Disclaimers: Please see Part I for disclaimers to this story.
Part 5: Tuesday
Things seemed black for a very long time, a stillness reaching deep into her soul, cradling her, protecting her. Silence filled her ears, one of finality and waiting, breathless spaces between exhale and inhale, waking and sleeping.
As consciousness grew the world began to impinge on her senses. It wasn't quite as silent as she'd first thought, a slight thrum of machinery hissing on the air. Nose twitching at the medicinal scent, a vague feeling of uneasiness washed over her. She shivered, a thin cover doing nothing to keep out the chill.
Behind closed eyes, pictures splayed across her lids - waking to a sexy dark warrior, a workout with knives that resulted in pain and blood. She shifted in discomfort at the memory, realizing the surface she lay on was extraordinarily hard. The pictures continued - her lover wearing a bikini, a stranger asking for an autograph, lunch at a mall. Furrowing her brow, she tried to see past the fuzzy image of getting out of the car.
Why can't I remember?
As Rickie concentrated, she woke fully with a shiver. When she opened her eyes, there was a moment of confusion for all was white. It took a moment for her to realize it was something covering her face. That coupled with the smell and she grimaced. The hospital again? What happened this time? Despite the taste of blood in her throat, she felt surprisingly well.
Sighing, the redhead sat up. Freezing in place, her eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. "What the fuck...?"
She was on a metal gurney without a stitch of clothing. What was even more disconcerting, however, was the suspicious shrouded table that lay nearby looking like something out of the television show, Quincy. Mind veering away from that particular fancy, Rickie clutched a sheet closer, the only thing covering her nakedness. The room was large, one wall a series of metal cabinets and counters. Another metal table was parked to one side, its stainless steel edges drawn up on the sides and a hole towards one end.
Eeew! That's an autopsy table! Her head whipped around, connecting the table, the corpse next to her, the smell of chemicals. I'm in the morgue!
With great effort, the young woman pried at her memory, frowning. Got outta the car. We were going to... The bank! The cruise! Eyes narrowed as Rickie replayed the last moments in the bank. "Then what?"
Voice echoing in the largely empty room, the writer shivered again. She shifted on the gurney, the metal beginning to reflect her body temperature. I've gotta find some clothes. Emerald eyes scanned the room. Wonder if I can sneak out of here with a sheet and a smile? And what the hell am I doing here, anyway? The regular rooms all full?
Indecorously, she scooted off the gurney, wrapping the sheet around her nude form. The fuzziness of her mind cleared away further, the interior of the bank coming into focus. Cold tile under her feet reminded Rickie of the chill marble, the almost cathedral stillness of the bank. A shrine to money... Hafta remember that line.
"What the hell did they do with my clothes?" she mused aloud. As if in answer, she spied a plastic bag on the shelf under the gurney she'd been resting on. "Ah, betcha that's them." Continuing her mental quest, the redhead pulled the bag out, holding the sheet about her with one hand as she worked the twist tie.
Rickie could recall the teller, something about the bank being busier on paydays, some yelling. A thrill of adrenaline twisted her heart. "A bank robbery!" Negotiating the twist tie was difficult with one hand so the writer stopped to rearrange the sheet, tying it off to one side.
"Okay. There was a bank robbery. Obviously, I got hurt. That's why I'm in the hospital." She looked about the morgue. "Still dunno what the hell I'm doing here, though." Shaking her redgold head, she returned to the bag. Opening it within seconds, she dumped it out onto the gurney.
Grimacing, Rickie stared at the pile of clothing. "What the fuck, man?" She pried at her shirt, literally peeling it from her pants. Someone had obviously spilled something on it that had dried into a sticky mess. Confused and irritated, she glared at the deep red substance. Absently scratching at her chest, the writer's frown deepened as something flaked off onto her fingertips.
Looking at her hand, she saw the same substance that was on her clothes. Well, how did that happen...? Tilting her head, Rickie saw the crusted stuff at the edge of her sheet. Blood. That's blood. My clothes are bloody and I'm in the morgue.
Xena's voice: "Someone's coming."
Men bursting in, ski masks pulled down over their heads, automatic weapons, yelling, Xena pushing her to the floor.
Masked man pulling the trigger, blast of gunfire, Xena's body impacting with hers, protecting her, sharp burning pain in her chest.
Dizzy, the redhead sank to the cold floor, gasping for breath. "Oh. My. God."
The trilling of the cell phone nearly drove Xena through the roof. Bolting out of bed, she crouched in a defensive posture until her mind caught up with the rest of her. With a quiet curse, the Immortal stood tall, snatching up the phone. "Yeah?"
"Check your email, Xe," Jason's voice advised.
Xena padded to her laptop, switching it on. "Whaddya got?"
"Found the van rental - the name is Alcathous." After a pause, he asked, "You met this guy before?"
"Awhile ago," the dark haired woman allowed, using the hotel's phone system to go online. Modem squealing, she got back to the task at hand. "What about the other guy?"
"Well..." There was a bit of shuffling and the sound of tapping on a keyboard. "That one's kinda strange, Xe."
Jason sounded hesitant. "Strange... weird, I guess." Another pause.
Opening her email program, pale blue eyes narrowed as she looked at the information sent her. "You mean because this kid's supposed to be dead?"
"Well... yeah... Definitely weird, if ya ask me."
Xena could almost see the hacker scrubbing at his non-existent beard but said nothing.
"I got a rap sheet from Chicago, some connections with the Crips there - busts for drugs, weapons possessions, assault. Then a newspaper obituary."
"Mistakes happen, J." The Immortal scrolled down the information given her. "What could you get on Alcathous?"
More tapping of keys. "Not
much. He doesn't appear to exist. Probably an alias used to rent the vehicle."
Xena didn't enlighten him as he continued on.
"The address for the rental is a hotel. I'm working on hacking their system right now. Maybe they have an address or something for him."
Nodding, the dark warrior saved the message and logged off. "What do you want for breakfast?"
After a startled pause, Jason said, "Yo queiro Taco Bell."
"Be there in about an hour with that and your paycheck. Keep working on the hotel."
"You got it, Xe."
Closing the cell and putting it on the desk, the warrior arched backwards and grimaced. A glance at the bedside clock told her she'd only slept about an hour. The rest of her night and early morning had been filled with memories. She padded into the bathroom and switched on the light.
She ran cold water, splashing handfuls over her face, invigorating herself. Water dripping, she looked into the mirror, staring into the icy eyes that were watching. "You're mine, Gypsy," she intoned. "And you'd better have taught your little protégé well."
The cell phone rang again and she snagged a hand towel as she stepped into the room, drying her face. Draping the towel about her neck, she answered it. "Yeah?"
"Xe, I know you don't want to do this. But you have to come to the station and fill out a statement." Dead silence. "Look, we've got the statements from everybody else that was there. You're a trained professional, though. Your account could help us nab these assholes."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"No, Emil," the dark woman interrupted. "Answer me a question - what are ya gonna do with these guys when you catch 'em? Hmmm? Life imprisonment? The death sentence maybe? What?"
Holt's voice took on a stubborn quality. "I'm just doing my job, Xe. They'll do this again, maybe kill more innocent people. You don't want that anymore than I do."
"Your job...?" Xena's voice dropped in pitch. "Just doing your job...? Who gives a fuck about your job, Emil? I certainly don't! In a hundred years, nobody's gonna give a damn about you or your job. Are you with me on this?"
"I understand you're grieving, Xe..."
Deep inside a cage door rattled open. "Let me go over something with you. You and your people have spent your lives hunting my kind down, watching us slaughter each other like it's your own private bloody football game. And when you're nothing but dust, I'll still be swinging my sword in the Game. And you... will not... exist."
"I've told you this once already. I'm not in the habit of repeating myself, but your friendship with Rickie gives you one Get Out of Jail Free card. Don't call again." With that, the monster slapped the phone shut and sent it flying across the room. The sound of it shattering was very gratifying indeed.
Sighing heavily, Holt closed his eyes before redialing. No answer.
"Didn't go well, I take it?" Davenport asked, setting a brown McDonald's bag on his desk before taking her chair.
"No." He let the phone ring for several seconds. When it continued to burr in his ear, the officer finally hung up. Looking at his partner with bleak eyes, he said, "She won't come in. I didn't think she would."
The blonde shrugged, sipping at a Styrofoam cup. "You had to try. It's your job."
Holt snorted. "Yeah. It's my job."
There was a slight pause. "She was my friend, too, Emil."
"I know." He looked at the woman across from him. "I'll miss her, too."
For being dead, my feet sure hurt a lot.
It took a lot of cloak and dagger work for Rickie to get out of the building without being noticed. Slipping out of the morgue was the easy part and she found herself in the bowels of a hospital. Every linen and janitor closet was locked it seemed. Who wants to steal Clorox? she demanded.
Noise from a hallway caused her to duck into a stairwell. From there she worked her way upwards. After sneaking past a nurses' station, the redhead finally slipped into a room. The soft beeping of life-saving machinery kept company with a gentle light over one of the beds. Whispering an apology, Rickie raided the tiny closet, dressing in the clothes available. The morning shift had arrived and she shuffled barefoot out of the building, the extra people in the halls helping to hide her.
Again the writer cursed the fact that the shoes didn't fit. Why should they? She groused, pulling the oversized shirt closer at the collar. Nothing else does.
Hobbling along on the sidewalk, she couldn't wait until she was within the transit system's 'Fareless Square'. A free bus ride would put her two blocks from home, all the way across the downtown area. "Xena's probably going bananas."
That thought brought up a distant memory - a nightmare she'd had in England several years before. Something about Xena standing over several bodies, bloodied and feral, preparing to shred her last victim - a giant of a man - while the gory remains of previous ones still clung to her flesh and chakram. Rickie shuddered. Okay. Maybe 'bananas' isn't the right word.
Trudging along, she kept her head down to avoid anyone who might recognize her this close to the college. She considered what she knew. There'd been a bank robbery and she'd been shot. A mortal wound. And now I'm back, looking none the worse for wear. Sniffing, Rickie grimaced. Well, except for the smell.
"Which means I'm like Xena." Not necessarily a bad thing except that she was now a walking target for every Immortal in the world. "You never do things the easy way, do you, Rickster?"
Up ahead, she could see the freeway overpass that signaled the beginning of Fareless Square. "Finally!" Picking up her pace, the redhead began planning. First thing on her list was to go home and see if she could find her lover. There was no doubt in Rickie's mind that the warrior was on the hunt. She thinks I'm dead, too. Otherwise I wouldn't have been in the morgue when I woke up.
Rickie caught the next bus into downtown, the oversized pants hiding her bare feet from the driver. In fifteen minutes, she clambered off, heading eagerly for the ugly blue warehouse a block up the street. Sighing gratefully upon reaching the door, she punched in the security code they used when keys had been forgotten. The metal door opened with a quiet snick and the writer stepped into the garage.
An immediate glance at the vehicles told her what she needed to know. The Harley's gone. Disappointed but not surprised, Rickie went to the Ferrari and opened the passenger door. There on the floor was her backpack. "Thank God! I'm glad I left this in here!" Armed with her personal belongings, she boarded the elevator and went upstairs. On the way up, she pulled her cell phone from the pack and flipped it open. Hitting the speed dial, she listened for an answer. None was forthcoming. The redhead sighed and disconnected. "Incommunicado. Dammit."
While her immediate concern was to find Xena, there was just no way the redhead was going to remain in the clothes she was wearing. "A quick shower and a change. Then I'll be able to think." Her stomach grumbled ominously. "Uh, better eat something, too. Didn't realize dying was such hard work."
A half-hour later, she stood in her lover's office, hair wet and a bit of sandwich in her mouth. Setting her plate down on the desk, Rickie pursed her lips, looking around the room. Now what would Xena do? Besides go apeshit.
As was her habit when working on a story, she spoke aloud, brainstorming the possibilities. Her fingers grabbed a pen and pad, scribbling the prospects down. Soon she had a very short list of items, most dealing with quite a bit of bloodshed. Frowning, the redhead pondered the paper.
"Well, she couldn't do that without more information." A line was drawn through it. "And this would only be if she had the guy right in front of her." Another line. Pulling back and studying the remainder of choices, Rickie said, "As a matter of fact, she couldn't do any of this without knowing where the guy was."
Emerald eyes roamed the room for clues, drawn to the blinking red light of the phone. Messages. Maybe she's been in contact with someone and they've left a message. Rickie eagerly accessed their phone messaging system to no avail. Most of them were about her, friends conveying their sympathies to Xena over her lover's untimely demise, some lawyer wanting to know if she needed representation in a lawsuit and the police trying to get her to come in for a statement.
Emil... I could call him. He knows what this is. But, even as the thought crossed her mind, Rickie canned it. I've only just become Immortal. I can't let the Watchers know. And Emil's a Watcher, like it or not. There was an ache in her heart at the callus thought and the loss of her friends. "Does Xena feel like this every time she 'dies' in a place and has to move on? How can she stand it?"
Shaking her head, the writer thought, Priority is to find Xena first. Emil comes later. She went back to the task at hand. "The only way Xena could get any of this done is to find the guy. She needs information." Spying the Rolodex, Rickie began flipping through the cards. Granted, she wasn't privy to all of her lover's professional contacts, but she hoped something would jog her memory.
"Holt! Call for you on line two."
Nodding in response, the officer pushed the yellow pages to one side of his desk, picking up the phone. "Officer Holt."
"Hey, Emil! How goes it?" a voice asked.
"I've had better years, Tad. What's up?"
"I heard you're working that bank robbery..."
"Yeah, I am."
"Well, I don't know if it's connected or anything, but the victim's body has disappeared from the morgue."
"What do you mean... 'Disappeared'?"
"Just that. The body came in, Johnson signed for it. We had a coupla other corpses in line first and then we got sidetracked by a poker game..."
"Get on with it, Tad."
"Yeah, well anyway, this morning she's missing."
"Yep. We've already filed a report with PPD, but I thought you'd wanna know about it - you know, being your case and all."
"Thanks for the info, Tad."
"Sure thing." Slight pause. "Hey, do you think the shooter took her? Or was it her girlfriend?"
"What do you know about her girlfriend?" the officer demanded.
"Chill, buddy! It's just speculation. Besides, everybody knows that Amphipolous is on the warpath. Can't say as I blame her - that girl of hers was a beaut."
"Good bye, Tad." Holt cut off the man as he hung up on him. Frowning at the phone, he sat in silence for several minutes as he mused over the information. Is that why you won't come in, Xe? You took Rickie...? For what?
Jason dug into the chalupa with relish, ignoring the fat envelope that was dropped beside the Taco Bell bag. "This hits the spot, Xe. Thanks!"
"Where's the hard copy?"
Pointing at one of three printers, the hacker mumbled a response. After a healthy swig of soda, he swallowed his mouthful and repeated himself. "Right there."
The warrior snagged the paperwork in question, flipping through the pages. "You got anything from the hotel, yet?"
"Just about. I'm this close to getting in."
Settling her hip on the edge of a table, Xena watched the computer screens idly. "How much help did you get with NCIC?"
The hacker shrugged as he wadded up the food wrapper. "Only two others. They don't know what they were looking for." Scrounging into the bag, he pulled out a soft taco. "I had one look for the faces and the other look for the rap sheets."
"Good." Scanning through the paperwork again, she said, "There's enough there to cover your fees as well as theirs."
Silence of a sort filled the room. While neither occupant spoke, there was plenty of noise in the air - a printer was actively spitting out paper, a laugh track emitted from the tinny speakers of a small television, the general hum of many computers and the distant noises of modems hooking online. Xena committed the paperwork to memory as the hacker finished his so-called breakfast.
A computer beeped and Jason sat up, shoving the mexi-fries to one side. Pulling a keyboard closer, he hunkered over it and began typing in commands. "I'm in."
Equally interested, the Immortal hovered behind him. "Check the registration menu. Look for Alcathous."
"Done." Peering at the screen, he hunted through the menu and input their request. "Nope. Not there."
Again a tapping of keys, again a slight wait.
"Bingo! Right on the money!" Jason beamed up at the dark woman. "Cops are gonna be scrambling for days to get this bit of intel."
Ignoring him, Xena scanned the information on the screen. Question is, would you have used your real address?
"Looks like it's right here in Tigard." Picking up his cell phone, the hacker asked, "Want me to call it?"
"No!" The dark woman snagged the phone from him with a swift movement. "What? Are you stupid or something?"
Jason recoiled from her. "No... Just asking a question." Sullenly, he hit a few keys and a printer began humming. Chill, buddy. She just lost her lover.
Refusing to be baited by his hurt feelings, the warrior took the printed paper and carefully folded it, putting it into her pocket. "I'll see myself out."
With a sigh, Jason watched her close the door. "I'm sorry, Xe," he whispered.
"Hi. I'm looking for Xena. Have you seen her lately?"
Snort. "No. Don't expect to, either... Didja hear what happened to her girlfriend?"
"Uh... Yeah, I did."
"Well, I wouldn't give those robbers a rat's ass at this point."
"Yeah. Me neither." Dejected, Rickie sighed. "Hey, if you hear from her, can you let her know that Dreamer's looking for her?"
"Sure thing, kid."
Hanging up the phone, the
redhead went to the next card on the Rolodex. Jeez, Xena... You have connections
with everybody in the state of Oregon? After well over an hour, she'd only
just begun working her way through the C's.
Her exasperation was at an all time high. Had the next card been an unknown, Rickie might have thrown in the towel. But Jason Cohen's name glared up at her and she pondered it.
Well. Who else to be in contact with than the master of information himself?
Swallowing nervously, the writer picked up the phone once again. This was different from the other calls - Jason knew her, knew her voice, knew her street name. If Xena had been speaking to him, he'd know Rickie was supposed to be dead.
Gotta take the bull by the balls, she thought wryly as she dialed.
The phone rang four times. Just as Rickie was about to concede, she heard it pick up and a voice at the other end.
Heart in her throat, the redhead chewed her upper lip in uncertainty.
"Hello? Anybody there?"
Sensing he was going to hang up, Rickie called out, "Jason!" There was a long enough pause that she wasn't sure she'd caught him. God, I hope so. I don't think I can call him again!
"Yeah, this is Jason. Who's this?"
The moment of truth. "It's me, J. Dreamer."
"Dreamer...?" A pause as the hacker placed the name. "Dreamer?"
"Yeah, Jas. It's me." Rickie's tone was subdued, worried. "I'm looking for Xena. Have you seen her?"
Sputtering, the man exclaimed, "But... You're dead, lady! You can't be calling me!"
The redhead reached for the cocky streetkid she once was. "Hell, no. Rumors of my death are overly exaggerated. It was just a scratch."
"Schyeah, right... So sayeth the ghost - I saw your death certificate, Dreamer. You can't fool a medical examiner one afternoon and be calling from home the next morning."
Sighing, Rickie realized that there was no arguing with him. "Everybody makes mistakes, J. But I'm worried about Xena. She's not answering her cell phone. Have you seen her?" With silence her only response, the redhead's heart thumped. "You have seen her!"
"Yeah. I've seen her. She just let here about half an hour ago." Pause. "Man, she's on the rampage! I hardly recognize her anymore."
The writer scrabbled for a pen and paper. "Where'd she go?"
"Hold on." Movement in the background. "She's been hunting the assholes who killed... you... Anyway, we've finally got them narrowed down to this address." He read the information to her. "We're not sure that's where they are, but that's the last lead we've got."
"What about the cops?"
Jason chuckled. "Shit, girl! You're talking to the best! Cops are nowhere near this thing! Won't be for several days, I'll bet."
Tucking the address into her pocket, Rickie said, "Thanks, J. I really appreciate this."
"Yeah? Well, just watch out for Xena, okay? She's hell bent for leather right now. Gonna explode pretty soon."
Xena standing over several bodies, bloodied and feral, preparing to shred her last victim while the gory remains of previous ones still clung to her flesh and chakram. Shuddering at the scene, the redhead wiped it from her mind. "Yeah. Okay, I will." After a stray thought, she added, "And let's just keep my being alive under wraps, okay?"
"If you can calm down that woman who was here today, you've got a deal. I'll never speak of it to a single soul."
With a rueful grin, Rickie thanked the hacker once more before hanging up. Rising to her feet, she reached for her backpack. "Alright, Xena. Time to wake up from this nightmare."
The more Xena thought about it, the more she liked it.
Pulling the Harley into a gas station, she parked next to a pay phone. In moments, she was dialing the number found in the hotel's computer.
Opening his eyes, the dark man looked at the door of his room. A trilling caught his ear and he sat up with a grunt.
At the door, one of his partners was holding a cell phone. "You left it in your jacket downstairs. Thought you'd wanna answer it."
Gypsy nodded and threw his feet off the bed. "How many rings?"
"Five," the other man said, handing it over. "Don't you have voicemail on it?"
"Used to. Cancelled it last month. If it's important, they'll keep ringing.:"
Shrugging, the man said, "Whatever." He turned away from the door and padded down the hall.
Curious and a little anxious, Gypsy pushed a button. "Alastor."
Slumping on the bed, Gypsy's heart leapt into his throat. There was no doubt who the voice belonged to. "Xena."
"Do you believe me now, Egyptian? Remember what I told you. Know how you'll die."
Click. Dial tone.
"Shit!" Gypsy disconnected, slamming the phone against the mattress. Grabbing up his shirt, he dived out of the room and began waking the others.
Several frantic minutes later, the men were packing their things, grumbling in complaint at the early wake-up call. The only one not stuffing money, weapons and personal belongings into a bag was NK. He leaned against the kitchen doorjamb with cool detachment, watching the proceedings.
"What the hell are we leaving for, Gypsy?"
"Yeah. Are the cops onto us or what?" another asked.
Eyeing the younger Immortal, Gypsy responded, "No. It's not the cops. It's... somebody else. Somebody with a personal vendetta against NK and I." He doled out the money from the robbery. "If you guys split up, you'll be able to get away without a problem. Just be discreet!"
"This ain't a double cross, is it?" one asked with suspicion.
NK barked laughter. "Schyeah! Which is why we're giving you your cut now!" With a scornful smirk, he added, "Gimme a break!"
"Just take the van. Drop everybody off at different points and ditch it. We'll meet back up in San Jose in a couple of days, okay?" Gypsy instructed, his dark eyes almost pleading with his partners.
There was more complaining and arguing but eventually the rest of the crew stomped to the vehicle in the garage. Several minutes later, Gypsy and NK were alone in the house.
"Well, that was quite a show, Gypsy," the black man drawled. "Why's this bitch got your panties in a wad?"
"Shut the fuck up!' hissed the older man. "You haven't a clue who or what you're dealing with here!" Padding into the living room, he peered out a window, mindful of not moving the curtains.
Tagging along behind, NK watched. Whistling in humor, he chuckled. "She must be da shit, man. I ain't seen you this scared, ever!"
Sarcastically, Gypsy said, "Well, it's not like you've known me for a long time." Peering over his shoulder, he growled, "This is all your fault! If you'd have left her and her friend alone, we wouldn't be in this mess."
"Ain't no mess, Gyp." Pulling out a .45, NK checked the clip before loading it again. "I've got my protection right here." He proceeded to screw a silencer onto the barrel.
"You can't kill her with that, you idiot. I've told you before - the head has to be separated from the body." Gypsy returned his attention to the window. "Besides, it's not like you'd let me teach you how to use a sword. You're going to die sooner than you think."
"Not before you though."
There was hardly any noise but Gypsy heard the sound of breaking glass. Looking stupidly at the window, he saw the hole that was created and wondered how it got there. A familiar weakening washed through his body. I'm dying. But... Feeling warmth on his chest, he reached for it, fingers coming away bloody.
As the older Immortal collapsed to the floor, NK reholstered his pistol. Pulling out a large hunting knife, he knelt to his task. "Let's just see what this shit you're talkin' feels like."