Immortal End Game
As Jan-Michel turns down the road that leading to the massive Cascade Office Park, I reach into the backpack and pull out and activate the jamming device I stuffed in there earlier. "Park in the south parking lot." I adjust the black knit cap on my head, thanking the Gods the temperature has dropped low enough the item will not seem out of place.
"You brought the radios?" His voice is calm, as he pulls into the lot I indicated, which is conveniently located between the two largest corporate offices in the Park, QuestScape to the south and Complexium Communications to the north.
Handing over the second radio, I clip the earphone into place, hiding its cord under the turtle necked sweater I'm wearing. "Preset to channel 28. And before you ask, yes, that is a secure channel."
He parks in a spot close to the front doors of QuestScape then turns to me in the dimly lit cab. "I still think we should put this off another night, make sure everything is in place..."
I place my hand on his arm, effectively stilling his protest. "No. I do this, now, tonight. Sharee is already expecting me, I can't risk calling her back to cancel." The muscles under my hand tense, then relax as he fights the logic I've laid out before him. Then he simply nods, resigned to the idea. Patting his arm, letting him know I understand his concerns, I reach up and activate the throat mic hidden under the neck of my sweater.
"How long should I give you before I start to worry?"
"Too long. Forty-five minutes, then I come in after you."
The man cares, but this is the first time he's backed me up without Azir helping him out. "Wrong. If I'm not out in forty-five minutes, you drive off and wait for me back at the fallback point."
"Fine." He checks his watch. "It's time. Get going."
I smile. His gruff voice tells me he's no longer happy with the plan the team came up with, but I really have no choice. Stepping out of the Lexus, I shrug my backpack high onto my shoulder and walk towards the target. A light snow has begun to fall, the pale light from the sodium street lamps glinting off the small, crystalline flakes.
My boot heels hitting the flag stone path sound sharp in the crisp, cold air, announcing my arrival at the doors to QuestScape. Pulling open the door, I step into the nearly deserted lobby, shaking the snow from my shoulders. As predicted, the lone security guard posted behind the reception desk challenges my presence.
"Can I help you, Miss?" He's an older man, roughly in his late fifties, who has the bearing of a former military man or maybe a retired cop. I read his nametag as I step forward.
"I hope so. My car had the audacity to break down in the parking lot. I'm hoping my friend here hasn't left for the night and can give me a lift home."
"You work around here?"
I point over my shoulder. "Just started last week over at Complexium."
He picks up a clipboard and scans it. "Not too many folks still here. What's your friend's name, Miss?"
I fluster a bit. "Sorry, I'm being rude. LeAnne Crowley. My friend is Sharee Milton. I think she works in Information Services here." I hold out my hand, inviting him to shake it, which he does.
"Yeah, Mrs. Milton is still logged in the building; let me call her for you." He picks up the phone and dials a four-digit number. "Mrs. Milton? There's a LeAnne Crowley here... Yeah, that's her. Her car broke down and she's... Yes, ma'am. I'll send her up." As he hangs up the phone, something catches his attention and he bangs a fist against the table, where I can't see it.
"Problem, Mr. Bailey?" I try to lean over the counter, but I can't see anything, it's too high.
"Damn monitors are acting up again. Nothing new. They've been working on them for a month." He hands me the clipboard and a pen. "If you'll just sign in, I'll send you up to the fifth floor where your friend is working." He's not going to escort me? Sloppy, sloppy. But it'll work to my advantage.
I sigh as I place my signature on the indicated line. "I guess I won't make it home in time to watch the last part of the game after all." Handing him the board, I take the visitor's pass he gives to me.
"Not much of a game tonight. KC's walking all over Dallas. Take the second elevator, and don't forget to sign back out when you and Mrs. Milton leave. I may be on rounds when you do and the doors are scheduled to lock in about ten minutes."
I clip the badge to my coat lapel and look up at him, startled. "Locked? Will we be able to get out if you're not here?"
He chuckles. "Yeah, you can get out of here after nine, but unless you have one of our employee badges, you won't be able to get back in."
"Oh." With a small wave and a quiet word of thanks, I walk over to the elevators; the one in the middle of the five car bank opens for me. The doors close and I know, by now, Mr. Bailey is cursing yet another monitor. The jamming device I wear is powerful; once it scrambles a camera, that camera stays scrambled until a technician can repair the damage. The doors open at the fifth floor and I step out, looking for the nearest stairwell.
Off to my left I see the door I need, complete with the automatic alarm on it. Opening my backpack, I pull out another device and place it on top of the alarm box. The LED lights on the device go from red to green in seconds and I push open the door, the alarm silenced. So far, I'm not impressed with the security measures I've seen.
The door to the fourth floor has the same type of alarm system and I pull out a twin to the gadget I used earlier, disabling it. Before stepping through the door, I key the mic at my throat. "Zephyr to Harrier, fourth floor."
\\ Roger. Twelve minutes.\\
Bless him, keeping track of how much time I've spent so far on the job. I step through the door, recalling the floor plans in my head. I walk down the hall, past the elevators to a large door with a card reader beside it. I knew this would be here and I've already pulled another electronic piece of equipment from my bag of tricks. Inserting the card into the slot, I activate the machine and let it do its work. Within ten seconds I hear the lock on the door disengage and push it open.
There are only a few, widely spaced desk lamps in the lab, casting their dim light into the room. Cautiously I walk over to the workstation Mr. Ventriss had told me about, my boots barely making any noise as I cross the linoleum flooring. I learned, years and years ago, how to walk silently in boots. My eyes search the table, but see nothing resembling the zip drive I was to have found. Digging into my back pocket I start to pull out the business card I wrote my little 'I was here, your security sux' note on, when I feel it.
The crawling sensation moving up my neck, tingling in my skull, warns me and I mentally curse as I duck behind the station, hiding.
The form steping into the room is backlit by the lights in the hall; not too tall, slender, armed. Damn! Just what I didn't need! How many fucking Immortals are there in Cascade? I finger the long dagger, a short sword actually, hiding in the lining of my coat. I flinch as the figure hits the light switch and floods the lab with the bright, fluorescent light.
"You may as well come out. I know you're here, Immortal!" So, the figure identifies himself as a man.
Blinking away the tears in my eyes, I stand up, pulling my blade, and look at the challenger. "This isn't exactly the time or the place for this, you know."
"Like I care?" He raises the shotgun and aims in my direction. Not thinking, I throw myself to the side and raise my sword. Something hits my blade, knocking it from my hand and sending it through the window behind me. The sound of shattering glass and alarms, loud alarms, rings out.
"Fuck!" The male, masked Immortal takes another shot at me. I barely manage to dodge it, and feel the pain of something slamming into my temple. I fall to the floor, attempting to hold back the encroaching darkness. Over the earplug, I hear Jan-Michel yelling for me to respond to him, but I can't. Rolling over onto my back I look up to see my attacker looming over me. "Too bad I didn't bring my blade and you lost yours, bitch. Another time?" With those words, the man kicks me in the head and I spiral into the depths of the engulfing abyss.
With a sigh, Jim Ellison considered the options before him. He had a killer headache. The elevator was out, again. Three flights of stairs lay between him and his goal, the bottle of aspirin on the left side of the third shelf in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom of the loft. His only alternative was to stop at a drugstore, and make himself and Connor even later for their stakeout. Another sigh escaped his lips as he grasped the railing and began the upward trek.
At the first landing, he realized someone had Madonna's Ray of Light CD cranked up loud. His head began to throb in time with the pulsing bass line, and her hypnotic voice was making his teeth ache. Kiss me I'm dying/Put your hand on my skiiiiii-in. No wonder this country was going to pot. No one listened to good music anymore. On the second landing, he realized the annoying song was coming from his apartment. "Jesus, Sandburg, have some consideration for the neighbors."
Reaching the door of 307, he pulled the keys out of his pocket and shoved them in the lock. Opening the door with a savage twist of his wrist, he stomped inside, intending to give his roommate a tongue-lashing. Only there was no one in sight. The loft was dark, and the doors to Blair's room were closed. Jim attempted to check for his partner with his hearing, but he couldn't cut through Madonna, and right now, those aspirin were more important. He made his way quickly down the hallway to the bathroom, grabbed the bottle and headed back to the living area just in time to see a dark head of hair along with a pair of bare shoulders rise above the back of the couch.
The music faded into the background, and all Jim could hear was the racing heart and labored breathing of his guide, along with, "God, angel," and a long, drawn-out "pleeeeease…"
The object of his plea tossed her head, flinging her long hair back over her shoulder, exposing cleavage, and then Jim found a pair of electric blue eyes boring into his own. Diandra's eyes widened in surprise, and a soft "Oops," issued from her mouth.
"Oops? What do you mean oops?" was Blair's puzzled response. Jim flicked on the overhead lights. His guide's face appeared over the sofa cushions. "Oh shit! Jim!" He disappeared again, then hopped to his feet, the afghan that normally graced the back of the couch covering him from the hips down, his cheeks a brilliant crimson. "Jim, man, what are you doing here? I thought you were on stakeout tonight!"
Ellison felt a blush creeping over his face also, as Diandra rose to her feet in back of Blair, then wrapped her arms around his waist from behind, using his body to hide her own. From the cool expression on her face, Jim knew her modesty was more for his benefit than hers. He mentally shook himself, trying not to dwell on the sensual image they portrayed. "I am on stakeout. Just needed some aspirin." He waved the bottle at them. "Um, I'll be going now, Connor's waiting downstairs."
"Oh! Tell Megan I said 'hi' and I'll see her this weekend," Dee said perkily.
"Yeah, uh, right." Jim managed to find the door handle and let himself out. He took the stairs two at a time, but he still couldn't tune out their voices.
"Oh, man, I can't believe that just happened! How come you didn't hear him?"
"I was concentrating on you, lover," Dee purred. "All my senses were locked onto you, sight, sound, smell…touch…" Jim heard the afghan hit the floor.
Jim yanked open the door to the street just as a car horn blared. He winced in pain, but thankfully was finally able to get hold of the volume control and turn it down, blessedly blocking out the rest of the lovers' conversation, though Jim doubted it could be called that for much longer. Striding over to the blue-and-white pickup, he climbed into the driver's seat and slammed the door.
"Whoa, Jimbo, what's got you all shirty?"
He shook his head, wincing, and reached over the back of the seat to grab a bottle of water. Tossing a couple of pills back, he chased them with a long squirt from the water bottle then started the car. "Believe me, Connor, you don't want to know."
By the time they'd spent thirty minutes sitting in a cold car amidst the towering glass and steel structures of Cascade Office Park, Jim had changed his mind and was telling Connor exactly what to expect when she moved in with Dee after the first of the year.
"I mean, she has a perfectly good loft right across the hall. I don't see why they have to always be going at it on my living room floor."
Connor giggled. "On the floor?"
"Yes, on the floor. I asked Sandburg about it, and he said his bed's too small. There's a king-size bed in her apartment, but no, that's not romantic enough. Diandra's place doesn't have a fireplace. They didn't even have the damn thing lit tonight!" He exhaled through clenched teeth. "And they were using the sofa. I hope they had the presence of mind to put a sheet over it. Do you know how hard it is to get that kind of stain out? Never mind the smell. Sandburg usually ends up burning some kind of weird incense to cover it up, and then I spend the whole night sneezing."
Megan laughed again. "Sounds to me like you're a little envious, Ellison. But I think once I move up to Seacouver, she won't feel so compelled to spend all her time here. Besides, I think it's kind of cute. Young love and all that."
Jim snorted and stared out the windshield, then jerked as if he'd been struck.
"That sounded like a shotgun blast." As he spoke, the loud clarion of an alarm pierced the air.
"Bugger! That's not our building!"
Jim shook his head and started the truck, peeling out of the parking place. "No, it's QuestScape!"
When I struggle back to awareness, I reach up and activate the mic at my throat. "Harrier?"
\\Christ, Zephyr! What the hell happened? Did I hear what I thought I heard?\\
I gingerly touch my temple, my fingers coming into contact with sticky blood, but I feel the wound closing already. "Never mind that. How long?"
\\Five minutes since that bastard last spoke to you.\\ There's a pause then, \\Shit, Zeph, get out of there, police are responding to shots fired and the alarms!\\
"Damn. Can you see the security guard? Where is he?" I start to walk towards the lab exit, hoping I can make it to the stairwell and up to Sharee's office before the guard and/or the police show up.
\\Looks like he locked off the elevators and is about to enter the stairwell... You have to use the backup plan.\\
The backup plan. Crap. I do an about face on the floor and run over to the window that was blown out by the shotgun blast which had somehow disarmed me of my sword. I look out through the broken glass and cringe. "This is not going to be pretty." Stepping up onto the narrow windowsill, I look down to the ground below. The snow which has been falling hasn't stuck, so my method of flight will not be easily detected. I hope.
The landing wasn't the most graceful, my knees bending to take the impact. I roll to help the kinetic energy of jumping from a fourth story window dissipate. Unfortunately, I hear the bones in my right ankle snap when I land. Biting my lip to hold back the pain, I manage to regain my footing and hobble away from the building. "Harrier, meet me at the fallback point. I'll be a little late, damn ankle broke." I nearly trip over my sword as I walk, and I see it. The wire is twined around the blade, two small balls attached to either end of the wire. I can't take it with me, nor can I just leave it for the cops to find. "I found my sword, Harrier. Don't ask, I'll update you later, for now, help me to remember I tossed it into the large pine on the east side." With a heave, I do just that. With a solid thunk , the sword actually manages to lodge itself in a high branch, well out of sight.
\\Roger, Zephyr. What the hell? Who are y...\\ BLAM! BLAM!
The sound of gunfire coming over the earpiece nearly deafens me. My heart starts to race as I fear somehow the Immortal who had challenged me in the lab has found my friend. I start to run, as best as I can on what now feels like a sprained ankle, intent on reaching my Watcher.
I skid to a halt, looking down the barrel of a rather lethal looking gun. Raising my hands, I look beyond the gun and up into the face of a tall woman with long auburn hair.
"Down on the ground, hands behind your head."
An Australian? A little out of her jurisdiction, but I comply with the orders, carefully dropping my backpack before dropping to my knees, then my stomach. As the female cop, probably a detective seeing as she's not in uniform, frisks me, I feel it. The tingling sensation warns me of an approaching Immortal, then the sound of tires squalling in the parking lot and more gunfire reaches my ears. The feel of cold metal snapping around my wrists brings me back to my immediate situation.
The Australian hauls me to my feet and, grabbing my right elbow tightly, starts to walk me towards the parking lot. The pain flaring from my arm tells me she's got hold of a pressure point. "Let go of my arm, you Aussie Amazon."
"Sorry, mate. Not just yet." She actually tightens her grip and my temper flares.
"Let go of me." As the last word escapes my mouth, I pivot on my right heel and my leg flashes out, the toes of my left foot connecting with the woman's thigh, hitting her in the nerve junction. She drops to the ground, pulling me down with her.
"Bugger!" The curse explodes from her, and even with my hands cuffed behind my back, I'm back on my feet before she can rise to hers. I'm mad, worried about Jan-Michel, and need to get the hell away from here. I aim a snapping front kick at the downed officer, only to be tackled from the side.
I feel the hand on the back of my neck, pinning me to the ground as the growling baritone voice above my head asks, "Connor, you okay?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Jim. I can't believe the damn gell got the drop on me."
The man holding me down actually chuckles. "This little thing? Losing your touch, Megan?"
"Snog off, Jimbo." I hear the woman gasp as she tries to put weight on the leg I just smacked. "Oooh, that's going to bruise."
Once again, I'm hauled to my feet and I'm finally able to get a look at the man who tackled me. I'm looking at his chest then my eyes flow up to his face and my heart thuds in my chest. It can't be, it's not possible! His light colored eyes, barely discernible in the pale orange light of the street lamps, narrow, and his hands tighten their hold on me. Good thing. For the second time in this overly fucked up evening, I lose myself to the darkness.
I've been traveling with the tinkers, what some would call gypsies, in the Highlands of Scotland for about six months. Earning my way as a dancer, pleasuring only those men I choose to pleasure, and tonight, I've chosen the best.
The new Laird of Clan MacAlasdair is young, tall, handsome as sin, and possessing eyes so blue I want to drown myself in them. With the skirts swirling around my calves, the blouse I wear dipping off my shoulders, allowing the young Laird a glimpse of my not so inconsiderable charms, I dance only for him. The scarves I hold in my hands trail across his shoulders, teasing him, as he sits back and watches me with eyes darkening in passion. The players, the true gypsies, start playing the scintillating tune at a faster tempo, challenging me to keep pace.
The other Scotsmen gathered around the large fire clap their hands to keep the rhythm at a furious pace, and boisterously encourage the young man before me to try to catch the end of the belt falling from my waist, an age old token of choosing. If he catches the belt, I go to him. Once, twice, he misses the catch. I'm just about to give in to my base desire, to slow down, when he catches the belt and pulls me into his lap.
Out of breath, but not caring, I pull his smooth shaven face to mine and kiss him deeply, accepting him as much as he's chosen me. The wolf whistles and howls from his clansmen greet my actions.
"Watch it, William, or the fire-headed gypsy lass may just take your life as she looks for that gold you swallowed earlier."
He breaks away from the kiss, and I purr in my throat, missing, already, the tongue which had danced in my mouth. "Argyle, haud yer wheest!"
The men laugh and the one called Argyle roars out, "Same to ye, William. Or better yet, ask the lass to help you!" I know not what I am to supposed to help the young Laird do, but I smile as I pull his attention back to me and tease his full lips with a light, flickering, taste of my mouth. I can feel his desire for my body rising beneath the kilt he wears, the muscle twitching and bucking against my thigh. I'm forced to hold on to his powerful neck as he lifts me when he rises to his feet.
"Clansmen, honored guests, I bid you to celebrate all night if you wish. I have other things to do this night." He carries me like I weigh no more than the thistle down that floats in the air. "Lass, which wagon is yours?" I point out the wagon parked at the far end of the camp, furthest away from the bonfire, then I tighten my grasp on his shoulders and swing my legs downward, only to raise them back up and clasp my thighs around his hips.
"If you don't mind, Laird, I don't think I can wait that long. Can you?" I feel his arms clasp me around my own waist and I reach down between us to pull my skirt higher and pull his kilt up as well. My hands explore the wealth of man I've found, testing its weight and I feel the slickness of his arousal, which causes me to become aware of my own needs. His gait increases in its speed, and soon, we're on the other side of a wagon, hidden from the firelight, with my back braced against the wagon's wall.
The kisses we share are nearly animalistic in nature, nipping and biting tender flesh without hurting. He lifts me high to lathe my breasts through the silk of my shirt, until I use my hands to pull it down, exposing my body to his gaze and the light of the full moon overhead. Slowly, oh so slowly, he lowers me onto his manhood, sliding into my body causing me to gasp in pleasure. I actually whimper as he pulls me back up, as if to pull out, then I buck against him, and he fills me once again. Over and over, do we tease each other, our kisses deepening as we seek to silence each other's sounds of pleasure. The pace quickens as sweat starts to pour, making it harder to maintain our holds on one another, and with a final shudder and a moan captured in honeyed mouths, we reach our completion at the same time.
How we manage to sink to the ground without losing our intimate contact, I never know, but our kisses arouse each other, and once again we're riding the magic created between us. At some point, we must have made it to my wagon, for I'm in my bed when the first calls of the birds greet the morning sun. I reach out blindly to seek my lover, only to find my bed empty. Rushing to dress, I crawl out of the wagon, to see the young Laird, on top of his great war horse, readying to ride to Bannockburn. At his side, holding a chalice, is a young woman, her long blonde hair unbound as befitting a married woman, her body heavy with child. I pull my shawl around my body, fending off the chill of the morning air, happy I was able to ease the young Laird's needs when his wife could not.
Opening my eyes, I find myself looking into eyes so blue, with a strong jaw that seems so familiar to me that I think I've not yet returned from my trip to the past. But while the eyes are the same, the rest of the man's features do not match Laird MacAlasdair's.
"It's okay. You'll be all right. I'm sorry I hit you so hard, must have knocked your head on something when you landed. Now, stay still." No, he looks a little like my Highland Laird, but the voice is not the same. The cuffs I wore are no longer around my wrists and I move to sit up. "Whoa, wait a minute, wait until the paramedics get here." He's gentle as he pushes me back to lie on the ground, but I struggle to rise.
"I'm fine. Let me up." I sense his reluctance and go for the soft spot, "Please?"
He pulls me to my feet and yells over my head. "Okay. Johnson!" I turn to see a uniformed officer jogging over to us. "Johnson, take her down to Central and place her in our interview room. Connor or I will be there as soon as we can." The officer nods as he takes my arm to guide me away from the tall, devilishly good-looking man.
"Can do, Detective Ellison. Come on, Miss."
"Am I under arrest?" I ask of the woman, and man, Detective Ellison, over my shoulder as I'm led away. It's the Australian who answers.
"Depends on what we find out, sheila, and my mood when I get back to the station." With a flounce of her hair, the tall woman turns her back on my escort and me. She and the detective start retracing my steps, my backpack now hanging from the Australian's shoulder.
I watch as the woman limps away. Damn, never should have kicked her like that. Last thing I need right now is charges of assaulting an officer. I sigh as the uniformed officer leads me to a marked police unit, places me in the back seat and soon, we're off. The Australian didn't find my earphone or my radio, and the other officers didn't think to pat me down. I strain to listen for any sign Jan-Michel LaFollet is okay. But the radio stays silent.
After her extraordinary outburst, Lia kept close to Diandra's side. The Dorian longed to pull her aside for a few moments, and question her more thoroughly about her fears, but there was no time. She was late for her morning session as it was. Entering the temple, she processed down the long center aisle of the room, attended by ten of the lower ranking priestesses. The waiting worshippers lowered their eyes in deference to Apollo's Chosen. All but one.
He stood in the middle of the crowd, taller than average, dark-haired, with a hawk's sharp profile. His dark eyes followed her as she ascended to the sacred mists. Diandra opened up her other sight, and glimpsed something huge and empty and black surrounding him. Was this what Lia had been afraid of? The Dorian glanced around for her, but her erstwhile servant had disappeared. Shaking her head, she took several deep breaths then stepped into the mists, ready to serve her people.
The morning period of prophecy was nearing its end when he approached the front of the temple. Diandra watched through the curtain of mist, seeing him hand over a bag to the priest in charge of collecting payment. It must have been enough, as the strange man was waved forward to the foot of the altar. Diandra opened her sight again, searching for his truth.
Death. Blood. Screams. Madness. The dark-haired man, in face paint and a mask, on the back of a horse, riding down a helpless peasant, running his blade through his body, then moving on to the next victim. The same man, with three others, sharing the spoils of war, including frightened, crying women…and men.
Sickened, and enraged, the Oracle broke from her trance and stepped from the mists, the first time in the history of Delphi that had occurred. She descended toward him, her arm raised in accusation. "You are not one of the faithful!" She glanced at the shocked expressions on her fellow acolytes faces, then returned her steady gaze to him. "He is Death! Death on a horse, killer of scores of thousands! They call to me, they tell me of your evil, and they demand retribution!"
For a moment, the man stood stock-still, as if stunned by her words, then he seemed to realize the danger he was in as the temple guards advanced on him. In one swift motion, he drew his sword and plunged it through Diandra's midsection. She staggered back, not truly comprehending what had happened until she felt the warmth of her own blood spilling over her fingers.
A scream of rage echoed through the temple as Lia leapt on the stranger, driving a blade between his ribs. They wrestled on the floor for long seconds, then she sprang to her feet the victor. Running to her savior's side, she dropped to her knees beside her. "Lady D! Lady D! No, no!"
Diandra opened her eyes with an effort, feeling the floor beginning to tremble under her back. "Run, Lia…"
"No, no, mistress, I won't leave you," the girl sobbed.
The temple began to moan and shudder, and the earth roared. The crack from which the sacred mists rose widened and lengthened. People began to scream and run. Diandra looked up into the face of her charge, feeling Lia's tears falling on her skin. "This is…this is the last prophecy of the Oracle." With the noise of a thousand thunderbolts the earth swallowed the temple of Delphi.
She pushed hard against the weight that pinned her, struggled to free herself, fought to breathe. She was so hot, and there was no air. She was going to die, over and over and over and over--
"Dee! Dee! Wake up! You're having a nightmare."
She opened her eyes to find Blair leaning over her, his expression worried. "Lobo? What…" She couldn't move; something was holding her down. Dee began to twist and wriggle, half sobbing.
"Dee, angel, hold still. You're caught in the sheet." She forced herself to lie quietly, even though she felt like her heart was going to explode, it was racing so fast. Finally he tugged the recalcitrant cloth loose, and she tumbled off the sofa into his arms, shaking and crying. "Whoa, whoa, honey, it was just a dream." Blair held her close, stroking her hair, kissing her forehead. "It's okay, baby, it's okay. I'm not going to let anything hurt you."
Finally, Dee began to relax, the vivid memory of being buried under the temple fading. Letting out a long breath, she tilted her head back, looking into his eyes. "Thank you, Lobo."
He smiled at her, laughing softly. "For what? For loving you?"
She smiled back. "Yeah, for loving me, for being patient with me, for not freaking when I'm freaking."
"Oh, that, that's easy. I know all about bad dreams, and that, my love, was an 8 on the Sandburg Nightmare Scale. You wanna talk about it? They say if you talk about your nightmares, it helps you see they aren't real."
Shuddering, Dee tightened her grip on him. "Don't think that will work in my case. What I was dreaming was real; it did actually happen to me. I dreamt of my first death, at Delphi, when the earth opened up and the temple crashed to the ground."
"Umm," Blair murmured, pressing his lips against her hair. "I don't think I've heard that story."
She snuggled up closer to him, almost crawling into his lap. "Some other time, okay, when it doesn't feel so real."
"Sure, whenever you're ready. So, you ready to go across the hall and get some sleep in a real bed?"
Yawning, Dee nodded in reply. He was just helping her off the floor when the phone rang. "Hello. Hey, Megan, what's going on? You and Jim catch the bad guys yet? You did? Oh, ouch, that sounds painful. No, no, we weren't busy, of course we can give you a lift home. Not a problem. You don't know when you'll be done? That's okay, we'll just head on down to the station and hang out. See you later."
He hung up the phone. "You hear that?"
Dee was already gathering up her clothes. "Yeah, Megan got kicked by some perp and needs a ride home."
"She didn't sound like it was too bad."
"Well, I'll be the judge of that when I see her. Come on, I'm curious to know who could get through her guard." Grabbing her coat, she headed out the door, Blair right behind her.
How long have I been here? Why hasn't anyone come in to talk with me since I was escorted to this interview room? Where the hell is Jan-Michel? Oh, gods! I hope he's all right. Ten paces, turn. Six paces, turn. Ten paces, turn. Six paces... Over and over my boot heels click out the rhythm as I count out the steps around the edge of this interview room, skirting the table and the chairs, refusing to settle.
Officer Johnson had brought me up to this unit, Major Crimes - whatever the hell that means. A uniformed, female officer frisked me, finding my only contact with Jan-Michel, taking that as well as my watch, leaving only my ring. She had also asked for my personal information; name, date of birth, place of residence - which I gave her with only a minor lie. I no longer remember when I was born, so I gave her the date I had chosen for this 'life.' March 22, 1965. The officer had looked at me strangely at that, probably because I don't look like I should be thirty-four.
Damn, how long have I been pacing? The door behind me, the only one leading into the room, opens, and I turn in the middle of my pacing to see the auburn haired Australian walk, or rather limp, into the room. She's carrying my 'tool kit,' the small black backpack, and a thin manila file folder, both of which she sets on the table while gesturing for me to take a seat.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting, miss....?" I slide into the chair facing the mirror, knowing there has to be at least one person behind the two-way glass, and grin amusedly at the woman.
"Eolia. Lee Eolia."
She's opened the file, looking over the information as she stands, trying to keep much of her weight off the leg I had kicked earlier. "Unusual name. I see you're from Rochester, New York?" Her pain-glazed eyes bore into mine, I don't answer, only nod my head. "You're also listed as the owner and current president of WindHawk Securities. What is it your company does?"
I know the game she's playing. I've participated in it long enough, both as a 'suspect' and as an interviewer. She's trying to unbalance me, to throw me off guard. Fine. I can play along with her. "If you have that much from my background check, then you know what it is WindHawk does, detective....?"
"Inspector. Connor. New South Wales. According to the information we pulled up on your company, you're into counter-espionage?"
Ah, she doesn't like to be called 'detective,' I'll have to remember that. "A little out of your jurisdiction, aren't you, Inspector?" I barely choke back a chuckle when she nails me with a hard as brass glare. "WindHawk Securities is a counter-espionage concern, yes. What else would you like to know?"
"Business been a little slow recently? Need to find a way to fill the company coffers? Is that why you broke into QuestScape?" She's good. And against someone else, someone who hasn't been playing the game as long as I have, her tactics might actually work.
"Business is good, the accountants tell me we have over 4.8 million in the bank and I didn't break into QuestScape. I walked in."
"Under a false name. LeAnne Crowley. Or is your name really Lee Sadih?"
Low blow, Inspector. "It was Lee Sadih. I changed back to my maiden name two months ago. Surely the information you pulled up on me shows that?"
She closes the file, hands clasped in front of her, trying to convey her sympathies for my loss. Bitch, you have no idea... "Yes, the information shows that. It also led me to an unsolved, rather bizarre, murder in Seattle." I shiver; I know what she speaks of, intimately. Before I can respond, she's launched in another direction. "So, why did you break into QuestScape?"
"I didn't break in. Not exactly. I was performing a security check."
She lifts up my backpack, opens the main compartment and carelessly dumps the contents. I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I noticed that someone, probably whomever put everything into the evidence bags, had removed the blasting caps. "And I suppose this is your cosmetic kit?"
I don't answer her, letting the 'evidence' speak for itself.
"This is some serious hardware for a simple security check, Ms. Eolia. Especially this," She holds up the card reader scrambler I had used to gain access to the development lab. "Looks more like what I think a thief would use."
"It is. That's why I use that device, and the others you just dumped, when I do a security systems check. If I can get past the security measures, anyone can."
"So why didn't the head of QuestScape's security know about this 'security check' of yours?"
"It was a private contract between QuestScape and WindHawk. Only a few people knew about the contract."
Before she can launch into another series of questions, there is a polite knocking on the door. I wince in sympathy as she limps over, opens the door a crack and is handed something. It's a piece of paper, which she reads, then stuffs in her pocket, shuts the door and turns back to me. "What did you do with the zip-drive, Lee?"
Finally! "If you know about the zip-drive, then I assume you've been in contact with Mr. Norman Ventriss?"
"Where is the information you stole?"
"I didn't steal it, Inspector, it was already missing from the lab when I got there."
"I suppose you're going to try to tell me Mr. Ventriss set you up? That there never was any zip-drive?"
"No. There was someone else in the lab..."
"Your partner in crime?"
"No! A thief. One who tried to kill me."
"Ah." She smiles. I don't like that look. "So which one of you was the one to blow out the window in the lab? You? Sloppy work, setting off the alarms like that."
Blow out the... There is no way she could know, is there? Unless... Wait a minute. Sharee Milton was on the floor above, she could have heard? "He did. He had a damn shotgun he aimed at my head. He probably took the zip-drive."
"And now we're back to this other thief. You know, I just don't believe you, Lee." There's another knock, but this time it comes from the mirror behind her. "Excuse me."
She limps out of the room. I follow on her heels, letting the door close between us as I flip off the overhead lights. Looking into the mirror, I see three shapes leave the observation room. One is much taller than the others, probably the commander of the division. The other two are of similar height, most likely her partner and maybe someone who was able to confirm my alibi. Either that or maybe a Prosecuting Attorney who's going to tell them they have nothing to really hold me on.
I flip the lights back on, satisfied now my suspicions have been confirmed, that I had been watched while the Inspector conducted her interview. I walk back over to the chair I had abandoned, sinking back into it as my mind starts to wander again.
Where the hell is LaFollet?
"Are you sure they don't have anything besides this dreck?" Dee asked, swallowing a sip of what passed for coffee at the police station.
Blair followed her out of the break room. "Unfortunately, no. Except…Simon has a stash of flavored stuff in his office."
"Ugh, that might just be worse than this. Flavored coffee, ick." She shuddered for emphasis. "Look, I'm going to dump this out and grab a soda. You want one?"
"Yeah, sure, root beer if there's any in the machine." She turned back toward the break room then froze in her tracks. "Dee?"
She waved her hand at him to be quiet, then turned toward the elevators, her face apprehensive. "Immortal," she finally said, just as the elevator doors slid open, and a man staggered out, one hand held to his head, his expression pained and confused. "Correction, make that new Immortal."
Blair looked from her to the other man, wide-eyed. The man was probably in his late thirties, slightly taller than Dee, and his blond hair was streaked and matted with blood. His coat was bloodstained as well. "Shit, Dee, what do we do?"
Dee's vision focused on the wrist of the hand he had pressed against his temple. "He's a Watcher!"
"We have to get him out of here, somewhere we can talk to him."
Blair snapped his fingers. "One of the interrogation rooms, third door on the left around the corner. I'll bring him. Go!" Dee ducked around the corner and Blair approached the unfamiliar Watcher. "Hi, can I help you?" He held out his left hand as if to support the other man, making sure he noticed the blue symbol on the inside of his wrist. "Pardon my saying so, but you look like crap. The cops see you like this, you're going to be answering a lot of unpleasant questions."
He waved his police ID under the man's nose, while guiding him down the hall and into the interrogation room. Dee wasn't there, and Blair figured she was going to let him see how much he could get out of the Watcher before she showed up. "I can help you, but you're going to have to tell me what happened to you."
He pushed the still confused man into a chair then went to close the door. "Why don't you start with who you are? I'm Blair Sandburg."
His name seemed to ring a bell with the stranger. "You're Pallas' Watcher."
"Not really. I'm a researcher for Joe Dawson. I didn't catch your name." Blair folded his arms across his chest and leaned his back against the door.
"I'm Jan-Michel LaFollet, Lee Eolia's Watcher. I lost her tonight, and heard she was brought here."
Eolia? Great that was just what he wanted to hear. So much for being rid of her after the meeting at the church that afternoon. "So you came to pick up her trail?" The man nodded. "Is she the one who hurt you?"
"Hurt me?" He reached a hand up to his temple again, the sticky feel of the blood there seeming to remind him what had happened. "No, I don't think so. I was in the car, waiting for her, and the alarms went off. She jumped out the window, was trying to escape when…" He closed his eyes, trying to remember. "Someone pulled open the car door and…shot me…oh my god! They shot me!" LaFollet jumped to his feet, his eyes wide.
"Jan-Michel, it's okay, you're fine."
Both of the man's hands went to his head and he doubled over. "Oh, god, what is that? It's inside my head and outside of me at the same time." Moving away from the door, Blair settled the Watcher in a chair again as Diandra entered.
"That, Mr. LaFollet, is what we call a 'buzz'. You're an Immortal now." He just moaned and shook his head, his eyes closed. Dee crossed the room toward him. Catching his chin in her hand, she raised his head. "Open your eyes and look at me. It's the only way to make the buzz fade."
Slowly he did as he was told, his hands dropping to his lap. "You're right, it's gone now. Who the hell are you?"
Taking a step back, Dee leaned against the edge of the table. "I'm Diandra of Delphi, Champion of Thymescria, but nowadays, I go by Dee Pallas."
LaFollet seemed to shrink into himself, and his eyes darted around the room nervously. She could hear his heart pounding. "Goddess! What do you think I'm going to do to you, Watcher? Take your head in a police station?"
Swallowing nervously, the new Immortal shrugged. "I don't know. I…you know about the Watchers?"
She nodded. "Yes, I know about the Watchers. And Joe Dawson is a good friend of mine. What lies has he been filling your head with?" She softened her question with a smile.
"I…He…I called him when I found out Lee met with you today. He said you were dangerous. That Lee was in trouble if she went after you."
She thought that over for a moment. "Yes, I suppose if you were being literal-minded, that's probably pretty close to the truth. And I think Joe embellishes my reputation to put people off. I think it would hurt him deeply if I were to lose my head. But I have no quarrel with Lee, or with you." She sighed. "In fact, I'm honor-bound to help you, seeing as you're a newborn." She looked at Blair. "So how should we handle this, Lobo?"
Blair was silent for a moment, then said, "You're here to help Lee, right? I mean, you said you were with her tonight." LaFollett nodded. "Then I think we should stick with that. I have to warn you, though, the two cops who arrested her know about Watchers, and Immortals, so watch what you say. And we'll need to let Lee know what's going on, so she doesn't give herself or you away. I can take care of that. Dee, you wanna go listen in, see what Megan and Jim are up to? I'll run him down to the locker room and get him cleaned up, then bring him back here and we'll take it from there."
"Sounds good to me. Go with Blair, Mr. LaFollett. I'll see what I can find out about Lee." Dee waited a few seconds until she heard the two men heading downstairs, then she exited the interrogation room and headed for Major Crimes to find the two arresting officers arguing.
"Damn it, Conner, give it a rest! You're not getting anywhere with her, and you can barely stand up!"
"I'm fine, Ellison! And I don't think you're going to get any further with her. I saw the look she was giving you at the crime scene. All she's going to have to do is bat her eyelashes at you and you'll be wrapped around her little finger!"
The detective scowled at her, then shrugged. "So? That might work to our advantage, if she thinks she can manipulate me."
"Augh!" Megan threw her hands up in frustration. "Fine! Go ahead! Have it your way!" Whirling to stalk away, her right leg gave out, and she would have fallen, had not Dee been there to catch her.
"Hey, Pajara, take it easy, okay?" She helped her companion to a chair then glanced up at Jim. "Go on, she'll be fine." Nodding, he left them alone in the bullpen.
"Ow, bugger! It hurts!" Megan complained as soon as he was gone, twisting in her seat, trying to take the weight off that side.
Dee knelt next to her, running her hand down her hip and over her thigh. Megan clawed at the arm of the chair and moaned. The older woman looked up at her. "You really should have gone to the hospital, Pajara. It's a fairly deep bruise, and there's a lot of fluid built up around it. Do you get a shooting pain in your hip and down your thigh?"
Megan nodded. "Bloody leg feels like it's going to give out if I move wrong on it. Damn it, she kicked me hard, but not that hard." She cried out as Dee dug her thumb into her lower back.
"You must have been at just the wrong angle when she connected. Your sciatic nerve is being pinched when you move. I can fix this, but it's going to hurt worse than it does now. You want to do this here, or someplace a little more private?"
"More private. The women's loo?" Nodding, Dee put her friend's arm over her shoulder, and lifted her to her feet. With Megan leaning heavily on her, they headed out of the bullpen.
Damn it all!
Crap, could this night get any worse?
I stand up rapidly, the chair I was sitting in sliding across the floor to hit the wall behind me, and I start to pace. Of all the times to be caught unarmed. The tingling sensation runs up my spine to resonate in my head, the sign of an Immortal in the vicinity. Just how many of us are in this Goddess forsaken city?
Keeping one eye on the door, I start to check out the chairs and table, looking for a way to dismantle them, or simply use them in a pinch. If I'm to be confronted in a damn police station, I'll not make it easy on the other Immortal.
Oh, shit! Another one? Does Cascade, Washington breed Immortals like rabbits? I still my movements, trying to get a fix on this second Immortal; the buzz off this one is rather weak. A newborn? Maybe this city does draw Immortals. I drop to my knees, looking under the table.
I hear the voices, apparently near by, raised in anger and rise to my feet from where I was looking at the supports to the table. No help there, this furniture is just too well built. I sit back on my haunches and a voice, raised in anger, or is it concern, catches my attention.
"Damn it, Connor, give it a rest!"
Rising to my feet I realize the voice is familiar... Ah, yes, the nice looking detective from the scene outside of QuestScape. I don't catch everything that is said, but I try to. I step closer to the door and barely hear the heated reply.
"I'm fine, Ellison!"
It's my Aussie Inspector friend. She doesn't sound very happy. I don't blame her. Not only did I not give her what she wanted when she was talking with me, I also gave her one hell of a sore leg.
"Augh! Fine! Go ahead! Have it your way!" Well, that sounds like someone who lost an argument. I step back away from the door, just as Detective Ellison opens it and gives me the strangest look, like he knew what I was up to.
"Stretching your legs, Ms. Eolia?"
"You could say that, Detective."
"Please, have a seat. I'd like to conclude our talk before the sun rises."
Nice touch: polite concern tinged with just a bit of sarcasm. Either he's going to go for the concerned cop routine or the bad cop. Damn, with his looks, the bad cop could break a lesser person. It's his eyes. Ice blue, frozen, deadly. I slowly take a seat, once again facing the window behind him, and watch as he moves with fluid grace into the chair across from me.
"Ms. Eolia, let me be perfectly blunt with you."
"Please." I lean my elbows on the table, bracing my chin in my hand, hoping I can control enough of my autonomic responses so he can't detect my nervousness. Not because I'm worried about his questions, but because I'm trapped in a room with no way out and an innocent. I still can't taste who the other immortal is in the area, and if it's the rogue...
"You're facing a pretty serious charge this morning..."
"I didn't take anything from QuestScape." Oops, shouldn't have interrupted him. Nothing like seeing those eyes turn to hard, cold fire and ice.
"I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about your assault on Inspector Connor, your attempted escape from custody. And I'm well within my rights, as an investigating officer, to hold you in custody as a potential witness to a very serious crime."
"Excuse me?" He couldn't. He wouldn't. Would he? Damn, that little known law hasn't been used in years.
"I believe you heard me." He leans back in his chair, his arms folding across his chest. "But that is the least of your concerns right now."
"Look, I'm sorry I injured your partner, but I was concerned about a friend--" I snap my mouth closed over the words slipping from my lips and turn my gaze from his.
"A friend?" He reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out the small radio which had been taken from me earlier. "The person who was on the other end of this?" He tosses the radio onto the table, where it slides to a halt halfway between us.
My hands itch with the need to pick up the radio, to try to contact LaFollet, and I barely restrain myself from doing so. I've already slipped up, making that vague reference to my bodyguard and Watcher. I just pray the detective didn't notice. The silence drags time to a crawl between us.
"You may as well tell me, Ms. Eolia. I'll find out soon enough."
Maybe it wouldn't hurt to trust this mortal. Taking a deep breath, I decide to chance it. "Yes. My bodyguard. He was acting as my backup. Just before I ran into the Inspector I had heard him talking to someone, then I clearly heard two gunshots ring out."
"The connection went dead. I lost contact." Returning my focus to the detective's blue orbs, I see a glimmer of belief.
"Just before I came upon you about to kick the hell out of my partner again, there was more gunfire. Do you know anything about that?"
I shake my head. "No."
"Hmm." Before he can say anything further, there's a single knock on the door and my attention is drawn to the young man who pokes his head in the room.
"Jim? Oh, sorry."
"What is it, Chief?"
Chief? Lobo? Sandburg. Damn, just how many titles does this young mortal hold? I watch as the dark haired student walks into the interview room. I'm surprised to find his face, his beautiful, unblemished face, bears no marks from the damage I did earlier. I did hit him, didn't I?
"There's someone out here I think you should talk to. Claims he can vouch for the lady here." The look he flashes me tells me he's trying to get the detective out of the room. Why?
"Fine." Ellison stands up and brushes past Sandburg.
I watch the Watcher carefully as he sidles over towards me, his hand outstretched in greeting. "Hi, Blair Sandburg. Has anyone thought to ask if you want something to drink, Ms. Eolia?"
I shake his hand, and with the dexterity of a professional drop man the paper in his clutch transfers smoothly to mine. "No, they haven't. If it's okay, I'd love to have a cup of coffee?"
Raking the hand he just shook mine with through his long, curly hair, the man nods. "I'll check into it for you. How do you like it?"
"Black will be fine, thank you." He leaves the room and under the table, I open the note and read the ancient Greek script. That tells me one of the Immortals in the building is Diandra.
Be wary. Ellison & Connor know of Immortals and Watchers. Your shadow is fine, but he's newly born and confused. I'll do what I can to help.
Oh dear Gods & Goddesses! Jan-Michel? An Immortal? How could I have not felt that? I tightly crumple the note from Diandra and under the guise of stifling a yawn, I raise my hand to my mouth and insert the note, chewing and swallowing it quickly. Sandburg took a risk, getting the note to me.
Not long after I've destroyed the evidence of the Watcher's collusion with me, he returns and hands over a disposable cup filled with a rich dark brew. "Here you go. Captain Banks said it was okay."
I sip the hot liquid, nearly scalding my tongue, and nod my gratitude. "Thanks."
His shrug is eloquent. "No problem. I'd better go and see if Megan is ready to go home now." And with a flash of earth tones, the young man disappears from the room. The small space seems strangely colder now he's no longer here. After looking at him closely, touching him when our hands met briefly while he handed me the cup, I'm starting to wonder if I've lost my touch. I used to be able to sense preemies, I was good at it, but now? I don't know how else to describe what I'm picking up from him. Though that doesn't explain the disappearance of his injuries.
I partake of the bitter brew; it's strong enough to reach up out of the cup to slap me. I allow my thoughts to wander back over the years. Jan-Michel LaFollet came to WindHawk Securities highly recommended, after the US Navy and a long stint at Camp David, where he helped protect the President of the United States and other dignitaries who visited the 'camp.' The last three years, he'd been assigned to the small detail of guarding my back and Azir's, even though we both knew he was a Watcher. But never once, in all that time, did I suspect the Watcher was a pre-Immortal. Why?
Coffee finished, I start to tear apart the Styrofoam cup, piling the small pieces on the table before me. The buzzing in my head increases and the door to the interview room swings open. I'm on my feet before the person on the other side can take a step into the room.
Spying the broad shoulders, the crew-cut blond hair and the concerned hazel eyes, I relax my guard and rush over to him, enfolding him in a hard embrace.
"Jan-Michel! You're okay! I was so worried!" Seeing him wincing in pain, I grab his chin and force him to make eye contact with me. The lines around his eyes disappear once our gazes meet. "You are okay, right?" I lightly finger the Band-Aid gracing his temple.
He returns my hug, tucking my head under the chin I had held so firmly. "Yeah, I'm fine. Or I will be."
"What happened?" I lead him over to the table, sitting him in the chair while I lean against the table, my hand resting on his shoulder.
"I'll tell you later, Lee. Right now, we have to worry about getting you out of here. I talked with Ellison. He and the captain are willing to drop the charges against you if you're willing to cooperate with their investigation." His hand reaches up and grasps my thigh, "I can't believe you assaulted a cop. What were you thinking?"
"I heard the shots, lost contact with you and was scared something had happened to you." I grimace and my mouth twitches into a sad smile. "I really wasn't thinking, just reacting."
He chuckles. "Well, next time, THINK will you?"
"I'll try." Aware our little reunion was probably being monitored, I pull his head close to mine as if in another concerned hug, and whisper in his ear. "We need to get that zip drive back and find that damn thief."
He shakes his head, but doesn't break contact with me. "I can't leave you here alone."
"You can, and you will." I lean back, still clasping the back of my friend's head in one hand. "I think Ellison is serious about placing me in custody as a potential witness. I need you to be my eyes and ears outside of here." The dark look crossing my Watcher's face is almost murderous. "Please, Jan?"
I see he's having to fight against his instincts as a bodyguard, and his new status as an Immortal. I keep my expression pleading, hoping I can coerce him into leaving me here.
"What if that other person comes here, looking for you? Who's going to watch your six?"
Navy men, got to love the terminology. "I'm in a precinct house. I think I'll be safe enough, don't you?"
"Maybe." The tone is reluctant, but I can almost see the walls of resistance crumbling. "What about that little item you left behind?" His voice is so quiet I barely hear him.
"Do what you can, but it's not important." The door swings open and Ellison walks back into the room.
"Mr. LaFollet? There's a stenographer here to help me take your statement." Jan-Michel stands and slowly exits the room but Ellison doesn't follow him. Instead, he looks at me with a puzzled expression on his face. "Ms. Eolia? Looks like you'll be here a while longer, do you need anything? More coffee, perhaps?" He pointedly looks at the small pile of Styrofoam on the tabletop.
"That would be nice. And maybe a trip to the bathroom?"
"Of course." He closes the door and once again I'm left alone with my thoughts. A few minutes later, the female officer who had searched me earlier returns and escorts me to the ladies room, where she watches me like a cat eyes a mouse before taking me back to that damnable interview room. Someone has left a large cup of coffee and a sandwich. I didn't realize how hungry I was, or how loud my stomach had been growling, but I'm thankful for someone's thoughtfulness as I devour the ham and cheese and take in the caffeinated beverage.
Walking back to the interview room, I had caught a glimpse of a wall clock. It's nearly three-thirty in the morning, and from the slow pace this ordeal seems to have picked up, I wonder if I'll get out of here before the sun rises.
Ellison took a seat at his desk and looked the man in the chair across from him over carefully. The close cropped blond hair and rigid posture both cried "military," which he supposed was an appropriate background for someone in the counterespionage field. "So, Mr. LaFollet, can you tell me what happened tonight?"
The ex-navy man glanced down at his hands, then around the almost empty bullpen. He swallowed somewhat nervously, and his fingers rubbed his temple. "There's not much to tell, Detective. I was Lee's backup. I waited in the car, in contact with her by radio, while she went through the security check. Everything was going fine, until she got to the lab. Then I heard someone else's voice over the mic, and what sounded like a shotgun blast. It was over five minutes before Lee responded. She told me someone else had attacked her, and she was trying to get out. A few seconds after that, someone yanked open the door of the car I was sitting in."
"Did you get a look at this person?"
LaFollet shook his head. "No, it all happened so fast. I heard two shots, and then everything went black. When I came to, I was in the passenger seat of the car, about two miles from QuestScape. I picked up the information about Lee being brought here on the scanner and drove directly here."
Jim raised one eyebrow curiously. "It's amazing you weren't seriously hurt or killed. Sure you're okay? I notice you seem to have a headache."
Again LaFollet seemed slightly nervous, his gaze wandering around the room, lighting for a moment on Blair, who was sitting with Diandra next to Megan's desk, talking with the inspector as she typed up her report. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Whoever it was didn't do any permanent damage, and your Mr. Sandburg was nice enough to help me get cleaned up downstairs. I was so worried about Lee that I didn't even know I'd been injured." He ran his fingers over the small bandage at his hairline. "I'm sorry I don't have anything more for you to go on, Detective. I want to get my hands on the person who tried to kill Lee as much as you do."
With a sigh, Jim dropped the pen he'd been fiddling with on his desk. "Thanks for all your help, Mr. LaFollet." He turned to the stenographer. "Can you get those typed up for his signature?" At the man's nod, Jim turned back to the blond bodyguard. "We may have some further questions once your client gets here, but for now I think we're done."
Getting to his feet, the detective crossed the room to where his partner was sitting. "Okay, Chief, give. What are you and Dee doing here, and what's your involvement with this?"
Blair tilted his head back and blinked up at his friend owlishly. "Hey, if I had my way, I'd be snug in bed right now."
"Don't jump all over him, Jimbo. I asked Sandy and Dee to come down. I thought I would need a ride home, since my leg was giving me so much trouble. But it's just fine now." She shot Dee a meaningful look and a grin.
Jim shook his head. He was about to make a flippant comment, when a middle-aged man stormed into Major Crimes. "Ellison! What in the hell is the meaning of this?" As he turned to face a pissed off Norman Ventriss, he heard his guide's heart rate shoot through the roof. Shit! He should have warned Blair.
"Thanks for coming down so quickly, Mr. Ventriss. I'm sure-"
Spying Blair in the chair behind the sentinel, the man took a step forward, and Blair rose to his feet awkwardly. "Professor Sandburg, I should have known you would be involved in this! Killing my son wasn't enough for you, was it?"
Blair raised both his hands in a gesture of compliance. "That wasn't my fault, man."
The man was almost foaming at the mouth. "Oh no? You're the reason he was in that fucking jail cell! You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you?"
"He was a murderer, Mr. Ventriss. He belonged in jail."
"That was never proven, you son of a bitch. He never got his day in court. You're the murderer as far as I'm concerned! You're the one who killed my son!" Ventriss threw a hard right at Blair's face.
Both Sentinel and Champion moved in defense of the Guide. Diandra was quicker, her hand stopping Ventriss' fist in mid-air. "I wouldn't do that, if I were you."
His dark eyes flashed angrily at the tall Immortal. "Who in the hell are you?"
Her grip tightened painfully on his hand. "Let's just say I'm not a cop." Their gazes locked for a long moment, then Ventriss backed down with a small shudder at the look in her cold eyes.
The door to Captain Banks' office flew open. "Ellison, Connor! What in the hell is going on out here?" Spying Ventriss, the tall man lowered his voice and pasted a smile on his face. "Mr. Ventriss, glad you could come down to help us out. I think we'd all be more comfortable in my office. Detectives?" Megan and Jim followed Ventriss into the other room and Simon closed the door.
Diandra turned to Blair to find the color slowly returning to his face. "You okay, Lobo?" He shook his head slowly, and she pulled him into a tight hug. She could feel faint tremors rocking him. Pressing her cheek against his hair, she whispered, "You want to talk about it?"
He nodded against her shoulder. "Yeah, give me a minute." Finally he let go of her and sat on the edge of Megan's desk.
She moved to stand between his legs, resting her hands on his shoulders. "Who was that?" she asked gently.
"Norman Ventriss." He leaned his cheek against her arm. "His son Brad was a student of mine at Rainier last spring. He was also a cheat, a rapist and a murderer, but because his father is head of QuestScape he thought he could get away with anything, including having me beaten, and then fired from the university."
"Yeah, that's what I said. Only no one would believe me that this guy was bad news, until he turned up in some photos taken by the murdered man as part of his investigation of piracy at QuestScape. Just another of the big potholes in my relationship with Jim." He let out a long, resigned sigh.
Dee's fingers tunneled under his loose hair, massaging the back of his neck. Blair leaned his forehead on her shoulder. "Umm, thanks, that feels good." She pressed a kiss to the top of his head. "So, to make a long story short," he continued, his voice slightly muffled, "we caught Brad trying to escape the country with his girlfriend, and he went to jail without bail to await trial. Only he was killed in a jailhouse brawl in September and never made it in front of a jury."
"And his father, believing his son was innocent, blames you."
Blair lifted his head to meet her eyes. "That's the weird part, his dad knew he was guilty, that he was the one stealing from QuestScape, and that he had murdered the investigator Ventriss Sr. had looking into it. He still tried to help his son escape. And yeah, I guess he does still blame me for Brad's death. If I had just shut up and given him the damn C on the plagiarized paper instead of digging into it, he would still be alive."
She looked deep into his eyes, seeing regret and fear and sadness in their deep blue depths. "You did the right thing, Lobo, you know that. Whatever happened to him was a result of his own actions."
"I know, but…there's a man in there still grieving over his son." She pulled him into another embrace, feeling him bury his face in her neck. They remained in that position for a long time.