wrapped her arms around Conner's neck, and pulled her into a warm slow kiss. "Hmm, you smell goodŠalmost as good as you taste."

"I hope you don't mind. I felt grimy when I came in and wanted to shower and change,"

Nuzzling Conner's neck, Alex mumbled through wet hair. "Not at all. I'm just sorry I wasn't here to share it with you."

Conner felt a tantalizing warmth spread through her body at Alex's remark, "I can always go back for another," she whispered in the low sultry voice she knew Alex loved.

After nipping Conner on the neck, Alex pulled back and placed a quick peck on Conner's lips, "Now that sound tempting, but I don't think we'd ever get around to eating if that happened."

Conner raised a brow and grinned, "Well I think I could find something to nibble on."

Alex rolled her eyes, and swatted Conner on the shoulder, "You're badŠvery, very bad." Alex moved away, heading for the hallway. "I'm going to take a showerŠalone. You think you can light the grill, and put the potatoes in the oven?"

Conner laughed at the emphasis Alex had put on 'alone', as she watched the women walk away. "Uhh, sure, butŠpleaseŠlet me know if you need any help in there.

Alex chuckled as she walked away. It had been a long time since she had smiled as much as she had the last week. She was falling hard for the tough cop, and knew that there was no way she could turn her back on what they had shared the past weekend.

Alex heard banging noises from the kitchen, flashed back to the Sunday brunch Conner had prepared for her, and almost returned to the kitchen to protect her precious cooking utensils. Shrugging, she decided the kitchen would survive, turned on the water in the shower, and pulled of her clothes.

Alex leaned against the shower wall and let the warm water wash away the grit, and frustrations. She closed her eyes, and mentally visualized the stresses of the day, going down the drain. After a few minutes, she felt re-energized, and continued to shampoo her hair and shower. She turned off the water, and cracking the door reached out for the towel. The bar was empty, and she realized that Conner must have used it for her shower. Pushing the door open in frustration, she stepped out to see Conner leaning against the doorframe with a cheesy grin on her face.

"Looking for something?" Conner asked as she held the towel just out of Alex's reach.

Standing there dripping on the floor, Alex tried unsuccessfully to snarl, "Harris, give me my towelŠnow!"

"Oooo, I can see we're still a little grumpy," Conner walked slowly towards Alex. "Let me see if I can do something about that nasty mood you're in, Agent Montgomery." Conner stood facing Alex, then slowly reached out and wrapped the warm towel around Alex's body.

"Ummm, It's so warm," Alex realized Conner had heated the towel in the dryer as she showered. The tenderness this tough, hard cop displayed when they were alone, amazed Alex.

"Just for you," Conner pulled another towel from the counter, knelt, and began to dry Alex's legs in slow, soft strokes.

Alex could feel the tension in her body rise, but it was a completely different tension, from the one she had just washed away. Her breathing became rapid, as Conner continued moving up her legs. Alex swallowed hard, as Conner's hands touched her thighs, and she had to reach out to the wall to steady herself.

Conner removed the, now damp, towel from around Alex's body, and continued to dry her off. Alex was aware of every movement, and closed her eyes, as she felt Conner's hand brush her chest. She was lost in the moment, enjoying the warm rush surging through her, and groaned when she felt Conner move away.

Alex opened her eyes only to find Conner looking intently at her face. She leaned in a captured Alex's lips in a soft tender kiss, before taking her by the shoulders, turning her around. Conner lifted the robe from the hook on the door, and opened it for Alex. She pulled it onto her arms, then turned her until they were once again facing. Conner located the belt, and tied it loosely around Alex's waist, then knelt and slipped her feet into the slippers that had been sitting by the chair.

Neither woman had spoken since Conner had begun her slow ministrations. As they faced each other, both knew words were not necessary. Alex reached up and took Conner's face between her hands, and bent to capture the soft lips that were open and ready for her. They relished the warmth and comfort of each other for a long moment. The emotions, racing through each of their minds, had nothing to do with sex, or lust. What they were feeling, standing in each other's arms, had everything to do with comfort, promise, and hope. It was then, at that moment Alex realized, she had returned to lifeŠshe had come home.

The women were torn from the tender moment as the buzzer in the kitchen announced the potatoes were ready to be turned. Alex broke the kiss, and pulled back to look deeply into her lover's eyes. "Do you have any idea how you make me feel?"

Conner smiled, and stole another kiss, "NoŠwhy don't you tell me?"

Alex drew in a haggard breath when Conner bent to nip her neck, "I will, as soon as I rip the damn timer out of the oven." She bent and placed a quick kiss on Conner's lips, untangled herself from the woman's strong arms, and headed to the door. Halfway through, she turned and looked back, "You know? I could get used to coming home to you, " then she turned and continued making her way to the kitchenŠto kill the timer.

The grin that broke across Conner's face at Alex's words was indescribable. She shot her fist in the air, and screamed a silent 'YES', then floated out of the bathroom, back to the kitchen.

Conner took charge of grilling the steaks, while Alex finished the potatoes, and made a salad. They enjoyed an easy banter, as they moved around the kitchen. Anyone watching would have thought they were long time partners. The comfortable way they moved and responded to one another was usually a comfort earned through years of learning and experience, but somehow the two women had exempted the normal relationship initiations.

After dinner, they both cleaned the kitchen, then moved to the deck. The evening had been unusually peaceful, and they were enjoying the cool moonlit evening, as they sipped their wine, and held hands under the stars. Neither wanted to be the one to open the door to let the real world back in, knew there were plans to make before Friday.

Conner pulled Alex's hands to her lips, and nipped gently on her knuckles. "So, you want to tell me why you were so upset when you came in this afternoon?"

Alex felt the tension return to her shoulders, as she remembered the confrontation with Donald at the hospital. She felt an overwhelming need to flee, and stood. Conner reached out with strong but gentle hands, and stopped Alex mid-stride.

"Don't! Come here, I want to hold you," Alex took a deep cleansing breath, and sat on the chaise lounge. Conner dropped a leg on each side, and pulled Alex back onto her stomach. Alex sat back and allowed Conner's arms to wrap around her, and they sat for a few moments before Alex spoke.

"I found out this afternoon why Donald had me tailed." Alex was trembling, and she felt Conner pull her closer.

"He set me up." Alex's voice broke, and she struggled to keep her composure.

"What do you mean, set you up?" Conner wanted Alex to set the pace and share what she would, and only asked enough to keep her talking.

Alex sniffed, and wiped the tears from her face, "After the accident. He leaked my location to the Hernandez organization in hopes of luring someone out to kill me. Supposedly, the tail was for my protection, but I honestly think it was there to nab the perp, and not to protect me."

Conner could feel the anger surge through her, and fought the urge to react to the situation. "So, I take it, you talked to Donald this afternoon?"

"Screamed is more like it. Damn, Conner. He was lying there in that bed and could hardly move, and I attacked him like some suspect." Even through her anger, Alex had felt guilty for confronting Donald with the folder while he was incapacitated.

"Humph, Sounds to me like he didn't really care about your feeling or conditions when he sent the goons after you." Conner softly stroked Alex's arm as she slowly revealed the afternoon's events.

"Yeah, and that makes no better than him," Alex sniffed, and wiped a few more tears from her face.

"So did Donald say what information they got from his little stunt? Conner couldn't help but let some of the anger out.

"Actually, I never got a chance to ask him. Catherine came back in the middle of the conversation, and I left."

A loud boom filled the night. Both women flew out of the chair, and dove onto the deck, taking cover. They stayed still for a few moments until another blast ripped through the night. The women looked at each other as they heard laughter out on the beach beyond the house. Conner peeked over the railing to see several people running down the beach. As she watched from her covered position, she stared in disbelief as one of the people set off another firecracker.

"Fuck!" Conner stood up and took a stressed filled breath. "Damn kids! Are you OK?" Conner looked down to see Alex doubled over in spasms, and ran to her side. "Damn it Alex, talk to me. Are you OK?"

Alex looked up into Conner's face but could only shake her head. "YouŠshould haveŠseenŠyour face." Alex had to take gasps of air between her words, she was laughing so hard. The tears of sadness she had shed earlier were now replaced with tears from laughter.

Conner wanted to be mad, but soon was sitting beside Alex on the deck laughing with her. They sat there, leaning against the Jacuzzi, holding hands, and listened to the laughter on the beach.

"I think we're strung a little too tight tonight. What do you think?"

"Hmmm, yeah. Me too. Although, I think I could think of some productive way to work off all that tightness." Conner leaned over and captured Alex's lips with her own. They sat in the darkness, exploring, searching, and savoring each other until they heard a scream from beyond the dunes.

"I think we need to take our little party inside before we get caught necking on the beach." Alex rose and pulled Conner up beside her. They could see three kids out on the beach huddled near one of the dunes behind the house.

"You think they're OK? They seemed to be looking down at something in the sand, and Conner wondered if one of them was hurt.

"One of them probably just stepped on a hot leftover firecracker. They don't look too injured to me. Come on let's go inside." Alex pulled on Conner's arm and led her into the house.

Alex refilled their wine glasses while Conner went into the den and looked through Alex's CD collection. She selected a few soothing disks, placed them in the player, and then sat by Alex on the sofa.

"I don't know about you, but I had my fill of excitement for one day." Conner leaned her head back against the cushion, and turned her head to look at Alex.

"That's right, you had a full day too. I'm sorry Conner," Alex reached out to stroke her hand across Conner's cheek. "I was so caught up in my conversation with Donald, I forgot to even ask you about your day." Tell me about this new information you have."

"I looked up one of my old contacts this morning, and got an earful. According to my source, the meeting scheduled for Friday, is between Hernandez, and Sarantos." Conner looked at Alex, and noticed her face had paled. "Umm, they know you're back in town Alex." Conner didn't know how Alex would react to this new information, and was treading lightly, easing it to her bit by bit.

Alex felt her heart rate quicken at the news. The last time she had been in the presence of Hernandez, and Sarantos at the same time she was almost killed. Alex whispered, "How do they know I'm back?"

"That I don't know, could be the from the leak Donald put out a few months ago. They may have been keeping an eye on you, and just not moving to do anything." Conner reached for Alex's hand, and squeezed it firmly within hers. "All I know is Reggie, my contact, said they knew 'The Shadow' was back in town."

Conner turned Alex, until she was nestled in the crook of her arm, "I know I'm being followed." Conner could feel Alex stiffen. "I went back out to the warehouse to look around this morning. I noticed some men on top of the Colorado Container building, nest door. I think they're setting us up Alex. I don't think the meeting is going to be in the warehouse. I think it's going to be in the Container Building."

"Why do you think that?" Alex's mind was turning; trying to make sense of the information Conner was feeding her.

"After I spotted the men on the building, I called Buet, and had him do some checking on the ownership of Colorado Container. It seems as if our friend Bivins is part owner of the building."

Alex pulled away and sat up to face Conner. "You mean that cowboy cop from the beach the other night. Come on Conner, you can't be serious?" Alex pulled a hand through her hair, and then sat with her elbows on her knees staring at the floor. "This makes no sense at all. A two bit cop, part owner in a multi-million dollar corporation, that just happens to have snipers on the roof."

"Actually, Bivins doesn't own any of the actual corporation, just the building. It was sold six months ago to H&S Imports. Bivins is listed as the Chief Financial Officer of the Corporation."

Alex stood up and walked to the other side of the room. She looked out the window into the darkness for a minute then started pacing across the room. "OK, let me see if I have this correct. There is a meeting between Hernandez and Sarantos on Friday night. They know I'm back in town, and want us to believe it's going to be held in the warehouse, but it's really going to be in the Container building. Am I right so far?"

Conner nodded, as Alex continued pacing. If she hadn't seen it for herself she would never have believed the transformation Alex made from the soft sensual woman she was falling in love with to 'The Shadow', a cold, dark, and dangerous panther pacing the floor before her. In the light Conner couldn't be sure, but she was almost positive Alex's eyes changed from dark blue to almost black.

"You said earlier you were being followed. Why do you think that?"

"After I left the container building, I drove home to pick up Magnum, and some clothes. I was at the condo, maybe ten minutes total. About five minutes after I walked in, the phone rang. It was a man warning me away from the case."

"Exactly what did he say," Alex continued to pace like a caged animal. Her face was expressionless, but her body was tense and ready to spring at the least provocation.

"Alex, I honestly don't remember the exact words. I was too stunned. I just remember he said something about being my guardian angle, and told me I was out of my league, and to stay away from the case."

"That message had to be from someone in the Sarantos organization." Alex stopped and looked at the ceiling, deep in thought.

"Why Sarantos?" Conner was having a difficult time following Alex's thought pattern.

"Sarantos is into all this mystical shit. He talked about guardian angels all the timeŠhad most people in the organization believing her was theirs."

"Did you spot a tail on the way back to town?"

"No, I went back to the station for our meeting, then had lunch with you, checked up with the lab, ran some errands, drove around in circle for a while trying to spot someone, then came here." Conner couldn't sit any longer and got up to join Alex in pacing the floor.

"That's why you parked behind the house?" Now it made sense. She had originally thought Conner was just trying to be discreet, but now she understood that she had been trying to protect her.

Conner's cell phone interrupted their thoughts, and both women jumped from the shrill sound piercing the quiet room.

"Harris." Conner barked into the phone, then walked over, and sat on the sofa.

Alex watched Conner as she talked, and saw the woman's face drain of color. She couldn't discern the topic of the conversation, but she knew it wasn't good. Conner talked a few more minutes, and Alex heard her tell the person on the other end of the phone that she was on her way. She closed the flip phone, and looked up at Alex with dazed eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"That was Peterson. They just found Kevin Johnson." Conner stood and walked to the window, "At home, in his bathtub, with his throat slashed." Conner could hear the intake of breath from Alex, and turned to face the woman. They stared at each other for several moments.

Conner could see Alex's eyes clearly now, and they were almost black. Alex walked to the closet and removed her shoulder holster. Both women were silent as they slipped the holsters over their shoulders, and prepared to leave the house. Conner picked up her keys from the counter in the kitchen, and they walked out the back door. When Alex turned to lock the door, Conner wrapped her arms around her from behind, and held her for a moment. Alex fell back into the embrace, as both women came to the realization that the war had begun.

Alex took a deep breath, as she thought about the woman holding her close. In the next few days, people were going to die. She silently vowed that it would not be Conner, and prayed that she too would be lucky enough to survive this next step into hell.


As Alex, and Conner turned the corner into Kevin Johnson's neighborhood, they saw a multitude of flashing lights. Police cars were parked haphazardly in the street in front of the house, and officers could be seen going in and out of the residence. Conner parked as close as she could, then she and Alex got out and quickly walked into the yard. Conner lifted the yellow tape surrounding the crime scene for Alex to bend under, and then they made their way to the front door.

Conner heard Captain Peterson, before she spotted him talking to the Medical Examiner in the far corner of the living room. Alex stood off to the side, trying to stay out of the way, as the paramedics rolled the gurney, which held Johnson's body out the door. Some of the officers on the scene knew who she was, and was well aware of the animosity between the local police and the FBI. Johnson's death had not officially linked to the Hernandez case, yet, but Alex knew that by morning, she would officially be part of the new case. Until then, she decided to stand down, and unofficially observe the scene.

When Captain Peterson finished talking to the ME, he motioned Conner and Alex over. He raked a hand through his hair, as the women joined him. Conner noticed the stress on his face, and couldn't help but worry about her commanding officer. This was the third officer he had lost in this case. The first two died at the warehouse, the night Alex was almost killed. He took a deep, ragged breath, as he looked at the two women.

"I'm sure you have already figured out this is linked to the Hernandez case."

Conner nodded, "Who found him?"

"Rodgers. Buet called him looking for Johnson after our meeting. Apparently, Johnson told him he had a doctor's appointment after lunch, and they split up about noon. Rodgers went back to the precinct, to finish some paperwork, and then went home about five o'clock." Peterson, stopped to answer a question from an approaching detective, then turned back toward the women.

"Anyway, when I left around six, I still hadn't heard from Johnson. I told the desk sergeant to page him, and when Johnson didn't answer the page, the sergeant called Roger's." Peterson sighed, "Rodger's eventually came by here when he couldn't reach Johnson, and found the back door open. He knew Johnson had gone to the doctor earlier in the day and thought he might be sick, so he entered the house. The shower was running, but when he called out, Johnson didn't answer, so he went in the bathroom and found him in the tub."

Conner saw the 'adam's-apple-jump' in her captain's throat, a sign that the small amygdale, an almond-shaped neuro structure, located in the brain, involved in producing and responding to nonverbal signs of anger, and fear was stressed to the max.

Not knowing what to do to relieve some of his stress, she took his arm and inconspicuously pushed him toward the door. "Captain, I need some air, let's walk outside for a minute." Peterson knew what Conner was doing, but let her lead the way...He needed some fresh air to clear his head anyway.

When they were outside in the front yard, Peterson turned to Alex. "I want to make this official Alex. I want you and your office in on this case. We will lead the investigation, but I would appreciate your help. I know this is tied into the Hernandez case, although I can't prove it, yet."

Alex moved a little closer to the Captain. "I agree that it probably is tied to the other case, but what other cases was he working?" Alex stopped talking until one of the detectives passed by them, "Anything that could even be remotely linked to this?"

"Not that I'm aware. My opinion is, Hernandez wanted to send you a message, and knew Johnson was the easiest target. He was young, inexperienced, and well, you heard him on Monday...he wasn't convinced Hernandez was capable of this. Unfortunately, this is another case of blind inexperience."

Turning back to Conner, his eyes grew cold, "I'm sorry Conner, but all agreements are off. I want to know everything you have on whoever you were talking about in the meeting this morning, and I want to know now."

For a moment, a tidal wave of guilt poured over Conner, as she realized that if she had agreed, and filled the captain in earlier in the day, Johnson may still be alive. Alex read all of the familiar emotions, then reached to touch Conner's shoulder, and glared at Peterson. "Conner, from what you've told me tonight, there is nothing that could have been done to prevent this." "No one," Looking back at Peterson to emphasize her words, "No one could have known this would happen, so don't even go there with the guilt. We need to stay focused, if we're going to solve this thing, OK?"

Alex continued to glare at Donald, silently warning him to back off. "I suggest that we get out of here, and go somewhere private where we can talk. Conner's made a lot of progress on this case today Jack, and I think you want to hear it."

Peterson agreed, and went back inside to finish his handing out orders to the other officers, and detectives. When he was out of hearing range Conner turned to Alex, "You didn't have to doŠ"

Alex cut Conner's words off, "No, I didn't have to, but he was out of line Conner. No one could have prevented this, based on the evidence we have right now, and you know it." Not caring what anyone around them thought, she took Conner by the shoulders and turned her until they were facing. "You're a damn good cop Conner. I'm glad that you're on this case with me. Together, we're going to bring these bastards down. I need you focused on the next few days, not the past, and certainly not what happened here tonight. If we're going to get through this, alive and well, I need you a hundred percent. Can you give me that?"

Conner leaned her head back and drew in a long, deep breath. "Yeah. Yes, you've got me."

Peterson joined them a few minutes later, and they decided to go to an all-night diner for their talk. The conversation was long, and intense, and it was close to two in the morning, before they arrived back at Alex's.

They quietly, walked through the house, locking doors, and turning out lights. Conner lay in the bed with her back to Alex and tried unsuccessfully to silence her sobs. Alex turned and gently pulled on Conner's shoulder until the woman was snuggly cradled in her arms. The tender gesture broke down what was left of Conner's resolve, and Alex lay there, in the darkness, whispering soothing words, and gently rocking Conner, until she finally fell asleep from the exhausting sobs.

Alex lay in the darkness, holding Conner as she slept, thinking over the events of the last few days, and contemplating what was to come in the next few.


Out in the darkness, smoke curled in the night air as the man sat in his truck, and watched the lights go out, one by one, in the house down the street. He sat there for over an hour, and simply watched and made his plans. "So, 'The Shadow' now has a shadow," He said to no one. "This is going to be easier than I thought." The man started the truck then drove slowly down the street, and away from the house, a little disappointed that the mission was not going to be a thrilling as he had once hoped.


Continued in Part 6.

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