Modern Crusaders, Book 2
Disclaimers in Chapter 1
"Franklin, what's up with the woman you've got stashed in Interview?" Horton City's police chief asked. "She won't stop crying."
Officer Franklin looked up at his boss and rubbed his eyes. "You remember that rohypnol case a few days ago? The woman who had a bad reaction and ended up in hospital?"
The Chief nodded, and then jerked his head in the direction of the interview room. "She another one?"
"Not exactly. She's the pusher. Eileen Swanson."
The Chief's double-take was almost comical. "What? Her? She another dyke, too?" he asked dismissively.
Franklin shrugged and frowned. He had been one of those who had interviewed the Parks woman in the hospital, and while he still wasn't sure he agreed with her choice of lifestyle, he also knew that nobody deserved the trauma she had gone through. "Don't know. But she did have the drugs on her, and she'd just snuck a hit into another guy's drink. He's at the hospital getting checked out."
"Huh. So you caught her at it?"
"Nope. The first victim, Parks, she saw her doing it. Went right up to her and dragged the stuff out of her pocket. Nearly beat the crap out of her, too, but Parks' girlfriend stopped her." Franklin shook his head to clear it of the memory of the event. When he had started towards the confrontation, he had been suddenly frozen as though encased in cement, completely unable to move. The immobility had ended only when Parks and Doherty had passed through the doorway and out of sight. "I'm not sure what Parks said to her, but Swanson's been crying ever since. She just keeps apologising over and over. She didn't even ask for a lawyer, and she's already given us the location of her lab and the contacts she was developing the dope for. Seems she was just using the bar as a testing ground."
"Huh," the Chief said again. "So what about Parks and her friend? You talked to them yet?"
"Not yet. They were pretty upset. I figure I'll swing around in the morning. Give them some time to calm down." Even as he said it, somehow Franklin knew that when he went to their apartment later, the two women wouldn't be there.
"So you're really going," Corey said softly, sitting on the edge of his bed.
"I really am," Claire replied, not meeting his eye. "Can you pass me that sweater?" She continued packing her small suitcase.
Corey was silent for a few more minutes, watching his friend push clothes into the case. "You know who they are, right?" he asked even more quietly.
Claire looked at him sharply. "What do you mean?"
He sighed. "I mean that Sophia's really Princess Evelynne, and Ally's Lady Alleandre."
Claire looked at him in shock. "How did you know?"
Corey shrugged. "I notice things. Of course, I knew who they looked like, but I just thought it was coincidence, you know? Then you told me about how Ally had been shot, and I really started looking. Once you accept the possibility, they're unmistakeable. You might want to tell Sophia—Evelynne, that is—to dye her hair or something. Ally, too."
"I can't believe you knew all this time and didn't tell me," Claire muttered, shaking her head.
"Well, I wasn't a hundred per cent sure. And even if it was them, they didn't want anyone to know, for obvious reasons." He paused. "So where are you going?"
"I don't know. Ally said something about going to someone who can help her."
"Why are you going with them?" Corey looked at her wryly. "I mean, besides the fact that you're in love with them."
Claire blushed and sighed. Giving up on the packing for a moment, she sat down beside her friend. "They can help me. Ally thinks she might be able to teach me to control this gift I have. And I just have to go, you know? I can't explain it." She was quiet for a moment. "You could come with us, you know. They're your friends too."
Corey shook his head. "I can't. Believe me, I'm tempted. But I'm creating ties here. I'm already stock manager at the store. I'm doing well in my classes. I actually have friends. Thanks to Ally and Sophia, ironically. I'm comfortable here." He wrapped an arm around Claire. "I understand why you're going. I'm still worried, but I know why you're doing it."
Her eyes bright with tears, Claire turned in his embrace. "I kind of love you, you know."
"I know." He held her for a minute, and then pulled back slightly. "I hate to be selfish right now, but what's going to happen to me? Where will I live?"
"Oh!" Claire jumped up to grab an envelope from the dresser. "Ally said to give this to you."
Corey took the envelope and opened it, drawing out a large sheaf of papers. His eyes widened as he scanned the first page. "Oh my God." His head came up. "She has a pre-paid one year lease on this apartment. And she's just sublet it to me for a year. For a dollar." He swallowed. "I mean, I knew she was rich, but to hell with Evelynne, I'm going to marry her."
Claire was surprised by the details, but not by the generosity behind it. She grinned. "I think you might have a fight on your hands if you try." She sobered at a recent memory. "You really don't want to piss Evelynne off."
"True." Corey remained looking at the documents in his hands for a moment, and then put them aside. "I will see you again, you know. One day they're going to go back to Atlantis, and they'll take you with them, and you'll become some high-and-mighty noblewoman. And when you are, you're going to invite me to visit, and introduce me to all the young bulls at court."
Claire embraced her friend tightly. "You have a deal."
"How did it go?" Ally asked her partner, her voice easily lost in the noise of the bus station.
"All right, I suppose," Evelynne replied, her voice subdued. "Narmin was understanding when I told her we needed to go 'home'. I don't think she really saw what happened last night. Or if she did, she doesn't want to believe it. She was quite verbosely upset about losing my 'managerial skills', but I gave her the name of an accountant I checked out who seems like an honest businessman. The only other person there this morning was Jean."
Ally sat down, and Evelynne followed, disturbed when Ally held herself stiffly, arms wrapped around her middle in a physical gesture of withdrawal. She had disappeared for most of the night, only appearing after dawn with the travel arrangements she had made. While Evelynne had gone to the Sixth Age, Ally had headed directly to the bus station. That was only one symptom of the distance she was obviously creating between herself and her partner.
"What about Jean?" Ally asked, and Evelynne shook herself out of her musings.
"Jean knows something happened, but she isn't sure what. She knows we're not quite normal, but at the moment I think she's double-guessing herself, trying to put a rational explanation to it. She understands why we're leaving, though, and she's sorry she didn't get to—ahem—'kiss you goodbye'." Evelynne tried to look at her partner archly, pleased when Ally responded with the barest hint of a smile. "Something I should know about?" As soon as she's said it she knew she'd made a mistake, as Ally gasped sharply and paled.
"No! I never—Jean and I never—" Ally turned pain-filled eyes on Evelynne, flinching when the other woman instinctively placed a calming hand on her arm.
"Ally, it's all right! It was a joke! I didn't mean anything by it! It was just a joke."
She kept a reassuring touch on Ally's arm as her partner exhaled a shaky breath and hung her head. "I know."
"Guys? Are you okay?" Claire's hesitant voice made them look up.
"Yeah," Ally said with another shuddering breath. "You get everything okay?"
"Yeah." Claire obviously knew she'd interrupted something, but chose not to comment on it. "I said goodbye to Corey, and picked up my stuff." She lifted the single small case in her hand. "I also went and cleaned out my bank account."
"Okay." Ally cocked her head to listen to an announcement from the speakers overhead. "I think that's our bus. We've got tickets to Philadelphia, then from there we fly to Seattle. We'll get another bus over the border."
"Where are we going?" Claire asked uncertainly.
Ally looked into the distance. "My old stomping grounds. Vancouver."
Continued in Chapter 17
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