For general disclaimers see part one.
“The boss isn’t happy, but he agrees it’s our best chance of nailing this guy,” Lauren spoke, shutting off her cell phone. “He also said I’d better be sure about this, or he’ll have me directing traffic,” she added dryly.
“You’ll be fine,” Maureen answered.”You know he considers you to be the best Agent ever.”
“I know,” Lauren smiled. “I’m not worried. I know he is, though.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Lee Ann asked, excited to be able to work together with her cousin and Lauren Darkwolf. It was a rare opportunity and she knew that most of her coworkers would envy her and David.
“We’ll wait a few more minutes to make sure our technicians are absolutely ready to trace the call Jeremy is going to make to his brother. I want to be absolutely sure Jacob Mannen is where his brother thinks he’ll be. This guy doesn’t give a cent for anyone else’s life but his own and I want to make sure all our bases are covered. As soon as we have confirmation about his whereabouts, we’ll go ahead with his plan.”
“Hannah isn’t going anywhere,” Rachel, who had been listening in the background, spoke up and the tone of her voice did not leave anything open for discussion.
“No, she isn’t,” Lauren reassured her friend. “We’ll be pretending. Jeremy will be driving the van and Maureen and I will be in the back. David and Lee Ann will not follow us, but they’ll go ahead and stake out the rendez-vous. They will be our back up.”
“Do you really think that’s enough?” Rachel asked doubtfully. “I mean, I don’t know anything about police work, but...” Rachel’s brown eyes found Lauren’s and she sent her friend a small smile. “It sounds a little risky, my friend.”
“I know it does,” Lauren answered with a smile of her own. “But if we don’t act fast, this guy is going to slip through our fingers again and I am tired of chasing him across the State and back. I want to lock him up and go on a vacation,” she added with a twinkle in her eyes.
“That I understand,” Rachel chuckled. “I’m sure you’re more than ready for a break.” The Doctor’s eyes traveled to Maureen and saw the wistful look on the red-head’s face. She had noticed small changes in the interactions between Lauren and Maureen and she hoped her friends had acknowledged the mutual attraction between them.
“Is there anything you want or need me to do?” Rachel asked, glancing at Hannah who came walking back into the room. The blonde looked tense and there were dark circles underneath her eyes.
“All I need you and Hannah to do, is to take Nicky and Gertrude and stay at a hotel tonight,” Lauren answered. “Just in case he slips through our fingers and tries to make his way over here,” she added, smiling at Hannah who wrapped her arm around Rachel’s waist and leaned her head against her slightly taller partner.
“I just packed an overnight bag,” she announced, suppressing a yawn. “We’ll be staying at the Marriott tonight.”
“Good,” Lauren nodded, sending the blonde a warm smile. “I’ll let the boss know.”
“Why?” Rachel frowned.
“Humor us, Rachel, please?” was Maureen’s response. “After what happened with Nathan, the boss wants to make sure everybody will stay safe and that means there will be a couple of officers around the hotel.”
“Alright, alright,” Rachel sighed, too tired to argue with her friends. Besides, deep down inside she knew that if Lauren Darkwolf had made up her mind, there would be nothing Rachel could say or do to make her change that. “I guess we’ll be leaving then?” she asked, turning to look at her lover.
Hannah nodded and sent both Maureen and Lauren a long, serious look.
“Be careful,” she said softly.
“We will be,” Lauren promised.
“Call us when it’s all over,” Rachel urged.
“I promise,” Lauren answered. “You and Hannah will be the first ones to know.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Hannah spoke, stepping forward to hug her tall friend. “And make sure Maureen here doesn’t jump in front of another bullet.”
“Oh, I’ll make sure,” Lauren smiled, reaching out a hand and gently tugging a strand of the redhead’s long hair. “I’ll keep her safe.”
Maureen glanced aside and for a very brief moment her eyes were caught by a pair of very dark ones. They held a promise and Maureen, who had experienced an increasing feeling of nervousness, all of a sudden felt a little better. The thought of a shootout alone made her nauseated. The memory of getting shot was still fresh in her mind and, unconsciously, Maureen rubbed her leg, where she knew her scar was covered by a thin layer of denim.
Lauren had noticed the gesture and the dark women was aching to reach out and pull the redhead into her arms, to hold her close and keep her safe. But now was not the moment. They had a job to do. Only after they had successfully finished their assignment, would she be able to give into the desires that, for now, had to take a backseat to work.
“Will you be alright?” she asked softly when Maureen stepped a little closer.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Maureen nodded, but Lauren noticed the tension in her voice.
“I could ask for someone else to...”
“No way. I’ll be there and I am ready to do my job. If this clown has planned anything funny, we’ll just have to beat him to the punch line.”
Lauren smiled at the determination and passion in Maureen’s voice and gently squeezed the other woman’s shoulder.
“Let’s go then.”
“For crying out loud, Lee Ann, stop making that noise,” David Hargrove snapped at his partner whose fingers were methodically pulling apart an empty styrofoam cup.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, tossing the mutilated cup in the backseat of the car. “I guess I’m a little tense.”
“A little?” David mumbled, staring at his watch for the sixth time within the last minute. “I feel like puking,” he confessed, which earned him a chuckle from his partner.
“You’re such an honest, non-macho guy, Dave,” Lee Ann sighed. “It’s great to work with you.”
“It is?” David asked, glancing aside to the red- haired woman next to him.
“Well, yeah,” Lee Ann nodded, not taking her eyes off the park across the street. “I know you’re not the type who’d run into trouble head first. That makes me feel better. There are lots of guys at the station who’d never admit to be nervous or scared.”
“Then they’re stupid,” David grumbled. “I’d like to stay in one piece.”
“I second that,” Lee Ann nodded. “Ellen is a lucky woman, Dave,” she added with a smile.
“It’s a good thing I know you really do like me for my personality and nothing else,” David grinned. “Ellen has nothing to worry about when the two of us are sitting in a small car for hours on end.”
“Nope,” Lee Ann shook her head. “Now, if it were Ellen and I in a car...”she added, not finishing her sentence because David started laughing.
“Wrong tree, partner,” he chuckled.
“I know,” Lee Ann admitted. “Besides, she only has eyes for you anyway.”
“Maybe Agent Darkwolf has a sister, or a cousin,” David suggested helpfully, but there was a twinkle in his eyes.
“I wish,” Lee Ann sighed. “So, you’ve noticed it as well.”
“Hard to miss,” David shrugged. “Every time they look at each other there is...something more.” He glanced aside and smiled. “Don’t worry, my lips are sealed.”
“I know,” Lee Ann responded. “I repeat: you’re a great guy. I’m sure they’ll find a way to be involved and not let it interfere with work.”
“Oh, you know they will,” David nodded. “They’re both extremely professional. I wonder how they’re doing though. They should be here any moment.”
Lauren cast a quick look at Maureen, who was trying to keep her balance in the back of the van, while Jeremy navigated his way through downtown Oklahoma City. The redhead’s lips were pursed and every time the driver slammed his brakes or hit a pothole she muttered something under her breath. In spite of the situation, Lauren bit back a grin. She could tell the other woman was extremely annoyed by Jeremy’s unsophisticated driving style.
“Someone should take his license away,” Lauren heard Maureen mumble, sending a dark look at the small, tinted window between the dark cargo area of the van and the cabin, where Jeremy Mannen was controlling the car, or, at least, attempting to control it. “I need to get in touch with Angela DiFranco, she’s a State Trooper, see if there’s anything on his driving record.”
Lauren chuckled and stretched out a hand, so she could give Maureen’s shoulder a squeeze. A pair of stormy green eyes looked up at her and she smiled.
“I agree he’s a lousy driver,” she admitted with a quick grin. “But we’re almost there and hopefully he won’t crash this...car before we actually get there.”
“You call this a car?” Maureen softly snorted. “It’s a piece of junk! You know, we really should have some sort of inspection system when it comes to cars. This one is a death trap.”
“It’s okay, honey,” Lauren spoke, immediately noticing the effect of her soft spoken term of endearment. For a moment, the tension left Maureen’s face and the smile she sent the dark woman was warm and gentle.
“I’m a little high-strung right now, aren’t I?” Maureen sighed.
“A little,” Lauren admitted in all honesty. “But that’s understandable.”
“Do you really think he’ll be there?” Maureen asked, referring to Jacob Mannen.
“Yes, he will be there,” Lauren answered in a confident voice. “In a few minutes we’ll be so close, we will actually be able to nail him. And then...”
“Paperwork,” Maureen grumbled.
“Yes,” Lauren laughed. “But after we’re finished with that, we’re going on a little trip, you and I.”
“A real, honest vacation,” Maureen sighed. “I need one, Lauren.”
“I do too,” the dark skinned women replied. “No phones, no pagers, no bad guys, no bad cars, just you and I, a cabin, a lake and lots of trees.”
Maureen’s eyes lit up when they looked at Lauren and she smiled happily.
“It sounds to me you know exactly where we’ll be going,” she said. “You know, normally I’d frown on one-sided decisions like that,” she added in a teasing voice. “But since I am in such a desperate need for some rest and relaxation, I’ll let it slip this time.”
“That’s big of you,” Lauren answered with a twinkle in her eyes.
“I have my moments,” Maureen chuckled. “I will even throw in a...”
What exactly Maureen would throw in would have to wait to be discussed, because her cell phone buzzed and she quickly answered it.
“Lee Ann? Are you and David in position?”
“Hey, cousin,” Lee Ann greeted Maureen after her call had been answered. “Yes, we’re here.”
“Do you have a visual?”
“I’m not sure,” Lee Ann answered, her eyes never leaving the lone figure on the bench, underneath the tree in front of the botanical gardens. “We’re keeping an eye on a guy who is sitting on the bench, reading a magazine. Not very exciting, I know,” she added with a touch of dry humor. “But, he didn’t hop on the trolley bus, so it could be our guy.”
“What does he look like?” Maureen asked. “I mean, his build. I’m not interested in the color of his hair, or his clothes because that’s all easy to change.”
“He’s about my height, about five - eight, ” Lee Ann answered. “Athletic build and short hair. He’s constantly tapping his foot and within the last five minutes he must have looked at his watch at least fifteen times.”
“A little nervous, huh?” Maureen concluded. “It sounds like he could be the one. Don’t lose sight of him. We’re on Reno avenue now and we’ll be in his sight within the next minute or so. Tell me what his response is when he sees the van.”
There was a silence, in which the only sound Lee Ann could hear was the engine of the car her cousin was riding in. Her tension grew with leaps and bounds and she was aware of her sweaty palms and rapid heartbeat. Unconsciously, she moistened her dry lips, while her eyes rapidly flicked from the figure on the bench to the street where she knew she could expect the van at any minute.
“Keep an eye on him,” she whispered at David, who silently nodded, slightly leaning forward in his seat to get a better view.
“Here they are,” he suddenly whispered.
As soon as the van came into view, both Lee Ann and David saw the man on the bench jump up and then quickly take his seat again, while wiping his hands at his jeans.
“Jumpy fellow,” David muttered, while Lee Ann told Maureen what they had witnessed.
“Tell them to stay put,” she heard Lauren mumble in the background and in a soft voice she repeated those words to David.
“We’re staying put,” Lee Ann acknowledged.
Jeremy Mannen’s hands were clenched around the steering wheel so tightly, his knuckles had turned white. He was gnawing his bottom lip and had to do his utmost not to wipe the perspiration from his forehead. He knew his brother was looking at him and he did not want to look too anxious. They had briefly talked on the phone, when he had called him to tell him he had picked up the load and was headed his way. Jacob’s reaction had been cool, but pleased and Jeremy was hoping he had sounded convincing enough to let his brother take the bait. He was still upset about the fact that he almost had carried out Jacob’s orders to the letter, which would have cost at least three people their lives. One of them being a toddler.
“Rat bastard,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
“Take it easy, Jeremy,” he could hear Lauren’s voice from the back. “I know you’re still very angry with him, but don’t blow this, alright? I really would like to drag his sorry carcass off to jail tonight.”
“I won’t stand in your way,” Jeremy responded, slowly driving into the lot of the huge car dealership across the road from the botanical gardens. Jacob had told him to drive into the lot, turn around and park the van facing the exit, so he could jump in, take over the steering wheel from his brother and drive off.
As soon as he drove into the lot, David and Lee Ann, out of Jacob’s line of vision, exited the car and casually strolled down the sidewalk, arm-in-arm, looking at the cars on the lot, every now and pointing at one or pausing, while seemingly discussing all the different choices in front of them. They seemed oblivious to the man who was hastily crossing the street, while in fact they knew exactly where he was, because Maureen’s voice sounded clearly through Lee Ann’s Bluetooth which she had firmly planted in her ear.
“He’s about fifteen yards away from us now,” her cousin’s voice sounded like Maureen was standing right next to her. “Stop and look at a car. He saw you guys and slowed down....okay, okay, he stopped and he looks hesitant. Make it believable, Lally,” Maureen whispered in an urgent voice.
“Oh, come on, honey,” Lee Ann laughed, pulling David’s arm, stepping closer to a shiny red SUV. “You know this one looks a lot better than the one your brother has. I think you should get it, just to show off. That’ll teach your sister-in-law to keep flashing that diamond into my face every time I see her!”
“Jeez, where do you get that stuff?” Maureen whispered, half-amused and half in awe, admiring her cousin’s ability to think on her feet like that. “Okay, Lally, he bought it. He’s heading over here. Stand by.”
Jacob Mannen cast another look at the car shopping couple and started moving again. His steps had slowed down a little though and both Lauren and Maureen followed his progress with nervous anticipation. He was close enough now for them to see his face and they noticed how his eyes nervously scanned his environment. The fingers of his left hand were twitching, while his right hand was inside his coat pocket.
“He’s extremely nervous and he’s got a gun,” Lauren whispered, not daring to take her eyes off the man. Her own hand was holding a OSBI issued handgun and even though, at first glance, the long, slender fingers seemed relaxed around the steel, anyone looking closer would be able to notice the visible tension in the small muscles and tendons.
“Are you ready?” she whispered, barely audible and Maureen’s answer was an equally quiet: ‘Yes.’.
“Come one, Dave,” Lee Ann mumbled, glancing at their target from the corner of her eye. “Let’s walk a couple of more yards, before we start a fight.”
“Start a what?” David asked, sending his partner a puzzled look.
“A fight,” she repeated with a nervous chuckle. “I really want that red SUV, honey. Why can’t we buy it?”
A small smile tugged on the corner of David’s mouth and he sent his partner an admiring look.
“Like I have said before; you’ll make a great secret Agent,” he complimented her.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lee Ann grinned. “A secret Agent, huh? Well, if I ever make it that far, I promise to stay away from storage areas, basements and moths.”
A glance at David’s face showed her he had no clue what she was referring to and she smiled.
“Silence of the lambs, honey,” she elaborated, giving him a friendly pat on the back. “Let’s go.”
Jeremy Mannen concentrated on breathing, trying very hard not to hyperventilate. His brother was next to the van and already had his hand on the doorhandle, ready to step inside. With the sound of crunching metal the dented door opened and immediately Jacob’s voice filled the cabin.
“Move over, Jer.”
Silently, Jeremy scooted to the passenger seat, making room for his brother to get in, which he promptly did, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Did you get the stuff done?” he asked, glancing aside.
Jeremy just nodded, not trusting his voice. The anger he felt toward his brother had steadily grown and he felt that, at any minute, the boiling rage inside would become too much for him to handle. But he had promised Lauren Darkwolf to help them, so he had to stay calm and focused.
“Was it a good fire?” Jacob chuckled.
“I didn’t wait around to enjoy the show,” Jeremy answered in a soft voice. He could not show his brother his distress, because if he did, Jacob would know Jeremy had found out about his lies and the whole plan could go sour in a matter of seconds.
“We’ll watch it on the news tonight, I’m sure,” Jacob laughed and for the first time in his life, Jeremy really started to believe his older brother was insane.
“Where are we going?” Jeremy asked, staring at the couple who were standing in front of the lot’s only exit, seemingly involved in some sort of discussion.
“Friends, first,” Jacob answered. “Then we’ll use the cute nurse in the back as a bargain chip to get my son.”
“How is he doing?” Jeremy asked, trying to make conversation and to distract his brother.
“I have no idea,” Jacob mumbled, frowning at the couple in the middle of the exit. “Come on, move!” he added with a raised voice.
“How is Jess?” Jeremy asked, trying to distract his brother.
“What do you care?” Jacob snapped. “We broke up and she took my kid with her. She’s a loser,” he added with venom.
“But if she has the baby, then how will you....?”
“Shut up, Jer,” Jacob almost yelled. “Jess is dead. She took an overdose and she died, okay? No loss there.”
Jeremy cringed at the coldness in his brother’s words and voice, but he was very aware of the Agents’ presence in the back of the van and knew that, in order to help them, he needed to try and push for some more information.
“You mean she used?” Jeremy asked in genuine surprise. “Are you sure? I mean, I didn’t know her all that well, but I never had the impression she used anything. I remember...”
“Shut up!” Jacob cried out, banging his fist on the steering wheel. “For God’s sake, shut up, Jer. She’s dead, okay?” he yelled, so loud that David and Lee Ann could hear him from where they had their mock argument. “And, no, she didn’t use, you’re right. I wouldn’t have let her, because it would have damaged my son. Do you think I’m stupid?” Jacob Mannen glanced at his brother, who swallowed hard when he saw the rage in his brother’s eyes. A cold fear crept inside his body and he had to suppress the urge to open the door, jump out of the car and make a run for it. He was frantically trying to come up with something to say, or ask, but his brother, not noticing his discomfort, continued.
“Jess is dead because Ape and Squid took her out West and gave her something.”
“Gave her something?” Jeremy echoed, feeling his fear subside and his anger taking over. “What do you mean ‘gave her something?’. What happened, Jake?”
“She was snooping around in my stuff and I knew she would be running to one of her friends. It was only a matter of time before the police would find out.” Jacob sent another look at his brother and this time there was more than rage and madness in his eyes, to Jeremy it looked like a mixture of remorse and fear. “I had to get rid of her, man, don’t you understand?”
“You mean...you did...? I thought you just said that Ape and Squid...”
“They’re too stupid to think of something like that,” Jacob snorted with contempt. “I always had to tell them what to do. They were supposed to take her some place remote. Hell, there are tons of places along our runs, they knew that. They ran those roads a couple of times a week to deliver goods. But what did they do? They dumped her in front of someone’s house. Idiots.”
“You mean, you told them to...to...” Jeremy swallowed hard. “You told them to kill her?”
“It was painless, okay?” Jacob snarled. “I didn’t want her to suffer, man. Are you nuts? I just wanted her to go away.”
“And that’s how you took care of that?” Jeremy answered with raised voice. “You had her killed? The mother of your child? Are you freaking insane? What kind of person are you, Jake?” Jeremy’s voice had risen in volume and Jacob cringed. “You know, brother, I am no saint and God knows I’ve done a lot of stupid things so far, but at least I can honestly say I haven’t hurt anybody like that.”
Jacob’s head snapped up and in the back of the van both Maureen and Lauren whispered a shocked ‘Oh, shit’ and breathlessly waited for Jeremy’s reply.
“You just torched a house with people in it,” Jacob spoke and his voice was eerily soft and cool. He squinted his eyes a little when he stared at his brother, who tried not to squirm in his seat. “Or did you?” he added in a whisper, moistening his lips, while his eyes never left Jeremy’s face.
Jeremy’s heart was pounding in his chest. He knew the moment the words had left his mouth, he had made a huge mistake and he realized he only had one chance to get himself out of the sticky situation he had landed in.
“I did,” he snapped back, letting his frustration and fear fuel his anger. “But those were...were...just people I don’t know,” he tried. “I didn’t order anyone to kill my son’s mother. There’s a difference, you know.” Jeremy took a deep breath and met Jacob’s eyes unflinching. “Besides, right now I’m starting to wonder who were in that house, because after what you’ve just told me, I’m pretty sure you lied to me.”
Jeremy’s strategy of turning the tables seemed to work, because Jacob chuckled and sent his brother an appreciative smile.
“No matter what people say, you’re not that stupid, Jer.”
In the back of the van, Lauren and Maureen let out a shaky breath. The red head glanced at her partner and raised her eyebrows, silently asking a question that Lauren seem to understand, because she nodded and increased the grip on her weapon.
Turning away from the small, dark window between the cabin and the back of the van, Maureen whispered in her microphone.
“Lee Ann, we’re ready.”
“Come on, Dave, it’s time,” Lee Ann spoke softly to her tall companion, grabbing his arm and pulling him into the car lot. He made a half-hearted attempt to struggle, but then quietly followed her lead. He seemed to be an annoyed husband, who rolled his eyes at his temperamental wife, obediently following her to avoid an ever bigger argument, while in reality he was in full police mode. He pretended to scan the lot for cars, but his focus was on the dirty, dented van they were rapidly approaching.
Lee Ann could feel her heart rate increase and she knew the palms of her hands were sweaty, but she tried to ignore the physical effects of her tension, because she needed to focus. She and David had basically fallen into an assignment that was, not yet, part of their jobs. She knew Lauren and Maureen had faith in them and she wanted to prove them right. Now was not a time for hesitation or mistakes.
“Alright, I’ll ask them,” she called over her shoulder, making sure her voice was loud enough for the men in the van to hear. Without hesitation she stepped toward the vehicle and, with determination, she tapped on the window at the driver’s side.
“What the hell?” Jacob muttered, aware of the rising tension in his body.
“What’s going on here?”
“Who knows,” Jeremy mumbled. “Maybe they just need directions, or something.”
“I don’t know, man,” Jacob hesitated.
“Just roll down the window and see what they want,” Jeremy sighed. “Besides, we can’t just run him over,” he added, pointing at David who was standing a couple of feet behind Lee Ann, right in the path of the van.
Without a word, Jacob rolled down the window to look at Lee Ann, who was sending him a grateful smile.
“I’m so sorry to bother, y’all,” the police officer smiled. “But my husband and I are having a difference of opinion and if you don’t mind, I’d like the opinion of you two gentlemen. Do you know anything about cars?” she drawled.
“Just a little,” Jeremy mumbled, but Jacob, who was openly appraising the red head, flashed her a smile and nodded his head.
“Actually, I do,” he answered.
“I knew it!” Lee Ann beamed. “I’m pretty sure this is not your only vehicle, is it?” she asked, eyeing the van.
“Oh, no,” Jacob laughed. “I’ve got a classier one. This one is just for...running errands.”
“So, you drive one of these?” Lee Ann asked, gesturing at the neatly lined up cars behind her.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t,” Jacob smiled. “I usually drive a foreign car.”
“Really?” Lee Ann replied with surprise. “How interesting! A Toyota? I have heard that those are...”
“No, a Volkswagen,” Jacob interrupted her.
“Ooh, that’s one of those German engineering ones, isn’t it?” Lee Ann responded with admiration, playing her part really well.
“It sure is,” Jacob nodded, leaning his left elbow on the rolled down window and raking the fingers of his right hand through his hair. “They are excellent cars.”
“I’ve always liked those,” Lee Ann admitted. She cast a look over her shoulder at David and lowered her voice. “My husband doesn’t like them, he says it’s un-American to drive such a car. Personally, I love them, especially when they’re red.”
“I prefer darker colors,” Jacob replied with an indulgent smile. He had a great time, chatting with this attractive woman while her husband stood only a few feet back, watching them with a sour expression on his face. With a wink, he leaned a little closer.
“You know, it’s a pity I’m in this car right now, if I would have had my Jetta, I could have taken you for a drive,” he said in a soft and seductive voice.
“That would have been great,” Lee Ann sighed. “Maybe some other time. I did wonder though, those Jetta’s, are they very expensive?”
While Lee Ann was chatting with Jacob Mannen, asking him question after question, Lauren and Maureen had inched their way to the back of the van. Before they had gotten in, Lauren had inspected the cargo area meticulously, making sure they would be able to open the doors from the inside without a problem. She had gone as far as spraying the handle and hinges with WD-40, to make sure the doors would open without too much noise. Her strategy had worked, because the barely audible sound of metal on metal the door made when it was opened, was drowned by Lee Ann’s voice. Only when both Agents slowly and carefully stepped out of the back, the van moved a little because of the loss of weight in the back and the changing pressure on the van’s axles and frame.
Jacob immediately noticed the movement and for a split second his face became tense, losing the smile he had sported while flirting with Lee Ann.
“Oh, you’ve got a dog in there?” the police officer quickly asked, sending the young man another admiring look.
“Um...yes, yes, I do,” Jacob grinned, counting himself lucky that this woman believed every word he said.
From the corner of her eyes, Lee Ann noticed that Lauren and Maureen had exited the van and she knew they were crouched down, trying to stay out of sight.
“I guess I’d better be going,” Lee Ann said with a sigh. She cast a look at David, who pointedly looked at his watch. “It was nice talking with you and I’m really happy with your help,” she smiled. “Maybe we’ll meet again sometime,” she added hopefully.
“I sure hope so,” Jacob chuckled.
“Well, bye then,” Lee Ann winked at him and turned around, bumping the mirror with her arm. “Ooops, sorry,” she laughed. “I can fix that for you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jacob spoke, too charmed by the red head to be annoyed. “Your husband is a lucky man.”
“I’ll make sure to tell him that,” Lee Ann smiled.
The moment Lee Ann had bumped into the mirror, making sure Jacob could not see the side of the van, Lauren pressed herself to the side of the vehicle, waiting for Maureen’s cousin to step away. She took a deep breath, casting a look at David who was standing with his left hand on his hip and his right hand in his back pocket, or so it seemed. Lauren knew he had his hand on his gun, ready to pull it into view if needed.
Lauren’s dark eyes were focused on Lee Ann, who sent Jacob another sweet smile and a wave, before turning around and stepping away from the van. She waited a second or two and when Jacob Mannen’s hand appeared through the window to adjust the mirror, she stepped forward, pushing his arm down against the side of the door with her left hand, while pointing her gun at him with her right hand.
“Police,” she identified herself. “Don’t move, leave your hands where I can see them,” she ordered.
“What the...?” Jacob started, completely dumbfounded by the turn of events. His right had twitched, but before he could pull away from the steering wheel, somebody had jumped in the van, bypassing Jeremy, slapping a cold, metal handcuff around his wrist and pulling his arm backwards.
“Son of a...” Jacob cursed, not able to finish his sentence, because Maureen, who had cuffed his right hand, had also opened the door so Lauren could pull the slender young man out of the van, pushing him face down on the sun-warmed concrete, while Maureen, brought his left arm behind his back, expertly cuffing that one as well.
“Shit, shit. Damn you,” Jacob yelled. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Lauren did not immediately answer, but effortlessly pulled the young man to his feet, whirled him around so he had to face her and pushed him back against the van.
“Lauren Darkwolf, OSBI,” she said with a smile that never reached her eyes. “Jacob Mannen, you are under arrest for murder, attempted murder, the unlawful possession of a deadly weapon, the distribution of illegal drugs, kidnapping , child neglect and breaking and entering. Did I miss anything?” she added in a calm voice.
“Car theft,” Maureen added helpfully. “And I’m sure there will be more.”
“You’re crazy,” Jacob spat. “I haven’t done anything illegal. I am innocent and this is police brutality. I want to talk to a lawyer.”
“You’ll need one,” David spoke, good-naturedly.
“You! You’re a cop,” Jacob breathed, sending David a hate-filled look. He saw Lee Ann pulling her badge out of her back pocket, pinning it to her belt. “And you...” he hissed. “You filthy, deceiving slut. You wait until...”
He didn’t get any further, because David had stepped closer, using his considerable height to intimidate the ranting man.
“That’s enough,” David spoke softly, but with so much authority, Jacob fell silent.
“You’ve got nothing on me,” he continued, a little calmer this time.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Maureen spoke, pointing at Lauren who was holding a small voice recorder in the palm of her hand. The dark woman held up the device and pressed a button. Immediately, Jacob’s voice pierced the silence.
“Did you get the stuff done? ......Was it a good fire?....”
Lauren pressed another button, stopping the tape and looked at Jacob with a raised eyebrow.
“You were saying?” she encouraged him to speak.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Jacob mumbled. “Not without my lawyer.”
“Good choice,” David agreed, grabbing the younger man by his cuffed arms. “Let’s go. It’s time to introduce you to our dedicated staff at the county jail.”
All of a sudden, Jacob’s head shot up and he looked around, searching for his brother.
“Jer? Where’s Jeremy?” he asked.
“Looking out for your little brother?” Maureen asked, knowing Jeremy was behind the van, out of Jacob’s sight. “Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of him.”
“He’s the one you want,” Jacob spoke, producing a laugh that almost sounded hysterical. “He’s the one. I was only doing what he told me to. He burned down a house tonight. He killed three people.”
“So much for brotherly love,” Lee Ann muttered, waving at a police cruiser that turned into the lot. “Here’s our ride, guys.”
Jacob’s eyes traveled from the cruiser, to the van and then to Lauren.
“This is all planned,” he whispered, finally starting to realize his arrest was real and solid.
“Welcome to my trap,” Lauren smiled. “Goodbye, Jacob. We will see you later. Take him away, Dave,” she spoke, leaning against the side of the van, with her hands inside her pockets. To Jacob, she looked infuriatingly calm and collected.
“You bitch,” he spat. “I’ll get you for this. You wait.”
“You’re not doing yourself a favor here, pal,” David said, pulling the handcuffed man with him. “You might consider keeping your mouth shut.”
“I don’t care,” Jacob yelled, consumed by rage. His face was red and the veins on his forehead were bulging. “I’ll get out soon enough and believe me, I know where to find you. And you,” he added, looking at Maureen.
“Take him away, David,” Lauren’s voice sounded controlled, but cool.
David nodded and pulled the handcuffed Jacob Mannen with him to the waiting police cruiser. The uniformed officer had stepped out and had opened the door in the back, so all David had to do was push the struggling man on the backseat. He closed the door securely and stepped in the front, knowing his partner would follow in the unmarked car.
“Good job, Lee Ann,” Lauren complimented the younger woman. “Very good job.”
“You’re a star, Lally,” Maureen agreed, walking up to her cousin to give her a quick hug. “You were absolutely awesome.”
“I guess those drama classes in school were good for something,” Lee Ann smiled, pleased with the praise of the other women. “I’m glad we pulled it off without a hitch. Nobody got hurt.”
“Not during the arrest, no,” Lauren agreed. “But the trail of damage this guy is responsible for, is astounding. And I’m pretty sure we’ve only heard half of it.”
Tall trees surrounded the simple log cabin, providing shelter for the many birds and shade for the small building below. The wind gently moved the branches, rustling the leaves, creating a whisper in the warm, summer evening.
The sky was still blue, but soon the sun would start its descent, painting the western sky in hues of orange and purple. The silhouette of the mountains was clear against the sky, like a giant hand had drawn the lines against a background of liquid blue, but soon the ancient old formations would be swallowed by the darkness, only to be reborn in the cool light of the morning.
The beauty of the surroundings went unnoticed by the occupants of the cabin, who were seated at a simple, round table, made out of pinewood, enjoying a meal and a glass of wine.
“I’m glad I won that bet,” Lauren Darkwolf smiled, taking a sip from the ruby red liquid in her glass. “That was the best chicken I’ve had in a long time.”
“That’s what you said to Gertrude just a few weeks ago,” Maureen countered with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Yes, and it was true, until today,” Lauren chuckled.
“You’d better not say that to Gertrude,” Maureen teased.
“She can handle it,” Lauren shrugged. “Besides, she is thrilled we finally made it out of the city.”
“She’s not the only one,” Maureen sighed, leaning back in her chair and sipping her wine while staring at the woman who was sitting across from her at the table. Lauren Darkwolf looked tired, but relaxed. They had left Oklahoma City that morning and traveled most of the day to reach Lauren’s cabin in the Northeasterly part of the state, where it was tucked away between tall trees, close to a lake, on ten acres of private land.
“I wouldn’t mind if we’d never had to go back,” Maureen continued pensively, staring at the wine in her glass.
“That’s how I feel right now,” Lauren admitted. “I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster those last few months. Right now, I’ve got enough of bad guys, mountains of paperwork and court cases.”
“Amen to that,” Maureen nodded, lifting her glass in salute and taking another sip of her wine, enjoying the well-rounded flavor. “But, I do believe we have a rock solid case against Mister Mannen.”
“We do,” Lauren agreed with a smile. “He should be going in for life.”
“And he deserves it,” Maureen spoke. “I have to admit, he’s one of the worst ones I’ve ever dealt with. I knew he was bad news, but I was surprised when we found out he was actually the brain behind a gigantic drug-imperium.” Maureen took another sip of wine, feeling her tired body relax and reveling in the sensation. “It’s great we were able to close down an additional eight labs.”
“There are still a lot more out there, though,” Lauren sighed.
“Yes, but not tonight,” Maureen spoke, slightly leaning forward in her chair as to emphasize her words. “And not tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after...”
“Not for the next week or so. Got it,” Lauren laughed.
“And maybe I’ll like it here so much, I want to become a fishing guide. Or a writer. Or...or whatever,” she said with a happy sigh.
“Living off the land,” Maureen mused, sending her partner a mock-insulted look when she laughed.
“You want to hunt down your food and grow your own veggies?” Lauren chuckled.
“Nope, I’ll grow veggies, you hunt,” Maureen replied. “If I remember correctly, your brothers made sure to tell me you’re a descendant from a long line of warriors.”
“They lied,” Lauren answered lazily. “My dad is a teacher, my granddad ran the country store and my great-granddad had a little farm and worked as a deputy sheriff.”
“Oh, well, I’d like to believe they were warriors, because it sounds more romantic.”
“Sure, honey. If that’s what you want to believe,” Lauren smiled.
“Thank you,” Maureen smiled, suppressing a yawn. There was a brief, comfortable silence and she looked around the simple, rustic cabin, enjoying the warm earth tones of the wooden walls and stone fireplace. Here and there a colorful painting or other piece of art adorned the walls.
“I like this place,” she said softly when she met Lauren’s eyes again.
“Thank you,” the other woman replied, equally soft. “Even though it’s my place, I feel I don’t come here often enough, because work is usually so busy. And whenever I visit, it’s just easier to stay with my parents, or one of my brothers.”
“I think it’s pretty awesome your whole family lives around here. It feels so secluded. If I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t know your parents are just a few minutes down the road.”
“It’s nice,” Lauren nodded. “And handy, too, because the brothers keep an eye on my place and whenever they know I’ll be staying here, they make sure it’s clean and well-stocked.”
“When was the last time you were here, in your cabin, I mean?’ Maureen asked.
“About a year ago,” Lauren answered. “Too long.”
“Way too long,” Maureen agreed. “Did...” she hesitated for a moment. “Were you alone?”
Lauren’s dark eyes were warm when they caught Maureen’s green ones and with a smile she nodded.
“I was,” she admitted. She reached out and covered Maureen’s hand with her own.
“To tell you the truth, you’re the first non-family member I have brought here. Ever,” she said.
“Really?” Maureen breathed.
“Really,” Lauren smiled.
“I...I like that idea,” the red head confessed. “I mean, I don’t want to sound presumptuous or anything, but...I am very...much in love with you and...”
“And you’re glad there are no memories of previous loves here,” Lauren finished the sentence for her and Maureen nodded, relieved that Lauren seemed to understand.
“That means we’ll have the chance to create a lot of them, memories that is,” Lauren continued. “No cell phones, no pagers, no bad guys.”
Without breaking eye contact, Lauren got up from her chair and stepped around the table, reaching out a hand and pulling Maureen off her chair, into her arms.
“And I am very much in love with you as well,” she whispered, before her lips descended on the other woman’s. She kissed Maureen slow, deep and deliberate. They were both very tired and she knew the only thing her body really wanted was to go to sleep. For days. But her fatigue could not eradicate her desire to be physically close to Maureen, to kiss her and run her hands over her warm, soft skin.
“You’re such a great kisser,” Maureen whispered after a long time, resting her head on Lauren’s shoulders and enjoying the feel of the other woman’s arms around her. “You’re great at a lot of things,” she added dreamily, feeling Lauren chuckle.
“Thank you, I think,” the dark haired woman spoke, kissing the red head’s forehead, her temple and cheek.
“You’re welcome,” Maureen smiled, lifting her head so she could look into the dark eyes she loved so much. “I am tired and my body is telling me it really, really wants to lay down and go to sleep.”
“I understand. Mine is telling me the same thing,” Lauren replied, dropping a kiss on the top of Maureen’s head.
“But still, it’s also craving your touch,” Maureen whispered, tracing one of Lauren’s eyebrows with the tip of her finger. “I love the way you touch me, I love your kisses, I love to feel your skin against mine,” she continued, smiling when Lauren’s eyes went impossibly dark. “I love you,” Maureen said. “And I so want to make love with you, right now. Does that sound like I’m a total sex addict?” she asked, a little worried.
“Oh, God, no,” Lauren answered with a soft laugh. “If you are, then I am too. I am so tired, but all day I’ve been wanting you. I kept remembering how your body feels, the little noises you make, how you move against me and I want that, more and again. I want you too.” Lauren bent her head and captured Maureen’s lips in another passionate kiss. The redhead let out a soft moan when the kiss was deepened and she pressed her body closer to that of Lauren, feeling the heat roll off her body in waves.
“Take me to bed,” she whispered.
“Oh, yes,” was the heated answer. They continued to kiss each other and while Maureen’s hands boldly slid underneath Lauren’s cotton shirt, they made it to the bedroom, where Lauren gently pushed Maureen on the bed, immediately busying herself with unbuttoning Maureen’s shirt. Lauren let out a soft gasp when the fabric was pushed away, revealing soft, creamy skin and a pair of firm breasts, covered in a simple, white bra. With impatient fingers Lauren removed the shirt and the bra, moaning when she buried her face against Maureen’s chest, feeling the silky skin against her lips and face.
“You’re so beautiful,” she whispered, creating a path of kisses from Maureen’s breasts to her neck and back again.
Maureen arched into the touch and tugged Lauren’s shirt, demanding it to be taken off. The dark- haired woman complied so quickly, that before Maureen knew what was happening, she felt Lauren’s naked body pressed against her own.
“This feels so good,” she sighed, letting her hands travel down Lauren’s back, lifting up her hips to help Lauren get rid of the remaining clothes.
“You make me feel like I’m on fire,” she whispered against the dark woman’s lips, unconsciously moving her hips in rhythm with the other woman’s body. “You make me feel alive.”
“I want to make you feel much more than that,” Lauren breathed in Maureen’s ear, gently biting the lobe, before nipping and sucking the skin of her neck and shoulders.
“You do,” Maureen gasped when her nipple was engulfed by a wet mouth and a pair of strong lips. “Oh, Lauren, you do,” she whispered. “I...I..”
Whatever Maureen wanted to say was forever lost when Lauren kissed and licked a path from her breasts, down to her belly, to the top of her thighs.
All conscious thoughts were lost, while she let herself willingly drown in the flood wave of feeling and sensations. Until there was nothing else, but the heated hunger of her body, centered around the touch of her lover, a breathless hunger for relief.
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