Same disclaimers for this story apply (e.g. adult content, violence, language, etc). See Part 1 for details.

Chapter 26: Mousetrap!

They flew down Lake Shore Drive, Tina kicking the Buick in overdrive on the nearly vacant roadway, the gleaming skyline to their right. The speed and the urgency matched Mariel's heartbeat, still doing doubletime from that one incredible kiss. She'd been in a haze since they had parted and smiled a little shyly at each other; and if she licked, she was still able to taste the detective on her lips. The quick walk to find the car had blurred past, the newness and intensity of the young doctor's feelings making it hard to remember the details. They hadn't said much, Tina giving her a couple of looks, just to check in and make sure she was still with her. And really, Mariel was very, very much with her. One minute they'd been kissing and the next, she was here seated in the warmth of the investigator's car, quite aware of the woman sitting next to her and quite aware of her how that made her feel. Focus, Mariel, focus. The case, remember the case, remember..


She blurted out, Tina turning quickly to her, a concerned look on her face. The scientist reached out, her hand lightly grabbing the leather covering Tina's arm before she continued.

"Tina, she's going to be alright, isn't she?"

The detective's eyes found Mariel's as she nodded, her mind brought back from that sidewalk moment. She had been thinking about the way Mariel was lightly shaking in her arms while they kissed, the softness of her lips, and the almost unbelieving, surprised look in her eyes when they had parted. She stored the feelings of those sweet moments away for future study, still marveling at how much she did indeed feel with this woman. With her mind forced back on the case, her voice was quiet in the hush of the Buick's interior.

"I think so. It seems that Cirra wanted to play a little cat and mouse with us. As long as she's got Caitlyn, her game's still on."

Tina let her eyes narrow as they drove past Soldier Field, her foot pressed firmly down on the gas. Right now, she didn't give a damn about speeding, not with the image of Caitlyn's terrified face in her mind. She played over every scene in that damn club for some clue as to why Cirra and why now. She had a feeling the blond was going to have great pleasure telling her when they met up again.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Mariel's voice was soft as the occasional streetlight illuminated the investigator's face, her jaw clenching tight as she stared straight ahead of them, driving the car with unblinking ease. She maneuvered the Regal steadily, taking an exit for the Dan Ryan and merging into the light traffic as she accelerated. For a moment, the scientist thought that Tina either didn't hear her or wasn't going to talk, until she cleared her throat.

"I used to go to school with Cirra...back in Detroit...that is, when I bothered to show up at all."

Tina glanced over at Mariel, not quite knowing how to explain this in the best possible light. But, she decided, it was always better to go with honesty than to lie about one's past. Besides, it's who she was back then, and if the young doctor wanted to know who she was dealing with, Tina felt she should come cleaner.

"I told you about the guys I used to hang with there..."

Mariel looked at her and nodded, remembering their conversation over lunch. The expressway was essentially empty, the few cars they passed seemed to be in slow motion. Keeping her eyes forward, the detective sighed before her voice lowered, her hand gripping the wheel tighter.

"Mariel, we were wild back in those days and we liked it that way...almost like a gang, I suppose... minor crimes, fighting other kids, hurting people. We were young and stupid and...I wasn't a very nice person then."

The scientist tried to imagine what it would have been like to have known Tina back then, her own Indiana past feeling like the polar opposite existence it was. She never got into trouble because there was nothing to do. Even though she knew she needed to leave one day, she couldn't imagine it then, the illusion of their simple life feeling like a panacea for all things. All she had ever known was the farm and small town Midwestern ideals and all of that rarely included big city problems or people like Tina Amphipoli. She doubted the detective would have noticed her even if they had crossed paths, and it sounded like she was lucky she didn't. Clearing her throat, Mariel shifted in her seat to speak.

"Sometimes circumstance has a way of moving people in directions they never thought they'd go. I suppose what makes us human is being able to change those directions because we want to. Tina, you're who you are now because of what you were then, good or bad, right or wrong. I'm not here to be judge, jury, and executioner. I'm here to be your friend and your partner."

Tina looked over at the young doctor, her green eyes actually conveying the belief in those words. Reaching out, she smiled, letting her hand rest on Mariel's knee as she gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Mariel Potidean, you are something, you know that?"

The scientist laughed, shrugging her shoulders as she spoke.

"Well, when you figure out what that something is, tell me because I'm dying to know.."

Tina smiled as she drove, spotting the Chinatown/22nd Street exit off the Ryan ahead. The Buick easily glided across the expressway, heading towards their destination as the detective's hand rested loosely on the bottom of the steering wheel. Slowing down, she came off the ramp and turned east, the bright lights of the car shining down Cermak. The street was deserted and dirty, the industrial buildings starting to loom darkly off to the sides. Mariel glanced around before she looked back at Tina.

"So, how does Cirra figure into all of this."

The detective slowed the car down, narrowing her eyes as she looked along the street, taking in the buildings. Mariel turned her head to look as well. Without saying anything, the scientist pointed ahead through the windshield, the Olympian Tool and Dye sign visible. The imposing building was dark and big, sulking in the shadows like a brick monster behind its cage of razor-wired fencing. Tina pulled the car off behind an abandoned security booth for the parking lot next to the factory and turned off the lights. Her eyes first flicked to the darkness before turning to Mariel and shaking her head, her murmur quiet in the peace of the Buick.

"I have no idea..."


"Get in there!"

Cirra screamed, shoving Caitlyn into the dark room as the girl stumbled and fell, her bound hands making it impossible to balance. With a flick of a switch, the blond turned on the low overhead light in the room, wrinkling her nose at the smell and the sight. Lisa was passed out on a cot, her clothes soiled where she had been unable to make it to the bucket in the corner, the drugs making her oblivious to most things anyway. Valerie was hunched in a ball in the corner, vomit near her, shaking like a leaf and sweating profusely, too weak to even respond to Cirra. The whole room reeked of urine and vomit and stale air. She watched Caitlyn twist, turning to sit up and look around, her eyes first showing shock at the sight and then becoming steel grey with anger. With a shrug of her shoulder against her mouth, she was able to get the gag from it as she narrowed her eyes at Cirra in rage.

"You will pay for this, you rotting stinking witch! When Tina gets here.."

Cirra interrupted her with a laugh before her face changed and her brown eyes went icy cold.

"When Tina gets here, she's going to die. So will you."

Cirra turned, her face business-like and cold as her eyes met Teddy. The large bulky man was standing behind her, his ever-present sister Tara off to the side and Leon near as well. Adam and Bud had remained in the control room keeping an eye on the factory floor below them. With a voice sounding more calm than they had ever heard before, the blond spoke.

"She'll be here soon. I expect that all the preparations have been made and you remember your orders."

Teddy nodded seriously, knowing that Cirra was in no mood for fuck ups, not now. When they had seen her practically fly under the slowly opening cargo door in her black Porsche, a scream escaped her lips as she jumped out of the car and smiled. They had all been upstairs in the control room, drinking beer and watching whatever bad movie was on the USA channel at 3 in the morning. A few men from the Cage had shown up earlier in the night, ordered as added security for the place. That made a total of eight men in the building, stationed at various parts on the lookout for Cirra's guest of honor. Reaching out, Cirra grabbed Tara and pulled her towards her.

"'re so eager to learn the ropes. Get in there and make sure those three stay put."

And before Tara could protest (and she was going to protest, given that she had caught the smell of the room from where she stood), Cirra pushed her in and slammed the door shut before turning back to Leon.

"You, whatever your name is, I want you up on the roof. Take the radio and keep watch. Go."

Leon moved off, following this woman's orders. He had been the one who had gone with Cirra Callistone when they had taken care of that guy who talked about club activities, the one the cops found in pieces under the Stevenson. Although he never spoke of it, he had been fucking scared shitless by how easily and without feeling Cirra sliced that guy up, with a machete no less, her eyes going distant as a smile crossed her lips with each bloody stroke. He had thought they had gone to scare him, maybe rough him up a bit. What he saw that night made him realize that Cirra Callistone was a monster, pure and simple.

"And Teddy, dear..."

The blond crooned as she reached out and ran a hand over his chest before she grabbed his neck and held it tightly, her fingernails digging in.

"When she gets here, you make sure that nobody...I mean, nobody interferes. Got it? She's all mine. Take care of her little friend, but leave Tina to me or so help me, I'll kill your sorry ass."

The big guy swallowed under the pain and nodded meekly, lowering his eyes as he spoke.

"Yes, Mistress Cirra. As you wish."

Cirra let go of him and whirled around, untying her black velvet cape and tossing it back to Teddy without so much as a second thought. Clapping her hands together, she smiled as she went to wait for the arrival of her old high school buddy, Tina Amphipoli. Seeing her tonight had been priceless, the look of almost recognition by that black-haired bitch was so sweet. Oh, she was going to pay alright. Every single moment of planning and set up was for this night, when she would meet the woman to blame for her pain, for her misery. She didn't care what happened after tonight, didn't care whether anyone around her lived or died, whether her stupid little slave 'business' survived. She didn't give a fuck about anything but exacting a price for what had been done to her. And it was finally time for Tina to see what she had made, what she was responsible for creating. Cirra would finally get what she had always wanted, what her twisted mind demanded: Vengeance, tonight, for the past.


"This is a trap, you know."

They stood just outside the fence, looking at the eerily quiet, dark building. Mariel's words had been quiet and subdued as well, watching the detective survey the scene in front of them with a practical planning eye. Her blue eyes were narrowed as she looked at their possible entry points, the defenses of the building, the weaknesses. Without looking at the scientist, Tina reached out a hand and took hold of the fencing, the entrance gate to their left purposely open.

"I know."

Tina's low voice acknowledged. It was clear that she was thinking, figuring out a plan of action to get them in safely and still take care of Cirra. Mariel let her eyes drift back to the building, seeing a low utility shed near the far end, opposite from where it looked like a cargo door for shipments was located. Pointing to it, the scientist whispered, not knowing why, but feeling like she needed to be quiet anyway.

"There's a shed on the end over there. We could climb up and go in from the roof."

The investigator narrowed her eyes to where Mariel was pointing and assessed. They couldn't go in through the cargo doors, that would be the most vulnerable and open way into the building. The front entrance door was long ago boarded up and secured, getting through it would cause a ruckus and make things more difficult. No, if this was the trap Tina was sure it was, they needed some element of surprise. Cirra would know they would be coming, but if she didn't know exactly when or where, they might have a chance to level the playing field a bit more.


Tina agreed as she scanned the roof for anyone stationed there. Seeing no one, she turned to face the young doctor, her hand reaching out and resting on Mariel's shoulder.

"Ok, here's the plan. We go up and get in as quickly and as quietly as possible. There's always an entrance from the roof of these places with all the ventilation equipment housed on top of the building."

Mariel nodded, her eyes turning back and seeing various large structures on the roof itself, the dark outlines of chemical vents and short smoke stacks and air conditioning units visible. The detective continued.

"Once we get inside, we need to locate where Caitlyn is, whether Cirra still has her with her or put her someplace else. We also need to get a message to Eph and Sam. I want back up here once we find Caitlyn. I don't know how many of her people are in that building, but I want to make sure no one gets hurt. The more people on our side, the better."

Letting her hand reach into the inside pocket of her leather jacket, Mariel pulled out something dark and heavy. Holding it out to Tina, she spoke softly, nodding at the detective, her eyes serious.

"Here. I thought you might need this."

Tina looked down and took the object, recognizing it automatically once it fit in her hand. Her .38 Special. Feeling its familiar weight in her hand, she pulled the gun out of the clip holster and flipped open the cylinder, seeing seven bullets neatly loaded in the chambers. The metal of the gun was warm from being against the scientist's body and Tina let a small smile cross her lips. Mariel had gone back up into her apartment before they left for the night and taken this, somehow knowing that things might get dangerous for them later. Putting the gun back in its holster, the detective clipped it securely on her belt and looked up at Mariel, her voice soft.

"Thank you..."

With a smile and a warmth in her green eyes, the scientist shrugged.


Tina's hand came up and she let it lightly brush against the scientist's cheek before she reached down, removing the nightstick at her side. Holding it out to Mariel, she smiled.

"Think you might have a use for this?"

Mariel chuckled as she took it, grabbing the handle firmly and spinning it expertly at her side, the black stick moving blurringly in a figure eight before she found a beltloop in her leather pants and put in through. With a smirk, the scientist explained

"Sensi Po-Nin always said I was good with a stick."

Tina smiled back before she cocked her head to the side, letting an amused and proud look cross her face. The scientist had a way of surprising her like no one ever had. There were so many things she didn't know about Mariel and she was looking forward to finding out each and every little thing. With a lopsided grin, the investigator drawled.

"Mariel, I didn't know you could handle yourself so well in the field."

Narrowing her eyes with a glint of something sexy, the young doctor moved closer to Tina as she lowered her voice.

"I have many skills."

Tina just smiled and chuckled a bit before she caught Mariel's eyes. As her own smile faded to a more serious expression, she reached out and pulled the shorter woman into a tight embrace, wanting to remember what it felt like to have her warm body against the detective's own. Mariel fell right into place, reaching her arms in between the warmth of Tina's leather jacket and her black t-shirt as she felt the investigator bring her closer still. They both needed this contact, needed to make sure the other person was right there with them, that it was real. They knew they were about to face unknown danger and the idea of doing it together made it seem safer. And right. It felt like this was supposed to be the way things should be, how it was meant to be. Letting her eyes look over the top of Mariel's head, Tina scanned the dark building again before she leaned down, finding the scientist's ear.

"Be careful in there, ok?"

Mariel's cheek rested against the detective's shirt, just below her neck and she could almost hear Tina's heart beating. Squeezing against the strong muscled back under her hands, she nodded silently against the investigator before she pulled back a bit. Gently, she leaned up and placed a soft kiss against Tina's neck under her chin, lightly tasting the salt of the detective's skin before she murmured.

"You too."

Tina smiled to herself as she pulled the scientist closer for one last squeeze, putting her chin on top of Mariel's head. Reluctantly, they parted and looked at each other before Tina stepped forward, her hand grasping the fence again as her eyes turned to the Olympian Tool and Dye building, knowing that Cirra Callistone was waiting for them, for her. Glancing over to where Mariel stood beside her, she steeled herself for the impending events to come.

"Alright, let's go."

Chapter 27: Resistance

They made their way along the inside of the fence, skirting the perimeter of the Olympian Tool and Dye's property. Tina was in front, a dark shadow moving steadily through the night, Mariel right behind her. Their footsteps crunched on the lightly paved but gravel strewn parking lot towards the left end of the building, away from the cargo doors. There were no lights on inside the building except for a few very dim faint glows of golden coming through one or two black painted windows. Walking towards the dark dilapidated utility shed, the detective's eyes scanned for any sign of danger. With a nod, Tina signaled to Mariel with her head towards the back side of the shed where a row of industrial chemical barrels sat, rusty and leaking.

Mariel watched as Tina climbed on top of one of the barrels before reaching up and grasping the edge of the shed roof, hoisting herself up effortlessly. After easily swinging her legs up and steadying herself, she nodded down at the scientist and held out her hand. Mariel carefully climbed up on one of the barrels, the metal creaking under her weight. Taking the investigator's strong hand, she felt herself pulled up, helping as she swung her leg over. Once they were both on top of the shed, Tina looked around and spotted a set of metal rungs going up the side of the building about five feet up from the shed's roof.


Tina whispered, pointing to the barely visible metal ladder. Mariel looked and nodded as they carefully walked on the top of the shed, mindful of the frail aluminum they crossed. Once to the building wall, the detective got behind the scientist and lifted her easily until Mariel grabbed the bottom rung and pulled herself up, climbing up a bit. Turning, she watched as Tina skillfully jumped and grabbed the rung, pulling herself up before they both made their way up the side of the building. As she neared the top, Mariel looked up and saw the roof ledge coming closer. With one last rung, she came even with the ledge, putting her hands on the cold brick surface.

At that instant, a big bulky dark form appeared in front of her and swung a huge fist towards her head. If she hadn't developed the type of instincts she had from her karate training, Mariel would have been knocked off the building without so much as a chance to make a noise. As it was, she barely ducked, catching part of the man's glancing blow against the top side of her head, throwing her back a bit as her hands reached out to desperately grab the ladder. Tina reached up and caught the scientist's weight above her.

"Hang on!"

And with a whirl of blurring speed, Tina practically flew up the ladder, essentially jumping over Mariel's body clinging to the rungs. Leon was bending over the side of the building, trying to pry Mariel's hands off when he saw the detective's tall form jumping up over the ledge and landing next to him. Pulling back, he stood and looked at Tina for a shocked second before a roundhouse kick snapped his head to the side.

"Take that!"

Staggering, Leon turned and faced her again, bringing one of his huge fists at the detective's midsection. Spinning easily away from the blow, Tina landed an elbow on the back of his neck as he moved past her. Falling to his knees, Leon shook his head and grabbed the radio, trying to bring it to his mouth. It was suddenly knocked from his hand and he looked up to see Mariel just finishing a perfect kick. Still surprised, it was too late before he felt a deathgrip on his neck as Tina reached around and strangled him, bringing a cold hard gun to his temple and growling.

"You just did a very stupid thing."

Pulling back the hammer of her .38 Special, she cocked the gun and put pressure against his neck with force before continuing in the lowest and most deadly serious voice she had.

"You hurt her. So I'm going to hurt you. First, you're gonna tell me where Cirra is and where she put that girl she brought here."

Leon laughed, something he never did unless he was scared. He had laughed so hard under the expressway that night that he thought perhaps he was crazy. Now, he knew he was. Feeling this woman's strength, effortlessly holding him tight, he couldn't help himself. Tina squeezed tighter and hissed.

"You think that's funny? I'll tell you what's funny."

The detective brought the gun back and smashed it against the back of his head, opening up a nasty gash in his skull and drawing blood as he groaned out in pain and slumped forward a little. Mariel put her hand to her head and crouched down next to them with one knee on the ground to steady herself, glancing up at Tina and seeing the darkness in her eyes. The detective looked at her and clenched her teeth, not at all liking the small line of blood she could see at the edge of Mariel's blond hairline. She could feel her own blood boiling at the thought. Drawing out her words slowly, she was close to pulling the trigger. Very close.

"Where's the girl?"

Leon was not stupid. He could feel the strength holding him and the blows that had left him dazed. And with no sign of Cirra, he decided to choose the lesser of two evils.

"They're in a supply room downstairs...the one with the grey door."

Mariel's brow came together before she questioned him, swallowing a bit at the pain.


Leon nodded, feeling Tina squeeze his neck harder. The detective leaned closer, pressing the gun barrel back against his temple as she spoke.

"Where's Cirra?"

Leon shook his head, trying to shrug but unable in the deathgrip of the detective. Swallowing, his gruff words barely audible.

"I don't know."

Tina decided she had enough of this, anxious to check on Mariel and get inside. Putting her gun back in her holster, she grabbed Leon's head and pushed it forward before bringing it back quickly, her knee driving hard into the back of his head and knocking him well unconscious as he crumpled in a heap. Reaching back around to her belt, she angrily pulled out another pair of handcuffs and put one cuff on his meaty wrist, dragging him easily over the roof, his face sliding across the gravel before she attached the other end to the top rung of the ladder they had just climbed. Walking back towards where Mariel was now sitting, she crunched the radio laying on the ground under her boot.

" ok?"

The scientist looked up, seeing Tina move to her and crouch down, her hands reaching out to push back blond hair gently, letting her fingers touch very carefully, examining the wound. Mariel smiled and shrugged.

"I've had worse."

Tina stopped probing and looked at her, shaking her head at the scientist before her fingers continued their gentle quest to assess the damage. She nearly had a heart attack when she watched that guy come out of nowhere and swing at Mariel when they were on the ladder. In fact, she was sure her heart stopped when she saw the glancing blow. Her body simply took over automatically and she reacted. And now, looking at Mariel's face, grimacing at the slight pain, she was almost went back over to him and killed him right where he lay. Taking a deep breath, Tina shook her head.

"That was too close. We know where Caitlyn don't have to go in."

Mariel reached up and took Tina's hand, letting her fingers entwine. Sighing, the scientist shook her head as she spoke.

"Tina, I'm not leaving you. We go in together."

The detective looked into Mariel's eyes, the dim light from the streetlights casting her green eyes in a soft golden glow. Smiling slightly, she knew she had one very determined, brave woman on her hands and it was clear she wasn't going to talk her out of it now. Despite the danger, Tina knew that it was Mariel's choice and that the young doctor chose to go in and help rescue Caitlyn and whoever else Cirra had prisoner in there.

" ready then?"

Mariel smiled and brought Tina's hand to her lips, remembering how safe she felt when that hand had held her securely on the ladder and had come to her defense in an impressive display. With a soft kiss, she nodded before the detective rose, pulling her with her to stand. Reaching up to the slight wound on her head, she chuckled.

"Just think of the story I'll get to tell about this."

With that, they headed towards the roof entrance, maneuvering through the ventilation ducts and other equipment before they came to a simple door, a brick placed in it to crack it open. Mariel took the doorknob and was about to pull it open when Tina reached out and gently grasped her arm. Looking at the scientist, she held up her wrist and raised an eyebrow in question.

"Want me to take these off you?"

She meant the handcuffs, still attached to the young doctor. Mariel looked at her arm and smiled, her face turning up towards the tall investigator. With a shrug, she spoke quietly

"Actually, unless you need them, I'd kind of like to keep them on...for authenticity purposes only, of course."

Tina chuckled, reaching for the door and opening it, leaning down to whisper in the scientist's ear, drawing out the word.


Once inside the narrow stairwell that led down from the roof, Tina's face went back to all-business as did Mariel's. Quietly descending the stairs in darkness, they came to the bottom as the detective opened the heavy steel door slowly, cracking it just enough to peer through. They appeared to be on the second floor at the end of a short hallway, the other end having stairs leading down and opening up to show the dim lights of the abandoned factory in front and below them. From her vantage point, Tina could see metal catwalks and platforms on the same level they were, the building looking a good fifty yards or so in length. From the ceiling, very dim lighting fixtures hung by long cords, casting an almost eery glow and throwing the whole factor in shadows. At the other end of the building, she could barely make out the cargo doors.

Motioning them forward, Tina led the way as they cautiously moved out of the stairwell and into the hallway, pressing along one of the dark walls until they came to the opening. Mariel saw no movements in the whole factory, but given that they had already met up with one of Cirra's thugs, she knew there would be more stationed elsewhere. Letting her eyes roam over their surroundings, she saw that along the outer walls of the building on the second floor was a walkway, a thin railing gleamed in the dull light. Crisscrossing above the floor were the catwalks and platforms, stationed above big pieces of equipment, tool and dye machines protruding pipes and other metal pieces from the floor below. Except for the stairway down, the only other option was the walkway. And given that Caitlyn was being held downstairs, that appeared to be the best choice. Looking up at Tina whose own eyes were assessing the interior with determined intensity, she gently pulled down on the detective's shoulder to speak quietly in her ear.

"Tina, I think the best plan is for us to split up. Let me go downstairs and find Caitlyn, make sure she's ok and then call Eph. You go find Cirra and take care of her."

Tina looked at her like she was crazy and had just suggested that she step blindly into a lion's den wearing a suit of raw meat. Taking both of the scientist's shoulders, she gave a shake of her head and leaned down, finding Mariel's ear as she whispered fiercely.

"No way! I'm not letting you go by yourself! We don't know how many people are in here. I can't just let you go wandering off on your own."

Mariel's eyebrows came together in consternation as she looked back at Tina for a moment before she whispered.

"Tina, please, don't treat me like a child. Not here, not now. Believe it or not, I can take care of myself in most situations. You and I both know that until backup comes, we've got to secure Caitlyn and whoever else is locked up with her. Now, we can't do that if Cirra's wandering around waiting to jump us. It makes more sense for you to distract her and for me to take care of this part."

Every single instinct in the detective's body was warning against this option. A growing sense of protectiveness had come over her where the young doctor was concerned and to just let her go off...well, it made her nervous as hell to say the least. But, Mariel did have a point. If she could confront Cirra and draw attention away from that supply room, she'd give the scientist enough time to find Caitlyn and get her to someplace more secure. And Mariel certainly was no child...she was capable of making her own decisions and it was true, she could take care of herself. There was no reason why Tina should make demands to go with her. Fine, but if there was so much as a hair out of place on Mariel's body, she would tear this place up from top to bottom and leave no survivors. She'd agree to the plan but she didn't have to like it. Sighing, Tina spoke quietly.

"Alright. But I want you to be careful and wait for my signal...I'll try to get everyone's attention on me. When the coast is clear....and only then, you go in, get Caitlyn and get the hell out of there as quickly as you can. Make your way back up here if you can until help arrives. You can use the roof if you need to escape."

Mariel nodded, having seen the mental gymnastics Tina went through before she decided on this plan. She knew the detective didn't like it one bit, but truly, it was the best thing. If Tina went with her to find Caitlyn, it would just put them all in danger more, Cirra no doubt expecting that and planning on it for her trap. If Tina could draw Cirra out away from the supply room, they all had a better shot at getting everyone out safely before backup arrived. Reaching out, Mariel took Tina's hand and gave it a squeeze before she whispered.

"Good. While I'm down there, I'm going to look for a phone to call Eph. I promise, at the first sign of any real danger, I'll make sure I follow your rules."

Tina cocked her head and looked down at the scientist, not quite sure what she was referring to until Mariel helpfully supplied the answer by leaning up real close and whispering in her ear.

"Rule number one..."

And after she said those words, she kissed very gently against the side of Tina's cheek and pulled back. The detective smirked and raised an eyebrow before she leaned in and whispered into Mariel's ear herself.


Pulling back, she gave the scientist a kiss of her own against the softness of her cheek. The shorter woman smiled, her head nodding as she softly spoke.

"You got it, detective."

Tina shook her head and peered back out across the factory, her keen eyes looking for any sign of movement. At the far end near the cargo doors, she saw the faint flicker of bluish light coming from a glassed in room on the second floor. Glancing down the stairs, she didn't see anyone below on the floor and simply prayed to whatever or whoever that Mariel would not encounter anyone she couldn't take care of with the nightstick and her karate skills. For once, she wished the new FBI agent wasn't so adverse to carrying a gun of her own. Plotting her course on the walkway, she pointed at the room at the far end and leaned down to Mariel.

"Ok..I'm going over to that room, looks like someone might be in it. When you start hearing the commotion, you hightail your pretty little butt downstairs and get to work. And please..."

Here Tina paused, her blue eyes turning very serious in the dim light as her hands came to rest on the scientist's shoulders. With concern and feeling, she whispered to the woman who was quickly becoming a part of her heart, deep, deep inside.

"..please be careful, Mariel. I'd...really like to show you the best Chicago has to offer when all of this is said and done."

Mariel smiled, knowing that she had the best Chicago had to offer standing right in front of her.

"I'd like that. You be careful too, ok?"

Tina nodded, a smile coming to her face as well.

"Will do. Remember, wait for my signal."

Mariel nodded once and stood back against the wall as she watched Tina ease around the corner, her dark form blending into the darkness of the factory walls as she made her way along the second floor walkway towards the other end of the building. Holding her breath, she watched and waited, seeing Tina disappear into the distance. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Mariel ran a hand through her hair, mindful of the blow to her head. That had been a close one for sure. Reaching down, she pulled the nightstick from her beltloop and stood back, getting a good grip on the handle and practicing a bit with it to warm up and get used to its feel. She had to admit, she was much better with the staff Sensi Po-Nin had trained her with years ago, saying that all blackbelts should know how to expertly handle every weapon. Mariel was just a belt short of black, but she was good and expected to rise to that level this coming summer with intensive training. Agent Ephran had guaranteed her she'd have those training hours built into her schedule when she started the job. With a quick glide of the stick through the air, Mariel was satisfied with the feel of the weapon and was just about to move forward when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Two sets. Two heavy sets coming directly towards her. With a rueful shake of her head, she pressed her back against the hallway wall in the darkness and silently thought to herself.

'Well, Tina, as much as I'd like to wait for your signal, I'm afraid I'm going to have to do some buttkicking of my own before then. Wish me luck.'

Chapter 28: Taking Care of Business

Tina moved along the walkway and spared one last glance to the darkened hallway where Mariel remained, still warily unsure about leaving her there and the plan they had made. The Tool and Dye building held endless possibilities of danger and splitting up seemed to increase the odds that the scientist might confront that danger alone. And as much as she didn't like that idea, the detective also realized that trying to hold Mariel's hand every time the going got tough was not only impossible, but also very patronizing. They were both equal partners in this and both willing to take the same chances, regardless of the danger. The young doctor was not a delicate flower she could hide away while she went off and did all the dirty work. She respected her more than that and Mariel didn't deserve to be coddled. Her FBI training had prepared her for this and she had willingly chosen to continue. Tina had to face it, at this particular juncture, they were going to have to trust and rely on each other not only to get their respective missions accomplished, but also to keep themselves safe. After all, that was what this whole case was about: They were partnered together and now it was time to put their trust in the other on the line.

Tina narrowed her eyes and continued forward, looking for any movement down below. Approaching the blue light coming from the glassed in control room, she crouched down to the side of it. The walkway continued in front of the large window with the door to the room at the other end near a set of steps leading down into the cargo bay below. From where she stopped, she could see two men standing down on the floor near the huge cargo doors, a black Porsche parked just inside. They were leaning against the door with baseball bats in their hands.

Slowly, she leaned up, peering cautiously in the very corner of the control room window. Inside, Adam and Bud sat on two metal folding chairs, their eyes glued to the small television screen. Looking back behind her and seeing nothing in the darkness, she glanced down at the guards by the door. If she could sneak below the large window and surprise the two inside the room, she'd have enough time to take care of them before the two men below heard the commotion and came upstairs. That should be enough to bring Cirra out of her hiding place and enough for Mariel to go unnoticed at the other end of the building. With easy stealth, the detective started her move. Ducking under the window, Tina lightly ran, keeping to the side of the wall just out of sight of the men below and in the room. Once to the other side, she grinned to herself before her booted foot smashed into the door, swinging it open before she rushed the room.


Cirra watched from her perch high above the factory floor, a smile coming to her lips when she first saw Tina moving towards the control room on the walkway. Oh, this was just too easy! She had planned it all so well and it was going splendidly. Settled on a metal platform suspended a level above the catwalks high up into the rafters of the building, Cirra felt like she was playing a real life game of chess, moving her pieces here and there, slowly bringing Tina Amphipoli closer to her. She told her men to engage Tina but not to kill her. The blond wanted to see for herself whether her old friend had lost any of her supposed skills. Ha! That was a joke. The Tina she remembered was nothing but a heartless street punk and the stories she heard about her now were laughable. Cirra ran her hand through her hair, pulling at the white blond strands roughly as she looked on, licking her lips, she was barely able to contain herself before they would finally meet. Face to face.


Caitlyn got up, warily looking over at Tara who was sulking as she sat as far away from them as possible, her back to the wall just next to the metal door. All she did was glare back at Caitlyn. How rude. Making her way over to the girl in the corner, Caitlyn nudged her a little bit to make sure she was ok. Valerie looked up at her with scared eyes, her body rebelling against its addiction. All she could do was blink at the young girl.

"It'll be alright. Hang in there, someone will get us out."

Valerie took a shuddering breath and let her head rest back down on her forearms, shaking steadily as she tried to simply survive this nightmare. Caitlyn shook her head, having seen the signs of withdraw before, friends at school even at her age. Walking over to the cot, she sat down gently on the edge, her hands still bound behind her back. The girl was facing the wall on her side, murmuring a little in her stupor. As best she could, Caitlyn let her hand touch gently against the girl's back. At the slight touch, Lisa came to just a bit, lifting her head and turning it up to look at the young blond behind her. Slurring, she tried to focus on the face but only saw the pale blond hair. Blond blond blond...

"Wha...who is that? M.m.."

Caitlyn smiled, trying to comfort this dark haired girl who, it seemed, was drugged and left to await the same fate as she. With a soft voice, she soothed down to Lisa.

"I'm a friend. Help is on the way. We'll be out of here soon, I promise."

Lisa shut her eyes and smiled, nodding. She liked the sound of this girl's voice and she was so blond. So like her sister...and then she drifted off in that thought, her feet carrying her trudgingly through row after row after row of corn before she looked down and saw footprints. And in her dreaming, she followed them, knowing they would lead to Mariel.


Mariel took a deep breath and as the men got to the top of the stairs, she went on the offensive, jumping forward and swinging the nightstick at one of the man's knees before jumping back into the darkened hallway. Howling in pain, he went down briefly before the other leather clad man realized what was happening and readied himself. Surging forward, he grasped into the darkness, his hands falling on leather as he pulled forward. The scientist easily spun to the side, freeing one arm from the jacket before ducking under and releasing her other arm. Low to the ground, she kicked out, connecting with the man's left leg as he clutched empty leather. Stumbling back, the man threw down the jacket and caught up with his buddy, both of them deciding to attack what they could barely see in the dim light: a short blond woman in black leather pants and a black bra, holding on to a nightstick with an expert grip as she smirked at them, her dark golden eyebrow raising in a challenge.

"Come're not afraid of a girl now are you, boys?"


Adam and Bud were startled, throwing their chairs back as they quickly tried to stand. Reaching for a shotgun on the control table, Adam lunged. With a laugh, Tina ran and jumped on the table with ease, kicking forcefully against the side of his face and reaching down for the gun. With a growl, Adam rushed forward and tried to grab the detective's legs. Tina sidestepped him while keeping her eye on Bud who was reaching for a long metal pipe. Using the gun like a staff, she spun around before dipping down and cracking the wood butt against the side of Adam's head, his limp body slumping to the ground.

"Aww...what's the matter? Headache tonight, honey?"

Tina smirked as her voice taunted the unconscious man before Bud yelled out, seeing his lover's head bleeding profusely.

"You fucking bitch!"

And he ran at her, jumping up on the table himself until they both stood facing each other on the five foot wide surface, sidestepping various knobs and buttons as they prepared to do battle. He was as tall as Tina, his eyes narrowed in rage at her as his hands gripped the metal pipe tightly. With a smile, the detective leveled the shotgun at him and raised an eyebrow.

"Do you really want a hole in you?"

Bud eased a step forward before raising his hands up in surrender. If his right eye hadn't been twitching, Tina might have believed him. As it were, he feigned right with the pipe before he brought the left end around, smashing it against the barrel of the gun, crushing the metal in and rendering it useless to fire. He chuckled darkly as she looked down at the gun.

"Now what are you gonna do, you cunt?"

Looking up, she raised an eyebrow at him, tossing the shotgun to the control room floor with a clatter. Letting a dark menacing look fill her eyes, she smiled at him.

"Do you know what happened to the last guy who called me that?"

A bit perplexed by her amused tone of voice and its total contrast with the look in her eye, Bud shifted, still holding the long pipe firmly in his two hands. Tina slowly raised her hand to head, fashioning her fingers into a pretend gun as she held it to her temple, pulling the pretend trigger. His eyes followed her hand which was a mistake that would take him to his grave.

With lightning sped, Tina's motorcycle boot shot up and out, connecting solidly with the bulge in his leather pants, knocking the air from him in a high-pitched gasp as he involuntarily bent over. Wrenching the pipe roughly from his hands, Tina swung solidly, landing a vicious blow to the right side of his head, the force and momentum of it throwing his body through the window. Shattering the glass, Bud plunged through and fell the twenty feet to the factory floor, landing with a thudding crunch on the hood of Cirra's Porsche. Dead.


Mariel came forward, stepping gracefully into the dim light. Behind the two men were the steps they had just climbed. Grinning at them, she casually swung the nightstick at her side. Well, she'd give them a chance and at least try out her detective's field rules. Modified a bit of course. She had no intention of hightailing it out of here without a fight. Conversationally, she spoke.

"So, how bout them Cubbies? I hear they suck..."

The two men looked at her and then at each other, not quite knowing what to do. Their decision was made for them as Mariel spun on her heel, executing a roundhouse kick that landed in the gut of the skinnier of the two men, a slight crack indicating a broken rib. Still having the advantage of offense, the scientist thrust out the nightstick, connecting with the other man's thick neck. With a growl he reached out and grabbed the nightstick, trying to tug it and Mariel towards him with a rough pull.

"Now I've got you!"

He smirked as her smaller body was pulled closer to him as his partner, still in pain over his broken rib but now angry was, closing in behind her. Suddenly, they all heard the loud sound of glass shattering echo through the factory down near the cargo area. With a grin, Mariel took it for what it was: an opportunity. She murmured to herself while grabbing the nightstick with her other hand.

"Tina, I'm gonna take that as your signal, babe."

With a twisting move, she spun around quickly, the stick going over her head as the man who was holding it was turned with her movement until their backs were to each other and they held on to the stick above their heads. With a smile, she winked at the other man with the broken rib in front of her as she felt the predictable response by the man behind her. Pulling, he yanked the stick over his head and Mariel pushed herself up against his back, jumping. While being flipped over the man's back, the scientist kicked out, her boots delivering a vicious hit to the skinny man's face, knocking him back as she sailed effortlessly over and landed with agility on her feet. Surprised, the guy who held the nightstick was wide eyed before she yanked the stick from his grasp and dropped to one knee, bringing the solid wood against his kneecap with shattering force. Howling, he was disabled and collapsed to the ground in pain, the shock of his broken knee twisting on his weight caused him to black out instantly.

"Sorry about that."

Mariel rose to her feet and spoke down at the guy with a sympathetic shake of her head before she saw a bulky form fly through the air at her, the other man's weight landing squarely against her and driving her to the ground. The cold cement was a bit of a shock to her bare back but she didn't have time to think as the thug swatted at her face, barely grazing her chin with the back of his hand as he pressed further into her. Once there, he tried to pin the scientist as they rolled near the steep stairs, his hands struggling to contain her arms. His face was inches from hers as he narrowed his eyes down at her in rage, his breath hot against her face.

"Bitch, you're gonna pay for the broken rib."

Still holding the nightstick pressed between their chests, Mariel gritted her teeth, her green eyes narrowing as the rest of her body relaxed into the struggle, her training in hand to hand combat kicking in. She knew that she was at a disadvantage size-wise and in strength so she wasn't going to be able to push him off her with her hands. Feeling the man move to his knees over her as he reached out to grab her hair, Mariel found the opening she was looking for. With his withdraw from her lower body, she was able to bend her knees and quickly spring her legs out, leveraging the man away from her with a powerful thrust of her compactly muscled legs. At the same time, she brought the nightstick to his elbow, smashing it against the bone as he was thrown backwards. His arm was at a grotesque angle as he reeled back on his haunches, crying out in pain before he lost his balance, tumbling backwards down the metal stairs until he landed at the bottom of the steps in a heap. Unconscious.


Tina looked down at Bud's crumpled body before she saw the two guards from the cargo bay racing up the stairs with their baseball bats. Jumping through the window and out of the control room, the detective landed on the walkway before she sauntered forward to greet the men. She had a feral smile on her face as she threw down the pipe she was still holding and used her hands to signal them forward, urging them to bring it on. Tina had to admit this part of the job was fun for her and the rush of the fight was fully coursing through her high performance body like a drug buzz.

"You want a piece of me, hmm?"

And with that, she ducked as a whirling knife flew past her head, the man who threw it smiling back at her as they both moved forward, bats held casually at their sides. He laughed as he spoke.

"No, we don't want just a piece, we want the whole package, gorgeous."

Tina raised an eyebrow and smirked at them, her body readying itself for battle. With a spring in her step, she started to back up before she ran and jumped unexpectedly between them, her hands reaching up and grasping on each side of their shoulders and using that to leverage her way up and between them, pushing them both off to the side as she landed behind them.

"You can't handle this package, boys."

Kicking out, she crunched her boot into the knife-thrower's back, knocking him so that he was leaning precariously over the side railing of the walkway. The other man swung his bat at her head as she was turned. At the last minute, Tina spun around and reached up, catching the thick wood in her firm grip, holding it effortlessly. He looked at her startled, feeling her pull the bat. With both hands, he tried to pull back towards him. The detective leveled a dazzling smile at him as she purred.

"You want it?"

She paused as she felt him straining to pull back on the bat. Still smiling, she cocked her head to the side a little and continued.

"You got it!"

And with that, she let go of the wood, watching as it came back at the man with the force of his pull and smashed into his face, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious. She didn't have time before she felt the other man rush up behind her and jump on her back, wrapping his thick arms around her neck, squeezing. That was a mistake. Big Mistake. Tina was pissed now.

With a deadly growl, she spun around and backed up with force, shoving him into the wall by the control room door. The man groaned but hung on, his muscled leather arm pulling tighter against the detective. Another body slam to the wall did nothing to dislodge him and she was beginning to feel the pressure of his arm.

Her eyes looked around the semi-dark factory, seeing a catwalk just off the stairs they were near, crossing over the cargo bay below. Hanging down about halfway across the metal walk were a series of heavy linked chains, obviously used to lower and raise equipment from the floor and move it around the building. They were attached to a winch on a moveable tract that was welded to part of the steel girders above them.

Staggering just slightly with his weight on her back, she moved out on the catwalk as she felt a punch delivered to the side of her head. That only pissed her off more and made her more determined. Once in the middle of the walk, she reached up grabbed one of the thick chains, her hand clasping it with renewed strength. The man on her was making grunting noises next to her head as he pulled against her neck with all his might, trying to strangle the life out of her or break her neck, whichever came first. Fuck Cirra's orders.

Then he felt himself lifted along with Tina as she pulled herself up on the chain, both hands holding tight. Once they were slightly off the ground, she swung out and away from the walk, the man's eyes suddenly wide not only from the almost superhuman effort required for her to do this, but also from the distance they were above the cold cement factory floor below, Bud's bloody body laying sprawled across the hood of Cirra's Porsche making him realize that this was serious. Very serious.

He tried to wrap his legs around hers as they hung swinging in space but she was kicking out, pulling them up a little higher on the chain. With a determined last momentum push, Tina swung over and grabbed another hanging chain, the thick links looped where she held and both ends attached up above to the winch. Holding on to the chain that supported their weight with one arm, the detective gritted her teeth and growled, maneuvering quickly with her other hand to wrap the looped chain once and then twice around the neck of the man dangling from her body. Once he realized what was happening it was too late as he tried to reach up and grab the chains. Her elbow slammed back into his gut, knocking the wind out of him and dislodging him as he coughed out. His body weight and gravity did the rest as his neck snapped and he hung limply in the air, swinging loosely.

Tina shook her head to clear the hair from her eyes, the exertion of the fight dampening her brow. With one last look at the hapless henchman, the detective grabbed the chain she was holding on with both hands and swung, bringing her body back over the metal catwalk as she let go, landing neatly on the walk. Taking a deep breath, she let her head fall back as she collected herself for a moment and then turned, trying to look down towards the other end of the factory, hoping that Mariel was holding her own and hadn't encountered too many problems. Seeing no movements or any other attackers below her or on the second level, Tina sent a silent wish for the young doctor's safety. Now, it was only a matter of finding....Her. Calling out and hearing her voice echo, she narrowed her eyes and looked around for any sign of the blond.



Mariel made her way down the stairs, jogging along through the factory and hearing the commotion of Tina fighting up above her. The scientist couldn't see anything from where she was, the large machinery on the floor making it hard to discern anything higher. She prayed to God that the detective would be alright. Every ounce of her wanted to run up there and just see for herself or help or anything, but she knew she had to find Caitlyn while the attention was on Tina. Who knew how many others there might be stationed throughout. She did have to say though, that she was quite pleased with her efforts against those two guys. Finally, she was field-tested and ready to go.

Moving along through the maze of equipment, she kept her eye out for any doors that might be the supply room. In the relative dark, it was hard to see any color, but about twenty yards before she got to the cargo bay area, she spotted a dark hallway off to the left. Quickly, she jogged down it, cautious of anyone hiding there but encountering no one. At the very end, she saw a thick door with a dirty window on it, a very dim light coming from it. Slowing down, she walked carefully to it, looking back behind her, green eyes darting and wary. Turning back to the door, she leaned up on her tiptoes, peering through it.

Inside, she could see Caitlyn, safe it seemed. A wave of relief shot through her. Glancing around, she saw a form huddled in the corner, shaking. Caitlyn was sitting perched on a cot, trying to comfort the person laying on it, curled up. It appeared to be a girl. Mariel couldn't see anyone else in the room. Looking down, she saw the door handle and just under it, a set of keys were still in the lock, dangling. That was odd. Looking to the sides, the scientist checked again to see if anyone was around to ambush her but still no one. Peering up in the window, she decided it was now or never. Grasping the keys, Mariel Potidean unlocked the door, feeling ready to face whatever lay inside that room.


The Tool and Dye factory was eerily silent, no sound at all as Tina stood on the catwalk after she had called out to Cirra. Her eyes searched below in the tangle of haunting machinery, the tool presses and dye vats all having seen their last work years ago. Walking cautiously forward, the detective made her way, crossing over the cargo bay below before coming to the other side, platforms and other crosswalks branching off in this darkened area. On the floor below, row upon row of metal equipment jutted out in odd angles, various parts and levers and rods all making it a virtual deathtrap below her. She paused, her boot steps the only sound she heard coming to a stop.

Until she heard the faint sound of....what was that? Clapping?

As it got louder, Tina realized that indeed, it was the sound of someone clapping their hands high above her. The harsh slap of flesh against flesh echoed in the building, reverberating off the metal below and the dirty windows high above. A flash of light appeared, almost like a spotlight. And there, above her ten yards away and standing in the middle of a ten foot by ten foot metal platform suspended above the catwalks, was Cirra. And she was clapping. Loudly. Was she smiling too?

And then she stopped. The factory was quiet again until the blond cocked her head to the side and her smile grew even wider. Tina could see her brilliant white teeth from where she stood, the light shining directly on the platform. That's when the detective heard what sounded like a note of mocking pride and admiration in Cirra's voice, her words floating down to where Tina stood.

"You're good, Tina. Almost as good as me. This should be fun, hmm?"

Chapter 29: Sins of the Past

Mariel pulled open the door, her eyes darting back behind her in the hallway to make sure no one was coming. Once it opened, a gust of stale rotten air came rushing into her face, overwhelming her senses. Absently, she grabbed the keys from the lock, thrusting them in her pocket as she took a deep breath and forced herself into the dimly lit room. A quick look around confirmed the two girls she had seen through the window and Caitlyn across the room. Out of the corner of her eye to her left, she saw another young girl sitting on the floor near the door, obviously another captive. She smiled over at the blond girl on the cot, her voice a whispered greeting.


The door closed behind her and she watched as Caitlyn's mouth opened to say something before she felt her feet tripped up and she went sprawling across the floor. The blond girl's words came too late.

"Mariel, watch out!"

The scientist felt the weight of someone land on her back and she struggled, attempting to roll free. Tara was straddling her back, the teen's hands clutching in Mariel's hair as she laughed.

"Gotcha, blondie!"

The commotion and scuffling in the room roused Lisa just a bit and she groaned, turning over in the cot to see two forms on the floor. She had thought she heard someone calling a name she knew in her dreams. At the moment, she was trying hard to focus, her body still feeling lethargic from the heroin.

Recovering from the surprise attack by the girl she had dismissed on her way in, Mariel lifted up, her arms holding up the weight on her back. She settled down and focused, her training coming in handy now. Feeling the girl on her back pulling hard against her hair, she lifted her right hand from the floor and let herself collapse to that side, tucking in her shoulder as she landed. The move threw Tara off balance and she landed against the floor on her back as Mariel's weight rolled on top of her. With a quick elbow, the scientist delivered a blow behind her, knocking against the teen's jaw, her hair released from Tara's grasp as the girl cried out. Turning quickly and nimbly, Mariel pinned Tara easily to the ground, her size and strength overpowering the smaller juvenile.

"Give it up!"

Mariel ground out her words, angry now from the attack and angry that Tara was trying to kick and claw at her. She looked down at the dark haired girl who was huffing before she spit out her words.

"Fuck you! I'm going to kick your ass!"

Mariel assessed the situation. The girl was laying on her back, the scientist holding her arms firmly to the ground, having no problem subduing her. Was this girl stupid? With a shake of her head, Mariel took the girl's arms and pulled her up a bit. Wrestling, she pushed Tara's arms down, forcing her on her stomach against the ground. Lifting herself up a bit, the scientist placed a knee against Tara's back and sighed.

"You're deluded. Just give it up."

Tara let out a frustrated noise and struggled a bit more before she stilled, her face pressing against the dirty ground. Mariel quickly looked over her shoulder at Caitlyn and used her head to motion to her as she spoke.

"Caitlyn, come on over here and help me with her."

As the blond girl got up from the cot, Lisa stared, her eyes trying to focus on the woman on the floor, that voice...

"Here, let me undo your hands first. Are you ok?"

Caitlyn nodded and smiled, turning around so that the scientist could release her. Mariel used a hand to untie the girl's hands from behind her back and the both of them worked the cord around Tara's wrists. Just as they finished, a faint weak voice hesitantly filled the room.


The young doctor froze, recognizing that voice immediately. Slowly, she turned her head. Her heart dropped to her knees as she saw in the dim light a figure struggling to stand from the cot. Her face was unmistakable. The air in Mariel's lungs was suddenly gone and she could practically feel the blood draining from her face. It couldn't be...


Mariel's sister got to her feet, wobbly as she moved towards her. In an instant, the scientist scrambled up, running to catch Lisa just as she pitched forward, falling, her arms holding the girl tight. She felt Lisa sob against her as she maneuvered them to the cot and sat them down, simply hugging the shaking girl to her tight. With soft murmurs, she soothed her, her mind unable figure out this almost surreal feeling. Her sister. Here. Instead, she just reacted from her heart.

"'s ok..I've got you,'s ok. Everything's gonna be fine, I'm here."

Lisa clutched at her, sobbing and feeling so relieved and safe she was sure she was still asleep. Pulling back, she looked at Mariel with reddened, bloodshot eyes, reaching up to touch against her sister's fair cheek to make sure she was really there. Her voice was trembling and soft.

" I dreaming? Are we still in the cornfield?"

The scientist closed her eyes and shook her head, pulling Lisa to her tightly as she whispered, tears in her own eyes.

"No, you're not dreaming, honey. I'm right here with you. You're safe now."

Mariel took a long shuddering breath and held tight. Ever since she had left for college, she had felt guilty about leaving Lisa behind. In some ways, the scientist had felt like she had abandoned Lisa, left her to fend for herself. Her younger sister had always been so very sensitive as a child, even more than she herself was. It had been hard for her too, Mariel had always been there to help. Lisa had awkward social graces, had never really done well in school, didn't have the same kinds of dreams Mariel had. One phone call had been the last she had heard from her sister, her parents calling her frantically to tell her that Lisa had just left the farm. Gone. Years they spent searching, worrying. And now, right here in her arms, she was safe and sound. Alive.

"I'm sorry, Mariel...I n-never meant to hurt you or Mom and Dad...I.."

Her sister's words were quiet and muffled against the scientist's chest, the young woman clinging tightly to her. Hugging her close, Mariel reached up and smoothed her hand through Lisa's disheveled hair, her voice soft.

"'s alright. We can talk about that later."

Taking a deep breath, she would have given anything to stay right here and never let Lisa go but she knew that she had a job to do and in order to keep them all safe, she was going to have to think fast. Quietly, she called out across the room.

"Caitlyn, is that other girl alright?"

Mariel was referring to Valerie, who was as weak as a kitten, her body shaking and sweating. She wasn't in any danger of dying, but the way Valerie was looking, it appeared the girl wished she could die. Caitlyn gave one last check to the tie around Tara's hands and got up, looking over at Valerie.

"Yeah, she's going through drug withdrawal though. I've seen it before at school. She should be fine until we can get her help."

Tara laughed, causing them all to look at her. Turning her head to the side against the floor, the juvenile spoke harshly as she smiled cruelly at Mariel.

"Blondie, you shouldn't give a rat's ass about that girl. She's the one who sold out that chick sitting next to you to Cirra."

Mariel narrowed her eyes first at Tara, before she leveled her gaze at Valerie. She'd have to sort this out later, right now there wasn't time for it. With Lisa still in her arms, the scientist looked up at Caitlyn.

"I've got to go call for backup and help Tina. I think you should be safe right here. I can't risk taking you all out of here, not with Lisa and the other girl as sick as they are. It wouldn't be safe."

Caitlyn nodded, knowing that she was being asked to take care of things here. She was more than happy to do that if it meant catching Cirra. She had her own debt to settle with her. Mariel continued, her arms still holding Lisa close, her sister's crying slowly stopping until she was taking soft halting breaths.

"I've got the key to the room and I'm going to lock the door and take it with me. No one will get in here, I promise. Lisa?"

Mariel's head turned down, her hand gently coming under Lisa's face and raising it a bit. A soft smile crossed her lips, just happy to have found her sister and grateful that she was safe. With a shaky smile back, Lisa looked up.

"Lisa, honey, I'm going to have to go for just a little bit but I promise, I'll be back as soon as I can, ok?"

Fear crept into the younger woman's eyes, her hands clutching even tighter around Mariel's body. Hoarsely, she spoke, her words panicked.

"Don't leave me, Mariel...not again...please."

Mariel closed her eyes against the pain of those words as she pulled Lisa to her tighter. She was taken back to time long ago when they were kids, running around on their parent's farm. Lisa had gotten lost, separated in the cornfields around their place. Hours and hours later, they had found each other and her sister had said the exact same words to her in the exact same way. It nearly broke Mariel's heart. Taking a deep breath, she hugged one last time and pulled back, knowing it was necessary but hating it nonetheless. In an emotional whisper, she looked deep into her sister's eyes.

"Lisa, I am not leaving you. I've got to get help for us. You'll be safe here, I promise."

Lisa looked back at her, her emotions warring on her face. Right now, she felt like she was six years old again, the comfort of Mariel's arms felt that good and that secure. Caitlyn crouched down in front of them and put a gentle hand on Lisa's knee.

"I'm going to be here with you. I won't let anything happen, I swear. Your sister here has got a really tough friend out there who's gonna take care of everything. Mariel needs to go help her right now, ok?"

Lisa looked back at this young slip of a girl, her pale blond hair and grey eyes were brave and honest. Taking a deep inhale of air, Lisa looked back up at Mariel, nodding just a bit.


The scientist smiled one of her genuine comforting smiles as she patted her sister on the back, rubbing just a bit before she released her and stood. In the dim light, Lisa could see how much Mariel had changed from the last time she had seen her, strong lines and muscles rippling over her body, fierce determination evident in her stance and on her face. Looking down at Lisa, she spoke.

"I'll be back as soon as I can."

Caitlyn sat down next to Lisa and put an arm around her, giving her a steady hold to help her sit. Nodding up at Mariel, Lisa let a smile cross her lips, her words quiet.

"It's good to see you, Sis...I missed you."

Mariel chuckled a little before she reached out and patted Lisa's shoulder.

"Good to see you too, hon. I'll make this as quick as I can."

And with that, Mariel turned and walked towards the door, the stakes having been raised higher now that her sister was involved. Stopping, she briefly checked Tara's ties, satisfied the girl wasn't going anywhere. With a glance over to Valerie, she let a little bit of her anger out, knowing that girl might be responsible for her sister's pain. She'd make sure things got sorted out later. Reaching for the door, she opened it and turned, smiling back and waving a little to Caitlyn and Lisa, seeing them smile in return. When she had closed and locked the door behind her, she let her back rest against the cold metal surface taking a deep breath to steady herself. Her temper and frustration were now free to be unleashed and she narrowed her green eyes, pulling the nightstick from her belt as she went to do her job.


There are times in one's life when it becomes clear that nothing will ever be the same again. Years, decades, lifetimes later a single event can have so much meaning it hurts. The past has a way of never leaving, no matter how hard or how much one might wish for it to simply go away. Everyone has their demons and their secrets, ugly in the light of day, exposed. Living with those ghosts is a burden that only gets heavier with time. Right now, Tina Amphipoli was about to crush or be crushed by one specter of a ghost from her past, Cirra Callistone.

The detective looked up at the blond, her statuesque form standing in the light shining down from above. Tina narrowed her eyes before she slowly shrugged off her leather jacket, not caring as it slipped to the edge of the catwalk she was on and fell over the side, landing on the cargo bay floor below. In just her black t-shirt, she didn't even notice the chill in the building, even though her breath was visible as she breathed out, never taking her eyes off Cirra. Speaking in a low voice that carried up the distance between them, Tina's face was unreadable.

"Cirra, why are you doing this?"

The blond cocked her head to the side as she put a hand on her hip and another to her neck.

"Oh, I'm fine, thanks for asking."

Tina moved further along the catwalk, stopping so that she was even with Cirra who stood above and in front of her, the distance between the catwalk and the platform a mere ten yards. From where she was, the detective could see the brown glint in Cirra's eyes. In a drawl, Tina shook her head up at the woman.

"Cut the bullshit, Cirra."

Cirra smiled grandly, her eyes mocking down at the dark haired detective. Her heart was pounding from the excitement of this, the supreme bliss she was going to receive from toying with Tina. Drawling out her own words as well, Cirra shifted her hip to the side as she spoke.

"Really Tina, is that any way to greet an old friend? I would have thought you'd be happy to see me, you know, relive old times, reminisce."

The investigator narrowed her eyes, trying to remember anything in the past that would have led this woman to be here, now. From what she recalled, Cirra was a few grades behind her and then, it seemed like something happened and she dropped out of school. Back at the Cage, the only thing she had to go on was a feeling about Cirra. And that feeling wasn't good. Speaking slowly, she cocked her head to the side.

"Why the slave ring?"

Cirra's dark brows came together as she thought before she waved her hand dismissively and rolled her eyes.

"Oh, that. Slaves, schmaves. That was just a stupid little something I whipped up so we could get together and talk."

At that moment, Tina realized that the more or less normal girl she had barely remembered from high school was quite possibly insane. To have gone to the trouble and planning of an entire sex slave operation just for a chance to talk was a little wacky. And dangerous.

"So, you brought me here so we could talk about old times?"

Cirra laughed, a deep hearty giggle before her face changed in an instant to stone cold anger. She was losing it, she could feel it, but she was going to hold on long enough to make this bitch pay.

"Funny, I don't feel like hearing you talk. It's my turn, Tina."

The way Cirra said Tina's name was with total disdain, drawing out the syllables in a high pitched whine. Lowering her eyes, the blond reached out and took hold of the platform railing, letting her fingers trail over the cold metal before she looked up again, her voice low.

"July 5th , 1988...remember that day?"

Tina's brain went into overtime but nothing came. With an indifferent shrug, she affected a bored look. The longer she kept Cirra talking, the easier it would be for Mariel to call for backup. In the back of her mind, though, she doubted that Cirra would be kind enough to simply wait around for the Chicago PD and FBI to show up before she did something stupid. Tina would just have to be ready for it.

"Not really. What does that have to do with us?"

Cirra narrowed her eyes, her voice shaking in its quest to remain in control. As it was, she nearly shouted.

"It has everything to do us!"

Tina watched as Cirra began a slow pace around the metal platform, turning in place a couple of times while her hands clasped and unclasped each other before she ran a hand up through her blond hair. Stopping, she turned to Tina, her face totally blank, no expression, nothing.

"That was the day you made me, Tina. You see, you created the monster you're looking at right now."

Cirra let out a low chuckle, but it was without feeling or emotion or any expression. It just was. With a shrug of her shoulder, brown eyes found blue and locked, a hint of anger and sadness and insanity all passed between them. Tina's brows came together in puzzlement. She couldn't even begin to imagine what Cirra was referring to, what she was talking about. In a low voice that gave away nothing, she spoke.

"What do you mean, 'I made you'?"

Cirra raised an eyebrow, her head cocking to the side as her voice was challenging.

"Do you remember Grosse Pointe?"

The detective's mind went blank for a moment before it started to come to her. Grosse Pointe. That was an eastern suburb of Detroit, not too far from their high school. July in Grosse Pointe the year after she graduated? At that instant, Tina Amphipoli remembered. Everything. And her face showed it. Cirra smiled, another smile without feeling as the look of dawning memory crossed the detective's face. Cirra's voice alternated between tonelessness and ragged halting words as she spoke at the stunned detective.

"That was the Fourth of July weekend. We had a party the night before too. My sister. My mother. My father. Fireworks and hotdogs. All American. They were going to church the next day. Sunday. I wanted stay home and practice piano. Did you know I used to play?"

She said this, not expecting a response from Tina, not wanting one. It was all rushing back into her brain, the crowded images starting to whirl around. She was determined to make sure the woman responsible for her years of misery heard every single goddamned word she was going to say. Hold on, hold on, hold on.

"I went outside to wave goodbye. I still remember them smiling at me from the car, backing out of our driveway. The grass was so green, the sky was so blue. Do you know what happened next, Tina?"

The blond leveled her eyes at the detective, rage starting to boil in them. Tina swallowed. Indeed, she knew what came next and it was something she had tried to forget all this time, tried to tell herself she wasn't responsible, she wasn't there. Cirra's voice began to get louder as she continued, a crazy smile starting to spread across her face before an expression of rage replaced it.

"You made my life a living hell that day! I saw the car come speeding down our street before I saw those fucks you called friends inside it, smiling and drunk, driving and yelling and shouting! They were fucking laughing when they slammed into the back of my father's car! Laughing! I heard them!"

Tina stood stunned, all she could do was listen as Cirra paced back and forth in front of her on the platform, running her hands through her hair mindlessly as she yelled, her eyes wild.

"Did you know they kept on driving and didn't stop? Didn't even fucking stop to see if my family was alive! I started running to the street and right before my eyes, I watched everything explode! I heard my family's screams coming from our burning car!"

Tina cringed, knowing that Grosse Pointe was the one time her little gang was responsible for the death of innocent people. She had told the guys not to drive when they left that stupid little abandoned building they used as a party place. They had been up all night, celebrating the Fourth in their own style, drinking from a keg they had stolen that day. She would have been in that car herself if she hadn't stayed to finish it off. The guys, she didn't even remember their names, had never been caught, ditching the car by Jefferson Beach right into Lake St. Clair. They had lied to her at the time, saying no one was hurt, just a stolen car accident. It wasn't until a year later that she learned what really happened, learned that the Callistone's had been killed and Cirra had left Detroit soon after. By then, those same guys -- it seemed like one was named Ray or something, Tina almost remembered -- had skipped town and she...just...didn't..say anything, to anyone. Ever. With a choked voice, Tina tried to control her emotions as she spoke to the woman who looked at her, all full of hate and anger and sadness and no one to direct it at except for her. In a quiet voice, she spoke.

"I am so sorry, Cirra. I can make sure those guys are caught, even if I have to do it myself."

She didn't know what else to say, knowing it was the best she could offer. How could she ever make amends for her part in this, and for her silence? The statute of limitations had expired on anything she herself could be charged with, a misdemeanor if anything. The guys directly responsible could probably still be charged with manslaughter. At the time, she had shrugged it off, not wanting to care about it, wanting to forget that chapter of her life. Now, her conscience was different, was demanding she pay for it. Pain showed on her face at the memory of her misdeed. She watched as Cirra took a breath, closing her eyes before she spoke softly.

"Hurts, doesn't it? Welcome to the club."

And then something inside of Cirra Callistone snapped, like a tight thin wire that held every single solitary piece of her mind in place, it all came crashing to the ground as the image of her sister's face, contorted in pain and screaming, started to melt and burn and singe and blacken and flame, the fire engulfing her as she was trapped in the backseat of the car. Cirra watched herself run for the garden hose, anything, as she screamed at the top of her lungs, the peaceful suburban neighborhood they lived in deadly quiet and deserted on that early morning. Her family died right in front of her, her soul quickly following. Cirra let it all out in a bloodcurdling high pitched scream that echoed through the factory around them. Reaching up, she grabbed a chain and swung down from her platform, her body in a direct line as she collided with Tina on the catwalk.

Mariel ran down the hallway when she heard a scream so scary in its complete rage, she thought she was reliving an old horror movie. Skidding around the corner, she tore up the distance between her and the scream until she came to a screeching halt in the cargo bay, too stunned by the scene unfolding above her to notice the body at her feet near the Porsche. There, on the catwalk, she saw Cirra's body swing through the air and crash into Tina, the detective taking the blond's weight in a thudding jolt. Both women fell to the ground, the momentum of Cirra's swing knocking them off and over the edge of the walkway. They were headed directly for the jagged tool and dye machinery below them as Mariel felt herself scream out in pure reflex.


Chapter 30: The Quick and The Dead

Tina felt the jarring force of Cirra's body slamming into her, the blond's arms wrapping themselves around her neck and shoulders before the detective's balance was lost. In an instant she felt the cold hard metal of the catwalk floor against her back and then she felt the emptiness of space, her mind realizing in a split second that they were careening towards the floor. Instinct, like a long-forgotten skill she never had to think about, burst forth and Tina blindly reached up and out with both hands. Just the very tips of her fingers, hardly anything, touched against the surface edge of the catwalk. And beyond belief and beyond all reason, she caught herself with Cirra still attached to her back, swinging precariously above a piece of machinery that looked like a series of staves and metal rods in a deadly picket fence.

Mariel's body simply could not react, almost as if she were paralyzed, her eyes blinking at the sight of Tina high above the ground with Cirra's arms wrapped around her neck. It was like night and day, the detective's long dark hair was tangled with Cirra's white blond locks, both of them clad in mostly black, silhouetted in the light of the factory, dangling. In that one moment of suspended time, in that eternity that lasted a heartbeat, Mariel knew what it was like to feel complete and utter fear. Not for herself, not for her sister, not for anyone else in that whole damn factory. Every single ounce of that feeling was for Tina alone. The scientist had felt fear in the past, but this was beyond that. Way beyond. And then the scientist willed herself to move, to do anything, to risk everything. Taking a step forward, Mariel felt something hard and cold pressed against the back of her head and heard that unmistakable sound, the sound of the hammer being pulled back into place, the sound of a gun cocking.

"You move and you die."

Teddy's voice was low, spoken through clenched teeth. Reaching out, he roughly pulled the nightstick from the scientist's hand and glanced up at Cirra and Tina. No one was to interfere. Not when his mistress gave an order.

Cirra was laughing maniacally next to Tina's ear and the detective was gritting her teeth, her hold on the catwalk edge tenuous at best. The added weight of the blond clutching around her neck was not making matters any easier either. Looking down, the investigator saw the dangerous spikes of metal below her, the machine tool press dark and shadowed. Just in front of it, attached by tubes and piping, was a large chemical vat five feet in height, the wide circular surface covered with a dusty metal lid. If she could swing far enough out, she could clear the machine and land on top of the vat, its 10 foot diameter enough to provide a platform of sorts. Right now, she simply had to pray it would hold their weight.

As her arms strained to hold them up, the detective felt Cirra's fingernails start to claw into her shoulders and arms. Getting a better grip on the edge of the catwalk, Tina swung her legs forward and back, moving them in space as she picked up momentum.


Cirra called out in an insanely high pitched voice as she dug in to the detective's body, her brown eyes glazed over. With one last swing out, Tina let go, twisting their bodies in space as they fell the distance. Mariel held her breath as she watched the completely crazy scene above her, the gun still at her head. She closed her eyes and whispered out a silent prayer until she saw Tina and Cirra land on top of the chemical vat, just clear of the sharp metal of the press machine. The two women rolled across the surface, coming to a clattering halt before regaining themselves, and moving to their feet. Now, Cirra and Tina stood facing each other in a deadly stance.

"Well, that was fun. Thanks for the ride."

Cirra's voice mocked as she smiled. Tina flicked her eyes over to her left, across the cargo bay, and suddenly saw Teddy, his gun pointing directly at the back of Mariel's head. Her hand moved to the .38 at her side instinctively.

"Ah ah ah. I wouldn't do that if I were you, Tina. Teddy, shoot Tina's precious little...partner there if she moves."

Cirra called out across the cargo bay from their perch above the ground. Teddy nodded, shoving the barrel harder against the scientist's head. Cirra turned her eyes back to the detective, smiling at the torn look on the detective's face. Never taking her eyes off Tina, Cirra reached down to her boot and pulled the same shining dagger she had held to Caitlyn's neck out in one smooth glide. With a cock of her head to the side, she raised her hand and gestured as she spoke.

"It's just you and me."

Mariel almost took a step forward when she saw the glinting blade, her heart racing at the sight before she yelled out.

"Tina! Don't listen to her!"

Cirra spared a quick glance over at Mariel before she shrugged back at Tina, her dark eyebrow raising just a bit at the investigator. Condescendingly, she smiled until her white teeth fairly glowed in the light from above and spoke.

"My, but she's uppity. And here I thought you had better taste in women. Take what you can get I guess."

Tina narrowed her eyes and growled low in the back of her throat. Cirra just tipped her head back and laughed before she pointed over at the detective, her arm stretched out and a finger extended. Silky and saccharine sweet, her voice was a low purr of sardonic intent.

"Oh, I know all about you, Tina."

The detective glared over Cirra, before she reached down to her own motorcycle boot, grateful for having packed her switchblade earlier in the evening. It was too dangerous right now to use her gun, she'd have to play by the blond's rules for now until she got a break and could get Mariel out of danger. Letting a menacing smile of her own show, Tina spoke in clipped tones, enunciating each word clearly.

"You know nothing, Cirra."

The lanky blond started to circle around the perimeter of the chemical vat in a predatory move, the detective followed suit, moving in the opposite direction. Each of them sized the other up before Cirra stopped, bringing the flat of her blade to rest idly against the her cheek. With a grand smile, she shifted her body and put a hand on her hip.

"Any new brothers since the last one died?"

Tina's eyes narrowed, anger filling them at the thought that Cirra somehow knew things about her, had spent years digging through her past, or worse, may have been responsible for things that had happened to her and the people she loved. That was it; she had been pushed to the limit by the blond's endless taunts. Lunging, the detective brought her knife arm back across her own body in a perfect swipe, arcing the blade through the air out towards Cirra's leather-clad body. With a short jump to the side, the blond sidestepped the stab and spun around, her booted foot coming up and delivering a solid kick to the detective's ribs. Doubling over as the force of the blow almost pushed her back into the pressing machine behind her, Tina's hand went to her side at the pain. Cirra just laughed.

"What? Didn't think I had it in me? Oh, I'm full of surprises, Tina."

Taking a breath, the detective squared her shoulders and stood back up, her hand gripping the switchblade firmly as she circled Cirra, her blue eyes blazing. In a sarcastic voice, Tina sneered over at the blond.

"Yeah, you're full of something alright."

Lunging with her right hand and the knife directly towards the blond, Tina anticipated Cirra's response to move left and pulled short, her left hand coming across her body and backhanding Cirra across the jaw, the deadly woman's face snapping to the side on impact. Cirra stumbled a bit and recovered, turning towards Tina as she put a hand to her busted lip, pulling back and seeing red blood against her fingers. Drawing her eyebrows together, Cirra's face instantly transformed into rage and she let loose another high pitched scream. Running, she launched herself at Tina.

The detective just had time to brace herself when she felt Cirra's weight collide into her again, this time knocking her back to the ground, the switchblade falling out of her hand to clatter to the cargo bay floor. With her back against the metal floor of the chemical vat, Tina's head came to rest over the edge, her long hair falling down the side. Smiling at her seeming victory, Cirra settled her weight on the detective, straddling her body and bringing her own knife blade to Tina's throat. In a mocking tone of voice, she spoke.

"Looks like someone's going to die tonight."

Mariel had been watching the whole deadly dance, forgetting about her own danger and the gun, her focus and attention only on Tina. When she saw the glint of the Cirra's blade move to the detective's neck, she couldn't help herself and screamed out.


Momentarily, Cirra was distracted by the sound, just enough for Tina to move a bit, bending her powerful knees under the blond's body. Gritting her teeth, she looked at the crazy woman on top of her bent on killing her and her partner in what amounted to revenge for a debt she wasn't entirely responsible for incurring. She ground out her words, determination winning out over guilt.

"Not this time, Cirra."

And with that, she pushed out, her legs easily thrusting Cirra's body from hers in a massive display of brute force. The kick propelled the blond to her feet, her balance shaky and precarious as she tripped backwards, her right boot halfway stepping on the edge of the vat platform. For a moment suspended in time, Cirra balanced there, her eyes focused solely on Tina. A fleeting look of respect look passed between them in that second. And then Cirra fell backwards, her body landing in the middle of the tool press machinery behind her, tangling in the hoses attached to the chemical vat she had just left.

Tina moved on her knees over to the machine below the vat, warily seeing Cirra's twisted body in the mangle of the press machine. As the blond looked down at herself, she noticed that a sharp metal rod had impaled her. Almost with studied indifference, Cirra gazed at the rusty shaft of metal piercing her leather bustier through the middle of her chest, the red blood flowing on the shiny black surface. 'That color almost matches my fingernail polish', the absurd thought drifted through Cirra's warped mind. Lifting her eyes up to Tina, she looked at her with something that resembled gratitude. Almost. Tina shook her head, her words measured.

"Cirra, it didn't have to be this way."

The blond laughed a soft laugh before she choked, blood coming up and a little thin trail running out of the corner of her mouth. In pain, she spoke.

"Oh, but you see, Tina, it did. There was no going back for me. Not now. You made sure of that years ago."

The words weren't spoken in a mocking manner, but in resignation. Shaking her head, the detective looked at Cirra, a regretful but firm look on her face.

"I made a mistake and I'm sorry but I won't take the blame for what you've done since then. That's your cross to bear."

Cirra closed her eyes and shook her own head back, feeling like a hot white fire was searing her from the inside out. All that she had done, all that she had planned had come to this. Was this all there was? Was the so-called guilt Tina felt enough? Did she feel better now? Opening her eyes, she let them gaze at the detective without emotion.

"All these years I've spent living to destroy you, thinking that if I could only give you the same kind of pain that you gave me, that I'd be rid of it."

Continuing, Cirra looked up at the ceiling and took a labored breath, before her eyes found Tina again.

"But you know what? I don't feel any better, just empty...."

A lazy smile crossed the blond's face, the blood still streaking down from her mouth in a path of red, almost looking like a lipstick mistake. Reaching up, she weakly fondled the metal protruding through her body in an altogether sick way.

"Well, except for this."

She laughed weakly as her eyes looked down at the metal shaft through her body. 'It's so nice to be insane, no one asks you to explain, you're a little touched you know, Cirra baby.' Yes, it appeared that it was all in vain. All her revenge and her plans didn't bring back her family, didn't make anyone pay but her. Well. That really, really sucked now didn't it? If she was going to leave this fucking hell called life, she was taking what she could get, dammit! Let them clean up the mess!

"Teddy, shoot the bitch!!"

Tina whirled around at that instant back towards Mariel and Teddy as Cirra reached up and found the start switch to the press machine, the loud noise deafening in the factory. Shouting above the crunch of metal against bone and the burring drilling sound of the tool making machine doing its job, the detective drew her .38 in a flash.

"Mariel! Duck!"

Mariel saw what was happening and crouched down, her elbow driving back into Teddy's crotch, before he could fulfill his mistress' last request. Groaning, he stepped back hunched over, the gun lowering a bit before he raised it, aiming it shakily at Mariel's head as the pain made him clench his teeth. The scientist felt her life pass before her eyes as she watched Teddy's finger start to squeeze on the trigger.

With pinpoint accuracy, one shot rang out above the noise of the press machine. Standing in a crouch on the top of the metal chemical vat, Tina Amphipoli's aim was true and right on mark. A clean bullet hole in the head from a .38 Special fell Teddy dead where he stood. Gun still smoking, the detective, satisfied that Mariel was no longer in danger, turned back to the press machine and took in the sight with hardened nerves born of seeing too much of the dark side of this life. Reaching over and down, she turned the switch off, the sudden silence filling the factory just as fully as the noise did. Holstering her gun, Tina sighed before she leaned over, her hand grabbing the edge of the press machinery as she used that to swing down from the top of the vat to the cargo bay floor below. Adrenaline still pumped fast and furiously through her body.

And then, in a blur of black and blond and bare skin, Mariel launched herself across the cargo bay floor and right into Tina's arms, the scientist clutching tightly around the solid muscled body of the detective who still thrumming with tension. Just to have her arms around Tina, to know that she was safe and unharmed, was all Mariel could concentrate on as she buried her face in a black t-shirt, feeling strong arms hold her just as tightly. It good.

Tina's body shook, part from the fact that she almost went half out of her mind when she saw Teddy raise that gun to the scientist's head and part from the surging power that still remained in her body from all the fighting and the excitement. Mariel was safe. She was safe. And nothing, or no one was ever...ever going to come that close to the woman in her arms again. She decided that right then and there. Pulling back, she looked down into Mariel's eyes with fierce protectiveness and strong emotion. Clear of present danger, all Tina could think about was never letting this woman go.

Needing to ground herself against the dizzying wave of energy moving through her, Tina leaned down and pressed her lips against Mariel's in a breathlessly rough kiss. The young doctor responded with the kind of intensity driven by profound relief and simple primal attraction. Hard, the detective crushed her lips against Mariel's, her own body shaking slightly at the contact. It was as much of a reassurance as it was seeking solace in each other after a harrowing night. After long moments, Tina simply pulled the scientist tighter to her and leaned her head down, resting her face against Mariel's soft cheek. She felt the young doctor breathe out words against her ear.

"Are you ok?"

Mariel's voice was hesitantly soft and a little ragged from the contact. Her arms were wrapped firmly around the detective, her hands smoothing over the solid strong muscles in Tina's back, feeling the humming tension begin to ebb from her body. She felt the investigator's hand come to tangle in the back of her hair as the other held her lower back close. One last squeeze and Tina pulled back, taking a deep breath, her hands coming to the sides of Mariel's face as she smiled and spoke softly.

"I am now."

Mariel let out the relieved breath she had been holding before hugging the tall dark woman in her arms again, both grateful for the safety of the other and the end of one long, painful night. Pulling back, Tina let her careful eyes search the scientist's body, her fingers gently probing for any injuries. Seeing nothing obvious and letting out her own breath of relief, the detective murmured.

"How you doing, huh? You ok?"

Mariel smiled and stepped back before she looked down at herself, smudges of dirt here and there from all the wrestling she had done, her blond hair tousled, a tiny cut on her hairline from the blow she took on the ladder, a little red mark on her chin as well, but otherwise, she felt fine.

"I might look like hell, but I feel great."

The pride was evident in the scientist's voice. Tina nodded, letting her own eyes gaze at Mariel before she shrugged.

"I happen to like that lived in look, myself."

Mariel smiled. They had done it. They had solved this case and taken down a dangerous woman. Sure, it was messy and more violent than she would have liked, but Mariel had to admit, when lives were on the line, it was sometimes necessary to do whatever it took. They had worked together, followed leads, worked the field, took care of business. And that feel really, really good. Glancing around the factory, she looked back behind her a bit and then suddenly remembered. Lisa!

"Tina! My sister! I found her here with Caitlyn!"

The scientist's face was a mixture of anxious tension and overwhelming excitement and her voice echoed that reaction. Reaching out, Tina put a hand on Mariel's shoulder and stepped closer, lowering her voice at the impossibility of it. She remembered the photo in the scientist's bedroom, now realizing the young girl next to Mariel in it must have been her sister. How did she get mixed up in this?

"You're kidding.."

Mariel shook her head, acknowledging how crazy it all sounded. She needed to make sure Lisa got help and then she'd call her parents. There was so much to clean up after this case.

"No, and she's sick. I think they doped her up with heroin. Can you help?"

Tina's eyes were serious as she nodded. Glancing around, she checked on all the damage done. Three dead, three she had wounded, who knew how many Mariel had taken care of. Well, whatever it took, she conceded. Sighing, she let a small reassuring smile cross her face.

"Sure, let's go. We'll call Eph and Sam from upstairs real quick and then go take care of them."

As they started to move towards the stairs that led up to the damaged control room, Tina put her hand to Mariel's elbow, leading her far away from the bloodied bodies on the floor. She wished the young doctor didn't have to be a part of this side of her profession, but Mariel had proven to be an invaluable partner and a courageous woman. Both of them had found a way to balance their styles and get the job done. She would have never thought she'd be able to find someone who worked so well with her, who instinctively knew what to do, who was brave...who she trusted.

Just before they got to the stairs leading up, Tina stopped Mariel short, watching the surprised look on the young woman's face before she pulled her into a warm embrace. Letting her lips find Mariel's ear, she softly spoke.

"Thank you."

Mariel pulled back, a smile on her face as she reached up and let her fingers touch lightly against the detective's proud strong jawline. Murmuring, her eyes looked into blue.

"For what?"

Tina gently smiled as she took the scientist's hand and lightly kissed her fingers before she spoke, the smile replaced by a look of honest feeling.

"For staying with this. For being here. With me."

Mariel nodded, squeezing Tina's hand in her own gently before she smiled. Letting her voice convey everything she was feeling, she lightly shrugged.

"That's what friends do, they stand by each other..."

Tina chuckled and nodded. Both of them recognizing that there was something more to what they had together, something more than just friendship now. It was profound and it had come on quick and strong. Love was like that sometimes, unexpected but completely right in time. To be honest, both of them were looking forward to the infinite possibilities that lay ahead. With a smile, the detective spoke softly.

"Come on...let's finish this up so we can get out of here."

No argument from Mariel on that one.

Chapter 31: Elvis Has Left The Building

Tina 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, 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.

"You alright?"

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.

" 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'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 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 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.

"mmm hmmmm..."

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.

"I promise."

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.

"Yes I am."

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