T INA LEANED AGAINST the back of Cirra's black Porsche, her long legs stretched out in front of her, arms crossed over her chest as she watched the commotion in the Tool and Dye factory with resigned interest. The place was crawling with Chicago Police officers, FBI agents, and various and sundry emergency medical technicians. All around the front of the car and streaming throughout the interior of the factory were yellow bands of police tape marking off crime scenes. There were bright lights set up from equipment trucks to brighten the place for inspection, the machines inside glinting dusty from the harsh illumination. Flashbulbs went off inside the building like lightening blazing on a stormy night. Outside the cargo bay in the crowded lot, every red and blue light from the patrol cars parked in the dark morning sky was spinning in a dizzying display. The factory was filled with a mess of another sort: Bureaucracy.
The detective had watched as most of Cirra's men who were still alive were hauled off for questioning and arrest. She had made sure they had retrieved every last one of them from where they fell, groaning in pain from the assault by both her and Mariel. She had already given most of the account of Cirra and her whole operation to Sam Lamonie's detectives when they first arrived on scene and she grimaced a bit as she watched him walk towards her, carrying her motorcycle jacket in his hands. He was disheveled, still wearing his pajama shirt under his thin overcoat. Still, he had a smile on his face as he approached.
Sighing, the investigator shifted and crossed her ankles, raising an eyebrow as she drawled out in a slow voice.
The balding police detective walked up and tossed her jacket on the trunk and reached out to pat Tina on her shoulder before realizing from the look on her face that would be a mistake. Instead, he cleared his throat and rubbed his hands together as he spoke goodnaturedly.
"Great work, Tina! I just knew you could solve this case for me."
Tina just shrugged one of her shoulders as she let her eyes flicker over his shoulder, seeing the blond haired scientist walking alongside a gurney carrying her sister out towards a waiting ambulance. Mariel was smiling and holding Lisa's hand. The younger woman was going to be fine once they got fluids moving through her body and kept an eye on her while the heroin left her system. Turning her eyes back to Sam, Tina spoke quietly.
"I didn't solve this case, we did."
Sam turned to where Tina had been looking and followed Mariel as the scientist watched her sister being loaded into the ambulance. With a big smile, he faced the detective again and raised his eyebrows as he shook his head.
"Ah, yes...so I take it you were able to get along well with your partner then."
Tina smiled to herself, only a slight quirk of the corner of her mouth any outward indication.
"You could say that, yes."
Sam smiled, suspecting his own first impression of the two was right on mark. That young FBI agent was just what the dour detective needed. You know, he'd really have to look into horse racing. Why, if he could call something like this on first sight, he could pick out the ponies with no problem. There was money to be made with his gift!
Just as he was about to comment, Tina's face went totally blank and her blue eyes turned violet in anger. Walking towards them was Lieutenant Cortesey, his swagger across the cargo bay unmistakable. Lamonie moved over a bit as the police officer came over, barely acknowledging him. Sam looked nervously at Tina, her body tensing, and then at the smug look on Cortesey . He never liked the arrogant lieutenant anyway.
With a tight smile on his face, Cortesey let his eyes fall on Tina, daring her with a raise of his eyebrow. She wouldn't be stupid enough to engage him in front of all these cops. Looking down at his watch, the police lieutenant shrugged his shoulder before he spoke, gravel voice low against the surrounding din.
"5 a.m. Damn early...I hauled my ass out of bed on my day off just to see this for myself."
Tina pushed off the Porsche and stood tall, her face stone and cold as she looked down at him, her hand unconsciously balling into a fist. Her words were a study in measured control, the ire she felt for this man was clear just below the surface.
"What are you doing here, Cortesey? This isn't your district."
Cortesey laughed as he ran a hand over his scruffy face, his eyes taking in the sight of what was left of Cirra Callistone's body being scraped from the machine behind Tina's back. Too bad. She was a damn fine lay if he did say so himself. Oh well, he could still fuck with Tina Amphipoli for fun.
"True, but when I heard one of my own men solved this case, well, I just had to come and check it out."
Tina growled out her words.
"I was never one of your men."
Cortesey grunted as he shrugged, letting his eyes look her up and down with mildly amused disdain. He never could resist taking a jab at the dyke detective.
"Could have fooled me. No matter, nice work anyway, even if it was a bit sloppy. Kinda reminds me of how good a cop your brother used to be. Too bad you couldn't have been like him."
Tina lunged just as Sam stepped in front of her, blocking the barely restrained detective as her eyes blazed. Cortesey held up his hands and laughed, backing away as he turned to leave, his barb finding its mark in the private detective's heart. Tina's jaw was clenched as she ground out her words at him.
"I'm not through with you yet, Cortesey."
The police lieutenant turned his head back towards Tina and smiled a smarmy grin as he chuckled, loving to taunt the tall woman unmercifully.
"Promises, promises, Amphipoli. That's all you ever are...or were."
Before she could say anything more or better yet, kick his ass across the cargo bay, Mariel walked towards them, sensing the tension in Tina, her golden dark brows coming together as the lieutenant moved away from her partner. Slowing at Tina's side, her eyes acknowledged Sam before she put a hand on the investigator's arm. Softly, she searched Tina's troubled face before speaking.
Sam sensed his presence was no longer needed or desired. Softening his voice, he nodded respectfully up at the still seething woman.
"Good work, Tina. We can finish up with debriefing on Monday. You gave me enough to go on for now and we've got the rest covered. I'll call you, ok?"
With a nod to Lamonie, she agreed as she watched him walk off and talk to the other officers working. Tina took a deep breath and shifted, feeling the scientist's hand move to hers. Mariel was gently uncurling her fingers from the fist she noticed her own hand had made. Letting the scientist's smaller fingers softly open her hand, Tina let go of some of the tension in her body and relaxed a bit under Mariel's patient attention. The quiet presence of the young doctor once again soothed her tired nerves. Smiling a bit, she shook her head.
"Thanks, I'm fine...just someone else from my past again. Seems to be my weekend for that."
Mariel smiled, watching the tension leave the detective's face. Even now, after everything, Tina was simply beautiful. The scientist shivered just a bit as she stood there, her face happy and tired all at the same time. Tina, of course, noticed and looked at Mariel's nearly bare body, seeing the light blond hairs on her arms standing in relief against the goosebumps that covered them.
"Hey, you're cold. Here..."
And with that, she reached behind her and took her big motorcycle jacket from the trunk of the Porsche and draped it over Mariel's shoulders, settling it and making sure the scientist was mostly covered. Mariel looked down at herself swimming in the thick warm leather and smiled back up at Tina.
"Thanks, much better...didn't even notice the cold until I stopped running around kicking butt."
The detective smiled as they watched Valerie being carried out to a waiting ambulance. Turning back to Tina, Mariel continued with a slight nod of her head behind her.
"Lisa's going to be fine by the way. They're taking her for observation to Northwestern's hospital. I told them I wanted her near me and that I'd take care of everything. I talked to my parents a bit ago and they're going to come up as soon as they can. Mom cried and Dad nearly had a heart attack, but they're happy as hell."
Tina looked into Mariel's eyes, seeing the emotion in the depth of green. The scientist had been so relieved when Tina had looked at Lisa before everyone showed up. They had gotten all of the girls out of that stench-filled room first thing and she had directed Mariel to start giving her sister fluids because she was so dehydrated. She herself had done the same for Valerie and it appeared both would be fine with medical care. Now, it was only a matter of time. Of course, Mariel would want to go and be with her sister and parents...nodding, the detective spoke hesitantly.
"So, I guess that means you need to go and meet them at the hospital?"
Mariel shook her head, pulling the leather jacket closer around her shoulders and inhaling the rather intoxicating scent of it and Tina mixed together before she answered.
"Actually..no. Lisa's going to be de-toxed and sedated until tonight to give her body a chance to recover. There'd be nothing we could do except sit in the waiting room until she wakes up. And..I really want to...wait a bit, you know...until she's feeling better before we all go over there. Seeing my parents after all this time and after what happened..it's going to be a shock. For her and them."
The detective nodded her head before she put a hand in her pants pocket. Looking over the scientist's shoulder, she tried to remain casual.
"Your parents going to meet you at your place?"
Shaking her head, the scientist narrowed her eyes at Tina, trying to figure out what was going on with her. When the investigator's blue eyes finally came back to meet her own, she smiled.
"No, Mom and Dad are going to stay with their good friends in Skokie. I told them that was the best place for now until we get this settled. After I reasssured them for the millionth time that Lisa was going to be fine, they calmed down. Now it's just a matter of them getting used to the idea that she's back."
Mariel ran a hand through her hair and shrugged before she looked back up at Tina and continued.
"Besides, I'm hungry and tired and well, they know how I get when I'm both of those things. They said even Skokie sounds better than being around me when I haven't had food or sleep."
They both chuckled at that. Tina felt a bit of relief move through her that Mariel didn't have to rush off. Smiling, the detective wondered just exactly how Mariel got when she was tired and hungry. She wouldn't mind finding out every little detail about this woman.
Just before she started to say something, Agent Amy Ephran walked over towards them, Caitlyn following calmly next to her. The blond agent was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her midnight blue jacket with the FBI logo across the back thrown haphazardly over her clothes. Messy blond locks were another testament to the fact that she too had been sleeping not less than an hour ago and had thrown on whatever was handy to come down here. Smiling, she looked at both Tina and Mariel and shrugged, her voice happily amused.
"Well, nothing like a rogue private detective and a Bureau rookie to solve a case that's taken us months to even get a lead on. Great work, you two."
Tina let a slow smile come to her lips as she looked at Eph, cocking her head to the side as she turned and glanced at Mariel before speaking in a drawl.
"Your rookie here was the pro out in the field. I was just her sidekick."
Mariel laughed out loud before she reached and swatted against the detective's arm, her green eyes sparkling as a light red blush covered her cheeks.
"Tina! Eph, don't listen to her. She did most of the work...I was the sidekick."
The investigator turned and looked down at Mariel before putting her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes. A slight grin threatened to cross Tina's lips.
"Are you arguing with me, Doc?"
Mariel squared her shoulders and put her own hands on her hips, her eyes meeting the detective's in unflinching amusement.
"I most certainly am, Detective."
And then there was silence as the two stared each other down. Eph turned and looked puzzledly down at Caitlyn who grinned back at her and shrugged her shoulders. Turning back to the two women locked in a staring match, the agent cleared her throat.
"Well, at any rate, I'm glad you're both fine..."
Tina raised an eyebrow at Mariel before turning back to Eph, the scientist following suit shortly thereafter with a smile on her face. The scientist spoke as she nodded her head.
"Thanks, Eph. I'll have my short report to you on Monday and the full one by Wednesday. It's going to take a little bit of creative writing to unravel this complicated mess into something the Bureau can work with."
Eph chuckled and nodded, having complete faith that Mariel was indeed going to make one hell of an addition to the FBI. Glancing down at Caitlyn, the agent put her arm around the shorter girl's shoulder and pointed her chin down at her.
"I'm going to help Caitlyn here. It seems that Cirra might have been involved in her aunt's disappearance. That one guy you left on the roof was ready to sing like a jaybird so we're hoping to get what we can. We've got people down at that club on George as we speak too."
Mariel smiled at Caitlyn, seeing the gentle hope in her grey eyes. Speaking softly, she reached out and pressed against the girl's arm.
"We're going to do what we can to help, Caitlyn. Thanks for staying with my sister in there. That was really brave of you."
The young girl just shrugged. To be honest, she thought they were the brave ones. One day, maybe she'd grow up to be just like them. Determined to find her aunt, she was already thinking about her own future career in the FBI. Smiling up at the scientist and then at Tina, Caitlyn spoke.
"It wasn't too bad except for that girl with an attitude we tied up. She swore like a sailor until I finally had to take off her sock and put it in her mouth. She didn't much like that, but I did."
They all chuckled as the factory continued to buzz with activity, the coroner making her rounds from body to body while the police photographers snapped pictures. The red lights started to fade as most of Cirra's wounded henchmen were transported for treatment under police guard. This place would be crawling with feds and cops for many hours but right now, it was the last place two exhausted women wanted to be. Mariel looked over at Eph as she spoke.
"If there's nothing else you need, I know we'd like to get out of here. It's been a long night, believe me."
Eph smiled and reached out, squeezing against the thick leather covering Mariel's shoulder and then looking up at Tina.
"Go on...you two deserve some rest after this whole thing....and thank you...both."
The detective quirked a grin at the blond agent and put her hand on Mariel's back, preparing to lead them out of the Tool and Dye factory. With a wave, the scientist bid goodbye to Eph and Caitlyn. Neither one of them turned when Agent Ephran called out in a highly amused voice.
"Nice leather, Doc."
A smile crossed both Tina and Mariel's faces as they moved out into the parking lot, weaving between the patrol cars and making their way to where the Buick was parked outside the entrance. The detective reached into her back pocket and pulled out the keys to open Mariel's side, watching the tired young doctor slide into the car as she held the door. Grateful for the comfort of the leather interior, the scientist sunk down into the seat. As she shut the door and turned to go around the back to her side, Tina noticed a sleek black car slowly creeping down the street towards her. Odd. A limousine in this neighborhood...at this time of the morning...near this factory.
Pausing at the back bumper of her car, Tina narrowed her eyes as the limo came even with the Buick as it was headed out of this eerily dark before the dawn rundown section of town. The red lights of the cop cars parked some distance away glinted off the mirrored windows. Slowly, the black car came to an almost stop, its wheels crunching on the gravel dotted street until the back window was even with the detective. Almost in slow motion, the window rolled down halfway before Tina saw the occupant in the shadowed interior of the limo. With impeccable hair and mysterious eyes, the man inside smiled widely, his white teeth shining against the darkness surrounding him. A deep seductive voice greeted the investigator.
"Nice job, Tina. Maybe we'll meet up again sometime, hmm? I'll be in touch."
And with that, the man laughed heartily as he threw his head back and rolled up the window, the limo taking off in a hurry down Cermak, leaving only the two red glows of its tailights in its wake. Tina took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair, not knowing who that was but not at all liking the idea that he knew who she was. She had a feeling she'd see the man again though, she'd just have to be ready. Clenching her jaw, she determinedly walked over to her side of the car, sparing one last look at the factory before she opened the door, sinking down behind the wheel and sitting there for a moment with her wrists on top of the steering wheel looking off down the street.
"Who was that, Tina?"
Mariel's voice was quiet in the Buick, the scientist turning in her seat to face the shadowed detective. Slowly, Tina turned her head and looked at Mariel, shaking it slightly as her voice gave away nothing.
"I don't know...yet."
With that, Tina started up the car, revved the engine, and roared down the deserted street away from Olympian Tool and Dye factory and away from part of her past. She wondered, idly, as they sat in the silence of the Chicago dawn that was just beginning to break, if she could ever drive fast enough and far enough to live down the things she had done. Cirra Callistone had been just one of many from her past. Redemption was a slow road though, and as Tina picked up speed and headed towards the Stevenson and points north, the detective considered that she might never get past it all. That is, until she felt the gentle pressure of Mariel's hand on her knee and looked over, seeing the compassion and understanding that was evident on the scientist's face. On second thought...
* * *
Pulling up on Central in front of Mariel's place in Evanston, Tina put the Buick in park and looked down next to her. The scientist had fallen asleep, her lithe body nestled against the right side of Tina's body, her hand still resting limply on the detective's knee. The car ride up Lake Shore Drive had lulled Mariel to sleep easily, the lack of traffic and steady roll of the Regal too much for her tired body to withstand. Tina smiled, gently putting her arm around Mariel's shoulder and softly rubbing against her upper arm. Leaning down next to the blond's head, she spoke quietly.
"Mariel...wake up, we're here."
The scientist just sighed and moved closer, her hand squeezing against Tina's knee as she made murmuring sleepy noises.
Shaking her head, the investigator chuckled as she brought her hand up and gently stroked through Mariel's hair. Even after all of what they had gone through, the young doctor still looked peaceful, her face not showing any trace of the darkness they had been through together. Amazing. Softly, Tina called out again to the sleeping woman.
"Come on, Mariel...let's get you upstairs."
The scientist stirred a bit, twisting her body until she had both arms firmly wrapped around the seated detective's torso as best she could, holding on tight and resting her head against Tina's t-shirted shoulder. In a stubborn sleepy voice, Mariel sighed again.
"I'm not moving unless you promise me you're staying."
Tina's heart did a little beat, knowing that Mariel's comment was an innocent one, but feeling the implications of it nonetheless. If she stayed, she was never going to want to leave; to promise that though, was something else entirely. To be honest, getting involved again, particularly with someone like Mariel, was scary. Very scary. And Tina liked to think she wasn't afraid of anything or anyone. Mariel was the kind of woman you only gave your heart to once because you were never going to get it back...and you never wanted it back. Tina's mind raced at the thought. Quietly, she murmured against the scientist's head.
"I'm not going anywhere, Mariel."
The young doctor squeezed tight before she pulled back a bit and looked into Tina's eyes with fierce conviction. Shaking her head, she spoke.
"No, you promise me, Tina."
The detective took a deep breath, her eyes firmly locked with Mariel's. If this didn't feel so right and so familiar and so comfortable, Tina would have thought she was crazy to make such a promise to someone she had just met two days ago. Somewhere deep down inside of her, she knew that this was meant to be, that she and Mariel had somehow found each other in such a mixed up, unlikely way. The fact that they had found each other told her that she probably shouldn't question it, shouldn't think too hard. Instead, she was going to have to go with her heart, something Tina Amphipoli found both exhilarating and frightening. Looking down in Mariel's soft green eyes and the way the scientist held on to her with everything she had, Tina knew it was now or never.
Mariel smiled gently at the investigator's whispered voice, seeing the way Tina's face relaxed with her words. Something passed between them, she could tell that even from her drowsy state. She suspected that Tina didn't make promises she couldn't or didn't want to keep. Sighing contentedly, Mariel leaned up and gave a quick kiss on the detective's cheek before patted against Tina's belly. In a tired voice that Tina found adorable, she spoke.
"Good....because I'm starving and I was hoping you could cook because I can't."
Tina chuckled and raised an eyebrow, cocking her head a little to the side as she spoke with supreme confidence.
"I've been known to have a skill or two so I think food can be arranged."
Mariel smiled and closed her eyes, taking a moment to pause and simply soak in the thought of getting cleaned up a bit, having something nice to eat, sleeping. It was a downright cozy thought to be having and all the more appealing if any of said activities involved one rather comfortable, strong, beautiful detective. Sighing, the scientist opened her eyes and saw Tina quirking an eyebrow at her.
Tina's low voice questioned in the quiet of the Buick. The sun was just beginning to come out, the sky above them a faint pinkish-blue on this fall morning. There was no traffic to speak of and only a solitary jogger passed them on the other side of the street. The warmth of the car was nice and feeling the weight of Tina's jacket around her shoulders was even nicer. Idly, Mariel wondered if it could get any better than this before she smiled back at the investigator and nodded, her words sure and steady.