After The Sunset
By Wendy Arthur
This romantic drama is an Original/Uber, with all characters created by me.
All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
The registered trademarks mentioned in this story are © of their respective owners. No infringement of their rights is intended, and no profit is gained.
This story contains scenes of mild violence. It also briefly mentions sexual abuse of children as part of the ongoing case the FBI agents are pursuing. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
There is angst! It is a season finale, after all! You have been warned ;)
This story depicts a sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.
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Bucket-loads of thanks to my beta-reader. As always, I appreciate your help!
Many, many thanks to my readers for continuing to support the series.
This is the next installment in my series, After Montana, and is the conclusion to Season 1. To get the most out of each episode, it would be advisable to have read everything that has come before.
Comments and/or feedback can be left at http://marshallcarson.wordpress.com or sent to email@example.com
Another round of bullets pierced through the air and the team of Special Agents ducked for cover once more. The rural property was surrounded by the FBI but Tyson Farnley wasn’t coming quietly. He had shot and killed six people in the last four months and judging by his current performance, he was a decent marksman. The Bureau sedans were taking the brunt of the killer’s fire and when CJ heard a faraway click, she knew she had a chance to peek over the door. She saw the window in the unkempt house where he had smashed the pane of glass with the nose of the gun to get a clear view of his targets.
She gesticulated to Mark, who was protected by a wide tree trunk close by. “He’s re-loading!”
“Stay where you are, Carson. It’s not worth it.” He manipulated his mouthpiece. “Green… do you have a shot?”
Jamie was secreted in the loft of the hay barn about two hundred meters away across the dusty yard. “That’s a negative, Sir. He’s keeping his body hidden…” she relayed while staring down the scope of her sniper rifle.
Agent Phillips was even further away, hidden in the scrub of a raised patch of land. “Negative, Sir. Want me to drop down?”
“Negative. Hold your position!” Mark shook his head as the sound of a fresh clip erupted into the evening air.
CJ readjusted her crouching position just as the new hail of bullets flew from the house. “Shit! He’s got a fucking machine gun!” She decided the door wasn’t enough protection anymore and scuffled her way to the rear of the car.
Jamie’s voice sounded in everyone’s ear. “It’s a Baretta. Still no visual of the subject…”
“Green… if you get the shot, take it!” the Assistant Director shouted. Metal pinged and tires exploded as the fast-firing gun perforated everything it was aimed at. Thankfully, all agents were hidden but it was only a matter of time before someone had to end this. It seemed Farnley had a well-stocked arsenal and had prepared himself for this eventuality. When the noise ceased for a split second, Mark knew they had to try again, “Fire!”
Ten agents emerged and shot at the window, making sure to also hit the wooden wall close to the frame to try and weaken his protection and bring him down. But Farnley was very well practiced and Agent Ryan yelped as the shoulder of his body armor was hit. He was thrown backwards onto the ground, clutching at his arm and moaning in agony. Where he had landed made him extremely vulnerable so CJ threw herself across the short distance between her car and his, and pulled him to safety. Farnley set off another round of deadly missiles and the dust around CJ’s scampering feet plumed upward, reminiscent of mini land-mines going off behind her. She slammed Mikey behind the marked ‘FBI Police’ Charger and blew out a breath of relief. “You okay, man?”
“Didn’t go through… I’ll live…” Ryan cried out with an added loud groan.
“Stay here… I’m gonna have to-“ CJ stopped mid-sentence when a sudden silence descended around them. She was about to turn and check with Mark when Jamie’s voice came over the radio-mic.
“Verify…!” the AD barked.
“One bullet, Sir… in the head. Confirm subject fell to the ground.”
Mulroney trusted his agent’s judgment and ordered his troops to move, knowing they would proceed with caution. “Go, go, go! Flank!”
The agents posted at forty-five degree angles to the two front corners of the old house moved in, ducking under the windows to approach and kick through the front door. The others swung around to follow the pattern, snaking around shrubbery to enter the house. Jamie continued to peer through her scope, watching in case the Baretta miraculously re-appeared.
As the team filed inside the house, they scanned the filthy living room and found a very dead Tyson Farnley with one precision bullet-hole in his forehead. “Shouldn’t ‘a pissed Green off…” Agent Gibson sneered, his gun trained on the body as he kicked the Baretta out of range.
“Search the house!” CJ ordered.
Once the last “Clear” was shouted back at her, she wiggled her foot on the floorboards and bent down to pull a threadbare brown rug aside. A trapdoor was revealed and Gibson came to stand behind her.
The raven-haired agent looked up as Jamie came through the door, catching her breath after running down from her hiding place. All CJ had to do was nod to her friend and Agent Green pointed her Glock at the trapdoor. Gibson mirrored her at the other side of Agent Carson, who counted down on her fingers before lifting the door. Holding her torch in line with her gun, she shone it into the dusty air that was disturbed with the movement. “Clear!” she shouted, seeing only a small room below filled with all kinds of weapons. “Looks like he was ready for Armageddon,” she said, letting out a long whistle.
Jamie looked into the armory. “Holy crap… a frickin’ minigun?!”
* * * * * *
Three hours later, the tired law enforcers who made up the FBI’s Specialist Serial Homicide Unit were sprawled over chairs in their small office in the Los Angeles field office. Mikey had been checked over. His shoulder was bruised and ached like Hell, but he was happy because the angle he was standing at had probably saved him. The large caliber bullet may have gone through otherwise. He now sat with a contented expression on his face and a sling on his arm for support. “I love you guys…”
Everyone looked up. “Mikey?”
“Did I say that out loud? Uhhh… I’m just feeling thankful…”
CJ chuckled. “Awww…”
The youngest agent in the unit propped himself up in his seat. “CJ… what you did... thank you. But you put yourself in the line of fire… don’t do that again.”
Blue eyes narrowed. “First of all, you’re welcome. Second… I would do it again. Not only is it my job to have your back… but I wasn’t going to let you lie there and become an easy target. He would’ve killed you, Mikey, and it was a calculated risk.” She paused and tilted her head. “And third… you guys are my friends and you would do the same for me.”
“Hmmm… when you put it like that… okay. But thank you anyway.”
CJ nodded an acknowledgement to him and scratched through her dust-filled hair. She had fleetingly thought about what she was doing before she’d rescued him but only because she had to make sure to time the rounds being fired. She knew the split-second pause in the ammo clip would give her the tiniest of advantages. And also, she figured the shooter would be aiming to hit another active agent… leaving the wounded one out of commission. It was a risk, she had to admit it, but she really would do it again if she had to.
“Anybody want coffee?” Ethan mumbled sleepily.
CJ sighed as she slouched back and closed her eyes. “Not for me. I want to go home… like now.”
“And you can, CJ,” the AD said as he came through the door. “You all can. Well done today, guys. You successfully ended another murdering spree and the guns we found have been valued at around eight hundred thousand dollars. He had old militaria in there too. The room appeared small because of the layers of weapons lining the walls. Serious nut.”
Jamie blew out a breath. “Wow… all that fire-power just in case we found him?”
“I don’t know, Jamie. He seemed to be planning much more… but it’s over now… and nice shot, by the way.”
The blonde agent blushed hotly and CJ smirked at her discomfort. “Yeah… amazing shooting, Agent Green.”
“Uh, well… thanks.”
Jamie seemed to sink into her seat and Mark tried not to grin. “Okay… Jamie, I need a quick report from you since you fired the kill-shot… and log your Remington as evidence… but the rest of you can go. See you tomorrow for a lovely day of paperwork.”
With a nod of praise for his team, Mark left and CJ wasn’t far behind him. She drove home without her usual musical accompaniment. There had been enough noise today and her ears were still ringing. When she got to the ranch house, it was almost 10pm and she slumped back on the inside of the front door after she locked it and secured her Glock. “Home…” she said with relief.
“Yes… you are.”
As Kate approached in the cutest pair of flannel pajamas, CJ’s heart warmed. “Hi…”
The actress took in the exhausted features, the hair tied back in a messy ponytail and the dirt engrained on CJ’s face that she had missed when trying to clean up. She knew where her wife had been today. “Hello, honey.” Two bodies fell together and held on tight, the embrace much needed for both of them. “I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to this feeling but every time you come back… it’s a blessing to hold you in my arms.”
“Katie, I’ll always be careful because I know I’m coming home to you and the girls.”
“I know… but no matter how careful you are, it’s a dangerous job…”
CJ thought for a moment. “It is. Mikey got hit today but he’s okay.”
“He got shot?” The fear in Kate’s eyes was obvious.
“His vest caught it, honey. He’s fine… but I won’t lie to you… it could’ve been any one of us.”
“Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it…”
“Katie…” The agent touched her partner’s chin and lifted her head. “You’re what I want most in this world. If it ever had to come down to you or my job… it’s always you.”
“I’d never ask you to choose, CJ.”
“I know… but what I mean is, if it ever became too dangerous… even for me… I’d quit and become a librarian or something…” This always happened to her in the middle of something serious. Kate pinched her lips together as an image of her wife came to mind; hair in a tight bun, a pencil-gray skirt suit, black rim glasses and a pile of books in her arms. As much as the stereotypical image was sexy – because let’s face it, it was CJ – Kate couldn’t keep her eyes from dancing with hilarity. CJ looked patiently at the blonde, her chin jutting forward as she bit her top lip, waiting for the inevitable. Kate burst into fits of laughter and had to let CJ go as she doubled over in her mirth. The agent stood with her arms crossed and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “We were having a serious discussion.”
Kate waved her arm. “I just…” She couldn’t get anything more out and waved again as she finished up. “Ohhh…!” Catching her breath, she regained some sense of decorum and pushed off her thighs to rise back to her full height. “Sorry… but I…” A few more chuckles escaped. “I got this picture in my head… of you as a librarian…”
“And it was obviously hilarious,” the agent huffed.
CJ grunted and pulled her wife into the living room. “Just for that… you can make me some tea before bedtime…”
“Oh, all right. Hey, you’d be hot as a librarian… very hot, just so you know…” As Kate busied herself in the kitchen, CJ smirked and leaned on the doorpost to watch her. The blonde turned to face her while she waited for the peach tea leaves to brew. “I didn’t even think to ask… did you get the guy?”
“Yeah…” CJ approached her, feeling her usual overwhelming need to touch her wife. Slipping both arms over the strong shoulders, she sighed. “Jamie shot him with her sniper rifle… she’s pretty amazing, that woman.”
“You’re sniper trained too, honey…”
“I know but Mark wanted me on the front line for this… I guess we take turns,” she shrugged.
Kate kissed her chin. “Well, I’m glad you’re home.”
“Me too. So how’s the filming coming along?”
“We’re starting my final scenes next week. Time for Mischa to make her exit…” Kate said with a smile.
“You still haven’t told me what happens to her…?”
“Oh but it’s a secret…”
CJ snickered and breathed into Kate’s ear. “But I won’t tell aaaanyone…”
A sharp inhale was accompanied by ticklish goosebumps appearing all over the actress’ body. “Well… I… they did tell me what happens…”
“She gets killed in the lab… by a bomb!”
Kate laughed. “I know, right? I guess when I told them I wasn’t renewing my contract they wanted to make sure I couldn’t come back.”
“And you seem so happy about it.”
It had been almost six months since Jack Bannerman’s funeral and the actor’s unexpected death had lost the show a lot of viewers. When Kate had told the rather greedy and unhappy bosses she was leaving, they didn’t take it very well. Since then, she had been as miserable as ever at work, only her coffee breaks with Sam, her chats with Cynand ever-present calls from CJ brightening her day until she could get home to her loved ones. And the bosses had sworn her to secrecy about her exit. She couldn’t tell anyone she was leaving Deadline, not even her producer friend. She hated that. But it was almost over now. Maybe one or two weeks and she’d be finished. She couldn’t wait.
Family life was going very well. Shannon was rehearsing for her school’s Christmas play – she got a lead role and had made Kate’s heart swell when she asked her for acting tips. The girl hadn’t been able to watch any shows her Mama was in yet, due to the adult content in each series, but Kate had given her some basic advice which had delighted the girl. They had rehearsed together a few times too… with CJ, Lucy and Aunt Cece as their appreciative audience.
Lucy had finally settled in at pre-school. At first, she had regressed into herself a little, making CJ and Kate worry terribly. The girl spoke less and both parents had made sure to coax her back out of her shell. The stress of leaving her family and her home every day had sparked the coping mechanism she’d utilized so much when Steven Coburn was around. The Carsons had given Lucy’s teacher a brief summary about her silent past and the girl was allowed to call her parents when she needed to. But Lucy’s teacher was a whiz at keeping her occupied and had managed the youngster admirably. Not many calls were made after the first week and thankfully, all the care and positive attention that surrounded her had won out. Since then, it had been very difficult to quiet her down when she came home. She had a new favorite pastime too. Her pre-school encouraged age-appropriate exercise and since Lucy already had a soccer ball at home, she was thrilled when she could play ball games at school too. She’d really taken to it and CJ had been quite happy to participate in the sport on her days off. They now had a makeshift goalpost in the large back yard and at one point, all four of them had played, even Shannon… although she had insisted she wear her pink sneakers to do so.
“Katie, have you seen that foot cream you got me?” CJ said with her head inside the low cabinet in the corner of the ensuite.
Kate appeared around the doorjamb and saw the most delightful sight; her wife’s nude, curvy, fresh-from-the-shower derriere hovering around in the air while the agent searched into the recesses of the storage area. “Mmmuhno… no I haven’t…” It was such a white lie but Kate didn’t want the vision to end.
“Hmmm.” As the tall woman reversed, she lifted her head a little too quickly and slammed it against the top of the cabinet doorframe. “Oowww…!”
“Oh… shit.” Kate was at her side in an instant and as the agent got to her feet and rubbed the sore spot with a frown, the blonde pouted her apology. “Sorry… I do know where it is.” She crouched down and grabbed the tub of revitalizing foot lotion from under the vanity. “Here…” she offered to a slightly disgruntled Special Agent.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that?”
“Uh well… your butt looked really good and… you know…” Kate shrugged.
CJ’s blue orbs darkened and seemed to phase out a little as her brain ticked over and came up with the appropriate punishment. “I see. Perhaps you could rub it for me then…” She sauntered off into the bedroom leaving Kate’s narrowing eyes trailing after her naked form.
As the actress bounced onto the bed on her knees, CJ pretended to read the instructions on the item in her hand. “My foot… it aches… I think I twisted it a little today…” Kate looked a little disappointed. “Then… I dunno… we’ll see,” the agent purred in a low voice.
The blonde licked her lips and climbed off the bed again. “Here… put this towel under your foot and lie back.”
CJ stretched her long frame out on the mattress and felt her shoulders sink into the three pillows behind her. She’d been dreaming about this all day. A fourteen hour non-stop shift ending in a shootout wasn’t good for her tired feet and the fact that she had twisted her ankle in that damn rickety house didn’t help either. She felt two gentle but powerful hands start to massage the cooling balm on her toes and her next words came out in a fast exhale. “Ohhhh-Godthatfeelsgood.”
Kate smiled but the curl of her lips soon faded when she turned the foot slightly to get a better angle for attending to the instep. “Oh honey, look at that…”
CJ raised her head and saw part of the nasty dark purple and yellow bruise that covered her heel and most of her ankle. “Yeah… I did that today.”
“Maybe a doctor needs to-“
“Katie… I’ll be fine. I’ve been walking on it for a few hours now. It’s just a sprain.”
The concerned actress nodded reluctantly. “Just relax… I’ll be very gentle.”
“You’re always gentle…”
The blonde tended to her wife’s painful limb with gentle fingers and plenty of cooling lotion. Once she was done, she switched to the other foot and gave it a thorough massage, making sure to get in between each toe and work her way up above the agent’s good ankle. When she eventually looked up to the beautiful Goddess who lay completely bare before her, she gasped. CJ was asleep and the way the soft light caught her subtly-tanned skin was breathtaking. Kate let her eyes go on a lazy journey down this stunning being, who just happened to be her wife; a wife who trusted her so completely as to lie there asleep and totally exposed.
CJ’s dark hair was a little unruly after her shower and haphazardly spread itself over the pillows; her excruciatingly gorgeous face was fully relaxed and her dark eyelashes were emphasized as they lay against the soft skin above the agent’s cheekbones. Kate’s eyes drifted down the enticing neck and along the pronounced collar bone, coming to settle on the full breasts she knew so well. While not large, they seemed to fit CJ’s frame very nicely and to the actress, they were absolutely perfect… including the pert, dark pink nipples that, in the low light, held a warm shadow making them seem bigger than they were.
Kate breathed deeply and continued her study. Dragging her gaze slowly over the tight abdomen - noting it’s slight dips where the agent’s six-pack hid just below the surface - she came to rest on the cute navel and giggled silently, remembering the little noise CJ made when she stuck her tongue there; then the small, dark triangle of hair sitting proudly between two womanly hips, the curls still springy and fluffy from the recent hot water. Kate licked her lips at the tiniest glimpse of the soft flesh beneath then let her eyes fall lower, visually caressing the long, strong legs that seemed to go on forever. Once she had finished her appraisal, her body temperature had risen, her breaths had quickened considerably and she kind of wished CJ was awake.
The special agent had been watching her spouse since Kate had smiled while scrutinizing her navel and she secretly enjoyed the feel of Kate’s eyes on her, analyzing her body and appreciating her without physical touch. She wasn’t sure if the actress had noticed her nipples hardening yet, and waited patiently until Kate looked back up to her face.
CJ did her own quick scan of her wife and saw she was now only wearing soft cotton boxer shorts, but the way the actress was sitting told the taller woman that her partner did not have anything underneath. It wasn’t just the blonde hair on Kate’s head she could see. And it was obvious the actress wasn’t sporting a bra either. Her tank top revealed the natural shape of her ‘perfect-handful’ breasts. CJ swallowed the saliva that gathered in her mouth and it was then that Kate finally looked up.
Their eyes met and gazes locked for long moments before the agent felt a smile creep across her face and an intense pulsing deep within her center. It seemed Kate had just realized her tall wife was awake and aroused, and CJ felt her bruised foot lifted carefully out to the side. The newly created space between her legs was filled by Kate and a warm mouth soon encompassed the stiffened nipple on CJ’s left breast. Once it was teased and flicked to a maddening point, the other breast was afforded the same loving attention.
After a trail of nips and kisses, Kate moved up and their short breaths soon mingled. The actress inhaled the fresh scent of her lover’s clean body. “What do you want?” came out in a quiet, sensual question.
CJ whispered with an equally sensual answer, “You…” Her eyes were so dark, almost black in the dim light, and when she added, “Fuck me…” Kate’s heart rate picked up dramatically. It was the first time CJ had uttered that request. Her fingers tingled at the thought of doing what her soulmatewanted and, slipping her hand between the long legs below her, she found the hot, moist entrance and dragged the wetness over the swollen clit a few times before returning to thrust three digits inside her aroused wife.
CJ barely cried out as Kate’s hand began pumping in and out of her vigorously, commanding her, owning her and making her even wetter. The actress ducked her head to suck her wife’s rosy nipple once again and CJ felt her body shudder. The agent’s eyes closed under the rapturous ministrations. She’d never felt such a fast rise in her physical arousal and when the mouth left her breast and the thrusting stilled, she opened her eyes to see the blonde head lowering until it was perfectly positioned at her center. CJ was so shockingly close to orgasm already, she thought she might just black out. Kate’s tongue forcefully slipped between her delicate folds and the sensation shot through the larger frame like lightning. Electricity buzzed out to every nerve ending as Kate pulled the aching clit into her eager mouth. The sound of the suction just added to the rising climax CJ was about to experience. The fingers inside her began to move again and Kate doubled the speed and power of her thrusts, making CJ’s entire being shudder with delight.
“Oh! Yes! Fuck yes…” CJ was about to explode. The fingers curled a little and hit the most receptive spot inside her just as Kate batted her tongue over the length of her hard clit. The agent’s body tensed and her hips flew upward, taking Kate with them.
Kate opened her eyes in wonder as she literally rode CJ’s peak. The power of the body beneath her was incredible. The movement had pushed her mouth harshly onto the sensitive flesh under her lips but she figured CJ was too far gone to care. Her wife was grasping handfuls of the sheets and her head was writhing back and forth on the pillow; an unbelievable sight.
CJ couldn’t breathe. The most amazing climax was spreading through her and not abating like she expected it to. She sensed her lover remaining still and in place but she could do nothing to explain what she was going through. Kate had her on the edge of a cliff and she wanted to dive off it again and again. The tongue pressed tentatively against her clit and her pulse raced. She couldn’t understand her responses since she felt like she should be collapsing into a deep slumber right about now, but no… she was still aroused. Kate’s fingers were still inside her and she clamped down on them experimentally. The flood of heat that coursed through her was unreal. She did it again and Kate decided it was a sign to begin a new passionate assault. She suckled gently on the burning nodule in her mouth and slowly began to slip in and out of CJ.
Like a tidal wave that appeared from nowhere, CJ came again, lifting her head off the pillow for a second to look at Kate in disbelief. “Katie…” It came out in a surprised whimper as she floated down from the second, equally intense but much shorter high. But the actress didn’t stop there. She withdrew her fingers and used both hands to pull CJ’s nether lips wider apart. The taller woman let out a shaky scream as her lover flattened her tongue and initiated a quick rhythm over the incredibly-sensitized ridge, making her blonde head bob rapidly as she moved up and down. CJ pawed at Kate now, not sure she could handle another bout of ecstasy in what was fast becoming the best multiple orgasm she had ever experienced. She managed to tug on some of the blonde locks but it was too late. The climax rushed over every millimeter of skin, through every molecule of her body and when it was over, she collapsed into the mattress and simply tried to keep breathing and lubricate her throat. It seemed all her bodily fluids had headed south leaving none for silly things like swallowing.
Kate finally lifted her mouth from her wife’s intoxicating body. She was incredibly aroused and had felt drugged as she made CJ come repeatedly. She loved the feeling of being inside her partner when she climaxed and she knew the taller woman loved to feel that in her too. She carefully crawled up the shivering body, taking the sheet with her. When she arrived at CJ’s face, she smiled. “You okay? You’re trembling…” CJ still couldn’t speak. She nodded weakly and tried once again to produce some moisture in her mouth. Kate kissed her chin. “That was incredible to watch… and feel…” the blonde said to the incapacitated woman.
“Incredible…” CJ croaked, “…to exp-experience…”
Kate became a little concerned with her wife’s inability to communicate. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
‘Finally… some saliva,’ CJ thought. “My God, no! You did lots of things to me… but hurt wasn’t one of them. You took me to places I’ve never been before, Katie…”
“Well… you did ask me to fuck you…” Kate answered coyly.
“Consider me well and truly fucked.” They both chuckled together and when Kate kissed her spouse, CJ could feel the passion still waiting to be sated in the blonde. “Now… please… please tell me what you want, my love?”
The question alone caused a new flood of wetness between Kate’s legs. “What I want…” she whispered against CJ’s mouth, “…is for you to slide your gorgeous fingers into me… and let me ride your tongue. I want you to feel me when I come… I want you to feel what only you can do to me…”
CJ’s breath caught again and she almost frowned when her clit twitched involuntarily. “You really know how to drive me insane, don’t you?”
“Yessss… and you drive me insane by simply breathing…” Kate rose up and pulled her top off, revealing her swollen breasts and very pert nipples. CJ instantly grabbed the globes in her hands, squeezing and molding them repeatedly, hearing gasps escaping Kate’s throat. “Mmm…”
The agent managed to remove the soft boxer shorts her wife was wearing – grinning like a Cheshire cat at the damp spot on the material before lifting it to her nose - and it was a very naked Kate who straddled her stomach. CJ let her fingertips glide over the creamy skin of her lover’s torso, creating a rippling wave of muscle and two very rigid, pink nipples. She glanced down to see the actress’ wide open center as it pressed against her ribcage and swallowed the now-abundant saliva swirling around her mouth. “Come here…”
Kate followed the hands that pulled on her thighs until she was holding her aching clit just above CJ’s face. The taller woman tickled two fingers through the sodden folds and the blonde let out an audible sob of sheer need. With a menacing grin, CJ flicked out her tongue to catch the base of the delicious bundle of nerves and the actress showed extreme restraint when she didn’t force herself down on the magical mouth. The two fingers slowly slid deep within Kate’s opening accompanied by a moan of relief from the blonde.
CJ took a moment to simply feel the inside of her lover’s body. The warmth, the velvety softness and the moisture surrounded her, and a deep breath took in the scent to complete the perfection. Now she needed to taste, but before she did she pushed her hand just a little more until it could go no further. Kate’s contracting muscles helped by pulling her in and keeping her there. CJ’s dark lips covered the needy clit and Kate finally pushed against her.
“Ciara…” The actress felt the hot mouth caressing her and she knew her orgasm was near. Making love to CJ had her on the brink so now it wouldn’t take long to make her come. CJ’s tongue licked back and forth inside the airtight cavern her mouth had created as she manipulated the organ using her intimate and skilled knowledge of her wife’s body. The blonde began to sway and CJ opened her eyes to watch as she stilled her tongue. With her lover now thrusting across her face and taking what she needed from her mouth, she lifted her hand so that it would stay almost motionless inside as Kate moved. She could feel the muscular canal clench and unclench, and she knew her partner was rising quickly. CJ’s partially-erect tongue worked wonders, rubbing back and forth faster as Kate increased her speed. The taller woman heard the unmistakable sounds of the impending climax as the actress neared the crest and she let her pinkie slide deeply between Kate’s buttocks, making it press and move firmly against the now-sensitive rear opening. The smaller woman gasped aloud and kept rocking. Faster, faster, harder… until she let out a long guttural moan as the heat and pressure seemed to explode through her taut frame. CJ’s impaled fingers were crushed but she didn’t care one bit. It was amazing to feel and watch her lover in the throes of a powerful orgasm. “Wow…” the agent breathed against the increasingly wet skin. Her tongue snaked out to gather the escaping nectar. She didn’t want to miss one drop of it.
Kate whimpered as she recovered, clinging to the headboard and trying to hold her body up so as not to smother CJ’s face, but she couldn’t move away… not yet. Her entire being was in a state of bliss and she could feel her wife’s fingers inside and outside as they remained in place. She concentrated on the contact and couldn’t believe that the simple touch between her buttocks had sparked an even more intense reaction in her. She was soon jolted – quite pleasantly – out of her thoughts by her mischievous spouse’s tongue as it gently lavished her clit with loving, tiny licks.
“Ooh… not sure I can… take any more right now…” Kate smiled as she looked down into deep coral eyes.
“Sure?” CJ queried with a raised eyebrow, not wanting to give up her tasty treasure just yet.
“I’m sure. You blew me away, Ciara. My heart’s… racing…”
CJ delicately slid out of her lover and as a slightly out-of-breath actress slid down into her arms, she sighed happily and sought out the lips of her soulmate. Their flavors mingled as they engaged in a lengthy, passionate kiss before the blonde lowered her head to rest in her favorite spot under CJ’s chin.
“Amazing…” Kate murmured, stifling a yawn.
“You’re telling me? What you did to me was… out of this world.”
The actress repositioned herself so that she could see CJ’s face. “Which part?”
“All of it. It felt so new to me… I nearly came without your mouth on me…”
“What do you mean ‘new’?”
“I… I never got so aroused from vaginal stimulation before… I mean, before your tongue was…” CJ said quietly. For some crazy reason she felt a blush rising.
“Really. But… with you… wow, it’s incredible.”
“Only with me?” Kate probed.
“Yes.” The agent kissed the tip of a pert nose. “Katie, we both know the biggest sex organ is the brain… and every single part of me… brain included… is completely in love with you. So when you touch me anywhere, it does something unique to me. Nobody else could do that. But what astounds me is… it just keeps getting better. We seem to find new heights to reach…”
“I know what you mean. Your touch… it’s like… electricity. It buzzes through me and feels incredible.”
The actress was quiet for a few seconds as another uncontrollable yawn worked its way out. She kissed CJ’s collarbone then rested her chin on a soft breast. “Have you ever had a vaginal orgasm before?”
CJ raised her eyebrows. “With no other physical stimulation?” When Kate nodded, the agent shook her head. “No.”
Kate knew she didn’t remember CJ ever having one with her so she was strangely relieved. “Me either…” she said honestly.
“Get outta here… you haven’t…?”
“Not even with the guys… I mean uh…”
“CJ, the small amount of sexual partners I had before you were… well… not great. I never knew how incredible it could feel until I was with you. I know the fact that we’re in love… beyond love… and we connect intensely helps, but we always make sure to really take care of one another’s needs when it comes to physical intimacy… so we’ve always had uh, plenty of other stimulation included in our lovemaking…” Kate said, sticking out her tongue to emphasize her point “…which is why I haven’t had one with you… yet.”
“Hmm… I see. And I haven’t either, although I just came pretty close… no pun intended. Perhaps a private experiment is required sometime in the near future… me, you and… some kind of toy?”
“Oooh, now that sounds like an experiment I’d like to participate in…” the actress giggled. “Do you think we could manage to do it without laughing our asses off?”
“I say we give it a try… only in the interests of biological and scientific advancement, of course…”
“Of course,” Kate nodded vigorously as she lowered her head back onto a convenient shoulder. She lay there for a few minutes thinking and basking in the waves of heat coming from the larger body. “CJ… what you did to me… where you touched me… I know you’ve done that before but…”
“I won’t do it again if you don’t like-“
“Whoa…” Kate’s hand slapped over the agent’s mouth. “You will do it again… if you want to, I mean.”
“Of course I want to… I love every part of you and it seems to make the experience more intense for you sometimes.”
“I guess it does but only because I’m already aroused. I’m not really… into that, if you know what I mean?”
“I do, and it won’t go any… further, unless you want it to… if you know what I mean…?”
The blonde glared at her wife but there was a twinkle in her eye. “I do. So… only touching it… for now,” she winked.
“Oooh, my wild little minx,” CJ growled, poking Kate’s ribs gently. “I adore your ass, my love… just like I adore the rest of you.”
“Doing that to me doesn’t turn you off?”
“Huh? No! Don’t you get it, Katie? Nothing… and I mean nothing about you turns me off.”
“And you won’t be uncomfortable if I try it on you?”
“I must admit… I’ve never had uh, anyone touch me there before… but I’ll let you try anything you want.”
“You might enjoy it…”
CJ grinned. “I enjoy everything else with you… I can’t see why this would be any different. I promise to tell you if it’s not for me. So… we can add it to our experimental night if you so desire.”
The agent’s eyes narrowed as she looked at her wife. “So the thought of doing that to me doesn’t turn you off?”
“Hah! Are you kidding? The thought of making you feeling what I just did… well, that actually turns me on…” the smaller woman quipped while deflecting two groping hands. “Okay, enough ass talk for tonight.” Smirking at CJ’s raised eyebrow, Kate laid her head back down and thought about how open they were with each other. She loved every aspect of their relationship. A deep inhalation brought a new expression to her face. “We smell like sex…”
CJ chuckled huskily. “We sure do… and I just had a shower too.” Kate reached up to kiss her and she welcomed it wholeheartedly. When the tender contact broke, the agent added, “Smells great.”
“Mmmm, sure does. I do need to shower though…”
“In the morning,” CJ replied, jumping up to relieve her bladder. She quickly flushed the toilet and washed her hands, jumping back into the same position and placing a water-cooled palm on Kate’s back.
“Oh… you!” the actress yelped, throwing herself around the larger body with a shiver. A possessive and passionate kiss was bestowed upon the taller woman’s lips and she could barely breathe when Kate was done.
“Well that… was worth the punishment…” CJ snorted.
Pulling the sheet up fully, Kate snuggled into the arms of her beautiful wife, feeling the tiredness overwhelm her quickly. “I like punishing you…” A sleepy chuckle escaped. “Night, CJ.”
Special Agent Carson held her spouse close and sensed the actress falling fast into her slumber. “Goodnight, my Katie.” It came out in a whisper and she felt a swell of emotion pass through her. They were two people, two individuals on a journey together, but sometimes it felt like they were one soul, blissfully combined in an inexplicable bond of love.
* * * * * *
They awoke at the same time the next morning. Kate yawned widely and got up to empty her bladder, scratching across a butt cheek and her back as she went. CJ stretched her long body out on the bed and felt something a little strange. She brushed it off and got up but as soon as she did, she realized their rather rampant coupling last night had left her a little delicate. “Hmm, that’s new…” she muttered as she padded gingerly to the ensuite.
Kate saw her somewhat unsteady approach and curled an eyebrow. “You okay, honey?”
“I did hurt you last night… I knew it.Oh crap…” the actress huffed after switching on the shower to let it heat to the preset temperature.
“You didn’t hurt me, Katie… but I’m a little raw. So weird…”
“Yeah… first time ever. I guess I’d better prepare myself before I ask you to fuck me again,” she growled, grabbing a hold of the smaller nude body.
“You’re gonna ask me again? Oh yay…”
“It was incredible, honey… so I’m sure I will.”
“Well, how about I wash you in the shower… that should soothe it a little.”
“I don’t think that would soothe anything… quite the opposite, in fact.”
The voice from the hallway saved CJ from her wife’s questing fingers as Kate snagged her robe and headed out of the bathroom. “We’re here, Shan. Good morning!”
“Mama! I woke up early!”
“You sure did,” Kate retorted cheerfully while tying the robe shut.
CJ poked her head out of the ensuite, hiding her body behind the door frame. “Mornin’, Squirt. I’m heading into the shower so could you guys make me some toast, please?”
“Yes! With grape jelly?”
“Yummm… yes please,” the agent nodded, seeing Kate eyeing her with a smirk.
“Okay!” The girl disappeared and skipped along the upper hallway.
Kate followed her but not before green eyes rolled and a sultry wink was thrown at her wife. “I’ll get you later…” the blonde promised as she left.
“Oh boy… that woman will be the death of me,” the tall woman mumbled as she returned to the shower stall. “But as I always say… what a way to go!”
The next day flew past with Kate working a fifteen hour shift and only managing a quick goodnight to her children before they went to bed. CJ had worked too – although not as many hours – and had gotten home in time for dinner with their daughters and later, some pampering for her tired wife. Both women had fallen into bed at ten thirty and were snoring within minutes.
At 3.30pm the day after, the actress had just taken her lunch break and was now staring at her phone, seeing a missed call from her father. She knew she had not called him back the last couple of days and decided to dedicate a few of her scattered moments of free time to the loving man. She looked at her low-fat cream cheese toasted bagel and knew she should eat it before dialing. She wouldn’t get a chance to do it during the call. Stuffing the delicious snack into her mouth and chasing it down with some spring water, she hit the speed dial for Eddie Marshall Senior.
After two rings, it was answered with a sing-song greeting. “Katie! My darling daughter! How are you and my other darling daughter?”
While she listened to the kissing sounds coming across the connection, she almost cried at his words. She adored that he thought of CJ as his daughter too. “Hey Dad… we’re doing great! How are you and my other darling father?” she quipped back.
Eddie didn’t almost cry. He actually cried. “Oh! That’s so…! Oh!”
Kate heard him sniff a few times and sigh at his inability to stifle his emotions. “Dad? You okay?”
“Yes, sweetheart… I just love that we love each other so much. It’s the most wonderful thing…”
“Yes, it is. And cry all you want. It warms my heart that you don’t hide it.” That set him off again and Kate tried to calm him down by means of distraction. “Hey… how’s Prescilla’s doing?”
“Oh just fine, honey. It’s that time of year, you know? I grumble that it’s busy but then I think… well, thank goodness it’s busy! I can’t really complain… we’re lucky to keep the place open during these tough times.”
“That’s very true, Dad… but you guys have a fantastic group of repeat customers and word of mouth is so important. The fact that you and Jeffrey work hard to maintain it is a testament to you and your business as well.”
Another sniffle from Eddie. “You’re too kind, Katie. Now tell me… how is that tall, dark, deadly and gorgeous wife of yours, hmm?”
Kate giggled. “She’s great, Dad. As badass as always… at work, I mean. At home she’s a big soft kitten, as well you know…”
“Oh yes! I know! And what about you, my love?”
“I’m great too… better than great. I told you I was leaving Deadline, right?” At her father’s affirmative response, she continued. “Well, I’m almost done now but I have a potential new job starting next Fall!”
“Katie, that’s wonderful. A new show?”
“Yes… but it gives me time to spend with the girls in between… and the new show is not so demanding, so I’ll have more time at home. It feels perfect, Dad.”
“Oh honey, I can tell from your voice that you are oh-so happy. And how are my little cherubs?”
“They’re wonderful. They miss you. Actually, you can tell Jeffrey that Shannon called me Babycakes the other day… and when I asked her why she did it, she said she thought it was a cute name that Grandpa Jeffrey calls me…”
“Heavens, I’m gonna cry again. You are the most beautiful family I could ever ask for. Add in my Jeffrey, and Eddie and Sasha…. Well, I’m truly blessed. I love you, Katie.”
“I love you too, Dad. We love you too.”
“Oh! So…” A cough and a sniffle came through the line until Eddie composed himself. “How’s school going for my granddaughters?”
“Oh fine, fine. Lucy is a superstar with a soccer ball… she’s really enjoying kindergarten. And Shannon is preparing for her school play and excelling in her classroom work.”
“She’s going to be a doctor or something, I can just feel it!” the proud man gushed.
“Well... maybe not a doctor, but she’s really interested in the experiments they do in class. I think science will be her thing,” Kate nodded absently.
“Fabulous! A scientist and a soccer star. I can see it now!”
The actress chuckled at her father’s misplaced excitement. “Well… quite a few years to go before they will decide on anything like that, Dad.”
“Oh, I know, I know… an old man can dream though, hmm? I just know they’ll grow up to be as amazing as their Mommies. I’m so proud of you all. Anyway, I digress… I’ll let you get back to work.”
Kate bit her lips to hold in the emotion invoked by her father’s words… otherwise they’d never finish this conversation. “Thank you, Dad. How did you know I was at work?”
“I can hear that squeaky air conditioning unit in your trailer… it’s a dead giveaway! You need to get that thing seen to!”
Kate laughed out loud. “Nothing gets past you, Dad. Okay, I’ll talk to you soon. Love you so much… and tell Jeffrey the same?”
“Of course I will, sweetheart. Love, love… bye.”
* * * * * *
When Kate got home at a decent hour for a change, she was pleased to see CJ’s shiny blue Dodge Ram already there. With a goodbye to Tony and a satisfied sigh, she entered her house and locked the door behind her. “Honey, I’m home!” She gave the ever-alert Kamali a scratch behind his black fluffy ears and proceeded to chat to him until the cutest six-foot Federal agent walked into the hallway from the living room and offered her wife a lop-sided grin.
“Just in time for pizza…” CJ threw her spouse the most innocent childlike expression and the actress knew she’d been making a mess in the kitchen again.
Kate’s smile was widening by the second as she scanned the dark-haired woman’s attire. “I’m guessing you didn’t order in?” she asked, taking in the flour-covered pant legs of CJ’s FBI sweats and her t-shirt that stated – a little too proudly – ‘Feel Safe At Night – Sleep With A Cop’.
“We made it ourselves… including the base… which is uh, kind of big?” The agent quirked an eyebrow.
“Did it fit in the oven?” Kate enquired as she moved to hug her spouse.
“It did… just…”
“Then I’m looking forward to tasting it,” the blonde winked, reaching up to kiss CJ on the lips.
A small moan escaped the taller woman’s mouth as Kate’s soft tongue disengaged. “Tasting… the pizza?” she whispered.
Kate licked her lips and flipped her hair over her shoulder as she walked into the living room. “That too…”
CJ spun on her sock-covered heels. “Unngg…”
Kate chuckled as she greeted the children in the kitchen. “Wow, dinner smells amazing, you guys!”
Shannon gave a cheesy grin from her position on a step-stool at the sink and Lucy twisted on her barstool to reach up to her Mama’s neck. “We got chicken… an’ cheese an’ mushroom an’ p’roni!” she squeaked excitedly, now kissing Kate’s cheek.
“Great!” Kate looked at CJ who had come to stand beside her. She frowned a little since her wife knew she wasn’t keen on pepperoni. “Chicken and pepperoni together?”
“We topped half and half.”
“Ah… sounds delicious.” Bending down to release her younger daughter to the floor, Kate opened her arms to Shannon, who gratefully skipped over to receive her own hello hug. “I’ll go get changed into something comfy so we can eat the awesome Carson pizza together. Be right back!” Before she left, she glanced through the stove’s glass door and saw the edges of the large – but thin crust - homemade pizza curling up the oven walls. It wasn’t round. It looked more like the state of Oklahoma with a slithering tendril of dough hanging off the shelf. She chuckled softly as she eyed a bashful-looking special agent on her way out of the room. Everything just looked so delicious to her.
* * * * * *
Kate lay in bed with her eyes closed, waiting for CJ to finish up with her shower. The blonde was reliving their family dinner together and feeling an overwhelming tenderness at the scene she’d arrived home to earlier. When she felt the mattress sink beside her, she cracked open one green orb to see her wife leaning over her.
“Thought you’d fallen asleep there…” CJ purred.
“No… I was just thinking.”
Kate momentarily forgot what the question was when her amorous partner sunk down and kissed the soft mound of her left breast. “I uh… ohhh… wh…?” CJ was moving close to her hardening nipple and she suddenly couldn’t form a coherent thought.
“Mmmm sorry, what was that?”
Kate grasped the dark hair and pulled the hungry mouth away. “I… I was thinking about what greeted me when I came home earlier… and finding it so incredible that I have you and our girls in my life. It made my heart fill with love and I’m forever grateful for my life.” The actress took in the devoted look in CJ’s eyes and a smile tugged at the sides of her full lips. “Now… you may continue,” she said, trying not to grin as she let go of her wife’s head.
CJ’s lips went straight in to suckle a pink nipple and a gasp escaped Kate’s throat. The agent felt her eyes welling up at her partner’s words and she trailed her lips gently over silky skin to the other mound to offer it the same caresses. She felt a surge of emotion as she continued to love Kate. Her hands began to roam over smooth abdominal muscles and through soft, dark blonde curls. “I love you so much…” she whispered as her fingers sunk teasingly into the warm folds between the blonde’s thighs. “So much…”
There was no pressure to the touch and Kate willed her hips to remain on the bed. She wanted to take it slow just as much as CJ seemed to. “You… have… my heart,” she breathed as her wife continued to tickle across her body with lips and hands. She felt the agent’s mouth kiss and nip her stomach but then CJ changed direction and in a split second she had efficiently covered Kate’s body with her own.
CJ’s face hovered over the actress’ and she curved her spine to push her sensitive flesh onto her wife’s. Kate whimpered at the move but kept her eyes closed, even though she knew CJ was watching her. The taller woman gazed at the full lips, slightly open in anticipation; the blonde strands framing a strong, smooth chin and the nostrils flaring with every breath to take in some much needed air. “You are so beautiful…” CJ choked out, wondering where her tears came from.
Kate’s green eyes opened and she cupped the achingly emotional face of her lover. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… and I’m glad of that. You are the most beautiful woman in the world to me… and I’m so lucky that you feel-“
“I will always feel it, Katie…” the agent interrupted. “No one even comes close to what I see in you. You complete me.”
The blonde couldn’t speak. The tears now flooded from her eyes too and she pulled CJ down to her, holding on for dear life. The weight of CJ’s warm body on her was like a warm blanket around her soul and she pushed back after a few moments to tell her wife with a simple look that she felt the same. For the next few hours, in a dance that was ancient and familiar, they made love without a single word spoken. They reaffirmed a connection that traveled beyond their lifetime, instilling deep within both of them that they would never be apart.
* * * * * *
At 7am, the alarm clock rudely barged into their contented dreamscape. In a blur, the morning routine was well underway. Tony had arrived – with his walking cane - and as he finished off his coffee, CJ headed out of the living area. “Bye guys. Take it easy today, Tony.”
“I will, CJ.” He knew what she was referring to. His leg had healed well but he still had a bit of a limp. He would be using the cane for a while but at least he had been back at work in his full capacity as driver and PA for two months. He was glad Kate had chosen another automatic car when they had bought the BMW, as his left leg could rest during their necessary trips around the city.
The tall agent entered the hallway and was met next to the secure gun cabinet by her cheeky wife. “You seem to be walking okay now. Our long session last night didn’t irritate your…?” the blonde asked, cupping her hand between CJ’s legs.
“Holy shit, Katie…” CJ whispered hoarsely as she felt a sharp wave of arousal shoot through her. “Quit that ‘til I get home, huh?”
“You drive me crazy, CJ. I may have to… order something today.”
The raven-haired woman looked confused for a moment until she figured what Kate’s wiggling eyebrows meant. “My Gawd, you’re insatiable.”
“No… not insatiable… you can sate me no problem. But you’re soooo good, I always want more.”
CJ got lost in the hypnotic gaze for a short while before she blinked drunkenly. She could only imagine what sex toy Kate would order and for some reason, she couldn’t get the image of her wild and occasionally domineering wife wearing a str-… She snapped back to reality. “More… yeah… later.”
“Uh huh. Can’t wait to try it with you… I’ll choose the fastest shipping method…” Kate let her prey go and the tall agent reached up shakily to unlock her weapon.
Regaining her faculties, she placed the Glock discreetly in its holster and turned back to the blonde. “I’ll be home as fast as I can.” Kate laughed and kissed her spouse goodbye, waving out the door as the Dodge Ram sped off down the driveway.
About an hour later, the actress left with Tony, Shannon and Lucy. Once they’d dropped the children off at school, the BMW entered the Olympian studio lots and Kate sighed. “Not long now.”
Tony nodded apprehensively. “Yeah. You’re looking forward to finishing, huh?”
As he shifted the car into neutral, the actress noticed the look on his face. “Oh no! You’re worried about… Tony, I didn’t think to talk to you about this… what with everything that’s been going on.”
“It’s okay, Kate. I understand.”
“No… I don’t think you do. We want you to stay on in your current role.”
Tony turned to her. “You… you do?!”
“Oh yes. I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing but my fame sure won’t disappear overnight. And you’re a valuable part of our family life now. I need you as my PA slash driver slash household assistant!”
“Oh… well that’s great.”
“Did you think I’d let you go?”
Tony felt a smile crease his lips. “I gotta admit I wasn’t sure.”
“Have you had any better offers?”
“There couldn’t be a better offer, Kate. It’s not all about the money, you know.”
“Ah, a man after my own heart,” the actress laughed.
He couldn’t help but chuckle with her as she got out of the car. “Later, Kate.”
“Yep. Remember, Alice isn’t coming in this afternoon…”
“I remember. I’ll pick up both children. Call me when you’re done.”
“I will. Bye, Tony.” As she walked across the lot, she couldn’t help but think that to an outsider, it would look like she just said goodbye to her husband. She giggled to herself as she turned the corner and made a bee line for her trailer. ‘I’d better arrange to get that thing moved soon. Maybe CJ’s truck could tow it…’ she thought as she let her eyes roam over the shiny white exterior. Even the prospect of removing her trailer from the lot made excited little butterfly wings beat in her stomach.
* * * * * *
CJ took a good solid sniff of her coffee as she walked the corridor to her office. She’d popped along to the café near the Federal building for the good stuff and it was always worth the effort. With a four-cup tray in her other hand she neared the door and heard the last part of a cryptic conversation from within.
“…have no idea how she’ll react. I can’t imagine it’ll be well received.”
It was Jamie’s voice and when CJ rounded the corner, she was surprised to see only Agent Green in the room saying a quick goodbye and hanging up a call on her cell. “Hey Penfold… where are the guys?”
“They’re downstairs. We got two bodies in from the local PD.”
“Damn… do they think it’s a serial killer?” the tall woman said, putting the tray down on Jamie’s desk and going to her seat.
“Not sure yet… that’s why the guys went to the morgue with Mark.”
CJ glimpsed at her friend and tried to figure out what was going on. It wasn’t just dead bodies. “Out with it, Penfold…”
“Uh, we have a new Medical Examiner.”
“What? Why? Where’s Belzano?” CJ frowned.
“He got promoted… Chief ME in San Francisco.”
“Aw, no way… he was great. I guess that’s why he got promoted…” CJ flopped back in her seat. “So who’s the new guy?”
Agent Green cringed and bit her lips before responding. “Well… the new ME is uh…”
“C’mon Jamie, spit it out.”
“Uh… Doctor Wilder.”
CJ’s mind ground to a halt before gaining the impetus to start thinking again. “Please… not Chris Wilder? Please tell me you’re joking…?”
“I’m afraid I’m deadly serious, DM.”
“Ah shit!” The raven-haired agent slapped her hand down on the desktop. “Why her? Why the Hell her…?”
“Apparently, she requested the transfer,” Jamie said bleakly, looking up to see if CJ was coming to beat her to a pulp for being the bearer of bad tidings. Thankfully, her friend was still in her seat… for now.
“Requested it, did she? I wouldn’t want to guess why. Well… I’ll only be going to the morgue now if it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t have the strength or the desire to deal with her crap.”
“Noted, DM.” Agent Green secretly watched her disgruntled colleague for a while after their conversation, noting the occasional snarl escaping as the blue eyes coldly watched the computer screen. The blonde cursed Doctor Chris Wilder under her breath, knowing that the predatory woman wasn’t just there because she wanted the job… she also wanted CJ Carson.
* * * * * *
Kate sat on the small set of steps outside her trailer. The sun was beating down today but she was partly sheltered by the large mobile home and was thoroughly enjoying the fresh fruit smoothie Sylvia had whipped up for her in the cafeteria. A familiar redhead came into view and the actress waved at her friend.
“You look so sweet sitting there…” Sam said as she approached.
“Thank ye kindly, ma’am. You look pretty good yourself.”
The producer bowed in gratitude before scooting her butt cheek onto the step beside the blonde. “So, what’s been happening with you? Seems like forever since we’ve had time to talk.”
“I guess it has been a while. I’m good. Just can’t wait to get out of here,” Kate said absently.
“I hear ya.”
“I’ll miss seeing you and Cyn every day but I’ll be glad to be off the show.” The green eyes gradually closed as she realized what she’d let slip but by then it was too late.
“Wh…? You’re leav-“
Kate’s hand silenced her. “Shh… I wasn’t supposed to say anything yet.”
The redhead stood up and hooked her friend’s arm, dragging her inside the trailer. Once she’d closed the door, she turned to Kate. “You’re ‘leaving’ leaving? For good…?”
“Yes, Sam. My contract is complete once I finish my scenes this week. I’m not renewing it.”
“Oh God… I had no idea you were even thinking about it.” Sam dropped down onto the small fitted couch. “Mind you, you’ve been pretty unhappy…”
“I have, and I’m going to spend more time with the children. That’s really what this is all about… and I can take a while to decide what I want to do next.”
The executive producer picked at her lips in thought. She was surprised but also a little excited even though she didn’t want to get her hopes up. Taking a deep breath, she looked Kate in the eye. “Would you… would you be interested in working with me again?”
Kate’s brows rose considerably. “Yes… but, on what?”
“Uh… I have a little secret too… a new show. Shooting starts next fall.”
“Oh wow… congratulations, Sam. What’s the show?”
“Sci-fi… it’s set on a space station and there’s a reasonable sized leading cast… quite a lot of space crew. It’s all studio-based… no on-location shoots, just indoor sets and green screens, CGI… stuff like that.”
“Sounds interesting. Have they cast it already?”
“Uh well, not fully. We were actually talking about you a couple of months ago,” Sam confessed.
The blonde tilted her head and eyed her friend. “Why?”
“The main cast are being headhunted and auditioned but it’s an open casting call for the rest. You’d be perfect as one of the leads and I’d thought of you immediately. But before you say again that you want more time with the kids, I’ll tell you that there are at least twelve leading actors in the show and it’s a Monday thru’ Friday week of regular hours. It would be nowhere near what you did on Deadline.”
“It sounds kinda perfect… who’s the character?”
“Her name is Le’AnaBezwick and she’s one of the fighter pilots. The show’s called Infinity One. The pilot episode they made was pretty good and the show was picked up by the network but Bezwick wasn’t in the pilot so we wanted her to make an impact… so to speak. The network wants the series to get off to a powerful start and brought me in after the pilot was made…”
Kate smirked. “I think I heard something about that pilot… didn’t see it, though. So, is she tough?”
“Oh, heck yes… she’s a smart, independent, bad-ass tough girl. Why do you think I suggested you?”
“Shucks… well, I like the sound of it. But did they not take your suggestion well? I mean, they never called me or anything…”
“I mentioned you and they got all excited. Then they said they didn’t think we could drag you away from a top rated TV series. We don’t have a huge budget and Deadline’s in the top three shows in America still, so the idea of trying to get you to audition kinda fizzled out. But…” Sam raised a finger. “…they haven’t cast Bezwick yet so I can call them today and let them know… that is, if you’re really interested?”
Sam looked so unsure and worried in case she had overstepped her boundaries somehow, and Kate smiled amicably at her close friend. “Honey, I’m definitely interested. Is it being shot here at Olympian?”
The producer’s shoulders loosened as the tension left her. “Yeah… just along the road. The Chaplin stages.”
“Ooh, nice. And one last question… if I get the part, can I pick my own make-up artist?”
“I was actually thinking of Cyn for make-up… she’s a great artist. I’m an executive producer so I do have a lot of sway with the team,” Sam grinned. “Hey… will you be okay taking orders from me again? I mean, we’re best buds now so it could feel a little different… I dunno…”
Kate laughed outright at the speed of Sam’s words – and the content. “I think I’ll manage. Let’s just see if they want me first, okay?”
“They’ll want you. Trust me.” Sam stood up. “Okay, I’m going to get back to work… and make a very important phone call!”
As the redhead hopped out the door and sprinted across the lot, Kate felt an uncontrollable toothy smile covering her face. ‘Next fall? That gives me some room to breathe… and I can work with Sam… and maybe Cyn. How perfect…’ She liked the sound of this new show and the fact that she could do less hours was a definite draw. And playing a fighter pilot? She guessed the uniforms were going to look pretty amazing too. The Chaplin stages were in a small, separate lot… much quieter than the main section of the studios.
She closed the trailer door and leaned against the fixed closet, letting her mind drift to a potential future in a new, less prominent show. She could feel the excitement bubbling up inside her and she wanted to tell CJ right away. “I’ll tell her tonight,” she chuckled to herself. “We’ll have time to talk since our new toy won’t arrive until tomorrow.” The chuckle morphed into a sultry grin. She felt quite wicked sometimes… and it was all CJ’s fault.
The Assistant Director stepped out of the elevator on his way to speak with his agents. He had two items on his agenda and hadn’t been sure who would be assigned to what. But he already knew how it was going to turn out and had no doubt that Carson would have her say in the matter. “Afternoon, Agents,” he said as he walked through the door.
All four looked up from their desks and returned the greeting. CJ offered a slight smile. “Everything okay, Sir?”
“Yes and no, CJ…” He got himself comfortable on the spare chair to her right. “As you all know, we have these two murders. The state of the bodies downstairs suggests a serial killer but since there are only two, we can’t be certain yet.” A few nods were directed at him and he continued. “Jamie, I want you to take the lead on these… start a potential profile and progress the investigation.”
“Yes, Sir,” Agent Green said swiftly.
“Now… I have some other news. A young male, aged…” He flicked over the page in his lap. “…fifteen… in Duluth, Minnesota, has reported that a man sexually and physically abused him over a period of eighteen months. The man threatened his life if he ever told anyone but he finally came forward when he saw the offender reappear outside a snack bar near his home two weeks ago. He gave them a great description… including a large, distinctive intimately-placed birthmark… and worked with a sketch artist to give us a likeness of the man’s face. This man called himself Pauley.”
“Uh, why are we hearing about a case in Minnesota, Sir?” Ethan asked.
Mark held up a picture and immediately heard a quiet ‘Shit’ from CJ. “This is the man who attacked the boy… and this,” he turned around and pointed to the artist’s impression of Frank Hess on the pin board, “is one of our most wanted.”
“I want to go, Sir,” the raven-haired agent affirmed immediately.
“I know you do, CJ, but there’s only one sighting of someone who could be Hess and I can’t send anyone with you. We have these deaths to investigate…”
“I know but I’ll go by myself. We have that second DNA sample from inside the garbage bag Jonathan Hess was wrapped in. It belongs to his killer. If I could just get to this guy and get a sample-“
“I hear you loud and clear, CJ. I knew how this conversation was going to go and I’ve arranged for local cops to meet you in Duluth… if you’re absolutely sure…”
“I’m sure. I need to speak with this boy and you know I can track Hess… you know I can, Sir.”
Mark nodded. “Okay. One more thing, CJ…” He paused until the agent stopped collecting up her stuff to leave. “The victim of the sexual abuse… Jared Findlay… he described exactly what the man threatened him with, should he ever tell anyone what happened. I’ll let you read it.”
The AD handed the file to his agent and stood up. CJ ran her sharp, focused eyes over the statement and her stomach seemed to sink inside her belly. “Jesus… he said he’d do to Jared what he did to Jonathan?”
“Pretty much to the letter,” Mark nodded morosely.
“It’s got to be him, Sir. No one knew the specifics of how Jonathan’s body was found. It was never released.”
“I agree, which is why I’m letting you go even though I could use you here. Come see me before you head home.”
“Okay. I’ll print out what I need, close up my computer and be right up.”
Mark left the office and CJ ripped the two photos roughly from the pin board leaving the pins in place. She went to her computer and pulled up everything she could think of on Frank Hess – which wasn’t very much – and printed it. She was just about to grab her jacket when the office door swung open and Doctor Chris Wilder sauntered in with a confident swagger. She let her eyes trail up and down CJ’s tall form briefly before turning to Agent Green.
“Oh… hello again, Jamie. I just thought I’d bring you the addendum to my report on the second murder victim from this morning…” she said sweetly, waving the paperwork at the blonde and completely ignoring the men who sat at their desks and gawked at the raw sexual energy that seemed to exude from her svelte body.
“Thanks, Doctor. You could’ve emailed it to me… but thanks.”
“I needed to stretch my legs…” she said, rubbing her hands vigorously down her slacks-clad thighs. “So I just thought I’d… pop up.” The last comment was thrown at CJ as the ME’s dark eyes settled on her true target. “Oh, CJ… I didn’t see you there.”
The raven-haired woman nodded curtly. “Doctor Wilder. I’m just on my way out.”
“Not on my account, I hope.”
“No, I have to go to Minnesota.”
“Running so far away… when I only just got here…” she purred while waving a hand at herself.
CJ shook her head at the unprofessional conduct. She aggressively zipped her FBI equipment bag closed and turned to dump it and her jacket back down on her chair. She spun on her heels and gestured to the door. “Doctor Wilder, could I speak with you for a moment please?”
“In private? Oh yes, of course…” Without another word to the other agents, the ME walked out of the room and halted in the corridor to wait for CJ. When the taller woman appeared, she gave her a mischievous grin. “Wanted me all to yourself, eh CJ?”
“You are being extremely unprofessional, Doctor, and I’d appreciate it if you’d quit doing things like that around me,” CJ said, pointing to the woman’s hand which was currently circling the skin above the ME’s ample cleavage.
“You don’t want me to do that? Shame… you remember how deft my fingers are, don’t you? And as soon as I get here, you’re running away from me… to another state no less…”
“Listen to me, Chris,” CJ said calmly but sternly, “I don’t just disappear to Minnesota when you make a play for me. I go wherever I need to go to catch a murderer. Sometimes I put them in jail… sometimes they really don’t want to go to jail and I have to kill ‘em. It has nothing… nothing to do with you. And I told you before… I’m not interested in you. Our relationship will always be one hundred percent professional from now on, so perhaps you could act like an ME instead of a predatory slut?”
Dr. Wilder crossed her arms over her chest and put on her best sultry look. “I’ll ignore your nasty name-calling. I think you have a slight case of memory loss, CJ. We were amazing together…”
The raven-haired woman felt the irrational anger build up inside her. ‘Calm down, CJ… some people just never change… but you have.’ She unclenched her jaw with difficulty. “I remember. I remember you using me, no matter how pleasurable it might have been at the time. But I’m very happy now. There will never be anything between us, Chris. My wife is incredible and I don’t want or need anyone else… ever again.”
Chris saw the look in the tall agent’s eyes and her posture changed. “Never say never, CJ. And you can’t blame a girl for trying… you’re quite a catch.”
“Then you shouldn’t have dumped me back then. But I’m very, very glad you did.” With that, CJ walked back into her office and closed the door gently.
“Everything okay, DM?”
“Yeah, fine thanks.” Agent Carson gave her friend a subtle nod and Jamie returned it before she went back to her work. A mere ten minutes later, CJ had looked over the ME’s report, left a few notes with Jamie and bid her three colleagues goodbye. Exiting the office, she was relieved the coast was clear of all things Chris Wilder and she headed up to see her boss and receive final instructions. Mark informed her that her flight was booked, departing LAX at 21:25 hours and flying to Minneapolis Saint-Paul International Airport where she would be met by Special Agent Tim Dalton in the middle of the night. She’d almost laughed at the name and wanted to make a James Bond joke but her mind was too preoccupied with the thought of capturing Frank Hess. The state police would assist them in Duluth and pass on any up-to-date information when they arrived.
She lugged her bag over her shoulder and entered Agent Dalton’s cell number into her phone as she walked along behind the row of vehicles in the underground parking garage, stopping when she got to her beloved truck. Slipping a CD into the player and pulling out of the parking bay, she started the trip home to pack and wait for Kate… and to deliver the bad news.
* * * * * *
It was half past five and Tony sat in the car at the Olympian Studio lot listening to Shannon and Lucy talk about the differences between German Shepherd and Jack Russell dogs. He wasn’t sure how they’d come upon the subject but the girls were running with it so he sat and occasionally smiled to himself while he watched for Kate.
About ten minutes later, the actress came striding around the corner and they were soon on their way to the Carson’s ranch house. On the approach, Tony pointed up ahead. “Looks like CJ beat us to it…”
Kate was puzzled. “Oh yeah… weird. I hope she’s okay.” Her mind went back to the discomfort her wife had experienced after their rambunctious coupling the past few days but that couldn’t be why she was home. ‘But maybe it wasn’t me who made her delicate… maybe she’s sick…’ She soon dismissed that thought and a warm blush covered her face at the memory of last night. Thankfully, nobody noticed her condition and the BMW soon pulled up behind the truck.
Once inside the house, Kate sent the girls upstairs to get changed and went in search of the agent, finding her in the master bedroom packing an overnight bag. “I wondered why you were home… and I knew I wasn’t going to like it.”
The taller woman turned offering an apologetic face. “Katie…”
“It’s okay, honey. Where are you going this time?” the blonde said, slipping her arms around her wife’s waist.
CJ kissed the forehead at her lips. “I need to go to Minnesota… but I swear I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Yeah… there’s been a sighting of Frank Hess…”
“Ah. Now I see why you have to go. Will you please be sure to make him suffer?”
CJ gazed seriously at her wife. “For you… I’ll do my best.”
Kate gave a single nod. “When are you leaving?”
“My flight leaves LAX at nine twenty-five. I wanted to have dinner with you guys before I left.”
The actress reached up and moved CJ’s dark bangs to the side, her hand coming to rest on the agent’s cheek. “We’d love that…”
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” Lucy came running into the bedroom with her tee shirt around her neck and tackled the agent’s leg.
“Oof! Hey, Little One. How was school, huh?”
“Good! I played ball!”
“Did you score a goal?” the agent asked while rearranging the little shirt.
CJ raised both hands in the air. “Cool!”
Kate shook her head at the easily-excitable pair and headed along the upper hallway followed by the two noisy females. Shannon joined them at the top of the stairs wearing her pink tee shirt and light gray sweatpants. All four had dinner together and during the meal, CJ explained that she had to go away to catch a bad man. Lucy nodded along as she chewed on her food but Shannon wasn’t so agreeable. “But why do you need to go on a plane, Mommy?”
“Because the man is far away, honey… so I need to go find him and make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
“How long will you be away?”
“I don’t know. I’ll be back before Thanksgiving…”
“So… you might be away for days?”
“It’s my job, Shan. I’ll be back before you know it. I promise.” The girl’s face was the picture of grouchiness and CJ let out a sigh. “How about, I take you out for a proper ride on Nevada when I get back?”
Shannon thought about it for a moment. “Riding with you in the saddle?”
“Yep. I’ll even take you for a canter, how’s that?”
“Okay, Mommy, you can go on the plane.”
“Thank you.” The agent lifted her eyes to Kate and found an adoring smile shining back at her.
The blonde leaned over to her wife. “You’re gonna have to keep that promise now…”
“I will. And I promise I’ll be back very soon to… take you for a ride as well…?” she said with a wink.
Kate’s eyes bulged and she choked on the piece of carrot she’d just popped in her mouth. “Right…” Cough, cough. “I’ll hold you… to that.”
The taller woman patted Kate’s back, helped along by Shannon, who stretched to do the same. “You okay, Mama?”
“Yes, hon. Thanks…”
The smirk aimed at CJ was full of some kind of return promise. A promise that she would like the ‘research’ item Kate had purchased. CJ shivered pleasantly before eating the remainder of her dinner then very reluctantly heading upstairs to finish packing for her trip.
* * * * * *
Three hours later, CJ had well and truly left and Kate sat with her two daughters in Lucy’s bed. As the actress read from the book, Lucy continually fought to keep her eyes open, jumping every few words when her body insisted that she fall asleep. Shannon listened intently when her Mama read the next paragraph.
“Up overhead, in the shadows of the ceiling, Charlotte crouched unseen, her front legs encircling her egg sac. Her heart was not beating as strongly as usual and she felt weary and old, but she was sure at last that she had saved Wilbur’s life, and she felt peaceful and contented…” Kate paused, not sure if she should proceed with this part of the story at bedtime.
Shannon’s head turned and looked up. “Mama… what’s wrong with Charlotte? Is she sick?”
‘I should’ve expected her to pick up on that… she’s so sensitive. Oh well… truth time, Katie.’ The actress closed the book and reached out her hand. “Let’s leave Lucy to sleep and I’ll explain, okay?”
The girl nodded and when she was led to her own room and tucked under her covers, she scratched her nose and waited for her parent to kneel down next to the bed. “Is Charlotte going to die, Mama?”
“Why do you ask, sweetie?”
“’Cause it said her heart was slow and she was tired. And I know people die… and animals too.”
“Well, let’s read the next part tomorrow after school, but yes, Charlotte laid her eggs and when a spider does that, it’s time for her to die. But just think… her babies will all be there to keep Wilbur company, huh?”
“I suppose… but… it’s sad that she won’t be there too.”
“I know, sweetheart.”
“It’s sad when people die…”
Kate nodded. “Of course it’s sad. It’s always sad when we lose our friends or family. You were very sad when your Daddy died.” She pulled her daughter into her arms and held her tight.
“Yes… and my first Mommy too.” Shannon thought for a while, snuggling against Kate’s chest in the comforting embrace. “Will Kamali die?”
“Oh Shan… he will eventually. But let’s hope that’s not for a long, long time.”
“How old is Kamali?”
Kate bit her lips together at her inquisitive child’s line of questioning. “He’s six years old now.”
“How long do dogs live?”
“Well… I think they live to be all kinds of ages… and it depends on what kind of dog they are and how happy their life is. Kamali is a German Shepherd and he’s very fit and healthy… so he’ll be around for years and years.”
“Hmm…” Shannon yawned and decided that was enough information for tonight. Years and years was a long time. “Okay.”
“Time for sleep.”
“Yes. I’m tired. But you promise to read the rest of Charlotte’s Web tomorrow after school?”
“Of course… but it will be after school and after dinner… deal?”
“Deal.” With a nose-to-nose kiss, followed by a lips-to-forehead kiss, Shannon said goodnight to her mother and slipped under the blanket when she left.
On her way down the staircase, Kate raised her eyebrows and let out a deep breath. “I sense a big conversation about spiders dying tomorrow…” She rubbed her neck and headed for the kitchen to make some soothing herbal tea. When she got there, she picked up CJ’s Star Trek mug from the table and took it to the sink. “Damn, I miss her already and she only left…” she craned her neck to look at the clock. “…two hours ago. Sheesh!”
* * * * * *
On a flight somewhere high above the United States, CJ sat in the aisle seat and tried to stretch her long legs out in front of her. She hated having to fly on passenger planes when she was on a case. People always somehow knew she was FBI – or similar – and she figured it might have to do with the suspicious lump under her jacket. Could they really spot her gun that easily? She sighed lightly and tugged on the black material to make sure the holster was adequately covered. She let her mind fast-forward to her return trip. The agent knew she would be exhausted and wanting to get home. Oh boy, did she want to get home… to her perfect and rather horny wife. She was so titillated by Kate’s fun-loving and excited attitude about their experimental night of love-making, and she was looking forward to it immensely. Not that they needed toys - far from it. Still, it was going to be fun and different. Her happy thoughts were disturbed by a polite voice coming from across the aisle.
“Excuse me… do you have the time?”
CJ turned to see a rather frail old woman with small twinkly eyes. “Uh sure… it’s nine fifty five…”
“Thanks. I get confused sometimes, traveling over the time zones,” the woman said before checking her watch was correct and going back to her magazine.
The agent suppressed a smile and before she looked away from the woman, she let her eyes trail along the row of passengers to the windows on the opposite side of the plane. People of allshapes and sizes were reading the in-flight magazine or listening to the media center on their free headphones or, in the case of the dark-haired man with the two-day stubble, looking directly back at her. She raised a dark eyebrow and the man’s skin darkened a little as he lowered his gaze back to his lap. She smirked inwardly and rubbed her hand over her raven hair, letting her head fall back to rest on the cushion. Her mind began to go over the information she had on Frank Hess and she wondered if she’d be able to restrain the rage she felt toward the man once she found him. If she didn’t find him, she would be frustrated beyond belief. Either way, it was not going to be a pleasant trip.
* * * * * *
Kate grunted and turned over on the mattress again. A few minutes later, the action was repeated. “Jeez… what is wrong with me?” She got up and pulled her robe over her pajamas. The nights were a little chilly now that November was in full swing. She shuffled along the upper hallway and saw Kamali lying in his usual spot. He lifted his big fluffy head and yawned widely, which in turn made Kate yawn too. “I know the feeling, buddy.”
Descending the staircase in the semi-darkness, she took a deep breath and looked around her home. It was like they had lived here forever; the warm, familiar colors on the walls, the sumptuous couch that dominated the living area – which currently had a few toys, a pair of Lucy’s socks and a Native American throw strewn across it – and the fireplace with a stunning painting of a dark wolf against a snowy landscape that her brother had given them last year. She adored this house but it wasn’t the same when CJ was away.
“Some of that warm milk she made me… that might settle me for the night.” She wandered to the kitchen and stood in front of the stove while the milk heated slowly in the pan. The actress knew she was very preoccupied and excited about the possibility of a new job on Infinity One but she also felt a mild, spiritual discomfort that she couldn’t pin down. She was unsettled but didn’t know why. She forced her mind back to Sam’s new show. It sounded so different to anything she’d done so far and she hadn’t had the chance to mention it to her wife yet. CJ would love the idea - being a huge Star Trek fan - and Kate hoped if all went well, the agent would think the new show measured up to her ‘Trekkie’ standards.
With a silent chuckle, Kate poured her drink and sat at the island unit. She looked out the window to the lake. The moonlight twinkledits reflection on the gently undulating surface and she admired the beauty of the view as she sipped on the sweet milky liquid. She let her train of thought travel from work to her children to her wife to her wife’s work. She hoped CJ would capture Frank Hess. She knew what he’d done and even though she was generally a peaceful person, she’d quite happily see him suffer some pain at her spouse’s hand. ‘Perhaps CJ kicking the crap out of Hess or holding a gun to his head… something like that. He deserves worse…’ Shaking those images from her mind, she finished up her warm milk, entered the hallway and began to climb the staircase. Kamali’s eyes and ears were visible as she approached the top and she smiled at the ever-alert canine. “Night, boy.”
In bed again, she turned and fidgeted for a while longer before finally getting up, grabbing CJ’s tee shirt from the laundry basket and jumping back under the covers. ‘I’m being such an idiot.’ Laying the top on the pillow next to her, she turned on her side and rested her face on it, all the while wondering why she needed it. After a few inhales of the scent of her soulmate, she drifted off… finally.
While Kate slept fitfully in her bed, the special agent disembarked from her plane and went in search of Agent Dalton. Exiting the secured area, she immediately spotted a young suited man, about the same height as her, looking repeatedly at his smartphone. When he smiled at her, she knew she had found Agent Dalton.
Tim Dalton did a double-take as the tall, stunning agent came toward him. He had her file picture on his phone to make sure he’d get the right person and the photo did not do her justice. ‘God, she’s awesome.’
“Special Agent Dalton?” CJ said, holding out her hand and inconspicuously flashing her badge.
“Uh, yes.” Tim stuffed his phone into his pocket and, mirroring the badge-flashing, belatedly shook the offered appendage. “Sorry… Special Agent Carson, it’s good to meet you.”
“The feeling’s mutual. It’s certainly good to have another agent to travel the rest of the distance with.”
“Oh yes, c’mon, I’ll take you to the car. Here… let me carry that bag.”
CJ smiled at his flustered appearance. “It’s okay… I’ll manage. But thanks.”
She engaged him in general chit-chat until they got to the vehicle and once inside, Tim turned to her. “I have to confess… I’m uh… kind of a fan.”
The tall woman looked at him skeptically. “Of…?”
“You… I took the liberty of looking at your dossier… you know, just to make sure I welcomed the right person… and well, you’re an amazing agent. Your record… even before the SSHU, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I sure hope I can help you catch this Hess guy.”
The raven-haired woman sat quietly for a moment, not used to having a ‘fan’. “That’s… nice of you to say.”
“I saw you at the Emmy’s too.” When CJ glanced at him again, he grinned. “I’m a fan of Kate’s too.”
The goofy look and innocent shrug he gave her sparked the beginnings of laughter. “Now I get it.”
Agent Dalton smiled at the huskiest, sexiest laugh he’d ever heard and rolled his eyes at the fact that the good ones were always taken… or not straight… or both. He started the car and reversed out of the parking space. They were soon on the road to Duluth and as they went, the conversation turned to the case and the atmosphere became more business-like, which was just what CJ preferred.
* * * * * *
He had managed to follow them through the airport terminal, made easier by the fact that he was traveling light and didn’t have to pick up any checked bags. The FBI agent didn’t check bags and he mentally patted himself on the back for knowing that. He did wonder though, why Special Agent Carson was going to Minnesota. He guessed it was work-related and when she’d met up with an incredibly handsome man at the gate, he could tell from a mile away that he was also a Fed. Still, it would pay to keep following her. He switched his cell back on and sent a text message to his contact. When his phone began to ring, he scratched his hand through his stubble and answered it. “Anything new?”
“Not much. She’s headed to Duluth… some case she was workin’ on.”
“Is that all you got for me? Seriously, man?”
“She’s clean as a fucking whistle… some kind of Federal Goddess. Just keep on her.”
“Jesus, you’re useless.”
“Hey, watch it! Who do you think you’re talkin’ to? I’m the one keeping electronic fucking tabs on her…”
“Just wait for an opportunity. Plan B has to come into effect now.”
“Shit… I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that,” the callous man grumbled.
“Yeah, well, I got a phone call and our fee has been increased to double. No point in having morals now. Just get it done if you get the chance.”
“Okay… I gotta go.” The phone went dead and he hung up the call in frustration. Keeping his eyes glued to his target, he started walking quicker to catch up. Seeing them head to the third parking lot, he got himself a cab and made sure to promise a large tip if the driver did exactly as he said. ‘Money talks,’ he thought to himself. ‘Boy, does it ever.’
“Wait ‘til I tell you, then follow that black SUV,” he grunted, pointing out the window. The driver held his hand up over his shoulder and glanced in the rear-view mirror. He rubbed his fingertips together and - not naïve to the ways of the world - wordlessly demanded his first tip. With a disgruntled mumble, the man paid up twenty bucks for starters. “Now go! Don’t lose ‘em…”
* * * * * *
During their drive, Tim Dalton updated CJ on a few things he’d found in preparation of her visit. “A few more cases have come to light… six, to be exact.”
“Six?” CJ said, her eyebrow crawling up her forehead.
“Yes… from South Dakota and Minnesota. I did the usual searches and came up with six unsolved sexual abuse cases… the victims are young boys. The threats they received while the abuse took place were all similar. Of course, these may be only a brave few who have come forward…”
“Let me guess… they all said their abuser would hack them to pieces, break their necks and bury them in a garbage bag?”
“Pretty much… and the description of the perp in each case is a close match to Hess. They also have DNA from one of the kids’ sweater… it’s likely to be from his attacker.”
“Well… I’m determined to get him. How do we know he’s in Duluth right now? He might have moved on…”
“He was apparently staying at a crappy motel. That boy, Jared, he followed the guy along the road the day he spotted him…”
“Wow… that was brave. So that’s where we start.”
“The cops are already watching the motel. He hasn’t come back yet. The guy we’re looking for paid cash. I’m guessing his name is still Frank Hess but he always uses cash to avoid detection. Anyway, I asked for a check on all highway cameras both north and south of the location… just in case he’s on the run.”
“Why are you looking on highway cameras if you know he’s staying at the motel?”
“Oh… sorry, I forgot to say… the motel manager described his car and when the state police had first visited the motel, it had been parked outside. They’d taken note of everyone’s vehicle. Problem is… that was before they put surveillance on the place and before they’d taken the kid seriously. Between their first visit, where they only knocked on the door and got no reply… and the stakeout, the man left. I’m not so happy about them botching the job like that…”
“That makes our job a little harder…” CJ nodded and looked at the young agent. She figured he’d been with the FBI for about five years. He had a good amount of experience but he still seemed a little too exuberant about everything to have as much service as she did. ‘God, I’m getting old.’ But Dalton seemed to be on the ball and she was glad of his help for the duration of this trip. “How long you been with the Bureau, Tim?”
“Coming up to six years in January,” he said proudly.
CJ gave herself a smug mental pat on the back for almost getting it right. “You been posted in Minnesota the whole time?”
“No. I only moved here two years ago. I was in Albany before that.”
“New York? That’s cool. How come you moved all the way out here?” CJ probed gently. She just wanted to get a feel for who she was working with.
“Uh… my Grandma got real sick and I came up here to live in her guesthouse… help her out, ya know? I guess that sounds lame, huh?” he said, keeping his eyes on the road.
“Actually no… it sounds like a perfectly good reason to me.” The car remained silent for a while after that. CJ liked the guy. She could tell from the way he spoke with her and the look in his eyes that he was above board; a good partner for what came next.
* * * * * *
Kate awoke early and yawned noisily as she groped around on the other side of the bed. The sleepy smile on her face disappeared when she remembered that CJ was away. “Aww, crap.”She looked at the clock on the nightstand and when she saw it was only 5.45am, she realized she had only been asleep for two and a half hours. “Oh that’s pathetic… I can’t even sleep without her here?” The actress threw the covers aside and grumped to herself as she went to the ensuite, emptied her bladder and washed her hands. She continued to mutter as she went downstairs and started the coffee machine. “I can usually sleep okay… she’s been away overnight before. I mean, I don’t sleep as soundly but I still sleep.”
A big sigh slipped out and she sat down at the island unit. A few moments later, Kamali padded across the wooden floor boards and slumped down against the cabinet behind her. “Mornin’, boy. Sorry I woke you.”
The big dog let out one of those cute high-pitched squeaky yawns in response, making Kate smile. She snagged her mug from the drainer at the sink and soon had some warm, sweet coffee to start her day and hopefully, perk her up a bit. Staring out at the lake again – her favorite view from their home – she sipped at her drink while she thought about what CJ might be doing. She knew her wife would be on the hunt for Frank Hess and she also knew if anyone could track him down it would be her cool, hard-headed-when-she-had-to-be spouse.
Her thoughts drifted to her conversation with Sam again and her stomach flipped. ‘Calm down,’ she told herself. ‘It’s not a done deal yet.’ The fact that she would be working at the Chaplin stages meant a smaller and more secure lot. She suddenly had visions of the children coming to her workplace after Tony had picked them up from school and she really liked the idea of being able to show them what she did for a living. A smile graced her full lips as she licked the coffee taste from them. After the last gulp was consumed, she got to her feet and turned to the dog. “Early breakfast…?”
Kamali shot up from the floor and wagged his tail. She knew he didn’t understand what she said, but when she took the bag of kibble from the cupboard, he understood that perfectly.
* * * * * *
Kate walked across to her trailer in what would hopefully be her penultimate day of filming Deadline. She was giddy at the prospect of leaving and having time to be a full-time wife and mother for a while. ‘Not for too long,’ she gently reminded herself.
After she had dumped her bag and mentally prepared herself for the day, she left her little haven and went into the studios. She was greeted absently by a few members of the cast and crew before her make-up artist welcomed her with a warm hug.
“Mornin’, Kate…” Cyn said with a hint of melancholy.
“Hey, hon… what’s wrong?”
“Meh… just a little grumpy today… I’ll get over it.”
“Everything okay with Tony?”
Cyn pursed her lips then whispered. “I’m gonna miss you.”
Kate eyed her friend and contorted her face until the younger woman looked at her with a frown. “I can’t say anything yet but hold that thought…”
“What? Oh, tell me you’re not leaving after all?”
“Oh no… I am leaving but, well… just give me some time and I’ll be able to tell you more. Trust me, okay?”
“Of course I trust you.”
“Good… now make me up, woman!”
Cyn narrowed her eyes suspiciously but whipped a few items out of her bag of tricks and set about covering Kate with all the layers required for the job. She didn’t see the point of it. Kate was beautiful without all that crap on her face. ‘Ahhh, showbiz,’ the artist grumbled inwardly.
Kate sat in the chair and her mind wandered off as Cyn worked. The feeling in her gut was excitement, she couldn’t deny that. She was so looking forward to going home and not having to return to work for a while. But there was something else… an undercurrent of stress. The actress still couldn’t pinpoint it but it tickled across her skin in what was not a pleasant feeling. She took a deep breath and forced it down, knowing she was probably just missing her wife.
* * * * * *
CJ had met the team of cops at the local Sheriff’s office. They seemed to be a decent bunch and they had welcomed the Bureau agents with very little resistance - except for the Deputy.
Bob Crane, a plump and rather rude man, stood over the desk watching as Agent Carson scanned the files and statements from the newly found cases. He had been the only one to bristle when the two Federal Agents arrived. He didn’t like people coming into his town and sticking their noses into his business. “So what’s the plan?” he said abruptly.
CJ looked up at his blotchy face. He looked like he was close to having a coronary. “I need to confirm its Hess. I’ll only be a minute.”
“Well, we gotta move out… get that damn homo while we got the chance!” Crane barked.
“Homo? How do you know he’s a homosexual?”
“He’s diddlin’ little boys… says homo to me. You stupid or somethin’?”
That got CJ’s back up. “No,” she said calmly, “I’m not stupid. I’m a profiler and while Hess may very well be drawn to little boys, it does not necessarily mean he is a ‘homo’, as you so eloquently put it.”
Bob growled silently. “What the hell else can it mean?”
“It could mean he enjoys having complete control over young males. It could mean he has been abused by a man when he was a child and is repeating the offences committed against him. It could also mean that yes, he is a homosexual and has a warped idea of what that’s supposed to mean… or it could be that he is a sadistic man who enjoys brutalizing children in order to make himself feel powerful… could be a combination of some or all of those things. We don’t even know if he has abused any girls… these cases have only just been brought to my attention, so who knows how many more will be found.”
“You can spout all that crap to whoever you want, Agent… but you ain’tchangin’ my mind. He’s a homo… never mind a fucking kiddie-diddler. He deserves to be shot in the balls and hung out to dry.”
As much as CJ couldn’t altogether disagree with that punishment, she didn’t voice her opinion. “You seem to have a problem with ‘homos’, Deputy. Going by what you’ve said since I met you, everyone around here is a homo… from the guy who came to the front desk earlier to the gentleman who runs the local hair salon. You even mentioned the town’s priest earlier. The amount of times you’ve said the word in a derogatory fashion… well, I’ve lost count… and I only got here three hours ago. It seems the great number of homos around here could become an issue for you…”
“What’s it to you, Carson? You one o’ them dykes?”
“Why should that be important? I’m a Federal Agent and I’m here to do a job. My private life has nothing to do with my work…”
“I guess that answer says it all.”
“Take it as you will, Deputy, but I’d appreciate if you kept your bigoted opinions to yourself.” She scanned the screen one last time. “Now if you don’t mind… I need to go interview a victim and then capture a homicidal pedophile.”
Agent Dalton stood behind her and as she got up and walked away, he sent a snarl toward the crass, offensive man, who was now standing with his mouth hanging open. Following CJ out the door, Dalton had to jog a little to catch up to the tall, wound-up woman. He admired the calm way she handled the Deputy but he also knew how determined she was to catch Hess and hoped the grumpy cop wouldn’t hinder their investigation now.
Tim truly wanted to catch this killer before the man realized heading to the Canadian border was a good way to evade the law. The State Department hadn’t been notified of a possible Federal presence in Canada and he didn’t fancy dealing with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police without giving them prior warning. A lot of law enforcement agencies thought the FBI were too big for their boots. He supposed that sometimes, they were right.
“Carson… do you think Hess is heading to the border?”
“It’s possible. I’ve already greased the wheels with the RCMP… just in case,” CJ said, ducking to get into their car.
Once Tim had sat in the passenger seat, he shook his head slowly and smiled. “Always a step ahead, huh Carson?”
“Always. You got Findlay’s home address?”
“Right here. Just head south… it’s not far.”
* * * * * *
Jared Findlay was incredibly nervous when they arrived and his mother loitered calmly nearby to try and alleviate his discomfort. CJ sat down when invited and smiled at the blond boy. “Hi, Jared. I’m Special Agent Carson from the FBI.”
He reached out to shake her offered hand and shyly glanced up at her. “I know. But I already told the cops everything.”
“I understand you gave them a good statement. You’re not in trouble. I’m only here to ask you a few questions of my own. I’m here to catch him, Jared.”
Findlay finally looked up and held her gaze when the tone of her voice changed. He nodded when he saw the fierce determination in her eyes; eyes that seemed to lose the fierceness just as fast and look at him with compassion. “Okay…” He didn’t look away this time and waited for the imposing woman to speak.
“Tell me again how you came into contact with… what did you call him…?”
“He said his name was Pauley.”
“How did you meet Pauley?”
“He tended the grounds at the cemetery.”
CJ sensed the boy’s fear and gave him a weak smile. “Did you see him there regularly?”
“Yes. The cemetery is next to our sports field. I saw him every week. He was always watching us.”
“Who were you playing sports with?”
“My school baseball team. We’d go there with coach to practice after school.”
“What did Pauley say to you the first time he spoke to you?”
“I was with two of my buddies. He offered us alcohol…” Jared threw an apologetic look at his mother before continuing. “We weren’t allowed to drink but he made it sound like fun. I know now I was real stupid to fall for it.”
“Not stupid, Jared… you were young.”
“Where would you go to drink with him?”
“He had a shed in the cemetery grounds where he kept his tools. One time, I was the only one who went with him and he… he gave me real strong liquor… he threatened me and forced me… down on my knees…”
CJ could see Findlay getting upset. “I don’t need to hear about what he did to you, Jared. I have it here in my report. Is there anything that you remember about him… that you could have forgotten the first time around?”
“Just that he was always drunk when he spent time with us. He talked about how easy it would be for him to hurt people… but I knew ‘people’ meant me.”
Agent Carson nodded and caught a glimpse of Tim and Jared’s mother doing the same. “He seemed to threaten you even when your buddies were around… I understand. Anything else?”
“He showed me his ID once… I never understood why. I never even asked him to see it… but he forced me to look at it when I was pinned down one time.”
CJ frowned. “What kind of ID?”
“A driver’s license.”
“What did it say on it?”
“Pauley Smith… and it had his picture on it. I know that’s not his name…”
The agent’s dark head snapped up and her pencil halted on the page of her notebook. “How do you know, Jared?”
“When I heard you folks were coming here to talk to me, I looked on the FBI’s website. He’s on the Most Wanted list. The name under his picture isn’t Pauley though…”
CJ raised an impressed eyebrow. “Very smart move, Jared. So… what’s his name on the site?”
“It says his name is Frank Hess.”
“You’re absolutely sure?”
“Yes.” Findlay nodded to punctuate his answer.
“You’ve done real good, Jared…”
The agents left quickly after a few more details were cleared up. They now had to take the incredibly short trip back to the Sheriff’s office to alert the troops to the new information… information gotten from questions the cops had not thought to ask the boy. She also wondered why they hadn’t shown Jared pictures of sexual offenders for possible identification. Frank Hess was at the top of that suspect list on all databases.
Once they had spoken to Bob Crane, they were followed out of the Sheriff’s office by the very unhappy Deputy who could barely contain his anger, having been told what to do by a woman… and a Fed at that.
CJ sat in the car and pulled her seatbelt on as Tim got in. “Let’s get up to that motel and see if we can track our guy. I have a feeling he’ll head to the border for sure… and he has fake ID’s… not a good sign. I want to keep up with him…” As the dark SUV screeched out of the Sheriff’s parking lot, Agent Carson looked quickly over her shoulder to see the Deputy and two other cops in the car behind them. ‘Well, at least they’re still willing to help us…’
It was lunch time and Kate was starved. They had gotten a fair amount of work done in the few hours that morning and the storyline was leading up to Mischa Barratt’s explosive exit in the lab. She strode with purpose into the cafeteria and headed toward the smiling face of Sylvia.
“Miss Marshall… nice to see you. What ya got on your coat there?”
“Hi, Sylvia… oh, its ethylene glycol mixed with magnesium silicate… apparently,” the actress winked.
“In English, Dr. Barratt?”
“Antifreeze mixed with asbestos…”
“Sounds delicious,” Sylvia chuckled.
Kate snorted. “Talking about delicious… what ya got for me today?”
“How about this oak-smoked salmon salad…” the woman said, pointing to a plastic platter in the refrigerated section. “It’s nicely done… with a mild peppercorn crust.”
“Mmmm, yes please. And a bottle of water, thanks Sylvia.”
Once she had paid for her lunch – this week the catering proceeds were going to a local kid’s charity - she headed to a table to wait for Sam. She hoped the producer wouldn’t be too much longer as she had to get back to the studio in half an hour. Her eyes widened and her pupils dilated when she tasted the salmon. “Oh wow…” she whispered to herself. As she munched her way through the rest of the platter, she failed to notice Sam approaching her with a heavily laden tray of food.
Kate almost jumped off her seat. “Oii… hey, Sam.”
“Sorry… thought you saw me comin’…” Sam sat opposite her friend and tried to hide the smile bursting to get out. “How’s the filming going?”
“Fine. They should be done with me tomorrow morning,” Kate said gleefully before popping some lettuce with creamy dressing into her mouth.
“So, uhm… think you’ll be free on Friday?”
Kate looked up to study the producer. “Should be… yes…”
“Great. You have an audition to attend… but to be honest it’s just a formality… a chance for the guys to meet you. Your agent should be calling you any minute with the details. They’re really excited to have you on board for Infinity One.”
“Oh Sam… really?”
“Duh, yeah. They can’t believe you want to do it. And they want to make sure you’re okay with the money an’ stuff.”
“You know it’s not about the money with me, Sam.”
“I know… and I told them that but they didn’t believe me. Some people can’t see anything but green, if you know what I mean…”
“Uh huh.” Kate sat back and relaxed while sipping the water from the bottle. “I’m pretty excited about this project. The more I think about it, the more appealing it becomes.”
“And we get to work together again… gotta be a good thing.”
“That is the best thing about it,” the blonde winked.
Sam let out a chuckle. “So, Jamie mentioned briefly that CJ was away… where’s she off to this time?”
A horrible flip-flop in Kate’s stomach halted her breathing for a second. She recovered well and gave a slight grimace to Sam. “Ugh… Minneapolis… but for good reason… tracking down a wretched man.”
The producer nodded. “Hope she catches him then.”
“I do too.” Kate felt a stronger unpleasant ripple in her stomach as the feeling reinforced itself but didn’t mention it to her friend. She couldn’t explain it so what was the point in trying? “Oh hey, I haven’t had the chance to talk with Jamie recently. What’s happening with her father?”
“He testified in court eventually. That was only a couple of months ago… and since then he’s been laying low. I think he still has a bodyguard. Those men who targeted him… well, they’re still out there.”
“Any more attempts on his life?”
“Not so far. I hope that’s the end of it. They sent the drug boss away for fifteen years.”
“Hmm… hopefully that’ll send a message to the rest.”
“I know. Jamie’s been so distracted at home. I’m trying to help her talk about things but it’s so hard with those strong, silent types.”
“I hear ya… I have one of those too, although she’s much better at opening up now,” the blonde said with a half-smirk and a nod, which was mirrored across the table from her. “What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving this year?”
“Quiet one at home… uh, my place, I mean.”
“Do I detect something more in that slip of the tongue?” Kate asked with a glint in her eye.
Sam sighed. “Maybe… we seem to be heading that way. I’m just waiting for her to talk about moving in together. Like I said, getting her to open up… especially about her heart and what she wants… well…”
“Say no more. It’ll come with time, hon.”
After a very brief chat about some showbiz rumors, Kate got up to leave. Sam walked her to their ‘trashcan’ in the lot and when they went their separate ways, the actress walked into the studio to finish up her second-to-last day on Deadline. She was glad they’d brought her storyline to a conclusion so quickly. Tomorrow… tomorrow was a day to celebrate.
* * * * * *
Their visit to the motel didn’t tell them much. The room Hess had stayed in was cleaned and re-occupied. The manager didn’t take note of anything except the car the suspect was driving and he’d only noticed that because it had a flat tire last week and Hess was out fixing it on his own. As long as the manager had his cash, he didn’t care what kind of monster stayed at his establishment.
So now, Agents Carson and Dalton were heading north on Route 53 after receiving information from the Sheriff’s office that the car – an old Buick – had been spotted on two highway cameras. They had called ahead and set up checkpoints on the main roads, hoping to stop Hess and detain him.
“I think he’s heading to Winnipeg,” CJ said, looking at the map while Tim drove.
“I was thinking that too… he knows damned well we’re on to him.”
CJ’s cell phone beeped in her pocket and she pulled it out to look at the screen. A text from Kate made her smile. She missed her so much and wanted Hess caught right now so she could go home and hold her precious partner again. Sending a quick message back, she included that the agent she was working with was a Kate Marshall fan. CJ suddenly laughed out loud when she got her reply. “Hey Tim, my wife says hello and she’s glad to have another FBI fan.”
Agent Dalton smiled widely. “Tell her I say hello right back.”
CJ did so and put her cell back into her pocket. “Done.”
“You are so damn lucky, CJ. Actually, you’re both lucky.”
“Hey, no more giving me compliments. I don’t take ‘em very well,” she said, burying her face back in the map.
Tim chuckled at her slightly reddened complexion. “Sorry. You’re a terrible agent and you look like an absolute wreck.”
CJ laughed out loud. “That’s better. Thanks.”
“Of course… that is so not the truth but if it makes you feel better…” the young man offered.
CJ gave him her best smirk accompanied by two narrowed blue eyes. It only made Tim smile more.
* * * * * *
Kate was slightly bewildered after she said her last line. They had cut a scene to give her ending the shock factor and everything had come to a conclusion rather quickly. Phil yelled “Cut!” and with a very serious face, he added. “That’s a wrap for Mischa Barrett!” Everything was quiet for a few seconds and Kate looked around. She lay there covered in globules of fake red blood and shards of stage glass, and was just about to get up off the crash mat on the floor in Mischa’s ‘lab’ when an uproarious applause exploded all around her. Her eyes widened considerably and she smiled as a deep blush colored her face. When the clapping did not subside, she stood and bowed then began clapping at the rest of the cast and crew. Finally, the noise died down and she almost felt herself well up. “Thank you, everyone.”
She didn’t get a chance for a speech - and she was glad of that – before Phil Romaine shouted “Reset! Take two minutes… and only two!” The show had to go on.
As Kate left the stage, the director stopped her. “I’m sorry to see you go, Kate… good luck with everything in the future,” he said genuinely, shaking her hand.
“Thanks, Phil. I know I’ve made the right decision for me but I wish you guys all the success in the world.”
“Same back to you… and don’t be a stranger,” he winked.
“I won’t. Bye.”
He waved as he went back to work and Kate spun slowly on her heels and walked out the door, hugging and saying goodbye to a few crew members as she went. In the late afternoon sun, she inhaled deeply as a new level of excitement hit her about the future. A new chapter of her working life was about to start and she couldn’t have been happier about it. There would be a quick farewell party after shooting finished this afternoon and then she was free of Deadline. The thought made her smile and she practically skipped over to her trailer.
She had some time to kill until the whole show wrapped for the day so she pulled off her messy clothes and slipped into the tiny shower cubicle to refresh her body and remove the various ‘injuries’ from her face. As she stood under the tepid water, her mind drifted to CJ and with an awkward gulp brought on by a wave of nausea, she whispered, “What are you doing right now, my love?”
* * * * * *
A short time later, as Agent Dalton drove, CJ pulled her cell from her pocket and noticed a text message from her wife saying that she was finished with the show. She hit the speed dial and waited for Kate to pick up. When she heard the actress’ smooth voice say hey, she smiled. “So, you’re unemployed, huh?” Kate chuckled into the tall woman’s ear. “How you feeling, Katie?” CJ didn’t miss Tim’s dreamy smile as he listened in, but kept his eyes on the road.
“I feel good, honey… but I miss you so bad.”
“The feeling is entirely mutual. Where are you right now?”
“On the couch in my trailer… just out of the shower,” the actress teased, ignoring the burning ball of indigestion in her belly.
“Uh huh… “ CJ mumbled, taking a deep, shaky breath.
“Oh… you’re not alone, are you?”
“No, no I’m not.”
“Oh, I could have so much fun with you right now… but I won’t,” Kate drawled.
“And you have no idea how grateful I am for that.”
“Where are you right now?” the blonde asked, mirroring her wife’s question.
“Agent Dalton and I are on the road to Canada, it seems…”
“Has Hess crossed the border?”
“Hope not. I can’t really say… you know?”
“Oh sorry, yeah… you’re not alone. Got it,” Kate said resolutely.
“I’m gonna go for now but I’ll get home as fast as I can,” CJ said, forcing down her usual endearments for her partner.
“Okay, CJ. I love you.”
“Ditto.” CJ heard a giggle on the line at her inability to show her mushy side in front of other agents. “Bye, Katie.”
“Bye, my darling.”
Agent Carson hung up the call and sighed. Just as she looked up ahead, the radio mic in the car crackled to life. “Suspect car sighted by air support… turned off the road and they lost him heading towards Anderson Field…”
“Who was that?” CJ said, turning to Tim.
“Agent Bishop… there’s another Bureau car out there…”
“Is Crane still behind us?”
Dalton glanced in the rearview. “Yeah…”
“Okay. I’m sure he can keep up.” She lifted the radio and responded to the call. “Copy.Responding. We’re coming up to Cleveland Avenue… two minutes.”
“Roger. We’re not far behind you…”
“Roger.” CJ flicked the map over on her lap. “Next left, Dalton.”
The young agent threw the car ninety degrees at the next junction and sped off toward the small airfield. “We’ve lost the Deputy.”
“Can’t wait around for him… don’t want to either,” CJ grumbled.
Tim nodded and they both focused back on the road. About five minutes later, there was no sign of the other FBI sedan but as they passed a side street, CJ spotted an old Buick skidding into the lot in front of an abandoned warehouse. “Tim! Back up!”
After reversing the car and looking across in front of CJ, Dalton narrowed his eyes. “I see it.” He released the brake and let the car crawl cautiously towards to the now-static Buick. It was parked near a small, rusty door in the side of the building, half of it hidden by piles of wooden pallets long since ruined by the wet winter weather. As they approached the building, they noted that the driver’s door was left open.
“Pull in here… we need to be careful,” CJ said as she pointed to the front of the warehouse where a huge truck access door hung precariously on its hinges. Once on her feet, Agent Carson tugged on the collar of her bomber jacket to shield her from the chilly weather and pulled her gun from the holster, flicking the safety off with ease. She moved next to Agent Dalton and whispered, “Call for back-up… let them know exactly where we are and then go around to the side door. I’m going in here…” She nodded at the triangular opening left by the crumbling door.
Tim nodded and as he did as ordered, CJ crept away into the warehouse with her Glock perched ready at her shoulder. Once she was in a larger open space, she aimed the weapon in front of her and proceeded with utmost caution. The place was filled with shadows and smelled like mold and dust and old diesel. Huge machines covered in tarps surrounded her and she made her way through the spaces between. More stacks of pallets and a couple of old open-top trucks made up the rest of the obstacles and she stealthily slipped around them much like a big cat hunting its prey.
A few tense moments later, she froze. She could see a male - it was Hess, she was sure of it – standing at a chunky workbench near the hood of one of the old trucks. It appeared he was getting prepared for a fight with the cops, carrying a shotgun strapped over his shoulder and loading a handgun. CJ glanced to her right and saw the door at the side of the building. She vaguely wondered where Agent Dalton was but then she spotted him, secreted in a darkened faraway corner awaiting her arrival. She signaled to him once she’d caught his eye, telling him to wait until she engaged Hess. Once she was sure Tim had received the message, she moved swiftly and silently across the space until she was behind their target.
* * * * * *
The rest of Kate’s afternoon was pretty full. She had to head back to Olympian Studios in a few hours for a rather impromptu meeting with Sam and Infinity One’s creator, two other producers and the director. She was really looking forward to that but for now, she was sitting patiently in the waiting area of her potential new agent’s office. The actress had heard good things about Lorena Xu and knew she wanted to meet with the woman who was said to have ‘a heart in the midst of Hollywood’, and going by the rest of her impressive resume, it seemed she was the kind of agent slash artist manager Kate would be looking for.
A beautiful Asian woman not much taller than Kate came through the nearby door and the blonde knew it was Lorena. The woman’s black hair shimmered, her eyes twinkled and the smile that was now on her face was genuine. ‘Good start,’ Kate thought.
“Miss Marshall? I’m Lorena Xu. Thank you for choosing to meet with me.”
When the woman’s hand was extended, Kate shook it gladly. She had already made up her mind. She could tell immediately that this agent was more open and approachable than her last one. “I’m glad to meet with you… and please, call me Kate.”
Lorena nodded. “Please… come on in.”
Once they were seated on either side of a modern, black shiny desk, the deep beauty of Lorena Xu was more evident. The actress surmised the office was kitted out with diffused lighting, amongst its other hi-tech attributes, and she smirked minutely at the unusually shallow thought that she would look good under its gentle rays too. The décor was warm and the ornaments on the various shelves were reminiscent of ancient Oriental artifacts. Kate wondered vaguely if they were real or replicas. “Beautiful office…”
“Thank you.” Again, the woman smiled. “Kate… I have to say it’s an honor that you’re considering me as your agent. I’ve admired your work for quite some time.”
Kate had already decided she wanted to work with Xu but she kept her cards close to her chest for now. “Thank you, Lorena. I’m possibly starting a new show next Fall and it’s time for a change in representation.”
“I must say, I was quite surprised at the news that you’re leaving Deadline. You made that show… and I’m not sucking up, I swear,” Lorena said, saluting a Scout’s Honor. “I just think you gave life to what was quite a… difficult subject. Dealing with death and crime in an interesting and sensitive way while maintaining the viewing figures can be a hard thing for a show to do…”
“Yes… it can. They did it well though… and thank you again for your comments.”
“Well… let’s get down to business. Here’s my… I like to call them requirements… for any client. My fee is also there on the second page, along with all my contact details. Like I said, I would be honored to have you on my roster… but please, take all the time you need to think about it.”
The actress skimmed over the paperwork. In all honesty, she had already done her online research and had also gotten some great feedback about Lorena from her peers in the business. She knew this was the type of manager she was looking for.
Lorena began to squirm a little at the extended silence. She never did this during a meeting but Kate Marshall was someone she admired for her morals, her resilience and her apparent lack of Hollywood diva traits. “Those requirements are all negotiable, Kate… please don’t let that put you off…”
The blonde raised her eyes to meet the slightly apprehensive ones of the dark woman. “I’m not put off, Lorena…” she smiled, “In fact, I’d like very much for you to be my agent.”
“Really? That fast? Well I… I’m amazed. Thank you… you won’t regret it.”
“I know. I can usually size people up quite well and I think we’ll get along just fine.”
“Like our daughters…”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Before you commit to what you just said, I have something to confess,” Xu said between biting her lips.
“Go on…” Kate was curious as to what was coming next. ‘What does she know about my daughter...? Which daughter…?’
“I don’t know if it would affect your decision but I’m Sian’s mom.” Lorena put her hands on the desk to wait for the response... and it came fairly quickly.
“Oh wow! Small world, huh?” Kate shook her head from side to side. “I don’t have a problem with that at all… why would I?”
The agent exhaled in a gust. “I’m so glad. I didn’t know if you were one of those, ‘mustn’t mix business with pleasure’ people… not that we need to be friends or anything…”
Kate held her hand up. “I actually prefer to have a decent relationship with the people I work with. I have no issue with us becoming friends. I’m sure we both know how to conduct ourselves in business. And besides, Shannon said Sian’s her best buddy at school and I trust her judgment.” The actress grinned at the look on Lorena’s face.
After a stalled silence, the Asian woman finally spoke up. “I have to say… what I’ve heard about you is dead on. You’re so un-Hollywood… and I love it!”
Kate laughed aloud and let out a little uncontrolled snort which made Lorena join her in her merriment. Once they’d calmed, Kate took a deep breath. “All right, I’ll get my attorney to look over your contract terms and we’ll get things signed up. Is that okay with you?”
“More than okay.”
The actress nodded. “Can I ask you something?”
“I haven’t seen you at the school. I sometimes hide in the back of the car while Tony, my PA, gets Shannon at the gate. Do you ever get a chance to pick Sian up?”
“Sometimes… but most days my husband does it. He runs his business from home.”
“Ah. Sorry for prying… I was just curious.”
“I met CJ once. We talked briefly while the girls were busy chatting about a project they were doing. You have a beautiful family, Kate.”
“I guess that answers my other question… would you have any problems with my lifestyle…” she snorted again, making Lorena smile.
“No problem here. It doesn’t take a genius to see the love you all have for one another. Like I said, I would be honored to work with you.”
Kate was so impressed. “I have to say, Lorena… you’re not so Hollywood yourself.”
“Thank you! Perfect working relationship, I feel.”
“Definitely.” Kate got up to leave and the agent walked around the desk to show her out. At the door, the actress turned to shake Lorena’s hand. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to this.”
“I’d have to agree. Goodbye, Kate. I’ll get everything sent to your attorney… then we can get this ball rolling.”
The blonde felt the delicate hand firmly shake hers and grinned. “Bye, Lorena… great to meet you. Talk soon.” With that, Kate walked away feeling like a million dollars. Her green eyes danced with sparks of happiness as she thought about all the good things to come. ‘I can’t wait to tell CJ… and Shannon!’ she said to herself as she stood alone in the elevator. ‘Can’t wait…’ She put her hand to her abdomen as a now-familiar but unwelcome ache spread through her. “I think I’m coming down with something…”
Frank Hess stood not two feet away from her. Due to her stealthy approach, he had his gun hand hanging down and when he heard a subtle click, he lifted his arm to try and point the weapon at her, but she quickly stepped in and held her gun to his face at point blank range. She glanced down to judge where his aim had stopped. It was at her knee – a non-fatal bullet. Hers would be fatal for him and she would not hesitate to kill the sick son-of-a-bitch if she had to. “FBI… Frank Hess, you are under arrest… drop the gun.” He grimaced and she knew it was him. “Give me a reason to pull the trigger… please,” CJ hissed coldly. His eyes were empty and the tall agent realized he didn’t really have a soul in there. He sure didn’t have a conscience or a decent bone in his body.
“You have no idea what I’m capable of-“
CJ changed her aim and held the nose of the Glock a whisper away from his eye, silencing him. “Ah, but I do know, Frank.” Her voice was low and threatening and the man stood stock still. “I found Jonathan…” Frank’s face paled at the name but no real emotion was evident. The agent growled to herself. “I saw what you did to him. Thing is, Frank… so did Eric.”
A sneer escaped from Hess as it dawned on him there was a witness to his most heinous crime and he tried not to look at her and give away his guilt. She pressed the gun hard against his eyebrow now. She knew Agent Dalton was somewhere behind her, no doubt with a weapon trained on Hess, but she also knew he couldn’t hear her and continued, a low, eerie timbre in her voice like never before. “Eric watched you butcher his brother and dump him in the back yard like trash.” The murderer moved only his eyes now. He had to look at her and he saw she was deadly serious. “You know what happened after that, Frank? Eric ran. He ran away in terror… lived on the streets. But you didn’t care about that, did you Frank? What you did drove him so crazy he ended up killing a bunch of innocent children to try and make sense of all the things in his head. Those kids were killed by you, Frank… their blood is on your hands. And I had to see them all… all their disfigured bodies. Well now it’s my turn to kill. Just give me a reason to put a bullet in your head… I’d like to spill some blood of my own. I’m begging you, Frank… make me do it…”
Hess gave it a few seconds thought but then the hateful look in her ice blue eyes made him finally drop the gun on the floor. As soon as he did, CJ shifted the Glock swiftly to her left hand and raised her right fist. The fury she felt left her body with extreme speed and force as she punched the man square in the face, breaking his nose and sending him to the concrete floor with a satisfying thud and a stream of blood running from his nostril. “You crazy bitch!”
Now that he was on the floor, he was hidden from view by the bulky machinery. She wrestled with her morals for a second but the image of Jonathan Hess’ remains flashed through her mind and she couldn’t stop herself from lifting her heavy work boot. She kicked as hard as she could and when her foot reached its soft destination between the disgusting animal’s legs, he let out an excruciating yelp. He tried to reach for his gun, which had clattered to the concrete, but CJ used the butt of her Glock to strike him on the temple before his hand could reach it. He let out a painful groan and his nails scraped through the dust-covered floor before unconsciousness took him into the murky darkness.
CJ wanted to beat the life out of his limp body but she regained her control somewhat, and grunted as she leaned down to take Hess’ gun away from him. She yanked the shotgun from its strap so hard, the unconscious human lump jerked off the ground before the leather gave way. Spinning on her heels – with her aim still trained on the killer – she shouted to Dalton and two cops, whom she didn’t realize had caught up with them. “Arrest this fucking bastard and make sure the cuffs are on good and tight!” She gave the weapons to Tim, stormed out of the warehouse and headed around back.
When she was far enough away, she threw her fist at the thick tree trunk in front of her and immediately regretted it. “Owww! Jesus!” Rubbing her hand but still needing to release her pent-up aggression, she focused her attention on a somewhat softer target. The old oil drum took the brunt of it and her booted foot kicked out repeatedly until it was severely dented and she was adequately spent. She took a few deep breaths before turning to rest her forehead on the unforgiving tree. “Get a grip, Carson,” she mumbled to herself.
Shaking her body down and brushing her hands over her thick jacket and black combat pants, she walked calmly back to the cars out front, where Hess was now conscious and being pushed into the back of an unmarked car by two men she hadn’t seen before. “Hey, Dalton?”
The young man nodded as he approached. “Yeah?”
“Who are those guys?”
“They’re my colleagues… we’re taking him back to the field office.” Tim took in the pensive, emotionless look on CJ’s face and realized she might not like the idea of handing over the collar. “Uh, I mean, you know… we uh, we have to charge and process him for the cases we have active before he can be trans-”
CJ held up her hand. “I’m not disputing that, Dalton. I was just checking you knew them. And a tip from me…?” When Tim raised his eyebrows, she continued. “Don’t doubt yourself… and don’t stutter like that with other agents. Believe in your gut and your training, and at least appear confident in your decisions or they’ll walk all over you. You’re a good agent and I can see how much you’re committed to the job…”
When the tall woman fell silent, Agent Dalton nodded. “Thanks, Carson. And uh, what you did in there… I would have done exactly the same thing.” He scratched his head. “Well, maybe not exactly. If I’d had to deal with Eric’s case, I might have killed this guy.”
“Nah…” CJ winked. “You would’ve kept your cool. I know it…”
She knew he’d seen her kicking Hess and with a dash of temporary remorse, she slapped him on the shoulder as they walked over to the group of law enforcers. Deputy Crane leaned on his cruiser and she noted the deep frown that seemed to be permanently etched into his purplish face. He muttered something under his breath and turned away from her.
CJ pulled her cell phone out when it rang. Seeing the AD’s number on the screen, she answered appropriately. “Special Agent Carson…”
“CJ, it’s Mark. Do you have an update for me?”
“Your timing couldn’t have been better, Sir. We just got Hess.”
“I mean… excellent work, Carson. I need you back here ASAP. Jamie’s case has taken a nasty turn. Make sure to be in Minneapolis in two hours… I don’t care how you do it, just be there. The Bureau jet is waiting for you.”
CJ’s eyebrows crawled up her forehead. “Uh, Sir, I’m in… actually, I’m not entirely sure where I am. Somewhere near the Canadian border, I think.”
“Find a way, CJ. The jet won’t wait forever. Ask Agent Dalton… I’m sure he can think of something.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll see you soon then.”
With that, Mark hung up and the tall woman rubbed her head wearily. She turned to see what her temporary partner was doing.
Tim was speaking with the other agents but it wasn’t long before they got into their sedan and tore off down the road. “Okay, everything’s set. Are you gonna stay and interview Hess?”
CJ seemed to think about it for a second or two. “No… I’ve just been told I need to get back to LA. He’ll be transferred to us anyway. Our charge is murder and the murder happened first. He’ll come to us for trial and sentencing as soon as you’ve charged and processed him.”
“Yeah, I figured. You seem pretty confident he’ll be put away.”
“I am. We have witnesses… and DNA. I’m sure when it matches his, it’ll be an open and shut case.”
“You in a rush to get home then?”
CJ nodded. “Yeah, we have an escalating serial killer right now so I need to get back but I’m thinkin’ it’ll take a while just to get back to Duluth, never mind anywhere else. We’re in the middle of nowhere here…”
“Well, it will take us a while, but you could fly from here if you need to… there’s a small private airfield not far from here. I can drop you off if you want?” When the tall woman squinted to look at him, he smiled. “I know the guy who owns it. I’m sure he could fly you direct to Minneapolis actually…”
“That sounds great but isn’t that really far?”
“Pretty far, but the view you’ll get of the National Park will be awesome.”
“I’m sold. You’ll manage Hess, right?” she grinned.
“I’m sure us backwater Federal Agents will manage, Carson. C’mon…” Tim opened the car door and noticed the Deputy storming toward CJ. He flew round the car and stood shoulder to shoulder with her in a show of solidarity. “What’s up, Deputy?”
Crane stopped inches from her face. “Is that it? You’re just gonna come in here, use my men, use my office, rile up my whole department then fuck off back to your Federal jackass jurisdiction without even a thank you?”
‘That didn’t even make any sense.’ CJ towered over the angry cop. It seemed his face was getting redder by the minute and the agent took a slow breath before responding. “I was about to come over and thank you for your time before you decided to shout… and spit in my face.” She pretended to rub some of his projectile saliva from her cheek and flick it on the ground. “We came here to do a job and it’s been completed. I don’t think I ‘riled’ up anything or anyone, Deputy, and I’ll thank you to step away from me.”
“You pompous dyke bitch-“
Dalton stepped forward. “Deputy, you are bordering on assault here… step back,” he commanded, noting the stocky man was barely an inch from CJ’s breast.
“You damn Feds… think you’re above everyone else. Get outta my town.”
Throughout this, CJ stood tall and quiet. The personal attacks were something she wasn’t used to but she reminded herself that this pathetic man didn’t even know for sure she was a lesbian. He was just an idiot. “Thank you, Agent Dalton, but it’s fine. Seems Deputy Crane here is just a little miffed that we caught the bad man today and he didn’t.” Crane growled and CJ swore he was going to strike her. She was ready for it and quite frankly, she could do with a good fight but she knew she was provoking him and should probably stop. She saw something in the man’s eyes she couldn’t quite fathom. His intense dislike of her was evident and she wondered how far he would really go if allowed to. Deciding that she shouldn’t try to find out, she took a step back. “Agent Dalton… let’s go.”
When the two Feds were out of earshot, Crane let out a hiss. “Sick… sick, sick, sick. It ain’t natural… I’m tellin’ ya. Them dykes should all be shot.” His younger colleague remained quiet, choosing not to voice his support for Agent Carson.
Little did he know that Deputy Bob Crane had been completely attracted to the tall, dark woman who was now leaving in her sedan, and he was pissed as all Hell that he could never get close to a woman like her unless he was arguing with one. ‘An’ she’s flyin’ out from that pissant airfield… can’t wait to get away from you, Bob. No wonder…’ he silently berated himself.
In a car, not too far away, the man scratched through his stubble, having witnessed the stand-off between his target and the angry Deputy. “Hmm, might be worth a quick chat with him.” He waited and watched from his secreted vantage point and when the black SUV left, he slithered out from his hiding place.
The cops got into their cruiser and just as the man suspected, the Deputy stopped in front of him and leaned out his window. “You lost, sonny?”
“I don’t think so,” the unkempt man replied amicably.
“Not much goin’ on in these parts. What’re you doin’ out here?”
Not wanting to arouse too much suspicion, he tried to think of a way to get information about the tall Federal Agent. “Well… I was almost run off the road earlier by a black SUV… just wondered if that was the one… just sped off down that way,” he said, pointing down the road.
“Hmm, I doubt it, sonny. That was the FBI. Come to think of it, they might’a run you off the road on the way up here,” Crane sneered. He got out of his cruiser, feeling a little suspicious of the man once he’d spotted a car secreted in the bushes across the way. He leaned his chubby elbow on the metal roof after ushering the stranger out of his partner’s line of vision. “Let’s not piss around. Why do you want to know about the SUV?”
“Just wondered where it was going?”
Bob stepped closer. “What’s it to you? You followin’ that woman? I knew she was trouble.”
“Oh… uh, well, no… we just didn’t see eye to eye is all.”
The man pulled six rolled up fifty dollar bills from his pocket and discreetly pushed them into the Deputy’s hand. “I only want to know where she’s headed. They left so fast, I couldn’t catch ‘em…”
Crane thought about it for a few seconds before nodding. “Jensen’s Airfield… about six miles that’a’way,” he answered quietly while throwing his hand over his shoulder and shoving the money into his jacket with the other. “Flyin’ back to Minneapolis in some kinda hurry.”
“Money well spent,” the scruffy man winked.
“Well, be on your way, sonny. Hope that helped,” Bob said more loudly so that he was clearly heard. He slouched back inside the cruiser and turned to the other cop. “Stupid ass was lost.”
The younger man just nodded, being none the wiser about the conversation and having no clue about the type of person he worked with. A few feet away, a dark car eased out of the bushes and sped off towards Jensen’s Airfield.
* * * * * *
After a satisfyingly busy day, Kate Carson lay soaking in her favorite strawberry-scented bubble bath. Her meeting with the Infinity One people had gone well; very well, in fact. Everything seemed to be in place and she was amazed at the speed with which the past few days had flown. After her little wrap party, Tony had picked her up with Shannon and Lucy in tow. That was around 6.30pm, and he had made dinner for the girls before they came to the studios.
Kate thought about how incredible her driver was. He was kind, considerate and loving towards Shannon and Lucy, and she trusted him implicitly. Cyn had always talked about how gentle and sensitive he was but Kate didn’t see so much of that side of him. He seemed to try and hide it, perhaps thinking it would be considered a negative attribute for his boss to witness. Still, he was becoming more of a family friend every day and Kate welcomed it. When he’d stayed with them during his recovery after the crash, he’d been highly conscientious about his interaction with the girls and both Kate and CJ had found themselves nodding at each other a few times in unconscious agreement at his actions. When they’d arrived home today, he seemed to know that Kate’s day had been particularly busy, and had suggested she relax in the bath while he read the kids a story.
“Life can’t really get any better,” she smiled as she slipped under the warm water and drowned her blonde locks, working the strands with her fingers. The party had been short and sweet when she’d returned to the studios after her meetings… and so was the champagne shower she was subjected to as she left the festivities. A soothing soak was just what she had needed to get rid of all the sticky alcohol. Well, she needed CJ but that wasn’t possible right now so the bath would have to do. Her stomach offered another bout of queasiness and she slipped down into the water. While she listened to the pounding of her heart echoing in her ears under the bubbly liquid, her cell phone rang in the bedroom. The ringer completed its dulcet tones unheard, and the answering machine clicked into action. If Kate had known CJ was going to call, she would’ve sat waiting with the cell in her hand. She missed her wife so much and when she finally wrapped her robe around her fresh, clean body, she walked towards the bed and saw the missed call. “Damn…” Dialing the answeringmachine, she waited for the husky tones of her soulmate to create waves of goosebumps on her heat-flushed skin.
“Hey beautiful… call me back when you get the chance… or maybe not. I have to get on a plane to get back to Minneapolis now. I really want and need to hear your voice. Hope things went well today… did you meet with the agent? I want to hear all about it when I see you.” The deep voice lowered to a whisper and Kate knew someone had come into the room CJ was in. “I love you…” There was a long silence before the actress heard a deep sigh. “See you all soon… I love you more than you’ll ever know… always. Bye, Katie.”
When she heard the click, the blonde felt a sudden uncontrollable surge of nausea. She ran back into the ensuite and threw herself over the toilet bowl just in time. Barely able to breathe between wretches, she frowned worriedly, wondering what the Hell was wrong with her.
* * * * * *
Tim Dalton finished talking with his acquaintance, Doug Jensen, and popped to the restroom before he had to leave in his car… and leave CJ. He wasn’t looking forward to saying goodbye to the stunning and highly capable agent.
Doug was owner and top pilot at the small private airfield where CJ would be taking off from shortly, and had been only too happy to help, fixing the agents with coffee and sandwiches while they talked about a possible route back to Minneapolis. He had asked his workers to haul his own plane out of the hangar and ready it for take-off and had filed his proposed flight plan with local air traffic control.
“I gotta say, Doug… thank you for accommodating me at such short notice. It seems if I don’t get back home now, the whole LA field office will fall apart,” CJ said with a grin.
“Always glad to be of service, and like you said, they’ll compensate me, right?”
“Yes. Let me deal with it when I get back.”
They were interrupted by a voice passing the door. “You’re all set to go, Doug. She’s waitin’ for you at outside hangar five.”
“Thanks, Bernie.” Jensen turned to CJ. “I’ll just take a quick jaunt to the restroom too… then I’ll be right with you.”
The agent decided to do the same and as she walked the narrow corridor that seemed to lead to all parts of the building, she spotted a man in overalls carrying a tool box coming towards her. He looked at her then quickly hung his head low so that his ball cap shielded his face from view but she got a quick glance at his features and her eyebrows wrinkled briefly. She stopped outside the ladies restroom, pursed her lips and looked at his back as he scurried out the door. Her hand went to her stomach when a twisting feeling engulfed her momentarily. “Nahh…” She blew out a breath and shook her head when the discomfort left her, dismissing the feeling that she had seen the man before and continuing on her way to relieve her bladder.
It wasn’t long before she was saying farewell to Tim. “Take care of yourself, Dalton. And hey, if you ever want to come to the west coast, the LA field office could always use another hard-working agent.”
“Watch out, Carson… I might take you up on that!”
They shook hands, although both of them could just as comfortably have hugged the goodbye. CJ followed Jensen out to the plane and gulped back her irrational fear at the tiny vessel that would fly her over almost three hundred miles.
Once she was seated, Jensen shut the door and settled into his pilot’s seat directly in front of her, beginning his various pre-flight checks. CJ watched the lights and dials come to life and heard the engine and propellers announcing their power. She clicked her seatbelt in place while pushing her bag further under the seat with her heel. “How far are we goin’ in this thing, Doug?” The pilot pointed at his ears and gestured for her to put on the headphones that carried a little microphone. She did so, and maneuvered the little black ball until it was in front of her mouth. “I said… how far is it to Minneapolis International?”
His voice crackled through her earphones. “Oh it’s just over three hundred twenty miles. We can’t fly straight through… last minute flight plan an’ all… should take us just over an hour… with a good tail wind. But we’ll be landing at an airport close-by called Flying Cloud… can’t land at the Saint Paul in this bitty thing.”
‘Well he seems to know what he’s talking about…’ she thought while nodding at the man. “Where are we right now?”
“Near Fort Francis… International Falls…”
CJ nodded and leaned back in her seat. She knew this would be much faster than trying to drive back. She’d end up lost in a back road somewhere fighting with a roadmap and that would never do. She also knew the Bureau jet wouldn’t wait all night and if she missed it, she’d never hear the end of it from Mark.
* * * * * *
Kate tried to settle after Tony left for the night. The girls were sleeping soundly already and it was only seven thirty. Any food the actress consumed was violently expelled and she had given up on dinner before lying down on the couch in her discomfort. Something wasn’t right and she had no idea what to do about it. She tried to relax into the deep cushions and was just about to turn the TV on when she abruptly threw the remote aside and ran to the downstairs shower room. A few minutes later, she sat on the cool tile floor and ran a shaky hand over her brow. “There’s nothing left to throw up… what the Hell…?”
* * * * * *
CJ grumbled to herself as the small plane was thrown around like a toy in a nasty bout of turbulence. Thankfully, Jensen had assured her it would calm down once they climbed to their cruising altitude. It appeared they weren’t quite there yet but the seasoned pilot smiled and turned to her. “Look down to the left… that’s the Voyageurs National Park… a wondrous sight… goes on as far as the eye can see.”
The agent narrowed her eyes to look through the reflections in the window and the fast-falling dusk. Seeing the snow-capped mountains and nothing but vast forests and deep valleys, she threw a lop-sided smile to the pilot. “Looks… nice.”
“Sure does. It’s one of the most remote areas in the contiguous United States…”
CJ’s mind gradually drowned him out as he went on a tourist-guide-inspired monologue. It looked extremely cold out there and she tugged on her thick black bomber jacket and snuggled down for the duration of the flight.
* * * * * *
Kate Carson had managed to stop running repeatedly to the bathroom and was now sitting at her favorite bar stool in the large kitchen diner. She daydreamed as she gazed out at the lake that was now lazily soaking in the colors of the setting sun. ‘CJ’s probably on her way home.’Bringing her glass to her lips, she took a gulp of the cool spring water and hoped it would stay down.
She slipped off her perch and went to recline on the couch again. This time, she was able to doze off before even reaching for the remote.
* * * * * *
The special agent was roughly jolted out of the warm cocoon she had created inside her jacket. When the engine sputtered a second time, she looked at Doug worriedly. “Uh Jensen… what was that?”
The pilot was scanning the instruments in front of him and a look of sheer panic appeared across his face. “We…” He tapped a dial and looked again in disbelief. “We’re losing fuel… I don’t understand.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
Another cough from the plane’s engines silenced CJ and this time, they gave up the ghost. An eerie quiet surrounded them, intermittently broken by a shrill beeping alarm. The plane commenced an unplanned and stomach-churning descent and CJ’s breaths were now coming in short, sharp bursts. More alarms were ringing now – including a demanding electronic voice repeatedly insisting that Doug ‘pull up’ - and she fought back the tears that stung behind her eyes.
“Mayday, mayday!Jensen two-niner to base.Mayday!”Nothing but a crackling white noise was his response. “Shit! We’re gonna have to glide…. Brace position!” Doug shouted into his mouthpiece.
‘Glide?! You’re calling THIS a glide?!’ None of the words came out of CJ’s mouth. All she could think of was where they were… and the freezing temperatures outside the plane’s small cabin. “Oh no…”
* * * * * *
A sharp and unforgiving pain shot through Kate’s body, sending her flying from her sleep into a standing position. “Owwww!” She had no time to linger on the ache before she shot to the bathroom where her body attempted to force her to throw up once again. “Oh…” The convulsions broke through her words. “…God, help…” Wretch!
Her throat was raw by the time she was done and after flushing and washing her hands, she paced the living room anxiously, wondering why her heart was beating double time. She clasped her hands together then shook them out. She couldn’t keep still and vaguely wondered if someone had drugged her and she was only now coming down from the high. “Jesus, Katie… get a grip!” she shouted at herself, making Kamali look at her strangely. “Whatever this is, I don’t want to feel it again…”
* * * * * *
“This isn’t right! I filled the damn tank myself!” Jensen shouted in frustration while gawking at the flashing fuel gauge. He was somehow managing to hold the plane in a smooth descent but there was no other way to put it… they were falling out of the sky… fast. CJ didn’t look up when she heard his crackled words in her earphones. Her mind was focused a few thousand miles away, on her family. She heard the next words, though. They left no room for misinterpretation. “Brace… for impact!”
* * * * * *
Kate’s tears fell uncontrollably. “I’m such an idiot. Why am I crying?” she asked the dog, almost expecting him to answer. She returned to the kitchen but this time, she went to the window seat and looked out at the sky. Watching the stars twinkle in the darkness, she wished she had managed to call CJ back after that last message instead of throwing up constantly due to her mystery illness. She still felt as though she had the shakes and hoped the girls wouldn’t catch her virus. Little did she know… she didn’t have a virus.
* * * * * *
In a shallow valley, high atop a mountain deep inside the Voyageurs National Park, a small wreckage smoldered amongst the fir trees, melting the snow around it with its heat and leaking fuel. There was no fire to signal its plight; no sound to tell the story of its demise.
For the next ten hours, the snow continued to fall regardless of the obstruction, littering the mountaintops with pretty flakes and trying to erase the blot on its natural landscape. All around it were scenes to put a Christmas card to shame and the tall heavy-laden trees seemed to chant in a haunted melody, ‘Happy Thanksgiving’.
Kate had fallen asleep in a crooked position, slouched against the wall on the window seat. Her green eyes flew open in shock, bringing her out of the most disturbing nightmare she had ever had. Something dark and terrifying loomed over her soul. She saw headlights coming up the long drive and headed out into the hallway to peer through the glass at the side of the front door. She unlocked it, thinking CJ had brought home a Bureau sedan and left her truck at work. But when she opened the door and saw the look in Mark’s eyes and the tears in Jamie’s - and the NTSB insignia on the other man’s lapel - she knew instinctively why they were there. The feeling that had been shooting through her in increasingly strong waves since her wife had left was clear now. It was about CJ…
“No…” Kate felt her knees buckle. “No… no… please, Mark no…” The actress collapsed onto the wooden floor, only her paralyzed, rigid grasp of the doorknob holding her partially upright. She was wailing quietly between gasped breaths but no tears came. Mulroney hurried to her side and gripped her shoulders, trying to get her to her feet. But Kate had no strength and Jamie had to help, lifting the smaller woman under her arms and supporting her body weight. She signaled for NTSB Agent Cobb to go back to the car. Kate didn’t need a stranger in her house right now.
They moved her to the couch and the quiet moans coming from the actress’ throat were of sheer agony and despair. Jamie wanted to tell her everything was going to be okay, but she didn’t know that for sure. All they knew was that CJ’s plane had gone down in one of the most remote and inhospitable areas in the country and they hadn’t managed to pinpoint the wreckage yet. Jamie tried to tell the actress all this as she attempted to comfort her, but Kate wasn’t listening… she couldn’t listen. There would be no way to console CJ’s soulmateright now and Jamie resigned herself to simply holding her friend until the pain was eventually overtaken by exhaustion.
The Assistant Director stood silently in the doorway. He had ordered CJ to get back to Minneapolis as soon as possible – by whatever means necessary - and he was wracked with guilt. He would take the blame for this and carry it within him for the rest of his life.
He looked on as Agent Green relinquished control of her emotions and cried for the woman in her arms. She cried for CJ too. And both of them prayed that somehow, Kate Carson would make it through this.
To Be Continued…
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