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The Killing Jar_Book 1

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Title: The Killing Jar (Book 1)
Series: The Praetorians
Author: DocPaul
Email: [email protected]
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: None.
Disclaimers: I contend that these character are nothing like Roswell’s so they are mine, all mine.
Warning: Dark Universe…angst, violence, bloodletting, bloodsports, bondage, masochism, slash…pretty
much everything.
Summary: Second in the trilogy, Detective Michael Guerin and his mate, Professor Maria DeLuca have
been together for a year since the first case that brought them together. Once again murder and violence
finds a way into their lives, and nothing will ever be the same.
Author’s notes: This story is riddled in angst and suffering, but underlying all that is the strength of
survival. All the characters in my universe are survivors at different levels. This is the second in a trilogy
building a legend of a strong Praetorian Guard and the rising King that they serve, and the Kingdom they
protect. This story was written with the relationships of the cast characters to the foreground, and the
murder almost a whispering threat...I wrote it to prove that a relationship driven story doesn’t have to
destroy characters, ignore them for others, and there still can be action and suspense. I suggest the reading
of The Praetorians first since all three books are interlocking the overall mystery has clues in the first
book on to the last.

THE KILLING JAR
For Margo and Julia

The Lunar Moth was magnificent in its size and beauty. It was hard to find a
perfect specimen, and preservation was important. Very few people took the time
to understand how things of beauty rarely lasted a long time and that beauty, being
a fleeting thing, required special attention to detail.
After carefully mounting the specimen, he took out his magnifying glass, and
searched its lovely body, enjoying the perfection that only nature could achieve.
Suddenly he stopped.
It was marred.

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Along a line of distinctive color was a blemish spot, an imperfection. Ripping
the imperfect one from the mounting and tossing it aside like so much garbage, he
sat shaking as the violence raged inside.
Standing up from his worktable he entered a special room, a place that held
his collection of insects and other specimens. Each was perfectly preserved to show
the wonder of nature. Everything on this stinking planet was polluted, destroyed.
Nature barely held on against the virus, the disease...man. Some things didn’t
deserve to survive, and others deserved to be preserved for all times.
Picking up his killing jar, he went in search of perfection...

~~~
Day 1: Wednesday- 9:30 a.m.

Maria swept into the bullpen of Major Crimes with a cool confidence that was
created by effortless experience. A Professor of Anthropology at UNM Roswell, Maria
DeLuca understood very well how important it was to remain firm and confident in
the face of great adversity. Immediately spotting her biggest problem she calmly
made her way to his side, smiling and responding to the numerous greetings tossed
her way.
Detective Michael Guerin needed background music to live his life. (Maybe the
theme to the movie Jaws?) If he had had this music, he would have been
forewarned that his lover and roommate of a year was bearing down on him.
Instead he was like a lamb to the kill. By the time he turned and saw her, it was
already too late to flee the premises. Quickly running through the excuses he had
practiced all day, he tried to decide on one. Looking her over, Michael knew he was
in trouble. She was wearing a short, tight silk dress that appeared almost revealing

2

at times. It was a trick. The dress was a designer model made to draw the eye and
lure a man into the trap.
“Stay strong.” Michael looked over at his partner and best friend for over six
years, Max Evans. Yeah, right. Strong. Michael felt his resolve weakening as Maria
stopped at his desk and hopped up on the corner, showing a great deal of her
incredible legs. He loved her legs.
“Detective.”
“Professor? To what do we owe this honor? A new corpse? A missing armor?
Perhaps a speeding ticket or two?” Maria pouted prettily at Michael, knowing his
diversion tactics well. After a year of living together, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen
every trick in the book.
“So unfair! I haven’t found a corpse in months! And the armor was last
year...those speeding tickets were a gross miscarriage of justice! Since when did
the Roswell PD start hiring female patrolmen?”
“Normally Professor, you are a strong advocate of ERA, but I guess it's hard to
talk your way out of a speeding ticket when the officer is female.”
“That’s so not true! She could have been gay. It might have worked.”
“I would’ve let you off, Maria.” Max said earning a beautiful friendly smile from
her.
“Yeah, keep it in your pants, partner. She’s taken.” Michael frowned at Max.
His partner was a great guy, but his attention to Maria over the last year bugged
him. Actually it made him...unsettled.
“Anyway, honey...” Michael winced at the tone of the endearment. She was
moving in for the kill. “I came by to remind you not to be late coming home
tonight.”

3

”Tonight?” Michael tried to pretend to forget they had plans. “I’m sorry,
Professor, but it looks like a long night for me and Max. We just picked up another
lead on Pierce.” Michael moved into her personal space and rubbed his head up
against her neck to whisper in her ear. “You know how important the Pierce case
has been to me.”
Maria frowned and let her eyes narrow. Cruel calculating beast! He was pulling
out the big guns. Pierce was Michael’s largest thorn in his side. For over a year he
had been in endless bloody battles with this big crime name that surprisingly had
no face. Now, it was coming down to a blood tally sheet between the two, and
Maria wished that Pierce would slip up just once, so it could be over.
“Oh! I understand, Detective. I understand perfectly. I can go to the charity
auction myself. That’s okay. Jonathan Stiller is going, so I’ll just sit with him.” Maria
waited for the cussing that Michael spewed under his breath to end. “But in just in
case you can make it, I’ll pick up your tux from the dry cleaners.” Michael frowned
at that. A year ago, PMD (Pre-Maria DeLuca), he didn't even own a damn tux.
“Maria...” Michael hated going to formal events. He hated dressing in formal
wear, and more than that he hated Jonathan Stiller. The man was always
ingratiating himself into Maria’s life and events. The man was a chicken shit, and
Michael went out of his way to get in the man’s face.
“It's okay, honey. I understand.” Maria moved in for the kill. “I wish you could
make it, because you know how much I love you in a tux.” Maria pulled him in
closer to her, opening her legs to take him up close and ignored all the people
around them as she ran a finger up his shirt, moving her glistening red lips closer to
his, knowing he was watching her mouth like he always did. Maria let her tongue
delicately come out to moisten her lips and then gently bit her bottom lip, smiling
smugly at the moan from Michael, and tuning out the other ones near by. “There
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are so many intimate and comfortable alcoves in the auction hall. Places that are so
dark and quiet...very much like that side room we found during the Museum’s
Grand Opening, but if you can’t go...”
Michael leaned forward and kissed her hard. She was so good at this. He didn’t
know what he liked more, her pulling him into semi-private rooms for public sex, or
her trying to manipulate him when he was being stubborn. Both were so damn
good. “I’ll try...”
Maria gave a laugh and kissed him hard before jumping down. “Thank you,
Detective! Oh, could you pick up some groceries on your way home?” Michael
nodded and smirked to himself. She won, and she knew she had won. Michael
never made promises he couldn’t keep. Michael took the piece of paper she handed
him and watched her leave the room.
“Whipped! You are so whipped.” Max said softly just for Michael’s ears.
“Bite me, Partner. I’m not responsible for your jealousy.” Max laughed at
Michael’s response, but he still felt a tinge. Michael was right. He was jealous. Even
after a year, Max still couldn’t find a way to get over his eternal fascination for
Maria DeLuca, the forbidden fruit. Somehow Michael was succeeding to keep
himself in a long and loving relationship with little to no effort.
Captain Jim Valenti watched as his soon-to-be stepdaughter was making her
way out of the bullpen. He had been engaged to Maria’s mom for six years. Amy
DeLuca decided a year ago to finally set the wedding date, making the past year
the Wedding Preparation from Hell. Jim knew someday he would be marrying Amy
DeLuca, just from one moment to the next, he wasn’t always sure of the date.
“Maria.” Maria smiled and kissed her favorite soon-to-be father on the cheek.
”Jim! If you’re going to complain about Michael and me missing Sunday dinner
again, I must defer to Michael and have him take the blame. He joined a basketball
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league, and he swears he can’t perform without me watching.” Maria chuckled to
herself over the double meaning in that statement.
“Actually sweetie, I was going to ask that you try not to give my entire
department collective orgasms every time you come to visit Guerin. It’s shocking
how little work I can get out of them for the rest of the day.” Maria laughed and
nodded as she took herself off to work.
Michael watched as Maria walked out of the bullpen with other people
watching her go too. He smiled at her laugh as she stopped to exchange words with
Cap. Max observed his partner with a smirk on his face. He enjoying how bemused
Maria still made Michael even after a year. Michael finally shook himself back to
reality and absentmindedly looked at the grocery list Maria left him. Eggs, milk,
cheese, bread, cocoa puffs, and...!
Michael quickly folded the list in half. After all this time and all the things they
had done together, he was more passionately involved with her today then he was
in the first days they had met. This seemed impossible, because in the beginning of
their relationship they had been out of control and in heat. However Michael was
finally coming to suspect that it wasn't just biological imperatives or pheromones
that kept them going at each other. It just seemed that this was how they were
destined to be. He still couldn't believe how lucky he was to have found her.
Max looked up at Michael sharply at the rapid intake of breath and noticed him
quickly putting the list in a safe place. Once Michael was busy elsewhere, Max,
sitting across the desk from Michael, couldn't stop turning his eyes back to that one
piece of paper....finally when his resistance was worn down; he discreetly reached
across and plucked it from Michael's desk. Scanning down, his eyes lit on that one
last word, Eggs, milk, cheese, bread, cocoa puffs... handcuffs. Oh! Max pulled at his

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suddenly tight collar, and settled down to spend the rest of the day in envy of his
partner.

~~~

Maria rushed through the house tossing her stuff left and right as soon as she
entered the door. Twenty millions things could go wrong in a course of a day, and
today they had. Kicking off her shoes with a fling of her foot and rushing for the
stairs, Maria absently mindedly muttered a “Sorry” to Mr. Booboo who barely
escaped death by shoeing.
The impromptu meeting with her Department Chair and dissertation
committee was unexpected. Having Tess crying her eyes out in her office was just
another thing. The heat control on the environmental units at the Museum going
out was a nuisance. But the dry cleaners misplacing her backless Versace dress was
unforgivable!
Maria entered her dressing room off the bathroom and searched for
something, anything to wear. Great. Just great.
Leather?
No.
Strapless? Maria looked down at her lack of endowment and didn’t want to
have to fuss with Michael breaking his neck looking down the front of her dress.
Crap. Crap. Crap. Hello? Maria pulled out a dress that had no real reason to
exist except to drive her roommate insane. Halter top, mohair, and tight. Perfect.
Shoes? Damn! Damn! Damn...oh hey! Four-inch spikes from the House of Choo.
Perfect!

7

Maria rushed to run a bath. She was already late, and if she didn’t hurry she
and Michael would have to fight for the bathroom and the sink. It was definitely
time to do some expansion and redecorating. Maria was putting on the finishing
touches when the front door opened. Smiling she went to the banister to look
down.
“Dammit! Stop pushing me into the damn door.” Maria frowned at Michael’s
angry tone, and quickly rushed down the stairs.
“You weigh a ton, you ox. I told you not to eat that second burger!” Max said
swearing loudly.
“I was starving. You know my stomach was queasy this morning. I don’t know
why Hanson had to sit next to me during briefing. He smelt like greasy hot wings,
and cheese whiz.” Maria watched as Max and Kyle hauled Michael into the room,
with Sean following.
“What’s happening? What’s going on?” Maria rushed downstairs to the “boys”
to check out her property, while noticing Kyle’s split lip, Sean with a black eye, and
Max favoring his right side along the way.
Max finally looked over at Maria and just went silent. Oh, shit! She
looked...beautiful! Michael looked at his partner and frowned, and then at his
girlfriend and frowned even more. What the hell was she wearing that dress for?
The last and only time she wore it was when... Oh no, she’s not wearing that dress
out of the house.
“Whatcha got on, Professor?” Maria came closer and noticed Michael was
favoring his left knee.

8

“A dress.” Maria looked at Michael and frowned. He looked terrible. “What did
you do to your knee?”

Michael let his tone become hard and sarcastic as he looked over at Kyle and
Sean. “I didn’t do a damn thing to my knee! They did!”

Kyle actually avoided looking at Maria and had the grace to look embarrassed.
“I sort of fell on him.” Kyle reluctantly sighed when Maria’s brow went upward.
“From a third story building...” Kyle quickly perked up. “But Sean pushed me!”
“Snitch! It was only two stories.”
“Well get his pants off, let’s look at that knee.” Maria noticed the three men
suddenly were busy looking elsewhere. “Oh for god’s sake, I’ll do it.” Men...like they
haven’t checked each other over a few times. Maria went over and looked at her
poor mate. He really did seem to be in pain. Kissing his lips gently, she quickly
unbuckled, unzipped and pulled his jeans off, swearing as his wrecked knee came
into view. She quickly covered him with the throw from the back of the sofa. “Why
the hell didn’t you take him to the hospital?” Maria rounded on the other three.
They sheepishly tried to avoid her eyes looking down at their feet.
“I wouldn’t let them.” Maria turned back to Michael.
“Why? Dammit Michael, this looks really bad! You might have torn a ligament,
or dislocated a...”
“I’m not going to that damn hospital. I hate that place. All the nurses know
me, the doctors just say...oh its Detective Guerin again! I’m not going!” Michael
swore a blue streak when Maria tried to finish removing his jeans. “Poking and
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prodding me like some damn turkey to test if I’m done. Oh shit!” Michael put his
head back on the sofa as black spots moved in front of his eyes from the pain,
leaving a wake of nausea in its path.
Maria just threw up her hands and left him sitting on the sofa. Going to the
kitchen she opened up the freezer and grabbed two bags of frozen peas, a fresh
porterhouse steak, and the First Aid kit under the counter. Taking the phone off the
receiver, she went back into the living room putting a bag of peas on Michael’s
knee, pushing her cousin Sean into a chair and slapping a raw steak on his face,
and looking at Max she tossed him the other bag of frozen peas and ignored him as
he stripped his shirt off and put the bag on his dislocated shoulder.
Going over to Kyle, Maria pushed him down in a chair and took out some
antiseptic from the First Aid kit and cleaned his split lip. “Is this the worst of it for
you?”
Kyle nodded. “Yeah, Guerin broke my fall.” Both Max and Sean snickered as
Michael just growled under his breath.
“I see. Uh huh.” Maria calmly dialed a number on her phone as she walked
back into the kitchen to grab a six pack of beer and a glass. The men watched her
silently as she walked around listening for someone to answer the phone. Each of
them looked at one another afraid Maria was calling Amy to come take care of
them.
Michael watched her, taking in the fit of her dress, the way it clung to her lean
hips, and showed a large expanse of skin on her back. The damn auction! She
wasn’t wearing that to the event, not without him, and definitely not alone. “Hi,
Jonathan? Hi, it’s Maria DeLuca.”
Michael swore under his breath trying to not appear bothered that she was
talking to that chickenshit Stiller. Michael’s face grew darker as she laughed
10

delightfully at something the man said as she opened a beer, passed one to Sean,
then Kyle, and then poured half of one into the glass for Max. Setting the other
half-empty beer on the coffee table, Maria calmly opened another.
“Jonathan, I have a terribly important favor to beg of you, and I would
eternally be in your debt if you were to do it.” Michael stayed quiet and stony faced
as Maria turned and handed him his beer sitting across from him on the coffee table
pulling his foot into her lap and repositioning the bag of frozen peas. “I have a
family emergency and can’t make the auction tonight.” Maria watched as surprise
moved over Michael’s face. “Could you see to everything for me? Yes, the
Foundation has all the workers in place, just find Carol and tell her I had an
emergency, and she will take care of everything.” Maria ran her hand up Michael’s
leg soothingly. “Thanks! You're a lifesaver! I’ll give you a call tomorrow to see how
it went. Lunch? Absolutely! I’ll meet you at the Towers at eleven-thirty tomorrow?
Noon would be even better! Thanks!”
Maria noticed the look of gratitude in Michael’s eyes, and moved his foot off
her lap, to move over and sit next to him on the sofa. “Thanks, Professor.” Michael
said softly next to her, as her mouth was mere inches from his. He knew that the
auction was a charity fundraiser for the Museum, so Maria missing it was a big deal.
“Anytime, Detective.” Maria kissed him softly and then not so softly ignoring
the others. Moving her hand under the throw she stroked his upper thigh. “Did
anything else get damaged?”
Michael coughed and laughed at the twinkle in her eyes. “No. No, I think
everything else is fine.”
“So someone want to tell me what happened?” Maria looked over at Kyle who
was pushing Max’s dislocated shoulder back into place by leaning into it. Max was
turning pale and swearing. Poor Max, he didn’t look so good. Maria’s eyes suddenly
11

narrowed as the four men tried to avoid her eyes and all started talking at once
about anything but her question. “Sean?”
Sean swore under his breath. Why did she always pick on him first? “It was
nothing, M. I swear. Just an incident.”
“Incident?” Maria gestured at Michael’s knee. “Uh huh, I see. Kyle?”
“It just happened.” Kyle tried to remain strong and undaunted by Maria’s
earnest glare.
They all groaned when she turned on Max, who was still sweating from the
exertion and pain from having his shoulder popped back in place. The three men
watched the otherwise strong Detective melt under the charm of Maria’s smile and
the gentle soft sound of her voice. “Max?”
“It wasn’t our fault. The bust was ours...” Max trailed off under the violent
protest from both Sean and Kyle, and wilted under the dark stare of his partner.
Dammit, what the hell was wrong with him? She always did it to him.
Maria just rolled her eyes. She suspected as much. Reaching over she turned
the frozen bag of peas on Michael’s knee and repositioned it. Frozen peas only had
one use in her book, ice pack. Anything else was unthinkable. This situation’s
responsibility rested with one man and one man alone.
Captain Jim Valenti.
As much as Maria adored her future stepfather and Kyle’s dad, the man was
making her life a living nightmare. About a month previously he had announced to
the entire Department that the Annual Law Enforcement Convention was being
hosted in Hawaii, and the most productive Detective team would be the
representatives of the Roswell PD for five days and four nights.
Michael had been offended because his and Max’s record was the best in the
Department, but over the last year since Sean paired up with Kyle, the Detective
12

team of DeLuca-Valenti was making major waves and their arrest record was hot.
The competition began and it was creating waves of havoc all through Roswell as
each team undermined and tried to steal the other's collars. Jim Valenti should have
to answer to authorities for his sadistic behavior.
Maria tried to convince Michael that if he wanted to go to Hawaii they could
just take a vacation, but Michael remained stubborn and firm that it was the
principle of the matter, and not the actual vacation. The competition heated to an
intolerable level when Sean started wearing Hawaiian shirts to work. Soon Kyle was
following his partner’s lead and wearing the cheesy colorful shirts too. Michael
retaliated by solving three cases in two days with maximum amount of damage and
Max trying to explain the incidents to the Captain.
Maria finally got rid of the destructive team of Kyle and Sean, and saw Max off.
It took some time to get Michael up the stairs to the loft and she left him soaking in
a hot bath while she went to fix dinner. Watching a segment on the evening news,
Maria quickly turned off the television and turned off the ringer on the phone. Amy
would be calling. It was best not to even know.
Maria made a dinner tray and took it upstairs to help get Michael out of the
bath. His knee was still swollen and severely discolored. Taking the opportunity, she
made a few calls while he was indisposed. Maria smiled as she heard him in the
other room splashing around.
Michael was a strange man. Silent and somber, he approached life with a
frown and a touch of skepticism that bordered on a psychological parody. The
special aspects of his personality made him standoffish and hard to understand at
times, but at other times he was like an open book. Hardworking, honest, and
honorable with a touch of sarcastic humor, he was always who he appeared to be
and never made promises or empty gestures.
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So it was times like these that made Maria smile. Whenever he was hurt and
laid up in pain, he liked to be babied and so he reverted to an almost childlike
manner. She would never admit it, but his quiet soulful eyes, almost pleading for
attention always hit Maria in her maternal place, that dusty place that scared the
living daylights out of her. Choking back a smile, she went to check on him.
“Hey, you need help getting out?”
“You could join me in here.” Maria smiled at his tone and the look in his eyes.
“Aw, detective, I’m almost positive you’re in no shape to handle me tonight.”
“Wanna bet?” Michael reached out and nabbed Maria’s hand dragging her
closer to the bath until she was perched on the very edge.
“Big man. The bath is nice, but I’ll be too tired to drag your lazy carcass out
of there later.” Maria reached past him and pulled the drainplug. “So why don’t you
come out, eat some food, and pin me to a place where we both can pass out on
afterwards.”
“Is our relationship getting stale?” Michael asked as Maria helped him out of
the tub, wincing at his colorful language as he ranted against Kyle’s timely birth and
the questionability of Sean’s humanity.
Maria couldn’t stop laughing. “Hardly. You, detective, keep life a laugh a
minute, and twice as intriguing.”
“You’re not just saying that because you want to abuse my body?”
“Abuse your body?” Maria appeared to be giving that some thought. “Oh sure,
what’s left of it.” Maria helped him into the bedroom and quickly wiped him down
before pushing him backward onto the bed. Leaning over him, careful of his bum
knee, Maria kissed him, and then mated her forehead to his. “Excuse me detective,
but I need you to arrest someone.”
Michael’s eyes twinkled. “Who?”
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“You. It appears you’ve borrowed something I consider my personal property
and trashed it. Why do I lend things to you when this is the best you can do to
protect it?”
“Kyle...”
“Don’t want to hear it. You know this is about the contest, and sheer
obstinacy. We can afford to take the vacation without you killing yourself, Max and
the others, not to mention the entire town of Roswell.” Maria leaned on her elbow
and looked at him. “I saw a report on the news just now. It said that the Palisades
restaurant was closed for repairs due to damage from a high-speed chase. It also
mentioned a man being pushed off the building and another jumping after him.”
Michael looked away quickly avoiding her eyes. “Just tell me that the wrecked car
wasn’t pushed into that restaurant by you, that you didn’t help destroy the place
my mom has scheduled her rehearsal dinner.”
Michael could feel the sweat gathering on his brow. “I didn’t know that the car
would go that out of control when I shot out the front tire. And plus, Kyle and Sean
were in hot pursuit ahead of us coming from another direction. If I didn’t bag him,
they might have jumped our collar.” Michael tried to shift some of the blame. “The
entire report was skewed, I'm sure. I was under pressure. Max was screeching in
my ear to take it out because ‘Dick’ and ‘Dickweed’ were on the prowl.”
“Uh huh, I see.”
Michael looked at her and frowned. “Your mom doesn’t know does she?” Maria
avoided his eyes and reached over to pick up the dinner tray. “Maria? Ummm, Amy
doesn’t know does she? Maria?” Michael just closed his eyes and sunk back in the
bed. He was really feeling bad, but not as bad as he would be once Amy DeLuca
found him. This was entirely Valenti and DeLuca’s fault.

15

~~~

He sat looking down at the refuse pit. It was filling too fast. Soon it would be
time to find a new place, a new pit. Local talent had discovered this one, and his
rejects were sharing time with their kills. Every day the noises in his ears got louder
and the anger grew as he watched imperfect specimens among the pure. The rage
was contained beneath the smile, but his hand still trembled. It was all in the
handling, the show, and the standing silent. If you chase, it ran and then capture
might be impossible. But if you stood still and appeared to be harmless fading into
the wallpaper, sooner or later the moth would come to you.
Every year it got harder and harder to find that perfect specimen. The entire
world seemed to rejoice in imperfection and the marring of the flesh. The last one
appeared perfect from afar, but at closer inspection all the flaws became apparent.
The jarring inefficiency and the nasty spots made everything wrong, and this one
took too much time to hunt with too much effort.
It was time to move the grounds, find a fresh killing zone. Ten years into the
hobby, and everything was becoming harder and harder. Perfection seemed so far
away, and every few years he had had to alter his location. But now he was settled,
and this was where he was staying. Seven years in one location, one life, working
hard and making perfection the hallmark of his work ethic. So much time, so much
work, and finally it was all paying off.
He needed that new dumping ground soon though. This was his home. This
was where he wanted to stay. Moving to new cities, new states were no longer
appealing. He liked his world and his life. His only choice was to take care not to
pollute the field. Anonymity left him free with his hobby for over ten years. It took
him over seven years before that to perfect his skills. Seventeen years was a lot of
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time to work at something, and it was almost half his life. He had started young
with insects and moths, but by twenty he moved to larger prey. Men.
Today, he was looking for the perfection in a wordsmith. Vocal sound, clarity of
enunciation, the clipping tone of phonics performed in perfection with the added
allure of a body of grace and excellence. Something young and exuberant, full of
life, something to be coveted...preserved before this wreck of the world took away
nature’s most excellent work.
Every year, he had to hunt younger and younger prey. The chaos was catching
them, slowly drowning them into the great void of nothingness. Soon, no one would
even remember what true beauty was.

17

Day 2: Thursday- 7:30 a.m.

“Michael! Hurry up it’s getting late.” Maria cleared away the dishes and quickly
opened up Mr. Booboo’s food. He was distressed. Last night he had curled up in his
favorite place on Michael’s legs and the bulk of his weight had accidentally settled
on his wounded knee. The resultant bellowing and cursing sent the poor cat flying
and he was only just coaxed out from behind the armoire by the promise of food
and catnip. “Michael! What are you doing?” Maria rushed up the stairs and stopped
beside the bed watching him struggling to get his jeans on.
“These jeans are too tight.”
“They look like they fit to me.”
“They fit fine, except when I sit or cross my leg. Then they're too tight around
my knee. This is killing me.”
“Wear some looser fitting pants.” Maria quickly dug through his drawers and
went into his closet to find something, anything. “Sweats. You can wear sweats.”
“I’m not wearing sweats to work. It’s either slacks or jeans.”
“Chinos?”
“Maria...”
“Cargo pants?”
“Maria...”
Dammit, Detective, just wear the damn sweats! It’s not like you’ll be out of
the bullpen all day, and they’ll be easier to get in and out of at the doctor’s office.”
The words ‘doctor’s office’ had him looking at her sharply. “No way. I already
told you I wasn’t going to the doctor.”
“Too bad. Rule number thirty-seven states, and I quote, 'any illness or injury
that sustains over a twenty-four hour pain factor, especially with an inflammatory
reaction, must and will be attended to by a medically approved medical physician,
18

with no exceptions.' I checked you out this morning. It’s still swollen, black and
blue, and hot to the touch. You can’t even bend the leg. That means doctor.”
“That rule was made for you, and you know it. Your whacked out hatred of
synthetic drugs, antibiotics, and modern cures for the common cold, makes every
head cold, every sniffle drag out too long.”
“You thought you were protected from this rule, but we added 'injury' when
you refused to go to the doctor and walked around for three days with broken ribs
and almost punctured a lung. This injury invokes the rule.”
Michael just hated it when she used his own rules against him. After a year of
Maria’s new-age cures for everything, her fondness for home remedies, and her
belief that antibiotics were an evil conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies, Michael
finally had enacted the rule system. Neither of them was the best at taking care of
themselves, and spent large amount of time worrying about the other. Between
injuries and Maria’s whacked out schedule of all-nighters, they were a living
nightmare. It was a good thing they lived together, because no one else would have
them.
“I already called Max. He’s meeting us at the clinic, after your nine thirty
appointment to take you on to work.” Michael opened his mouth to protest again,
but Maria just quickly kissed him, shutting him up. “I hate to see you in so much
pain.” Maria stroked his cheek. “Please?”
“Okay.” Michael leaned against her for a moment. She was managing him
again, and when he thought about it later he would remember to mind. It was only
fair since two weeks ago he dumped her in bed when she had spent three days
consecutively grading papers, and he was tired of her lack of sleep and the
emptiness of his bed.

19

~~~

“Dammit Maxwell, could you make this heap go a little faster?” Michael tried to
rearrange his leg into a better position in the cramped front of the Departmental car
they were assigned. “I’m dying here.”
“Nice knee brace.” Max commented cutting off another driver. Michael’s crappy
driving skills over the years were eroding away Max’s more courteous ones. But
Max had to agree; the PD car was a dog waiting for burial. “Knew Maria would get
you there.”
“Shut up. When the hell do we get your car back?” Michael had trashed his
truck four weeks previously in a high-speed chase, and Max was totaled out three
days ago.
“We don’t. The insurance wrote it off, and get this, I still owe two large even
after they payoff the bluebook value.” Max took the corner in a screeching hurry
letting his anger drive him.
“Buy out the body and don’t let them total. See if Kyle can do something with
it.”
“Not going to happen. We screwed the struts and broke the front axle. It was
a una-body so it’s totally cracked. And you know that terrible clunking noise and the
dropping sound following the SUV going dead?” Michael just grunted as he tried to
fit something along the side of his brace to scratch his leg. “It was the drive shaft.
Gone.”
Max looked over at Michael poking at the Velcro straps on his knee brace. His
language was as colorful as before. Over the past year Michael had tried to clean up
his language three different times, but was on a break from the torture and
enjoying all the four letter words he could think or find.
20

“You gotta love those high speed chases!” Michael actually smiled at Max.
Max just laughed in humor at his last car being gone. They were at an even
count now, two for him, and two for Michael. Insurance companies were
threatening not to cover them during work hours, and the PD Insurance carrier
insisted they add extra insurance coverage.
“Gotta love the bumps and bruises. I can’t believe you totaled my car.”
“Actually it was multiple lacerations and contusions, with a possible
concussion.” Michael said smugly. His injury list was climbing.
“I think some of the damn stitches the doc put in my ass are still there.” Max
pulled into the PD garage. “I told you that it wouldn’t work.” Max complained.
“Hey, I told you to flash your badge, not wave your gun. Who knew a fleeing
embezzler would take off in fright. I didn’t know public accountants could drive.”
“You didn’t say a damn thing about the gun, Michael. It was all, ‘show him
your stuff Max, let’s take this bad boy down, and make him cry'.”
“Bitch, bitch, bitch. At least the SUV had some mileage on it. My truck only
had seven thousand before we ran it off the cliff.” Michael and Max headed for the
elevators. “I had to explain to Maria how the truck she bought me for my birthday
was lying in flames at the bottom of a coulee system. She thinks I need a tank or
some type of armored vehicle like a Hummer, but is afraid of the damage I could do
to Roswell.”
They stepped into the elevator, and Max was remembering the shock on
Maria’s face when she learned of the demise of Michael’s three-month-old truck.
“There is that. Maybe after the Mustang is done, we can take to driving it?”
“Over my dead body. Maria and I sweated over that car for the past year. It’s
almost done. Three more parts, some welding, putting the reconditioned engine
back in, and a new paint job, and that honey is pure cherry.”
21

Max just smirked at Michael's voice. The awe, the inspiration and pure pride
were nothing if not contagious. Since Michael moved in with Maria over a year ago,
the two of them had been religiously refitting and conditioning Michael’s 1967
Shelby GT500 Mustang made by the Ford Corporation in Fastback style. Max
watched, and occasionally was pulled in to do some of the heavy work, but the
project was their baby. Maria had started rebuilding cars some four to five years
previously as a sort of therapy for her grief and pain, and it had pulled the couple
through some hard emotional times left in the wake of the emotionally trying
murder that had introduced them.
Their new relationship had gone through tough times at the beginning. Michael
was having nightmares and waking in cold sweats, which drove him into
Overprotection Mode with Maria. Maria began to feel trapped and suffocated under
Michael’s ever watchful domineering care. Before the murders of a year ago, Maria
hadn't cried for years. She was repressed in her emotions, and given to panic
attacks and stress, resulting in shock syndrome. With the sorrow and loss of the
murders she finally learned to cry again, and crying released more than tears. It
released anger.
The couple barely survived the turbulent first four months with Michael
obsessing and Maria raging in anger. Their arguments and fights were almost as
notorious as their makeup sessions. The entire Department and family watched
helplessly as they struggled to find the even ground in their relationship. It took
Maria involving herself in one of their high profile cases, which was both bloody and
dangerous to awaken both of them. Maria realized she was overcompensating, and
Michael was able to watch Maria walk through another murder investigation
unscathed. It lightened their relationship, but also gave Maria a taste for meddling.

22

They still fought and bickered back and forth, but it was different. It had a
touch of humor to it now, an intensity of passion, a fight between two people still
too afraid to admit verbally to emotions too strong to ignore. In the last year
neither had found a way or time to say the three magic words. Each was too afraid
of the last step, too afraid to be so vulnerable. Instead they showed it in every way
imaginable, short of the spoken words.
Michael had been the first to understand what was happening to them when
they met. He easily gave up many of his intimacy issues to be with Maria, but he
couldn’t give her the words. That last step had to begin with Maria. So, he silently
waited, swallowing the words every time he felt them surfacing.
“Where do you think yesterday’s bust put us in the Hawaii pool?” Max asked as
they approached their floor. Getting out, he ignored the usual flurry of activity in
the Major Crimes bullpen, and headed straight for coffee.
“We’re in the butter zone, partner. That places us up six busts for the week,
and it’s only three for Tweedle Dumb and Dumber.” Michael smiled his largest,
cheesiest grin already mentally ordering drinks with umbrellas. Max just nodded,
sipping on his coffee as they circumnavigated the bullpen to their desk, nodding at
acknowledgements along the way.
It was the snarl under Michael’s breath that alerted Max to the fact that the
Detective team of DeLuca and Valenti was in house.
“Fucker.” Max said as he passed Sean, under his breath still feeling the
soreness left from his once dislocated shoulder.
“Fag.” Sean countered easily not even looking up from his work.
“Takes one to know one, Pansy Boy.” Max quipped back.
“Loser.” Kyle growled at Max.

23

“Back off runt, and we might let you play with the big boys today,” said
Michael. He balled up his fist as both Kyle and Sean stood up ready to get into it.
None of them noticed the appearance of Captain Jim Valenti coming to stand in his
doorway with a stack of papers clenched in his hands.
“Gentlemen! You better be getting ready to dance together.” The four men
turned towards Cap and all assumed semi-innocent looks on their faces relaxing
their fists and facial features.
Max started to make a smart comment, when he suddenly noticed the
unnatural redness to Cap’s face, the clutching of the papers in his hand, and that
very recognizable look of his when he was going to kick ass and take no prisoners.
Uh oh...
“I would appreciate it if anyone,” Jim looked around the entire bullpen at his
quieting department, as all those working stopped to pay attention. “...anyone at
all, could tell me if they have not destroyed, terrorized or threaten to maim any
citizen of Roswell within this week. Anyone?”
Jim turned his flashing angry glaze on his two fighting teams, and Michael
actually felt a need to gulp under the heat. This was looking bad, real bad. Dammit,
Amy must have noticed the loss of her wedding rehearsal restaurant! Michael
stubbornly shrugged. No loss. The Palisades had crappy food anyway.
Jim let his glance move over the room until he noticed one hand up in the air.
“Hanson? What is it?”
“I haven’t done any of those things, sir.” Michael snickered under his breath
followed by the others. Of course he hasn’t. That would require Hanson to leave the
Department and actually pretend to be a Detective. Sean was making rude noises
and Kyle was trying to swallow a smile.

24

“Good.” Valenti tossed two plane tickets to Hanson. “Get packed. You and
Fletcher are going to Hawaii for a week. Have fun.”
Jim ignored the stunned silence, the outrage from Sean, Max and Michael, and
the cries of foul from Kyle. Walking back into his office, and leaving the door open,
it was the angry bellow from that dark cave that silenced the protesting men.
“Guerin-Evans-DeLuca-Valenti, get your asses in here, now!”
The four men looked at each other in silence, and then suddenly moved
towards to door shoving and pushing the other. Once they got to the office, they
were surprisingly well mannered and proper while the entire Department tried to
discreetly find positions and work to do within earshot of the Captain’s office.
They all tried to look contrite. Michael plopped himself on the edge of the
conference table in Jim’s office and put his injured leg up on the table. Sympathy.
He could use all the sympathy he could get. The others tried to find places to lean
or stand that didn’t betray their apprehension.
Jim continued to ignore them as he read through some reports and the large
stack of papers he had been clutching earlier. Suddenly looking up, he inventoried
the bumps and bruises on his two major Detective teams. This had gone on too
long, and too far. The overwhelming competition between the two teams was killing
the city's budget in monetary damages, and putting all four men on the injury list
too often.
“Explain to me how a simple embezzling case could result in three cars
totaled, one restaurant uninhabitable, a broken awning, two Detectives jumping
from a two story building, a public accountant hospitalized for broken ribs and a
concussion, thirteen city blocks terrorized by the very people sworn to protect
them, while involving six backup units, thirty-seven auto accidents, the fire
department and the city planners office, all resulting in over twenty-five thousand
25

dollars in property damage, and that only after what was covered by insurance.”
Jim wasn’t surprised when his men looked everywhere but at him. Guerin seemed
very intent on his shoelaces.
“Guerin, you’re the senior officer. You want to explain?”
“The suspect fled, and we pursued.” Michael stuck with direct responses, as
short as possible. “We called for black and white backup to quickly contain the
situation.” Michael emphasized the words ‘black and white’ backup and pointedly
glared at Sean and Kyle. “The perpetrator eluded the units and went down a one
way street, the wrong way, causing all the oncoming traffic to crash, swerve or alter
course. That’s where most of the accidents occurred, sir.”
“And how did DeLuca and Valenti get involved?”
“Can’t say, sir. I didn’t call them.” Michael said smugly watching Kyle and
Sean squirm as Jim turned his attentions to them.
“Gentlemen. You want to explain what you were doing involving yourselves in
another team's bust?”
Kyle scratched his neck. “Umm, we were in the area and available to intercept
the suspect?”
“So how did the suspect’s car and the Guerin-Evans unit end up redecorating
the front end of the Palisades restaurant?”
Max cleared his throat. “Well, sir. The suspect was proceeding down Waters
northbound towards the more populated downtown area, and Sean and Kyle were
approaching from the north heading fast in a head-on collision with the suspect. To
stop the suspect...we, um...Michael... shot out his front right tire.”
Michael swore under his breath. No one really needed to mention that. Michael
looked at his partner and whispered under his breath, "Traitor."

26

Valenti’s eyes took on a darker, angrier glare. “You discharged a weapon
during a high speed chase, in an area of high pedestrian traffic, while the fleeing
vehicle was involved in a game of chicken with another unit?” Valenti stood up
leaned on his desk with both hands coming down in a loud smack. “Tell me that this
is not correct?”
“Actually sir, it’s sort of correct...” Michael began.
Valenti’s eyebrow rose and his voice took on a sarcastic tone. “Sort of? What is
this, like sort of pregnant, sort of married, or sort of dead? What is it Detective?”
“In hindsight, sir. It was a poor choice.”
“A poor choice? You’re my senior detective, and all you can say is it was a poor
choice?” Jim took his chair again. “And how did your car and the suspect’s end up in
the restaurant?”
Max felt bad that Michael was taking the heat for their joint decision. “When
the tire blew, it sent the car out of control. It went into the restaurant front.”
“And your car just thought it looked fun, and decided to join the it there?”
“No.” Max could feel the sweat beading on his brow and upper lip.
“Actually...our car was joined to the suspects by the bumpers. When we were in hot
pursuit, we had gotten close enough to...”
“Guerin, did you ram that car with yours?”
“No sir!” Michael made a face. “I just nudged him.”
“And that resulted in your cars being locked together?”
“Yes, sir. But when I saw him heading for the restaurant, I applied the brakes
to slow him down, otherwise he wouldn’t have stopped at the store front.”
“Well thank God for small favors! Then we would be looking at hundred of
thousands of damages instead of just twenty-five.” Jim just rubbed his face in
horror. These men before him, at least three of them, were family or almost family.
27

And they were blight on Roswell. “I’ve heard enough. I read the report, but tell me
in your own words how Sean and Kyle ended up on the roof chasing the suspect,
jumping from the roof, and landing on Michael. Someone clue me into to these
Keystone Cop tactics taught in the Academy under the do and don’t of idiots. Make
me a believer.”
Sean just looked at Michael and frowned. “Well, we saw that Guerin and Evans
were trapped in their car, wedged in between the front desk and the salad bar, so
we took off in pursuit of the suspect. He left his car and ran for the stairs. We
pursued.” Sean didn’t want to mention that he dragged his partner up the stairs and
then pushed him off the building. “The suspect made the roof with us hot on his
heels, and then he jumped off the two story building into the front awning.”
“Which somehow missed being destroyed by the cars when they hit the store
front?” Valenti asked.
“Yeah. We followed him off the building.” Jim just nodded looking down at
eyewitness accounts that had Sean pushing his son off the building.
“Was that before or after Guerin and Evans had removed themselves from
their car, saw the suspect landing and apprehended him?”
“Umm,” Sean rubbed his neck. “Sort of after.”
“Again with the 'sort of' response.” Jim looked at the men. He got the picture
all right.
Sean and Kyle went to steal the bust from Michael and Max, but the suspect
jumped from the roof right into their waiting arms. Sean, seeing their opportunity
fleeing fast, pushed his partner off the building and then jumped himself. Sean hit
the awning, but Kyle only hit the side and his fall was broken by the force of his
body landing on Michael, who was in the process of handcuffing the suspect. Max

28

had had to chase down the fleeing suspect again, and came back to an injured
Michael, who was pissed off and beating the crap out of both Sean and Kyle.
Max turned the suspect over to a watching uniform officer and waded into the
fight to help his injured partner. The results were a dislocated shoulder, black eye,
and a split lip for his trouble, plus the injured knee suffered by Michael from
breaking Kyle’s fall. They all got off lucky, but the Roswell PD was suffering some
real damages including looking like fools, with their four best Detective engaged in
a brawl in front of a destroyed restaurant.
“I see.” Valenti closed the folder front on the offensive reports. “I see very
clearly that this past year has been a nightmare for this department. I felt that
some friendly competition would be good, but I forgot who was going to be involved
in the competition. This has been a testosterone-pissing zone for the last year, and
I’m sick of it! New rules, boys! Today starts a new regime.”
Jim dug through a pile of folders looking for the correct one. If it killed the four
men, so be it, but they were going to work as a team or find new jobs. “I am
putting the four of you on restricted duty.” He ignored the protest. “The mayor
wants your badges, but I’m convinced if we could teach you to work together
instead of against each other that we might actually have a decent department.
Your records are clean and impressive, but so is your list of damages and injuries. I
will fire the lot of you without a moment's hesitation if you don’t fix this.”
“Cap...” Michael started.
“No. Not this time, Michael. I’ve had the four of you in here too often. More
than any green rookie, and there is no excuse for this out-of-control mayhem. Your
job is to protect this city, not destroy it piece by piece, building by building.” Jim
called his secretary.

29

“Rhonda, make me copies of these files. I need four copies.” Jim waited until
his secretary left the room. “You’re all confined to desk duty until Michael’s knee
clears with Medical. You will clear away all the loose paper work, attend court days
in a timely, proper, and respectful manner, and you’ll work this one case with Vice.
Rhonda will give you the paper work after she makes the copies.
Kyle looked at the gleam in his father’s eye. He knew that look. It was the look
his dad had gotten when he made him scrape and paint the house in punishment
for joyriding and getting drunk in a ‘borrowed’ car when he was in High School.
“What’s the case? I never worked Vice.”
“Well since the four of you seem to dance so well together, I’m going to grant
Captain Strickland’s request for some help on one of his cases. You will work
together as a team, and continue to do so until I tell you otherwise.” Jim tried not
to smile from thinking of their reaction when they read their undercover
assignments. It made his already gloomy day suddenly look brighter.
“Cap...” Michael was starting to worry too. What hell did he mean by ‘dancing’?
“Now get out, and get that paperwork done. Strickland wants you in debriefing
first thing this afternoon. This is a night gig, so cancel any plans. You’re all on this
case until it’s solved. The four men looked uncertain, and finally Valenti kicked them
out of his office. “Go!”

~~~

When Maria finally made it to school, she was very late. It was hard to get
everything done before her first class when she had an entire hour to prepare, but
today after seeing Michael to the clinic she was left with only twenty minutes.
“Professor DeLuca.”
30

Maria stopped at the calling of her name, and swore under her breath. Great,
just great! “Professor Price. How are you this morning?”
He ignored her attempt at being cordial and friendly. “I noticed that you
missed the auction last night.”
“Yes. I asked Jonathan Stiller to oversee it. I had a family emergency.”
“I heard that as well.” Kenneth Price was only about ten years older than
Maria, and the Department Chair. He acted about thirty years older, with a prim and
proper disposition and a touch of disapproval whenever he had to deal with the
youngest member of the staff, Maria. He was equally biting and disapproving of all
but a few graduate students and secretarial staff.
Maria looked at her watch and grimaced. “Ken, I’m sorry, but did you need
something? I’m afraid I’ve got a class in fifteen minutes, and I had to stop at the
clinic this morning so my time is short.” Maria watched his unattractively thin lips
pinch in a sour look at her use of his first name.
“The fundraiser for the museum was your responsibility. Your first commitment
should be to it and it alone. I have offered numerous times to replace you as the
acting curator to the Museum. As I stated, if running the museum, your thesis, and
your class load are too much, changes can be made.”
“I thank you again, Ken, for your offer. But once again, I’m the curator of the
museum, and will not step down from the position. That museum cost me more
than you’ll ever know, and I won't abandon it to someone who has no knowledge of
the history of its creation, and the prices and sacrifices associated with it.” Maria
hated this man with a passion. He was a bureaucratic automaton with a Hitler
complex only exacerbated by his diminutive size and the overwhelming ego of his
own pride!

31

“I believe that the museum demands more dedication and time than you have
to give, Professor. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. You are either embroiled in
some case with your boyfriend or you’re off on some adventure that has nothing to
do with this Department or this University. Your classes very often are missed or
rearranged, and your attendance is spotty at best.”
“That is not true. I have not missed a single class this semester. My thesis
chapters are current, and the ‘adventure’ as you call it was a three-day trip to Peru
to pick up more information for my thesis. My involvement with the police is hard to
avoid since my boyfriend is a cop, as is my cousin, my soon to be step-brother and
step-father.” Maria looked at her watch again and this time swore aloud making the
man wince in disgust. “Now if you want to continue this discussion at another time,
I suggest we set an appointment. If I don’t leave now I’ll be late for my class,
another piece of ammunition which will no doubt be used against me.”
Maria didn’t even bother saying goodbye in a polite manner, but just took off.
Reaching her office she was relieved to see Tess already there with her class notes
in hand, a cup of the most beautifully crafted rotgut coffee ever brewed in all its
vileness. A Mecca of coffees.
“I saw you waylaid by Master Toady himself.” Tess said.
“You’re a goddess.” Maria sipped the coffee as she tossed off all her stuff and
grabbed the notes. Giving Tess a good look, Maria frowned. She was too pale,
almost thin and wasting, and Maria suspected she had been crying again. Looking
at the wall clock, Maria sighed. No time. Later.
They left Maria’s office and Tess walked her to her class. “Was it about not
making the auction last night?”
“In a word, yes. But it was more too. His Royal Toady Jerkiness seems even
more in a tear today. More than usual, I mean. What’s the story?”
32

“No clue. But he already made two secretaries cry, a graduate student
contemplate dropping out or transferring, and his student assistant quit today, five
minutes after getting here.”
“Damn, he’s a bigger bastard than usual. Wish I could find something on him
so Max and Michael could interrogate him again. Last year they made him
practically wet his pants and cry.” Maria stopped at her class door, acknowledging
students as they entered the room around her and Tess. “Okay, see what you can
learn, and I’ll see you between classes. I’ve got a lunch date, so if anyone asks, I’m
unavailable during that time.”
Tess nodded and watched Maria enter the class with her usual grace and loud
style.
“People, you’ll be wanting to disconnect those cell phones, put away those
palm pilots and take your seats! This class is ending before it begins, because today
we are talking about mythology as a metaphor in societies with drastic changes.
Literally we are talking about cultures in flux and under a glass, easily seen and
understood from the evolution of ever-changing myths and legends. Overnight in
Sri Lanka we have social myths created as the people sleep. So what naturally
evolves slowing in most cultures over hundreds of years is happening overnight in
this place? Why? And what example can we use to see this phenomenon?”
Tess smiled to herself as she heard a few answers from the class. Some were
decent guesses. Maria's classes were always loud and interactive.
“Did you say Capitalism?” Maria voiced rose in an almost screech. “Get out of
my class!” The room exploded in laughter. “Capitalism is not the sin of this culture
nor is it the causal agent of change. It is, however, a prime example of how one
word becomes a catch phrase for all social discord. In the survey course that you
took as freshmen you might remember me asking what was wrong with capitalism,
33

and some student answered ‘inflation.’” Maria stopped and Tess laughed with the
rest of the class. “Oh God, that was you! Get out of my class! No, what is wrong is
that more than 90 some percent of all the nation’s wealth resides in the hands of
only the top 4% of the society, and this top heavy glut is a social problem within
itself. But back to societies under glass... In Sri Lanka a prime example of the
superstructure of the Harris modality is that their legends and myths are being
created daily. The firewalkers are a prime example. Did anyone finish reading the
assigned text, Medusa’s Hair?”
Tess walked away to finish her grading and brooding in silent. Being around
Maria always lifted her spirits, but life was starting to weigh her down. Tess sat at
Maria’s desk and started organizing the piles. That desk was a legend unto itself. No
matter how hard they worked, how many overnights they spent, the Beast never
was clear of paperwork, journals, student bluebooks, and essays. It was like a selffeeding entity that was perpetuated by Maria’s disorganization. It was sad, but
Maria’s office at the museum was equally horrifying.
Picking up the phone, Tess hesitated and then made the phone call. Lunch was
always a great time to get together with a friend.

~~~

Michael made his second run to the candy machine. It was hard to navigate
with the bulky, non-bending knee brace, but the craving for something chocolate
and peanut butter was driving him crazy! He had to go down two floors before he
found what he was looking for in the third floor breakroom. 5th Avenue Bar. What
the hell was a 5th Avenue Bar anyway?

34

“Michael, we’ve got the lab results for the Turner case, and Parker says the
genetic stuff will be back in the next forty-eight hours.” Max was filing through their
backlog of paper work.
“Shit, forty-eight hours? I thought we got a new system for genetic testing.”
Michael picked up the phone. “Parker!”
Max cringed at Michael’s barking voice. Poor Liz. Somehow over the last year
Michael and Liz Parker had forged a sort of friendship. It had more to do with Maria
than anything did. After they were all released from the hospital, Maria had made
sure to keep in touch with Liz. She had asked Sean to stay with Liz in the hospital,
and somehow that led to Sean and Liz getting personally involved for the last year.
Max tried to ignore the twinges of jealousy he felt over their relationship. It wasn’t
like he was willing to date Liz. At this time, his life was too complicated with Isabel
and other things, not to mention an undying fascination for Maria DeLuca. When he
finally thought he might want to look into the mutual attraction that was once there
it was too late. Sean and Liz had started to date.
Liz had changed a little, but she was still living with her parents and working
in the CrashDown when they needed help. Maria worried about her, but remained
silent. The attack on her last year left her with a scar across her neck and a slightly
huskier voice. But otherwise, Liz seemed to have recovered nicely. She was still
incredibly brown in color, but under the influence of Maria, she added more color to
her wardrobe and the girls joked and had a good time together. It was strange to
see Liz, Maria and Tess laughing and gossiping. Not so much Tess any longer.
About four months ago, Max finally asked Tess out on a date. At first he was
concerned that Kyle and Tess were an item, but both Tess and Kyle had assured him
that they were just friends. After not contacting each other for so long after Jack
Hardy died, it wasn’t surprising how reluctant both of them were to lose that
35

friendship again. Kyle told Max that he was surprised that Tess felt willing to date
again after Jack’s death even though it was a few years later. Their relationship
went on for two months until Tess finally broke it off. The breakup bothered him
more than he could have explained. He hadn't actually felt that attached to Tess
until she called it quits. Then he found himself brooding at the most inconvenient
times.
Michael pulled Max back to the present day by the slamming of his phone. “I
still don’t see why they spend so much money on a testing system that can’t be
used because it isn’t validated. Why buy it if it’s not validated, and how the hell
does it become validated?” Max stretched his arm trying to relieve some of the
soreness from his mending shoulder as Michael ranted and raved. Michael was
acting strange lately, and Max couldn’t figure it out. Next time he talked to Maria,
he was going to ask her about it.
Suddenly Michael stopped talking, and Max stared at him, startled. “What’s up
Michael?” His partner suddenly looked pale and tired.
“Sorry, I think this damn knee is causing me some problems. I need to take a
quick break. My cell phone is on so call me if you need me, okay? I’ll be down in
Holding.”
Michael quickly left his desk, or as quickly as he could while wearing his knee
brace. Holding was on first floor, and Michael checked the holding cell board.
Grabbing the key for the last cell, he headed to the main checkout desk. “Hey, Carl,
I’m taking holding cell eight. Is there anyone in it?”
“Hey, Guerin! Man, you look like shit. You okay?”
“Got a little banged up yesterday. Cell eight?”
“Yeah, take it. It’s clear and clean. You want me to rouse you?”

36

“No, Max will call me if he needs me, otherwise give me about a half an hour
to an hour.”
“Done.” Carl watched the larger man limp his way to the back holding block.
Sometimes the Detectives and commanders used the cells for a nap if they were on
an all night stakeout and couldn’t go home after a shift. Michael Guerin looked like
he was on the verge of collapse. It was Thursday, so Carl hoped for Michael’s sake
that he had the weekend off, because the man looked like he could use a break.
Michael quickly opened and the door of the cell and closed it behind him.
Dropping on the first cot, he groaned his relief. He didn’t want to admit to Max that
suddenly a wave of fatigue had hit him. It was nothing. He was just wearing down
with all the stress of keeping up with Sean and Kyle. Maybe now that they were
working as a team maybe he could power it down and get some real rest. Too bad
about Hawaii, Maria would have looked great in a grass skirt... Michael closed his
eyes and went to sleep.

~~~

“Maria... Maria wake up.”
Maria lifted her head from her desk where she had laid it on only a few
moments previously. “What? Tess? Is there something...”
“Maria, your next class is in ten minutes. You’ve been sleeping for almost the
last hour.”
Maria shook her head. That was impossible. She had just rested her eyes for a
moment. Looking at the clock on her desk she moaned. Nope. Tess was correct. It
was almost time for her next class. Dammit, she had wanted to talk to Tess too!
Another opportunity lost.
37

“God. What class is this again?”
“Your freshmen.”
Maria put her head back down. “Oh kill me now...Where are my notes? It has
to be the Forrest People. Maybe I should talk about the mating ritual of the pigmies
and forgo talking about making the “pipe” sing until next week.”
“You look tired. You want me to take your class?” Tess asked the sleepy
woman.
“Thanks, but you don’t look any more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed yourself.
You want to tell me what’s going on?”
Tess was shocked that Maria had noticed, but she tried to avoid the issue. She
wasn’t ready to share or talk about it. “Maybe later.”
Maria stood up and stretched. She felt better. “Okay, but I’ll hold you to that.
Now I better get my worthless butt going or I’ll be late for class. I’m leaving for
lunch immediately following class. The Towers restaurant is where you can find me,
otherwise I’ll be back in time for my one thirty.”
“Gotcha, Professor.” Maria just laughed at Tess’s response.

~~~

“Maria.”
Maria looked up from her menu to see her dining companion, Jonathan Stiller.
He looked his usual well-put-together self, polished and expensive. He was wearing
the latest Bergman’s serge cut, black suit with slim breasted lapels and a Caprinecked interlaced white silk shirt.

38

“Jonathan.” Maria smiled as he reached down and kissed her cheek. It was
always 'Jonathan', never 'Jon' or 'Nathan'. It was always ‘Jonathan’; much like it
was always 'Michael'.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Rude beast.”
“Nonsense. I just got here myself.” Maria watched as he put his napkin neatly
in place and ordered a drink. Elegant. The man was poetry in motion.
“So what looks good?” Jonathan looked at Maria critically. She looked tired,
but otherwise she was her usual sparkling, beautiful self. “Have you ordered?”
“I wouldn’t dare. Not without you!” Maria laughed softly as she chided him.
Jonathan loved restaurants, loved food, and loved to order for the table regardless
of how many people were eating with him.
“Brat. It’s true. I called the chef. He recommends a saddle of beef with
rosemary stuffing, baby carrots cooked in saffron, and the spinach salad. Foie gras
to start with toast points?”
“Sounds lovely, but only if you order me the shrimp and mushroom tureen as
well.”
“Done.” Jonathan looked at their server. “Dom, did you get that order? Maria,
wine?”
“I know it’s customary with the foie gras, but really I prefer a water with
lemon. Pellengrino with lemon would be nice.” Maria decided she was already too
sleepy to risk drinking anything alcoholic.
“Sounds good. I’ll do the same.” Jonathan handed over his menu and Maria’s
to the server. “An old University buddy of mine is in town for the next few days on
business. He’s trying to recover from a severe breakup.”
“Are there any other kinds?”

39

“Indeed.” Jonathan laughed at that. Maria was right. It didn’t matter how
agreeable a breakup was, it was hardly ever an easy event. “Don’t tell me that you
and the delectable, raging bull Detective have called it off.”
Maria smiled at Jonathan’s description of Michael. “No. We’re fine. Actually he
was the emergency I had last night...which I meant to thank you for covering for
me.”
Jonathan just waved off the thanks. Maria was a sweetie. It was easy to do
things for her. Now Amy DeLuca was another story. “Not a problem. I was there
anyway, and I guessed it had to do with the Great Sulky One. Does he know you’re
lunching with me?”
“Yes, he does.”
Jonathan waved over their server. “Dom, set up another seating and inform
the Garçon that Detective Guerin may be arriving soon and to clear the front entry
way from any possible explosions.”
“Stop it. Dom, ignore Mr. Stiller. He is merely being humorous the only way he
knows how.” Maria watched Dom leave. “That’s not nice. Michael doesn’t come
rushing after me all the time when I have a meal with you.”
“He does. The man is a raging jealous lover determined to protect his
property. And don’t think I’m overreacting. I saw the news reports on the closing of
the Palisades. Michael?”
Maria just shrugged, but refused to give Jonathan the satisfaction by
confirming Michael caused the destruction in any way. “It was a terrible accident.”
“It always is. I guess if you won’t satisfy my curiosity I will have to wait until
the City Board meeting next week.” Maria winced. Poor Michael. His name came up
a little too often at those meetings. He and Max were creating a reputation that
wasn't necessarily good, and Kyle and Sean were joining them.
40

“So how was the auction? Did it go off smoothly?” Maria asked innocently.
“Nice change of subject, Maria. Yes, it was a success.” Jonathan admired
Maria’s loyalty to her mate. It was sweet the way she protected his good name and
defended him to others.
“Did you take that sweet boy you’re dating, umm..Gabriel?”
Jonathan laughter drew the attentions of other diners. “Gabriella is very much
a female, Maria.”
“Are you sure?” Maria frowned. If she was a woman then she was a very tall,
thin woman with a masculine, close-cut hairstyle and no hips.
”She’s a model. Not that I’m opposed to male companionship, but it’s been
years since I was involved with a male. Not since my University days when my
friend who is visiting and I had a three month thing.” Jonathan thought about it for
a second. Yeah, that was the last time. Interesting.
“Damn, are you sure?” Jonathan nodded. “Well feed the poor thing a sandwich
or something. Is this visiting friend gay?”
“Yes, but he’s not here to hit on me. More than likely he needs some
connections for a new business deal he has going. Albuquerque is fast becoming
glutted in the software industry, so I hope some dot-com business isn’t the angle
he’s working. I’ll let you know later. I promised to go out barhopping with him
tonight. It should prove to be a real crushing bore, but he only visits every few
years, and usually only when he wants something.”
Maria looked her friend over with more than a little critical eye. He was a tall
lean man, with strong shoulders, dark hair, and a wicked smile. What Maria noticed
the most about him was his dark eyes. They were sometimes almost bottomless,
and she was sure that they hid many secrets. The man was a fashion plate stepping

41

straight out of GQ, and his business savvy was worthy of a Fortune 500 company.
All in all, the packaging was very nice.
“I’m sure he really wanted to see you too.”
“I’m sure.” Jonathan liked the eternal optimism of Maria DeLuca. Despite any
and all hardships she had had to bear, she always found a way to climb above them
and go on. It was that shining spirit refusing to die that attracted people to her.
They ate their lunch and discussed the event of the previous evening. And
despite Jonathan’s teasing expectations, Michael did not crash their lunch date.
Maria was actually surprised and pleased. Finally before they both needed to leave,
Jonathan changed the subject again.
“I had a run-in with your boss last night. I think I outed you.”
Maria paused from pushing another bite of the three-chocolate torte into her
mouth. “My boss? Kenneth Price? I don’t understand.”
“He’s been bidding for a position on the Board of Trustees at the University,
and on the Foundation. I’ve been blocking his seat. The man lacks any real skill or
warmth, and the Board needs people who can think outside the box, show
compassion, and make hard decisions.” Jonathan pushed his uneaten dessert
towards Maria who, without even looking, started devouring it. “That, and I hate
the little weasel's guts. He is...an ass-licking brown-noser looking for the main
chance, and I hate the way he sidles up to me.”
“So how did you 'out' me exactly?” Maria was shocked at Jonathan breaking
his refinement to actually show his dislike of Kenneth Price.
Jonathan had enough guilt to actually look ashamed. “I basically told him that
he would never get a seat as long as I had a say, and that I was recommending you
for the Board.”

42

Maria remembered her Chair’s reaction earlier in the day. “Oh God, you didn’t!
He hates me, and thinking I’m getting that coveted seat must have sent him off the
deep end.”
“Worse. He started ranting over every little thing he considered to be a
shortcoming of yours, and how he couldn’t understand why the Foundation and the
Board were so lenient over your discipline problems, and on and on. Anyway, I
mentioned that neither the Foundation nor the Board considered you inefficient or
lacking in discipline, and it would be hard for the Foundation to dislike you since
you are the Foundation.”
“Oh God...!” Maria could feel her life racing out of control and the lights of the
room receding fast as it became hard to breath. Oh no. She wasn’t going to have a
panic attack. She didn’t do that anymore. Instead, she was going to go find Michael
and take her anxieties out on him. Immediately.
Jonathan watched what little color Maria had wash out of her face. “Let me
pick up the check.”

~~~

On her way to the Roswell PD after lunch, Maria called Tess and asked her to
cover her Senior thesis class. They were all doing reading searches so lecturing
wasn’t necessary. Maria by-passed returning to the University for the day and went
in search of anxiety relief.
“Jim?”
Valenti looked up at Maria standing in his doorway. Smiling, he motioned her
in and watched her take a seat. The young woman looked too thin and very tired.

43

Living with Michael Guerin had to be energy consuming, so he held his tongue
about asking her about how she felt.
“Maria, honey. To what do I owe this pleasure? This is twice this week.
Yesterday, and now today.”
“I know. I swear I’m not sticking my nose in the middle of a case again.” Maria
reassured her soon to be stepfather.
Jim winced. He actually still felt bad about the last time. Maria helped them
with a large case only six weeks ago, and Jim had been under pressure from Amy,
who was concerned about Maria being involved in another murder investigation. It
was the sixth investigation she had involved herself in since the one that introduced
her to Michael over a year ago. Amy was still overprotective and worried, and she
tended to work Jim up over the same things.
“That’s okay, honey. I didn’t think you were. I know all the cases assigned to
Guerin and Evans, and they are on undercover assignment tonight and desk duty
otherwise, until Michael’s knee mends.”
Maria went over and sat on Jim’s desk facing him. Leaning down she kissed his
cheek. “Thanks, Jim. Getting him to take a break is next to impossible.”
“I know. I got the doctor’s report about his knee. It’s just a strained ligament,
but it still needs to be tended to.”
“So where is my grumpier half? I came to see him.”
Jim just smiled at her description of Michael. “He’s probably at the loft. He,
Max, Sean, and Kyle are participating in a Vice operation. They’re no doubt getting
rested and dressed for tonight’s events.” Jim smiled and told Maria what the
assignment was, enjoying her amusement over it all.

~~~
44

When Maria entered the loft she could hear her sort-of brother, Kyle whining.
“I’m not wearing this. It’s...it’s degrading!
“No way, sweetpea. You look a dream.” Sean said in his gayest voice.
Michael was lounging on the sofa drinking a beer and watching the others.
Smirking and making loud rude comments, the man was obviously enjoying
himself. It was the snaking of Maria’s arms around his neck from behind that
alerted him to the fact she was home.
“Having fun, Detective?”
Michael looked back at her over his shoulder. “You’ve got no idea. This is
gonna be an operation to talk about for years to come.”
“I went by the PD. Jim told me about the assignment. Guess this means I’m
eating alone tonight, huh?”
“Sorry, Professor. Cap’s orders. We can have food with you before we take off
if you like.” Michael reached behind her and grabbed her body pulling her over the
sofa and into his arms, planting her firmly to his side. Kissing her quickly, and
smiling against her skin, he rested for a moment and murmured, “I’ll make the rest
of it up to you later. I promise.”
“You could take me too, and let me sit at the bar and observe.”
“Nope. Not gonna happen. You'd be alone there since I’m assigned to the
command van. The bum knee puts me off the street.”
Sean came over and gave his cousin a kiss on the cheek. “That’s not true.
They took one look at him. Saw that shitty obstinate look that screams both ‘cop’
and ‘straight’ in one glance, and put him on monitors.”
“Sean, you’re going to be gay? How will you manage?” Maria teased.

45

“That’s my little bratty cousin.” Sean tossed himself down on her other side
and blew raspberries on her neck while she squirmed in Michael’s arms.
“Back off, Sean.” Sean looked over and frowned. Michael’s voice was dark and
forbidding. It had an edge in it that Sean recognized from over a year ago when
Michael was jealous of anyone touching Maria. He had lost that possessiveness over
half a year ago, but suddenly it sounded like it was back.
Maria recognized the tone too, and looked at Michael. “What’s up, Detective?”
Michael jaw clenched. “Nothing.”
“Well, I came looking for you for a reason today. So if I can tear you away
from these male beauties, can we talk upstairs?”
Michael just nodded and awkwardly stood up pulling Maria with him. What the
hell was wrong with him? He was feeling a dark raging jealousy in him again. His
possessive manner nearly caused him to lose her once. She had almost ended their
relationship shortly after it began because of the overwhelming jealousy he had
exhibited, the overprotective and overbearing possessiveness. He thought he was
over that, but in the last few weeks the dark feeling would rise and choke him. He
still retained some of the jealousy towards certain people, but most days he was
able to calmly talk himself out of it.
Maria stopped suddenly on her way towards the stairs, forcing Michael to stop
also. Max had emerged from the room under the stairs that Sean had once used
before he took over Michael’s old apartment a year before.
“Oh! Oh my! Pretty!” Max actually blushed at Maria’s assessment. He was
wearing tight black leather pants; a colorful silk shirt tucked into the pants with
most of the buttons undone. A large leather belt circled his waist, matching a
leather band around his wrist. Maria smiled at the eyeliner. Max Evans looked too

46

pretty to be considered ‘straight’. He looked the perfect gay man, if he would just
loosen up his stance and posture.
Michael growled under his breath and dragged her up the stairs.
“Hey, I’m just saying!” Maria looked back and winked at Max. “You look good,
Maxie!”
The last thing Maria heard from Max as Michael pulled her into their bedroom
was, “Someone kill me.”
Maria took the initiative and went into the bathroom knowing Michael would
follow. Turning on the shower, Maria slowly started to undress.
“You going to just watch, or you going to join me? Can your leg take the
pressure of standing up?”
“Whoa, slow down Professor. First tell me why you came to find me today.”
Maria dropped her blouse and skirt leaving her in only skimpy underwear.
Going over to Michael she unbuttoned his shirt.
“I had a craving and need for you. My intentions weren’t honorable, nor are
they at this moment. I was going to jump you in the PD stairway to get off and
relieve myself of some stress.” Maria smiled as Michael easily removed her bra. “It
was either the stairway or a blowjob in the men’s bathroom.”
Michael swore out loud. He hated missing out on being used. “Want to tell me
what caused all the stress?” He leaned back and watched her hands go for the
waistband of his sweats. Suddenly she reached down and released the Velcro straps
on his knee brace, and his sweats were gone.
“Later...” Maria was backing them up to the running shower.
“Uh uh. Rule number seventeen states that we’re allowed to use the other as a
relief valve, but only if we admit what it is that tweaked us to begin with.” Michael
almost rescinded rule seventeen when her mouth found the side of his neck with
47

her teeth, and her hand moved down his body to grip his penis in her incredibly
sensual hand.
“You know I was having lunch with Jonathan today, right?” Maria continued
without noticing Michael's response. He knew there was something he had meant to
do for lunch. He had had every intention of crashing her lunch date, but the
unexpected nap knocked him off his schedule, and the lunch was lost in the shuffle.
“Anyway, he told me that he outed me to Toady Price.”
“Outed you how?” Michael groaned when the hot water hit his skin. He didn’t
realize how sore he was from the scuffle the other day.
“He told Price that I’m the Foundation.” Maria poured some body wash on a
bath sponge and began to wash his body. “Thing is that Price stopped me this
morning on my way to my first class and complained about my position as curator
of the Museum again, among other things. I couldn’t figure out why he was so
upset until Jonathan told me about outing me.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Fuck you into a early grave, or until I feel better.” Maria said casually. Michael
smiled at the suggestion. “I just know that he’s working up the nerve to find out the
extent of my relationship to the Foundation, and how he can manipulate it to his
advantage. I don’t want to have to deal with telling him that I’ve got no voting
power on the Foundation board, and their decisions are final. It’s going to make my
working relationship with him even more difficult than it is already.”
“I think I see what you’re saying.” Michael moaned when she moved the
sponge over his body. The warm water felt good on his knee. They should’ve done
this in the bath. He wasn’t sure he could take their combined weight on his bum
knee. “Sooner or later, he’s going to ask you to help him, and when he finds out

48

you can’t help, he’s going to feel humiliated by asking in the first place, and your
already terrible relationship is going to go even further south.”
“Exactly...” Maria said as her mouth moved down his clean body. He looked so
very tasty. Michael nibblet.
“We’ve got company downstairs.” Michael felt compelled to mention. Like he
gave two figs about the men downstairs, dolling up for their night hanging in a gay
bar and trying to sting some gaybashers.
"Then I'd better give you a good fast one, hadn't I?" Maria said. With a deep
breath taking in the smell of his skin, she looked up at him and offered up her face
for a kiss.
Growling, Michael let go of reason, and swooped down to capture the pouting
lips waiting for him. So many things about this woman touched him, and one of
them was her honest lack of inhibition. Thinking dimly that Maria kissed like she did
everything else in her life, wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm, he tried to make it
a gentle one at first. But when Maria opened her lips to tease Michael's with her
tongue, need erupted. He took that tongue into a deep, sucking kiss, matching the
pattern of it to the rocking of his hips. God, he loved her hands on him! His thrusts
into her perfect grasp on him were wild, urgent, and he ripped his mouth away to
try to warn her.

"Good, good, Detective, do it for me, do it..." Maria encouraged him before he
could. She watched him as he leaned back against the tile and tossed his head
back, then suddenly he bent to take her tongue in his mouth again.
"Oh no, oh no, too fast, make it last, make it last..." Michael's voice trailed off.
He really didn’t have much time, and there were three other men downstairs
49

waiting for him. No wonder she didn’t chose the bath. If they had gotten in a large
bath of warm water, he wouldn’t have come out for hours.
“Shhhh...” Maria said as her mouth moved down his body. It took a moment
before he realized where she was going as her mouth joined her hand, and the
other hand moved sensually down his body to join the other one. “Be very, very
quiet...” She whispered against his cock.
With both hands wrapped around the base, moving simultaneously with his
mouth, Maria deep-throated the thick shaft, and then pulled back to just the head.
Moving her mouth along the under side, and then back to take it back in her hot
mouth as far to the hilt as possible. She wasn't able to take it all, but it was enough
for Michael. She was so close and kept improving with practice.
"Damn, damn!" he shouted, then groaned over and over as he pulsed out and
into Maria's throat. Each groan was quieter, and more drawn out, until Michael
wasn't able to stay upright any longer. With a final sound more like a whimper than
anything, he collapsed down the tiles, as Maria moved up and over his body.
Hot and ready, Maria cuddled the bigger body to her smaller one until
Michael’s head cleared. Sprinkling kisses over his body, and nibbling at his lips and
ears, she waited until Michael turned one of the nibbles into a serious kiss moving
her body to straddle his hips. He lowered his hand down her stomach to the
junction of her legs, and his fingers found their target with little to no effort.
“Your turn,” said Michael. He yearned to send the others away and take her to
bed, but he knew he couldn’t. “God, Maria, what you start sometimes. I need
more.”
"Touch me, oh god, Michael, please touch me!" Maria didn’t care. They could
continue it later when they had more time. This would be enough for now.

50

Rolling them until he was lying half on top of Maria and she was flat on the tile
floor of the shower, Michael responded to her frantic pleas by placing his finger
against her lips. "Hang on...hang on...shh...shh..." he tried to reassure the writhing
woman under him. "I'll take care of you."
"Michael," Maria panted, grabbing at his shoulders, "don't freak, ok? Please,
please, please..." Maria couldn’t believe how far gone she already was from just a
touch. Her skin was raw and on fire, and merely the abrasive brush of his skin was
setting her nerve endings into overload. Hair trigger. Where the hell did that come
from?
Wondering at the comment, Michael moved back and looked into her eyes.
What he saw there made his heart speed up into an almost breakneck rate. Her
eyes were wild, and her lip was bleeding were she had bitten it. Groaning, he
sucked the bleeding lip into his mouth, letting the salty iron taste of her blood push
his body into that same overload zone she was already in.
He peered down into Maria's lust-filled eyes, clearly seeing a mixture of both
panic and fear. She was barely holding on the edge, and she didn’t want to go
alone. Holding that molten emerald gaze, he grinned very, very, slowly and very,
very widely. The panic in her eyes abated, cleared, and became delight, along with
something more. The something more made Michael's grin stretch until he felt like
a fool, and he nuzzled the end of Maria's nose with his own.
“Hard?” Michael asked with mischief, like he didn’t already know.
Maria just kissed the tip of his nose, and carefully rolled them. “Very hard. I
better take the high road. You’ll bang up that knee. So just lie back, Detective, and
take it like a pampered man. I promise it will be hard and fast.” Michael smiled at
that. She was right. It was going to be real fast. They were both already on the
edge. What the hell was going on with them and their bodies? Every touch, every
51

look, every moment of every day was like a trigger that heated them almost to the
breaking point. Just the sound of her voice over the phone made him hard most
days.
Michael closed his eyes and put his head back as she lowered herself on him,
taking his cock in one full movement straight to the hilt. Through half-closed eyes
he watched her reach above his head to place her hand flat against the tiled wall
while his hands went to her hips to help move her on him. Maria’s other hand was
pushing hard on his chest to keep her body upright as she rode him.
His heart felt like it was beating out of his chest. And just before the world
exploded around his center, he opened his eyes to see her staring down at him all
dark and silent, the passion and fire in her eyes were beyond this world, and the
blood on her lip called to him. Raising his head he took her lip back into his mouth
and bit it hard, making the blood flow again as he felt himself explode in her. Her
nails embedded themselves in the skin of his chest leaving trails of blood as her
body convulsed around his cock.
Michael became aware of the pounding water from the shower as it slowly
became colder and colder. Maria was resting on him, careful of his knee. All she
said before she collapsed on him was, “Ride 'em cowboy.”
“Maria, we need to move before we freeze to death in here.”
“No. Sleepy.”
Michael just chuckled at her boneless state. Normally he would have just
turned off the water, picked her up and put her to bed to sleep it off, but
unfortunately his knee made that impossible this time.
Shutting off the water, he reached down and lifted her body up his, taking a
few minutes to kiss her. Her hand moved up his back to tangle in his wet hair. He

52

could feel his body and skin heating up to her touch. What the hell was happening
to them lately? He didn’t care. It felt too good.
Taking a towel off the towel bar for her, he wrapped her in it after wiping the
moisture from her body. Wrapping a towel around his middle, he swatted her hands
away. He didn’t have enough control, and it was getting late. Unless he wanted to
spend the night nursing a hard-on, he needed to keep her hands off him until he
came home and could do something about it.
“Maria, behave.” Michael grabbed his brace on the way out of the bathroom
with Maria. “You still feeling stressed?”
Maria turned to look at him and smiled. “I’m feeling no pain.”

~~~

When Maria was heading down the stairs after getting dressed, she was
concerned by the anger in Kyle’s voice echoing from below.
“No way. I’m not doing it!”
Maria slowly walked down the stairs and saw Michael standing in the living
room with Sean, Max and Kyle. Michael motioned for her to hold back. Sitting on
the stairs, Maria watched the group.
Max was all decked out like some ultra gay prettyboy, but Kyle was a totally
different style. He was in leather pants with the top button unfastened, a fishnet
cargo shirt showing his skin and he had temporary tattoos and leather strapping
around his upper arms. The chains and handcuffs hanging off his belt shone with a
startling silver brilliance. He was a leather slut boytoy.
Michael was silently watching the partners fight as Kyle argued with Sean.
Tossing down some leather implement at Sean’s feet, Kyle stalked off into the
53

kitchen to search the refrigerator. Maria slowly descended the stairs and went to
help Kyle.
“I’m not going to hit him, Maria. I can’t.”
“It’s okay Kyle. Sean understands.” Maria looked over at the others. Max
looked gray under his skin, but Michael showed not an ounce of reaction.
Bending down, Michael picked up the nine-tail whip and gestured towards the
bedroom under the stairs. Sean just acknowledged it and headed that way.
Maria turned back to Kyle and changed the subject, not wanting Kyle to hear
what was going to happen in the other room. Michael would take care of Sean. He
would understand. “Let's put out the fixings for sandwiches, Kyle. You guys need to
eat before you go out. How about Pizza?”

~~~

“How deep you want it?” Michael asked quietly.
Sean took off his leather vest. He wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath it. “Deep.
Alternating depth. Leave some obvious ones on the front, but do the back too,
because if only the front has welts it'll be obvious.” For the first time since they
entered the room he looked Michael in the eyes. “Make a few bleed.”
Sean turned and braced himself on the wall not even wincing when the leather
strap hit his flesh. It was harder to hold himself in check when he turned to let
Michael do his front. Michael had a controlled hand. He left small light welts, deeper
ones, and a few bleeding cuts. After he finished, Michael tossed the whip on the
bed.
“Thanks Michael. I shouldn’t have asked Kyle.”

54

“No, no you shouldn’t have.” Michael said quietly. It was hard to miss the
prominent bulge in Sean’s tight leather pants. Michael watched as he carefully
threaded a nipple ring and winced from the pain of a welt that had landed across
the areola.
“We don’t know what the suspects goes for. It’s necessary.” Sean explained.

”I know.” Michael understood why it would be harder for both Max and Kyle to
beat Sean, but for Michael it wasn’t any worse than many other things he had done
while working Vice, and not as bad as some things Sean had also gotten into during
his stint. “I also know that you liked it.”
“None of your business, Guerin.” Sean headed for the door, but Michael
stopped him cold with a hand to his upper arm gripping him hard.
“How long Sean? How long have you had the taste?” Sean tried to pull away.
“I told you to leave it, Michael!”
“Liz Parker doesn’t look to be the type who carries a touch of pain and
domination. Tell me I’m wrong. I would’ve classified her as missionary with doggie
panting and eyes closed.” Sean finally pulled free.
“She’s not into it, and the rest is none of your damn business.”
Michael planted himself in front of Sean again. “Maybe I’m making it my
business, after all I’m the whiphand that gave you that hard-on. You don’t have to
call me Master, but you can give me some truth, or just give it to yourself.”
“What do you wanna know?” Sean asked recognizing his place in this power
struggle.
“Liz Parker. I don’t have much in common with her, but she’s become a sort of
friend. Does she know about this?”
Sean sat on the bed. “No. And I don’t want her to know.”
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“That’s unfair. What you gonna do Sean, sell your soul for a piece of vanilla
while dreaming and wanting the lash? Are you happy, or you sliding out for a slice?”
“I’m trying, okay. We’re not exclusive, but I’ve only tripped out a few times.
Nothing big.”
“Nothing big to you? Or to her?” Michael asked directly and to the point. It did
make a difference.
“Michael...it’s my sickness, okay? Mine.” Sean stood up to leave.
Michael stopped him again. “It’s not a sickness, Sean. It’s a choice, a lifestyle.
Some need it, some play with it, and some fear it. It’s a lifestyle, and choosing an
alternative one because it’s a ‘norm’ or deemed ‘healthy’ by society is a hard road
to walk when all you want is fire and a cutting edge.”
“How do you know? You into this too?” Sean reached forward and lifted the
front of Michael’s shirt from his body seeing the bloody scratches left there by
Maria. “You and Maria?” Sean almost bent over in pain from the envy at the thought
of finding a life partner that was part of it and not having to live a lie.
“No, we’re not into pain. This is another choice, another lifestyle.” Michael
ended the discussion there. He wasn’t going to talk about the intimate parts of his
life with Maria with anyone but her.
“You understand then?” Sean asked quietly.
“Some of it, and more of other things.” Michael sat down next to Sean for a
few moments trying to find the words he should have said a year ago. “I
understood why you offered to kill me when I met Maria, why you offered the bullet
to me.” Sean looked at him in astonishment and admiration.
“How? Did Maria tell you?”
“No. I just knew. You’re a Mafia son. When Mafia sons are born they’re given a
special bullet, usually engraved with the family crest or symbol.” Sean reached into
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his pocket and pulled out the bullet he carried with him everywhere. It was like his
badge and gun. He never left home without it. Michael looked at the symbol on it
and handed it back to Sean. Three times. Sean had offered to kill him three times.
It was a code of honor, one warrior to another. The Spartans understood the
symbolic code of men of arms. They brought their warriors home on their shields.
“When you’re born, there’s the code. It’s honor, duty, and family. It’s a timehonored code dating back farther than anyone can remember. The bullet is your
final rest. You protect and honor your family, or eat the bullet as your last act of
contrition as you die trying. When I left my family, they disowned me and I became
dead to them, because I should’ve taken this bullet, taken my own life before
dishonoring my name, my blood, and my family.”
“I know.” Michael never stopped feeling the honor Sean had offered him when
he offered him the bullet. It was a timeless understanding that only soldiers,
warriors, a Praetorian could understand. “I never thanked you for standing for me
when I thought Maria was dying in my arms. It wasn’t about Maria, or not being
able to live without her.” Though Michael doubted he would or could have continued
on, because she had become so entangled in his life. But that was something that
didn’t belong to this discussion. It was private.
“I knew that. It was about those that bleed to death in your protection, in your
arms. A protector can only take so much failure until they become useless,
ineffective.”
“Yeah. If I had survived, and Maria didn't, it would’ve been the final straw. I
would’ve walked away. What is a soldier who can no longer serve or protect? Patton
said that old soldiers don’t die; they just fade away. He was wrong. They don’t
fade. If the soldier were lucky he would die in battle and not live to feel his own

57

impotence. They live on, endlessly reliving all their failures over and over again.
The blood of the innocents would’ve never stopped flowing.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. I understood.” Sean said as he turned to look
at Michael. Two identical sets of eyes stared at each other, silently understanding
more than could ever be spoken. Only one warrior to another could appreciate the
drive. One warrior soul that lived a lifetime on alien soil, and the other from a long
line of ancient soldiers dating back before Roman times. They were different,
galaxies apart, and yet in a cosmic trick of continuity they were the same.
Michael headed for the door. But before he could leave, Sean called after him.
“I still carry that bullet with your name, Michael.” The word 'Brother' was unspoken,
but understood.
“Thank you,” said Michael quietly. “I do the same for you.” Michael put his
hand on the doorknob, but hesitated one last time. “Sean, the thing about pain is
that it can harm, but it can also heal. Spending your life afraid of the pain, and
using physical abuse to help desensitize you to impeding future pain and suffering
that will cripple you is worthless.” Michael turned back to Sean. “Especially if the
pain you’re trying to protect yourself against is mental anguish. That pain cuts
deeper than any knife, and the edges never heal. They're just forever imprinted in
our brains. Using pain as punishment or retribution only helps if you find
forgiveness, and that only comes from the soul.”
Sean sat on the bed after Michael left the room. Reaching beside him on the
bed, he held the whip and wondered when he had stopped feeling anything except
the pain.

~~~

58

The ride to Area 51, a local gay bar, was awkward. Michael could tell that Kyle
and Max weren't really comfortable with what they were about to do, but he
couldn't find an easy way to convince them it would all work out okay. They
probably didn’t want to hear that from someone who was only going to observe
from a van. It didn't help any that every time Kyle looked at Sean he would get all
broody again.
Partners. There was so much they shared. It was more than a brotherhood. It
was almost a marriage. Some police officers trusted their partners more than their
spouses. Kyle had lost Jack Hardy, his best friend for life, and Sean wasn’t an easy
replacement. There was too much about Sean that Kyle didn’t know or understand.
Kyle perked right up once they got inside the bar. There was a good-sized
dance floor and the music blaring from the speakers was a combination of Latin and
pop. He smiled and looked around at all the couples dancing together, and at the
various men looking to meet someone. It had been a long time since Sean had
been here. It felt like coming home. He didn't have to hear Michael on the mike in
his ear to know Michael was paying close attention. Sean turned and aimed his
blinding smile on his partner to make up for earlier slights.
"Isn't this great?"
"Yeah, great," Kyle said over the din of the club. It was obvious that Sean was
jammin’ to the scene and that no matter what he thought of the place it wouldn't
matter to him.
"C'mon! Give it a chance. You want a soda or something? My treat."
"Since when do you treat?" Kyle asked thinking that there was no place in his
leather pants for a teaspoon of liquid, and he was damned if he was going to take a
piss in this place. Max bumped into Kyle from behind. “Hey, what’s your damage
Evans?”
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“Someone just grabbed my ass!” Max whispered hotly in Kyle’s ear. Max’s
anger took another hit when he heard his partner’s laughter in his ear come over
the mike. Michael Guerin. Hate.
"All the more reason to accept when I offer, man." Sean said to Kyle about the
drink. Looking at Max, Sean leaned in taking a fist of Max’s shirt and pulling him
close so their lips almost touched. “You’re gay, so lighten the attitude. Men come
here to be groped not to display maiden virginhead. Get with the program and limp
the wrist.”
"Okay, get me a juice then. Get Evans something alcoholic!" Kyle smiled as he
watched his partner squeezing through the throng around the bar. Kyle looked at
Max’s dark face and teased him. “Damn Evans, we’re gonna have to feed you six
packs to get you loosened up and bending over.”
“See this,” Max asked as he waved a finger at Kyle. “You know where you can
take this.”
Without a description of the suspects, they didn't have much to go on. Max
looked around the bar, trying to see if anyone was acting suspiciously. He'd never
had a problem with same-sex couples but it was still somewhat jarring when he
saw a couple in the corner playing tonsil hockey, obviously not worrying that they
were in a public place. Jarring, but arousing nonetheless. He ran his fingers under
the neck of his shirt and turned to look for Sean and his damn drink. Kyle finally
spotted his partner at the bar, chatting away with the bartender. Kyle noticed three
other Vice cops and motioned their positions to Max. The gaybashing outside this
club and others was reaching an incredible level, and the victims refused to press
charges or help the police. It looked to be a gang of bashers, but last week it had
taken a deadly turn when a severely beaten man died from kidney failure.

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Kyle couldn't focus, not with the sight of Sean flirting with a man right in front
of him. Max just stood there rooted to the spot, watching Sean too. It seemed like
an eternity until Sean walked towards them carrying cola, an orange juice, and
imported sparkling water. Sean’s brow just raised at the two out of place Detectives
and he grabbed a table, placing their drinks on it. They needed to loosen up.
"What took you so long?" Max growled.
"Just seeing what I could find out from Jimmie.”
"And what did you learn from Jimmie? The secret of making a really dry
martini?" Kyle asked bitterly. What was his problem?
"I already know that secret. Don’t bruise the gin and use good vermouth,
shaken not stirred. However, I did find out that the shift changes at nine thirty, and
the place picks up in hardcore. It was after the nine thirty turnaround that the real
bashings happened. This is only one of three places that have been targeted. Oh,
and Jimmie said to let him know if you need the head. He’ll let you use the staff's
private facilities so no one...you know...checks out your head."
"That's almost an hour away!" Max's head was already hurting from the noise
and bright lights. What the hell was with all the neon crap? Michael was in the van
having a merry old time eating pizza and drinking himself sick on cherry coke. Max
looked over at another table to see a large skinhead sticking out his studded tongue
suggestively while running his hand down his body to grip his erection hard. Michael
Guerin. Hate him.
"That's about the size of it. C'mon, man, lighten up. At least pretend you're
enjoying yourself or they'll never believe you came here by choice. Relax a little."
"We're on duty, Sean." Max said sourly.

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"I'm not suggesting you forget that, I'm just saying you'll be more believable if
you at least pretend to be having fun. I know this isn't exactly your kind of place,
but it could be a lot worse."
"I suppose," Max muttered, chugging his coke and wondered why Kyle got
juice.
"Take it easy on that. That drink cost me 2 bucks!"
"I'll buy the next round." Kyle said sucking his OJ through a straw. Kyle was
surprised when he looked around and saw some men watching him. Frowning as he
looked down at the straw he was sucking on, Kyle spit it out. Oh shit!
"Promises, promises. Partner! You keep working on that straw and all your
drinks are going to be paid for, just make sure that the price doesn’t include you.
You better stay close to me, my little cabbage. You stink of fresh meat."
Kyle couldn't stop the movement of red up his neck. “I thought I looked real
seasoned in all the leather and tattoos.” Sean just laughed at his vanilla partner and
the equally uncomfortable Max.
“Right. Just don’t drink anything not given to you by the bartender, Jimmie or
me. That includes you too, Max.”
Max stopped surveying the room and dance floor. “Why?”
Sean made eye contact with a man across the room and smiled. “I’ll be right
back. Behave.”
“Sean! Why?”
Sean stopped and looked back at Max. “You don’t think date rape drugs are
used on women exclusively, do ya?” Both Kyle and Max looked at each other, and
then at their drinks. Great. Just great.
Kyle studied Sean as they sat at the table drinking slowly, trying to make their
drinks last. He could see that his partner was raring to go, all that nervous energy
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busting to get loose. He couldn't help but notice all the attention that he and Max
were getting from the unattached men by the bar. Max was what people used to call
"easy on the eyes," especially tonight. The eyeliner brought out the finer more
feminine lines of his face. Kyle’s frown increased as he watched Sean leaning over
the other man he had backed up against a wall. Suddenly Sean leaned and kissed
the man passionately with lots of tongue, and the man’s hands were all over Sean.
“What the hell!” A shocked Kyle looked at an equally intrigued Max. “Was that
part of the assignment? No one told me I would have to kiss a man.” Max just
shook his head. No clue.
They watched as Sean pulled away and whispered in the man’s ear leading
him out on the crowded dance floor full of gyrating bodies. Max was amazed that
Sean could move at all, with pants that tight. Worried that someone might
approach Kyle or him, Max reached out and grabbed Kyle's arm. The feel of the
sinfully soft skin of Kyle’s forearm against his fingertips sent a jolt through him. He
gave Kyle a quick pat and pushed him away. This assignment sucked. First Tess,
who told him he was lacking an assertiveness she wanted or expected whatever the
hell that meant, dumped him. Now watching men making out was arousing him.
Aroused enough to find Kyle attractive and Sean sexy. Kill him now! The next thing
he knew he would start having dreams about him joining his partner and Maria in a
threesome.
"What's up? See something?" Kyle asked when Max grabbed him and then
pushed him away.
"Just making sure I don't have to come to your rescue later tonight."
"Huh?"
"Dark brown hair, black leather jacket at 2 o'clock."

63

"You're kidding? He was checking me out? I must look better than I thought."
Kyle preened and smiled. This wasn’t so bad. It was just acting.
"Kyle!" Max couldn’t believe he was the uptight one. Kyle, Roswell redneck of
old, was checking out the men around him with a pouty red mouth.
"What? Look at that guy! He could have pretty much whomever he wanted
with looks like that. You done with your drink?"
"Yeah."
"Good, let's dance."
"I told you I'm not going to dance with you."
"Come on! I'm bored, we have the time, and it will make us less conspicuous,"
Kyle wheedled as he tried to drag Max off his stool to the dance floor.
"There is no way I can dance to this."
“That’s okay, pigeon. I can.” Kyle looked up to see his smiling partner. Sean.
“Thought you were busy,” Kyle motioned with his head towards the boytoy
Sean had been dancing and kissing.
“I was, and now I’m not. That’s Williams. He was the early shift, but he needs
to get home. His wife just had a baby and she has some major postpartum stuff
going down.”
Kyle leaned into the table with Max. “He’s Vice!” Kyle whispered in a loud
stage voice.
“Say it louder, partner. Yeah, he’s Vice. His brother owns the club, and is a
pitcher to the clan. Williams has a personal stake in this. If we don’t close down this
basherfest his brother might lose his business.”
“You kissed him!” Max said. No way he would ever kiss Michael. Well besides
the fact that Guerin would rip off his head and spit down his throat if he tried, not
to mention having to deal with a pissed off Maria.
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“Yeah, well it’s just a kiss, not a marriage proposal. No big. Come on partner,
I’ll teach you a dirty bump and grind.” Sean pulled Kyle with him, but looked back
at Max. “Hey, Max, he did say that you look totally fuckable though.” Sean laughed
at the outraged look on Max’s face as he made his way to the dance floor with Kyle
in tow.
"Sean..." Max looked around at the men checking him out. Dammit, how could
they leave him alone! This was Michael’s fault for being in the van.
“Can I buy you a drink?” Max looked up to say no into the eyes of Jonathan
Stiller.
“Mr. Stiller?” The man smirked and nodded. Max had met him a few times
through Maria.
“Mind if I join you?” Max didn’t know what to say so he nodded yes. Max could
hear Michael sputtering in the mike. ‘What the hell was he doing there? Jonathan
Stiller is gay?’
“I, um...” Max was speechless when Jonathan put a bottle of Pellengrino
sparkling water in front of him.
“Don’t worry. The cap is still sealed. You’re safe.” Jonathan took the cap off his
water. “I noticed you from the bar. You look...uncomfortable.”
Max opened the bottle and took a drink. Damn right he was uncomfortable! He
was dressed like a buttboy, and people were sizing him up for a quick slam up
against a wall! Peeling the label from the bottle he looked at Jonathan Stiller
nervously.
“You come here often?” Smooth Evans, you’re a loser. Max heard Michael’s
voice in his ear echoing his own assessment. ‘Loser.’
“No. Not really.” Jonathan tipped his bottle towards a stylish man busy
chanting up a young man across the room. “That’s my roommate from college. He’s
65

visiting. It’s been a really bad time for him. He just broke up with his last lover, so
he talked me into taking him on a bar crawl.” They watched as Jonathan’s friend
lean into the younger man in a kiss with his hand going down the front of the other
man’s pants.
“He looks crushed.”
“Yeah, brutalized.” Jonathan laughed at Max’s face. “So what are you doing
hanging in a gay bar, Detective?” asked Jonathan in a lower tone just for Max.
“I’m, um...”
“Never mind. I can’t see the Neanderthal presence of Guerin, but I swear I can
feel him. My balls shrank up into my body in fear of a pounding as soon as I
entered the establishment. That usually either means my ex-wife or Guerin.” Max
laughed at that. Michael’s dislike of Jonathan was notorious, and somehow Jonathan
took it in stride and joked about it. Michael’s response wasn’t that pleasant.
‘Neanderthal? Bash the limp dick, girlfriend-hogging bastard! Bring him outside and
I’ll let you get a few in too.’
“It’s complicated.”
“I understand. It can be. So I’ll just sit here and chat you up, stare longingly
in your eyes like a man on the make, and you can scope the room. Deal?”
“Deal.” Max liked this man. He reminded him of Maria in some ways. He was
fast, intelligent, and intuitive. “I owe you.” ‘A beating, pansy ass...’ Max tuned
Michael out.
“We’ll call it even for now. I don’t really feel like fielding any offers myself, but
until ‘Spud’ finds himself other amusement, I can’t take a powder and go find
something more entertaining to do.” Max looked over at Jonathan’s friend and
noticed him chatting up yet another man. This could be a long process. Sean and
Kyle were having an outrageous time on the floor, but Max noticed that they were
66

working all the edges, and Sean without looking obvious, was scanning the scene
with deadly intent.
“What would be more interesting or entertaining than this?” Max watched
Jonathan lift his bottle in the air, and magically a bartender appeared with two fresh
ones. “And how did you do that?”
“Entertaining would be tonight’s ballgame, and my cell phone. The bar thing is
a lesson in how money talks in all stratums of society.” Jonathan looked around
spotting a few more out of place people. Cops. It was a convention. “So tell me,
Detective...”
“Max.”
Jonathan smiled. Yes, Max. It suited him. “Max. Do you think you’re still in
love with Maria DeLuca?” Max coughed on his water, as the sputtering of Michael’s
voice sounded in his ear.
“Excuse me?” Max cursed under his breath. It was an unspoken fascination
problem. Michael knew, and it had driven him crazy at first, but over time Michael
calmed down to realize that it was more Max’s problem and didn’t really involve him
and Maria.
“Well...” Jonathan concentrated on his drink.
“Did Maria say something, or...Michael?” Max had to ask even with Michael
listening in on the conversation.
“Hardly. Maria would never mention something like that to anyone, and Guerin
and I don’t have that type of relationship. Our interactions work best with me being
a source of irritation for him.”
Max nodded. “You’re definitely that. So how...”
“Let’s just say that the few times I met you in the company of DeLuca and
Guerin, I noticed how you treat Maria and how you watch her.” Max swallowed. He
67

could hear Michael’s reaction to that. Max never realized he was that obvious.
“There is a special tone you use, and the looking into her eyes. I realized that you
would die for her.”
“I would.” Max said quietly.
“Well, I would probably do the same. So should we discuss our eternal
fascination with one Maria DeLuca or will that cause Detective Guerin to eat his
mike or rush in here to beat us to a bloody pulp?” Jonathan laughed, as Max
became aware that Jonathan somehow knew Michael was privy to their
conversation.
“Sorry, we’re working.”
“I know. No problem. Should I leave you to get on with it?”
“No. That’s okay. I would rather not be left alone in this...place”
“I think the term is meat factory.” Jonathan waved for the bartender. “Let’s
step this up. I’m assuming alcohol is off the menu for you, so how about something
cola like?” Jonathan ordered drinks when the bartender showed up after Max
nodded an acceptance of the drink.
Watching his team while Jonathan was busy. Max noticed Kyle dancing with
three men at once. Slut. Set him on a dance floor and he was out of control. Max
was shocked. He hadn’t realized Kyle could dance anything but a two-step. Sean
had disappeared, but suddenly Max saw him circling the floor checking out
conversations and people along the way, stopping to talk to some person, sipping
their drink, laughing and then moving on. He made it seem so natural and easy.
“Max.” Jonathan called his name to get his attention back. Max was surprised
to see a touch of irritation move across the man’s face. Evidently Jonathan liked
having undivided attention. Max looked at the man in speculation. He was wealthy,
meticulous, and controlling.
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“So when did you find yourself fascinated with our lovely Maria?” Max turned
the tables on the man, and noticed that Michael was silent. He obviously wanted to
know how much he needed to worry about the man. It seemed like a golden
opportunity to grill him. The things he did for his partner...
“The moment I met her, of course. Most people feel the charisma. It’s hard to
resist.” Max nodded and looked over at Sean working the room. Those DeLuca’s had
a charm that was undeniable. “But it took me longer to realize what it was.”
Max turned his attentions back on Jonathan. “What?”
“It was the fact that she is oblivious to her effect on others. It is like needing
attention, which she doesn't give until suddenly...Bam! You are under her direct
regard. Maria is like a light, a beacon in the dark, or a proverbial eternal flame. She
exudes life and living, and for those of us lost in the dark she is an undeniable
attraction, almost a salvation.”
“It’s like basking in the warmth after living in the cold for so long.” Max said
quietly. He remembered what it was like. Michael, Isabel and he were wandering
without real purpose, just barely surviving, and suddenly she smiled and it just felt
better. Then watching Michael’s entire life change by being with her, it was hard not
to wish for or want that same feeling of grace.
“There’s only been one man I’ve ever seen her notice continuously, one that
does for her what she does for others. Her beacon.”
“Michael?” Max asked. It was so obvious. Maria interacted with other people,
but with Michael she suddenly changed, became even more animated if possible,
and life and mischief filled her whole demeanor along with an incredible gentleness.
“Yeah. Guerin.” Jonathan snickered under his breath. He knew Michael was
listening. The lucky bastard. “What a waste.” Jonathan almost spit out his whiskey
sour when he could actually hear Guerin’s response, so loud that it made Max wince
69

in pain. Jonathan looked around the room. “I think we should dance. People are
taking too much notice of us. Guess we aren’t exuding enough lover-like vibes.”
“I can’t dance to this stuff, and these damn pants are so tight I’ll split them.”
"Just try. You might surprise yourself." Jonathan got up and offered Max his
hand with a twinkle of a dare in his dark black eyes.
Max let himself be backed up onto the dance floor. He slowly moved his feet
unsure about what he should do. Jonathan could actually move. He moved very
much like the men around him with a loose-limbed rhythm. Max stood and
observed Jonathan as he lost himself in the music. Great. Where did all these
people learn to dance like this? He was shocked when Jonathan moved closer to
him almost mating their fronts.
“Don’t be so stiff. It’s not that hard, just watch the others and mimic their
movements, or mimic mine. My ex-wife was a dancer. She dragged me to every
possible type of dancing during our short hellish marriage.”
Max nodded and tried to relax, feel the music and go with the flow. Kyle was
obviously having no real hang-ups with this. He and Sean were in a shocking bump
and grind. Max started slowly, his eyelids drifting down so that they were only
slightly open and he moved his head in time with the music. Good thing Michael
wasn’t anywhere close by to observe this or he would never live it down. Then
Max's body began to sway with the music, matching the movement of Jonathan’s
still very closely mated body. The man didn’t back off.
Jonathan inched in closer and closer to the point where Max didn’t think there
could be any more space. Suddenly all Max could see was Jonathan and his dark
eyes and the feel of the movement of his body. He blocked out the rest of the bar,
focusing all of his attention on Max in front of him. His hips swayed in time to the
music while he ran a hand down Max's chest.
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“You can do it, Detective.” He said softly in Max’s ear only.
Max squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath, trying to dispel his
reaction to the closeness of Jonathan and the sensation of his hand on him. He
hoped that what he was feeling wasn't visible on his face as Jonathan quirked an
eyebrow at him.
"I can't move like that."
"Sure you can."
"Jonathan, you may have ball bearings for hips but I don't."
"Trust me, okay? Just do what I tell you."
"I don't have time for this. I’m working." That excuse sounded lame even in
Max’s ears. Michael voice chirping in his ear didn’t help. ‘Don’t let him kiss you,
stud. Resist, kissing on the first date or he might think you’re a slut.’ Bastard.
"Yes, you do. Now, close your eyes. I mean it, close your eyes." Max sighed
and did as he was told to do.
"Feel the music. Don't listen to it. Feel it. Feel the beat. Let it start at the
bottoms of your feet and slowly work it's way up your legs. It’s not the words, or
the pounding regardless what people in this meat market would want to you to
think. It’s the rhythm. That's it! Let the music move you."
Max slowly opened his eyes and looked at Jonathan. He was standing there
swaying, smiling up at him, as he moved to the rhythms that rocked his body.
Although he wasn't so stiff over this turn of events, he knew he wasn't exactly in
control of his actions. His usual control-freak tendencies were slipping and the
strangeness of the situation was leaving him adrift. The place, the music, and the
man in front of him were in control and all these things together battered against
his carefully built-up control.

71

A quiet groan escaped him as Jonathan pulled him up against his chest. It felt
so strange to be the smaller person in a dance. Jonathan Stiller was a good six feet
and two inches tall, and his frame was lighter than Michael’s but still large. Songs
came and went but Max had no idea how long they stayed like that, lost in the
music and each other. Some part of his brain was trying to catalog snippets of
information, like he was on an assignment and shouldn’t be reacting this way to
another man, especially one that was just helping him out. He reached a hand up
touch Jonathan’s hair almost against his own will. It was dark and fine and looked
like silk, and felt that way too. Twining his hand in its softness, Jonathan looked at
him sharply with speculation in his eyes until a small smile tilted the corner of his
mouth.
Jonathan moved his body so that his leg was between Max’s and one of Max’s
legs was between his. They faced each other with their hips straddled together so
close that it was hard to miss the other's reaction. Max looked up into Jonathan's
face, stunned by the desire he saw in those eyes. Shaken to the core, Max thought
that it was the music. That's all it was. Jonathan was just playing a game, thinking
that he needed a cover. There was no way he'd let someone this close . . . but Max
was that close. Close enough to feel the other man’s erection as it rubbed against
his leg, and hard to ignore his own erection doing the same against Jonathan.
Max moaned and dropped his head against the other man’s shoulder. This
wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be, because he was straight! Oh man, he wanted this!
He needed this. He was gonna be pissed tomorrow, disgusted at himself. But that
was tomorrow.
Max watched in fascination, almost outside his body as he reached a hand up
to cup the back of Jonathan's head, reveling in the soft, velvety feel of the silky
black hair worn slightly long. It only took a minimum of pressure to convince
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Jonathan to bring his head down, to bring his lips into range. Jonathan wasn’t doing
this, but he was. Max licked his lips in anticipation, then stretched up to bring them
together. He felt Jonathan's grip on his body tighten as the kiss deepened. Their
bodies stopped moving as all of their attention centered on the melding of their
mouths.
Sensations blasted their way into Max’s mind, mixing their individual tastes
into on unique one. Cola. Scotch. Something that was just Jonathan, something
cool and peppermint. A tongue scraping along teeth, tickling the sensitive part of
the roof of his mouth, right behind his teeth. He could feel Jonathan vibrating
against him, a purring rumble shaking the long slim body. And it felt...he didn’t
know. It was a flashing sensation of light, increasing in intensity by the movement
of Jonathan’s hand on his crotch. Max moaned and pushed hard into that hand. Yes.
He could have stayed that way forever, if it weren't for the hard hand on his
shoulder pulling him out of the kiss. He forced himself away from Jonathan,
groaning as he looked at the man and watching confusion move across his face.
Max pulled his hand away from Jonathan’s body and rubbed his face as both
Sean’s voice and Michael’s echoed in his ear. Oh God! What am I doing!
“Max, we’ve got to GO!” Sean gave him another shake. Max couldn’t focus on
the voice in his ear as Michael called to him, demanding a response.
Those dark fathomless black eyes stared back at him; the lips were bruised
from their kisses. There had been more than one, oh God, actually so many they
melded into a huge mess that had no beginning or end! And with a sarcastic shrug,
Jonathan motioned his head towards Sean as if to tell Max he needed to go. The
softly spoken words hit him beyond the noise, music, Sean, and Michael screaming
in his ear.
“Thank you for the...dance, Detective.”
73

Max turned to talk to Sean, to tell him he was coming as Sean lost patience
and was pulling him away. But he turned back suddenly, and Jonathan was gone.
Looking around, he couldn’t see the man anywhere. Max let Sean drag him off the
floor into the masses.
“What the hell, Evans! Wake up! We’ve got a hit in the side alley outside. Kyle
spotted them moving and drugging their victim.” Sean looked at the dazed Max and
just sighed. It was a kiss, just a kiss. Okay maybe it was more. The two men had
seemed frozen for a long time, their mouths mated and moving furiously while their
hands had moved over each other’s bodies.
"Max," Michael’s said gruffly in his ear.
Sean looked over at Max as Michael’s voice sounded in his ear. “I’ve got him
Michael. Which way do we deploy?”
“Outside units are moving towards the alley, Kyle is already there, talking to
them. Take the right outside door and keep them from fleeing back into the club.”
Michael’s voice paused. “You both might want to hurry to keep Little Grasshopper
from getting bashed along with the victim.”
“Gotcha. Pass to grasshopper, his Master is on his way, and to duck.” Sean and
Max pushed their way through the crowd. Max didn’t make a comment, but
suddenly the club was busier and even more packed than he remembered. He
ignored the groping hands grabbing at him as he and Sean found the door.
They exploded through it just in time to see Kyle take a clip to his jaw while
two other men held him, and another two men held another man. Sean felt the
rush of rage like a redness cover his sight as his partner took another one to the
gut, coughing and bent over.

74

Leading with his fist, he took out the man hitting his partner, as Max jumped
one of the men holding Kyle. Suddenly there was increase of noise and chaos as
more Vice cops and a hobbling Michael joined the fray.
Later the boys were sitting in their usual position, that being the back of an
EMS vehicle, having scrapes and bruises tended by a laughing paramedic. Michael
was standing apart, refusing to be part of the ritual.
“Come on Detective. Even I can see that cut on your cheek from here.”
”It’s fine.” Michael refused and the paramedic finally gave up. Max glanced at
his partner a few times, but didn’t say a word. Kyle was making up for all of them
in the talking department. He was telling of his adventures and misadventures.
“You never leave an operation without backup, Kyle.” Sean said while he had
his jammed finger splinted. It hurt like a son of a bitch.
“I radioed Michael, but I wasn’t sure the guy was drugged until he staggered
and three guys joined the other two. Five against one didn’t seem like good odds.
The kid wasn't going to take long to pulverize and drop.”
“So you put your own body in the way. How did you do that exactly?”
Kyle laughed. “I came on to one of the guys.” Sean’s brow went up as he
looked over at the men being handled into patrol cars.
“Which one? The butch one with a mustache, or the one with arms full of
tattoos?”
“Naw, the bald one with muscles. Can’t explain it, but the baldness must be
some major turn on. Never thought it would happen, but I kind of thought it was
sexy.” Sean laughed. It was good to see his partner taking the assignment better
than when he started. They might be able to actually have fun together off duty
outside of poker games and sporting events. Sean saw one of his old Vice buddies
who was in on the bust give him a sign.
75

“Be right back. Shirley, stay out of trouble and no more picking up guys.” Sean
looked at the paramedic. “Careful of this one, he’s carrying a pocket of squabs.”
“Thanks for the tip.” The paramedic patted Kyle on the head. “Down cowboy.
I’ll get you patched up and you can hit the happy trails again.”
"Sean, good to see ya in action mi amigo.”
“Andy. Was that Taylor I saw you making up to in the bar? Thought you two
hated each others guts?”
“We can hate each other's guts as long as we’re willing to lick each other's
balls.” Andy smiled. “Miss you at the Department. Strickland has been an ass since
you left. Your success and arrest record at Majors is pissing him off.”
“Are you seeing tears in my eyes? Stop with the soap, and tell me why
StrickDick was willing to share a collar with Majors. Never thought I would see the
day that tightwad shared anything, especially with Cap.”
“This situation just went on too long, and one of the bashing victims was an
Upper Alderman’s son. That got Strickland’s balls in a twist for not cracking down
on it sooner. Son of a bitch would have turned a cold eye forever, otherwise. It
came straight from the Commissioner’s Den. StrickDick is feeling the sound of his
own drowning career.” Andy lit a smoke and passed it to Sean. They shared the
clove cig for a moment. “He was so frantic that he had us wired thin, covering four
gay joints a night in two shifts each. It left us too open and unable to move fast
enough.”
“Thought as much when I saw Williams earlier.” Sean took another draw on
the cigarette. Remembering Michael’s talk with him earlier, Sean took a step back
into the life. “Hey, Andy, how you feel about a workout at the Den this weekend?”
“I could spot you. Thought you were walkin' the vanilla trail.”

76

“Was, but it’s not working out like I thought it would.” Sean passed the
cigarette back to his friend. “I’ll call in the reservations if you can leave work early
tomorrow for Albuquerque.”
“Done. You can call it a night. They’ve been caught. Don't worry about any
paperwork. Just go home and get some rest." Andy looked back at his friend. “What
level of the Den you playing?”
“Red, and safety word is ‘more’.”
Andy whistled under his breath. “Then take off for sure. You’re gonna need
your rest.”
"Thanks, mi amigo," Sean said turning back to his partner and the others.
Looked like he and Parker were going to have a one on one, and soon.
"What's going on?" Kyle asked as Sean reached them.
"They’re going to process the guys. We can head home."
"Oh." Kyle spoke quietly; depressed at the thought of losing the fun he'd had
for a fleeting amount of time.
"Max?" Sean looked at the quiet man.
"Yeah?"
“You and Michael ready?” Michael just nodded and led the way back to their
car. Sean and Kyle had ridden over to the loft with them earlier, so they needed to
give them a ride back to the Department.
Kyle chatted all the way to the station with Sean tossing in comments, but the
other team remained silent.
“What a rush! I didn’t know a place could be so happening.” Kyle laughed still
feeling the rush of adrenaline in his blood. “Hey, Sean, I know it’s a gay club, but
you think they’d mind if I took Tess there to dance?”

77

“They’ll just stare at you and feel that you’re being wasted, but otherwise, it’s
a free state. Knock yourself out. But if you’re just looking for music and fun, Club
Hell is a hot and hopping place for the straights.”
“Been there, but this place was different with all the lights and music. Club
Hell is more like a banger’s club. This one had some pretty danceable tunes.” Kyle
smelt himself and moved uneasily in his leather pants. “How do you clean leather
pants anyway?”
“Why?” Michael asked absentmindedly.
“Man, I was in a horde of dancers, all too close to move, and someone gave
me a hand job, I kid you not. These pants are a mess and sticky to boot.”
Michael looked back at Kyle and frowned. “You know, you don’t need to feel
compelled to tell us every detail.”
Sean just laughed at Michael’s expression, but lost the smile when he noticed
Max’s silent brooding look as he drove. “You should’ve tried the bathroom, Kyle. You
might have gotten more than a little tug and pull.”
“No shit! Man, where was this place when I was a horny teenager?” Sean
looked at his partner and just shook his head. Yeah, like Kyle Valenti as a teenager
in redneck Roswell would’ve felt confident enough as a school jock to get a blowjob
in a gay club. And pigs fly.
Michael was as quiet as Max on the drive home after they lost the racy boys. It
was barely midnight so Michael doubted Maria was asleep yet. Looking over at his
silent partner, Michael frowned.
“Max...”
“Not tonight, okay partner?” Max asked quietly.
Michael just shrugged and looked out his window. He didn’t know what had
happened exactly in the bar, but Sean’s concerned looks at Max had Michael
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worried. Even the conversation with Jonathan Stiller gave Michael some food for
thought. The smarmy bastard was right. Maria did have an energy about her, a
source of life that was addicting. But the man was stupid if he didn’t think Michael
knew how lucky he was.

~~~

He sat in the dark. It was late and the longer he sat the better. Rushing was
always a problem for some. It created sloppiness and problems. Holding onto the
stirring wheel, he could feel the leather casing and he tightened his hands when he
noticed them shaking.
Letting the anger rage though him, he got out of the car and looked over the
dumping field. It was too tight, too many already dumped. He had forgotten to find
a new place. The latest reject had come too fast and was too marred to keep, even
for a day. The bitch. The stupid, imperfect bitch! Walking and breathing her
supposed perfection, convincing others that she was the one. Her grating nasally
voice and noxious pretentiousness pissed him off before he took her. He should
have known immediately that the woman was marred. An insult to the perfection of
nature. No one... No one tries that hard to make others respect their intelligence,
not unless there was some festering disease.
It was his mistake. And he didn’t make mistakes. Taking the shovel from the
trunk and ignoring the wrapped body, he walked the field and tested the depth. Too
many here already. The mass grave was too shallow, and more would expose it.
Irritated, he returned to the car and tossed the shovel on the mound and slammed
the trunk shut.

79

Losing his control for a moment, he beat his closed fist against the closed
trunk and let the rage and anger move through him. It was a waste of time, all of
it! The hunting ground was loud and noisy. The bright lights and the shrill sounds of
people lying about themselves, creating false impressions to trap a future mate in a
web of deceit with the promise of perfection. It was a lie, all lies. The imperfect
remained marred, and they reproduced with equally damaged specimens, creating
a race of garbage.
He threw himself back into the driver’s seat and gunned the engine. His entire
body was quaking with the rage. Garbage! They were all garbage!!

80

Day 3: Friday- 12:45 a.m.

Michael opened the door to the loft, and wasn't surprised to see the lights still
on. Maria in bed before midnight without him would’ve been a shocker. Closing the
door, he tossed his jacket on the sofa and reached down and took off the knee
brace. He had had enough of that.
“You’re supposed to leave that on until the doctor says to take it off, buddy.”
Michael looked over at the kitchen bar and smiled. His woman, eating her body
weight in food.
“Yeah, that’s what he said.” Michael took the barstool next to her and grabbed
a pickle off her plate and kissed her quickly before taking a bite.
“New wound on the cheek. Want me to doctor it for you?” Maria asked as she
reached over and ate the rest of the pickle out of his hand.
“Later. I need to clean up first.”
“How was the sting, the operation, the whatever you call it?” Maria pushed the
bread and coldcuts towards him. Taking more French bread, she handed him a knife
to slice her some. “Slice my bread, please. But not too thin.” Maria watched him
start to cut. “But not too thick either.” Michael snorted and whacked her off two
pieces and kissed her hard. “Perfect.” She purred after he released her and she
licked her lips.
“It was a bust tonight. All finished. They caught the five men and the world is
safe again.” Michael paused in making himself a sandwich to go grab a beer out of
the refrigerator, extra cheese, more pickles and olives, and a bottled water for
Maria. Sitting down next to her, he watched her construct another sandwich for
herself, while at the same time sneaking bits of turkey to Mr. Booboo, who was
lurking under the counter. Mayo? Maria only used mayo on certain meats. This was

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Brie cheese, provolone, and three slices of corned beef, pastrami, turkey, a slap of
spicy brown mustard, and then some unknown beef looking meat. Weird.
“What is that?”
“Tongue.”
Michael looked into the coldcut container. Tongue? “You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Had a craving.” Maria continued to stack the sandwich with Swiss
cheese, lettuce, pickles and tomatoes, adding vinegar and salt and pepper, a
handful of potato chips; then she covered the last piece of bread in peanut butter.
Cutting her sandwich, Maria took a large bite and was happily munching away,
almost humming under her breath.
“That’s disgusting!”
Maria just shrugged and reached for a pickle out of the jar. “Don’t knock it if
you’ve never tried it.”
Michael reached over and took her other half over her protest and took a bite.
Pausing, he suddenly realized that he was ravenous, and somehow this crazy
sandwich hit the spot, except it was missing something. Maria suddenly went to the
refrigerator and brought out a bottle of seafood cocktail sauce and grabbed a bottle
of Tabasco. That’s what was missing! Michael smeared on some cocktail sauce
followed by some Tabasco as Maria did the same.
She looked over as he devoured the sandwich and then looked down at her
empty plate. Gulping down the bite she was chewing, she still talked with her
mouth full of food. “Hey, make your own! I’m starving.”
They both made another sandwich and traded stories of their day while eating.
Michael popped the last bite in his mouth, and actually felt good for the first time
that day. He had woken with a headache, slightly nauseated and his knee killing
him. The nausea only got worse after Cap grilled the crap out of them and he had
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had to sit next to Kyle and his new aftershave during departmental briefing. Then
he ate half a dozen donuts, and three 5th Avenue bars, took an hour nap in
Holding, followed by a lunch in the park from a kiosk. For some reason he had had
a craving for liver pâté, but settled for a Braunschweiger sandwich with mushrooms
and grilled shrimp on a large Kaiser roll. Max watched horrified, as he drank four
cups of hot bad coffee laced with Tabasco. Michael wasn’t going to admit to the five
other 5th Avenue candy bars he ate, and then he and Maria polished off an extra
large double anchovy and pepper pizza from Maggianio’s that Maria ordered while
they finished getting dressed for the gay bar.
“So, Maria...” Michael didn’t know how to ask her, or why he felt the need, but
he did. “Did you know Max is in love with you?”
Maria ignored him and continued putting away the sandwich stuff. Michael
grabbed a few olives for the road before that jar disappeared too. “You through with
the pickles?”
“Professor!”
Maria stopped and looked at him across the countertop. “Yeah I knew.” She
reached for the bread and put it in its tin cover.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Michael asked as he felt the dark jealousy rise,
trying to swallow it like a lump in his throat.
Maria climbed the stairs to the bedroom, not answering him. Turning off the
lights, he followed her and watched as she turned back the bedding and started
getting ready for sleep. Moving into the bathroom, she sat in a robe on the tiled
edge of the bath and ran the water. Looking over at him standing silent against the
doorjamb, she sighed. “It just seemed kinder to ignore it. He’s not in love with me.
He just thinks he is.”

83

Michael moved into the room, shutting the door to keep the warm moisture in,
and watched her remove her robe as she slid into the water. Removing his clothes
he joined her while she lit the candles on the back shelf.
“But how do you know he’s not in love with you?”
Maria smiled and went into his arms to rest against him in the bath. “He never
pisses me off or starts a fight with me. What kind of love is that?” Michael smiled to
himself. That was true. They never wooed peacefully; it was as if they enjoyed
walking in the fire.
“You want to work on the Mustang this weekend?” Michael asked while leaning
back in the bath with his eyes closed. Maria had already washed his cut, and the
water felt so good. Maria giggled at the question. They worked on it almost every
weekend, and it usually ended up in a shouting match, flinging tools and greasy
sex.
“Sure, I could use a lube job.”

~~~

They exited the club from the side door. Closing hour made the rush at the
front doors too much of a crush, so the group of young students took the easy way
out. The girls were walking in front of their boyfriends, when one of the young men
took off running, and grabbed a hat off the head of one the girls.
“Stop it! Give it back!” Suddenly the group of men was in a playful game of
keep away with the girls. The screeching and noise was increased as the play
continued. Finally one of the students tripped backwards over something beside the
garbage skip.

84

Embarrassed by the laughter of his friends, he stood up laughing at himself. It
was the hand falling out of the plastic wrap that sent him scrambling away.

~~~

Sean rolled over in bed and reached for the phone. Blasted ringing was in his
ear! Too loud! Groping for the phone and the light at the same time, he sat up in
bed, hesitant to turn on the light unless he needed to.
“Yeah, if this is an obscene call make it good so I don’t have to do too much
work getting myself off.”
“Detective DeLuca?” Sean swore at the voice of the PD controller at dispatch.
It was work. His and Kyle’s name must have cycled to the top of the call list for the
next major crime. Turning on the light, he grabbed a pen and wrote down the
information before disconnecting.
Grabbing some clothes he took the phone with him punching in Kyle’s number.
He was the senior officer. They always called the senior officer.
When the phone answered on the other end, he barely waited for Kyle’s sleepy
voice to answer. “Get a move on, Gracie, we’ve got to make the donuts. Kiss
whatever you’ve got sleeping with you goodbye and meet me out front in five.”
Sean hung up and tossed the phone on his kitchen counter before hitting the
streets.
“Sean?” Kyle looked at the phone with its harsh dial tone and hung up. Falling
back into his bed, he looked over at the clock at his bedside. Frickin’ three o’clock in
the morning! He should’ve gone to medical school and become a doctor, and then
maybe he could get a full night's sleep. Looking at the empty bed next to him, he
got up and tossed on clothes, any clothes he could find.
85

Kiss the person he was sleeping with goodbye? Right. Over four months ago,
he decided he was finished with gratuitous sex, that he wanted something more. He
was twenty-seven years old and had never had a long-term meaningful relationship
outside of his friendship with Jack and Tess. Suddenly he wanted more, much more,
and the want was becoming an undeniable ache.
Heading outside, he stood outside his apartment in the dark under a
streetlamp and listened to the quiet world sleep. Everything was too quiet. It had
been for a long time, since Jack Hardy died. He was sick of no laughter and love in
his life. Man wasn’t a creature meant to walk alone, but he didn’t want just anyone.
He wanted the only person he could never have, so maybe it would stay silent for a
long time. Kyle looked down the street as headlights turned onto his street and
were bearing down on him at a swift speed.
Patrol cars were the only units on scene when they arrived. Yellow crime scene
tape marked off the ends of the alley while patrolmen controlled the increasing
crowds rubbernecking for thrill and adventure.
Sean stopped at the tape and then went under, followed by Kyle. The
patrolman glanced at their credentials and nodded them through. Sean scanned the
scene and immediately identified the senior uniform on site.
“Ralph, you pulling nights now?” The man turned at Sean’s voice and smiled.
True, he was a ten-year beat cop with enough seniority to work the cushy day shift,
but he liked a rotating shift that got him in the world at different times.
“Training a rookie. Isn’t that the story? And since he'll be working a lot of
nights, I decided it was best to take some for experience.” Ralph didn’t mention the
problems he was having at home, or any other factor that made the nightshift look
good.

86

“All these rookies. He good?” Sean dug in his shirt for a cigarette even though
he knew they wouldn’t be there. He didn’t smoke. Ralph handed the Detective a few
from his pack.
“He’ll age. Tonight helped.”
“What’s with the peanut gallery?” Sean motioned to the crowd. Three in the
frickin’ morning, didn’t these people have homes?
“We’re at the back of Club Hell. The crowds are the fringes left after bar time.
Our eyewitnesses were leaving the club from the side door when they found the
body. I’ve got them inside the actual club right now.”
“Good. See what your men can do about thinning the herd and clearing away
the scene. You call for Crime Unit and support teams?”
“Done.”
“Good man. When they arrive have the photo-jockey take some crowd photos
nice, clear and clean. Thanks for the smoke, Ralph.” Sean walked away and
motioned for a quiet Kyle to follow. They walked the edges of the crime scene,
careful not to trample or disturb any evidence. Looking back, he called over to
Ralph again. “Hey, Ralph, see what the surrounding building can do about turning
on some building lights here, or get me some torches up.” Ralph gave him a wave
of acknowledgement and looked at the building tops for hanging lights. Taking his
squawk from his uniform, he called dispatch for some mobile light units.
Sean approached the wrapped body with a hand flung to the side, and looked
up and down the alley. Easy access both ways. It wasn’t a double blind alley with
only one opening. Looking down the street he saw the steam covers on the ground,
and noted how close the body was to the dumpster. It was rolled from the back of a
car.

87

“Kyle, go pull the crime kit out of my trunk.” Sean moved his eyes up and
down the dumpster looking for blood, but he knew there wouldn’t be any. Kyle
returned quickly and had their kit open. Sean took the heavy light and shone it
around the outline of the body. It looked cleaned. Taking the tape, he quickly
outlined the body before he took a chance of moving it, and placed a tape to the
topside of the clear plastic covering the stiff.
Standing, he took the light from Kyle and beamed it out over the field as much
as possible while Kyle loaded a camera and took pictures from all angles. They
needed to record the scene before disturbing or any information altered by the
disturbance. Any information changed would be lost. Kyle spent the pack and pulled
the roll marking it with the crime scene number.
Sean looked up at his partner. “You ready?” He waited for Kyle’s nod and
squatted down, putting on latex gloves. Using the edge of a pen he carefully
opened the plastic wrap. From the hand, he already knew it was female. Pulling
back the cover, he actually sat back as Kyle gasped when they saw the full body.
Quickly returning the cover back to its original position, Sean stood up swearing as
he looked up and down the alley. Kyle was silent, his eyes not leaving the body.
Rubbing his hand up his neck, Sean looked at his partner. “You all right?”
Kyle just nodded. It was...the body was...he didn’t know. “Sean, what was
that?”
“Manufactured death. The body was processed.” Sean called through to
dispatch as the support units arrived. Simon, the chief forensic officer headed
straight for the Detectives. He paused next to Sean listening to him argue with
dispatch.
“I don’t care. Call him!” Sean listened to their response. “Look, I’ll take full
responsibility.” Sean walked away down the alley screaming in his receiver. Simon
88

just calmly put on latex gloves and looked at the body. Quickly standing and looking
at a pissed off Sean trying to convince dispatch that it didn’t matter that Guerin was
on the injury list and down for desk duty only. He wanted him on frickin' scene!
Simon walked over and took the phone from Sean. “This is Captain Simon
Morley, call Guerin now or look for another job!” Simon disconnected on dispatch
and made another call on Sean’s phone. A soft gentle voice answered, and Simon
asked for Jim Valenti, apologizing to Amy DeLuca for waking her.
“Jim? It’s Simon. I’ve got your team of DeLuca and Valenti on a crime scene,
but I need Guerin. I just ordered dispatch to pull Guerin from desk.” Simon listened
to Jim for a moment, and then down at the plastic mound of a once living body.
“Worse, we need him.”
Sean looked over at Simon. “Thanks Simon.”
“No problem. This should be Guerin’s anyway, and if it wasn’t for him being
put on desk duty, he would already be here.”
Sean knew that and drew on his smoke. “Kyle and I have witnesses inside.
Call us when Michael gets here.”
“Will do.” Simon saw the mobile light unit arriving. “Go do your thing, and I'll
stop Michael from starting without you.”
“Thanks.” Sean and Kyle moved towards the side door of the club to go talk to
their witnesses. Sean smiled at Simon talking to his men.
“Club Hell! Damn, guess I’ll finally get to see the inside. We’re moving up
boys, so try to look hip. Set up those lights in cross transit and broadside. I need
this alley lit like Christmas. Someone shoot the crowd, and make them clear nice
pictures that a mother would want to frame. Charley pull measurements and
someone find me some tire tracks or rubber.”

89

~~~

A startled Mr. Booboo streaked off the bed and Maria moaned at the sudden
ring of the phone as she burrowed even deeper into Michael’s side, refusing to wake
up. Michael looked down at her and kissed the top of her head as he reached across
to pick up the handset.
“Someone better be dead.” Michael suddenly sat up as he listened to dispatch,
sliding his hand comfortingly down Maria’s naked back to calm her from the loss of
his body. Reaching down he pulled the covers up over her, knowing he was going to
leave and she would be cold. “Wake Evans. Tell him to meet me on-site. Any other
units already deployed?” Michael swore at Kyle and Sean’s name. He was already
tired of them and this joint partnership thing wasn’t even twenty-four hours old!
Turning on a soft bedside light muted so not to wake Maria, Michael stood to
get dressed, and then sat back down. Bending at the waist, he rested his head in
his hands between his legs. Dizzy, nauseated, his stomach was doing flips. It had to
be the sandwich. Maria’s hand moved up his back and then around to his front as
her body came to rest on his back hugging him.
“You okay?” Michael closed his eyes and rested as she kissed him on his back
and stroked his stomach. “Michael?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just sat up too fast.” Michael was starting to worry. He had
been sick every day for the past week, and he never got sick. “It’ll pass after I’m up
for a while.”
“Think you need some food or something?”
“A big no.” The thought of food right now was enough to take him out. Looking
back at his bedmate, he noticed that she looked pale and tired. “Now you go back
to bed, and I’ll call you later in the morning, okay?”
90

Maria lay back in the bed and smiled at him. She was tired, and though she
felt sympathy for him at his loss of sleep, she was still going back to sleep herself.
To make it up to him, she would be sure to dream something erotic with him in it to
share with him later.
“Okay, Detective. But you’ll call me if you need me?”
“I always do.” Maria watched him as he quickly dressed, conveniently ignoring
his knee brace. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks and started swearing.
“What is it?”
“No car. Can’t control the bike until my knee is better. I haven’t replaced mine,
and that leaves only your Jetta. Dammit...”
“Take the GTO.” Michael looked at her in shock, startled, and actually turned
on.
“Really?” Michael climbed back on the bed and trapped her between his two
hands placed on either side of her head. “I’ll have to take it to work.”
“I know, but no high speed chases. Because, if you wreck my car, Detective, I
will be very, very, very pissed.”
“God, but I love it when you get pissed.” Michael teased and bent to kiss her
goodbye. She stopped him before their mouths could connect.
“Not this pissed.” She promised.
Michael kissed her at that, and what should’ve been a quick goodbye, wasn’t.
What started as a quick kiss turned hot and passionate in less than a second. He
was suddenly stretched out on the bed along her body with the covers pushed off
so he could move his hands down her skin.
Her arm came up around his neck and was holding him tight as she made
those noises in her throat as he sucked her tongue into his mouth and feasted on it.

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Maria’s hand came up to hold his face, to stroke his cheek as she pulled back for a
breath.
Michael tried to regain some of his sanity. He was supposed to be going to a
crime scene, but the smell of her, the taste, and the feel of her skin beneath his
fingertips distracted him from his task.
“I need to leave.”
”I know.” She kissed him again. And the kiss took off again. Michael ran his
hand down her leg to curl around to her inner thigh and pulled it up to drape across
his hip. Pulling her in close, his mouth moved to the front of her neck and left
kisses and nips around the soft skin feeling her throat work under his tongue, as
she tried to pull air into her labored lungs.
“I’ve gotta go.” Michael said standing up away from the temptation of her
body. “And you need to go to sleep, get some rest.”
Maria didn’t think that would happen anytime soon. Her body was humming,
needing some relief. Lying back against the pillows in the messed up bedding, she
watched him watching her, and without thinking about it or losing eye contact, she
ran her hands down her front with one hand stopping at her breasts and the other
continuing downward. Michael groaned as the lids of her eyes became heavy and a
glimpse of tongue came out to lick her lip.
Grabbing her up into his arms he kissed her again where she now was mated
to his front with him standing beside the bed and her plastered to him on her knees
kneeling on the bed.
“Lunch, have lunch with me...”
“I can’t. I have my senior thesis class right after lunch so I shouldn’t leave the
University...”

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“I’ll come to you and bring sandwiches...” Michael said kissing her again, and
moving his mouth to her neck kissing it hotly.
“Okay, yes...” Maria gulped. “Oh God, yes!” Suddenly she realized they were
going too far again, and she pushed him off her body. “Go! You’ve gotta go.”
Michael just nodded, and let her drop back onto the bed in the covers. With a quick
look at her naked body, her swollen lips and the dark sultry green of her eyes, he
quickly tossed himself down the stairs ignoring his hurt knee and was out the
garage door.
Michael couldn’t shake the image of her from his head as he sped down the
quiet streets of Roswell in her GTO, ignoring red lights and speed limits. She was
too hyped up to just go back to sleep, so he knew what she would need to do to get
off before she could find rest again. He groaned. She was going to do it alone.
Without him. Without him getting to watch. Michael almost turned around right
there, but a part of his sanity persisted. He needed to get to the crime scene so
that part of his brain could turn off the other part that was pooling in his groin.
What the hell was wrong with them? After a year together weren’t they
supposed to make appointments for sex, sit across from each other at the breakfast
table, hiding behind their papers and grunting at each other for coffee refills,
tossing their toast edges at each other? Instead he tended to ignore the paper, toss
all the dishes off the table and fuck her right there for breakfast. Everything about
her turned him on. They found themselves wrapped around each other about three
times a day, every day...sometimes more, but rarely less. That couldn’t be normal.
It wasn’t normal. But he wasn’t complaining, instead he was secretly lighting
candles at St. Peter’s and stuffing the poor box with his hard-earned cash in thanks.
Hell, it was a better use of his money than trying to quit cussing. He was a
trashmouth and he loved it.
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He found the scene easily. Michael knew the address, but the lights, support
units, and large gathering crowds were like a beacon. Getting out of the GTO, he
scanned the crowds. What the hell was going on? It was after three a.m., on a
Friday. Didn’t people sleep anymore? This wasn’t frickin’ New York City or LA.
Seeing a group of young men he recognized as part of a gang that liked to strip
cars and steal, Michael easily identified the leader. Approaching the young man, he
put on his best Michael Guerin, Beast-not-Man look, which wasn’t that hard since he
was hard and suffering sexual frustration. It was always nice to take it out on some
shady characters.
“You see my ride?” Michael asked the young man who was already cringing
from his glare.
“Nice wheels, copper. You on the take?” The boy was the leader for a reason.
He needed to appear fearless under the most daunting of circumstances.
“Belongs to my lady, and she's a five foot five fireball that nurses this car off
her mother’s milk. Her mother is the scourge of Roswell, noted for toppling
monsters with just her fury. And I’m her boyfriend, who’ll find you...not anyone
else...just you, if this car is touched, blown on, or in any way even stared at in lust.
I would rather spend the rest of my life waiting for execution for killing you and
picking my teeth clean with your bones than to live through her anger over the
stripping and mutilation of this car.”
Michael smiled a humorless smile lacking in everything, but especially warmth.
It was the smile of a killer, one who suffered no remorse. The kid backed up in
fright, all his bravado gone. The smile left his heart pounding, and the sweat on his
feet move up his skin as all his hair stood up in fright. This was the bogeyman, his
mom had warned him about if he didn’t change his ways! The bogeyman that would
rip out his heart and eat his soul.
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“This car looks protected to me, sir.” He ignored his gang and concentrated on
getting away.
“It is. It’s protected by you. I know that you wouldn’t want anything to happen
to it, so you’ll probably protect it as if your life depended on it, because it does.”
Michael happily walked away almost whistling under his breath. He still felt queasy,
his knee hurt, and his pants were too tight sporting an unrelieved erection, but the
rest of the day was looking up.
“Hey, but I gotta go pee!” Michael just snickered to himself. Yeah right, like
that kid never wet himself.

~~~

Sean and Kyle entered Club Hell from the side door. It was quiet, smelt of
spilled beer, cigarette smoke, some other kinds of smoke, and vomit. They followed
the sounds of talking into the main bar area. There was a tall man behind the bar
with out of control dark curly hair leaning on the bar and drinking a beer. He didn't
look like a bartender, but more like a band member with leather and tattoos and a
few piercings. Six young students were sitting on the barstools in front of him
sipping on coffee and colas and talking excitedly. His witnesses no doubt.
“I’m Detective DeLuca and this is my partner, Detective Valenti.” Flashing his
badge quickly, Sean looked down at the names in his notepad noting the name of
the boy who actually found the body. “I need to ask all of you some questions, but
I’ll start with a Harry Cosgrove.”
A young man stood up at the calling of his name. “That’s me. I’m Harry
Cosgrove. Man it was rank. I tripped over it and everything and this hand came
flinging out scaring the crap out of me. I almost pissed my pants...”
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“You did piss your pants,” said one of the other young men and the rest all
snickered.
“Shut up! I’ll bash in your...”
Sean rolled his eyes and interrupted them with his coldest no nonsense voice.
“You through?” The group of them went silent.
“Officer.” Sean looked over at the bartender.
“Detective.”
Alex Charles Whitman just nodded. Another Detective and this one reminded
him of Guerin, but with a gleam in his eye that warned Alex that making sexual
innuendoes to this Detective might result in some action other than a good
gaybashing. Picking up the coffeepot he waved it at the two Detectives.
“I can offer you coffee and a booth to do your interviews.” Alex gestured over
to the privacy booth lining the far wall.
“That would be appreciated...um, Mr....”
“Whitman. Alex Whitman. No problem. I wasn’t going to bed for hours
anyway.”
“And you are exactly...who?”
“The owner.” Alex came out from behind the bar and motioned to one of his
people standing in the shadows. The man quickly went to the booth and cleared it
of debris and wiped down the table. “Sorry, the place hasn’t been picked up tonight.
If you don’t mind, I’ll let my people start closing down.”
“Keep the coffee coming, and you can do whatever you want.” Sean stopped
and looked at the man. He seemed too young to own and run a place like Club Hell.
He had that headbanger look with a touch of the computer geek added in, but his
eyes told a different story. They were silent, deep, and unwavering. This wasn’t a
student. This was a Master, a protector.
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“Done.” Alex started moving off to get his people in to clean so they could
finally go home.
“Mr. Whitman.” Alex turned back. “These kids don’t look twenty-one to me.”
Sean ignored the students squirming in their seats. Fake ID's were the rage, but
good ones were hard to come by. Sean looked like the tough ass that would
confiscate them.
Alex just shrugged and walked away. “They look legal to me.” Always the
same. Another Dick messing in his house. Fucking screws had to have something
better to do then poking into his business. What the hell? Another Detective that
looked like Guerin, not in physical looks, but in attitude. What? Did they have an
asshole factory at the Police Academy?
Kyle and Sean were almost finished with the interviews when one of Simon’s
men came to tell them that Michael and Max were on scene. Telling a uniform that
was with them to keep an eye on the witnesses, they went to walk the crime scene.
When they emerged they found Michael surveying the alley, looking it up and
down, checking out the ground. Sean went close enough to hear and watch, with
Kyle on his tail.
“Ground’s dry, no moisture. More than likely no residual tire tracks will be
found. Traction is good. Have your men concentrate on the potholes. Tires grip the
pavement there to regain ground and momentum.” Michael moved onward, not
even noticing the others. Max, who was a veteran at watching Michael work, just
stood back and learned.
The crime boys were busy photographing the scene. Michael knelt down and
pulled back the plastic wrap, reaching up as someone handed him a camera. He
took pictures of the body, the hands, and feet. Handing back the camera, he put

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gloves on and touched the body, careful to keep his contact to a minimum in case
of prints.
“Rigor mortis is gone. Over eighteen hours, Simon?”
“That would be my guess. I’ll nail it down in autopsy.” Michael ignored the
tightening of his body of over the word ‘nail’ and the idea of nailing a certain blonde
anywhere horizontally or vertically. Damn. Concentrate.
Michael looked up and down the arms, checked the feet, back of the knees,
and shoulder, and under the nails. “She’s clean. No tracks or needle marks, but I’ll
bet my paycheck she was drugged. More than likely put in a drink or ingested. Pull
a tox screen and look for powerful sedatives.”
Michael frowned and looked closer. Moving the body to the side and looking
behind the neck. “Forget it. It won’t help. Best bet, check residual blood in the
spleen or liver.”
Simon came closer. “What you got, Michael?”
“You smell that? Take a real whiff.” Simon pulled a deep breath in, which was
something he had trained himself against for his last twelve years in the business.
“Embalming. She was embalmed.”
“Not quite the stuff used or the formaldehyde mix, but close. There’s an
access port into the subclavian from the back, and the exit must be the femoral.”
Michael rocked back on his heels. “Why access the subclavian from such an off
angle? It would have been better and easier to do it from the front under the
clavicle.”
“What does that mean?” Kyle asked quietly.
Sean looked at his partner and calmly lit another bummed cigarette. “They
can’t test her blood for drugs because she no longer has any blood. The killer
drained her like they do in embalming and pumped her full of preservatives. The
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only hope is to find residual blood in either the liver or spleen where blood is
sequestered.”
Michael nodded without looking up. Turning the body slightly, he felt
something in the cavity that didn’t seem right. “Kidney is an option too since it's
highly vascularized with so many drugs being cleared through that organ.”
Michael suddenly started cussing in a non-stop flow of obscenities that
impressed Sean as he calmly drew on his cigarette. He stood up, walked a few feet
away, and then came back to kick at the garbage dumpster with his bad leg, which
sent him off again.
“Calm down, Michael.” Simon frowned. Michael never lost this much control.
Michael just nodded and squatted at the body again.
“Fucking, mother puss buckets.” Kyle smiled at Michael’s attempt to clean up
his language. “Screw the organs, you’re not getting anything. Pass me a body
camera.” Simon handed him a specialized camera that sat on the skin and took
close magnified pictures of the skin at great detail, digitally. Michael worked quickly
while ordering the photographer to continue taking more photos above him.
Simon’s curiosity took a turn, as did Sean’s. Max just stood away observing. There
were too many heads in the mix.
Simon stopped chewing his gun in awe and horror. “Is that what I think...”
“Yeah. It’s a seam. He sliced her open. My guess is there’re no internal organs
to be had. She was eviscerated.”
Sean frowned. “I don’t see the seam. How can anyone do that without leaving
a scar or incision line.”
“Laser. It has to be. And a special laser because it didn’t burn the skin like one
used in the surgical suites. This is a precision instrument, more like the high quality
ones used in eye surgery.” Michael took some forceps from a technician and slowly
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peeled away what looked like skin. The group watched in disgust, as he smelt it
than actually tasted it.
“Oh shit! That’s disgusting.” Max actually turned away. Michael ignored the
group and thought on it. “It’s a fixative, like a lacquer or shellac. She was
processed to be preserved.” Michael carefully dropped the piece of clear shell from
the body into a collection bag. Sean nodded. It’s what made him call Guerin to the
scene. The entire body was covered in the clear shiny coating. Manufactured death.
“Michael, the seam is closed. How did they suture it without leaving traces or
even a stitch or staple?” Simon’s curiosity was peaked.
Michael ripped off his gloves. “He didn’t sew her up. He glued her. We’ve got a
human taxidermist.” Michael walked away. Simon would call him when they were
ready to open the body cavity, but Michael already knew what would be in there,
and it wouldn’t be what was placed there by God. More than likely some kind of
filler. That was why the chest cavity looked and felt wrong. It was lumpy.
Max watched his partner retrieve Maria’s car and drive away without another
word. It wasn’t unusual for Michael to need time alone. Max knew where to find his
partner. A donut shop that was open at all hours, twenty-four hours a day and
served Michael's favorite glazed buttermilk donuts.
Kyle and Sean came up to him. “Max, we're finished with the eyewitnesses.
You wanna talk to them?”
Max just shook his head no. Sean and Kyle knew what they were doing. “No.
We’ve got what we need for now. Let’s go meet Michael at Kelly’s Donut Haven.”
Sean talked to the uniform in charge and to Simon. They would clean the site
and the uniform was going to release the witnesses. It was starting to get light. Two
hours. They were there for two hours and it passed in minutes. Donuts and coffee
sounded good.
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After they were in the car on their way to the donut shop, Kyle had to ask.
“Why did you call Michael in, Sean?”
“The scene felt like more, and the body was processed. I see things, but
Michael sees more. I don’t understand it. It’s not like those hokey profiler shows
where the heroine gets the skinny from some flash or some psychic ability. It’s
more like lifetime intuition and a sense of knowing. If I had to guess I would say
Michael lived a thousand lifetimes as some kind of soldier or warrior, and what he
sees in a crime scene is just a variation of thousands of deaths he's seen before.
Now those past memories have become part of his instincts.”
“So you called Michael because of that? Because he could see more than you?”
“That, and because I’m determined to learn from him, and if you’re wise you’ll
do the same. See how Max holds back and watches? There are teachers and there
are students in life, but in this field, Michael is the Professor. He writes the book.”
Sean actually let himself feel bad for a few moments. Michael really did deserve to
go to Hawaii.

~~~

Maria searched the house for her shoe. It had to be somewhere, since her foot
was the only one that could possibly fit into it. Maria chuckled at the thought of
Michael in her high heeled strappies. Oh god, Michael as a cross dresser wearing
female lingerie and high heels was too hard to imagine and too hilarious to ignore!
Now Max could pull it off. She could see Max playing the Tim Curry role in a black
leather bustier, fishnets and high heels.
“Damn, damn, and double damn.” Maria looked up from under the bed straight
into the unblinking eyes of Mr. Booboo, or Mr. Boo, and sometimes Mr. B. Michael
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had renamed him to the shorter versions because he had a hard time referring to
the cat by the name 'Booboo'. “Hey, Boo, did you see mommy’s shoe? Who’s a
pretty kitty?” Maria stood up and carried the cat downstairs to feed him, petting
and cooing to him the entire time. The cat’s purring increased in volume at all the
attention plus the promise of food.
Maria was opening a special treat when she noticed her shoe on the floor in
the kitchen. Finished feeding Mr. B, she picked it up and frowned. What looked like
small teeth marks marred the leather. Maria looked at the cat in speculation and
then just shrugged it off. That was impossible.
Maria thought about eating, but decided not to. She had awakened
disoriented, being without Michael combined with a headache and a queasy
stomach. Reaching for the coffee pot, she felt her stomach revolt. Oh, this was not
good. She couldn’t work without coffee, or some tasty caffeinated treat. Searching
through the special beverage box, Maria ignored the hot cider mix, gourmet hot
chocolate, teas, and exotic coffees. Damn. Okay maybe tea. Her stomach didn’t
seem to mind tea. Grabbing a bag of Darjeeling, she searched for her tea pot as the
door to the loft opened.
Michael?
“Maria! Honey, I’m so glad you're home!” Maria looked at the clock and
groaned. Oh god, not today! She had three classes and a lunch date with Michael.
“Morning, Mom. I’m making tea. Would you like a cup?”
Amy beamed at Maria, and took a seat. “Do you have lemon?”
“Yes.”
“Cream?”
“Half and half.”
“Honey?”
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“Absolutely.” Maria started assembling all the essentials of tea while Amy
opened up a huge folder. Taking a knife, Maria sliced the lemon wedges while
listening to Amy as she started in on her biggest most consuming project. This
project was six years in the making, and had taken a turn to omnipotence over a
year ago: The Wedding.
The magnitude of this project consumed all other projects. And it slowed down
the usual madness associated with Amy DeLuca, Moral Crusader, Keeper of the
Sacred Chalice of Natural Spring Waters, Earth Mother to Environmental Crusaders,
and Holy Terror of Roswell. She was so entrenched in her wedding plans that the
law enforcement agencies around the world were celebrating a ceasefire...well
except for that one small incident in the Catskills involving some kind of terrestrial
rodent and a mining operation. Not even worth mentioning.
“Lemon?”
“Yes, mom.” It was ‘Wedding’ with a capital W, not to be confused with
something ordinary like other people’s weddings, like say, Charles and Di’s little
affair. This was the ‘Wedding’. After being engaged to Jim Valenti for over five
years, Amy DeLuca had finally set the date, then reset the date, and then again. It
was last set over a year ago, but wedding planning was consuming Amy’s time. She
wanted everything to be perfect, just right. After the nightmare of her first
marriage to Maria’s father, Amy had taken five years to decide that Jim was the
right man, and now she was determined to make the wedding the most perfect
union between them-even if it killed him first.
“The china arrived yesterday, and I’m hating the pattern. Why did I pick it? So
I used it last night at dinner and it was as I suspected, the pattern gave Jim
indigestion.”
“What did you feed him?”
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Amy quickly looked through her catalogues at different patterns for china. “Oh
the usual. Three enchiladas, two beef and bean burritos, tamales with Spanish rice
and refried bean. And I made that special Pico sauce with extra jalapenos and a
side of homemade guacamole. He also had three Mexican beers, and one of my Key
Lime pies.”
“Gosh, it must have been the china pattern that set his tummy all topsy
turvy.” Maria said sarcastically as Amy kept talking, ignoring her.
Maria started toasting some scones to go with the tea. The smell was making
her rock on her feet. This wasn’t good, and her mother made things worse by
mentioning the menu. Oh god, not pressed duck in juniper berry sauce. It was an
improvement over the braised wood hens with an herbal foie gras and truffle
dressing.
“You know, Mom, keep the china. Bring it over here, and I’ll serve you, Jim,
and Michael dinner on it, as a sort of control test. It’s imported from Italy and you
special ordered it. It took eight months to get, so another pattern would take at
least six months or so. You really want to put Jim off again?”
“I just want this to be perfect.” Amy looked at Maria and frowned. “Honey, you
look green, are you okay?”
“I ate a monster sandwich last night at one. I think the extra pickles and
mixing tongue, mayo and peanut butter was a bad idea.” Maria refrained from
mentioning the seafood cocktail sauce. She couldn’t take it.
“Honey, that sounds out of harmony. Now take the arrangement of your living
room. If you where to realign the sofa to face the northern equinox...”
“No! You’re not rearranging the furniture again. Last time Michael came home
and tripped over it in the dark. It’s fine.”
“But honey, if you find the harmony in...”
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“Mom...Mom, I know we're misaligned, but I think we’ll just have to live with
falling into the depths of despair at the next harmonic convergence.” Maria braced
her hands on the counter to steady her feet as her stomach pitched again. “It’s
Michael. He doesn’t do change real well.”
“Oh dear!”
Maria looked at her mother sharply. “What? What’s going on? No, 'oh dears'.
No!”
“I changed the color scheme, and style. Michael needs a new tux.”
“Not gonna happen.”
“I’ll take care of it dear. You’ll see. Michael adores me.”
“Uh huh.”
Actually Michael wasn’t afraid of anything. He could stand up to the most
violent of criminals without flinching. He could walk through a slaughter scene,
ankle deep in blood and gore, and then pick up a polish dog on his way to write up
his report. But there was one thing in the world that terrorized him-Amy DeLuca.
“Mom, you have no idea what it took out of me to get him into a tux shop and
have it tailored! It was impossible!” Maria did smile at the memory of the changing
room. Now that was a tight spot.
“Leave it to me, dear.” Amy said offhandedly. Maria’s eyes narrowed. Was her
mom talking about having sex with Michael? “Now look at the dress I chose for
you.”
Maria glanced at the dress just as the sweat broke out on her brow, and she
rushed to the bathroom. Amy followed concerned as she watched her daughter lose
her stomach.
“Honey, oh honey, we can change it!” Maria just rested her head on her arm
and moaned as Amy was wetting a cloth.
105

~~~

Michael stood silently watching the autopsy. Kyle was looking a little green,
but Max was busy flipping through the processed crime scene photos.
“Any determination of cause of death?” Sean asked. Kyle looked at him
severely as did Max. Looking at what was done to the woman, exactly which one
thing actually had taken her life seemed to be a moot point.
“Suffocation. She died from lack of oxygen.” Michael said quietly. Max looked
at Michael, concerned. The man looked tired and had only eaten three donuts this
morning.
Simon looked over at Michael. “That’s correct.” It took him and his lab boys
over two hours to figure that out. “You want to share with the rest of the class,
Michael?”
“She had no signs of blunt trauma or tracks indicating drugging with needles.
All the processing was done postmortem, and the blackening of her nail beds on her
hands and feet indicates oxygen deficit.”
Max flipped through the crime photos and found the ones Michael had taken of
the hands and feet. The nails had a blackness in the cuticles and nailbeds.
“Want to guess how she was suffocated?” Simon asked out of inquisitiveness.
He had his theory, but he wanted Michael to either confirm it or give him another
option.
“The fixative. He stalked her, determining she was the one he wanted. The
careful scrupulous processing is not only professional and timely, but it denotes
care. So his choosing of the victim would have had the same amount of
meticulousness. The victim would have been drugged to submission, and while she
106

was pliable or unconscious, he coated her in the fixative. It closed off all her pores
and she slowly suffocated to death. Once she was dead, he opened her femoral
artery and drained the blood while pushing in the embalming or preserving fluid
through her subclavian.”
Kyle looked at the corpse on the table, and then at Michael. Sean remained
silent and watchful. Something about the corpse and the murder was bothering
him, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Searching for a cigarette which he
couldn’t smoke in that room anyway, Sean conveniently forgot that he didn’t
smoke.
“Even the processing of the body indicates a fussiness that is beyond normal.
The person is a borderline personality. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a
handwashing tendency that denotes it, and is unable to live with others because of
his obsessive compulsive disorder.”
Simon listened as he slowly opened the glued incision line. It was damn near
invisible. With help from his assistant they cracked open the cavity and everyone
actually stepped back, all except Michael who already back and half-sitting on a
work table.
“Oh shit! What is that?” Simon’s assistant quickly took pictures and recorded
the cavity filled with something resembling foam, a pink foam. Simon took samples
as Michael came forward and took a forceps to hold a piece to examine. He had
been correct. All the internal organs were gone, and the cavity had been stuffed.
The victim had been eviscerated.
“It looks like a polyurethane base. It reminds me of those tire kits that allows
you to fix your flat. It comes in a can, pressurized.” Michael added his piece to
Simon’s. “Get Parker working on it. If it's unusual and exotic we might be able to
narrow the field.” Michael looked at his watch. “You got anything else for us?”
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“Naw, this will take a while. I’ll send you the report later today.”
“Okay. We’ll check back later and see how it’s going.” Michael searched
through a pile of stuff. “You’ve got the "fingerprints and distinguishable marks" list
on her?”
“Yeah, it’s on my desk. Your copies are on the small pile. We’ll have the dental
ready by this afternoon too.” Michael nodded and walked away. He had too much to
do. Not only find a killer, but identify the woman so they could return her to her
family. If she was local, someone should report her missing soon.

~~~

Maria finally made it to work, and she had had time to stop and pick up some
donuts and hot coffee. After she was sick, her stomach felt better. Definitely no
more late night gorging on weird sandwiches. Maybe the tongue wasn’t fresh. Maria
thought about calling Michael to see if he was suffering too. The last time both of
them were hit with food poisoning it was courtesy of her mom and some Swedish
traditional foods requiring them to wear lighted candles on their heads. Michael
didn’t take it very well. The food he tried, but wearing a wreath with dripping wax
was out of the question. Jim and Kyle looked sweet, but Sean took one look and ran
away with mumbled claims of a date.
With a donut in her mouth, and trying to balance a cup of double-crème latte,
Maria stood in her doorway staring at the offending desk, at least she suspected
there was a desk under the pile of papers and books. No one really knew. Six
months ago she had put in a request of a larger office, upstairs with windows, but
the Department was still working on the request.
“It’s still there.” Tess said coming up behind her.
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“I know.” Maria looked at Tess and watched her put away some files, and place
a stack of graded exams on Maria’s desk. “Oh god! Don’t put them on this chaos.
We’ll never find them again. Are those for my first class?”
“All graded and recorded. You just need to turn them back.”
“That’s a small favor. It only took three days. Is that a record for us?” Tess
nodded. Maria frowned at her quiet friend. Tess looked tired and if she wasn’t
mistaken there was evidence that the woman had been crying.
Maria sat down and tried to organize her piles. She could do it. She could wait
until Tess told her what was going on. There was no reason to butt her nose into it.
It was Tess’s business, and Maria was trying to decrease her meddling tendencies...
“So what’s wrong?” Dammit, not even a full five seconds!
“Maria.”
“Come on. You’ve been upset, emotional, and all the tears... What’s going on?
Is it the anniversary of Jack’s death or something? Did I miss your birthday?”
“No, none of those things.”
“Your master's thesis is sucking, you’re in a corner, and now you feel you’re on
the wrong track?”
“No.”
“Someone was mean to you, stole something, or your favorite dress is too
tight and you suspect you’re gaining weight?”
Tess laughed. “No.”
“It’s a man.” Maria’s observant eyes took in a telltale sign as Tess tried to
avoid her eyes. “Of course it’s a man! It’s always a man. We’re free, intelligent
women who are responsible for our own orgasms, so it has to be a man.” Maria
motioned to the chair across from her desk piled in books. “Kick the books and take
a seat. Tell me all about it.”
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“I can’t. It’s not what you think...it’s just... I can’t talk about it right now.”
Maria thought about the unhappy droop of Tess’s shoulders, almost like the
weight of her problems was weighing her down. Her hair lacked its usual bounce,
her face was pale, and Maria noticed a slight tremble in the clenched hands.
“Is it Max? Do you regret breaking up with him?” Maria asked. The breakup
had been hard on Max. In the two months they had been together, Maria didn’t
really see many sparks between the two, but both seemed compelled to be
together. News of the breakup didn’t surprise her, but Max’s reaction afterwards did.
“No! Oh no. It was the right thing to do. Max...Max was a mistake. A big
mistake, believe me.” Tess wanted to tell Maria, but she needed to think things out,
get things clear in her head, and get over feeling guilty. “I was looking for
something, and I thought he was it, but I was wrong.”
“So what was wrong with him?” Maria’s couldn’t help but ask the very question
that was keeping her up at night. Curiosity and gossip was the cornerstones of her
very existence.
Tess just shrugged. She didn’t even know if she knew what it was. “I thought
he was someone else, and he wasn’t.”
“Did you think he was like Jack?”
Tess had a look of horror cross her face. “No! Not in the least. Actually I think
I thought he was the opposite.” Tess noticed how attentive Maria was on the
discussion, eating donuts and listening. She had refrained from talking to Maria
about him because of the friendship between Michael and Max. It seemed unfair.
“Okay, so was that the appeal? He wasn’t Jack or remotely resembling Jack?”
“That he was the antithesis of Jack? No, not that either. It was something else.
You know I was raised in the foster system, right?” Maria nodded. “Well my foster
family took me in when I was young, and I spent my whole childhood with them. I
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was lucky. So many kids are moved around, but the Valdez’s didn’t seem to mind
me at all, and it was fun being raised in a Latino family even though I was so
obviously not. I think they didn’t adopt me because of my whiteness, like they
didn’t want to steal my heritage, make me Mexican. And they cried at my wedding,
saw me to my new home, and I still consider them my family, but I was always
apart, different. It’s hard to explain. I felt their love, but a part of me was always
something of a loner. I don’t know.”
“Like there was a history for you out there, missing and lost?”
“Something like that, or maybe a feeling like I had people, that I came from
people I didn’t know. I’ve always felt like trying to find them, to find out what kind
of person dumps a child in the middle of the desert and walks away. But I was
afraid to know what they would be like, or who they would be.” Tess pushed her
hair off her face. “Actually, I guess I was afraid of what it would make me.”
“And Max?”
Tess leaned back and smiled at Maria. “Yes, Max. I thought he was sexy and
handsome. He was humorous and fun, much like Kyle, but there was more. From
the moment I met him, and I mean really met him, not just dropping off coffee, I
felt something. It felt like a tingle or maybe that feeling you get when you're in the
house alone and it feels like someone is there watching you.”
Maria nodded. “The hair stands up on your neck.”
“Like that. That day Michael and Max stopped in to see Kyle in the hospital
when he took the bullet in his shoulder, I felt something from both of them. A sense
of awareness like a haunting familiarity, like I should know them, that we were the
same.”
“Michael, too?”

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“Yeah, but later when I was around Michael it was the same sense of knowing,
but with Max it became more, much more. I felt like I knew him, or of him, and the
feeling was electrical, more intense, sort of...” Tess struggled with a term to express
it, “biblical.”
“Biblical?” Maria frowned and then suddenly her faced cleared. “Oh! Biblical!”
Oh sure she knew that. She felt it almost every night with a pissy Detective. A roll
in the bedsheets...getting all sweaty...begetting and begetting...wrath of holy
thunder stuff. “So that means the sex was great. So what went wrong?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I went wrong, or maybe it was Max. It’s hard to say.
Jack was a great man, so gentle, loving, and mischievous with a touch of
passionate horndog. I didn’t suspect or need Max to be those things. It was like I
had walked into a relationship with him expecting an entirely different person. And I
don’t know why I expected him to be any of those things.”
“I don’t understand.”
Tess just laughed bitterly. “That’s okay, because neither do I, and Max
definitely didn’t. I expected him to be harder, tougher, assertive to the point of
demanding his orders be followed, and selfish.”
Maria looked shocked. “You wanted that?”
“I don’t know what I wanted, but it was what I was expecting. The sex
was...okay it was great, highly charged. But there was too much gentleness, like I
expected to see this huge burning fire in his eyes, almost bordering on violence, but
that was missing. What broke the relationship or woke me up was one night when
we went out to eat. The place was full, and we stood in the doorway looking in. Max
kept asking me what I wanted to do, was it okay to wait, or should we go
elsewhere... I didn’t care. He was irritating me to the point I wanted to scream!
Hellooo? What do we do now, Max? He was so damn indecisive, and I wanted him
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to...no I expected him to be more assertive, go find us a seat, or demand a table
immediately. It was like I was with the boy, hoping and wanting the man he’ll
someday become. What if that never happens, Maria? What if I was looking at a
dream and expecting to find it in him?”
“Poor Max!”
“I know. I had to break it off. It was unfair. I was wanting him to be the
dream, or the illusion that was in my head, and I don’t think I ever saw him, not
really.” Tess had more to tell, but that was all she could say, or wanted to say at
that time. She needed to think, decide what to do.
“So you weren’t in love with him.”
Tess looked at the clock and got up to leave. She had class soon. “That’s the
strange thing. I think I was, but I think I was in love with the man I expected him
to be. The real Max is a stranger to me. I don’t even know him.”
Maria watched Tess leave and began to gather her stuff for class. She should
have asked her about Kyle. It was so obvious that Kyle and Tess belonged together,
but they avoided that type of entanglement altogether. Instead they were friends.
The best of friends, much like they had been in High School. Maria wondered when
they were going to wake up to the fact that 'just friends' or even 'good friends'
didn’t get jealous over the other person dating someone else.

~~~

Michael tossed the folder on the desk in front of him, and settled back in his
chair, leaning back enough to put his feet up on his desk. His knee was sore and the
colors were still nasty-looking, but the swelling had gone down. Michael was tired,
bone tired. He needed a nap.
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“Max, I’m gonna hit Holding for an hour, if you...”
“You’re gonna take another nap?” Max looked over at his lounging partner with
his feet up and kicked back. Max was tired too, but Michael was napping more and
more. It was strange.
“Well, think about it, Partner. I got home after midnight, then Maria and I ate
sandwiches until about one, then I was called in at three thirty or so in the morning
for the murder. I’m beat.” Michael didn’t mention the time in the bath or the bed,
and that after it was all sliced off, he only had had about an hour of sleep.
Max yawned himself. No wonder he was moving slow. He had just read the
same report twice, and Kyle was at his desk with his head down. Sean disappeared
a few minutes ago towards a conference room. Max bet if they went to find him he
would be sacked out on a table or on a sofa somewhere.
Michael’s voice brought him back. Max hadn’t realized he had been drifting to
sleep himself. “Max, I think my ankles are swelling.”
“Michael, it’s your imagination. You need sleep. Maybe you should mention it
to Cap.”
“That my ankles are swelling?” Michael asked confused.
“No, the sleep thing. They’re not getting much work out of any of us.” Max
looked at Michael’s ankles and frowned. Maybe they were swelling. Maybe it was
because of his knee. That didn’t make sense because then it should only be one
ankle. Max groaned. The all needed sleep. He was letting Michael’s hallucinations
influence him. The ankles looked fine, ugly but fine.
Michael got up quickly. Knocking on Valenti’s door, Michael waited until the
voice inside called him in.
“Cap?”

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“Guerin, you need something?” Jim looked from the reports, and manpower
charts.
“Sleep. I think I need to release my team. We were off the Vice case late last
night, and then back at the murder case at three thirty. Most of us are running on
less then two hours of sleep.”
Jim looked through the door seeing his son asleep at his desk and Max
nodding off in his chair. “Where is Sean?”
“Conference room.”
Jim looked at Michael and had to agree. Michael was known for staying up for
days on a case, but in this instance the man looked worn. “Is your team on call this
weekend?”
“No. We’re on standdown. Sean has plans in Albuquerque I believe, but
otherwise the rest of us are in town.” Michael knew why the Captain wanted to
know. “They can call me at home. Maria and I are working on the car, and Kyle and
Max promised to help me finish the welding and put the engine back in.” So he
would be home if there were any more bodies. But Michael didn’t say that aloud; it
was understood.
“Almost done, huh?” Jim smiled. Even he had helped out a few times on the
Mustang. It was a long ongoing project, but everyone was excited to see the final
product.
“We just got confirmation on two of the final three parts. Kyle said they would
be in today. Maria thinks she found the last one, but she hasn’t heard back for
price.” Jim nodded. Price was an issue. Michael had a small fortune sunk in that car,
but luckily since he had moved in with Maria his expenses decreased. She owned
the loft and he no longer paid rent, so his expenses consisted of pooling his money
with hers for household bills, and buying presents for her.
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“Well, release your people. Looks like they can have lunch and the afternoon
off. I’ll tell Simon and Parker to flash you if anything comes back on your new
case's I.D.”
“Thanks, Cap.” Michael was on his way out when Jim stopped him.
“Don’t forget Sunday dinner.” Jim decided to rub it in. “Amy is looking for you.
I think she has a few things to discuss with you.”
Jim watched the color drain from Michael’s face. Only his sweet gentle Amy
could have that effect on this man. “Does she know about the Palisades? I mean
does she know about...me?” Jim just smiled wickedly. “Um, you know Cap, I think
Maria and I might have plans for Sunday night.” Michael quickly fled.
“Chicken.” Jim called after him, laughing. He couldn’t wait until Michael saw
the new color scheme, and exactly what color tux Amy wanted him to wear.

~~~

Michael parked the GTO in the staff parking lot, and headed for the doors. The
two sandwiches he had picked up were mammoth. He had his eye not only on his,
but also half of Maria’s. After lunch he was going to go home and take a nice long
nap. Cracking his neck, he quickly went down the stairs and stopped in Maria’s
office doorway.
Maria was resting her head on top of her arms, on top of a pile of papers. She
looked ready for a nap herself. Michael watched as her hand came up to grab a
huge cup with a straw, and watched her drink from it, making slurping noises.
“I hope that’s not all the cola you have left.” Maria looked up to see Michael
waving a large sandwich bag at her.

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“Food! Gimme, gimme!” Maria stood up as Michael came into her office
shutting the door. She sat back down and moved her office chair back.
“Greedy.”
“Starving! Detective, feed me!”
Michael smiled. “Again?” Michael started to plant himself on the edge of her
desk, but she stopped him.
“Don’t do that. The papers.” Michael looked behind where he was going to sit,
and got her point. If he sat down and scooted back, all the papers would have
taken a sliding leap off the other side. Michael handed Maria the bag as he went to
find himself something that looked like a chair.
“I got you the Italian sub with extra meat, extra cheese, and black olives.
Dressing is on the side.” Michael brought his chair next to hers and sat in the chair
backwards facing her. Maria kissed his nose as she found her sandwich.
“No onions?”
“No onions.” Michael took his sandwich out of the bag and opened it on some
papers on her desk.
“What's yours?” Michael guarded it from her. Maria sometimes went flaky on
him and suddenly wanted his sandwich instead.
“The Supreme.” Maria just nodded. That meant meat-lots of meat.
Maria took a bite of her sandwich and looked at him. He needed sleep. “You
look tired, Detective.”
“I am. I’ve got the rest of the day off to catch up on some sleep. That hour
last night isn’t holding me.”
“Hmm,” Maria moved his hair back from his forehead. “I'm through after my
Senior thesis class, around two thirty. I could come join you.”

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“You know where to find me, just follow the snoring.” Maria definitely knew
where he would be.
“I was sick this morning.” Maria mentioned casually as she pushed in two bites
at once. Taking the sandwich bag she looked for napkins and chips. Oh, vinegar and
salt. Two bottles of water were also in there.
“Sick?” Michael looked at her. She looked tired too, and he couldn’t believe it,
but she looked thinner than usual, almost too delicate. “You okay?”
“Yeah, mom came by this morning and showed me the dress she wants me to
wear to the Wedding.” Michael nodded and took another bite. That explained it. The
whole Wedding thing was making him sick too.
“Bad?” Michael asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Oy!” Michael laughed at her expression.
They talked while eating, but Michael was careful not to mention his latest
case. Maria had a thing about sticking her nose into his cases, and he didn’t want
her near this one. She was already spread too thin, and the darkness under her
eyes was bothering him.
“You look tired too, Professor.”
Maria leaned forward and kissed him gently while handing him the rest of her
sandwich. She had managed to eat about three-fourths of it. “I am.” Repeating his
response to her earlier. Dropping her voice to a husky whisper. “I had a hard time
getting back to sleep after you left. The bed was big and lonely, and I was too
horny.”
Michael’s eyes darkened. “So how’d ya get back to sleep?” His tongue came
out and just touched her lip before going back into his own, she groaned and her
mouth followed it, but he pulled back away from her. Placing the remainder of her
sandwich on the desk, he said, “Tell me, and don’t leave out any details.”
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“Pervert.”
He did it again. His tongue came out and touched her lips, outlining them so
softly it was almost like a whispers touch, and then he retreated. Watching her eyes
he felt them drop to his mouth as his tongue left her and hid inside, and he listened
for the sound he knew well when his tongue reappeared to wet his lip. It was the
gentle flushing rush of air out of her lungs, followed by a soft throaty groan, and
the soft panting noise she made as her heart sped up.
“Tell me...” Michael let the words leave his mouth in a barely audible whisper
and watched her move forward even more to catch them.
“I’ll show you.” She took his bottom lip into her mouth and bit it gently, while
her hand took his and dragged him off his chair. Michael followed her lead letting
her position him with his back to her desk, sitting on the edge while she faced him
in her chair. She didn’t say a word, but just gazed at him as her hand wandered
down her front, unbuttoning one button at a time slowly, with her tongue
occasionally coming out to wet her lips. He leaned forward to help her, to join his
mouth with hers, but he suddenly felt himself pushed back on the desk with a foot
to his chest. Maria just shook her head no.
“Professor.” Michael said in that tone he didn’t realize he used only for her. It
turned Professor into all those other words like honey, sweetheart, and baby.
“Uh uh,” Maria dropped her blouse on the floor beside her chair with a small
scrap of lace that could be considered a bra to some. Suddenly surging to her feet,
she leaned against him, her body along his. “Just watch, Detective. You like to
watch don’t you?” Michael gulped hard as she wiggled against him and suddenly her
skirt and panties dropped. His hands went to the soft skin of her waist as their
mouths kissed, pulled apart and then returned to devour each other.

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One minute he was kissing her, and the next minute she was sitting in her
chair minus her clothes, with one foot on the desk next to him and the other
moving up his leg to rest on his crotch, stroking his erection through his jeans. It
was her hands that had him fascinated as she moved them down her body like she
did last night, a clicking noise coming from her throat as she tipped her head back.
Michael’s eyes tore themselves away from the sight of her touching herself to find
her eyes. They were dark and dangerous, with a gleam of mischief that never failed
to make his heart race out of control.
“Are you gonna make me do this all alone again, Detective?” Michael couldn’t
talk, but he could move. He dropped to his knees in front of her, his hands found
her waist again, and he pulled her out of the chair to fall back on him. They ended
up on the floor with her on top of him, and halfway under her desk.
Maria’s arm was around his neck holding him tight while her other hand
quickly removed buttons and pushed at clothes and zippers. Michael had his eyes
closed as he wildly returned her kiss, sucking her tongue deep into his mouth
enjoying the occasional gash of teeth. His hands moved down her naked back
delighting in the silkiness of her skin, so different from the rougher texture of his
own, as his hands firmly grasped her ass pulling her even harder into his groin.
Maria had his jeans unbuttoned and unzipped, but he had to lift his hips so she
could push them down. With a fishtailing motion of his legs he kicked them off, but
not before banging his leg into her chair.
Maria giggled at his cusswords as she kissed the side of his neck, and her
hand wandered down his body to lovingly stroke the side of his leg. Michael’s hands
moved over her reverently as he continued to find her mouth again and again. His
one hand found that familiar roughness at her side, the scar that ran from the side

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above her hip to almost midway to her navel. To the touch, it was merely a thin line
of rough skin left by scar tissue, but to Michael, it was his life.
It was the scar left from a year ago when a killer’s knife almost took her from
him. They were almost over before they began. Every night since, he slept with his
hand over the scar, almost as if he could hide it from sight, remove the offense. He
rolled over onto the floor to take the bottom directly since it was cold, shifting her
completely on top of him. Pulling one of her legs up high along his ribs she
straddled him. Michael bent his one leg that could still bend, placing his foot flat on
the floor and giving her something on which to lean back.
Maria sat up above him and moved both her hands down his chest to his
abdomen, loving the movement of the muscles responding to her touch. His one
hand remained at her waist over her scar, as if he were still holding her body
together, and Maria licked her lips as she took his erect penis in hand.
“Maria!” he hissed.
“Shh, it’s okay. I’ve got it.” She leaned over him one hand guiding him inside
her and the other moving to grip the edge of her desk above his head. They both
groaned as their bodies joined, as she moved down on him taking in more of him
with each continual thrust. Maria pounced on Michael. Her mouth was everywhere
at once. Her hands couldn’t touch enough surfaces of his body. Michael's body was
like a spice that Maria needed to rub over herself. She ground herself against him,
taking more and more of his body into her, groaning at the heat and the hotness.
She bit her way down his neck with his cock embedded in her, all the while
whispering his name in low husky groans.
“Maria,” said Michael in a low growl. “Make it harder...aw gawd, yeah, just like
that.” He loved watching her with her lip caught between her teeth moving on him
like nothing else mattered but him and them, and having him-all of him. And with
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every moment, her hands enthused over his body touching him with strokes of
reverence like she was touching something sacred.
Maria didn’t smile at him, but leaned into him to wrap her hands under his
shoulders and pull him up into more of a sitting position, wrapping her leg around
his center to cross behind his back. They went back to kissing passionately as her
hands gripped the desk behind his head and they both panted in each other's
mouth, practically sharing the same labored breath. She lost track of time as the
tension in her lower body magnified and exploded around his bucking hips. She
could feel him pounding in her, swelling and then hardening to the point of release,
and then they both climaxed together.
Maria’s whole body went lax, and then jerked as the continual explosions
erupted along her spine, and Michael murmured dirty suggestions in her ear as she
squirmed in his lap making his already overheated and oversensitive body feel the
remaining prickles of pleasure, pushed to the point of pain.
When Michael finally calmed down enough from the orgasmic ride and
whirlwind adventure, he became aware of Maria draped over his shoulder hugging
him and making purring noises against his skin. Rocking her lightly in his lap he
smiled at the gasping noises she made as she moved over him where he was still
embedded in her. Michael glanced up at her wall before lying back down with her on
him, and then pushed her away as she protested.
“Maria, shit, look at the time! When was your class?”
Maria glanced at her watch and suddenly moved off him making him groan at
the feel of himself sliding out of her tight channel.
“Three minutes. That can’t be right! How do we keep losing time like this?”
Maria was kneeling next to him, trying to untangle her bra from her blouse.
Michael laid back down, crossing his legs with his arms pillowing his head as he
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watched her dress. He had an unrestricted view of the wetness between her legs,
feeling unquestionably pleased that the moisture running down her lean thighs was
his. Unable to resist, he reached out a hand and ran his fingers up her thigh
collecting the moisture and sinking his fingers in her. Maria moaned and tightened
her leg around his hand and started to move with him when she remembered
where she was, and where she was supposed to be.
Slapping his hand away and frantically looking for her panties and skirt, Maria
avoided his eyes. One look and she would be lost.
“Stop that! I’m gonna be late as it is, and I need to stop in the bathroom.”
Michael just relaxed, watching her and sucking their combined taste off his
fingers, enjoying the sight of her nude from the waist down.
“Michael! Where’re my skirt and panties?” Maria said with a whining pleading
sound to her voice trying to ignore how hot she thought he looked, all laid out
before her like a banquet sucking on his fingers. He took pity on her and lifted his
hips to pull out the rest of her clothes that were bunched up under the small of his
back.
“Thank god!”
Suddenly there was a knock at her door. Maria’s heart stopped in panic and
her eyes met Michael’s in alarm. The door opened and Maria quickly put her knee
on Michael’s chest pushing him flat and keeping him there, and one hand over his
mouth.
“Professor DeLuca?” Maria looked at the door, quickly resting her arm on her
desk and tried to appear nonchalant blowing her messed up hair out of her eyes.
“Jennifer! Hi!”
The girl looked at her professor, all tumbled, pink, and breathless. “Are you
okay? The class was wondering if you were here today.”
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“Yes, I am. Um...I’m just trying to find some notes.” Michael’s hand stroked up
her thigh and she pressed her knee harder to his chest. She could feel his grunt
against her palm.
“What?” The girl asked confused at the grunting sound.
“Nothing. Sorry, indigestion. Could you tell the others that I’ll be there shortly.
I just need to get my notes and make a quick stop at the ladies. Have them pass
each other their rough drafts and read to critique.”
Maria schooled her expression, trying to keep from laughing out loud as
Michael tickled her palm with his tongue. The girl looked confused, but nodded and
shut the door behind her. As soon as the door closed, Maria took her hand away
from his mouth and hit him on the shoulder while standing up trying to put on her
skirt. Michael couldn’t stop laughing.
“The door was unlocked the entire time?”
“Oversight. Michael is my hem straight?”
“You look fine, better than fine.” Michael looked her over. She looked perfect,
just like she had either been tossed around in an industrial size dryer or had nearly
been fucked to death on the floor of her office. Perfect.
Maria leaned down and kissed him hard. “Don’t leave. I’ll be back in less than
an hour than we can go home together.” Maria rubbed her nose to his. “We can pick
up the Jetta later.”
“I was gonna go home and take a nap. You’ve tired me out, Professor.” She
reached up and grabbed the remaining part of her sandwich and pushed it at him.
“Sleep over there.” Maria pointed to a low futon sat up against her far wall. It
was where she slept when she stayed all night grading papers or working on her
thesis, something she rarely did over the last year now that she lived with him.

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“If we had that available, why am I freezing my bare ass off on this cold
floor?”
Maria just laughed and stood up grabbing her underwear and class notes
together. “Bitch, bitch, bitch. I thought you would appreciate the lunch break,
Detective. Just stay, finish your sandwich, and I’ll wake you when I get back.”
Maria walked to the door and looked outside up and down the hall before
turning back to him. Michael had stood up and was wandering over to the makeshift
bed munching hungrily on the food, refueling.
“Psst, Michael! Put your clothes back on.” Maria whispered loudly, blowing him
a kiss and was gone.
When Maria finally made it to her class, the students were all talking quietly
and reading each other's papers. Going in and dropping her notes on the desk,
Maria wrote the next reading assignments on the board and passed out their
current research topics. It took her a few moments to realize that they were all
staring at her and some were smiling.
She had brushed her hair, washed up, put on her panties and straightened her
skirt in the woman’s bathroom. Catching the eye of one of the female students in
the front row, the girl’s eyes dropped to her blouse suggestively. Maria looked down
and noticed her blouse was buttoned wrong. Oh damn.
Putting down the chalk and papers, Maria went to the front of her desk and
hopped up on it crossing her legs to the enjoyment of all the males in the room, or
at least all the straight ones and a few of the females. Nonchalantly unbuttoning
her blouse she pulled it from her waistband, and slowly buttoned it up correctly.
“So let's talk about the mating rituals within closed societies.” The class
laughed and the noise increased as the subject and discussion hit higher levels of
interest.
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~~~

Sean appreciated the afternoon off. It gave him time to do the things he
needed to do before leaving for Albuquerque. They would stay over Friday night, all
day Saturday, and head back late Saturday night. Andy was a good guy with an
understanding and shared interest for what Sean liked. They had been spot buddies
for over three years in Vice. It wasn’t until this last year that they had drifted apart
while Sean tried to reform.
Michael had already left saying something about a lunch date with Maria, but
Sean could still feel his presence. Michael was right. It was unfair to Liz not to be
honest, to hide so much of himself and only reveal parts of himself to her, parts
that he felt she could like. Liz deserved better, much better than that.
Picking up the phone, he held it in his hand for a moment, then hung it up.
Staring at it uncertain whether he could do it, finally he just took the plunge.
Walking to the elevator with his leather jacket in hand, he went down to the
criminal investigation laboratories to find Parker.
Liz was listening to her assistant, Serena talk about her date last night for the
thousandth time, when suddenly she looked up to see Sean standing in the
doorway watching her. Smiling, she made all the right distracted sounds to Serena
and straightened.
“Sean? Are you here for the lab report on your Jane Doe?”
“You got anything ready for me, Liz?” Sean asked happy to take any offered
distraction.

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“Not really. We should have full reports by Monday. The weekend crew will
continue to work on the analysis.” Liz frowned at his dark face, so distant from the
man she knew. “Is something wrong?”
Sean’s faced cleared as he seemed to visually shake himself. “No. No, I just
wanted to know what you’re doing for lunch.”
“Sandwich, and listening to details of Serena’s date.”
“If you bag the sandwich, I’ll take you out for a real meal.” Sean offered,
hating himself already. He winced when she smiled a pleased, sunny smile at him.
He was a bastard.
It took almost the entire meal before Liz realized that something was wrong,
that Sean was somewhere else. He made all the proper comments and responses,
but he wasn’t talking.
“Okay, so how about you tell me what’s going on?”
Sean looked at her, and then away. “Liz...”
Liz looked at him, and just knew. “This is a breakup isn’t it?” she said quietly.
Rubbing a hand over his face he nodded. “Yes.”
Liz just sat there looking down at her hands, uncertain what to do or say.
“Why? Did I do something...”
“God! No. Not you.” Liz just rolled her eyes. Right standard answer, but how
could it not be her. Sean grabbed her hand, but Liz shook it off. “Liz, it’s not you. I
swear.”
“I think I need to go back to work.” Sean watched her start to stand up, but he
pulled her back into her seat.
“No. Liz, are we friends?” Liz just shrugged. “Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Liz asked back angrily forgetting her meek self for a second and
releasing her anger.
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“Okay, be angry. That’s good. But I’m asking you, beyond this, all of this... Are
we friends? Were we just sort of boyfriend and girlfriend, dating, and sometimes
sleeping together, or were we more? Is that all there was, or did we actually make a
friendship?”
Liz stopped trying to pull away from him. It wasn’t about them dating-it never
was, or least not at first. It was about him being there, holding her hand and
listening to her. Sean saw her, anchored her, and in some ways he made her feel
solid and less like a ghost. That had nothing to do with sex or dating, and a part of
her that appreciated how much he gave her, recognized and admitted that it was
about friendship.
“We were friends.” Sean looked at her solemnly. “Okay, we are friends.”
“Good, that’s a start.” Sean didn’t know how far to go. The waiter came and
refilled their beverages and asked if they needed anything else. When Sean said no,
he left their bill. “When I knew you, when I first knew you, I liked you.”
“And you don’t anymore?”
“No. I still like you, Liz. But I think I made a mistake with you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Sean just laughed at that, at the irony of it. “How could you? I don’t
understand. I just know that when I met you, I liked you. And after Cassie,” Sean
swore under his breath as her hand automatically went to her neck to touch the
scar she wore where Cassie almost killed her. Clearing his throat, he started again.
“After Cassie attacked you, and before Maria was too far gone, she begged me to
sit with you, to watch over you, so you wouldn’t become more of a ghost. She said
that you must never be alone.”
Liz sat listening to him in shock. He had never told her that. Not in the entire
last year had he ever once mentioned that the reason he was there when she woke
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up was because of Maria, because Maria sent him in her place. Their whole
relationship was based on pity. She was a pity date and a pity fuck. Liz really
needed to go.
“Stop that! Don’t beat up on yourself.” Sean knew he was going to do this
wrong, and when that look came in her eye, he knew he was right.
“Sean, I think I need to leave.”
“Just listen, that’s all I ask. Can you for one second just listen and understand
that is my fuck up, not yours? That all that’s wrong is completely about me, and
nothing about you?”
“How can it not be about me?” Liz whispered angrily. “It was all about pity!”
“Yes, it was! But you’ve got it wrong! It wasn’t pity for you. It was pity for me,
and I looked at you, and I saw a way out, a light.”
Liz just started at him confused and silent.
“I sat there watching you, watching over you while you slept. Maria sent me,
but I stayed because of you, and for me.” Sean had her attention again. “Liz, my
life, my family, everything in my life revolves around family. I love Maria and my
Aunt Amy, because they’re more than just relatives. They’re my family, my soul,
the last part I have that grounds me. I made myself Maria’s protector so long ago,
it consumed me, but after last year she didn’t need me.”
“Guerin, she met Guerin.” What he was saying was starting to sink in. “She
found a protector, someone for life, and she didn’t need you anymore.”
“Yeah, he filled everything, took over everywhere, and it was all she needed.
They would live or die together, but that equation didn’t include me any longer. And
I sat there in that room watching over you, and it felt right. It felt good, because it
was what I knew how to do, and you looked like a person who could use someone
to protect them.”
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“Sean, I don’t need a protector. I need to get rid of protectors. Everyone in my
life, all my life, has been overprotective to the point of stifling me. I can’t move or
live without them underfoot.” Liz looked at him with a new eye. “It was more than
that, more than just you transferring me into Maria’s place wasn’t it?”
Sean looked away and nodded.
“What was it, Sean? Was it because I was scarred and no one would ever want
me?”
“No! It was because I was scarred, and I failed.” Sean looked at his clenched
hands. “I slept with her, Liz. More than once, and I liked it. And she was killing me
while I was with her, but I couldn’t see it. It couldn’t see past what we were doing
to each other, to understand the coldness in her eyes. I thought she was like me,
and I made a mistake.”
“Guilt. It was guilt that made you stay with me? Guilt over Cassie?”
“No. It was a chance to be normal for once. You were picket fences and a
possible walk down the aisle.” Liz was startled. She didn’t know he was looking at
their relationship as something permanent and forever. “It was a dream, Liz. A
dream I had. One I created to get away from the feeling of disease and being dirty
that Cassie left in me.”
“I don’t understand. What killed the dream?” Liz held her breath afraid it was
her, something lacking in her.
Sean laughed bitterly. “I did. I always do. There’s this darkness in me, a place
that knows no light, and nothing but pain. Cassie saw it, knew what it was from the
minute she met me. She knew all the buttons to push to make me close my eyes to
who she was. Michael saw her and knew from the second minute he met her, but all
of us convinced him otherwise, against his better instincts. I wanted it gone. I
wanted that dream to cast a light so bright that all my hidden places would be
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revealed. I wanted that place gone, Liz. The place where Cassie reached me.”
Where she still reached him even now. Liz just listened, understanding parts, but
unable to really understand the rest. “I lied. I lied to you, Liz. And I lied to myself.”
“Sean...”
“No. The lie was in denying who and what I am. Those places in my soul, the
dark places where no light can reach, they can’t go away just because I will them to
leave. And there’re things I have to do to feel better, to just fucking survive. Those
things can’t touch you, Liz. It’s not your world, and dragging you into it, forcing you
to become part of it, just so I can feel better...” Sean just shook his head. “I won’t.
What kind of a protector would that make me to drag you into my hell?”
“Sean...”
“It’s not important for you to understand, Liz. All that matters is that I
understand, and that I do what’s right.” He stood up and waiting for her beside the
table. “You’re out of this, Liz. As of today, you’re free to start living your life, and
finding that special person who's been waiting for you all his life.”
Liz watched him walk away, and slowly she got up and followed.

~~~

Michael lay on his stomach with his head cradled on his crossed arms,
groaning deeply. Maria was sitting on his hips working him over. Her soft, yet
surprisingly strong hands pushed the oil across his skin as she massaged all the
tension and knotted muscles, relaxing them into a mass of jelly.
They bathed when they got home, and because it was only early afternoon,
the metal blinds in the upper loft were closed, encasing the room in a warm
darkness that was dispelled with candle light. The smell of the burning scented
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candles, the low playing music from the stereo, and the warmth of her hands on his
body was lulling him to sleep. He still hadn’t slept, but he was feeling better, less
tired as she relaxed him and the tension fled.
“Tandoori.” She whispered in a soft husky voice teasing his ear with her lips.
“Chinese, my turn to pick.” Michael said not letting her seduce him into giving
up his rights.
“Thai?” she said hopefully. Removing the weight of her body off him, she
slapped his ass lightly. “Turn over so I can do the front.”
With a groan, he turned over and looked at her. God, she was so damn
beautiful! Her shiny cap of blond hair framed her face, accentuating her pouty red
lips and her perfect features with her green eyes vividly flashing and alive. Maria
was kneeling next to his hip wearing his green silk dress shirt, held together by only
two buttons, and nothing else. Picking up the massage oil she poured more into her
cupped hand and let it warm, then rubbed it between her two hands she went for
his bad knee, ignoring his growing erection.
“Maria, not the knee.”
“Shush, trust me. I’m just going to work out some of the soreness. Can you
bend it yet?”
“Just barely, not without cussing, and it still hurts like a bitch. Rub something
else and I’ll agree to Thai.”
Maria just laughed and ignored him. Placing her hands on his knee, she slowly
added pressure trying not to jar the strained ligaments, moving her hands and
fingers down and in, with a firm grip to soothe the sore muscles and ligaments that
were strained. His knee started to loosen. It still looked bad with all the bruising, a
nice display of Technicolor, but the swelling was gone. Michael moaned at her touch
which didn’t actually hurt that much since the knee was actually feeling better.
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Suddenly she reached a hand under the knee cap and bent his leg for the first time
in days and it bent without pain.
“Thai food, we can have Thai food!” Maria just giggled, and put his leg back
down. She turned and straddled his hips, still ignoring his erection that was making
itself known against her where she sat on him. Adding more oil she began working
on his shoulders and upper chest.
“Maria.”
“Leave it alone. It’ll be there. Let me finish you. If I go there it’ll be over.”
Michael just shrugged. She was right, one touch and they were going to finish
something else, and they both needed food before they did anything in that
direction. First the floor of her office, and then in the bath. Their food supplies were
running dangerously in the negative column. Refueling was a top concern and
priority.
“Thai, then. You want me to call it in?” Michael asked not really showing that
much desire to move out from under her hands.
Maria just shook her head and grabbed the phone hitting the speed dial for the
Thai restaurant, and holding it to her ear cradled on her shoulder.
“No, you just relax or you’ll wreck all my work.” Michael leaned back on the
bed with his arms under his head, watching her work on him while placing a food
order. She ordered enough to feed a small army which was good, since lately they
were eating like one. The movement of her body pushing her small breasts against
the loose fit of his shirt and occasionally giving him sneak peeks, was intriguing
enough to occupy him to the point that he missed the moment when she hung up
the phone and ambushed him.
“Want to tell me about the new case?” Michael looked at her sharply. No, no
he did not.
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“Nothing to tell yet, it’s still preliminary.” Flubbing her off was a good strategy.
“Michael.” She tilted her head to one side and gave him that look.
“Don’t do that.” He should have known better. The flubbing strategy never
worked with Maria.
“Do what? Want to be an active part of your life?”
He was tensing up again. “Maria, we discussed this. I don’t want to bring my
work home.”
“I bring mine home, and you deal.”
“It’s not the same.”
“Yes, it is. Maybe my work isn’t as dangerous or gruesome at times, but it’s
still a stress in my life, and I share that with you to help me carry part of the load.
Telling you makes my life easier and better.”
“Maria, I don’t want it to touch us here.”
“Okay, then tell me that even when you’re with me, your head isn’t working
over the case, going over the details, the crime reports, obsessing over when your
labs will come back, or what really happened. Tell me that when you walk in our
door at night, that it’s just about you and me, and nothing is distracting you, that
the world isn’t distracting you.”
Michael couldn’t. He didn’t lie. Clenching his jaw, he looked away from her and
tried to find words to explain it away. Every single time he had a hard case she
pressured him to let her in on it. Her meddling was endless, and it made him
paranoid that she would be caught up in the danger.
“You're right. Part of me can’t turn it off. I need to work the details, let it
process, but it doesn’t mean I’m tuning you out. I’m here for you.”
Maria just sighed, feeling his muscles tighten up. “Michael, do you know why
most cop marriages and relationships fail?” Michael just went silent under her
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hands. Was she leaving him, finishing it? “They fail because the spouse or
significant other is left out, separated from the biggest part of their partner’s life.
The cop comes home and tries to block it out using drugs, alcohol, and other
outlets to ease the stress while his significant watches helplessly, or they just don’t
come home at all.”
“It doesn’t always happen that way.” Michael’s jaw clenched again. She was
right though. That was a common scenario. Cops tried to protect the ones they
loved and tended to push them away to keep them safe, to keep the stink of crime
and murder separate from them.
“It happens more than it doesn’t. Everyone needs a time away from it. But
cops build lasting strong bonds to their partners because they walk through the fire
together, and the end equation is that only their partner really, really understands.”
Maria looked at soberly. “I don’t want to lose you to a world you won’t let me
understand. I can’t. And I don't want Max to understand you better than I do.”
“Maria, I just want to keep you safe and out of it.”
Maria leaned down and kissed him gently. “I’m already part of it. I always
have been. If this is about your fear I’ll break down, then stop worrying. I’m
stronger than that. I’ve healed.”
Michael’s hand wandered up under the shirt and touched the scar on her side.
Yes, she had healed, but he wasn’t sure that he had. Some scars you couldn’t
touch.
“What do you want to know?” It came down to options and reality. It wasn’t
giving in, but becoming aware. His options were limited. He could deny her and
take a chance that his life would create wedges between them as time went on, or
he could unload and hope she was right, that she was strong enough to handle it.

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“Just start with the outline, and slowly tell me what’s bothering you about the
case. I’ll be your sounding board. Might as well, seeing how flat my tits are.”
“I don’t know. I thought they were looking pretty full and perky lately.” Maria
slapped his hands away as they came up to hold the soft weight of her breasts.
“Man’s fantasy. Now start talking.”
Maria listened as he told her about the case, quietly asking questions that
drew out more detail than he originally wanted to give. She felt an overwhelming
sorrow coming from him, a sense of outrage that this unknown woman was lying on
a cold slab, her life drained, and her people didn’t even know. It was the ringing of
their doorbell announcing dinner that interrupted the conversation.
“You stay. I’ll go.” Maria pushed him back down as he tried to get up.
“No you don’t. Giving the delivery boy a peepshow is a great tip, but then I’ll
have to kill him.” Michael grabbed her in a full wrestling hold and turned her over,
slamming her onto the bed flat on her back as she laughed. Kissing her nose he
was off the bed. Grabbing a pair of sweats, he ran down the stairs on his newly
bending knee struggling to get them on as the bell pealed through the loft.
They sat lounging on their bed, feeding and eating Thai food as Michael
continued to outline his new case. Maria listened attentively, making a few
comments along the way, but for the most part just listening. After they stacked
and cleared away the containers in a pile next to the bed, Maria draped herself
across him and stared at the carnage.
“I can’t believe we finished that. It was almost enough for six people.” Maria
turned to look at him. “Am I getting fat? Is my ass spreading and I just don’t know
it?”

136

“Let me check it out.” Michael grabbed her and they rolled around the bed
trying to get the upper hand. Finally they came to rest with Michael laying flat and
Maria resting on him looking at him in a serious light.
“I had one question, something I don’t understand.”
“What’s that? How we could eat so much, and I’m still thinking about a
sandwich?”
Maria hit him playfully. “You’re not! No. I was wondering about your case. Why
did ‘he’ dump her? God, I’m assuming this has to be a ‘he’, but we don’t really
know that. But why did he dump her?”
Michael entire body went still as the question filtered through his mind, joined
with all the other aspects of his case. Why? That was a question to be answered.
“You want dessert?” Maria got up from the bed and grabbed the garbage, and
Michael followed taking it from her hands. While she dug around in the kitchen he
went outside and tossed out the remains of their early dinner. Looking down at the
trash can, holding the lid in his hand, her question taunted him. Why? Why did he
throw her away?
Michael came back inside and took a seat at the bar and watched Maria pour
two large glasses of cold milk. Maria loved milk. She drank it by the gallons. He
smiled to himself as she searched through the bread container and upper cabinets,
his mind still processing the question of why.
“Milk, lovely milk needs...cookies, cookies, cookies. Michael, why are we out of
cookies? Damn.” Maria grabbed her milk and started drinking. “Chocolate sauce, I
can have chocolate sauce in my milk for brown moo.”
“We’re out of chocolate sauce. You used the last of it on me three nights ago.”
Michael said distractedly.

137

“And damn well worth every wonderful lick. Hmm, where’s that disgusting
malted milk powder? I know, the almond powder would be good. Graham crackers!
I can eat those.” Michael tuned her out as he continued to think. Garbage. “Ice
cream, marshmallows, and graham crackers...yum, I could use some whipped
cream.”
Michael’s attention was caught. “Ice cream? What kind?”
“Pistachio.”
“Give me a spoon.”
They sat in the living room on the sofa with the television on, sharing a pint of
pistachio ice cream. Michael concentrated on getting more on his spoon, because
for some reason Maria was able to consume it faster without the torturous brain
freeze. What the hell was with these pint things? What the hell was wrong with half
gallon containers? It had to be the coldness of Vermont in the winter that made
these two guys, Ben and Jerry inconsiderate of the warmer climates.
“I was just thinking that with all the care and meticulous detail taken to
preserve and process the body, wouldn’t you think that shows some special intent?
I mean other cultures have set rules and procedures for the processing of the dead,
and the burial techniques are about as intricate. Take the Egyptians, they processed
their dead for mummification, and the Peruvians practiced bundle burials.”
“What are you thinking, Maria?” Michael asked. She had that look on her face,
her 'Professor face'.
Maria just shrugged and licked the remains of the ice cream from her spoon.
“The same thing you’re thinking, Detective. That the dumping was wrong.”
She was right. The dumping of the body was out of character, especially after
all the care that had gone into the processing. All that work had to have a purpose,

138

a means, and then something made him dump her. Understanding the why could
lead them to a motive.
“Professor, tell me about different cultural practices that remind you of this
case.”
“Well the most obvious would be the Egyptians.” Michael sat back to pay
attention to the lecture. “They had a detailed method for processing the internal
organs. As you may know, the heyday of the Egyptian culture was over five
thousand years ago. Rising out of the Sumerian influence and close association with
those cultures, aspects permeated outward from the Fertile Crescent region of the
Middle East. They were far removed from their nomadic tribes or early agrarian
cultural ancestors who first settled the fertile regions along the Nile River. This
culture had a rich superstructure with innovations and a richness in architecture,
art, literature, and even religion. Their concepts of an afterlife fueled their funerary
practices, and dictated an understanding of the defining parameters between life
and death. If you look at the first tombs...”

~~~

The knocking at his door didn’t register at first, as Kyle moved around in his
bed. Sitting up and listening, the knock came again. Tossing off the sleeping mask,
he looked at his bedside clock. Six in the evening. Groaning he hurried to go
answer the door. It didn’t matter what Amy said, that damn mask didn’t stop his
body from knowing it was daytime.
“Tess?” Kyle scratched his stomach looking at Tess Hardy standing on his
doorstep. “Um, you want to come in?”

139

Tess just nodded and took in his appearance. No shirt, boxers, and his hair all
wild and unruly. “Hope I’m not interrupting you at a bad time?” Tess looked around
the apartment for a companion that would explain Kyle’s bedhead look.
“No, I’m alone. Come on in.” Kyle moved aside to let her pass noting her pale
complexion.
Tess hooked her finger in the waist band of his boxers as she passed snapping
them back on him. “Boxers. I like.”
Shutting the door and searching for a shirt, Kyle looked at her critically. She
looked upset, pale, and somehow fragile. “What’s going on, Tess? Are you okay?”
Tess just looked at him. “Can we talk?”

~~~

Michael was laughing at a story that Maria was telling when the phone rang. It
was probably Kyle trying to get out of working on the car with him. Max said he
would try, but he had things he had to do, and Michael had no idea exactly what
that meant.
“Beauty and the Beast, which one ya want?”
“I’ll take the ugly beast.” Michael sat up straighter.
“Simon?”
“Sorry to call you at home when you actually have down time, but I’ve got
something you need to see.” Michael made arrangements and told Simon he was on
his way.
Looking at Maria on her way upstairs to get dressed his eyebrow went up
when he followed her upstairs. “Sorry, Maria. I’ve got to go. It shouldn’t take me
that long.”
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“I’m coming with you.” Maria grabbed a pair of blue jeans and a top to replace
Michael’s shirt she was wearing, not even bothering with underwear.
“No.”
Maria went down the stairs. “Does your knee feel good enough to take the
bike?”
Michael caught up with her on the way to the garage. “I said no. And, I don’t
have time to argue this out with you.”
“Good, lets get going.”
“Maria.”
“I’m going. I’ll stay out of the way, and if it gets to be too much, I’ll take a
walk.” Maria went out into the garage hitting the automatic door opener. “I
promise.” Maria looked at him. “I don’t want you to be alone, and maybe I can help.
So...GTO or bike?” Maria knew when she saw Michael’s face as he was talking to
Simon it was going to be bad. When things got real bad, Michael headed for the
dessert at top speed just like she did, and when he hit the road she was going to be
with him.
“Bike.” Michael stopped arguing. He didn’t have time. This was a bad idea, but
Maria wouldn’t understand until it hit her in the face. His knee was finally better, or
at least enough that he could control the machine again.
Simon was waiting for Michael, and he did an actual double take when Maria
entered the autopsy room as well. “Um, Michael, I don’t think...”
Michael ignored him as did Maria. They both approached the table. But
whereas Michael went forward and examined the body, grabbing latex gloves, Maria
turned her back on it. It took a few moments for Michael to catch Simon’s eye and
turn back to see Maria looking away.
“You okay, Professor?”
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Maria nodded and composed herself. She had seen bodies before, but not
opened up like this. A year ago it would’ve sent her into full body shakes, freezing
chills, and having Michael dump gallons of sugared tea down her, but she didn’t
repress much of anything anymore. Not anger, not sorrow, and she didn’t repress
living. What she saw emptied her stomach with that dead drop feeling. Who the hell
does that to someone?
“I’m fine. God, Detective, that poor woman, and her family doesn’t know yet?”
“They will, Professor. I promise.” Michael turned back once he realized that
Maria was collecting herself, and it wasn’t sickness holding her back, but pity and
anger. He never noticed exactly when Maria joined them, still holding back from the
sight and smell, but finally observing.
“What am I looking for Simon?”
“This.” Simon pointed to a large artery running down the opened front cavity
along the sternum and ribs.
“The vertebral artery?”
“Yeah, that’s the ticket, the real deal, but notice how round it is. It's filled. The
body wasn’t just preserved, processed with embalming fluid, but the fluid was
replaced with this stuff. All the major arteries and veins are filled with it.”
Michael frowned at it. “What is it?” Simon just shrugged. Until an analysis
could be run, he could only hazard a guess.
“Latex.” Michael turned to Maria quickly when she spoke softly. “I’ve seen this
before.” She had both Simon and Michael’s undivided attention.
“An archeological site, some cultural practice?”
Maria just shook her head no. “Biology. I saw it when I was doing biology.”
Simon moved them away from the body and leaned his hip on the side of his
desk. Michael stood observing his smaller partner.
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“In biology we did dissections. The specimens were provided by special
scientific companies that specialized in preserved ones.” Both men took a sharper
interest in her observation at the mentioning of preserving a specimen. “The thing
with the dissection specimens is that their arteries and veins were shot full of this
latex material to help them stay firm and obvious. Usually red for the arteries, and
blue for the veins.”
Simon swore under his breath and told them to wait. Leaving them there with
the body he went down the hall to his office and searching through his books, found
what he needed. Going back, he found them looking through the pictures and lab
reports.
“This is an atlas of the human body used in gross anatomy dissection labs.
There is another that is used called A.D.A.M., but this one is excellent because it's
an actual body, cut up and dissected slice by slice. Notice the veins and arteries on
some of these pages.”
Maria and Michael looked at what Simon was showing them. The arteries and
veins were filled with colored latex to show the routes and points of origin.
“What does this mean?” Michael asked.
Simon closed the book. “It means that we have a starting place to locate the
materials used, and the possible scientific companies that are suppliers.” Simon
looked over at the body. “You should also know that not only were the internal
organs gone, but all cavities were scrubbed clean with what looks like an acid wash,
from the mouth cavity, the vagina, and even the residual colon and rectal tract. She
was opened, gutted, and cleaned, and then filled with this foam medium, and glued
closed.”
Maria was looking at the body, when she noticed a mark on the inner thigh.
“Michael, what’s that?”
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Both Simon and Michael took a closer look. Simon looked at his notes making
sure it was noted. “It’s just a birthmark.”
Michael frowned. “Would it have been obvious when she was alive?”
“Probably not. It’s just a patch of skin that has a pigmentation. When we’re
alive small capillaries fill our skin with blood and that blood is what gives a lot of
the coloration, or what we call blush, added to skin pigmentation. In life, this
woman’s birthmark might have blended in, almost matching her normal skin color.
But in death those capillaries would have emptied, leaving the skin more pale and
blanched while the birthmark’s pigmentation would have appeared even more
obvious.”
Maria backed off and sat up on the corner table where the paperwork was
done, leaving Michael to work.
“She didn’t have any nail polish or makeup on.” Michael said.
“That's correct. Even her nail beds were clean of residual dirt. She was
scrubbed down to the skin, and then sprayed with a clean lacquer or shellac.”
Simon watched Michael processing everything in his way, and looked over at Maria
discreetly as she went through the case reports on the table. Interesting couple, he
smiled to himself. The rumors about them were all over the place. Damn, but they
were so much alike and at a glance, so different. Of course Guerin never looked
that good in jeans.
“Michael, I wanted to ask, how did you know she was embalmed from just a
smell? It’s not a common knowledge smell, and it was discreet enough that I almost
missed it.” Actually he would’ve missed it if Michael hadn’t told him to take a large
whiff.
Michael just shrugged and went back over to where Maria was reading and reexamined the crime photos. “It smelt like a Fry.”
144

Maria looked up and frowned. “What’s a Fry? Like MacD’s Fries?”
“Marijuana cigarette dipped in embalming fluid, usually laced with PCP or crack
cocaine. Once you smelt it burned, its hard not to recognize. The smell stays with
you.”

~~~

Kyle sat frozen, the electrical connections between his brain and body were
fried for a space in time, but it felt longer. Like an eternity. Looking over at the
petite blonde sitting next to him, he noticed her reaching for the coffee he had
made her. Grabbing the cup before she could, Kyle went into his kitchen and
dumped it down the drain. Tess silently watched him as he reached into a shelf and
grabbed a glass, and then poured milk into it from a cartoon from the refrigerator.
Kyle handed the Tess the milk. “Drink this. Caffeine isn’t good for the baby.”
Pregnant. Tess was pregnant. Kyle kept saying it in his head, but it wasn’t
making any sense to him. All those years, all that time she was with Jack, married
to him; Kyle had prepared himself to hear those words. Practicing to be happy for
them, and suddenly he was unprepared.
“Pregnant?”
“Kyle, that’s what it’s usually called when you're gonna have a baby.” Tess said
as she sipped on her milk with a grimace. Disgusting stuff. She searched in her bag
while Kyle sat in shock, still trying to process the news. Giving up, she went into his
kitchen and searched for something to add to her milk. Tess smiled at the box with
a rabbit on the side. Figures. Of course Kyle would still drink chocolate stuff in his
milk. Tess then added some Tabasco, but it wasn’t enough, so she added more,
tasted it, and then added more again.
145

“Evans?”
Tess went back to sit next to Kyle. “Yeah.”
“Okay.” Kyle said in his matter-of-fact voice. “You tell him?”
“No. I can’t. I’ve been crying for days. You’re the first person I've told.”
“I’m flattered. I think.” Kyle looked at his life long friend. “You’ve got to tell
him, Tess.”
Tess just groaned and sat back with her head resting on the back of the sofa.
Kyle joined her, and took her hand in his.
“I just broke up with him. I can’t just show up on his doorstep and announce,
‘Hi, know I dumped you, but guess what? The condom failed three months ago.’ I
mean how’s he supposed to take that?” Tess face became thoughtful. “Maybe I
could just not tell him, and see if he guesses?”
“Tess.”
“Or I could let him assume its yours.”
That comment made Kyle sit up straighter, and away from her. “No!”
“I’m sorry. Of course you wouldn’t want to be the father.” Tess avoided his
eyes.
“It’s not that...of course I would want to be the father, um...I mean, that’s
if...oh hell!” Kyle had no idea what he felt. It was all confused inside. Happy, sad,
angry, confused, okay confused again, add in some curiosity, and a shit load
of...jealousy, maybe even envy. Beating the shit out of Max Evans might make him
feel better. “Was this why you wanted to have lunch with me yesterday?”
“Yeah, that and to see your freaked-out face.” Kyle reached over a tweaked
one of her curls.
“Sorry I missed that. There I was, trying to figure out how I was going to
shimmy into slut-boy leather pants, and instead I could’ve let you ambush me at
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some restaurant in Roswell.” Tess looked at him with curious speculation in her
eyes. Slut Boy in leather. Yeah she could see that. “Wait, did you say the condom
failed three months ago? You’re three months along?”
Tess tried to shake off the mental picture of Kyle in tight leather pants. “Yeah,”
she said distractedly. Not working. Oh, wow.
“And you just figured it out?” Kyle asked as Tess nodded yes. “Great sleuthing
abilities, Nancy Drew! Didn’t you get a clue when Aunty Flo didn’t pay you a visit?”
Tess smacked him hard on his stomach. “Shut up! I was never regular; my
cycle was all over the place from all those years of dancing. Three months was sort
of long, but I was in denial. I mean, I had just broken up with Max and suddenly
I’m finding myself tied to him for life through a baby? Color me weak, delusional
and in denial, or just insane, but I kept hoping I was wrong.”
“Dammit! I must be gay! Women start talking to you about their ‘cycle’ and
you get a handjob in a gay bar, that has to mean something.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
So Kyle told her about his misadventures to distract her away from her own
problems for a while. That’s what friends do, even friends who wish and want to be
more, but just can't bring themselves to try.
“I don’t think you’re gay, or that little incident makes you gay.” Tess said
laughing. “What about Pamela Troy in the ninth grade?”
“I think we should start with Carly French in the eight grade.” Kyle said. “She
was my first.”
“That doesn’t count if you do it in your pants.” Tess said not noticing the
redness of Kyle’s face.

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“Wait! How did you know about that? I never told you, and I know I never told
Jack!” Tess’s face turned red and biting her lip from laughing she just shrugged.
“Carly told you!”
“No. Not technically.” Kyle groaned. Oh, that bitch! So glad she's now a
checker at K-Mart, married to a drunk who slept with a bar waitress at the Cow
Patty, and has three children and about that many teeth.
“Explain, not technically.”
“Well there’s this wall in the girl’s restroom...” Kyle groaned even more, like he
was in pain. He put his hands in his head. Gay was looking better and better.
“That’s the year you got the nickname.”
“Nickname...oh wait, I remember that! PJ. Never could figure out why I was
called that.” Kyle’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as Tess avoiding him. “Tess? Tess,
dammit tell me!”
“Premature eJack. PJ.” Tess said softly watching closely for Kyle’s reaction.
“Oh, god. Just kill me!” Kyle laid his head back against the sofa with Tess’s.
“And my two best friends in the whole world, you and Jack didn’t even spot me a
clue.”
”Well, we didn’t call you that either, if you remember. And...and..the next year
your name changed after you and Pam did it, um...” Tess made a slight helpless
gesture to denote sex. “Getting caught making it with Pam for the third time under
the bleachers was a reputation-making moment.”
“I was pretty studly!” Kyle said congratulating himself. “But why the hell did I
get the nickname 'Snuff'?” Kyle asked as Tess fell over to the side laughing
hysterically. “Tess? Hey, cut it out!” Kyle grabbed at her and they fought around as
Kyle tickled her.
“OH!” Suddenly Tess stopped moving.
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“What? Are you okay? Did I hurt you...the baby?” Kyle quickly sat up and
pulled Tess up with him. Tess just shook her head, but quickly grabbed Kyle’s hand
and put it on her just barely bulging tummy. Suddenly Kyle’s concerned face
changed to wonder as a soft fluttery movement under his fingers alerted him to just
how real the situation was. “Oh God, that’s the baby! Wow!”
“I just started feeling that recently. It’s all fluttery-like, but soon I should feel
kicks.” Tess suddenly became quiet, pushing the hair from her face that went out of
control from their tickle fight. “I’m having a hard time with myself, Kyle.”
“You don’t want the baby?” Kyle left his hand on her stomach. How could she
not want this wonderful little thing moving inside her?
Tess’s hand went over his. “Don’t be an ass, of course I want it. I’ve carried
him for three months. I just always thought it would be Jack’s or even...” Tess’s
voice trailed off. She whispered it so low that Kyle almost didn’t hear it. “Yours.”
That hurt. It hurt him more than when Tess and Jack got married. He could’ve
handled her carrying Jack’s baby, or even another man’s, but he couldn’t handle her
wishing it had been his. But the gentle fluttery feeling under his fingers made it all
right, gave it some perspective.
“It is mine. It’s yours and mine, because we’re friends. For life. And whatever
this baby is, it’s you, Tess. All you, and so it has to be all mine, too.”
Tess looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “Thanks, Kyle.” He hugged her
tight to his side kissing the top of her head.
Tess just rested against him. Too long, she had waited too long. When she and
Jack were married they decided to wait to have kids until she finished her Masters.
Then she lost Jack before her Masters was completed. After resuming her friendship
with Kyle a year ago, she suspected that someday when she was ready, she would
ask Kyle to father her child. It didn’t pay to plan everything.
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“You have to tell him, Tess. You know that, right?” Kyle swallowed as he felt
her head nod against him. And he said it, even though he knew it was going to
hurt. “Maybe the baby will change things, and you and Max will give it a try.”
“No. No, Kyle. I broke up with him for specific reasons, and the baby doesn’t
change those.” Tess left her hand on her stomach. “It’s just me and the baby.”
“And me.”
Reaching up, Tess kissed him gently on the lips. “And you. The three of us
again. I’m naming him Jack.”

~~~

Sean and Andy arrived at The Den while it was still early evening, booking
rooms in the private club. It was an exclusive Player Club with bondage and leather
games on the menu, and pain for dessert. It was a perfect place to run away to for
a few hours of distraction. Some used it as a release valve from their lives, others
just got a thrill out of feeling on the edge, but some craved it, needed it deep in
their soul.
The club was separated into different sections by a full size bar on all levels
and dancefloors with entertainment. The Cathedral on the top floor was a large
emporium of fun and debauchery, but only at a light level. The lower floors became
progressively more hardcore until one reached the final level known as The
Dungeon. Even the Dungeon had color-coded zones, Red being the ultimate in
pain. All levels came with private session rooms where almost any combination
could be found and requested. All employees were slave-trained. Even the Doms
had to pass slave-training before progressing to Master rankings. The Den was a

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very professional establishment with rules and regulations, and all guests were by
invitation only or entered via sponsorship by an existing member.
Andy and Sean had often visited The Den while friends and partners in Vice,
but the two varied in temperament. Andy was more into going for good-natured
fun, a little of the slap and tickle, and an opportunity to get really ripped with a safe
place to sleep it off. Sean was of a different caliber. He visited for a touch of
domination with increasing pain rewards. What started as an adventure with the
thrill of alternative sex combined with a touch of violence, fast escalated into
something different, something that had nothing to do with sex and everything to
do with control and power.
The Cathedral was too tame for Sean. He could tolerate it for small periods of
time, but it was like hanging with little girls who giggled at the mention of
underwear, and who felt public nudity was an outrage, but dreamt of the sexiness
of leather. The boys were worse. They still turned red at the idea of masturbating to
dirty magazines.
Andy went down a few levels, but mostly he stayed with the light stuff. His
trips to the darkside were through Sean alone. Over the last few years he acted as
Sean’s spotter, or safety. It was part of a system of checks and balances in all of
the games.
The Dom was the first control. A good Dom knew that their responsibility was
to the subservient, to ensure they were never in any real danger. The second
control was the subservient that had a safety word to end the games, and generally
a ball or object they held in their hand that they could drop, should the game
advance beyond their endurance rendering them unable to speak their safety word.
The third control was the safety or spotter whose job was to view the games as an
observer, watching their charge for signs of being too far gone to stop the game.
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And the final control was the actual Controller, an overseer in the room whose first
and only responsibility was to enforce all club rules and to protect the interest of
The Master, the owner of The Den.
Andy and Sean sat at the bar drinking and laughing, catching up on a year of
silence, except for occasional passing in the corridors at work. Andy looked through
the scheduled entertainment and the shows open to all participants, while Sean
signed over a request form for a special session in The Dungeon.
“Sean, you want to go to the Cathedral tonight?” Andy already watched Sean
drink down two beers with chasers. The man looked rough and worn.
“Not in the mood for giggly girls and bashful boys feeling dirty. I think I’ll see
if the session I want it possible, otherwise, I’ll just take my misery as a nice
drowning.” Sean grabbed some cocktail peanuts and munched on them.
“You don’t know what you’re missing. It’s bitches and britches in swings!”
Andy wiggled his brows at Sean.
“In a word, no. Thanks anyway, il mio amico.” Sean tapped his empty on the
bar, and it was immediately refreshed. “I’ll wait to see what comes my way.”
“What type of session did you request?” Andy frowned. This wasn’t good. Sean
was looking too stressed and too out of it.
“Just a specialty, but I want a specific Dom, and she might not be available. If
that’s the case then it’s me and a bottle of whiskey.”
“Is this an all or nothing deal?” Sean just nodded. “Well, guess I can wait until
you see if your evening is going to fly, or whether you’ll just have to find some
other entertainment.”
Sean looked at Andy. It was hard to miss the concern in his eyes, or the way
he kept checking Sean out. “Go to the Cathedral. I might not get my answer until

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tomorrow. There’s no reason for both of us to have no fun, pissing and moaning in
our beers.”
“I can wait.”
“Just go, Andrew, don’t be a stoop. Dungeon Red requires a spotter. If it
comes through I’ll wade through the virgin twitters and find you.” Sean looked at
his friend and smiled. “Otherwise, you can find me here getting blotto, and when
you have to put me to bed I will no doubt make a pass at you, offer and give you
head, and pass out all dirty in my sheets.”
“Sound like heaven on my side.” Andy laughed. Those bitches and britches on
swings sounded like too much fun to pass up. “Are you sure? I can stop back in an
hour to check on you.”
“Go, or I’m going to schedule you for the Japanese torture of back massage by
a sumo wrestler.” Andy still looked unconvinced. “Go!”
Ten minutes after Andy finally left to go spit beer at fags on a wire, and offer
his tongue to strange women, the invitation card to open the Dungeon arrived.
Felicia was available. Tossing down a tip on the bar, Sean signed his membership
number to his bar tab and took off to the very bowels of Hell for a session with an
Amazon blonde warrior that made Adolph Hitler look like a campfire girl. Sean
smiled when he noticed his request for her to wear a wig of red curly hair was
granted.
Andy came back a little after the hour, laughing at the performance he had
just seen. Searching the bar area for Sean, he was disappointed that his friend was
gone. Frowning, he took a bar seat next to the ones they had before in case Sean
was in the john.
“Your friend left,” said the bartender as he placed a cocktail napkin before
Andy and waited for his order.
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“Left? For the night or to catch a show?”
“He got a private session card.” No way. There was no fucking way! Sean could
not enter a session without a spotter. That was against the rules.
“How long ago?”
The bartender just shrugged. “Maybe just under an hour. I could check the
time receipt for his signed tab.
“Never mind. Just give me a spotter’s card to the Dungeon.” The bartender
went to find the generic cards that were needed to open the special door. Andy
looked at the metallic stripped card and headed off to find Sean, but he had to
know. “Who was the special with?”
“Flicker. She’s a bitch. I wouldn’t put my ass under her whip.”
Andy knew her well, mostly by reputation. Moving quickly to the special
elevator doors that needed the key card, Andy rubbed his face. Dammit, how could
he fuck this up so badly! Stepping into the elevator he started praying he wasn’t
too late. “Bloody hell!”
It wasn’t hard to find Sean. Andy heard the din as soon as he left the elevator.
Loud whispers of awe and horror echoed down the halls of the Dungeon. The
darkened room, decorated in gothic style and lit with candles created the mood.
Andy winced as he fought his way through the growing crowd. He could hear the
whip, but no sounds except the angry grunting of frustration from a woman.
Andy pushed his way through the crowd milling around that one room in the
Dungeon . His heart was out of control searching for Sean, praying it wasn’t him,
but knowing it was. A large man in black leather stopped him. He was the
Controller.
“No one enters. There’s a session in progress.”

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“I’m his spotter.” The man looked at him, and then up and down, and then at
the scene behind him.
“You should’ve entered at the beginning.”
“And you shouldn’t have let him enter without a spotter, especially not with
that bitch!” Andy tried to push through the crowd covering the periphery of the
room. “Get the Master. Now!”
Andy stood shocked on the edge of the crowd. The voices around him were
whispering in awe at the scene, some horrified and fascinated at the same time,
and others aroused. Sean was chained with his arms spread above his head, and
his feet in a spreader bar shackled in iron. Andy could see six floggers of different
weights tossed to the floor, all of them bloodied and used. She must have gone
through them all until the whip was the only instrument left. It was a heavyhandled whip, capable of tearing though the hide of a bull, and it was ripping strips
of flesh off of Sean.
The woman was using a full lashing bullwhip. The cuts on his body were
bleeding into a large puddle below the bar. Sean’s head was bowed, and Andy
almost gasped when Sean raised his swollen face and sneered at the woman.
Andy watched transfixed, as pure rage and hatred crossed the woman’s
features, and she raised her arm to hit Sean again. Andy quickly moved and caught
her arm before she could deliver the blow. He turned in horror at the cackling dry
sound of Sean’s laughter. The woman tensed under his arms and tried to throw him
off.
"MINE until I say otherwise!!!!" The woman screamed at him.
“I’m his safety, and it’s over!”
Andy was shocked as the scream of ‘No!” came from both the woman and
Sean at the same time.
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“Take him down! Now!” Andy ordered. The woman looked at Andy, who was
usurping her authority and her den, and raised her arm to him. Andy reached to his
back under his leather vest and pulled out his service revolver cocking it in her
face. His eyes telling her that he had no problem shooting her.
“Stop!”
A hard unyielding voice rang above the commotion of the crowds. Andy
refused to remove his eyes from the woman until he saw her eyes move through
the crowd at that voice. Suddenly the woman’s hand dropped, tossing the whip to
the ground and her eyes followed it down. Only then did Andy look at the tall man
walking towards them as the crowds cleared a path in front of him. He was tall-very
tall-with a shaven head and a beard. His eyes were as dark and cold as obsidian,
and his authority was unshakeable. The Master, owner of the Den, had entered the
room.
The man surveyed the scene and noticed the red control ball still in Sean’s
hand. Sean lifted his face and looked at The Master with one eye swollen shut
where he had taken a lash across it, his body covered in sweat and blood, and
there was defiance in his face. The man just nodded and turned away.
Looking at the woman who once held the whip, and then at the abandoned
floggers on the floor, he made eye contact with one of his Controllers.
“Felicia, you’re banned.” His voice was hard and cold, brooking no mercy.
“No! You can’t do that! The slut didn’t use his safety word, he came without
his spotter, and he never dropped the ball. I was within my rights at his insolence!”
The man just turned his back on her as two of his men removed her screaming in
rage. “Take him down. Call Medical and place him in a cubicle.” Two other men
came and started unchaining Sean who was still conscious, but not really aware. It

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was his hiss of pain followed by bitter laughter that had the large man look back at
him. “Carefully! Take him down carefully.”
Turning to see the crowds gathered in the room, he turned his odious eyes on
them and the disgust of his voice shook the room. “This is not a human cockfight, a
blood sport. You’ll not watch death in this place for your pleasure. Any of those who
do not leave now, will be expelled.”
Andy stood in his place looking at the ground, but he knew the crowds
dissolved immediately. The Master walking around him, saw the dropped whip and
picked it up.
“Where did this come from?” The Master asked the Controller of the room.
“The Dom brought it with her.”
“Take it from my sight and destroy it. No outside implements are allowed, and
especially not bullwhips. Those are the rules. Your place is in my room. I will deal
with you soon.”
“Yes, Master.” Said the Controller in a subservient voice as he quickly left.
The man finally returned to stand beside Andy. “Your part in this?
Andy looked up when spoken to. “I was the safety. His spotter. I called the
game.” Andy spit out the word ‘game’. There was nothing gamelike about it. Sean
and the spawn of hell, Felicia had a vengeance war between them brokered and
seeded by her need to break Sean, and Sean’s resolve to remain in control.
“You waited too long to do your job. Your charge is damaged.”
“He left without me. Entered the session alone.” The Master nodded at that
information. The Controller would have to answer for that too. No one entered the
Dungeon Red level without a safety spotter, but either way the Dom was ultimately
responsible to call the session. Felicia had broken her vow as a Dom.
“The gun. Yours?”
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Andy nodded. “I’m licensed to carry.”
The man leaned in and spoke directly in Andy’s ear in a voice so low and cold
it burned. “No one. NO ONE brings a weapon into my establishment. I don’t care if
you're licensed, a cop, or God Almighty Himself. NO ONE carries here.”
Andy nodded, but held his tongue. Excuses wouldn’t do any good and the use
of them would make his offense worse.
“This is your only warning.” Andy bent his head in submission. “My slave will
take you to your charge. I’ll come check back later after I’ve reviewed the security
video of the session.” He held out his hand at waist level. Andy dropped to his
knees before the man and kissed his ring.
“Thank you, Master.” Andy remained head bent subservient until The Master
left the room, and then rose to follow a Controller who lead him to Sean.
Andy stood against the far wall watching the doctor tend to Sean’s wounds. A
few, actually more than a few, required stitches. The loss of blood drove his blood
pressure to almost nothing, so Andy stood stonefaced watching the slow drip of
saline back into Sean’s body.
The sounds Sean was making confused all the men in the room. It was like he
was laughing and humming at the same time. Finally Andy moved over to the bed
and took a seat on a low stool set on rollers. Sean looked up at him, his eyes were
glassy and unfocused. He seemed confused.
“I beat her. I beat the bitch. She doesn’t own me. Doesn’t.” Sean replaced his
head on the bed. “Did I pass out?”
“No.” Andy frowned at the doctor. Sean was confused. “I think you hit pain
level 10. I hear that it short circuits the brain so nothing makes sense. You're
confused from the pain.” Andy looked over at the doctor to confirm he was right.
The man nodded and continued to sew up Sean’s back.
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“I’m not even using a local on him. He has so much adrenaline and endorphins
in his blood right now, I doubt he could feel anything.” Another man handed Andy a
glass of juice with a straw. “Feed him the juice. He’s going to need the sugars soon.
I think in about ten minutes to half and hour he’s going to drop, and his blood sugar
should go with it. I’m replacing some volume, but he needs to rest.”
“Andy, Andy, I beat the bitch. I won.” Sean was still talking slurred. Andy put
the straw between his lips and told him to drink. “No you don’t understand. She
tried to break me...Cassie tried...but I wouldn’t break. I beat that murderous bitch.
I spat in her eye. I felt nothing. Nothing. No matter how hard she tried. I’ll never
get hard for that bitch again.”
Andy face paled and covered with sweat, as it became apparent what was
going on with Sean. “Sean, you’re hallucinating. Cassie Welsh died. She’s dead,
buddy.”
Sean’s voice came in whisper, slurred and hushed sounding like a child that
was afraid to speak too loudly or the monster would find him.
“No, she’s alive. She never dies, but I killed her. I kill her every night.” Sean
body began to sink as he drifted to sleep. “I hate it when they refuse to die...”
Shock moved across Andy’s face. He knew, they all knew about the Cassie
Welsh case a year ago. The murdering bitch was one of their own, and she almost
killed four members of the Roswell PD including Sean and two civilians, one of
which was Sean’s cousin. She also killed numerous other people, including her own
family members before they caught her. It was a slap in the face of the law
enforcement community to house a viper like her in their midst without noticing.
The only one who even started to have a clue about her was Michael Guerin, but his
dislike of most people made it hard for people to really listen to him. And in the last

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year since that sick murderess died, Sean was still trying to exorcise her from his
mind.
Andy looked at the wounds Sean had taken without either a cry or a plea for
release. How long since what started as a simple lifestyle on the edge took off into
an adventure in nothing but pain? Andy doubted it was about sex or arousal for a
long time, at least not the heavy hardcore stuff.
“Don’t worry, he’ll sleep. His body needs to recharge and come back to a
balance. When he wakes, he’s going to be in pain.” The doctor finished up on Sean’s
back and gave Andy prescriptions for pain pills, antibiotic cream for wound care,
and special antibiotics to protect against infection. “These you can fill later. I’ll give
you some pain medication to cover him until he gets home, but he’s going to need
to stay here for awhile so I can check his blood pressure. That IV is the first of
many. I’ll start replacing and monitoring his sugar, but right now he needs rest.”
The doctor got up and gave Andy his card with number. “I’ll be back, but if he
needs me just give me a ring.”
Andy nodded absentmindedly and barely noticed that the doctor stopped
outside the door to report his findings and give an update on the patient. It took a
few minutes to register that someone was watching him from the door. The Master.
Andy started to rise, but the man motioned him to remain seated. “It’s okay.
In here there is no hierarchy. We’re just men.” He entered the room and took a seat
at the bedside with Andy.
The two men regarded each other openly. Two different lifestyles, but
somehow they had some commonalities.
“I watched the tape.” The Master’s jaw flexed and tightened. “It went wrong
from the first moment. He was defiant, refusing to give her the power and respect
that is her due as the Dom. Felicia was the hardest dominatrix in my stables. She
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loved to drive strong men beneath her, and she wasn’t the most stable, but she's
never crossed the line before.”
“Do you know what set her off? Besides Sean’s attitude, I mean?”
“Yes. I think it was because she couldn’t get him to respond to her. The
session had lasted almost forty-five minutes before you interrupted it, and not once
in that time did he get hard or aroused. It pissed her off, and the more she beat
him, the more defiant he became, and without uttering a word he was driving her
to kill him. For a control scenario, he controlled her, and that made her impotent,
enraged her.”
“Why did your Controller let this go unhindered?”
“That’s been taken care of. It will never happen again. In over ten years in this
business, I’ve only had two deaths in my house. One was a man with a weak heart,
and since then I have required physical exams to keep the play clean and safe. And
the other was unforeseeable, the man had a weak vessel in his brain. The
aneurysm occurred while he was playing in the funhouse with his wife and friends.”
The man reached into his front lapel pocket and pulled out a slim cigarette case and
offered one to Andy before taking his own. “The doctor is of an opinion that your
friend needs to go to the hospital, but I told him that you’re the spotter, the
decision is yours.”
“Sean wouldn’t want to go.”
“I don’t care about what he wants. Tonight he proved himself unable to make
sane rational decisions regarding his own health. There was too much that went
wrong in that room tonight, but your friend walked in wanting it to go down that
way. He ditched you on purpose. He was egging her on, and I can only think that he
wanted to die.” The man took another drag on his cigarette and regarded Sean with
interest. “Why didn’t he drop the ball? It was the damnedest thing. That much pain,
161

that far gone, his muscles should have loosened enough to make the ball drop
whether he wanted it or not.”
Andy took the red ball that he had earlier pried out of Sean’s hand and gave it
to The Master. “He couldn’t. The sick bastard superglued it to his own hand.” Andy
just ran a hand over his face and sat forward in his chair dropping his head into his
hands. That stupid sick fuck. He tried to commit suicide tonight in the only way he
knew how.
“This is not the place for your friend. This business is all about pleasure and
pain, and those who take pleasure in pain. Your friend was somewhere beyond that.
He is limited to the upper levels for the next year. If he wants, I will review his
status in a year and maybe open his options, but what he’s searching for he can’t
find here.” The Master stood and looked at the ball again and then at Sean.
Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a business card case and wrote some names
on the back of a card. “Here are some trained professionals. They’re good people,
and one is in Roswell. Someone has to know about this. He didn’t succeed tonight,
but with his job...it’s only a matter of time before he walks in front of that fatal
bullet. I’ll leave you to make the decision, but if you need an ambulance let the
attendant know and arrangements will be made.”
“Thank you, Master.” The man acknowledged Andy’s respect and left.
Flipping the card over and over in his hand, he watched the names of trained
psychologists move through his hand. Sean DeLuca, old buddy, you sure have a
way to suck the fun out of a fucking ordinary day! If all he wanted was punishment,
Andy could have run him over a few times with his car. Andy stopped watching and
leaned back in the chair. He needed to think.

~~~
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He moved through the crowd of bodies, feeling the beat of the music and the
noise in his head like the pounding of voices. The shrill high-pitched laughter was
making him nauseated. Changing his attitude and gentling his face into smile, he
blended.
The sound of the lead singer drew his eye. As he tried to filter out the other
sounds, he bumped into a young woman who sent him a smile. Returning it, he
listened to the voice, but when the crowd cleared he could see the tall thin man
singing. He was marred. His body had piercing at his stomach and above his eye.
Suddenly the singer’s body gyrated to the music and a nipple ring flashed in the
bright lights. The tattoos covered different places of his body and made the scarred
imperfections obvious.
This piece of walking blemishes was forgiven. He knew he was marred and
displayed it like a badge for the world to see as a warning. Nothing hidden, nothing
broken then glued. The singer wasn’t offering lies of excellence hiding the most
obvious scars.
He walked among the young, and hunted. After hours of patience, he was just
about to give up for the night, when he heard her. A young girl, long shining red
hair to her waist, stood at the mike crooning a low husky song full of smoky rich
tones and promises. Sipping his drink, he melted into the crowd and watched her,
analyzing the scene and creating the strategy for capture. It was only Friday night,
he had time to perfect it, work the angles until it was just right.

~~~

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It was already dark when Max finally woke up. He had gotten home at two in
the afternoon, after running errands on his way. Exhausted and unwilling to let his
brain think, he happily tossed away the world for a better one of sleep. It was
almost ten, and unwilling to cook, Max called in an order for pizza, extra pepperoni,
peppers, and anchovies.
Turning on the television to keep him company, he grabbed a plate and napkin
and sat up to watch the night news and eat. He should call Michael and check in,
but he was avoiding Michael. Surprisingly it wasn’t because of the conversation he
had with Jonathan about his fascination with Maria. It was the other thing. That
thing he wasn’t going to talk about, dream about, or dammit, obsess over.
He had kissed a man. Not just kissed, he had danced with him. Close. Close
enough to feel his body, smell his body, and hear his voice in his ear. Close enough
to rub up against an erection, and to use that body to rub his own erection against.
What the hell? What the frickin’ hell was wrong with his head lately, both of them?
He needed to talk, but there was no one he could talk to about this. Michael?
He needed to figure this out without his partner. Maria? In a word no. Jealous
raging Michael ripping his body apart wasn’t going to solve his problems. Actually it
would, but not in a left-living way. Kyle. Hell no, not with Mr. ‘I'm a gay dancing slut
and loving it’ Boy. There was no way Kyle could understand his hangup. To Kyle it
was all a fun-loving game. Sean? Sean was a possibility. He didn’t seem to mind the
walk on the other side, and Sean wouldn’t see being aroused or attracted to
another man as being anything wrong. Sean was in Albuquerque. Finally, Max
picked up the phone and made a call.
“Can I speak to Isabel Evans, please.” Max waited while the person who
answered the phone went to find Isabel.

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Isabel had left Roswell a year ago to go into a special rehab clinic for her
alcohol, drug, and sexual problems. After finishing the program, the only program
she had ever finished, Isabel refused to return home. She stayed in Arizona, and
lived in a special halfway house working crisis lines for other people like her. Max
wanted her to come home, but for once in her life, Isabel refused to be dependent
on Max or Michael. She looked at them as a pitfall back into her co-dependent
lifestyle.
“Hello?” said a male voice on the other end of the phone.
“Yes, I was calling for Isabel Evans.”
“Can I ask who is calling?”
“This is her brother.”
“Max or Michael?”
“Max.” Max frowned at the phone. “Look, can I just speak to my sister?”
“I’m sorry. That’s impossible. Isabel has left the house.”
Why didn’t the jerk just say so from the getgo? “Okay, do you know what time
she’s scheduled to come home, and can I leave a message for her?”
“No, I mean she has left the home. She no longer lives here.”
Max was silent for a second, silenced and stunned. She didn’t call. How could
she not call? “Where did she go? Did she say?”
“No. Sorry. She just packed up her stuff, quit her job, and left.” The man
paused on the other line. “Sorry, man.”
“Yeah, right.” Max hung up the phone. Wonder if Michael knows? Max looked
at his phone, but he didn’t want to talk to Michael at that moment. Isabel, where
the hell are you?

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Max got up and went into the kitchen. Taking a beer out of the refrigerator, he
didn’t even bother with a glass. Half a beer was his personal limit, but tonight, he
didn’t give a fuck. Sitting down on his sofa, he started drinking his beer.

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Day 4: Saturday- 10:30 a.m.

Michael and Maria were fixing themselves a late breakfast. They had both
awakened earlier that morning, and with a groan decided to sleep in. The phone
continued to ring, and they both continued to ignore it. Rule number seven held
that on weekends or days they had plans together, they didn’t answer their phone.
The world could go on without them. Instead they screened their calls, listening for
emergencies or a job crisis, everyone else could wait.
“Maria, it’s Mom. Are you home? Pick up.” They shared a common look and
ignored the phone. “Sweetie, please pick up. I found the perfect dress for you. It’s
taffeta, and so beautiful. A nice brilliant tangerine color made in lotus oriental style.
The caboose shouldn’t be a problem since you always wanted a larger...”
Maria gasped in horror and reached for the phone. “No, don’t do it, Professor.
She’s just trying to draw you out!” Michael intercepted her hand, and held her
strong against him. “You’ll hate yourself.”
“Taffeta! Tangerine!” Maria cried. “Uncalculated beast! Oh God, that I were
born not of man! She’s doing this on purpose.” Maria buried her head in his chest as
the torture of her mother’s voice continued.
“Don’t break. You’re stronger than that.”
“I made all the arrangements for Michael’s new tux.” Michael groaned as he
came under fire. “It's powdered baby blue,” both Maria and Michael moaned in pain,
“with tails!”
“Michael, No!” She stopped him from grabbing the phone. He didn’t break.
Michael never broke. But the damn phone would if he got his hands on it. “Shush,
it’s all right. I’ll talk her out of it.”
“Tangerine and powdered baby blue! Maria!” Michael's whole body shuddered.
Damn, he remembered a time when his whole world existed as nothing but Mikey
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and himself, and there was no awareness of Amy DeLuca that woke him in the
middle of the night in a cold sweat of fear. “We’ll look like a sixties' psychedelic
nightmare.”
“Honey, I’m not sure, but did Michael have anything to do with my rehearsal
dinner restaurant being destroyed? I searched forever to decide on the Palisades. I
have a few words to say to him. Honey? Okay, call me back.” The tension in both of
their bodies relaxed.
Maria looked at Michael. Damn. Poor man, he didn’t sign up for this. “We could
run away together.” Maria let herself worry about the hope and relief that offer
sparked in his eyes.

~~~

“Guerin, you’ve got two seconds to answer, or I’m taking a powder!” Kyle rang
the doorbell for the fourth time, and added a violent knock on the door.
“Maybe they’re not home,” said Tess next to him.
“He said we work on the car after one on Saturday. It’s after one.” Kyle turned
to bang on the door again when it opened. Michael reached out and pulled both
Tess and Kyle in, looking around suspiciously.
“You alone?”
“Yeah, alone. Just me and Tess. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Amy is looking for me.” Kyle felt the breaking of moisture on his forehead, the
prickling of fear in his gut, and that overwhelming desire to flee in fright.
“She’s coming here? Now? Today?” Both Kyle and Tess turned to flee, but
Michael blocked their way.
“Chicken!”
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“That’s from the man who was afraid to answer his own door! She has a key.”
Michael’s whole body went tense. Oh damn, she did have a key.
Maria came down the stairs seeing the uncertain people at the door. She was
dressed to work on the car in a small and snug white tank top and blue jeans so old
and ripped they looked ready to be tossed. Michael was similarly dressed in a black
wifebeater and old jeans so worn they were more flesh than jeans. “What’s going
on? I thought we were working.” Maria smiled at her friend and assistant, Tess.
“Hey, Tess. Didn’t know you were interested in working on cars.”
“Kyle talked me into tagging along. I hope that’s okay.”
“Fine.” Maria looked at all of them and frowned. “What’s going on?”
The words were barely out of her mouth when a knock came at the door. Tess
actually screamed in fright. Maria looked at the small group like they were insane.
Moving past them, she went to answer the door.
“No!” They all said at once. Maria looked at them as if they were all caught in
a lunatic craze.
“Get a grip!” Maria opened the door and smiled at the man on the other side.
“Kyle, did you bring the parts?”
“Maria. Michael.” The man kissed her on the cheek and nodded. The parts
were out in his truck.
He was a nice elderly man in his fifties with a pleasant disposition, and a
curiosity over the people all huddled around the door. “Got the bid request for the
last part. You’re not going to be happy.” Walter held out a piece of paper. Michael
quickly intercepted. It was the last replacement piece they needed to complete the
Mustang, and then she was all ready except for a new paint job.

169

“Son of a bitch, no way. This is outrageous!” Michael looked at the money
requested by the person who had the last part for sale. Maria looked over his
shoulder, hugging him close from behind with her hands on his hips.
“Oh Lord. That’s...wow. About three times what it should be.” Maria rubbed
her hand across her mouth. Geez, some people were greedy bastards.
“Forget it. I’m not paying it. Keep looking Walter.” Michael practically flung the
invoice information away from him.
“Michael, wait.” Maria and Walter shared a look.
“No way. This is too much for one small part. It’s not even the entire fuel
injection system.”
“I know this person is bilking, but Michael that means something.”
“It means the son of a bitch is a greedy whoring prick.”
Maria actually laughed at that. “Yeah, that’s true. But, it also means this man
knows he has gold. We’ve been searching for this part for a year. A year, Michael!
And this is the first nibble. The man has product, and we’ve got demand, so he’s
setting his price, although granted, it's high.”
“No. I’m not paying it.”
“Okay, then there are other options. First we can use what we have, which
works, but is worn and has a short life expectancy. We can buy this overpriced
part,” Maria ignored Michael’s bellowing and resounding no. “Or we can go with
having the part turned by a talented machinist. I think there’s a guy in Madison,
Wisconsin who is a good at this thing.” Maria motioned for Walter to follow as she
headed for the garage to open the doors for Walter to bring in the other two parts.
“Okay, the machinist thing. Walter what does that run?” Michael could handle
having the piece made.

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Walter just winced making Michael groan. “It’ll be top quality, almost assembly
line quality, actually better. But the machinist has to get the specs, which costs, set
the machine, build a prototype, and then he has to hand turn it. That’s expensive.
Once it’s completed, he has to send it to the Ford Motor Company where their
experts examine the piece, check it for authentic fit, and then gives it a rating and
release. If it doesn’t meet standards, he starts over.” Michael already saw where
this was going. “It would be like new, last the life of the car, but expense? More
than this joker wants. Much more.
Michael cussed a colorful bluestreak. Maria ignored him and helped Walter
while Kyle and Tess sat on the sidelines enjoying the show. “Okay, what’s the
viability and life on the part I’ve got with my car?”
Maria calmly picked up the part off the fuel assembly and tossed it to Walter.
Michael waited as Walter looked it over and ran the piece around in his hand, took
out a tool and examined it.
“Less than a year.” Michael was off in another plethora of colorful metaphors
depicting the end of the world, the nature of man and god, and the questionability
of a sainted mother. “The moveable assembly is sticking. It’ll start freezing up, and
there are worn areas showing tear to the side. It’ll leak fuel, and you’ll lose seal
integrity in the motor house.”
“Buy the part Walter.” Maria said calmly.
“No.” Michael said placing himself in front of Maria. “I’m not paying. It’s
extortion.”
“I know. I am.” Maria pushed Michael aside and walked off. “Buy it Walter.”
“Maria.”
“Look, you paid for every part and piece on this restoration. I can make this a
present, okay?” Maria looked at Walter. “Contact him today, tell him he needs to get
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it to your shop no later than Monday. That I’ll meet his asking price, but only on
bonded junket. If and when we receive the part, and it’s examined by our
mechanic, meaning you, then a bonded receipt for payment will automatically be
transferred to his account.”
Kyle looked confused. “I don’t get it. Why all the work?”
“Well, it could go two ways. He’s asking a high price so he knows he holds an
important, hard-to-find part. Now he might be an old junker who has a car yard full
of Mustangs of this make and year. If we buy without demanding he send it bonded
junket, which means he sends it to us unpaid C.O.D., we accept whatever comes
and it falls under the mandate of "Buyer Beware". Now if we have it sent bonded
junket, that means that our mechanic, Walter looks the piece over, and decides if it
is both authentic and in great quality. At this price, it better be brand spanking new.
If it doesn’t pass Walter’s inspection he returns the part to the courier and it’s
refused.”
“That’s a lot of work for a small part.”
“It is, but it protects us from fraud, and keeps this man from walking out in his
junkyard and pulling the part from any old Mustang and sending it. Because he’s
asking a huge price, and we’re essentially asking to see before purchase, he is
obligated to send us the best part he has available, because he knows we’ll be
adding him to the Internet ‘parts supplier list’ as a "NoBuy", which puts him at a
bad risk buy for future sales.”
“Kyle and I could get in a car, drive to...” Michael looked at the information on
the paper. “Tennessee, see the man in person, and haggle down his price.”
Maria just nodded. “You could. But then I would have to follow you to
Tennessee to post bond for your assault charges.” Kyle laughed at that. It wasn’t

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like Maria didn’t have experience getting people out of jail. Her mother, Amy was
the master of being locked up. Maria and Michael stood, staring each other down.
“Buy it, Walter.” Michael finally said. “But the bill comes to me, not Maria.”
Maria opened her mouth to protest, but the look in Michael’s eyes forestalled her.
Michael wanted to finish the project himself, from start to end. Maria paying for it
would negate that process. It was a memorial to Mikey, and one he was determined
to finish despite the time and cost. He was pissed at the obvious bilking, but a part
of him felt a sense of excitement over having the project nearly done, and another
part of him empty that it was almost finished.
Maria worked on the two new parts, pulling them apart, cleaning, and lubing
them to be added to the engine. Tess helped as her trusty assistant, not knowing
one end of a torque wrench from a bolt driver. Michael and Kyle were both leaning
over into the front end of the Mustang gutted of its engine, welding additional
support struts to the frame. They were at opposite sides, both arc-welding at the
same time.
Maria occasionally watched Tess’s eyes wander over to the men. Kyle had
taken off his shirt and was wearing a tight sleeveless white tee, his jeans as holey
as Michael’s and stretching over the car pulled those jeans tight.
“Nice ass.”
“What?” Tess avoided her eyes the color rising over her cheeks.
“I said Kyle has a totally serviceable ass, practically droolworthy.” Maria had a
spark of merry adventure enter her eyes. “Of course, that was so obvious the other
night, looking at him all decked out in too tight leather pants and that cargo shirt.
My, my, my...those nice masculine nipples peaking through just begging for some
attention. What a stud.”

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Maria giggled at the look Tess gave her, and her sudden fascination with Kyle’s
ass again. Just friends? Bugger that.
“His package was framed just right, all tight and hard...”
“Maria!”
“I’m just saying...” Maria feigned passing interest only. “What the heck is
wrong with the women of Roswell letting that piece of USDA prime beef walk
around unattached, unfettered...unfucked.”
“Maria.” The outrage in Tess’s voice made her giggle.
“Look.” Maria put down her tool and stared at her friend. “It doesn’t take a
genius or a psychic to tell me that he’s in your thoughts all the time, and he does
something for you that Max never did. So what’s stopping you, stopping the both of
you? You’re adults, single, and both totally easy on the eyes.”
“It’s complicated.” Tess said as Maria started working again. She looked over
at Kyle to make sure he wasn’t listening, but both he and Michael were still buried
in the car. “It has always been. We’ve got history. Lots of history.”
Jack. They had Jack. Maria looked at Tess and then Kyle. “I know, but some
history can be overcome.”
Maria walked over to the Coke machine in the corner of the garage and looked
though the selections. Dammit, Michael had drunk all the cherry coke again without
refilling. Grabbing a regular Coke for both herself and Tess, she sat down next to
her friend.
“You loved Jack, and Kyle loved Jack.” Tess looked at Maria piercingly. Maria
saw too much at times, but how much was she really seeing? “But more important,
Jack loved you both. He wouldn’t have wanted you to stop living because of him,
either of you.”

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“It’s more complicated than that, Maria.” Tess hadn’t wanted to get into it until
she talked to Max, but it seemed like the perfect time. Tess didn’t notice the men
finishing the welding. “I’m pregnant.”
“Kyle’s?” Maria asked before she could stop herself.
Tess was shocked when Kyle’s voice sounded with hers. She hadn’t realized he
was listening. “No.”
Tess turned and looked at Kyle holding the welding torch. He lifted the visor off
his head and stared at her. Tess’s heart was pounding in her chest. He was covered
in sweat and grease, and in the dirty white tee, he looked...he looked...oh God,
Maria was right! What the hell were all the women of Roswell thinking?
Michael removed his visor and looked at Tess and Kyle in interest. Max. It had
to be Max’s then. Michael closely examined Tess and noticed the slight swell at her
stomach that he had missed earlier. “Does Max know?”
Maria finally looked at Michael when he spoke. She dropped her wrench. Oh
my very goodness! Michael reached up and wiped the sweat off his face with his
arm, unaware of Maria’s intense regard. He was aware of feeling...disorientated.
Max was going to a father. Jealous? Hell, yeah! Jealous, or maybe just envious.
“No, he doesn’t. Not yet, and I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t mention it until I
can. I was going to tell him tomorrow.” Tess took in Michael’s small nod as
acceptance and turned to look at Maria.
Maria wasn’t paying attention. Her full attention was on Michael, on her
personal tract of real estate. Tess was shocked at the darkened green color of
Maria’s eyes, the way her nostrils seemed to flare slightly, the hint of her tongue
between her teeth, and the slight labored sound to her breath.
Michael really did look absolutely and totally fuckable. Dressed only in the
tight tee that Maria could see the swell of his muscles as he moved, Michael was
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sweating from the heat of welding, the glistening traces calling attention to the
near-perfect body and indecently wet shirt sticking to his abdomen.
Uh huh, it didn’t take much to know that if she and Kyle didn’t scram quickly,
they were going to see more than they wanted to. “Kyle, we need to go.” Tess
grabbed his shirt and coat, rushed over and hooked an arm through his. “Bye!”
“What? But...but Tess, Maria was going to feed us...”
Tess pushed Kyle out of the garage just as she heard the sound of something
metal, and lots of scuffling noises followed by a groan. “I think Maria’s busy feeding
someone else.”
Kyle looked at her confused, and then at the garage at the noise, and
suddenly his face cleared with understanding. “Oh, oh! They’re going
to...there...oh!”
“Come on, you can buy me dinner.” Tess looked over at him struggling back
into his shirt. Waste. “A nice long dinner. I’m starved.”

~~~

Michael was missing something. One minute he was bowled over by the news
that his partner was going to be a father, and the next he was watching Kyle and
Tess leave.
“Hey, Kyle! We’re not done.” What the hell was going on? It was the rough
handling of his body, the dropping of his torch and the crashing noise it made as it
hit the ground, and an armful of Maria pushing him backwards and up hard against
a work table knocking over even more parts and tools that answered his question.

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“Maria...” Michael couldn’t talk. It was hard to talk without a tongue, and his
was otherwise engaged. Moaning loud and deep in his throat, his hands fitted over
her hips trying to slow down her fast-moving body. “Maria, stop...Maria!”
They had goals they wanted to achieve on the car today, things that needed to
be done! Michael pushed her away far enough to take in her appearance. She was
breathing hard, so hard that he could feel the pounding of her heart through her
breastbone, and there was a thin film of moisture above her now swollen lips, along
with a look in her eyes that made his heart race. Looking closely at her, he couldn’t
stop that itching need to touch her, and then touch her again.
Maria’s darkened green eyes were checking him out the way she was being
checked out now by his golden brown ones. And really, really liking what she saw,
liking it well enough that she was on the verge of jumping him again. Maria looked
ready to fall to her knees in front of that teasing, mouthwatering....
"Maria!"
Maria jumped guiltily, then threw her arms wide and half-laughed, "Help!" This
wasn’t her fault, and they had made an agreement to finish what they started today
before letting anything else distract them. But it was unfair. No one told her that he
was going to look like that.
Snorting in a mix of amusement and irritation, Michael kicked aside his tools
that had fallen at his feet, took off his gloves, and stood, shaking his head. "What is
your problem?" he asked, but he walked into the embrace, wrapping his own arms
tightly around Maria's waist. What was their problem?
"I don't know," Maria murmured, nuzzling into the hot skin, loving the clean,
hard-working man-smell of it. "It's like I'm on a caffeine buzz or something. Not
able to concentrate on anything, and twitchy as hell." She lapped at one of the

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circles on Michael's chest evident under the tight shirt, delighted to feel it pebble
into hardness almost instantly.
"And you think getting laid will cure that?" Michael muttered under his breath
next to the skin of her neck, hoping personally the answer was yes.
"It can’t hurt. I’m game." Maria licked her way to the other nipple, vaguely
disappointed to find it up already. But she couldn’t taste him through the shirt, only
the saltiness of his sweat which she sampled thoroughly before muttering, "But
making you feel good with all this excess beats making myself miserable with it."
"Glad to be of service," Michael said wryly, blotting his face dry on Maria's shirt
at the shoulder.
"Isn't that, like, the police department motto or something?" Maria asked
distractedly, slipping her fingers under the ragged edge of a rip in Michael's jeans to
tease the skin on the back of legs barely covered by the jeans.
"So who's going to protect me from getting screwed into an early grave trying
to serve you?" Michael muttered into her neck, moving closer to her welcoming her
to continue the gentle exploration of his flesh through the rips.
“I’ll take really, really good care of you. I promise.” Maria moved her hands up
under his shirt. He had on too many clothes.
His breath was unexpectedly cool over Maria's skin, and she shivered,
suddenly losing interest in conversation. Pressing closer, she rubbed herself over
Michael's growing rock-hard erection, sighing in anticipation of how good this was
going to be. The chest under her lips rumbled in a groan as Michael spoke, but she
didn't pay attention to the words that caused it. There was another kind of sound all
together that she was going for from Michael, and that meant getting a little further
under the worn denim and clothing protecting her target.

178

Then Michael pushed her away, firmly holding her at arm's length. "Jesus,
Maria, can you hold on a second and let me get us into the loft?"
Blinking, she reined herself in, and managed to quip, "Do I look like I have no
control?"
Michael gave her a look of exasperation, tinged with both lust and love, and
forcibly turned her around. With a gentle shove, he sent Maria toward the loft,
saying, "Let’s go, now!" If they didn’t move quickly, they were going to find
themselves rolling around on the garage floor again, and last time it took days to
get all the motor grease off them.
Grinning, Maria looked over her shoulder and said impudently, "I thought you
wanted to work in the garage today. Make up your mind! Want me to 'go down'
here or there?" She took off at top speed as soon as the last word left her lips,
pulling Michael close behind her with his hands on her backside trying to pull her
into his groin.
They raced inside the loft, Maria staying ahead of him just barely, and he
crashed through the door after her, slamming it shut behind him. Maria hurried for
the stairs, but Michael intercepted her, and picking her up tossed her over the back
of the sofa, and jumped over it to land on top of her.
"All right, you. Assume the position!" Maria dissolved in giggles at his best cop
voice.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, frisk me!" Maria chanted to herself, hastily skinning him
out of his clothes. Michael ripped her tank top off and tossed it as he went for the
buttons of her jeans.
“Naked frisking, I can do.” Once she was undressed, he hesitated, trying to
decide how he wanted it, but couldn't make up his mind. Everything they did
together was worth repeating. Maria wasn’t giving him much time to decide as she
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rid him of his clothes. Unbidden one hand crept down to his hard-on, and she
stroked himself lightly, mind tumbling with erotic possibilities and she leaned in and
whispered suggestions in his ear.
"If you’re going to drive," Michael said dryly, leaning on her and pulling her
bottom lip into his mouth with a hard bite, "you’re going to have to take the top."
Maria just laughed and pulled him down harder on her.
Despite his tone, his face was lit up with devious intent, as if he were amazed
and delighted to find Maria under him. His stern pissy tone and dark serious
expression was ones he often wore when she taunted him, and he was struggling to
retain some power and slow it down. His stern look always made Maria's heart
lurched, too full of him to beat properly, because she knew that no matter how hard
he tried, he was on the edge.
And it made him all that much more desirable to Maria.
With a laugh, she threw herself at Michael, moving her thigh along the rougher
skin of his. "Hey, I was just making suggestions, but I’ll happily let you take the top
if that’s what it takes to get laid around here." Not giving her lover a chance to
retaliate to her sass, she fastened her mouth onto Michael's, eagerly delving into
the heated depths of it.
Accepting the assault effortlessly, he returned the kiss with interest, reducing
them both to soft moans and demanding rutting bodies in a matter of moments.
Maria was all for having her way right where they were, unable to bear breaking
away long enough to navigate the stairs to their bedroom, so the sofa looked good.
Not quite that far gone, Michael lifted his head, murmuring, "Hang on, hang on a
sec." Hardly hearing him, Maria blindly sought to reclaim his lips, frantically
grinding against him even as he shoved her questing hands aside to run his hands
down the trim hips to set her naked flesh tightly to him.
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"Maria!" There was an edge of concern in Michael's voice now, though he
couldn't understand for the life of him why.
A part of him knew that they were racing out of control again, for what felt like
the millionth time lately. It was like the very air smelt of them, of each other, and
the sight of the other’s skin or sound was enough to send the situation catapulting
out of management. They both had mentioned it, how intense it was, how hungry
it made them, and Michael struggled to be reasonable to hold back since Maria was
already gone from the moment her body heated up at the sight of him. She moved
hard against him working him with her hands and mouth, wiggling against him.
Okay, he could work with that, Michael decided in dazed confusion, lavishly licking
the column of her throat. Wantonly Maria spread her legs wide and tried to pull
Michael down on her fully, using strength that belied her size and appearance of
frailty.
That did it. Michael was gone too, as he found his favorite place cradled in her,
and chemicals from their bodies, those released while aroused, seemed to mix in
the air leaving him disoriented. He would work it out next time, but this time he
was racing to join her.
Groaning happily as she felt him melt into her, she reached down to direct that
hard length, wanting it inside her, now, but Michael caught her by the wrist and
held it over Maria's breastbone. When she tried to pry it loose with her free hand, it
was captured as well, leaving him plastered to her unmoving for a moment looking
down at her, restraining her hands. Maria was about to protest, but the fire in his
eyes stopped the words in her throat as her eyes narrowed and a moan left her
throat. Michael smiled wickedly and moved her captured wrist above her head
pinned down by powerful biceps and no movement was left to her at all from the
waist up.
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It was a snug, cherished feeling, but not what she wanted at all, and she tried
angling her hips to let her legs do a little capturing of their own. But Michael was in
control, and he countered her moves to keep her from pushing them over the edge
too soon. Sighing, Michael moved a heavy leg from between her legs to drape over
one of hers, effectively rendering her immobile. Still Maria squirmed as best she
could, wailing in frustration, "MICHAEL!"
"Easy, babe, easy," Michael breathed into her ear, increasing the security of his
hold. "I'm not going anywhere, and you'll get all you want, I promise. Now calm
down a little. Talk to me."
"I don't want to talk!" Michael knew he was being unfair. He was just as
tanked as she was, but he wasn’t letting his wayward body and hers have their way.
His head was in control for the moment, but if he didn’t hurry it wasn’t going to last
for long. God, her smell was making his head spin. Shaking it out, he gulped for
fresh air and continued to talk with her.
"Now that's a first." Nuzzling at the soft hair at her temple, Michael whispered,
"You're worrying me here, Maria. It's almost like you have to make love instead of
just wanting it. I know you've been a little hyped and wild lately,” Maria looked at
him sharply, and he groaned nodding. “As have I. We’ve both are taking what has
been intense for a year and increasing it by tenfold, but just going with it isn't going
to help us figure out what's going on." Michael was becoming concerned, really
concerned. His breath was ragged and his body was screaming for action, but this
was important, too important to shelve again.
Almost against her will, Maria quieted, seeing for herself the air of desperation
in her actions, like a junkie in dire need of a fix. "I don't know what's going on," she
admitted, making herself go limp under Michael's hands. Controlling her breathing
as best she could, she fumbled for words to describe how she'd been feeling. "It's
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like, like.... Remember that feeling you get when you were young, during
Christmas? Really, really looking forward to it because it meant that all the waiting
was nearing an end, and there were so many cool things waiting to be unwrapped,
not that you had any clue what they were, but you knew that they belonged to you,
and soon you would unwrap them and the fun would begin. All that anticipation and
energy and eagerness with maybe a little fear and worry mixed in because you
didn't know what it would be, some of it hopeful that you would get what you
wanted, some of it fear that you would not, wiring you up to the point you couldn't
sleep that night before the big day."
"And making love helps you deal?"
"God, yes!" Maria pulled a restrained hand away to stroke his face. Sighing in
honesty. “It doesn’t just help, it’s the present, the unwrapping. I see you across a
room, and that electrical feel I get with you, it’s there, always there. It doesn’t go
away. It’s like lying there dormant, and suddenly I see you and...”
"Okay, then." Cautiously, as if expecting himself to break because she was
describing what he had been feeling for a while, Michael loosened his grip that held
Maria's wrist and moved the other hand down her arm, then brushed away stray
locks from her face. "But let's try to take it slow and easy, make it last. If nothing
else, it'll burn off more than a quickie would anyway."
"I don't know if I can..." Maria began.
"Just try, okay?" More strands of golden hair were moved aside, revealing a
pale, vulnerable nape, and Michael whispered against it, "For me. Please?" Their
mating lately had taken on an air of violence that empowered him, but was scaring
him too. The lack of control, of reason was making him afraid that when he came
back to himself that he would find that he abused her while out of his head.

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She nodded her acquiesce, trying to breath in gulps of refreshing air to power
down the raging feelings. A powerful charge of sensation arced from where soft lips
and warm air teased over her skin, and Maria quivered from it, stomach suddenly
dipping. He was doing it again. He was asking for her to slow down, but everything
his body did to her made that impossible.
"God!" She bent her head forward a little in silent urging, and Michael instantly
obeyed with an almost-there kiss that lifted every hair on Maria's neck and spine,
making her shudder. Michael’s eyes darkened. It happened again. Her response to
him was fueling his response, and what little control he had was slipping fast.
He was worried, because between them all, him, Max and Isabel, they all
showed sexual abnormalities, almost addictive needs. Isabel was the most extreme,
Max following with his sexual exploits, and Michael, who had avoided it until he met
Maria, was fast hurtling out of control and pulling her into the abyss with him. He
wanted her all the time, like a deep ache, and in the last week to ten days it had
become magnified by some reason he couldn’t explain. But the drive had nothing
gentle to it, and it was the heat and violence, a blood lust that had him worried.
The orgasms were extreme and out of this world, nothing he really experienced
with anyone else, but this new intensity kicked it up to a higher level.
"Like that, do you?" Michael murmured as he felt her pulled to him without
him really touching her, mouth hauntingly close to the soft spot just behind Maria's
ear. It was the electricity. It was alive between them even though they weren’t
really touching everywhere. Dammit, he was losing it again, and all he knew was
that it felt good.
"Michael..." Maria said huskily her eyes half closed as she reached for him.
"Sounds like a please to me."

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Shaking from the delicate, teasing contact of his mouth barely touching her
skin as the breath moved across, Maria closed her eyes to focus better on
sensation, and moaned, unable to do more than to surrender to Michael's
attentions. To her surprise, the next moment of torture was a kiss, a forceful,
sucking one, and she shouted wordlessly, pushing against his cock leaping in
readiness as if Michael's lower body pressed harder into her keeping her controlled
until he was ready. Damn, slow calculating beast. Another biting kiss followed, and
Maria writhed under the impact from it, babbling her pleasure in half-formed pleas
for more, harder. Ignoring the sound, Michael held her down until her lust cooled
down enough to let her lie still again, though Maria was panting from a combination
of need and fatigue by the time she did. A moment later Michael brushed a butterfly
light touch over the junction of Maria's neck and shoulder, drawing a whimper from
the smaller body under his. The next kiss was equally intense and made her
tremble, the next built gently on that, as did the next and the next until Maria
screamed, "Now, damn it! Michael, I swear!"
Doing as he was told, Michael fastened his teeth into the firm muscle at the
nape, pinched one of Maria's nipples, and drove his cock into the heated cavern of
her body with a single, sure move. The blast of pure pleasure slammed all the air
out of Maria's lungs, but she reared back into that first thrust, opening to it more
than she ever had before. Withdrawing slowly, so slowly it made them both ache,
Michael tongued a feathery pattern over Maria's neck, his thumb tip scoring the
tight bud on her heaving chest. This time when he rammed back in, he bit even
harder, drawing the tiniest trickle of blood.
Ecstasy and the biting pain knocked Maria out of herself, leaving the rational
part of her mind floating slightly above the incredibly wonderful fucking her body
was eagerly taking. It seemed that even as she reveled in carnal luxury, she could
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see Michael and herself intertwined in the primitive ballet for satisfaction, could see
the rapt expression on Michael's face as they loved. Closing her eyes, she could feel
him in a flash, and that dark warrior was back, hard and violent, covered in blood,
her blood, his blood, and their blood, mixed. That image of him was coming more
and more in her head over the last few months, but clearer and clearer recently.
A silent gasp of wonder flew from her, and that involuntary action weighed her
back down toward her physical self. Driven by an instinct she didn't question, Maria
used the momentum to lift her mouth to the shoulder above her, and she bit it hard
on the top fleshy part of it, bringing up a bead of blood. Moaning, her tongue
gathered the liquid, and let the taste explode in her mouth. Thirst, it was like her
body thirsted for his, wanted to rip away his skin so she could move inside.
With a hoarse cry, Michael picked up the pace of his fucking and buried his
teeth in Maria's shoulder. The small wound bled freely, and he lapped at it hungrily,
staining his lips with the fluid. There was no pain for Maria from it, only another
kick into the stratosphere, and she would have climaxed instantly if she'd been
connected to her body. Her head was somewhere else, somewhere caught with him.
It should have bothered her how intense they were becoming, but it was taking
them further than anyone imagined.
She could clearly see a thin, red line of liquid at the corner of his mouth, and
she thought wonderingly, ‘Blood. There's power in blood. Mayans, Aztecs, God
knows how many other tribes and cultures all believe that...believed it, passed
power onto me through his blood. Power's passing through me and Michael now,
but what's it for?’ Whatever it was for, the connection it made between them, it was
necessary, because the pull and hunger for it was too strong to deny.
Before Maria could find an answer, Michael keened high in his chest and began
to come, his hips bucking wildly as he tried to get as deep as possible into her
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body. It was beautiful to watch, and when passion stripped away all the masks a
civilized man had to wear, Maria could see into him with breathtaking clarity. There
wasn't just the savage satisfaction of sexual completion or heartfelt joy of union
with his mate shining within Michael, and her, all her. There was also the undiluted
honor and strength of the man along with his courage, loyalty, devotion,
determination and all the other traits that made Michael who he was.
And overlying it all, literally the welded to the core of Michael's character and
personality, was the love he had for Maria. The unspoken words were there in
flashes of raw emotion and feeling, moving between them, that Maria couldn’t
distinguish herself from him.
The incandescent wonder of it burnt through Maria, melding her back to her
body as it convulsed through its own climatic release. For a time she was lost in the
brilliant flare of pleasure that seemed endless and timeless at the same time, but it
gradually faded, leaving prickles of heated sensation, and the copper bright tang of
his blood to anchor her to him. With startling reluctance, she took her teeth out of
the meaty part of Michael's shoulder not even realizing that she had held on, licking
the wound in a passing apology, and panted, "Sorry, sorry - don't know why I
suddenly became a vampire."
"Don't apologize until we've seen what I did to your neck and shoulder,"
Michael rumbled tiredly, sounding indecently sated. "You're probably going to look
like you've been mauled by a beast."
"Guess I'm going to have to toss out all the vampire-slaying crap," Maria halflaughed. "Because it felt great. Blood, it does the body good." Sighing tiredly and
sated for now, she snuggled down even farther into the sofa and him in her arms.
"You felt great... feel great."

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"Incredible is more like it," Michael said. With an all-over stretch, he pulled
back enough to actually look at what he'd done. "Jesus, Maria!" With tender,
tentative fingers he probed around one of the places on Maria's shoulder where
minor pain was just beginning to make itself known.
"Don't freak out on me," she ordered mildly. "I think I started it a while back,
but lately...and oh God, what it does to me! I've never had anything like that
happen to me before." Maria smoothed her fingers over his skin loving the texture,
feeling the heat and the rush of his blood, wanting more. “I hunger.”
"Is it really sustaining you, feeding whatever this is?" Michael asked dubiously.
He told Sean that he and Maria were choosing a different lifestyle, and whatever
this was, it wasn’t about pain. It was about a bloodsport, and then it wasn’t. It was
more, like another level of joining between them through their blood. He just didn’t
know anything other than that he needed it, he needed her, and it felt better than
just good.
Searching his face to get a real look at what he was thinking, Maria realized
suddenly that, much as Michael had enjoyed their lovemaking before it turned, it
had only been lovemaking for him. More intense than normal relationships, but it
was understandable. This new addition that slowly was added to their love life was
something more, something beyond expressing feelings, lust, and passion. It was
something beyond what either of them knew or understood. The eyes studying the
injuries on Maria's neck and shoulder were filled not only with replete passion and
love; an awe lingered there like she knew lingered in her. She waited for it, the
conflict. A part of him would want her to wear his mark, and happily wear hers, and
another part of him would be horrified at the violence marring her skin.
For a moment she was overwhelmed, but the trained anthropologist within her
spoke up before the immense passion still stirring in her blood could do more than
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speed through her awareness. ‘Power in the blood,’ she reminded herself. ‘A life of
blood has its own gifts, its own power, different from a ordinary one.’ There had to
be something in the bloodsport that drew them, a reason her body was craving
him, not just his blood, but his very touch.
Remembering the restless energy that had earlier driven her to jump him in
the garage, Maria ran a mental check and found it still burning away on Low,
apparently waiting for the next sense of him to fuel the overwhelming turned-on
feeling she was experiencing lately that was driving her to sex.
It felt right that she was using it that way, like a bonus or benefit from being
on the receiving end of a thousand different looks and touches from Michael. He still
had that possessive touch that crowded her, watching over her like she was
property, and at times she felt like he pushed her and tasted her just to imprint her
body on his. And since he knew her in ways that Maria could only theorize, it
seemed fair that she should know Michael in ways only she could. It was a balance
of power, so to speak, one with a very nice side benefit. Suddenly his overpowering
possessiveness that almost broke them early in their relationship was finding a
balance in their lives as she learned and experienced her own possessive nature for
him.
Of course, it was hard on him between being caught up in the act and the
afterwards, he didn’t see that new intensity as beneficial when he was staring at a
bleeding wound on her, and ignoring his own. Anything that wounded or hurt her
was an outrage to him, and afterwards he was appalled. Even he knew he was
operating under a double standard, because he loved every mark she put on his
body. But it was his protector self inside, the part that drove him to keep her safe
as his mate that suffered the insult, and had a hard time dealing with the violence.

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Already Michael was peeling himself away, reaching for a something to press on the
wounds he'd made and bitching himself out, big time.
"Hey, I meant it," Maria said in protest, leaning up on an elbow. "I love when
you bite me and when I taste your blood, it was fantastic, and I find myself wanting
more."
"I don't think so," Michael shot back grimly. "Do you have any idea how easy it
is for a human bite to get infected? We need to take care of that immediately."
"So we'll keep a bottle of antiseptic around from now on or let you push me
into a hot bath and baby the wound later," Maria said with fond exasperation.
"Come on, Michael, I know we’re of the same mind about this. I can feel it. And it's
not like you were grossed out or anything. Or like you didn't enjoy it when I bit you.
I felt the rush of exhilaration, and the way you hold me against your flesh like your
feeding me or the way you feed on me."
Looking down at the ragged wound left by teeth marks on his right shoulder,
Michael flexed his fingers and made a fist. "Doesn't hurt that bad, and it was a
turn-on when you latched onto me." Abruptly he searched her face seriously looking
for hurt and pain. "It’s not just the blood Maria, your scratching me until I bleed, or
all the violent sex up against walls, small closets, under desks or wherever we are
at the time. It’s this need. It feels like addiction, like we've moved beyond want and
pushed need in there, and I’m too weak to deny myself or you almost to the point
of being oblivious to the world around us.”
"Oh, Detective," Maria protested, going along with Michael's change of subject,
knowing that they would have to talk it out better, later. "I know that things have
changed in the last few weeks. I can’t explain it except to say I want and need youall of you-damn near all the time, and I can’t find that bad. Can’t we just shelve

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this discussion until some other time because I’m feeling the need to crash for a
little while."
"No way; we do have to clean out those bites," Michael said firmly. She was
right. He was feeling it too. That heavy draw to rest, to let the energy levels
recover, but they had things to do first. "Bathroom, now.”
“No, too sleepy.” Maria snuggled down on the sofa warmed by the feel of him
over her, too content to put up with his excessive attention to detail.
Maria didn't put up much more of a fight, even when Michael picked her up
and threw her over his shoulder to carry her upstairs to the bathroom. She was
laughing too hard.
“Oh, Detective, did I ever mention that this gives me a excellent view of your
ass? Maybe after you play doctor,” Maria’s voice took on a husky note, “we could
play doctor?” Michael’s only response was to reach up and spank lightly her ass
where it rest across his shoulder, and then running his hand lovingly down her legs.
“Oh God, do that again!” Maria playfully slapped his back. “Detective, did you
bring home those extra handcuffs?”
“Maria! Behave!” Michael groaned. She was going to kill them both, or
whatever was driving them was. It bothered him that he really didn’t mind.
It was later in the early evening, after they took a nap and made food, that
Michael was relaxing on the sofa reading a book and Maria was lying down on the
sofa, her head in his lap and Mr. Boo on her legs, watching a documentary about
the Amazon on the Discovery Channel. Every once in a while he would look up and
watch the program, but he still had another hour or so before his hockey game
started, so he continued to read and listen to her make observations and
comments.

191

The answering machine was still picking up their messages. Max had called,
but only left a small message that Isabel had left the home in Arizona. Michael
started to call him back, but since he hadn’t heard from Isabel, there was little he
could say. They both listened and laughed at Amy’s latest message, but still refused
to break into their weekend. Amy would catch up with them early in the week. She
always did.
When the knock came on the door, Maria sat up a little and looked at Michael.
“Did we decide to extend rule number seven of our time alone to include not
answering the door?”
Michael just sighed. “No, we were still in discussion and negotiation.” Michael
brushed the hair off her forehead and left a quick kiss there grabbing the throw off
the back of the sofa to cover her before getting up to answer the door. The
knocking and ringing was becoming frantic and urgent.
“What the hell is your...” Michael stopped talking as he saw Sean being
supported by another man. “Sean?”
Maria sat up and looked at the door as Michael suddenly went through the
door to help Andy take Sean into the loft. When she saw her cousin’s face, she
suddenly rushed to his side with a cry of alarm. “Sean, oh God, who did this to
you?”
Michael looked over at the man he now recognized from Vice, and they shared
a silent understanding. “Maria, get the downstairs bedroom lights on.” Michael sent
her on ahead to distract her from Sean’s condition.
Andy and Michael tried to easily lower Sean into the bed, but it was obvious he
was in pain, lots of pain. The pain medication was no longer helping after all the
hours, and the original endorphins had long gone.

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“Sean? Sean, il mio bambino povero che cosa è stato fatto a voi?” Michael
looked at Maria and frowned. She was crying and her hands were shaking. It was
okay, she was okay. It was just normal fright and concern.
“Maria, go get him some water, please?” Michael waited until Maria left the
room and looked at Andy. “What happened?”
“We went to a place in Albuquerque. Things went bad.” Andy said. He reached
into his pocket. “This is his medicine, both pain pills and antibiotics. He was under a
physician's care for almost twenty-four hours before we came home. I tried to talk
him into going to a hospital, but he refused. I couldn’t leave him alone at his place,
so he said here was okay.” Andy let the guilt wash through him. “I’m sorry, Guerin.”
Michael just nodded, and watched as Maria came back with a large pitcher of
ice water and a glass. Setting it down on the bedside table, she poured Sean a
glass while sitting next to him on the bed. Suddenly standing up she left to fill a
basin with cool water and get a cloth.
“Sean is Maria’s cousin, we’ll take care of him.” Andy just nodded. He never
really thought of Guerin taking care of anyone, but he had heard about the
relationship between Sean’s cousin and Michael. “When does he need his next dose
of meds?”
Andy looked at his watch. “Anytime would be good.”
When Maria came back, Michael handed her the prescription bottles and, after
kissing her head, walked Andy out. They stood beside the door and talked in low
voices while Maria gently wiped Sean’s face with a cool rag.
“Where?”
“The Den.”
“That’s a clean place, one of the cleanest ones around. What happened?”
Andy rubbed his hand over his face. “Sean happened.”
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“You were his safety?” Andy just nodded. “Then how could this go so far?”
“He ditched me,” Andy said. “Things happened, things were done, and
everything was taken care of, but Guerin...it was a rip. The scene was staged by
Sean. He was angling for the deep sleep, and he was hallucinating that the
whiphand was Cassie.”
Andy paused to see if Michael was getting his meaning. “How long did he hold
out?” Michael asked quietly.
“Forty-five minutes, too long. She used a heavy weighted bullwhip.” Michael
swore under his breath worried about what Maria was looking at in the other room.
“Something has to be done, and I’m telling you.”
Michael just nodded. Yes, something would be done. Andy felt relieved to
leave Sean with Michael. Guerin was a strange and unusual man. The place he lived
in was upscale, but Andy would have sworn the man lived out of a dumpster most
of the time until a year ago.
“Andy, thanks. Sean will be here for a few days, so if you want to check up on
him just call this number.” Michael wrote down the phone number for the loft.
“Thanks.” Andy pulled a card from his front pocket. “This is a list of specialists.
The last name is a shrink here in Roswell that comes recommended. I don’t know if
it’ll help, but at this point, it can’t hurt.” Andy turned to leave, but couldn’t yet.
“Guerin, he was seeing Cassie the whole time. He was fighting a demon.”
Michael closed the door, and leaned against it closing his eyes. Looking at the
room, he went to the phone and made the call.
“Hello?” Michael swore under his breath. It was Amy that answered the phone.
“Hi, Amy. It’s Michael. Can I talk to...”
“Michael! I’ve been waiting for your phone call all day. Is Maria feeling better,
or still sick? I was thinking the taffeta is probably too stiff and hot. How about an
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Italian lace, something beautiful and elegant. Valentino has a fascinating line of
mixed Italian silks with lace, and Maria would look so beautiful that I would weep. I
know you aren’t excited about a new tux, but I really think the men in full tails
would look so nice since I’m arriving in a drawn carriage. Not too Cinderella is it, for
someone my age? Jim thinks I would look lovely, but he’s such a sweet man, and...”
“Amy, I’m sorry, it’s just I need to talk to Cap, and its important. Could I...”
“Oh, of course, honey.” Michael could hear Amy calling to Jim. And patiently
waiting.
“Michael?” Hearing Jim’s voice was a blessing.
“Cap, sorry to call at home. I just want to let you know that Sean needs a few
days of downtime.”
“Sean? What happened?” Michael could hear Amy’s voice in the background
asking the same question.
“Nothing much. He got into a boxing match with a friend, and took a few to
the head, and some cuts and abrasions. He has a slight fever and the doctor put
him on pain killers and antibiotics. I think he needs downtime to heal.”
Jim was quiet for a few moments. His voice was low and calm. “Is he all
right?”
“Yeah, I’ll see he makes it to a special doctor.” Michael knew that Jim knew
from his tone. Officially, it was best for them to stay clear of the real situation.
“How close did he come?” Michael could almost hear the ‘this time’ in the
question.
“Too close for comfort.” Jim just swore.
“You need some help, son?” Michael had been surprised at how easily he had
assimilated into the Valenti-DeLuca clan, and after a year it still held him in awe.

195

“No, I’ll take care of it. I might be a little late on Monday, but otherwise it
should be taken care of.”
“He’s off until Wednesday. If he needs more, call me.”
“Right, Cap.” Michael went to hang up the phone and as he did, he could hear
Amy’s voice in the background asking Jim to ask him about the Palisades
restaurant. Michael quickly hung up the phone.
Standing at the doorway, he watched Maria croon to Sean in a soft foreign
voice. He forgot sometimes that they were Italian, Old World Italian. Sean was
responding to her, and Michael watched as she fed Sean the medicine.
“Appena poco un più, dovete bere più.” Her hand was under his neck helping
to hold him up as he drank slowly from the water. “Dio dell' OH, ritenete caldi. Iete
bruciandosi in su.”
Michael was fascinated with the soft singsong quality to her voice as she
smoothed her cousin’s brow. Looking up at him, Michael could see the concern on
her face and in her voice. “Michael, oh God, he’s hot. So hot.”
“Let me see.” Michael moved back into the room and felt Sean’s head. She was
right. “What did you give him?” Maria handed him the prescription bottles and
watched as he read them. “I’ll be right back.”
Maria watched over Sean as Michael left the room and hurried upstairs.
“Shush, è giusto. Michael sarà indietro e sarete migliori. L' OH, dio, bambino che
cosa voi ha fatto?”
Sean was half asleep listening to the voice, and feeling the hand. “Mamma,
mamma, non sono morto.” Maria made a clicking, smoothing noise in her throat as
she tried to calm Sean. He grabbed at her hand. “Sono spiacente, così spiacente.
Li ho mancati.”
“Sean, no, shush, it’s okay…”
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Michael came back to the bed. “Lets give him these. They’ll help his bring his
fever down.” Maria nodded and took the tablets, and helped Michael feed them to
Sean with water.
“Should we take him to the emergency room? God, Michael, he feels so hot.”
“Let's just give him these, and check his temperature later. If they don’t help,
we’ll take him in. The fever is probably a response to the pain. His painkillers aren't
holding. We’ll wait, okay?”
Maria nodded. Sean was settling to sleep, his voice muttering over and over.
“Perdonarlo. Il dio, lo perdona.”
Michael watched Sean, and picking Maria up, he settled in a chair beside the
bed with her sitting on his lap and leaning back on his chest. “What’s he saying?”
“That he’s sorry, so sorry.” Maria rubbed her head in Michael’s chest and
watched her cousin, a slow tear running down her face. “He thinks I’m his mother.”
Michael nodded until a thought occurred to him. “His mother? She’s not dead
or anything?” Maria just shook her head no, to which Michael was relieved. At least
he wasn’t seeing the dead. That might mean a trip to the doctor immediately.
“No, Sean is.” Maria watched her cousin feeling him and his pain. “He has been
for a long time.”
“How long, Maria? You knew?” She knew about Sean and his thing for pain?
“Hard to miss, and since he left home about ten years ago. The pain stuff, it
was never this bad, just something he picked up with other things. I think it started
as fun and made him feel good, but now...I don’t know.”
Michael could feel her distress. “It’s okay. We’ll fix it.”
“Some things can’t be fixed, Michael. Not by us. Sean needs to fix this himself,
and I think he’s been hiding for so long from what bothers him that all he feels now
is the pain.”
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“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”
Sean woke a few hours later as his fever broke. He was feeling the cuts on his
back the worst, especially where the stitches pulled when he moved. Trying to find
a comfortable position, he turned to look at Michael and Maria sleeping in a chair
next to the bed. Michael, feeling eyes watching him, woke so see Sean’s regard.
“What time is it?” Michael looked at his watch.
“Too early to be awake, about midnight. You should rest some more.” Michael
moved slowly so not to wake Maria, and reached for some more medication.
Handing the pills to Sean, he filled a glass of water and handed it over as well. “Do
you want something to eat?”
“No.” Sean looked at Michael. “You don’t have to stay here and take care of
me. I’m fine.”
“I don’t do it for you. I do it for her, and so yes I do. I promised her that you
would be better, and so you will.”
Sean laughed. “Even I heard that ‘or else’ in your voice. Always the hero,
Guerin.”
“And always the villain, Sean.” Michael leaned back and held Maria against
him. “You went too far, and I won’t and can’t understand you in this. Just know you
went too far.”
“I know,” Sean said quietly as he went back to sleep.

~~~

He walked through the crowds, and melted into the background as the music
and sounds of the night crowd echoed around him. Waiting most of the evening, he

198

was finally rewarded with the voice. She was as lovely as he imagined, as he
remembered.
Last night after she sang, he made an effort to stand close to her for the rest
of the night. Unobtrusively being in her presence until she noticed him, at the same
time taking no notice and dismissing him as a non-threat. Before the night ended,
he bumped into her, but made it look like she bumped into him, spilling his drink on
him.
Flustered, she ran to the bar, got a bar rag and returned to hand it to him,
apologizing the entire time. Rubbing down his clothes, he assured her that he was
fine, that it wasn’t a big deal. The girl returned to the bar to get him a refill of his
drink that she spilled. Her voice was lovely and pure, and her skin flawless, with the
health and color of youth. She was really quite lovely.
When she returned he told her that he heard her sing, that she was very
talented. He watched as her eyes became weary and reserved as if he was trying to
put one over on her. So he told her that he wished his wife could have heard her,
that perhaps some day she would make a CD and then she could. The girl asked if
his wife wasn’t with him, and he sighed a big no. Pointing at a random person in the
crowd, he explained that a friend of theirs was going through a real bad time, so he
was going out with him, but his wife couldn’t come.
The girl was intrigued enough to ask why. He just laughed unthreateningly and
said that his wife was pregnant, expecting their third child and all the smoke and
noise wasn’t good for her. The girl nodded and said she understood. He said the
nicest thing was hearing her sing, that it made it worth the torture of the place that
wasn’t really his scene, at least not for the last few years since he married. Then he
asked her if he was dreaming it, but was every person in the room really on the
make. The girl laughed and they talked, and looking at his watch he told her that
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she looked awfully young and to take care because there were lots of jerks out
there cruising. She just laughed again and said she was protected. He excused
himself for the night and said that if he got put upon again the next night he hoped
that at the very least he’d get to hear her sing again.
That was last night, and tonight he set himself up in a private booth that could
be seen from the stages. Making himself conspicuous, but not appearing so, he
waited for her to sing. Before that he sat, not paying attention to anyone, but
appeared to be listening on a cell phone to someone. But when she sang, he turned
his total attention to her and then talked on the phone, and then put it down on the
table holding it open, as if someone on the other end was listening to her sing.
After she finished her set, he looked at his watch and timed how long it would take
her to come talk to him.
“Hi?” He looked up and smiled. Discreetly grabbing his glass and moving it
away from him in a move that appeared nonchalant, but was done to make it
obvious to her. She nodded a raised brow at his movement, and he smiled slightly
embarrassed. “I promised my wife I wouldn’t wear my drink home on me again.”
She laughed that deep rich sound, and sat in the booth across from him. “Nice
of you to obey the wife.”
“Always. I figure she puts up with so much with me, that it’s the least I can
do.” The phone rang on cue. Making a move of asking her forgiveness for the
interruption, he answered the phone. “Hi, honey. No, no I lost him, but he’s in the
crowd. Are you sure? Oh please God, I hope so. No, I made a friend. Yes, the young
singer I let you listen to, she is promising not to redecorate my clothes with my
Tom Collins. I will, absolutely. Hmm, let me see,” he looked at the girl searchingly
and then spoke in the phone again, “nineteen?” The girl shook her head no,
amused. “Younger?” She nodded. “I would say younger than nineteen, and
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drinking...” Looking at her drink, he hazarded a guess, “A cola.” She beamed at
him. He talked for a few more minutes and after telling his wife he loved her and
hoped to get out of there before bartime, hung up.
“Your wife calls you all the time while you’re hitting the bars.”
He laughed. “Normally, no. Mostly she comes with me, but in her delicate
condition, I begged her to take pity on me and at least keep me company over the
phone.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet. So what was it you were hoping she was sure of?”
His faced looked confused as he recalled the conversation, and then it cleared.
“Oh, my wife calls this the ‘I don’t need you to have fun, and I’m still attractive to
other people stage’ of the big breakup. She was just reassuring me that soon this
stage would be over, and the ‘self pity, now I have to date’ stage would begin,
which usually involves quieter bars and crying into beers. A light at the end of this
tunnel of loud music and sweating bodies.”
She laughed. “Well since I doused you last night, and am sharing a booth with
you tonight, I should introduce myself. I’m Krystal.”
He held out his hand and took hers in a friendly non-threatening shake.
“Kevin, but actually,” he leaned in as to tell her a secret. “It’s really Ernest. Kevin is
my second name, but I just couldn’t abide...Ernest. It sounds so, so...”
“Trustworthy?”
He laughed. “It’s a wonder I ever got married. I remember seeing ‘The
Importance of Being Earnest’ when I was younger and knew my name doomed me,
so I promptly switched to my middle name in self preservation.”
She laughed. “I love that play! Oscar Wilde is my favorite.”

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“Mine, too! My wife adored ‘The Ideal Husband’. Personally I think all the cases
of mistaken identity are where the hoot is.” She laughed and they sat sipping on
their drinks talking literature and plays and about her music.
The first rule of engagement of the prey is to always appear unassuming, and
harmless. Let the hunted come to you, so at no time the instinctual feelings of
being hunted engage and alert them. Tomorrow might be the night.

~~~

Alex looked up from his paper work at the bar when she sat down on a
barstool. Frowning, he could hear the after closing party still going strong in the
back room. Looking at the beautiful girl, he smiled.
“You tired, Squeak?”
She grimaced. “I can’t believe you still call me that after all these years. Come
on Alex, say it...Krystal.”
“Krystal.”
She smiled at him. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
He reached over and tweaked her nose playfully. “Sorry, Squeak-a-Muffin,
you’ll always be ‘Squeak’ to me.” She laughed, delighted at her older cousin’s
childhood name for her. “You want another coke?”
“No! I'm coked out.” She thought about it for a second taking in Alex’s
sarcastic smile. “Wow, that sounded just wrong.”
“How about a bottled water or coffee?”
“Water.” Krystal reached over and looked at what he was doing. “I thought you
hated the paperwork side of running Club Hell.”

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“I do, but even Jimmy has to go on vacation some times. This business
doesn’t close. I’m hating myself so much right now, that I think I’ll give him a raise
when he returns.” Alex leaned on the bar putting a bottle of water in front of her.
“You don’t think he does this on purpose just to get me to appreciate him?”
“I would.” Krystal took a drink, and then started peeling off the label. “So...”
“So?” Alex knew what she wanted to know, but played it out.
“How am I working out? The singing?”
“A few complaints...” He laughed at her look of outrage. “That they had to
listen to me instead of you.” Krystal smiled at the compliment. “So I guess you can
continue to sing a set a night, as long as you follow the rules, and don’t make me
regret letting you sing in my club.”
“I promise. I’ve been real good. No wandering off with strangers, no underage
drinking, and always check in with everyone even when I’m using the head.” Taking
a drink, she nodded. “Don’t worry, Alex. After taking six months of hard work on
my side to convince you and my parents that I would be safe here, I’m not going to
mess this up. This has been the greatest time of my young life.” Krystal moved in,
leaning an arm on the bar. “If you could find your way to contact some of those
‘special’ people you know to come listen to me, I could be on my way to becoming
the next Britney Spears.”
“No way. More like Alanis.” Alex frowned at his cousin. “Don’t be in such a
hurry, Squeak. Life is for the young, but there’s so much out there, so much time to
become everything. Take it slower and enjoy the time you’ve got while you’re
young. It’ll never come again, and it will go faster than you realize.”
“Heard that before from...” Krystal smiled, “oh yeah, you! Chill big, big, bad
cousin, I’m living in the moment, but I’m loving every minute of it. Too bad you’re
not.”
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Alex lit a smoke, and popped her hand when she reached to take a drag.
“What you mean?”
“Well, I remember a time when my cousin was the biggest horndog around
with his dirty hands up some skirt, up against the wall with little to no regard of
who was watching. I’ve been singing same nights with you for over two weeks, and
no one. Nada. And...” She held up her hand to stop him from interrupting. “Not a
permanent babe in sight. You start pitching for the other side?”
“No. I’m not gay if that’s what you’re asking. Though there was this pretty guy
who had the mouth of an...”
“Ewww, stop it, just stop. Too much info, cousin, and don’t think I don’t know
you’re trying to shine me on. But Pete in the band said you’ve been off your oats for
almost a year. What’s with that? Lovesick?”
“No.” Alex avoided her eyes. “Lifestyle sick. All the fucking and partying gets
to be too boring after a while when it just become something you do. I’m trying to
give myself something more, something righteous.”
“I understand, but geez, a celibate? Extreme much?”
Alex reached out and tweaked his cousin’s long red hair. “Just because I’m not
stooping some Betty in public, and hard up against a wall doesn’t mean I’m not
getting off. I just want something solid in my life, some quiet real time. I’m almost
thirty, and sooner or later I knew I was gonna have to grow up, so I’m just
assessing the situation.”
“Does that mean you’re hoping to find true love here?”
Alex just shook his head no. “Not here. Never here. I want something outside
of this place. It’s a good business, and I love the band. But I wasn’t planning on
dying a wasted, washed-out drug addict with a Courtney Love woman on my arm.
Some things are worth waiting and searching for. So take heart, Squeak, and don’t
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sell your heart short.” Reaching over the bar, he kissed his cousin quickly on the lips
and tweaked her nose again. “One heart, one life. It’s got to mean something.”
“You’re so gay!”
“’Fraid of that. Up. Let's blow this joint. Looks like I need to toss the trenders
out or they’d party all night.”
“You could leave them.” Krystal said as he hit the lights in the main bar and
they headed to the late night party in the back room.
“Yeah, right. And leave them to burn down my club? Nope, time for them to
take this to someone’s crib and light up the bathtub crank.”
“Such a cynic.”
“You’ve got no idea.”

205

Day 5: Sunday- 6:53 a.m.

It was early morning when Sean woke to find Michael and Maria still sleeping
in the chair together. They had stayed with him all night. Looking at the two of
them fast asleep, he was amazed at how young and unconcerned they slept. He
doubted his face took on that look, even in a deep rest.
”Michael?” Sean reached over in a groan and gave the man a shove. “It’s
almost seven. Take her upstairs and try to get a few more hours of sleep in
comfort.” Michael tried to shake the sleep off, and just nodded to Sean.
“Take your medicine.”
“Gotcha. Hey, Michael.” Sean waited for Michael to turn to him again from
where he stood in the doorway, holding a sleeping Maria. “Thanks.”
“No problem. But we’re far from through with this Sean.” Sean just shrugged
and sank back down into the covers, moaning from the pain. Like he didn’t know
that.

~~~

The knock on his door just caught him finishing shaving for the morning. Last
night was another long night of thinking about things that bothered him. Numerous
times he almost picked up the phone to call Michael or talk to Maria, but he
refrained. He knew that they wouldn’t be answering their calls, not on a weekend
which they both had off. Next weekend was their ‘on call’ weekend, and Maria
usually worked at the museum the same weekends they did.
“Tess?” Max stopped wiping the shaving cream off his face at the sight of his
ex-girlfriend on his doorstep. She looked, well she looked great.

206

“Hi. Max...sorry to just stop by without calling. I just...well I need to talk to
you.”
Max looked at her noticing how her hands were nervously twisting the
shoulder strap of her purse, and how uncomfortable she appeared.
“Sure, come in.” Max stood aside and let Tess pass. He really hadn’t seen her
much since she dumped him.
When they were together he barely seemed to notice her, but when she called
it quits suddenly everything in his body revolted, became angry and upset. It was
like owning something you never use, but one day somebody steals it, and you
obsessively brood over its loss. Their entire relationship was founded on this
annoying feeling of instinctively knowing each other, almost like if he could close his
eyes he could remember feeling her skin against him. But something was missing.
Like sparks.
Tess stood in the middle of his apartment looking confused as to what to do.
Stand or sit or just leave.
“Sit down, Tess. I’ll make some coffee.”
“Actually, if you have herbal tea, that would be better. I’m off caffeine right
now.”
“Herbal tea? I don’t think...”
“That’s okay. I’m not here to drink anyway.”
“Then why are you here? I thought we said everything, or you said everything
there was to say over two months ago.”
“Max,” Tess’s voice held some irritation in it. “Look, I know that it was a shock
and everything, and I’m sorry about that, really I am. You’re a great guy, and...”
“God, not the great guy speech again! Can we just cut to the chase and you
tell me what brings you to my doorstep on a Sunday morning?”
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“Okay, you’re right. There’s no easy way, so I’ll just say it, and...and then you
can react.” Max nodded. Yeah there was a plan. “Okay, here it goes. I’m pregnant,
and you’re the dad.”

~~~

“Are you sure he’s all right? Maybe we should wake him up and see...”
“Professor, I don’t think he’ll want to go out to eat brunch. Let’s just let him
sleep. He has no fever, and he looks fine.” Michael looked around for his belt. “Have
you seen my belt anywhere?”
“Which one? The thin black leather, or the tooled brown with the silver
buckle?”
“The black one. I swear I left it upstairs on the back of the lounger.”
Maria was snacking on a carrot stick. Starving. “I don’t think I used it to tie
you up lately or vice versa, so it should still be there.”
“Forget it.” Michael ignored her comment about tying each other up. He was
starving, and she wasn’t distracting him until he ate a few thousand calories of
empty fats. “Your choice, where are we going?” Michael purposely dressed down to
keep her from choosing somewhere upscale with crappy food. But Maria was
dressed similar to him in a tight mini, t-shirt, and a leather jacket.
“The Grease Pit.” Maria said on her way out the door, almost so quietly that he
didn’t hear her right.
“Whoa Nelly! Back up Professor. Did you say ‘The Grease Pit’? My ‘Grease
Pit’?”
“I’m not going to sit across from you if you sit and gloat.” Maria saw the
amusement in his eyes.
208

The Grease Pit was the most disgusting burger joint in town, and Michael was
singlehandedly supporting the place with his patronage. Numerous times she
lectured him on the evil fat replacing his blood from that place, but this morning
she woke up with a craving so strong, that she had to have a sweaty burger, extra
fixins, and deep fried pickle chips.
“One word, one sneer, and it’s the Starlight Room with itsy bitsy medallions of
meat covered in a snooty French reduced sauce, three pieces of over cooked
asparagus, and crap on your plate that’s suppose to be artistic.”
“I didn’t say a word.” Maria looked at him suspiciously. Michael just smirked
and put his arm around her shoulder to pull her near as he headed for the bike.
This was reason to celebrate. A Grease Pit triple burger with extra cheese was just
what he wanted.
They placed their order and were eating appetizers of fresh fried potato chips
smelling of vinegar. Maria was dipping them in ketchup while Michael doctored his
large cherry coke with Tabasco. Something was wrong when Maria didn’t make a
rude comment over his order of three double cheeseburgers with extra peppers,
two large orders of fries and an order of onion rings.
Michael almost took her to the clinic when she ordered an extra large double
chocolate malt extra thick, two large cheeseburgers with extra pickles wrapped to
go, even though they were eating them there, two orders of deep fried pickle chips,
an order of cheese tots, and she asked for a large plate of pickle spears.
“Why wrapped?”
“What?”
“Why did you want the burgers wrapped?” Michael swore as his cell phone
rang.

209

“So they could get all sweaty.” Maria kissed him quickly as he answered the
phone. “I love them sweaty.”
“Guerin.” Michael smiled at her. Maria liked lots of things sweaty.
“Michael, it’s Max.”
“Max, hey it’s not a good time...”
“I really need to talk to you.” Michael looked at Maria looking at him. At the
mention of Max’s name they both had the same thought. Tess and the baby.
“Sorry Max, we’re not home. Maria and I are out having lunch.”
“Where are you?”
“The Grease Pit. Max...” Michael just frowned at the phone when he heard the
disconnect click. “Max is joining us I guess.”
“Cool.” Maria was using a ketchup bottle to coat her pickle spears in a line of
ketchup before eating. “Think it’s about Tess?”
“What else, unless it’s Isabel?” Michael frowned as a group of men in the next
table were hassling the waitress and dumping garbage on the floor for her to pick
up. “What’s happening to me, Professor? Since I met you I’ve turned into some real
‘nice guy’, a literal mushy-headed cream puff.”
Michael suddenly stood up and growled at the group of men harassing the
waitress, flashing his badge hooked in his jeans waistband since he hadn't found his
belt, letting them see his shoulder holster with the gun under his jacket. Maria just
listened and watched as Michael barked at the group of men in a threatening and
menacing manner making them scramble to clean up their mess and flee for their
lives, but only after leaving a large tip.
Maria calmly popped another ketchup laced pickle in her mouth munching, and
said with her mouth full. “Yeah, it’s shocking. A real push over. A cream puff.” Maria

210

smiled at the rescued waitress. “Think I could get some more pickles? You don’t
have any olives do you?”
Michael sat back down and watched his mate devour the chips and pickles,
and sucking down large quantities of her malt. She was the most perfect woman he
had ever met. Just when he thought he had her figured out, she surprised him.
Every day was an adventure, whether it was her lecturing him on some obscure
tribe in the rainforest or trying to con him out of his dessert. Leaning back, he
watched her hands as they dipped the pickles, and she kept talking about Max and
Tess. Suddenly she stopped and looked at him, and without another thought they
both leaned in for a kiss.
That was how Max found them, oblivious to the world around them, each
busily mapping out the other's mouth, like it was something they had never done
before. Oh geez, get a damn room! Max stood at the table moving from one foot
the other trying to get their attention.
“Michael? Maria? Hellooo? Air, breathe, and maybe rejoin the world? There are
people here trying to eat.” Max gave up and slid into the booth across from them as
a waitress showed up with a huge order of food. “You’re going to have to
disengage, because there’s no way you can eat your food and kiss.”
“Food?” Maria said huskily as she pulled away from Michael. That word
registered. Max watched horrified as plate after plate laden down with food was
placed on the table, and both Maria and Michael started eating without a care,
Maria smiling her thanks at the waitress.
The waitress looked at Max with her order pad opened. “Can I get you
anything?”
“A cherry coke, extra cherry, cheeseburger and plate of fries.”

211

“That all?” Max looked over at his partner devouring a burger, and reaching for
a second one. Maria was eating deep fried pickle chips and making a humming
noise under her breath.
“Yeah, I’m on a diet.”
Max watched them, and after Michael finished his second burger, asked for a
refill on his cherry coke, and was decimating a plate of fries he finally decided to
talk to Max. “What’s up, Maxwell?”
Maria stopped eating and was looking Max over very closely. Taking another
bite of the burger, she munched away waiting for Max to tell them what they
already knew. When she finished her burger, she licked her fingertips, and the
action drew Michael’s attention. Suddenly he grabbed her hand and pulled one
finger after another into his mouth, sucking and then nibbling away the taste. Max
was astounded as he watched Maria’s eyes drop to Michael’s mouth, and before
they could...
“Hellooo! Focus! Partner, your best friend is needing advice.”
“Sorry, partner. What did you want?” Michael released Maria’s hand and turned
his attention to Max while picking up his last burger.
“Tess. Tess came to see me this morning.” Max pushed his fingers through his
hair. “She told me that...that...” Max paused as the waitress deposited his order and
drink in front of him and asked them if they needed anything else. They all just
shook their heads no, and Max quickly got back at it before the insatiable twins
took off again on another tour of each other's body.
“Tess is pregnant.” Max spit out in a hurry. “I’m the father.”
Michael frowned at Max calling himself a father, and felt that twinge again.
Maria leaned into him, and her hand went up his leg to rest high on his thigh.
“How do you feel about that, Max?” Maria asked quietly.
212

“Unsettled, freaked-out, scared, and just confused. I know that it has to be
mine if she’s three months pregnant, and Tess has no reason to lie, and once she
told me, I could feel it was true.”
“So what are you going to do?” Michael asked, letting his partner think about
it as he took a bite of his burger.
“What can I do?” Max said as he washed down a bite with some coke. “She’s
having it, so that means I’m going to be a father.” Max took another bite of his
burger. Actually, he was feeling better now that he was talking about it. “I guess its
time. I’m twenty-eight, so its not like I’m too young or don’t have a job. It’s just
that I always thought I’d have children after I was married and settled down. This
was unexpected, and we were using protection, so surprise is only the start of what
I’m feeling.”
“Did you ask her to marry you?” Michael asked quietly. Maria had told him of
Tess's reasons for breaking up with Max. It didn’t look like she would change her
mind because of a baby.
“Yeah, I suggested, but she refused.” Max sat back and sucked on his drink. “I
don’t know how this is going to work, but it’s my kid, and I won’t let her go through
it alone.”
“She’s not alone, Max. She has family, Kyle, and even me and Michael. I’m
sure Tess will be happy to include you in every step of the way, but if you’re just
offering because it’s the right thing to do...don’t.”
Max looked at Maria and nodded. He knew that. Tess was twenty six, and it
wasn’t like she was alone in the world. “It’s not just that, Maria. I can’t explain it,
but I feel something. I feel the baby, and I don’t want to be an absentee father. I
don’t know how it’ll work, but we’ll figure it out.”

213

Michael decided to change the subject. “So what the hell is going on with
Isabel?”

~~~

He returned later that night, later than usual. If she followed pattern, she
wouldn’t sing until the late set, around midnight. Sitting where he knew she could
notice him, he waited. The heavy sedative was ready. The music was loud and the
crowds were even noisier than usual, which seemed unusual for a Sunday. Watching
her weave her way through the crowd, she laughingly came to rest at the table.
“Hey Ernest, your friend still in stage one?”
“So it would appear. You were great tonight. Want to sit, or are they going to
get smart and let you finally do more than one set?”
“I wish.” Krystal sat down across from her new friend. Last night after they
talked about literature, plays, and everything under the sun, they turned their
interest to watching the crowd and make fun of the strange people.
“It’s crowded and hot in here tonight. I’m off the hooch. I think I’m going for a
cola, you want anything?”
Krystal smiled. “You’re right. It’s stifling hot tonight. A cola would be fine.”
They talked for a short while when he noticed her eyes getting big and heavy.
“Hey, Krystal. Hey! You okay?”
“I don’t know. I’m just so tired all the sudden.”
“Okay, hang in there. Is there a room where you can go lie down?”
“The back breakroom where the band goes between sets, but no one will be
there until after the next break.”

214

He got up, and helped her stand. “That’s okay. I’ll help you back there, and
you can rest while I go find your cousin. It’s got to be the heat.”
Krystal just nodded as he helped her to the back room. When they got there,
he was helping her to a sofa. “Where’s that door lead?”
Krystal was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. “It’s a side door to the
alley.”
“Good, lets open it. Maybe the fresh air will wake you up.” Krystal let him help
her to the door, and when it opened the rush of fresh air hit her. She breathed it in,
the cool freshness cutting in the lungs, something to remember, and it was the last
thought she ever had.

~~~

Alex walked through the club twice. It was finally after-hours and the last of
the scragglers were gone, except the usual after-bar-party hanger-ons. Krystal was
missing. She wasn’t in the club. Alex looked up at Pete when he came through the
door, but he just shook his head no. Dammit, Krystal where are you? When he
found her, he was going to kill her for breaking the rules and scaring the living
daylights out of him.
“Pete round up the rest. Anyone that’s awake and able to look.” Alex sat at the
bar and searched through Krystal’s address book left in her bag in the back room.
Picking up the phone he started making calls.
Freddie looked at his friend and boss. “Alex, what can I do?”
Pray. Alex just lit a cigarette. “Could you take a few of the guys and hit the
streets and some of the illegal after-parties. See if you can find her?”

215

“Sure man, it’s done. We’ll call if we find her...when we find her.” Freddie went
to shake the tree of sleeping band members and others.
They never called, and Krystal never came home.

216

Day 6: Monday- 8:10 a.m.

Maria ignored them. Sneaking Mr. Boo some bacon while reading the morning
paper, it was easier on her stomach than to look at or even contemplate eating the
breakfast Sean was cooking. Sean was definitely on the mend, but he still looked
like crap.
He had gotten up early that morning, determined to leave and go to work.
Michael informed him that he was on a temporary leave, and the two had been
arguing ever since. Maria peeked around her paper and was nauseated just
watching Sean slice large slabs of bread, stacking them with fresh mozzarella and
deep-frying them after dipping them in an egg wash.
Maria moaned causing Michael to look at her sharply. Still arguing with Sean,
he went to Maria’s side, who just leaned into him. Neither of them was feeling that
great, and Sean was killing them with his peppy way of cooking of everything in
grease.
“Make him stop,” Maria begged from where her head against his chest. Michael
ran his hand up under Maria’s hair and was alarmed by the moisture he found
there. She was sweating and he could hear her gulping to keep control of her
stomach.
What the hell were with these DeLucas and their cooking everything bizarre?
First they sat through Sunday dinner with Amy, the Wedding Planner from Hell,
eating tray after tray of hors d’oeuvres Amy had made so they could help her
decide on the menu for the reception.
Michael didn’t mind tasting everything, but it was Maria’s green looks and
shaking her head almost subtly that stopped him. It was too late, he had already
eaten some of the sweetmeats, and it took him popping a sautéed chicken liver
217

wrapped in Italian cured ham prosciutto to start using the napkin method he
noticed Jim employing. When Amy asked him what he thought about the
appetizers, he told the truth. It was the least he could do after she forgave him the
loss of the Palisades restaurant and changed her mind on powdered baby blue for
his tux. He exalted over his fondness for those tasty Pigs in a Blanket, and Jim
piped up his love of cocktail weenies.
Maria just shook her head in horror at their clueless responses, as Amy
laughed, thinking they were joking. Michael stood behind the contention that pigs
rolled in blankets were a real treat, as Maria delicately ate grilled shrimp on a
skewer. He finally escaped with Maria after her near fit over the latest run of
bridesmaid dresses resembling wood imps and fairies from something out of
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. Maria refused to dress up like a
mustard seed, cobweb or anything else that made her look like an earth mother
nightmare, such as the goddess of empathy.
The evening did give him a chance to talk to his Captain about Sean. Between
the two of them, they decided on a strategy, and so far Sean was not taking it very
well. The fact that he was on standdown until Wednesday was harsh, but the
conditions of his return sent him into a cooking frenzy that, on top of the Amy
torture from the night before, was destined to toss both Michael and Maria’s
stomachs.
“I’m not going!”
“You’ll go, or turn in your badge, Sean. Your choice.”
“You can’t do that. This is my private life. It has nothing to do with being a
cop.”
Maria looked at the two men snarling at each other, face to face. Tough call,
but her money was on Michael. He held the cards, Sean’s job.
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“It does if you’re seeing Cassie in your head, if you’re stepping up for suicide
games, and if you choose to eat a bullet.” Michael refused to relent. “That’s a
commander’s call, and I’m calling it. You won’t be dying on my watch.”
Sean turned gray. “You said you had my back, brother.” Michael winced at the
sneer in the word ‘brother’.
“I do.” Michael said quietly. “But not like this. You know the code, Sean. For
family, loyalty and honor, it’s the code to protect. You’re not standing for anyone
Sean, you’re taking the easy way out.”
“Easy!” Sean grabbed Michael’s front. “This is easy to you?”
“As easy as it gets for those like us. I’ll walk with you, but my word and my
job is to protect, and that includes a dumb fuck too wasted to ask for it.” Michael
pushed Sean off him. “Get your shit. We’ve got an appointment.”
Sean looked at Maria, at the tears in her eyes and how silently she sat letting
Michael do the work. Her tears broke the stalemate. Kissing her and wiping those
tears away, he went to get his jacket.
Standing in the doorway with his back to Michael, “Maybe it is you who are
mistaken, brother. What if what I am is not the same as you? I might be something
you should let go.”
“She almost beat us once, Sean. I won't let her dead hand reach beyond the
grave to beat us again.” Michael said using the one real hold he had. The thought of
Cassie beating him, winning would always be more than Sean could stand.
Sean went into his room, shutting the door. Michael pulled Maria close and
kissed the top of her head while his hand cupped her face.
On the way to the appointment, Sean refused to talk, but once in the office he
couldn’t sit still. His bitching was reaching such a level that Michael actually took
the safety off his revolver and sat calmly thinking of how he could get out of trouble
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after shooting Sean. The only thing that stopped him was knowing Sean would
probably appreciate it, and doing anything Sean wanted stank too much of
rewarding him for his bitching.
“Sit down, and shut up, DeLuca. You’re scaring the real patients.”
Sean looked around at the room, and sat next to Michael bitching under his
breath, but still bitching.
“This won’t work, you know. I went to the mandatory session after we all were
taken down last year. It didn’t help.” Sean looked at the room with its nauseating
colors, nauseating smells, and office furniture designed to stick him in every stitch
and wound.
“I don't want you to see a shrink because of Cassie, Sean.” Michael flipped his
magazine checking out car classifieds. He really needed to replace his trashed
truck. Maria had graciously let him use the GTO today because of Sean, but he
needed real wheels. “I’ve got to trust that you’re a stubborn son of a bitch that will
refuse to let her win, and you’ll live in hell itself before you lay down for that bitch
again. No, I want you to see someone about your mother.”
Sean looked at Michael sharply as his name was called. Not looking back, Sean
entered the office. Michael took out his cell phone as he heard Sean talking before
the door shut.
“This is a waste of my time, so if you want me to talk it’ll take some work on
your part.”
“Sit down, Detective DeLuca. Don’t worry, I think I’d like to work you over, but
it looks like someone beat me to it. Good to know you can take a beating.” The door
slammed shut. The psychologist was the name on the card Andy had given Michael.
“Yeah, I was looking at your ad for the new two-ton truck. No the other model.
What color of green does that come in? No I want something dark and brilliant,
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alive. Yeah, I’ve got a special color in mind.” Michael listened for a moment. “How
large is that front seat? Bench? Is it deep? Could say...two adults sleep on it? Room
is always appreciated.”

~~~

Michael hadn't even made it to the coffee and donuts, before Max found him.
It was already after ten. Time went fast waiting for Sean, and then taking him
home, leaving the GTO and taking the bike. Shoving papers at him, Max reached
over and grabbed three donuts and pushed his partner towards the elevator.
“Coffee, grab some coffee dammit!” Michael shoved an entire donut into his
mouth in one bite. “Think we’ve got time to hit a drive-thru?”
“We identified our Jane Doe. Kyle is waiting for family members to identify the
body, but the match is already made. I’ve got a list of friends and acquaintances.”
“When did the stuff come through?”
“Early this morning. Her roommate finally filed a Missings. The picture was
dead-on, and Simon is accessing her dental now.”
Michael downed another donut. Coffee, he needed coffee. Or milk. Michael
cringed at that thought. Milk? What the hell was wrong with him? Cow secretions...
“Okay, we roll, but you’ve got to find me some coffee.”
“Hang on. We’re heading to the University. You can get a cup of the Professor’s
industrial waste, core-scrubber coffee. That should burn a hole through your gut.”
“She better not be drinking that shit. Dammit, just hit the first drive-thru,
preferably someplace with more donuts, or a damn egg McMuffin.”
They went in search of a graduate student affiliated with the English and
Language Departments. He was a cross-major specializing in linguistics and
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language origins. Justin Bartley. It would appear that their Jane Doe was actually a
Janet Seers.
“Justin Bartley?” Max asked in a room full of graduate students sitting at
tables and talking. The room suddenly went quiet looking at the two cops,
especially the larger more menacing one eyeing the coffee pot in the corner.
“I’m Justin.” A tall thin man in his mid-twenties stood up. He looked something
like a poet with his shaggy hair, goatee, and long sweater covering a t-shirt and
baggy jeans. Michael looked down and took in the worn loafers, and just turned
away. Whatever appealed to the masses.
“I’m Detective Evans, and this is my partner, Detective Guerin. We’re
responding to your missing person’s report filed this morning.”
“Yeah, damn that was fast! I filed it on my way into school this morning. Janet
was missing for a few days, so this weekend the house had a meeting, and I pulled
the short straw to file.” Michael hitched his hip to the side of a table within reaching
distance of the coffee pot.
“What do you mean you had a house meeting?” Michael asked confused.
“Well a few of us graduate students share a large house, about eight of us.
Rent is divided by bedroom, so it keeps our expenses down.” Max indicated for the
man to sit down at a table near Michael, and he took a seat as well. A bell rang,
and suddenly many of the students in the lounge took off. “I’ve got a class.” Justin
started to rise. Michael pushed him back down.
“Miss it.” The man looked at Michael, and nodded. “So Janet lived in the
house?”
“Yeah, she was slightly older than the rest of us, about twenty-seven. She had
a jones for language, actually just for correct usage of the English language.”

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“The report says the last time anyone saw her was last Tuesday. That was
seven days ago. Why so long to report her missing?”
“Well she really didn’t socialize much with the rest of us, actually most of us
avoided her. She was nice enough, if you didn’t have to talk to her.” Justin refilled
his cup of coffee and dumped in half a cup of sugar. “So when she went missing, at
first we assumed she finally got lucky, then that she might have gone to visit her
parents or something. But on Friday, she missed a class she student-teaches. That
wouldn’t happen. Not ever. Janet was a royal, anal, persnickety pain in the ass with
the social graces of a riverbed slug, but she was too uptight to leave a class
hanging.”
“You mean she would’ve made arrangements if she couldn’t be there for the
class.” Max said frowning as his partner took more coffee. Damn, he was going to
have a wired partner.
“Right. She would have informed someone of a family emergency or whatever.
So by Friday we were concerned, and finally admitted that no one had seen her
since Tuesday.”
“You could have filed this last weekend. Why wait?” Max discreetly moved the
coffee pot away from Michael.
Justin shrugged. “House meetings are on Sunday afternoon with Sunday
dinner. It’s the only time we all really eat together, and then we discuss problems in
the house, make rules, and take care of business like utilities and stuff.”
“Stuff. So Janet was stuff?” Michael asked with a coldness in his voice. The
woman on the slab deserved a friendly regard, someone to care.
“Look, she wasn’t bad or evil. Her personality clashed with others, that was
the long and short of it. Janet had a high regard for her own opinion. We called it
‘the world according to Janet’. If she saw things a certain way, even when she was
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wrong and knew it, she would fight for her opinion regardless. It was like playing a
game of Trivial Pursuit with a person who memorized all the answers, and then read
the questions to you all puffed up, saying things like ‘Oh, don’t worry, this one is an
easy one, and only an idiot would miss it’. She was insecure enough to demand
people follow rules to the T, live up to her standards whether they knew them or
not, and was miserable enough to obsess over it when they didn’t. The only way
she felt good was when she could parade her own high opinion, and pull down
everything around her in a critical way to keep her own esteem high.”
“So basically no one cared that she was gone?” Max asked.
“No. Basically, it was that no one went out of their way to socialize with her,
because her opinion usually was put out there as something hard, vicious and
mean, and it sucked the life out of everyone privy to it. So we avoided her, thereby
avoiding confrontation, and that’s why it took us a little time to realize that it wasn’t
so hard to avoid her, because she wasn’t there.”
Michael sipped on the coffee that tasted like it was on the same grounds ran
through a few times. “In a nutshell, what was it about Janet that made her stand
out?”
“Perfection. Her quest for perfection.” Michael sat up straighter and paid more
attention. “She was always correcting people, critically reviewing everything about
them whether they wanted her to or not. Nothing was right or correct unless it
passed her own ‘Janet view’, and if not she bitched obsessively, pointing out all
aspects that she felt wasn’t up to her standards. She was one of those miserable
people who lived in the North with precise monotone speech, who would visit the
South and hear a woman say the word 'wash’ pronounced ‘warsh', and even though
she fully understood what the woman meant, she had to correct because it wasn’t
good English. She would find fault in a gift given at some personal expense to the
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person doing the giving. She’d nit-pick over every detail until the person giving
wished they hadn’t bothered. Ever have an old Aunt Sally who knitted you a
sweater, and it looked terrible? Well most people would smile, say thank you, and
put it away. Not Janet. She would crawl all over the work, not caring how Aunt Sally
felt about it, and would tell anyone and everyone within hearing distance how
terribly it was, or how worthless, or how untalented Aunt Sally was until the only
ones standing around her were those who showed the same miserable disposition.”
“So you’re saying that her demand for perfection was a flaw.” Max frowned as
Michael searched in his now-empty coffee cup and was slowly moving towards the
pot again.
“No, I’m saying it was a double standard. It’s easy to be critical of everyone
and everything when you have nothing out there and you aren't risking your own
pride and work to extreme scrutiny. Nothing ventured is nothing gained. She
practiced pretending to be perfect, but her very nature belied that.” Justin felt bad.
“Really she wasn’t that bad, it’s just hard to be around a person who comes to eat
at your table, tastes your food, and then tells you that it sucks, but don’t worry,
you’ll get better if you take cooking lessons. Miserable, miserable person. Miserable
to be around, and miserable to live with, so most of us avoided her. That flaw in her
personality was why none of us missed her when she was gone.”
“So why did you let her live with you?”
“Well when we started she seemed so nice, as do most people when you meet
them. On the surface they project a certain personality, a façade that often hides
their true nature. It took a little while for those personality traits to hit us in the
face, but at the end of this year, if she didn’t graduate and move on, the house was
voting her out.”

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“Well that should no longer be a concern.” Michael said. “We need you to come
with us to the station and identify a body.”
“A body?” Justin rubbed his face. “Oh, God! Janet? ”
“Yes. It would appear someone else found her personality traits a tad bit
flawed as well.” Michael ignored Max’s sharp look his way. “When was the last time
and place anyone saw her? Exactly. If any of you could try to remember the last
time you were trying to avoid her, it would help our investigation.”
“Tuesday.” Justin said quietly. “It was Tuesday. Our entire house went out to
celebrate the completion of first block testing and grading. It was the end of a long
week of all-nighters and living on coffee and sugar. The weekend was worse
because all grading had to be done by no later than end of school day on Monday,
and the weekend was when most of us spent all our time trying to catch up.
Monday night was 'Silent night' as the house crashed to catch up on needed sleep,
and Tuesday was our 'Let's celebrate until the next grading period in six weeks'.”
“Janet was with the group of you?”
“Yeah. Most of us hit the dance floor, but Jen was caught at the table with
Janet listening to her rip apart her students and their essays. Finally Jen went to
get a drink and ditched her. When we came back to the table she was gone, so we
assumed she was dancing or met someone to continue bitching to. She still hadn’t
surfaced by bartime at two a.m. so we walked home and we made jokes about how
she must have met a creepy English professor type who was up to her standards.
Someone who would lecture about comma splices and get her all hot, while going
down on her in missionary, reciting all the proper pronouns and wearing black nylon
socks.” Justin looked at them. “It was funny to us at the time.”

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“I’m sure.” Michael felt bad. Janet sounded like a person he wouldn’t have
enjoyed knowing either, and with his language it was a given that he would’ve
found a way to ticket her just in spite. “Where did you lose her exactly?”
“Club Hell.”

~~~

By the time Michael and Max made it back to the station, they had interviewed
several people who had been acquainted with Janet Seers. The picture was the
same with almost everyone, including her Professors and advisors. She was a nice
woman, but wasn't really very close to anyone, and was considered too critical for
the average human, meaning pretty much the rest of the population. The word that
kept hitting them was the word ‘perfection’. It was used in not only describing
Janet’s demeanor, but what she demanded of others.
“That was the most miserable time of my life. There has to be someone that
liked that girl outside of the few that she found no real fault with.” Max threw
himself down in his chair, depressed. “Add the fact that I have court in an hour, my
day is just sucking up the ass.”
“Court? Oh, the Delaney case? That’s what you get, partner, getting in on a
bust without me. I think I’ll finish up these reports, and look at Kyle’s. His day had
to be miserable too, helping people identify the body, and collecting all the lab
reports. Then I’m off early to check on my car part...” Michael stopped talking as a
man came to stand at his and Max’s desk.
Alex Whitman. The owner of Club Hell, and someone they needed to talk to
eventually. Looked like that time was now.

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“Whitman, I thought you had an allergy to Cop Central.” Max asked, and
Michael would’ve made a comment as well if it weren’t for stone coldness of Alex’s
eyes.
“Normally I do. I just spent the morning downstairs getting the runaround.”
Alex looked at Michael specifically. “I think some people owe me.” Alex added Max
in his stare. “I need help, and I can’t wait for some forty-eight hours to get it.”
“What is it, Alex?” Michael felt his stomach flip. If Whitman was looking from
help from them, it couldn’t be good.
“My cousin went missing out of my club last night. She was only seventeen,
and I looked everywhere for her.” Max and Michael looked at each other. Another
girl missing from Club Hell. There might have been more, but the body of Janet
Seers added her missing status on an active file. “You’ve got to help me. The two of
you owe me from last year, and I’m calling in my marker. My cousin, she’s young, a
good kid who just wanted to sing at my club.” Alex ran a shaking hand over his
neck. “I promised my family she'd be safe.”
Michael pushed a chair out for Alex as Max went to get the man a cup of
coffee. “Sit down, Whitman. I’ll take the report.” Michael didn’t just do it because of
Janet Seers, but because Whitman was right. He and Max owed Alex for helping
Isabel, and helping them get to Maria and Liz before they were too late. “When was
the last time anyone saw her, exactly?”
Max was gone to make his court date, and Whitman finally left after they
searched for any Jane Doe resembling his cousin in both the hospitals and the
morgue. Nothing so far, but Michael kept her file on top. Looking at the picture Alex
gave them, the girl was young and beautiful. Her face was shining, full of life and
humor. Closing the report folder he hoped that they could find the girl alive and

228

well, not only for Whitman’s sake, but because there was too much life in the girl to
be wasted at such an age.
“Guerin.” Michael barked into his phone.
“Always pleasant, Michael.” Michael smiled at the phone.
“Walter. What’s the news?”
Walter just laughed at the change in voice. “The part arrived, and it’s good.
Not new, but it has almost no wear, and I checked the part serials, and they're an
authentic match. The money was transferred, so count yourself very, very poor.”
“Yeah, I’m feeling it in my ass. I took time off today for an early afternoon.
I’m done in about an hour, so keep it safe and I’ll swing by on my way.”
“Done. Does the Professor coming too?” Michael looked at his watch.
“Maria’s off in about fifteen minutes. I’ll give her a call and let her know it’s in.
We got the rest done, so we just have to pop this puppy in, put the engine into the
block, and we can send it out to paint.”
“Excellent. Michael, I know it’s hard to see the project end, but just float
through that feeling buddy, because the minute you take her out it will all be worth
it.”
“From the Angel’s mouth to you Walter, I know it. See you in a couple of
hours.” Michael hung up the phone, and wondered what Kyle was doing that
evening and if he would like to join him and Sean to help lower the engine back into
the block. Max was coming over after he got home from court, but Michael wasn’t
sure Max was going to get away from the DA’s grilling and coaching for the next
day.
“Michael, here’re the reports you wanted. I also thought you might want to
see this too.” Gary, the records file clerk quickly made himself scarce. Michael
scanned the reports and tossed them on his desk. Looking at the other thing Gary
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gave him, Michael frowned and read it twice. What the hell? Sitting down in his seat
he reread it again, and again. Thinking for a moment, a plan formed in his mind.
Yeah, he knew just the right cop to handle this situation. Picking up the phone, he
set the wheels in motion.

~~~

Maria stopped twice to doublecheck the instructions. No mistake, but dammit,
a dirt road outside of Roswell? She was supposed to meet Michael, but this had to
be wrong. Finally coming to a blacktop, she took a right as instructed and traveled
down the road. Pushing in her newest favorite CD, Maria maintained her usual
speeds. It was after four in the afternoon, and Michael had no doubt found another
out of the way place that served his favorite meal outside of cheeseburgers and
donuts-Indian tacos. Maria wasn’t opposed; she could handle eating some fried
bread. It was strange that Michael wanted to detour away from their plans to work
on the car, but it was early afternoon, so there was still time for that.
It took awhile before she looked in her rearview mirror and noticed a
motorcycle cop with his lights flashing. Quickly looking down at the speedometer,
she swore under her breath. Oh, this was not good. As she pulled over, put the car
in park and turned off the engine, Maria quickly grabbed her license, registration,
and insurance form. She was becoming a pro at being pulled over.
Looking in the rearview mirror as she saw the officer dismount his motorbike,
Maria checked her makeup and put on her best smile of contrition. The tapping on
her window with the officer’s nightstick actually startled her. Rolling down the
window quickly, she tried to calm her beating heart.
“Officer...”
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“License, registration, and insurance, ma’am.” His voice was serious and cold
brooking no discussion or overtures. Maria started to talk and make gestures with
her hands. “Please keep you hands on the steering wheel at all times.”
Maria looked outside her window, but all she could see was this shirt front, and
the firm stance in tight black leather pants. That uniform was fitting real nice like,
all snuggly-wuggly. Michael needed one of those. Maria watched as he quickly read
her papers, tapping his stick against the outside of his leg. Maria couldn’t stop
staring at the fascinating sight of his utility belt and handcuffs. The whole uniform
really went together nicely.
“Officer, I’m so sorry. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention to my speed, and...”
“Remain here.” He walked off leaving her in mid-sentence and mounted his
bike calling in her license and tags to dispatch. Oh no! This wasn’t good. Maria tried
to remember what was on her record.
The officer came back. “Ma’am, could you step out of the vehicle?”
Maria reluctantly complied. “I know I’ve got a few speeding tickets on my
record. I meant to take care of those.”
“You have three, ma’am. In this state that makes you a habitual offender. This
speeding ticket won’t be seen very favorably when you stand in front of the judge.”
“The judge? Can’t I just pay the tickets?” Maria tried to keep the whining out
of her voice.
“That is for the courts to decide ma’am, but I’m afraid I’m gonna have to run
you in.”
Maria looked up at his glasses, mirrored ones hiding his eyes, and his jaw was
held firm and unyielding. This was a nightmare.
“Please, I’m so sorry, but my boyfriend wouldn’t be too understanding if I
were taken into custody and booked. Isn’t there some way we could avoid this?
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Anything?” Maria tried to be her most appealing hoping her pleading would break
his cold austere disposition.
“What are you suggesting, ma’am?” His jaw muscle flexed, otherwise there
was no sign of emotion.
Maria was unsure what to say, or how to say it. Either way she was likely to
get herself in trouble, real trouble. Then again, Michael was going to hit the roof
over the speeding tickets. He hated it when she broke the law, or used her
connections to make things go away.
“Officer, you don’t know how desperate I am. I would do anything, pay
anything to avoid this ticket. Maybe you could help me out, turn a blind-eye just
this once.” Maria gave a small hopeful smile. She reached out and touched his
chest. Oh, nice and firm! “Please?”
“Are you offering me a bribe, ma’am?”
“No! No, of course not. That would be bad, very bad. No, I’m just saying I
would be grateful, very grateful.”
He pushed her hand off his chest where it was absentmindedly stroking the
lines of his tight shirt. “Grateful, how grateful? And please keep your hands to
yourself. Better yet, I think you should turn around and put your hands on the hood
of the car.”
Maria quickly complied. He didn’t look too happy with her. “It wasn’t a bribe,
not really.”
“Bribing a sworn officer of the law is a serious charge, ma’am. Much more
serious than a few speeding tickets. I’m sure that your boyfriend would find this
even more objectionable.”

232

“Sorry Officer, I’ve tried to reform myself, but I fear being bad and unlawful is
in my genes. I’m just trying to extricate myself from a potentially explosive
situation.”
The Officer moved in close behind Maria and talked low and directly in her ear.
Maria was shocked at how close he really was. “Are you saying your boyfriend will
punish you?”
“Well sort of, in his own way.” Maria looked down at the hood and tried to keep
her heart rate under control. God, he was good at menacing and terrorizing! An
asset to his uniform, and what a great uniform it was.
Maria felt the coldness of the stick running up the inside of her bare leg, as he
moved in even closer. “Does he spank your bare little bottom when you’re bad,
Maria? Do you want him to?” Maria could feel the buttons of his shirt against her
back. "Better check for concealed weapons." The Officer murmured from behind
her.
Melting on the top of her car, she wasn’t sure how to answer that. But the
Officer took that out of her hands. He wasn’t finished torturing her yet. “If you were
mine, I would be tempted, just for the pleasure of feeling you squirm on my lap.”
Maria was breathing hard, trying to keep her lungs full of air, and her eyes closed as
he continued to whisper in her ear. “How grateful would you be, Maria if I made
those speeding tickets disappear?”
“Very,” she said hoarsely.
Maria almost lost it when she felt the movement of his hands encased in
leather gloves moving up her legs under her skirt. “No underwear?” Maria almost
snorted, but held back. In this tight skirt, he had to be kidding. “You’re a very
naughty one, aren’t you Maria?” His large hands held her hips in a tight grip. Then
his tongue snaked out and lightly ran up the side of her neck.
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No, not what she had expected. He knew what he was doing, a full assault she
could have handled, an absolute lack of touching she could have also handled. But
this delicate brushing touch was maddening. She attempted to calm her breathing.
No use, his grip was too strong. Relax... relax... this is not happening, not in the
middle of the day, not on a County highway, and not in Roswell, New Mexico.
“Tell me how naughty you are.”
He slipped his tongue into her ear, and she groaned despite her resolve to not
make a sound. "Oh God," she hissed as his hands encased in leather moved up her
front to cover her breast in a firm hold rubbing them. His tongue continued to work
her ear, as his foot knocked her legs further apart and hardness of his erection
pushed up against her ass. So close, so close, going to come... and then he pulled
away.
“No!” Dammit, he won. “It’s not my fault. I swear. I come from unlawful
genes.” Maria moaned when she heard his zipper go down. This was one of her
fantasies, a variation of the interrogation room fantasy, but with a twist. She didn’t
know that she would melt and lose control, becoming all subservient. In her fantasy
she always had more fire and bravado, spitting in the Pig's eye. It was the damn
uniform’s fault. How could she possibility resist the coolness of the nightstick on her
inner thigh, or be prepared for the effect of having his leather gloved hands on her?
It already had her orgasmic from the getgo.
Maria leaned forward and rested her head on her arms across the hood of the
car, and his hands held her hips firmly and he flipped her skirt upward. The erotic
feel of his hot flesh moving between her thighs from behind made her clench her
fist and whisper a hot, ‘oh god!” as he penetrated her from behind. Maria felt her
orgasm at the first full push as he sheathed himself all the way to the hilt.

234

Michael reached down and kissed the side of her neck, holding still as her body
rode the wave. “Too much? Too intense?”
Maria just laughed where she lay. “Nothing with you is ever too much or too
intense, Detective. I like it that way.” Maria felt him pull away and made a sound of
protest. Michael quickly moved her to face him, and lifted her up to sit partially on
the hood of the car crowding her by standing between her legs. “I just didn’t know
that the uniform was gonna get me off, along with your pissy attitude.”
Michael smirked at that and let her pull him to her by his shirtfront. “Where
would the fun be in that, Maria?”
“I’m a sick individual, Officer Rod.” Maria said as her eyes tried to penetrate
the mirrors of his sunglasses. “I think you should investigate me, probe me to make
sure I’m not a danger to the public.”
Michael growled as Maria nibbled on his lips, and he moved himself back into
her, his eyes closing to slits as he watched her put back her head in a hissing moan.
Leaning forward he kissed and then sucked on her exposed throat moving up to
take her mouth in a full kiss. He was keeping the uniform. As he moved deeper and
harder into her, kissing her mouth with the same intensity he was pumping into her,
behind his eyes he could imagine her in front of him on her knees opening his
zipper with her teeth. Hell yeah, the uniform stays.
“Oh yes, yes, yes! Oh! Officer Rod!” Maria was holding tight to his shoulders as
he brought her closer and closer to another orgasm. “Michael, God please, more...”
Michael moved her back even harder on the hood and took his time really doing it
right. With her flat on her back, he hooked his arm under one of her legs and lifted
it up so he could move even more into the cradle of her legs and push even deeper
and harder into her. Michael’s other hand was trying to unbutton the front of her
blouse, but the leather gloves were too unwieldy. Maria grabbed his hand and put a
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gloved finger in her mouth and pulled it off his hand. He quickly unbuttoned the
blouse and moved her bra out of the way to take a firm bud in his hot mouth.
Moving his hand down, he slid it under her and lifted her ass so he could find a
firmer purchase for his thrusts. Maria was making encouraging sounds in her throat
as Michael worked her breasts nodding frantically. Whatever she wanted, she could
have. Maria gave in to the temptation to just lean back and lose herself in his
rhythm and the incredible heat of the body spread out over her own. Maria groaned
as Michael's next strong stroke hit her walls stretching her even more. It made her
feel like she was full of him, that he was her world. Her hands slid frantically across
his chest and up under his arms to hold onto his shoulders pulling him harder to her
helping to give his thrusts a purchase as she tried to brace herself.
Maria’s body convulsed violently as the head of Michael's cock found that
perfect angle to rub against her clit time and again and the penetration and angle
was hitting that special spot inside that made her eyes roll back and the world
explode in a flash of color, and she bit at the smooth skin on the inside of her
mouth as she climaxed. And climaxed again at Michael's next thrust, and again,
sobbing her pleasure as the heightened intensity of feeling him drove her wild.
Maria reached up and pulled off his mirrored glasses and helmet. She needed to see
her lover, not a stranger. She wanted to see herself in Michael’s eyes.
Michael let his head tilt back until he could feel the heavy weight of his now
released hair brushing his shoulder blades through his shirt. Moaning deep in the
back of his throat, he dug his fingers into Maria's hips and rode his mate's hot,
shuddering body right over the edge. Electricity crackled up and down his spine as
his body tightened and jerked forward, each involuntary thrust into the heat around
his cock sending tiny explosions shooting through him. Slowly, he fell forward to
rest on Maria.
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Michael laughed against her breasts when he heard her say in a shuttering
breath, “Oh Officer Rod! I love your hard nightstick.” She really did need a
spanking. Brat.
They rested, trying to regain strength in their limbs, or enough so they could
support their own weight and stand. “Michael?”
“Uh huh.” Michael needed a nap.
“I hope this wasn’t your way of trying to reform me of the errors of my ways
with getting speeding tickets, because if Officer Rod is gonna visit me to punish me
for being bad, then I am so staying bad, damn near e-vil.”
“Three tickets, Maria!”
“I was gonna pay them...eventually.”
Michael just made a disbelieving sound in his throat. Sure she was. More than
likely she was going to get someone to fix them for her, and pay them only as a last
resort.
“Michael, I was thinking...” Michael just nestled deeper into her breast and
listened. This had to be good. “What do you think about me being a judge and you
can be the bad, out of order cop who is taken to task in my private chambers. I
could hold you in contempt of the court and punish you?”
Michael looked up at her with a sparkle in his eyes. “I’m free for lunch
tomorrow.”

~~~

Sean rolled over in bed and looked at the clock. No way. He still had two hours
before Michael or Maria came home to bug the crap out of him. The ringing at the
door was relentless, and for a second he was afraid it would be his Aunt Amy.
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Getting up, he grabbed a shirt and went to get the door, tripping over the cat. Mr.
Booboo was unhappy with the rudeness of the act and swiped an unsheathed claw
at Sean’s ankle.
“Dammit, I said I was sorry!” Sean ripped open the door to a tall blond
woman. A gorgeous, tall blond woman with a scowl on her face at his language.
“Um, hi?”
“Right. I must have the wrong place.” She started to move away, but Sean
stopped her.
“If you told me what place you were looking for, maybe I could help?”
Isabel Evans looked up and down at the underdressed man and his obviously
beaten body, with the bruises showing yellows and greens tinged in black. “I doubt
it. Looks like you’re the one needing help.”
“Appearances can be deceiving, but regardless, I know everyone who lives in
this area. Who you looking for?”
“Michael Guerin.” Sean looked the woman over not liking what he saw all of a
sudden.
“Know him, but you’re too late, tootsie. He’s involved, seriously involved.”
“Know that too, with his Professor chick.” Sean bristled at her tone and having
his cousin referred to as a ‘Professor chick’.
“Yeah, but you’re mistaken if you think she’s just a ‘chick’.” Sean backed up to
let the cold maiden bitch from Dante’s hell enter. “Either way, you’ve got the right
place, but neither of them are home. It’s just me and the vicious cat, Mr. Boo.”
Isabel entered giving the place a quick look. Wow, Michael lived here? Isabel
couldn’t see it until she noticed his hockey stick up against the corner of the living
room wall, some of his stuff lying around, stacks of his favorite reading material on
the end table. No one really read automotive magazines.
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“And you are?” Isabel continued to look around. The outside atrium and
garden was beautiful, and the kitchen was huge and modern. Michael had really
moved up in the world from his small empty apartment. The loft was large and
open with an upstairs bedroom area, equally colossal.
“I’m the cousin of Professor chick. Sean Deluca. Detective Sean DeLuca.” Sean
looked at her as he did up his shirt. Her icy looks were making his balls shrivel up
into his body.
“Detective? Not a very good one, huh? Looks like someone ran you over a few
times. A girlfriend or wife?”
Sean just ignored her. “And you are...? The Avon lady?”
“Isabel, Isabel Evans.” She purposely kept her hands clasped and away from
him. She didn’t touch men anymore.
“Evans? Any relationship to Max Evans?”
“Brother. You know him?” Isabel wandered around the room noticing the
décor and furniture. This was a nice place, a really nice place. It was hard to miss
the Kandinsky on the wall, and it didn’t look like a reproduction.
“Yeah, you can say that. I’m partnered up with him, Kyle, and Michael. So,
you’re the sister they talk about.” Sean looked her over. Strange, she didn’t look
much like Max, but she did have some shared coloring and features with Michael.
“Strange, they never mentioned you. Forgettable?” Isabel moved closer to the
art on the walls. It all looked real. “Is this...”
“Utterly, and yes, it’s real.” Sean went into the kitchen to make coffee and
some lunch. He had slept through food since returning home from the appointment.
“Maria has quite a collection. Most of it came from her family home, and after her
father died she inherited it. A lot of the more pretentious pieces are in museums
collecting dust, but M has a love for the abstracts. Especially Kandinsky. There’s
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something about the cleanness of the geometrical lines that appeals, and she says
that abstracts lead her to feel.”
“My parents left us some stuff, but nothing like this.” Isabel kept looking
around almost like she was casing the joint. Sean was ready to bust her or ask for
some identification. “There are some artifacts and art from Meso-America and
Africa.”
“Maria knows what she likes. But I think the large fresco you’re looking at is
something Michael picked out. He saw it in an auction house six months ago, and
the Aztec impressions mixed with Catholic religious symbols fascinated him.
Synergistic combinations have something gratingly wrong, and yet speak to the
ubiquitous nature of religion.”
Isabel looked at the man with an eyebrow raised. Okay, so not just a dumb
musclehead toting a gun. Isabel went into the kitchen and sat at the bar. Maria
DeLuca. Wondering if she was anything like her cousin, Isabel put down her bag
and narrowed her eyes. She had heard endless stories about this Maria person, but
had never met her. All their contact so far had been over the phone, and through
conversations with her brothers. Isabel was more than prepared to dislike the
woman, and looking at her cousin, it was looking to be more of a possibility every
moment.
“So, Spanky. You live here?” Sean just snorted at the nasty woman. Who
would have thought this woman was related to Max Evans? Obviously those
feminine genes had gotten switched in the mix, and the Amazon bitch got the balls,
and Max wore the dress.
“No, just being babysat by the two owners of the house. I actually live in
Michael’s old apartment.”

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“Hope you did a better job furnishing it then he did.” Isabel spied pictures on a
low ivory topped credenza in the living room and leaving Sean in the kitchen, she
went to look at them. Shocked and stunned at the same time, Isabel studied them.
The pictures were of a beautiful blond woman and Michael. Some of Michael alone,
some of the woman, but most were of the two of them, other pictures of a lovely
older woman with short light brunette hair, the man in the apartment with her,
other people, and her brother, Max. The most shocking were of Michael. He was
smiling in some of them, and he looked happy, a part of something.
“This your cousin?”
Sean looked over at her holding a picture of Maria and Michael together. It was
taken during a picnic and Maria was doubled over holding a Frisbee away from
Michael, who was wrapped around her trying to get it. They were both laughing,
and the picture had caught them as Maria looked up at him.
“Yeah, that’s Maria.”
“Michael looks like...”
“He’s happy? Belongs to a part of a family? He does.” Sean was confused as to
why the woman seemed so upset. “I think he wandered a long time looking for
what he lost when his dad died. Maria gives him back something.”
“Max and I were his family since Mikey died. He was ours.” Sean went over
and took the picture away from her and put it back. “Well, guess your family just
got bigger. You’d have been in these pictures too, if you were here.”
Isabel followed Sean back and watched him slicing meat for a sandwich. “I
guess I never thought Michael would change. There was something so alone about
him, so hard in some ways, and it was almost like winter lived in him. The only
ones he let close enough were me and Max, and even then he kept us apart at
times.”
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Sean looked at her critically. “It bothers you that he changed, that Maria got
inside.” Isabel shrugged. “Maybe you should re-examine what type of person you
are that thinks leaving someone you love or respect in pain, hurt, and alone is okay.
I can’t believe you would begrudge him some peace, a bit of happiness. So he
smiles. So he laughs. I can also tell you that he cusses like a longshoreman that
hasn’t seen land in years, he is both crass and crude, thinks with his dick and
stomach, and the only person he yields to is my cousin.” Sean placed a sandwich
and cup of coffee in front of the woman. “He still makes rookies piss their pants,
sends secretaries running in tears, bad guys confess rather than deal with him, and
on a good day, terrorizes most of Roswell. The only difference is that he is no longer
in pain, and happiness is a word that means something to him.”
“You seem to know a lot about it.” Isabel said taking a bite of the sandwich.
“Yeah, well I’m in therapy.” Sean said with a touch of pride, almost like it
made him smarter than the average bear, or Roswell cop. He wasn’t going to
mention that he had just started that day, and bitched about it the whole time.
Somehow it just added weight to his observations.
“So am I.” Sean looked at her. Hmm, soulmate. Someone that shared a bond.
He could only hope she was feeling as unattractive to him as he felt towards her.
His balls couldn’t handle much more abuse, and that frosty piece would break off
his dick inside.
“I like pain to mask the hurt I feel inside, or so my therapist says. I like to be
beaten to an inch of my life. It gets me off.” Top that one little girl. Bet she was
crushed at the thought someone didn’t like her.
“I fucked everything with a pulse more than once, did drugs and drank away
my life so I wouldn’t feel anything.” Isabel smirked at him. Pain. What a pansy.

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Anyone could survive a whip; there were worse things. “Ever been forced to watch
the Martha Stewart Christmas Special?”
“Damn. I’d rather be gang raped by bikers.”
“Yeah, me too. It was brutal.” Isabel pushed her coffee cup over to him.
“Anyone that happy over pastels really needs therapy. And they call us sick.”
This woman was tough. Sean poured her some more coffee. “So how are you
on the Disney network?”
“Satanist.”

~~~

Michael made it home first, even after stopping to pick up his part. After they
split up, Maria said she would meet him at home, but the Jetta was still missing.
Stripping off most of the uniform, Michael went into the kitchen and stood in front
of the refrigerator in tight leather pants, a white undershirt, and biker boots,
searching for something, anything that would settle his craving. He couldn’t put his
finger on what he needed, but the glass bottle of cold milk looked good. Damn,
they were almost out! Reaching inside, he took out the bottle and was drinking
straight from it, forgetting about the glass. He usually hated milk unless it came
with something...something like cookies.
Maria came banging through the door with a brown paper bag under her arm,
reaching down to toss off her shoes. Reaching into the bag, she turned to face
Michael in front of the refrigerator, standing frozen in her bare feet.
“No! God, tell me that isn’t the last of the milk!” Maria could feel her heart
beating hard in her chest, her nostrils flaring at the sight and smell of him.

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Michael’s eyes narrowed on the bag and her hand inside it. Putting the bottle
of milk behind his back he smiled a predatory smile. “What ya got, Professor?
What’s in the bag?”
“Nuthin',” she hid the bag behind her back.
“Professor, don’t lie. No one buys a plain brown bag.” Maria just shook her
head no. “Don’t make me get it out of you.” Maria remained strong until Michael
took the bottle of milk out from behind him and put it to his lips to down it in one
large swig.
“No! Oh God, don’t please...I’ll share. I’ll share.” Maria pulled out a bag of
Oreo Doublestuffs from the paper bag. Michael smiled and took out a bowl for the
milk, put some in it, and poured the rest into a small glass. The two of them leaned
across from each other on the counter with the bowl of milk and the glass between
them and the Oreo bag ripped open.
Sean and Isabel stood outside in the garden and watched the scene unfold
from the moment Michael rushed in closely followed by Maria. They were devouring
the cookies, dipping them in the bowl of milk, and then drinking sips of milk from
the glass. Occasionally they would kiss, and then go back to the cookies.
Isabel watched almost horrified. Looking at an equally fascinated Sean, she
just shrugged. “And they think we’re the ones needing therapy?”

~~~

“So what’s the story, Isabel?” Michael asked as he flipped through the take out
menus. He and Maria were making take out a lifestyle lately, since between their
schedule and the car, time was too short to do real cooking.

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“What story do you want, exactly?” Isabel was looking him over closely. He
looked great. She had forgotten how great he looked after a year of not seeing him,
but somehow he looked even better. There had always been a tension about him,
almost like he was on alert and not willing to rest, but that seemed to have
changed as he now sat loose-limbed and casual next to her.
“Start at what brought you to the loft and not Max’s apartment.” Michael
answered offhandedly. He wrote down another item on the list as Maria called it out
to him. She was rutting around in the cabinets, refrigerator and pantry. They hadn’t
gone grocery shopping in forever and everything was low, to the point of nonexistence.
“Detective, add milk to the list-lots of milk. Oh, and chocolate sauce, three
cans.” Isabel watched as the young woman in dirty greasy clothes searched the
kitchen. Michael’s clothes were just as bad, if not worse.
They had just finished installing the new part into the engine, and all that was
left to do was lower the engine back into the car, bolt it down, and reconnect all the
hoses, belts and electrical wires. The paint shop was picking up the car first thing in
the morning. Isabel sat in the garage watching Michael, Sean and (surprisingly)
Maria work on the engine for the last two hours. They had now stopped for food.
“I did go by Max’s first, or can I still call it my home too?” Isabel asked.
“Of course it’s still your home.” Michael searched the list he was making,
frowning at the size. “Maria, maybe we should go shopping ourselves instead of
calling this in for delivery. It’s looking huge.”
Maria came over and looked at the list, and winced. “You willing to do that?
Remember last time?”
Michael shuddered at the thought of them actually perusing the shopping
aisles in person. Together. Maria, whose idea of shopping was home delivery,
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actually went shopping with him once. Since she hadn’t realized the enormous
variety that was available, she read practically every label, asked numerous
questions, and turned a simple shopping expedition into a three hour nightmare.
When they called for food, usually the store sent top of the line and brand name
only, so there was never any fuss or problem. After that horrific experience, Maria
obtained a detailed list of their local grocery store's inventory and did research on
all the products, including price versus quality.
“We’ll call it in. I’ll pay the tip,” Michael said and watched her nod in
agreement, as she went back to calling out items they were out of. “Is there any
beef jerky left? How about cheese doodles?”
Maria’s head came out of the pantry. “Nope, last poker game took out your
stash, so if you're thinking of another game soon, you need everything including
frozen pizza rolls.” Maria had a thought, and quickly opened up the wine rack,
where they kept their supply of beer. “Add the bootlegger to the list of places to
call, we’re down to a six-pack and three bottles of wine, all red and no white.”
Maria looked at Isabel and smiled. “So you went by your apartment before
coming over?”
Isabel smiled uncertainly at the woman, still unsure how to take Maria DeLuca.
She was a strange woman, and nothing like Isabel was expecting. Michael's last
relationship before Maria was a cold, hard-eyed bitch with greed flowing in her
veins. But Maria seemed the extreme opposite. She was warm and inviting,
obviously had her own money and didn’t need Michael’s, and as far as Isabel could
tell, the woman fed half of the Roswell PD.
“Yeah. I dropped off my bag and called the PD. They said both Max and
Michael were out of the station for the day, so I came over here since the two of

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you weren’t at our place. I figured you'd be here.” Isabel looked at Michael, who
was looking through menus again. “Guess, I could’ve called first.”
Maria just shrugged. “Why? You’re family. People drop by all the time.” Maria
looked at Michael’s growing pile of menus as he tried to decide what to order.
Picking them up, Maria dumped them in front of Isabel. “Here. You decide. Just
choose what looks good. We usually like the ones with a red mark next to them. If
it has an enthusiastic red mark, order it. Order enough for about ten people.
Anything you like. Just give them our address. Our credit card is on file and they'll
take care of it.”
“There’s going to be ten people eating?” Isabel looked at the two. Her count
only had herself, Maria, Michael and Sean so far.
“You're right, order for twelve. Kyle and Max are on their way, and I usually
count the ‘boys’ twice and Michael three times, so that should cover it.”
“Lots of food!” Isabel couldn’t grasp the amount needed.
“You’ve got no idea.” Maria looked at Michael and frowned. “You think Kyle will
bring Tess again?” Maria looked discreetly at Isabel, but decided that it was Max’s
place to inform the woman that she was going to be an aunt.
“Doubt it. The tension today at work was so heavy, you could've sliced it with
a knife.” Michael said, but he clammed up too. Max’s news was his to tell. “Iz, I’m
partial to Thai, Chinese, Italian, or that barbeque place with a special on beef ribs.”
“Ignore him, Iz. Pick what you feel like eating. Michael will eat anything as
long as there’s lots of meat available.” Maria kissed Michael’s nose as she grabbed
the grocery list and went off into the living room to quietly call in the huge order.
“I’m choosing Tex-Mex.” Isabel looked at Maria talking in the phone. “I’ll have
to wait until Maria is through to call it in.” Michael picked up his cell phone, and
passed it to Isabel, listening closely as she called in the order and added a few
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extra items. Isabel balked at the cost when they gave her the tally. Writing it down
she showed Michael and he just nodded. Yeah, that was about right.
“How long?” Michael asked.
“They said about an hour for an order this size. Something about having to
make more tortillas and guacamole.” Michael just moaned and went into the kitchen
to scrounge for anything to eat. He was starving again. “You eat like this all the
time?”
“Mostly, but more so just recently.” Isabel watched as he found a partial bag of
potato chips and began eating them with a mixture of ketchup and Tabasco.
“A far cry from a man whose only real culinary talent was warming up
Campbell’s soup.”
“Things change. I can actually do eggs, make a mean meatloaf and an Italian
sauce that would knock you on your ass.”
Maria came back to join them, kissing Michael quickly as she put away the
phone. “He’s not lying. He changed my family’s old recipe into something new and
different, but damn awesome!” Maria looked around the loft frowning. “Detective,
have you seen Mr. Booboo?” Michael just shook his head no. Strange. The cat was
always around him, and suddenly today he was missing. Michael watched as Maria
went to find him.
“So?” Michael asked, shoving chips into his mouth, munching and opening a
beer, while passing Isabel a bottled water.
“So?” said Isabel back.
“You going to tell me why you didn’t call or let us know you were coming home
after a year?”
“Does it matter? I thought home would always be home.” Isabel drank the
water feeling a stranger here.
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“It is, Isabel. It’ll always be home, regardless.” Michael looked at his surrogate
sister, taking in her cleaned-up look. She still had an edge to her, a wrinkle or two
around the eyes left over from too much abuse, but the rest of her looked young
and alive, looked twenty-nine again.
“It’s just so strange, you know. Here you are in a home, a real home with
Kandinsky on the walls, art that cost more than everything I own in my life! Your
stuff is all over the place mixed with hers, and my God, Michael...your car- it's
finally being fixed!” Isabel felt the need for a beer or something illegal for the first
time in almost six months. “It’s like I’ve walked into an alternate universe, a
twilight zone, and I’m reeling from the almost grotesque caricature of something
that's familiar, but foreign at the same time. You’re suddenly a stranger to me, and
after seven years I didn’t think that could happen.”
“I’m the same, Iz. I’m still here for you. That’s not going to change. But you're
right, I’ve changed in some ways, some big ways, and this is a home to me.”
Michael didn’t like talking about personal things, mostly because he lacked the
words that could really convey what he was feeling. “When Mikey died. He left me
everything, his home, his life, and his name. But that house, it was nothing to me.
Just an empty shell without him living there. I lost that warm feeling he gave me, a
sense of being loved and belonging. I sort of found that again with you and Max,
but not quite. You both had your own family, histories, pasts, and I couldn’t really
belong to that. So it was like belonging, but sort of from the outside fringe looking
in. Then I found Maria.”
“She seems nice. Strange, but nice.” Isabel said uncertain if that was really
what she wanted to say.
Michael laughed at that. Strange, but nice. Such a simple way to try to
describe something too complex for mere words. Maria DeLuca.
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“I just know that this place, this home I’ve got with her has the feeling of
warmth again, of belonging. Here...here I don’t feel the need to be on alert, to be
watchful, and on guard every moment from some unknown enemy. Here I find...”
“Peace?”
“Something like that.” Michael leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and
hugged her tight. “Give it some time, Iz. Let whatever it is that Maria does wash
over you, and I promise she’ll make it better without you even knowing she's doing
it.”
Isabel started to make a comment, but the doorbell interrupted her. Michael
looked at the time. It was too early to be either the grocery store or the restaurant.
Opening the door, he looked at his washed-out and battered partner standing on
the doorstep in his "go to court" suit.
“Didn’t even make it home, huh partner?” Max just shook his head and came
in. He stopped in his tracks at the sight of his sister sitting there holding her breath.
Suddenly her eyes filled with tears and he dropped his jacket rushing to her side to
pick her up in a full body hug.
“Jesus! Iz, you scared the shit out of me!” Max hugged her tight to his body,
feeling the racking tremors from both of their bodies. He didn’t even admit until
that moment how upset and afraid he was when she had just dropped off the face
of the earth. Isabel laughed a full joyful sound when he spun her around in his arms
like he used to when they were kids. “God, you look so good to me!”
“Max.”
“No, just let me look at you. Isabel, is that really you? Are you finally okay?”
Max didn’t notice the tear wander down his cheek. She had been missing so long,
so many years, ever since their parents died.

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“Yeah, it’s me. I’m home.” Max just hugged her even tighter. Michael watched
the two of them silently, letting them be what they always were, a unit. Looking up
the stairs, he saw Maria standing there holding their cat. She was crying. Leaving
the brother and sister pair, he went to her.
“You okay, Professor?” Maria just nodded.
“Damn emotions are all over the place lately, but I swear, Detective, I’ve never
seen anything so beautiful. Max looks so happy all of a sudden.”
Michael looked over at his partner, and nodded. “Yeah, he does. They were
always close, almost inseparable. It’s been a hard year for him without her,
worrying about her and not having her near.” Michael looked at the fifteen pounds
of black fur in her arms purring contently and he reached out and stroked the cat's
shiny fur. “Where was he?”
“Oh, he was in your sock drawer all curled up and sleeping.” Maria rubbed her
head against the cat, liking his low purring sounds. “How attached were you to
those special cotton athletic socks you wear playing basketball?”
“Why?” Maria just looked at the cat, and so did Michael. “Oh no, what
happened? What did he do?”

~~~

Isabel watched from where she sat in the garage laughing at the talk between
her brothers, Kyle and Sean. They were sweating and swearing profusely as they
tried to get the engine back under the hood. Maria was instructing them, and finally
came to squat down next to Isabel’s chair.
“So how long have you done this kind of work?” Isabel asked. It was
interesting to see a female grease jockey.
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“Over five years. It's soothing for me, watching something broken being fixed.
I like the smell, the feel of the thread of a bolt as it turns. It’s hard to explain, but I
just know that no matter how angry or upset I am that I can’t hurt two tons of iron
and steel, and that gives me some peace.”
“I should’ve found a hobby. You know, something other than men, drugs, and
booze.”
“Different responses. That’s all, Iz.” Maria laughed as Michael swore at Kyle.
Looking at the other woman critically, and then away she asked almost casually,
“So what are your plans?”
Isabel stared at Maria for a moment. “For the future, or tonight?”
“Well, lets just start with the future. I think your brother has your night
planned.”
“Yeah, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” Isabel looked at Maria with her
eyes narrowing. “You don’t mind if I come over from time to time to see Michael, do
you?”
“No. Not at all. I was actually going to suggest that if you didn’t want to
necessarily move back in with Max, you could stay here with us. We have the
downstairs bedroom, which Sean is using, but will be vacating soon.”
Isabel looked at Maria sharply. How could she know that Isabel didn’t want to
move back in with Max again?
“Thanks. I’ll think about it.” Isabel had to know. “How did you...?”
“I think that if I once had an overprotective brother, or brothers, and I spent a
year learning to deal with myself alone, that putting myself back into a situation
where I was dependent on them would feel like stepping backwards.” Maria said
quietly.

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Isabel looked over at Michael working and remembered his words from before
about letting Maria work her magic. The woman was a witch with her insight.
“You know, I spent six months in a clinic, and six months outside. The therapy
was actually eight months long. The first six were in the clinic, and the last two
were outside in the safehouse. The thing is, I really felt protected and watched
there, almost like if I felt myself slipping someone would catch me.” Isabel watched
the men for a second and looked at Maria. “It was a trap, much like the one I was
recovering from. Everything was safe, and I was protected. But one night, I woke
up, and I was afraid. I realized that I was living in a marginal society, a void. That
life was just moving on, and I wasn’t. Being around people who knew me and knew
my problems was a relief, but it also didn’t make me stretch myself, try to
reintegrate myself back into mainstream society.”
“It’s hard. Real life is demanding. It comes with pitfalls and temptations.”
“I know. I kept wondering if I was going be strong enough to actually make it
back. But hiding in a halfway house in Arizona, that long road home just kept
looking longer and harder. And coming home to Michael and Max, knowing they
would create that same kind of safehouse for me, made it hard to come back.”
“I can imagine.” Maria went over to her Coke machine and took out two Cokes.
Sitting back down next to Isabel, she offered her the drink. “So what do you see?
What do you want?”
“Hard question. I really don’t have any money. Working six months on a crisis
line barely paid for my upkeep. The money thing still forces me to be dependent on
Max. And I know Michael will help if I need it.”
Maria nodded. “True. They will. But,” Maria took a drink of her coke, “say
money wasn’t a problem, or not a real one. What would you want to do?”
“Money is always a problem.”
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“No. Just in a ‘what if’ scenario. Lets say, money is not the problem, and the
only thing stopping you is your own ability to dream, and to make those dreams
come true. Any fool can dream, but it take immense courage to take a chance at
failure to make those dreams a reality.” Maria looked at Isabel again, her eyes dark
and serious, quiet. “Would you? Could you? Do you have dreams? Ambitions?”
“School. I left school, and I wanted to be a psychologist. A psychologist that
took care of overweight, over-pampered, and neglected trophy wives to highpowered men. That dream changed and took on some real meat. Now I want to be
a psychologist that specializes in helping victims, survivors...people like me.” Isabel
looked off into some place far from that garage. “I want them to know that there’s
someone out there, someone who will help. Someone helped me once, and that’s
the kind of person I want to be.”
“That’s a nice vision.”
Isabel just laughed. “Yeah, it is. It is also damn near impossible. I’d need
funding because I pissed away both mine and Max’s inheritance. He’d have to
support me while I was in school, and that would be for years, lots of years. And no
matter how we look at it, money will be a problem.”
Michael called over to Maria. They had the engine back in and they needed her
to help them reconnect everything in its proper place. Maria stood up and grabbed
her wrench.
“There’re always second chances, Isabel. Maybe I can help. If you come by the
University, tomorrow, we can talk more about it, and see what options are
available.” Maria went over to help put the engine back in.
Second chances? What about third and fourth ones? It seemed like her entire
life was full of second chances she had wasted along the way. She’d go see Maria,

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because she was more afraid that all her second chances were running away, and
she had no more time to ignore them.
After everyone left, and even Sean decided to go home, Maria and Michael sat
in his Mustang listening to it run. Mr. Booboo was sitting between them,
majestically admiring his surroundings. The engine sounded sweet, strong, and
powerful.
“I wish...”
Maria leaned over and kissed him gently squeezing his arm. She knew. Mikey
Guerin. He wished that Mikey could hear the roar, see the end results. “I know.”
Michael looked down at her head, and in a moment of pure weakness felt tears
in his chest, a need to just rest against her. Maria was right. Emotions were all over
the place lately, and after seeing Isabel for the first time in a year, after only having
talked to her on the phone, seeing her hug Max, and just feeling better because she
was finally home, they were hitting him in places he hadn't realized had been sore.
Then, the car. It was done. A lifetime dream, one started with his father, and finally
it was realized.
“Maria, I lo...” She kissed him, stopping his words. Not yet. She couldn’t let
him say it. That was her place, something she owed him, and it was almost time.
Pulling his tongue into her mouth, she tasted him deep. It was so right, so familiar,
and yet it always felt like the first time. Clearing her throat, she smiled at him. “You
want to take it out for a spin? Cut open the carburetor and let it roar?”
Michael smiled at that. The fucking carburetor was the first thing she had
tossed out of his car like so much junk. She was right. He had sweated over every
part, every decision, having a hard time seeing his beloved car in pieces around
him. But every step was a good one. Hard, but good.

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“No. I want to wait until it’s done. Completely done, and then I’m going to
take you for a ride, Professor that you’ll never forget.”
Maria kissed him again. “Of that, I have no doubt, Detective. No doubts at all.”
Michael was silent for a while, and then brought up the subject that was
bothering him earlier. “What did you and Isabel talk about?”
“She wants to go back to school, but she doesn’t have the funds.”
Michael sat silently thinking of all the money he had sunk into his dream of
rebuilding the car. “And?”
“And I told her that there were ways.”
“Ways?” Michael nodded. Yeah, with Maria, there usually were. “And you’re
going to show her the way?”
“I’m going to point her to the path. What she does is up to her.”

~~~

Max couldn’t stop looking at her. She had gone to take a bath, and was now
sitting in the living room all curled up on the sofa and drinking a hot chocolate.
Isabel. She was home, and he felt unsure where to start.
“The alcohol in the house, do I need...”
“No. I’m fine. Strange as it may seem, something happened to me after I
dried out. I can barely drink half a beer without being wasted off my ass. Sound like
anyone else you know?”
Max smiled. His tolerance was just as low, and only Michael seemed able to
handle beer and alcohol in higher quantities, but still way below most people's
minimums.
“And drugs?”
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“Lets just say that I'd rather not know how they affect me anymore.”
Max took a drink of his coffee, and asked not looking at her. “Men?”
“Sex. You should just say, sex, Max.” Isabel looked into her cup of hot
chocolate. “I think I’ll always be addicted to that, so for now, I’m staying away from
men. I want something more this time. I want...” Isabel sat back and concentrated
on finding the description, the words. “I want what Michael has.”
Max laughed. Yeah, she and the almost everyone else he knew. Maria DeLuca,
a home, a place...love. “Yeah, I want that too.” Max looked at Isabel and laughed
again. “Who’d have thought that Michael Guerin would find it first?”
“He was always different. More reserved, whereas you and I took the high
road swimming in it. Michael sat quietly and waited. It was like he was waiting for
her and the dream she brought him, and when he saw it he didn’t know if he
deserved it, but he wasn’t letting go.”
“Isabel, it’s worth waiting for. I watched them this last year, through some
hard times and touch and go. But with every hurdle, they came out stronger. I have
to believe in the dream is possible, because I watch it work every day with them.”
“I know. It was hard to ignore.” Isabel smirked. “Michael Guerin with a cat
named, Mr. Booboo!”
“Crazy.” Max joined in with his sister’s laughter. “So, what did you think of
Maria?”
Isabel was silent for a moment. “Honestly?”
”Honestly.”
“I hated her.” Isabel saw the shock on Max’s face. Obviously hating Maria
DeLuca was inconceivable and utterly unheard of. “I hated that she’s got everything
I wish I could have, and then some. A home, a man, confidence, a career, and just

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feeling so good in her own skin. Her scars don't rule her, they define her. And it’s
hard not to envy that.”
“Maria is...”
“Special. I got that.” Isabel drank her hot chocolate. “I expected to hate her
from the moment Michael met her last year. But, she's a hard one to ignore. Could
she really be a person that wants nothing from anyone? I didn’t know people like
that existed.” Isabel paused and remembered one other person she knew like that.
Actually two. Michael and Alex Whitman.
“You really hate her?” Max asked quietly.
“I think that Maria DeLuca might be the best friend, best female friend, I’ll
ever have in my life. I envy her right now, but somehow sitting next to her, it didn’t
take anything away from me. It gave me confidence that I could do it too.” Isabel
looked at her brother. “I want to go back to school. I don’t know how yet. But I
want to go back.”
“We can make that happen.” Max said. He couldn’t remember the last time
Isabel wanted a future.
“No. I’ll make it happen. I might need help, but in the end, only I can make it
happen.” Max just nodded. Strong. She felt so strong. He could feel the prick of
tears behind his eyes again, and quickly cleared his throat. Isabel was back. The
real Isabel. The one he hadn’t seen in so many years.
“It’ll work. You’ll see.”
“Maria told me to come see her tomorrow at the University.” Max was silent.
“She says we could find out the options. Do you think she was serious?”
“Go see her, Iz. Maria has ways of opening doors that no one else can see.
She opened up the door to Michael Guerin with just a look. Take a chance. Michael
and I will always be here if you need us.”
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Isabel nodded. “I know. Maybe someday I can find a way to repay that.”
Max thought about it hard, and long. This was hard, but he had to tell her.
“Maybe sooner than you know.”
“What do you mean?” Isabel looked at her brother staring into his coffee cup.
“Max?”
“I’m going to be a father.”

259

Day 7: Tuesday- 9:05 a.m.

Maria was late again. She didn’t have classes today, but she was scheduled to
work at the museum. Stopping there first, she made sure everything was opened
and ready to go before running over to her office in the Anthropology Building to
pick up her mail, coffee, and leave a message with her secretary to send Isabel
Evans to the museum if she showed up.
“Maria.”
Maria felt dread in her stomach. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
“Professor Price, good morning.”
“I didn’t think I would run into you this morning.”
“Normally, no. I usually work the museum on Tuesday’s. But it doesn’t seem
like I can get away from my office here, at least long enough to pick up my
messages and mail.” Maria shuffled her mail and smiled at the man. “Anything I can
help you with, Ken?”
“Actually, yes.” Indicating a chair in the lounge where Maria was filling up her
coffee cup, Maria reluctantly took a chair. “Your acquaintance, Mr. Stiller tell me that
you are involved with the Foundation, and that he is recommending you for a seat
on the Board of Regents here at the University.”
“Yes, he informed me of the same thing.”
“I see.” Ken Price looked away from her, as if looking directly at her bothered
him. “I should congratulate you then.”
“That would be...premature. I’ve refused all nominations.” Maria took a sip of
her coffee and wondered what was with this sad man.
“Refused? But...”

260

“Jonathan knows better, or he should.” Maria said, taking pity on the man. “He
knows I’m spread far too thin already, but he was just making a gesture.”
“Still it’s an honor.”
“Actually, no it’s just what is appropriate and expected.”
Ken Price frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“I sure Jonathan told you that I’m the Foundation. Technically, that is correct.
I’m the founder. I took my inheritance, or a large portion of it, and started the
Foundation which is a non-profit organization. After the first year, I was
overwhelmed and needed help, real help in the form of a person or people who
understood money. That’s when Jonathan and his companies joined the Foundation.
Later other companies joined and it became a large entity, whose sole purpose is to
channel and distribute money to needy causes. My original Foundation has grown
beyond my expectations, but it hardly belongs to me any longer.”
“You’re the member of the board, correct?”
“I am.”
“Then you must be aware that I was trying to receive a seat on the board.”
Kenneth Price felt ridiculous having to talk to her about something so private.
“Actually, no. I didn’t know.” Maria hurried to explain before he could
compromise their working relationship with a request. “I have no real power any
longer on the Foundation. I don’t even cast a vote.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple. The Foundation voting proxy is split up in blocks, and at a given
time the Board could find itself in a deadlock on a decision. Should that ever occur
then I would have the deciding vote, the swing vote. But in over six years since its
inception, this has never happened. I have never voted.” Maria sighed and
shrugged. “I find it best to let the Board handle the business of the Foundation, and
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even for funds for the museum I’ve had to write up a proposal and submit it just
like any other applicant.”
“So you didn’t know.” Ken stared at her confused. He was certain that she was
blocking his position out of spite.
“No. I’m afraid that Jonathan Stiller holds full proxy to most of my votes, and
a block of his own. I maintain control of my votes and sign them over at each
quarterly Board meeting. If your request to hold a seat is being blocked then you
should contact Jonathan, and request a hearing or rite of understanding as to why
he is blocking your position.”
“You’re saying that he holds the power.”
“Yes, he does, but not exclusively. If you can find out why he is blocking you,
and petition the other Board members, you might be able to push a stalemate or
get him to relinquish the hold on your request. It might be simply that he doesn’t
feel you honor or understand the mission statement of the Foundation. Its agenda
is designed to support and maintain programs that will aid individuals and
organizations in second chance endeavors, or in education exploration. We don’t
support first time businesses since there are many agencies and options available
for first time setups.”
“I just think the Foundation wields an awesome amount of power and money,
and that it could be used for other things as well.” Ken said.
“Perhaps, but it is vested upon the current Board to understand and maintain
the mission of the original Foundation as it was conceived, and to interpret that
mission to the best of its ability. That includes accepting new Board members who
can work within those parameters.” Maria stood up and looked at Professor Price.
“Talk to Jonathan, and if no compromise can be found, petition the other members.

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At most it could come down to a deciding vote, which would be me. Personally, I
think a little work and a show of good intent is all you need to convince Jonathan.”
“Thank you for saying that.” Maria refilled her cup. “Maria, can I ask you one
other question?”
Maria sighed, but turned and smiled, acquiescing. “By all means.”
“If I can get the rest of the Board to back me, would you support me?”
Kenneth Price despised having to ask, but he needed to know.
“It would depend. I’ve trusted Jonathan implicitly for years. But, if you
managed to get a split vote and half the holding proxy supports your appointment,
then I would listen to your arguments and make the best and the fairest decision
possible.”
“We haven’t always gotten along.” Ken reminded her.
“True, and if for any reason I felt that our past differences biased me against
you, I would turn over my proxy to another, to vote in my position.” Maria smiled at
him. He was a pain, pissed her off to no end, but he was highly intelligent and
ambitious. Those weren't always bad traits. “It is the best I could do.”
“I appreciate that.”
Maria looked at her watch. “If you’ll excuse me, Professor. I’m afraid I need to
get back to the museum.”
Maria hurried out of the building to go hide in her museum office. The
confrontation with her boss wasn’t as bad as she had feared it would be, but it still
was uncomfortable. It changed the dynamics of their working relationship, making
him wary of her. Life was so much easier when she was just an underling that he
had to deal with. Jonathan Stiller had a lot to answer for, and right now at that
moment, she was far from happy with him.

263

~~~

Max looked around for Michael again. The man was eternally disappearing
lately. Max had two guesses, he was either torturing a vending man to restock the
5th Avenue bars on 3rd floor, or he was napping in Holding. Wrong on both counts.
Max saw his partner emerging from the breakroom across the hall with a cup of hot
coffee. Obviously the pot in Major Crimes was empty and Michael, not wanting to
make the next pot, went across the hall to mooch.
Max didn’t even bother to watch the commotion. His partner was back on the
floor and in an ugly mood. No other person could walk through a room causing so
much unhappiness from those around him. Waters’ collar chose that moment to
make a break while Waters' partner, Philips was moving him to Interrogation.
Unfortunately for the unhappy felon he ran out of Major Crimes and straight into
Michael Guerin.
“Where ya going? Whatcha think we’re gonna do, just let you walk?” Michael
literally picked the man up like a wet puppy by the scruff of his neck and walked
him back into the room. “Sit down you vicious felon, or I’ll put you in Holding with
the big boys and pantyraiders.”
The man started talking and blubbering to an unreceptive Michael, who looked
to be having another "off" morning. “Waters, get this sniveling snot under control!
What kind of loser felons are you busting now? Spilled my coffee all over the
place...dammit, look at this mess!” Michael was using a Kleenex trying to mop up
the spilled coffee down his front.
“Sorry, Guerin. You want a towel or something?” Waters tried to quickly diffuse
the situation before his partner, Philips came under fire. Guerin without his morning
coffee was a nightmare.
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“Pick up your shit, Waters. I almost got trampled by your collar.” Michael
stopped to pick up the stuff on the floor. “What is this?”
“Candy bars. My older daughter’s raising money for band camp.” Michael
rutted around in the box.
“How many you sold so far?” Michael was reading the labels and ingredients.
“Not that many. See, everyone I asked is mysteriously on a diet or has an
aversion to chocolate.” The whole new health awareness was crushing for candy
sales, and it usually took lots of coffee, tiredness, and end of the day lull before the
early morning crowd forgot all the promises they made themselves while shaving
that morning to clean up their acts.
“Now that’s a fucking shame when your own compadres can’t buy a little
chocolate to help out a few band camp goers. How much a bar?” Waters' brow went
up. Raging Bull Guerin just went from a pissy bastard to a nice socializing, albeit
foulmouthed bastard in mere seconds.
“Two bucks a bar.” That didn’t last long, as Waters and those around him
winced at the colorful language spewing forth.
“Every frickin’ time I turn around lately I see price bilking, greedy, greedy
bastards, the whole lot of them.” Michael seemed to realize what he was saying.
“Um, not your daughter of course, Waters. She’s just another cog in the flywheel of
frickin’ capitalism, and the search for the all-powerful buck.” Michael looked in and
saw candy bars with chocolate and peanuts. “How much for the box?”
“There are seventeen bars left in that box.” Michael reached into his pocket
and passed over a fifty.
“Keep the change as a donation, but if you feel bad you can spot me another
eight chocolate with peanut ones later.” Michael walked off with his box under his
arm already opening up a bar and reaching for his Tabasco.
265

Max watched Michael put the chocolate bars away in his lower drawer. “You
going to share...”
Michael gave him a dark stare and looked over at Kyle. “What do we got on
the Seers and Whitman cases?”
“Seers was pretty much a loner. She had some major time clocked for Internet
usage, and didn’t really socialize much, mostly with a few friends none of whom
considered them really close. Other than academic and professional gatherings,
most nights she was on her computer talking to electronic friends. She had a lot to
say against junk food and greasy fast food joints, but a search of her rooms showed
that despite her talk and dislike of it, she was a closet fast-food junkie.”
“Any hits on her past?” Michael finally reached into his drawer and passed both
Max and Kyle a candy bar, just not the peanut ones.
“Married young, divorced less than two years later.” Max read through his
notes. “Her husband, Gus? He took off with one of her ‘best friends’. She was left
with some bills, so she consolidated their home mortgage with the bills and
returned to school.”
Michael nodded. “Whitman’s cousin, Krystal was a good kid literally. She
wasn’t into school spirit, cheerleader stuff, but was pretty and popular enough to be
one. Her school records showed an intelligent enough young lady, mostly a B
average student with a consistent attendance record, participation in the arts,
especially music, drama and dance. She was on the school's tennis and swim
teams, a strong player but no major kudos. She was well liked, and not a runaway
risk. Boyfriend of three years, who was still carrying her picture in his wallet, and
had called her the day before.”
Max read the cover. “She only sang in Whitman’s bar on nights he was there,
one set, and she drank either bottled water or cola. No one really noticed if she was
266

socializing with anyone, but she never hooked up with friends and left. Instead she
waited for her cousin every night, helping him close down. She sang mostly
Thursday thru Sunday, nothing earlier in the week because she was already out late
on two school nights. Senior in high school, she was accepted into the University in
Santa Fe for the fall semester. She was a strong debate team leader, and was
looking at a career in communications or the arts, more than likely music.”
“Need some help?” The three men looked up at Sean’s voice.
“DeLuca, you look like shit, flushed shit that keeps rising to the top. Thought
you were off until tomorrow.” Sean took a seat, ignoring Michael and his happy
descriptive observations.
“Cap said I could come in and make myself useful. He was afraid what untold
mental damage I would suffer from watching daytime soaps. Though I thought Luke
and Laura were dead, and all this ‘Prince’ shit sounds so stupid and lame. Every
time someone calls this dude, ‘The Prince’ I felt this overwhelming desire to giggle.
Enough of that, so I called in.”
Kyle looked up in interest. “You taping?” No one tells him anything. So were
Luke and Laura back together, or not?
“Are you limited to desk, or can you do legwork?” Max asked.
“Desk only for the week, unless we get a late night caller. Otherwise Friday
I’ve got a court thing to sleep through all day.”
Michael tossed Sean a candy bar, one of the disgusting krispy ones. “Okay,
that makes you Phone Boy.” Sean cussed as Kyle laughed. “You can start by calling
Parker and see if Lab has anything resembling any leads on our materials.” Michael
ignored Sean’s moan. “If they don’t harass them to get the lead out, we’ve got
another 'Missing', and it feels too close not to be connected. Pray that it’s not.”

267

~~~

“Maria?” Isabel stood in the doorway, uncertain whether she was in the right
place. Maria’s secretary at the Department had given her directions.
“Isabel, come in.” Maria stood up and smiled as the woman entered the room.
Isabel looked around, impressed by the mess. “Yeah, it takes getting used to, but
surprisingly, I know where everything is.”
The phone rang, and Maria waved Isabel to take a seat across from her, which
was actually clear of debris. “I don’t care, Dickie. I can’t have people accepting
large deliveries on weekends. I know. I know! The deliveries here exceed the entire
campus combined, but that is the nature of the business. Okay, find a new system,
and call me back. I have a staff of workers, students, and volunteers. I can’t start
housing full-time staff on top of that. I don’t have the funds. So you have to either
catch me or the assistant curator, and that means weekdays.”
Isabel watched the woman do her thing-work. “I swear, if you send it to my
other office I will find you and shove your US Postal stamps down your throat! I
don’t care. The deliveries have correct routing numbers, so they better show up
here and not all around campus. If you and your department can’t control the mail,
a federal responsibility, then maybe you need to reassess your job description!”
Maria slammed the phone down and enjoyed a few moments’ tirade, on the nature
of polyester eating away brain cells, and the possibility that Dickie was a crossdressing Polynesian whore with beriberi.
Isabel just listened, impressed. “Did you learn that from Michael, or could you
always talk for so many minutes flat without breathing?”

268

“I’ve been cultivating the fine art of holding my breath, and it's amazing how
good the air feels when you finally get some.” Maria looked at the young woman
meticulously dressed. “I’m glad you came, and you're just in time.”
“For?”
Maria looked at her watch. “It’s almost lunch, and today there is a special
lunch mixer with Departments and the Board of Trustees. And, the person I want
you to meet is going to be there. He better be there, because I have some not so
sweet, choice words to scream in his ears.”
“Okay,” Isabel was at a lost for words, “is this what they mean by
networking?”
“Could be. Actually Jonathan can help you apply for help through a special
program that will not only provide you with living expenses, but pay your school
cost. And...and if you’re in earnest about working with victims and survivors, the
contract can be negotiated as a pay later contract where they support you through
school, and after you complete your training you work at some of the programs
they have running that needs your special talents.”
“You’re serious? You mean I could be totally independent of Max’s support?”
“Financially, yes.” Maria got up and grabbed her jacket to cover her sleeveless
silk blouse. “Emotionally? I would keep his support, both his and Michael’s. Humans
live every day alone in their own skins, their own heads, and except for sex and
childbirth, or unless they host some damn parasite, they remain that way. It’s a
lonely existence if you think about it, so keeping those connections to others is so
important. Don’t be too quick to cut the string.”
“I just want to do this on my own.”
Maria smiled at the woman. “I know. That's admirable, but emotional support
doesn’t take away from the experience, the goal. It just makes it less lonely getting
269

there.” Maria locked her door and waved at the Museum secretary that she was
taking off. “So any ideas where you would like to live, if the Foundation supports
you?”
“I haven’t thought about it. I just assumed staying with Max was going to be
my only real option. And last night, it occurred to me that Max was going to have
places his money needs to go to support...” Isabel paused mentioning Max’s unborn
child.
“The baby?” Maria nodded her head. That would be an expense, a costly one.
Those small little bundles were surprisingly expensive.
“Yeah, the baby.” Isabel was once again disoriented at how much Maria knew
about her brother’s personal life. “But, if I could live anywhere, I think I would like
to live at your loft.”
“You want to move in?” Maria was startled. Isabel hadn’t seemed willing to
take her up on her offer last night.
“No!” Isabel laughed. After spending most of last night watching Michael and
Maria barely keeping their hands off each other, being a third wheel in their
household wasn't appealing to her very much, although she did appreciate the
gesture. “Just some place like your loft. I love the openness, the light, and it feels
clean.”
“Well, I have a maid service that comes in three times a week, otherwise
Michael and I would be waist deep in our own filth and dust.” Maria watched Isabel
opening her mouth to correct her. “I know. Just joking. I understand. And you
know...” Maria pulled her arm through Isabel’s, “I might be able to help you find
something like that. But you’ll probably need a roommate to afford it.”

270

Maria searched the crowd of people eating appetizers before the formal dining
room opened to serve. Keeping an overwhelmed and quiet Isabel next to her, she
spotted him.
“Jonathan!”
“Maria! And a guest?” Jonathan extended his hand out to Isabel.
“Yes, this is Isabel Evans. Isabel, Jonathan Stiller, CEO to some companies,
and a true scumbag.”
”Scumbag? Maria, my heart can’t take your discord. What’d I do?” Jonathan
wiggled his brows at Isabel. “I once had her mother, Amy in my office trying to
realign my disharmonious chi. I’m still not sure what that meant, but it was painful,
real painful. Not to mention the large contribution she extorted,” Jonathan noticed
Maria’s increased glare, “...kindly requested of me.”
“Kenneth Price ambushed me this morning.” Maria put her hands on her hips,
tapped her foot, and displayed the most explicit pissed-off expression she could
muster. “I sent him back on you. So he’s going to be coming and looking for you for
an interview.”
“I thought we were friends.” Maria just snorted, as Jonathan hooked his arm
through both ladies' and led them towards the buffet table of appetizers. “They
have shrimp on the buffet.” Jonathan said nicely to distract Maria from her task of
torturing him.
Jonathan watched as Maria took off without them, searching the long table for
edibles. Isabel backed off from the man untangling her arm from his. Jonathan
noticed, but didn’t mention it, just acknowledged the move with a lifting of his
brow.
“So, Miss Isabel, how is it you know our resident firecracker, Maria DeLuca?”

271

Isabel felt uncomfortable around the man. He seemed nice enough, but his
dark eyes were piercing. “She lives with my brother.”
“Guerin? You’re Guerin’s sister?” Jonathan wiped his mouth in amusement.
“That shoots my theory that the man was born from the depths of hell, expelled by
Lucifer himself. Guerin, born of man...who would have thought it?”
“I take it that you don’t get along?”
“Sure, if you can call being threatened by a jealous raging cop who sees only
red 'getting along', we do fine.”
“Well, technically he’s not my brother, more of a surrogate one. My brother
is...”
“Wait! Evans? You’re Max Evans’ sister?” Jonathan’s whole demeanor changed.
He became more attentive. “Strange, I could see a resemblance to Michael, the
coloring and such, but you and Max don’t look anything alike.”
“You know Max?”
“Yeah, we’ve...bumped into each other a few times.” Jonathan led Isabel to the
table and started filling a small plate with appetizers. “You’ll have to trust me
implicitly over these morsels. Stay away from anything that resembles cheese.”
Isabel looked down the table to see Maria talking to a few other people while
happily devouring her food. “So how is Max?”
“Professor DeLuca? How is our youngest professor in the Anthropology
Department doing?” Maria paused in stuffing her mouth with another crab puff.
“Professor Tiny...”
“Gerald.”
“Right. Gerald. I’m fine, thank you. And how is life in the Department of
Modern Linguistics. Are you still fighting over the correct enunciation and phonic
shifts for the word ‘horse’?”
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“That was a solved problem long ago. As I was telling you at the Christmas
Banquet, you can say ‘horse’, you can say ‘hoss’, ‘hauss’, even ‘hurse’, but you can’t
say...”
“Hearse. I remember.” Maria smiled politely.
“Right, because a hearse is a totally different word.”
“Fascinating.” Maria looked around desperately for Jonathan and Isabel to
come save her.
“So I had a nice discussion with your Detective.” That got Maria’s attention.
“Michael? You talked to Michael?”
“Indeed. It appears one of our graduate students was murdered.” The man
leaned in and spoke into Maria’s ear. “It was ghastly. Just ghastly.”
“Especially for her, I’m sure.” Maria looked at him closely. “She wasn’t the
student that you had...No. Nevermind. So you knew the young lady...Janet?”
“Janet Seers. She was an excellent student. Very meticulous and proper,
maybe a tad hard on her students, but a real perfectionist. I kept counseling her on
how to teach and train these students in the proper path in their education. You’ve
got to be strong in your grip and precise in your requirements.”
“Absolutely. I’m sure Professor, you were a shining example of studentprofessor relationships for her.” Maria tried not to roll her eyes. Pompous bastard.
No doubt his idea of a firm grip of control was holding a coed's head in the proper
position while she blew him. He hadn’t been caught since last year, but Maria had
heard rumors from other students that the nickname implied that a good amount of
head could fix the worst of grades. His indiscretions finally cost him his play for the
Department Chair just recently.

273

“So,” Maria tried to control the wave of disgust as Gerald Tiny grabbed her arm
and led her away from the buffet with his lecherous eyes gleaming, “what can you
tell me about the investigation? Any leads?”
Jonathan made sure that he got to dine with Isabel and Maria. It took a little
time, but Isabel began talking to other people at the table and enjoying herself.
“So, my little friend, what is it you want from me?” Jonathan asked as Maria
stopped stabbing at her chicken.
“Food would be nice. Why do they always bring out these prefabricated birds,
breaded and stuffed with butter? They don’t taste like anything.” Maria moaned.
“I’d give my life for something chocolate and with peanuts, or anything resembling
food right now.”
“Maria.” Jonathan gestured his head towards Isabel. “How can I help?”
“Second chance, Jonathan. Why don’t you let her tell you her story, and see
what you can do?”
Jonathan thought about it for a moment. Taking out his cell phone he called
his secretary and had her rearrange his afternoon schedule, and book him a seating
at the Roswell Arms Tea Room for two.
“This will cost you, Professor.”
“Really? Name the price.” Maria thought he was joking.
“Max Evans’ phone number.”

~~~

Maria left Isabel in Jonathan’s capable hands, but refused him Max’s phone
number. She informed him that if he helped Isabel, he’d have the number without
coercing it from her. Jonathan and Max? Maria’s curiosity was having a field day.
274

“Eddie?” Maria stopped on the way back to her office when she heard her
museum assistant and friend, Eddie, having a minor bitch fest. Eddie was in his last
year of graduate work. His master thesis was accepted, and he was already
accepted into the PhD program starting in the Fall.
“Maria.” Eddie just continued to work on the display.
“What vexes thee? Want to go off on me for stress relief?” It couldn’t hurt
after having Gerald Tiny’s grubby hands already all over her. She was feeling
mangled and soiled anyway.
“Never you, Maria.” Eddie looked at his friend and advisor shaking his head no.
Blowing out the air in his lungs he wiped his eyes with the side of his arm, like he
could feel sweat there. “I got refused for the Peterson site.”
Maria felt for him. It was the largest archaeological site running in the state
this coming summer, and it was in close association with Eddie’s own tribe and
heritage. “I’m sorry, Eddie.”
“It doesn’t matter, not really. It was just an opportunity to stay close to home,
instead of traveling out of state. I’m sick of being away from home.” Eddie punished
the display he was working on a little more. “They gave it to Brian Laetsky.”
“Brian, from Las Cruces?”
“Yeah. Brian.” Eddie tore away some more felt backing viciously. “So if I join
the excavation it’ll be as a worker, and not the project assistant, and I’ll be under
Brian.”
“That’s not possible. I read his literature review on panel for the last
conference. It...well it sucked. His entire paper was nothing but fluff and filler,
rehashing old theories. It was more of a survey of the history of local archaeological
sites.” Maria sighed and took the battered material from Eddie’s hands and sat next
to him. “What happened?”
275

“My research is better, my paper is better, but Brian’s looks better on the
surface. He comes off calm, collected and knowing his stuff.” Eddie just shook his
head. “I’m just a boy from the reservation. My people...we don’t usually leave the
reservation, not because we love it so much, but because our nature makes us
isolationist, untrusting of strangers. There is us, the real people, and then there is
everyone else.”
“You’re very personable, Eddie. I’ve never seen you be stand-offish.”
“Well, you’re different. It’s easier with you and people I know. But in front of
the selection committee, I had to sell myself, and I couldn’t, not like Brian could.”
Eddie stood up and started rolling out the fabric he was using as the replacement
background for the display. “I guess I should feel good that after they have him on
site for a while his lack of knowledge will become apparent. But it’s an empty
feeling losing to that fake.”
“Well, I know it happens. The world of academics is far from perfect. Let me
check out some people I know locally, and see if we can’t find you a position closer
to home this summer.” Maria looked up at the display he was working on, frowning
she tipped her head to the side. “What is this exactly?”
“It’s a bug, moth and butterfly collection that the Biology and Entomology
Department created. They’ve got their space ready for plants and local fauna, and a
huge display for their Zoology collection. We should have all the specimens labeled
and ready for them to use in their Fall classes.” Eddie just shook his head. “Poor
students will have to come and identify all the specimens' scientific names as a test.
I think I’d change my major to drama. I understand their classes don’t even start
until after noon every day.”
“Why don’t the butterflies and moths disintegrate? They look delicate and well
preserved.”
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“They are. There’s a special preservative and fixer applied to them that keeps
them looking alive and fresh. It’s not hard. I’ve been collecting since I was a kid.
What the else is there to do when you’re a kid on a reservation in the middle of the
dessert?” Eddie laughed to himself. “Bugs. Lots of bugs.”
“How do you catch them without damaging them?” Maria looked closely at the
barely noticeable shine from the fixative on the specimen. It was perfect, with all
the colors and vibrant lines preserved in time.
“Some people use nets, but the best way is a killing jar. Once you lure in the
moth or bug, you close it with a special top, usually filtered, and you drip ether or
some other agent that puts them to sleep. Too much and they die. Easy. Then you
just lay them out, fix them, check them for flaws, and pin them to a special
display.”
“You do that?”
“Sure. It’s a great hobby. Easy to learn, but over the years you can really
become an expert if you take the time to really get into it.”
“Who did theses collections?”
“Bug guys in the Biology Department.”
“The Bug guys? Are they as repulsive as that sounds?” Maria asked imagining
large beetles talking to each other while rubbing their antennae.
“No. They’re fine. You know them. George and Jeremy.” Maria just nodded and
looked at the display. She never heard them referred to as the Bug Guys before,
but somehow now that she thought about it. It made perfect sense. Her quiet
regard made him smile. “You’ve changed.” Eddie observed softly.
Maria looked at her friend and frowned. “How so?”

277

“You used to be all over the place, ‘oh my gosh’, ‘oh my gosh’, kind of
highstrung, repressed, and dramatic at the same time. You’re quieter now, gentler,
almost...”
“A touch of inner serenity?”
“Yeah, definitely that.” Eddie breathed deep. “Lots of sex, huh?”
“Uh huh.”

~~~

“Liz.”
Liz looked up from her microscope, and gasped when she saw Sean’s face.
“Sean, someone beat you up?”
“Naw, just me.” Sean came to stand next to her work table ignoring the rest of
the workers in the room. “You okay?”
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that? I didn’t use my face to stop someone’s fist.”
Liz went back to what she was doing. “Did you need something?”
Sean knew it was going to be hard, but her monotone question and lack of
emotion was bothering him. “Anything on the Seers case?”
“Actually, I was just going to copy you a report. It was a good call on the latex
in the blood vessels. The stuff is used in scientific companies to process and
preserve biological specimens, especially for Zoology. Unfortunately there are over
one hundred and thirty seven companies that supply it, and they cover most of the
continental United States, including some overseas.”
“Can you narrow the field?” Sean tried to remain professional and
unassuming, following Liz’s lead.

278

“Hard to do. We’ve got the computer geeks running cross indexes, and
checking all suppliers catering to New Mexico and surrounding regions. The list is
huge, more than huge-monumental.”
“How long? Any clue?”
“Yeah.” Liz stopped working and looked at him. “Never. This latex isn’t going to
pan out. You’re looking at a special type of latex that is liquid, can be shot into the
veins and then stiffens into the final product. Do you have any idea how diverse the
uses of this latex are?”
“Tell me.” Sean rested his hip up against her table.
“Well, it’s a clear coater. All the Universities, industrial areas, anyone that
wants to coat with latex could use this stuff. I’ve got a list of production companies
who use it for special effects. The Geology museums are using it to make mold
castings. It a hot product. Liquid latex, I should’ve invested in it.”
Sean nodded and cracked his neck. “Anything else?”
“The filler is harder to narrow the field. I don’t know how he does it, but
Michael was right. It’s a polyurethane very much like that used in those tire kits.
Not an exact match, but damn close. Even the clear shellac isn’t a lacquer. I can’t
narrow the field. We’re testing all known market lacquers and preservatives.” Liz
just shrugged. “It’s going to take some time.”
“You copied us all this information?”
Liz just nodded. “Yeah, it should be hitting your mail boxes as we speak.” Liz
tried to go back to work, but Sean didn’t move. “Was there something else?”
“You going to ever really talk to me again?” Sean asked softly.
“Sean.” Liz looked around and lowered her voice. “I can’t talk about this here,
and for now...can’t we just give it some space?”
“Okay.” Sean started to leave, but he stopped. “You could talk to Maria.”
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Liz just rolled her eyes and shook her head no. “She’s your cousin, Sean.
Don’t you think that puts her in a difficult position?”
“No. She’ll be on your side.” Sean looked around the room, and then grabbed
Liz’s arm bringing her closer to him, close enough so they couldn’t be overheard.
“Talk to her, Liz. She’s been your friend for over a year. Maria isn’t going to stop
liking and caring about you just because we’ve called it quits.” Sean smiled
sarcastically. “Believe me, Maria is brimming with good gossip right now, and she's
lacking in female friends that she can share it with. Do her and yourself a favor and
give her a call.”
Liz rubbed her arm where he had held it watching him leave the labs. Call
Maria. Liz turned and looked at her phone beside her workspace. She really could
use a night out, and despite what Sean said, Liz was sure that she needed Maria
more than Maria needed her.

~~~

Maria was negotiating her way through the traffic across town, swearing at the
cars and trying to will them to speed up so she could make the next light. Her cell
phone ringing increased her anxiety. It had to be her mom. No one else would
interrupt her in the middle of potential road rage.
“Mom, I can’t talk right now, I’m about ready to pit the Jetta against a Dodge
Ram truck in a fight to the death.”
“Don’t do it, Maria. Statistically the Dodge Ram is equipped with reinforced
side by side panels of steel designed to take impact, whereas the Volkswagen Jetta
is seriously faulty in protective carriage, and those impact airbags can do some
serious damage to you personally.”
280

“Liz?” Maria sighed her relief. “Oh thank goodness, it’s you. I thought it was
my mom.”
“I think Amy's charming. I can’t see why everyone finds her so hard to deal
with.”
“Did I mention she wanted you to join the Wedding party? Mom feels like she
needs yet another bridesmaid and attendant.” Maria smiled at the gasp from Liz.
Big words, easy to talk when you’re only watching the chaos. It’s another thing to
be drawn into the sucking vortex, into that pit of despair where no light has ever
shown, known as the Wedding.
“I might be busy, um...when is the date exactly?” Liz squeaked in a high
pitched voice.
“Nice try, Parker, but it’s not going to work. Mom is flipping the dates around
so fast just to keep everyone off-balance. My advice is to leave the state or never
answer your phone.”
“I’ll note that.” Liz smiled at Maria’s voice. She missed her good humor. “Look I
was calling to see if you’d like to go out tomorrow night, like a girl’s night. There’s a
movie I want to see, and it falls under the domain of 'chick flick'.”
Maria listened as she drove and made comments along the way. A night out
sounded just what the boys ordered. That would give Michael an opportunity to
have his poker game without having to worry about bothering her.
“Spacey. I love Kevin Spacey. Michael thinks he’s too gay, but he really liked
him in all the cop movies, though I’m sure he won’t like this latest one with the
alien psych patient. You’re on. I’m on my way to the Station right now to see
Michael. I’ll check with him, and stop and see you on my way out.”
“Guerin! Someone from downstairs wanted me to inform you that your prettier
half is in the house, and abusing a machine on the third floor.” Michael looked over
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at Philips and then stared at Max across from him. Okay, not Max, so that could
only mean Maria.
“I’ll be right back, partner.” Michael went to find her before someone was
forced to arrest her for damage to city property. Maria and vending machines had a
merry war going between them. She paid them what she thought the candy should
cost, and actually expected the machine to cough it up.
Michael increased his speed when he came around the corner and found her
trying to pick up a trash can to smash the machine.
“Whoa there Professor! Violence is never the solution.”
Maria just snorted. “Since when? Get away from me you imposter, and get me
my boyfriend. He’d make short work of this thieving machine.”
“How much did you put in, Professor?”
“Coins. Lots of coins. All of them really, really shiny, and it won’t cough up my
candy bar.” Michael hooked an arm around her middle and pulled her away from the
machine. Reaching into his pocket, he fished out some more coins and started
plugging the machine.
“Don’t do it! Don’t encourage its theft!” Maria watched him as he pushed in
the coins one by one.
“What number?”
“B7.” Michael looked at her sharply, and then back at the 5th Avenue bar she
was trying to acquire. He pushed the buttons, but nothing happened. What the hell?
“I warned you. Should I get the trash can, or you just want to shoot it?”
Charley from requisitions stopped next to them. “Hey, Guerin, if the light isn’t
on in the machine, that means it's off.”
Both Maria and Michael looked at the man like he was the bearer of very bad
news. The man just shrugged and walked off leaving Maria chanting under her
282

breath about peanutty goodness covered in chocolate. Michael looked up and down
the hallway.
“Take point and watch both sides, Maria. You know the sign.” Maria stepped
back against the wall and watched both ways as Michael reached up and tipped the
entire machine forward. He did it four times before a 5th Avenue bar dropped, and
then another. Michael reached in and grabbed two candy bars.
Maria was bouncing. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Kissing Michael
enthusiastically. Lunch was for crap. “You got me two!”
“Yeah, well you paid for one, and so did I.” Michael looked at her suspiciously.
“You did pay, right?”
“Uh huh.” Maria made a gesture of plugging a machine with cha-chinking
noises included. Looking down at all the other things that dropped still in the
bottom of the machine Maria asked Michael, “what about that stuff?”
“Didn’t pay for it. Come on.” He led her away before anyone came by. If
someone else decided to eat a free candy bar that was their own karma, not his.
In the elevator, Maria was still thanking him enthusiastically for the candy bar.
Looking up at the security camera, Michael swore, and moved her forward so he
could reach a hand up to cover it. Reaching around her, he flipped off the run
switch and let her finish showing her appreciation until a voice on the speaker
asked them to please turn the elevator back on.
“This place has too many rules.” Maria said as Michael dragged her off the
elevator finally.
“Tell me about it. Next time we’ll take the stairs.” Michael looked at her as they
worked their way towards his desk. “You going to tell me what you’re doing here?”
“Maybe, if you let me sit on your lap.” Maria looked at Max and smiled. “Hi,
Max!”
283

“Maria, good to see that the vending machine didn’t take you prisoner.” Maria
just laughed. “What did you buy?” Maria showed him her last remaining 5th Avenue
bar, but didn’t notice Max’s frown as he looked at it.
“Maria, what’s up?” Michael asked, then his eyes fell upon the candy bar. “Are
you going to share that?”
“Nope. Mine. Two things, but the most important one first.” Maria reached into
her bag and took out a small vial of clear liquid. “This is a special coating used in
entomology to coat insects in bug collections. This stuff is special. It’s not a lacquer,
but it’s like one. It was originally used in Central America and Mexico. They use
special beetles, boil them, and the extract is this thick syrupy residue that has
qualities very much like lacquer, but it doesn’t yellow over time, and it leaves the
specimen clear with no decrease in the color.”
Kyle and Sean came over to join them. Michael took the vial, and opened it,
smelling it. That was the smell. “Where’d you get this, Professor?”
“The Bug guys in the Entomology Department at the University. Here’s their
card. I told them you would probably be in contact, and I brought you a sample to
test.”
Michael took the sample followed by both Sean and Kyle. “Wait here, I’ll be
right back, Professor. You coming, Maxwell?”
Max's phone rang at the same time, and he gestured Michael to take off
without him. Maria just sat down in Michael’s chair and opened up her candy bar,
and was eating it when Max hung up the phone.
“So, Max. I saw Isabel today.” Max looked over at Maria. She had that look in
her eye, the look full of mischief and speculation.
“Really? How’d it go?”

284

“Pretty good. I introduced her to Jonathan Stiller.” Maria watched him closely,
and Max felt his heart speed up at the mention of the other man’s name.
“Really? What does Jonathan...Stiller have to do with Isabel?” Maria noted the
pause in Jonathan’s name and Max avoiding her eyes.
“He’s going to help her apply for funding to go to school.” Maria tossed her
wrapper in the garbage, smiled at a picture of her on Michael’s desk, and casually
opened the bottom drawer of his desk slightly. Jackpot! Mother load of chocolate
goodness! Maria helped herself to a chocolate and peanut candy bar. “When did my
Detective start hoarding candy bars in his desk?”
“He bought them today from Waters. I think Waters' oldest daughter is selling
them for band camp or something.” Maria took a bite of the candy.
“Admirable.” Maria looked for something to drink and spied Michael's halffinished coffee. Wincing at it because it was tepid, she drank it anyway. “Jonathan
asked about you.”
Max went still. “He did? What did he ask?”
“For your phone number.” Max leaned back in his chair and rubbed a hand over
his face. He didn’t know what to do about that, what to say. Part of him was
pleased that Jonathan was seeking him out, but a big part of him was appalled, still
beating himself up over the uncharacteristic event in his life. And if it weren’t for
the kiss, he might have convinced himself it was nothing.
“Did you give it to him?” Max asked trying to appear casual.
“No.”
“No?” Max tried to calm down.
“Should I have?” Max just shrugged. “What’s going on Max?”

285

“Nothing. Nothing is going on.” Max tried to avoid her eyes, because she was
always able to get things out of him with just her voice or a look. “I don’t want to
talk about it, and especially not to you.”
“Why? We’re friends.” Maria’s eyes became thoughtful at the phrase ‘especially
not to you’, and leaning forward she put her arms on the desk. “Is it because you
thought you were in love with me?”
“Oh sweet Jesus! Does everyone is the entire state know this?” Max shook his
head and looked at her. She didn’t seem too concerned. “Why didn’t you say
anything?” he asked quietly looking around.
“It seemed kinder not to, and I knew sooner or later you would figure it out.
Figure out that you weren’t.”
“I’m that obvious, huh?” Thinking of Jonathan Stiller, and his attraction to him,
Max put his head down on his desk and moaned. He was doomed. Fatherhood,
Isabel, and lifestyle re-evaluations were too much at once.
“Not really. I just knew that you were looking for something, and you saw the
hope of that in me.” Max looked up confused. “When people are around the same
age, especially family like you and Michael, and one starts settling down, it's
inevitable that the other one would follow. Or want to follow. Michael found me, and
you were looking for the same thing. Trying to find that sense of family that you
really hadn’t had since your parents died. It was just time, Max. And it was
flattering that I was the ideal you were fashioning your search on.”
“I thought I was close with Tess.”
“I know. She has a sense of power about her. It’s hard to explain.”
“I saw that, but it wasn’t what I wanted. It was strong, just not...warm.” Max
looked down at his hands watching them clench and then unclench. “I expected to
feel her in my stomach, that butterfly feeling and the ache in my heart, but I didn’t.
286

But there was a part of me that did feel that, but it wasn’t strong as I thought it
should be, more like a memory of a feeling and not the feeling itself. Then I
kissed...” Max just went silent. “Maybe I’m having an identity crisis?”
“So are you going to tell me about Jonathan?”
Max shook his head. “No, no. No. No.” And then lying his head down on his
arms again, he told her anyway. “I kissed him.”
Maria leaned forward. “Did you say you kissed him?” Oh my, so that was how
the milk got in the coconut! “Did he kiss you back?”
“Maria!” Max looked around and moved forward closer to her leaning on his
desk. “It was during the gay bar bust. He was there. We talked. We danced.”
Maria’s eyebrows went up at that. “And then we kissed. It started out as mutual
protection, and...and...”
“It became something else all together?” Max just nodded. “Well! I mean, I
think Jonathan had a relationship with a male before, in college. Not sure about
since, but I didn’t think that you were really...”
“I’m not! Okay. Or I wasn’t...or not...or maybe I am... I don’t know.” Max
looked at her and then around the room. “You’ve got to help me, Maria. What
should I do?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“What would you do?” That was an unfair question, and Max knew it.
Maria just wrote something on a piece of paper and seeing Michael and the
others coming back, stood up and handed it to Max, quickly and gently kissing him
on the lips. “Jonathan’s number. He asked for yours, so I’m giving you his. What
you do with it is up to you.”
“Maria...”

287

“Just ask yourself about whether you would always want to know, or if it was
just the moment. The decision is yours, Max.”
“Professor, are you rifling my desk?” Michael asked as Max quickly pushed the
paper in his top pocket, and mouthed a thank you to Maria.
“Yes I was, and I found your stash of chocolate bars.”
“Maria! You didn’t take...”
“I took one.” Kissing him quickly in a thank you.
Michael looked at her and shrugged. “Oh, well that’s okay.” He really did owe
her for bringing down the bug juice. It was the first real break they had so far in
the case. “You said there were two reasons you came down. What was the other
one?”
Max looked at Maria sharply. She just shook her head no, and turned and
smiled at Michael. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m going out tomorrow night on a
sort of date.” Michael’s eyes narrowed. He should have known better to listen before
reacting. “With Liz. We’re going to see a ‘chick flick’ with the delectable Kevin
Spacey. So it looks to be a golden opportunity for you,” Maria hooked her finger in
his shirt and leaned up and kissed him, “to have your famous poker game without
me upstairs having to ignore the rude comments, and you having to shadow me all
over town.”
Some time later, Maria realized she had tolerated the talking and laughter
from the men for as long as she could, but a glance at her watch told her time was
a'wasting. “I’m heading out. I’ve got to hit a dry cleaners, order some beer for
tomorrow, and numerous other things.” Maria kissed Michael goodbye, and waved
at the others on her way out. Stopping at Waters' desk, she had a short
conversation with him, and left him her card, then went to find Liz Parker. If she
hurried, she could get a nap in before Michael made it home.
288

~~~

Michael and Max finally got a lead on another one of their cases, and after an
uneventful interlude, they apprehended the suspect. Finally a successful end to a
case that didn’t include injury or mayhem!
“Feels like a letdown, doesn’t it?” Max asked as they finished processing their
collar.
Michael laughed. Yeah. Yeah, it did. “It’s like that feeling you get when you
look at this awesome dessert, your mouth waters and the anticipation is high, and
then you take the first bite, and it's just so-so.”
“Exactly. Like working up to an orgasm, and then having it fall flat.”
“I wouldn’t know about that, partner.” Michael snickered as Max pushed him to
the side. “So what does this make us? Adrenaline junkies?”
“Not sure, but whatever it is, the bug has Sean and Kyle, too.” They laughed
on their way out to tie up loose ends, which included Max having to return to court
for the arraignment.
Max finally tracked Michael down a few hours later in the breakroom refilling
his coffee cup. “Hey, partner. It’s late in the day to be still hitting the juice.”
“Tell me about it. If I don’t suck down more caffeine, I’m down for the count. I
need a nap or something.” Michael poured a generous amount of sugar in his coffee
as well. “You all finished with court now?”
“Yeah, the arraignment was fast and easy. They didn’t even need me, but I got
to meet the new Assistant DA. She’s really easy on the eyes. She’s from Texas, and
has this real nice soft Texan accent.”
“Would that be a lilt or a twang?” Michael asked while yawning and stretching.
289

“Definite lilt, and that soft singsong voice is backed up with some incredible
legs.”
“Great, what happened to our last ADA?” Michael sat down in a chair and
leaned back resting his eyes.
“That would now be the DA.” Max took the chair across from his partner.
“What’s up? What’s got you fried?”
“Whitman.”
“Whitman? We got anything on the cousin, yet?”
“No. That’s the problem. I checked the wire. Nothing. All Points is catching
nothing but fly-bys, and all support services, hospital, and morgues haven’t seen
any Jane’s matching. The community has pulled rank, and not even the snitches are
coming through.” Michael drank his coffee. “I called Alex and told him that we still
don't have any word.”
“How’d he take it?”
“Silent. He was silent.” Michael rubbed his eyes. He knew how Sean would’ve
taken it if it was Maria, how he would take it. Silent, hard, cold, and deep anger.
“You want to talk?” Max went and poured himself a cup of coffee.
“About?”
“Why you’re so weird lately. Why you need a nap?” Max said quietly.
“Weird? I’m not weird. And the nap thing? I’m just sacked.”
“No. It’s something else.” Max reached into his pocket and took out a ten
dollar bill. “Easy money partner. Ten bucks says that if you dial right now, call
Maria, she's napping, or needing one.”
Michael’s eyes narrowed, and he looked at Max thoughtfully. “Don’t be an ass.
You can’t know that.”

290

“I can. I’ve got a theory. Ten bucks. Make the call.” Max watched as Michael
called Maria’s phone, and the penetrating look his partner gave him as he woke up
a sleeping Maria. After hanging up, he looked at the phone, and then at his partner.
“Max? What gives? How did you know?”
“It’s been weird, that’s all I’m saying. You nap recently. You complain about
your stomach, and in the mornings you’re off your usual eating habits or just plain
sick. And you never get sick. By mid-morning you’re eating the most incredible
crap, especially sugar, meat, and protein like peanuts. The other day you told me
that your feet looked like they were swelling, and tell me when did you ever eat a
5th Avenue bar or even know what one was? You searched the entire PD until you
found the only machine stocking them, and today your lady walks into this station,
goes to the third floor, and almost takes out a machine to get to a 5th Avenue
candy bar.”
Michael could add a few more things to the list like his overactive libido, a
raging dark possessiveness, and his thirst for Maria and her blood, but he refrained.
“Your point being?”
“My point is that if you were a woman I’d think you were pregnant.”
Michael stopped drinking his coffee. “Pregnant. That’s not possible.”
“Of course not, men can’t get pregnant.”
But women can. Michael took his checkbook out of the back of his pocket and
flipped to the calendar. Quickly counting the days and weeks since the last circles
he ignored Max. Two, three, four...how could she ignore this? Five...six. Six weeks,
almost seven.
“She’s late.”
“What?” Max leaned to look at what Michael was doing.

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“Maria is late by over two weeks.” Michael sat back taking in the concept. Two
weeks ago Maria was in the middle of test block, and so busy that she barely had
time to eat or sleep. But how could she miss that?
“You keep track of her cycle?” Max looked at Michael in shock.
“Sure. You've obviously never lived with a woman that gets grumpy, achy, and
totally bitchy around that time of the month. I try to keep track so I know what’s
coming, and I usually do something nice for her.”
“Nice?” The concept was completely foreign to Max. Not the doing something
nice thing, but the idea that Michael would do it.
“Sure. For three days a month I don’t toss my dirty socks on the floor and
clean the shaving scum out of the sink when I finish, close all the cabinet doors,
don’t leave the seat up, tell her she looks beautiful, rotate the tires on her car, and
under no circumstances schedule a poker game. It took me three months to catch a
clue, but once I did it's been smooth sailing ever since.” Michael looked at the
calendar. Six weeks, almost seven since her last period. Counting the days, that put
her about five to six weeks pregnant. “Being aware saves me from having to duck
when glass objects come flying at my head, or saying something that hurts her
feelings. You know, like 'Is that picture hung crooked?'”
Max couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t wait to tell Isabel. She wouldn’t believe
Michael could pay that much attention to any thing except a crime scene. “Either
way, it doesn’t mean she’s pregnant. That whole stupid idea that men take on the
symptoms of pregnancy is a nothing more than an old wives' tale. Look at me and
Tess. I had to be told, and she’s three months along.”
“Get with it, Max. One minute you tell me I act pregnant, and the next you’re
reassuring me that Maria isn’t.” Michael eyes darkened. “What is it?”

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“I’m just observing, okay. But before you go off all emotional and such, maybe
you should confirm it. They’ve got tests for that, you know?”
“Emotional? I don’t get emotional!” Max raised his hands in surrender as
Michael’s voice rose in volume. “Within reason.” Michael sat back and really thought
about it. She was pregnant. She was! That had to explain the rising possessiveness
he had been experiencing lately. They had gotten past that months ago, and
suddenly he was feeling it again in spades. “A father. I’m going to be a father.”
“Michael, before you get yourself all worked up, maybe you should consider
having it confirmed.”
“I don’t need it confirmed. I know. Now...how to tell Maria. She’s going to
freak and blame me.” Michael said not just a little smugly. It was hard to forget
Maria’s reaction when they had first met and become intimate, her bag of supplies
and her belief that he was able to impregnate her from across the street.
Considering they had beaten the pill, it looked like the Professor was right once
again.
“Michael, maybe you shouldn’t get your hopes up.” Max pause at that thought.
That was it. That was what Michael was doing. He was counting on Maria being
pregnant, because he wanted it to be true. Max frowned, wondering what the
statistics were on hysterical pregnancies for men. Probably nonexistent, but this
was Michael they were talking about.
“I just know, okay?” Chloe was a nice girl name, and if it was a boy it had to
be Michael, called Mikey after Michael’s dad.
“Michael...”
“Look Max, I know, okay? I just know.” Michael looked at his partner’s
concerned face and sighed. “There’re things...things between me and Maria that
I've never mentioned to you or anyone. Things that I can’t explain.”
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“Things? What kind of things?”
“Weird things, okay?” Michael blew air out of his mouth, and wet his lips,
looking around the room to make sure no one was around. “Maria and me, we’ve
got this connection, a real connection that’s more than physical.” Max just frowned
in confusion. “Look, she knows things about me, things I've never told anyone,
things that she couldn’t know about my life, and we share common dreams, and...”
Michael paused, uncomfortable talking about something personal to him and Maria.
“I see her, too. I get these flashes, or maybe they’re just insights. But I see things
about her, in her, and I feel her all over, inside.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Max,” Michael looked around quickly before continuing, “Maria is psychic.”

~~~

Freddie stood in the door looking over at his friend and boss. Alex was sitting
in a booth with a bottle of scotch and a glass in front of him. The bottle was half
empty, and Alex looked intent on finishing the rest.
“Alex? That’s not gonna help.” Freddie took the seat across from Alex.
Alex just shrugged. Forty-eight hours. It was almost forty-eight hours since
Krystal had disappeared. No word. Nothing. Alex rubbed both his hands across his
face.
“The boys?” he asked quietly.
“They're still looking. They’re hitting the streets, but word is nothing. Pete has
friends belling and delivering in local raves, even jumpers from dark side are
searching, but word is no one has seen Beauty. Crank town is closed down and they

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send their sympathies.” Alex just nodded. All the local underground clubs and
parties were closely looking for Krystal, but no one had words or news.
“Tell Keeley and Ed to find Sly. He doesn’t run this side any longer, but word is
he’s running uptown in Bricks for yuppies. Street snitch sniveler has to be holed up
somewhere. Someone find Bennie, just clean him up before bringing him in. I want
to see them both.”
“Alex, maybe we should let the cops do the clean sweep.” Freddie frowned at
the slowly lowering level of booze left in the bottle. “Your cops, Guerin and Evans
are shaking trees, rousting known mouths, and we’re crossing their wires.”
“Cops aren’t going to catch the floaters. Their Vice teams were stretched thin
last few weeks to take out the Nazi high steppers trolling and bagging fags. The
drifting parties are under their wire, and it’ll take some legwork for them to get
back into the life.” Alex downed another shot. “Time is short, too short. I need
answers now.”
Freddie nodded and took off to pick up the scum that Alex wanted to talk to.
They heard things, it was hard not to. But suddenly the entire community was in
shock. Taking a family member from a protected club was unheard of, and her
disappearance had other joints reassessing their people. Doors were closing fast
and undesirables were banned as the clubs did what they did best. Protect their
own.
Forty-eight hours too long. Alex just sat there smoking and drinking, waiting
for news and answers. There was only silence as the music was stopped, and time
stood still. The nights were getting longer.

~~~

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Michael banged into the loft, tossing his stuff across the sofa and headed for
the upper bedroom.
“In a hurry, Detective?” Maria asked casually from where she stood in the
kitchen cooking. Mr. Booboo was keeping her company as she slipped him a few
choice morsels.
“Thought you’d still be asleep.” Michael looked her over critically, from head to
toe noting her attire of his shirt again, barefoot, and looking rested.
“I was until someone woke me up. Then I decided I was getting hungry. So me
and Mr. B are cooking up an old favorite family recipe. If you want to get cleaned
up, you’ve got time. It won’t be ready for at least an hour. I just tossed it in the
oven.” Maria continued cleaning up the kitchen, tossing more scraps of ham to the
cat.
“I need you to do something for me.”
Maria looked at him curiously, then shrugged. Moving out of the kitchen she
gave the cat one last scrap of food, and sat the timer on the oven. “You behave. No
getting on the counters. Don’t think I won’t know.”
The cat just looked at her and blinked.
Michael took her hand and practically dragged her upstairs with him. Maria
spied the paper bag he was clutching. “What’s in the bag?” Maria asked and
suddenly her face became brighter. “Cookies?”
“No, not cookies. Come on.”
When they headed for their bathroom Maria became even more curious.
“What’s going on?”
“I need you to do this for me.” Michael shut the bathroom door, and pulled out
a pregnancy test. Maria looked at the test and shook her head.

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“Don’t need that.” She pushed it back along the bathroom basin counter
towards Michael.
“Professor, just take the test.” Maria stubbornly refused shaking her head.
“Listen to me. I’ve been sick in the mornings, and sometimes in the evenings. I’ve
been having strange cravings, but they’re not strange, they’re your cravings. And I
take naps in the middle of the day.”
“Sounds like you’re pregnant, Detective. So fine.” Maria pushed the box at
him. “You take the test, I’m going to go finish cooking.”
He hooked an arm around her waist, and stopped her from fleeing. “Maria,
you’re late. Look at your schedule.”
“That’s impossible, the pill not only protects me, but it makes my cycle run like
clockwork.” Maria tried to pull away again. “I’m not pregnant.”
“Just look, Maria. You skipped two weeks ago.”
“No, I didn’t. I would have noticed.” Maria pushed him away and went to the
drawer where she kept her birth control pills. “I haven’t missed a single pill. Look.
And my period comes at the end of one pack, and the beginning of the other.” Maria
took out the pill counter and looked at it confused, almost counting the days.
Except last cycle. She was late. She remembered starting the new pack and
wondering why she was late. But then there was testing block, students’ papers, a
chapter of her Thesis due, the museum’s environmental controls and heating went
haywire, and all the work getting ready for the charity auction. All those things hit
at once, but one thing didn’t. Her period. Maria sat on the closed toilet seat just
staring at her counter. That was impossible. She was on the pill, and she never
missed or skipped a day.
“Maria?” Michael lifted her head and forced her to look at him. “Maria, you’ve
got to take the test, honey. We’ve got to know.”
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Maria just nodded as Michael opened up the box and took out instructions and
the testing kit. Reading it, he started explaining it to Maria when she suddenly
stood up taking the stuff from him and pushing him out of the bathroom.
“Out. I can handle it.”
“What? Look all you’ve got to do is pee...”
“Out!”
Michael suddenly found himself on the other side of a shut door. Resting his
head on the door, he knocked. “Maria. Come on, let me in.”
“No!” Michael could hear her voice breaking through the door.
“Maria?” He just waited as she didn’t speak. She was taking it better than he
expected.
Maria sat on the toilet seat reading the directions, trying to quell the rising
panic in her stomach. Ignoring Michael’s knocking on the door, she tried to
concentrate. It seemed stupid especially after being intimate with him for a year,
but she couldn’t pee if he was in there watching. It was just different.
Chocolate. She needed chocolate. Looking around the room, she cursed
whatever foolish gene in her body that didn’t force her to keep a stash in this room
handy. Rushing to the door, she opened it suddenly, almost making Michael fall
forward on his face.
“Chocolate, for the love of God, find me some chocolate...” Michael searched
her face, she was pale. Meltdown, she was on her way to a full scale panic attack
like the one she had had when a bat found its way into the house last fall. She shut
the door in his face again, but this time didn’t lock it.
Rushing downstairs, he searched high and low until he found a large chocolate
bar. Rushing upstairs, he knocked on the door trying to respect her privacy, but

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when there was no answer he entered anyway. Maria was sitting in the bathtub, the
empty bathtub, staring at the test on the tiled shelf.
“Did you?”
“Shush,” Maria held up her hand. Oookay. He stepped into the bathtub with
her, and pulled her into his arms while she stared at the test.
“How long?”
”Three minutes. Shhh.” Michael looked at his watch wondering how long it
already had been. Passing her the chocolate, he watched as she nibbled on it, never
once removing her eyes from the test. When five minutes passed he sighed. She
wasn’t going to look at it, but just stare at it like it was the enemy.
Reaching over, he took it from the shelf, ignoring her quick intake of breath.
Looking at the small window in the test, he frowned. “What do the colors mean?
Maria?” Giving up he spied the information sheet, and quickly read the result
readout. Positive. It was positive. Michael leaned back resting his head and pulling
her close to him. He felt like he had run a marathon.
“Michael?”
“Positive.” Maria just nodded against him and he watched as she started eating
her chocolate faster. “You want a paper bag with that?”
“NO! I’m not panicking, not really. I’m adjusting.” Maria got up and out of the
bathtub suddenly and began pacing while Michael watched her from where he sat.
Mr. Booboo came to sit in the doorway and followed her pacing with a move of his
head back and forth, like he was watching a tennis match.
“If you calm down just a second...”
“I’m calm! This is me calm. Ok? This can’t be happening. It can’t.” Maria
stopped and looked at him. “It has to be illegal.”
“What?”
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“Uh huh, I sure there’s a law, or statute or some mandate that states plainly
that Maria DeLuca should at no time be responsible for small helpless creatures!”
Maria looked at the cat, and shrugged. “That doesn’t include you, Mr. Boo.” Maria
stopped next to the bath and pointed a finger at Michael. “You’re in so much
trouble, buster.”
“I’m in trouble? Why me?”
“Hellooo? Knocked up,” Maria gestured to herself. “And knocker upper.” She
pointed to Michael. “Great, just great. Knocks me up, and then he’ll be languishing
in prison, getting three square meals a day and watching television while I have to
raise the kid alone.”
“Maria...” She stopped pacing at the word ‘kid’. Reaching down she placed both
her hands over her flat stomach. A kid. A small child. Someone defenseless and
helpless depending on her to remember things, be there, and not flake out. A
mother. She was going to be a mother. Maria quickly sat down on the side of the
bath and put her head between her legs.
“I can’t.” Maria just shook her head. “I didn’t prepare. I didn’t read any books
yet, or...or watch videos. They make you watch videos don’t they? I always figured
when I got the urge to...to...um...to procreate I would read everything, interview
breathing mothers, or watch videos, and then put it all away as a bad idea for me. I
can’t find my shoes most mornings. I never remember to put myself to bed. I...”
“Maria.”
“It snuck up on me. Oh God! Oh course it did. It’s your child, and you’re
always so damn sneaky, just sliding in there without even announcing your
intentions.” Maria was off on a rant and pacing again. “I knew it! I just knew it. The
moment I laid eyes on you I knew you were a baby-making machine, just lying in

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wait to impregnate. I let my guard down after a year.” Maria put her hands on her
hips. “Soooo devious!”
“Devious?” Michael’s voice rising in exasperation. “Maria.”
“Well, you’re going to have to set a better example than that! I won’t be
ambushed in my own home. I can already see it, the two of you and the cat
ganging up on me, getting your way.” Maria shuddered as cold harsh reality was
settling on her. “Oh god, I’m a victim of a sneak attack.”
Michael finally got out of the bathtub and pulled her against him as he leaned
back against the sink. “No you’re not. What are you saying, Maria? You don’t want
this baby?”
Maria shoved his hands off her. “Oh course I want it! Hellooo? Catholic. The
worse kind. Italian Catholic. Very, very Catholic. Rosary beads, school uniforms,
catechism classes and communion.” Maria closed her eyes and sighed resting
against him. “Just give me a few moments to adjust okay?”
Michael nodded and pulled her head to his chest as his hand went under her
hair to hold her close. His other slowly moved down her body to come to rest on
her stomach over her womb. Closing his eyes he just felt, just felt...complete.
“I’m not ready for this,” she whispered next to him. “I need to catch up, do
some reading, or take a class. I can’t take a chance on failing at this.”
“Shush, it’s okay, we’ll both do some reading, okay?”
Maria just nodded when a thought occurred to her. “Michael, do they come
with instructions?”
Michael just laughed under his breath. Why wasn’t he more upset or panicked
like Maria was? It was hard to come to terms with what he felt, but the closest
description would be wonder. Awe. He had never had family, just Mikey. And when
Mikey died, Max and Isabel. But they were more a self contained unit, so until he
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met Maria he never really had anyone that belonged to him exclusively, not since
Mikey. This was his-all his and Maria’s. This tied them together forever in a way too
physical to deny.
Michael finally calmed her down enough to talk her into helping him finish
cooking. That basically involved him doing all the work while asking her for
instructions while she sat on the sofa making ‘uh huh’ noises. He just finished
dinner as best he could, making a salad, and setting the table. Reaching for a bottle
of wine, he quickly put it away and poured them both a glass of milk.
Michael talked her into eating something, but for the rest of the early evening
she remained quiet and pensive. At one point, Michael was racking his brain trying
to think of someone to call who could make it better.
“Oh God!” Michael looked at her sharply thinking she was in pain. “Birth
control, I was taking my birth control!” Maria sat up and grabbed Michael painfully.
“The baby’s going to have birth defects or...or...I drank alcohol. I’m positive I drank
alcohol. A beer last week, wine for dinner...oh God, hand me something to write on.
I should record all the bad things I did to warp our baby.” Michael frowned as Maria
started to work herself up into another panic. “Do you think it will be abnormal
because of me?”
“Maria...”
“It’s not even born, and I’m already a terrible mother.” Michael watched as
tears started to fall. Oh shit.
“Maria, you’ve got to calm down, okay?” Michael wished he could pour her
some whiskey, or anything with caffeine, but both would just increase her anxiety.
“Maria, it’s okay. People get pregnant everyday, and don’t realize it for weeks. Tess
is just figuring it out after three months.”

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Maria thought about it, and nodded. That was true, but then again Tess was
crying for over a week. Maybe she’s afraid the baby is wrong. Maybe...
Michael frowned. He expected her to be freaked, and a little apprehensive, but
her real fear was touching him. “Maria, let’s not let this get out of control.
Tomorrow we’ll call and get an appointment. Until then, how about a movie? I’ll let
you pick.”
Maria looked at him and smiled slightly. He was right, and she was just feeding
her own anxiety. “Can I have extra butter and a large milk dud?”
“Yeah, but no cola, bottled water or juice.” Maria just shriveled up her nose, as
they went to change and grabbed their coats. On the way out the door, Michael had
to know. “So that Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform, um...you don’t still have it do you?”

~~~

When Max made it home, he was shocked to see the scene that waited for
him. Isabel was in the kitchen happily cooking and singing to music. She was
drinking a tomato juice with Tabasco minus the vodka. It was so good to see her
happy and smiling.
“Max! Just in time for dinner.” Isabel finished stirring a pot, and returned the
lid. “It’ll be done in another ten minutes or so, which is plenty of time for you to get
changed and ready for dinner.”
“What is it?” The creature inhabiting his usually quiet and lonely apartment
was one even he didn’t know.
“A surprise. Go clean up, and we’ll eat.” Max hesitated, but finally went.
Whatever it was it smelt good. When Max came back, Isabel was setting the table
and pouring them both bottled water.
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“So you want to tell me what’s making you so happy?” Max asked sitting down
after kissing her on the cheek.
“I met someone today.” Max held his breath waiting for Isabel to tell him that
she met Jonathan Stiller. “Maria introduced me to a friend of hers, a Jonathan
Stiller. I had lunch with him and Maria, and then he took me out to The Tea Room.”
“So it was a good date.” Max asked quietly.
“Not really a date, but a meeting. He’s going to push my application for
educational funding through this Foundation thing he’s CEO for.” Isabel leaned
forward excitedly. “Max, he said that since I took a leave of absence from the
University in Albuquerque, and all my grades were in good standing, that I should
be able to get admitted to the University here as a transfer student! The session
has already started, but there are some night classes and half semester classes I
can take while I wait for the Fall semester, and...there is this summer.”
Max watched his sister’s excitement rising. “So he’s going to help you with the
paper work?”
“No. I mean yes, but technically, no. He told me to come by his offices
tomorrow and one of his assistants will help me to fill everything out.” Isabel leaned
forward and giggled. “And...and! He gave me a contact number, which I called for
this clinic downtown. I got a job!”
“A job? Today, you did all this in one day?” Max sat back amazed.
“I did. Okay, the job sort of sucks. The pay is lousy, but the hours are flexible.
It is a sort of crisis clinic like the one I worked in when I was in Arizona, but it’s
supported by this Foundation, and it is staffed by students from the University with
a few trained psychologists.” Isabel took up the plates and started serving. “The
best thing is that they'll work with my class schedule.”

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Max took the plate that Isabel offered him. “That sounds great, Iz. So did you
call Michael and tell him, yet?”
“No chance, but I wanted to call Maria and thank her for the help. I guess
she’ll tell Mikey at the same time.” Isabel served salad in the bowls and passed one
to Max. “I don’t know how to thank her. She just introduced me to someone, and
then suddenly it was like doors opened.”
Max just nodded tasting the food. “Things happen that way around Maria.”
Frowning at his plate, Max looked up at Isabel. “What is this?”
“Coq au Vin. Mom’s recipe.” Max looked at his sister closely.
“You okay?” he asked quietly. Isabel nodded choking back tears. Max took
another bite, and looked at Isabel again as a tear ran down her cheek. “I don’t
remember Mom’s Coq au Vin tasting like this. This is good.”
“It didn’t.” Isabel wiped the tear off and smiled. “Remember the frittata?”
Max laughed with Isabel. “God, that was awful! Don’t tell me that you’ve got
that recipe, too?”
”I do. Frittata di Spinaci e Cacio.”
“What the heck does that mean?”
“Basically, spinach and cheese omelet, but whatever Mom did to it made it
inedible. I couldn’t figure out how everything she cooked tasted like dirt or ashes.”
They laughed and reminisced over other cooking disasters. “I miss her. I miss her
bad cooking, and the way she was always there when I needed her.”
“I know.” Max said quietly. “I miss her, too. And dad.” Isabel just nodded. Max
looked at his sad sister, and for once she seemed sad, but serene in it, accepting.
“You want to go visit them?”
Isabel looked at him, and in silence they shared a world of pain. “Yeah, I
would. I think it’s about time.” They were great parents. And not for the first time,
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both of them wished their parents had been small time family practice lawyers in a
smaller town like Roswell instead of criminal lawyers in Albuquerque, but life was
full of 'what ifs' and wishes that would never come true, and it was time to face
reality and go on.
“So what are you going to do about this whole baby thing?” Isabel asked later
as they were drinking an after dinner coffee.
“Baby thing?” Max was confused for a moment thinking Isabel knew about
Michael and Maria, until suddenly he realized she was talking about Tess and his
baby. “Have a baby, I guess. It’s pretty much a done deal.”
Isabel looked at him. “You seem calm about it. What’s going on in that head?”
“Truthfully?” Isabel nodded. “I don’t know. It’s possible that the full implication
of what it means hasn’t hit me yet. I asked Tess to marry me.”
“Marry? But...”
“She said no. Part of me was disappointed, and another relieved.” Max drank
his coffee and leaned back on the sofa. “The only thing I really know is that I’m a
mass of contradictions, and confusion seems to be ruling my personal life. The only
thing I’m sure about is my work.”
“So you’re not freaking?”
“Surprisingly, no. I think I’m okay with it. Tess is a nice woman, and she's
smart and gentle, a perfect mom type. I just guess I never really saw her, or knew
her. There was something though...”
Isabel just sat back and listened as Max tried to explain and talk about his
relationship with Tess. Her interest piqued when he mentioned feeling a sense of
familiarity in the same way that he felt with Michael when they first met, but how
that sense had something more intense to it.

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“Sounds like I need to meet this Tess. After all, I am going to be an aunt.” Max
nodded, but refrained from mentioning to her that she might actually be an aunt
twice. That was Michael’s news to tell.
“You are.” Max closed his eyes and rested for a moment. Thinking of that piece
of paper Maria gave him, he let uncertainty wash over his body. Life was too hard
sometimes.
“So what’s causing all the grimacing on your face now?” Isabel asked. Max
opened an eye and looked at his sister. She looked so beautiful, so alive, and for
the first time in forever, ready for tomorrow.
“Just thinking.”
“Thinking? About what? Just things?”
“Yeah, things.” Max moved around and lounged full length on the sofa so he
could look at his sister in the large comfy chair. “I once thought I found someone
that was special to me, that might have made a difference in my life. She...I don’t
know. She touched me.”
“Tess?”
“No. Tess did touch me in some way, almost like a clouded memory. This
woman was different. I felt...” Max shrugged as he searched for words, descriptors,
anything that could capture a feeling into simple words. How does a person
describe a unique feeling that they never felt with anyone else.
“Max?”
“I don’t know. I felt alive, like I was hotwired. Hard to explain. There was
something about her, something so pure and honest.”
“What happened?” Isabel asked. She sort of felt that once, or felt a glimpse of
it.

307

“Right girl, wrong time. Maria explained this concept to me once, a sort of
selective speciation.”
“Do I want to hear this?” Isabel asked after having spent lunch with Maria, she
was beginning to believe that Maria had a lecture for every subject.
“Maybe not, but you asked what went wrong, and I think this is it.” Max smiled
as Isabel quickly went to refill their coffees. “Maria said that species didn’t mate
across species lines often for many reasons. Sometimes it was a chemical
imbalance, like the chromosomes didn’t match. There could also be physical
barriers like ‘tab A’ didn’t fit into ‘slot B’, so breeding was impossible. Or the
hormones of attraction didn’t appeal, or their mating season were off.”
“So you and this woman’s tabs and your slots didn’t match?”
“No more like our mating seasons were off. We met the right person, but at
the wrong time. I was busy with everything in my life, a high profile murder,” Max
refrained from mentioning Isabel and her problems. “And then I met a glimpse of
what I was searching for in Maria and Michael, and it felt out of reach. This
woman’s life was too complicated, as was mine. Her needs too great, as were mine.
Everything at the time was wrong, and when I thought it might be right, she moved
on.” Max occasionally still regretted not even once kissing Liz Parker.
“I’m sorry.” Isabel wondered if it was a curse of theirs to just brush next to
that something special, but let their lives prevent them from really touching it. Alex
Whitman.
“Me, too.” Max couldn’t begin to say how sorry he was. It was like he missed a
big clue in his life, and had been floundering ever since.
“No chance? Ever?” Isabel hadn’t realized until that moment that she was
hoping for Alex Whitman still.

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“I don’t know. It just seems that my life is for crap right now, all over the
place and up in the air. Who would want to walk into the life of a man who has a
child on the way with another woman, and then there’s my confusion over who I
am.”
“I can relate. Even if I found something real, it wouldn’t be right. Not until I
straighten out this mess I made of my life.” Isabel finished her coffee and sat it on
the coffee table. “I want to meet the love of my life, whole, and free to love him
without conditions. I want what Michael has found.”
“Same here. I don’t want to meet someone and hand them all my baggage
and tell them to deal. I want to be free to love unconditionally and be loved the
same way.” Max sighed. He wasn't there yet. “You know Michael had problems, but
so did Maria. The difference was their problems weren’t fucking them up. They were
both repressing emotions, but at the same time, they were fully aware of it. They
both recognized what was wrong, and they were coping and fixing thing for
themselves. When they got together it just made it easier for them, but they
weren’t expecting the other to fix it, or live with it. Being with each other made
them want to be more open and honest, and find ways to overcome their pasts. I
saw it work, and I wanted that strength, that freedom.”
“He’s changed. Michael’s changed.”
“No he hasn’t. Not really. I keep seeing the Michael I always knew, that person
deep inside that was there before his dad died. Maria just helps him move past the
pain, and lets him come out again.” Max laughed remembering Michael’s run-ins
with various people over the last year. “Essentially he is still the same bad haired,
bad tempered son of a bitch that mows over everyone in his way.” Max laughed in
good humor. “Now he just smiles when he does it, and really, really enjoys it.”

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“Great. Love to see his psycho crazed smile driving up behind me.” Isabel
shuddered delicately for show. Looking at her brother, she let a question she had
passed over come back around. “So what do you mean you’re confused over who
you are?”
“It’s nothing.” Isabel refused to budge. “Really. It’s just a slight identity crisis I
think.” Isabel’s eyes became narrow in speculation. “I kissed a man in a gay bar.”
“I go away for a year and the world turns around in a crazy alternative
universe.” Isabel gets up, and quickly pushes Max’s legs off the sofa so she can sit
beside him. “Okay, start at the beginning, don’t leave out any details...actually feel
free to embellish a little. So this kiss was it hot, not so hot, or nuclear?”
“Isabel...” Max begins to whine.
“Wait!” Isabel jumps up with her hand out halting him. “I’m going to make us
some microwave popcorn.” Isabel rushed into the kitchen to quickly make the corn
and pour them both a cola when a scary thought hit her hard. “Oh God, it wasn’t
Michael was it?”
“NO!” Max horrified voice came from the living room. Isabel sighed a deep
relief. It was one thing to have the entire world turned around, but taking a wicked
twist into the twilight zone would’ve been more than she could’ve handled.

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Day 8: Wednesday- 2:00 a.m.

Michael groaned as the ringing of the phone woke him. Gathering Maria tight
to his side and slightly under him, he quickly answered the phone before it woke
her. It had taken forever for her to fall asleep, even after calming down during the
movie. He sat through a total mushfest watching her cry her eyes out, and couldn’t
believe he had missed the clue of her recent more emotional mood swings.
Normally Maria was a person who turned the channel when the damn Hallmark
commercials came on.
“Yeah?” Michael blinked his eyes trying to focus his eyes on the bedside clock.
Dammit, two in the morning. Michael became more alert as the dispatcher gave
him information. “Tell units I’m rolling in ten. Code Eight Evans to meet on site.
Also, shake up DeLuca and Valenti to scene.”
Michael went to get dress. Before he left the loft he quickly wrote Maria a note
and put it where she would find it when she woke up. Kissing her quickly and
resting his hand on her body, he left the loft.
It was chilly in the early morning air. When Michael made the scene, the
surrounding area was clean and dark. It was one of Roswell’s largest parks.
Searching the dark tree lined areas, he quickly went under the police tape and
flashed his badge. His belt was still missing, so he had hooked his badge to the
chain around his neck holding Mikey’s dogtags.
Seeing only two units on site, and no support teams, he quickly radioed in for
ETA for support teams. They were still ten minutes out. Finding a uniform officer,
Michael asked who was the first on site.
“Peterson, who’s my RP?” The man pointed at another officer talking into
squawk.
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“Harris. He was patrolling this section of the Park when he found the body.”
Michael nodded and moved off towards the officer that called in the scene.
“Harris?” The man nodded. Michael recognized him as a generation cop with
ten years experience. “You were first on scene?”
“Yes, sir.” Michael looked at the area. It was a small restroom area with
garbage receptacles.
“How long ago?”
“Less than half an hour. I had patrolled through this section only an hour
previous, but didn’t notice anything. The last time through I noticed dogs, about
three of them, messing around the area.” Harris shined his light along the path to
the parking area where his patrol car was parked. “I proceeded up the path, and
the dogs ran when I approached. As soon as I saw the wrapped body I called into
dispatch.”
Nodded, making notes in his book. “Then Seven David Charley responded?”
“About five minutes after I called. I requested a Code One backup to patrol the
park and move in from the entrance.” Michael nodded.
“They pick up any movement when they responded and patrolled through?”
Harris shook his head no. “The park was empty, no entering or leaving
vehicles. Seven David Charley checked all standing vehicles and took information
on park lurkers, mostly young couples parking. Peterson’s partner has the
information and list.”
Michael looked over at the parking area when Max’s car drove up. He could
see other vehicles moving through the dark park as their lights lit up the night sky.
“Anyone mess with the body?”
“No, sir.” Michael nodded. Harris was a professional. He would’ve kept the
scene pristine once he knew what he was looking at.
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“Copy me your report, and see if someone can call down to Power to turn on
this grid.” Michael pointed to the baseball diamond that the bathrooms serviced.
The restroom area had extra lights that where lit during night games. Harris
nodded, understanding that Michael was assigning him to the team as first on the
scene. Michael looked out at the dark woods and frowned. “Harris, also call in extra
units. I want them to spread out into the woods and walk in. Look for watchers.
They find anyone, have them bring them in. Can you cover?”
Harris nodded. He was officially in charge of the foot uniforms. On his way
back to his unit, he started calling it in.
Max came up to Michael as Harris walked away. “What we got?” Michael
inclined his head to the plastic wrapped body by the garbage. Swearing under his
breath, Max looked around the area. It was too dark.
“Keep everyone off the scene until the lights come up. The body was probably
rolled from a car again, but this time they would’ve driven on the dirt access that
the disposal trucks use. We might get some clear tracks, and tire tread.” Michael
looked at the closest parking space. “Have the boys start combing the parking area
with lights.”
Max nodded as Sean and Kyle arrived. Simon and his men were close behind
as the baseball diamond's lights suddenly came on. Good man, Harris.
They found where the car had backed in and rolled the body. Then it was
dragged for about two feet to be set up next to the dumpster. Michael and the rest
moved off the tape to mark the crime scene to include the tracks.
“Simon.” Michael said pointing to an area.
“I see them.” Simon called to one of his men to start recording a pair of
footprints with clear edges and boot treads.

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Michael finally moved towards the body, while pictures were shot and the body
outline taped. Using an edge of a pencil, he lifted the plastic away. The dogs had
been chewing though the plastic and had uncovered a foot. Michael stared for a
moment, and then rubbed his hands over his face as he crouched beside the body.
“Have someone call Whitman in.” Michael said quietly. Max just hung his head
and closed his eyes. Too late, they were too late.
Michael quietly watched the autopsy. He and Simon exchanged silent looks,
much like they had done at the scene. This body was processed too, but not to the
same extent Janet Seers had been. Krystal Whitman’s body was coated in the clear
shellac, but her blood and internal organs still remained in her body, untouched.
”What is it, Michael?” Max asked later as they hit the coffee, again. It was
almost five a.m., and they were all feeling the tiredness. Kyle and Sean were both
doctoring their coffee with milk and sugar, when Simon came in to join them.
“Maria was right. The dumping is wrong. Even though this body isn't as
processed as the other one, all this work implies that he's keeping them or has a
purpose, but for some reason he dumps them.” Michael ran his coffee cup over his
forehead enjoying the warm feeling. He could feel an early morning headache
coming on and a slight rising nausea. Morning sickness. How long does this last?
“Michael.” Simon handed Michael a list and some other papers. “Here’s the
initial report. We’re running blood analysis, but she’s been dead about twenty-four
hours.”
Michael nodded, and read down the initial report. Tattoo on right hip. “Simon,
the tattoo, what was it?”
“It was a tiny butterfly, very small. Technically it was on her right asscheek,
but up high, more on the hip. I almost didn’t notice it at first, and then I thought it

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was a temporary.” Simon watched that dark faraway look come into Michael’s eyes.
“What is it?”
“Janet Seers had a barely noticeable birthmark on her inner thigh.”
“That’s correct.” Simon shifted on his feet. “You said to let you know when
Alex Whitman arrived to identify the body.”
“He’s here?”
“Yeah, about five minutes ago.” Simon looked at Guerin and then away. He
knew what Michael was going to do, and he didn’t envy him. “You want me to...”
“I’ll take care of it.” Michael put down his coffee cup on the table and headed
for the door.
“Michael, you want me to come too?” Max asked quietly. Michael just shook his
head no.
“I’ll be back.”
Michael found Alex sitting in a chair in the hall outside Simon’s office. He was
unshaven and looked to not have slept in days. Mentally steeling himself against it
Michael did what he always did, his duty.
“Alex.” Michael felt the coldness in the eyes, the knowledge that was too far
seeded inside not to be aware. Alex knew why he was there, and nothing would
ever change that. Alex just stood up and with a slight gesture in Michael’s direction
waiting for the man to take him to his cousin.
Alex followed as Michael led the way. He stopped to talk to a technician and
take a clipboard. Simon had moved the body back into cold storage, and Michael
went to open the door to pull out the cold slab.
Before he could pull back the sheet, Alex beat him to it. Standing tall above
his cousin, Alex’s eyes surveyed every inch of her face. He nodded slightly. Michael
silently handed him the papers and watched as Alex quickly signed his name.
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“Can I have a moment?” Alex asked after he handed back the papers. Michael
just moved away to stand against the wall and wait for Alex to be through. Sean
was standing just inside the door. Michael hadn’t even realized that he had come in.
Both men remained quiet and gave Alex some privacy with his cousin.
Alex looked at her, searched her face for a hint of life. The only thing about her
that still looked alive was her red hair which was obscene against the paleness of
death. Reaching over, he opened her eyes and stared into their empty orbs. Then
leaning down he whispered into her ear and then kissed her lifeless mouth before
straightening and covering the empty wasted shell of his cousin. She, who once was
Krystal and Squeak to him, had already gone.
Alex left the room, hardly nodding to Michael, but did pause long enough to
thank him for finding her. Michael rested his head back against the wall and closed
his eyes. He didn’t bother to watch Alex walk away, and Sean just stood silently,
staring at the back wall of stainless steel morgue drawers.
“Why did he open her eyes and look at them?” Sean finally asked.
Michael sighed and moved out of the room with Sean following him. Handing
the papers over to Simon’s assistant, Michael went to the elevators.
“He had to look. When my father died in my arms, I watched the light of life
disappear from sight, be snuffed out. I knew he was dead. Alex would’ve never
walked away if he hadn’t checked to make sure that not an ounce of life wasn’t still
there. He had to know.”
“It was obvious, Michael.”
“The mind knows, but the heart refuses to accept until the eyes can see. Now
he knows, and now he knows what he has to do.”
Michael went back into the breakroom to retrieve his coffee. Alex was going to
be a problem. He was closer to the streets, to the hunting ground than the cops. He
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would use all his resources to hunt and kill the person who drew blood from his
veins, and from his club.
“I’ll call us in to Cap. All of you, go take some personal downtime until this
afternoon. I’m calling off poker, so plan to work into the evening.” Sean and Kyle
left together. It would be hours before their labs and results started trickling in. All
the initial legwork had already been done while Krystal Whitman was just a
"missing person".
“Alex...is he okay?”
“No, would you be?” Max just shook his head. They had all stood there before.
Michael with Mikey, and he with his parents. He had identified their remains and
sometimes years later, he still woke up to the memory of them laid out on a cold
slab. “Go home and sleep, Maxwell. It’s breaking dawn, and we’ll have hours of
time to work the facts.”
“Was Maria still asleep when you left?” Michael nodded and looked at the time.
That was over three hours ago, almost half a workday and a lifetime ago. He
needed to go home. He needed Maria.
“Did you talk to her?”
“Yeah.”
Max waited but Michael seemed distracted. “And?”
“Positive. I’m going with her to the doctor’s office this morning. So if I’m late
just page me, otherwise I’ll be in after that.” Max looked down into his empty cup.
“How’d she take it?”
“Freaked. Pretty much as I expected.” Michael swallowed the last of his coffee.
“Actually, that’s not true, or not completely. I expected her to freak, since that’s
usually Maria’s initial reaction to most things. But then she calms down and lets

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reason and reality work its magic on her. Last night she totally lost it. It was beyond
freaking, it was cold icy fear.”
Max didn’t understand that. “Fear?”
“She’s seeing this huge responsibility and she's afraid she’s not going to be
equal to the task, that she’s going to be a terrible mother. Maria is afraid that she’ll
fail and the baby will suffer for it.” Michael didn’t know how else to describe Maria’s
reaction.
Max couldn’t even wrap his mind around the idea of Maria not being the
greatest of parents. The woman fixed everyone’s life around her, but the problem
was she seemed unaware that she did that, that she was a nurturer.
“So why don’t you tell her that she’s not alone, that you’re there to help too?”
That was a thought, a concept that had slipped under his radar. He just
assumed she would know that, but remembering her fear over raising the baby
alone, and forgetting everything essential, Michael frowned. How could she not
know he would be there too?
“I didn’t think about that.”
“Well it’s not like you two are married, or that you even said the ‘I love you’
words yet.” Michael scowled at Max. That was privileged information, information he
told Max about months ago. Max couldn’t understand why the couple remained
silent after a year when every touch and look literally shouted the words.
Michael thought about it for a second. Of course she was feeling uncertain. It
was an earth shattering event, a life altering one. How can she know that this will
last since they had only made a commitment to live together? Poor Maria, who had
spent years chasing after her flaky mother, bailing her out of jail or being arrested
with her. She was afraid that she’ll be the same kind of mother, and all the baby will
have to depend on.
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Maria needed to be married, married to him so she could feel better about the
baby.
“Maxwell, I need to go.” Max watched a look of pure determination cross
Michael’s face, and he felt a rush of trepidation run up his body in the form of a cold
sweat.
“Michael what are you up to? Maybe you should...”
Michael headed out. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered.”
Max stood in the room after he left and shook his head. “That’s what I’m afraid
of.”

~~~

Maria was still asleep when he got home. It wasn’t quite six in the morning,
and she had called Tess the previous evening to cover her morning classes so she
could go to the doctor’s office. It was hours before she needed to be up.
Michael stood over her watching her sleep. Her hand was resting on his side of
the bed, almost like she was looking for him. Too many nights he got called out,
and she had to sleep without him. Too many nights he worked late or was on
stakeout and his side of the bed remained empty. No wonder she was worried and
afraid.
Staring at her, his eyes took in every detail. After seeing Alex identify his
cousin’s body, he felt a need to find her. To look at her and search every inch of her
to make sure she was okay, still safe. Standing in that room, the three of them
shared a common understanding, a deep brotherhood of pain knowing the cost of
losing someone under their protection. Sean and Michael could see and feel it in

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Alex, and there were no words, no gesture that could give back or fill that empty
place.
Michael knew that there would be no sleep for Alex, only a bottle of burning
liquid to match the burning inside his soul. For Sean there would be another night
slaying and killing Cassie as she mocked him with her presence in his mind. Michael
rushed home to stand over Maria and his child like some hellbeast determined not
to let anything touch them. They all were the same.
Michael went into the bathroom, and stood under the shower to let the hot
water pound on his skin, to wash away the smell death left there. Maria made a soft
protesting sound as he lifted the covers to slid into their bed as the cooler air hit
her skin. But she quickly settled as the warmth of his body, still slightly moist from
the shower, moved up against her.
In her sleep, she could sense him, smell his scent that was exclusively his, feel
the radiating heat of his blood as it coursed through his body, and she moved into
his arms. Slowly waking to his need, her mouth was drawn to his neck and along
his shoulder as drops of moisture still clung to his skin. She sucked on him while his
hands and body moved over her, surrounding her as every inch of her body was
touched.
Michael appreciated her soft calling of his name as he wrapped himself around
her. The sensation of her hit his stomach, emptying it out as his need for her
increased. After all this time, she still knocked him flat, moved him. It made him
afraid. It was easier before when he had nothing to lose; everything was already
gone. Mikey was dead, and he lived sheltered from the world because everything he
truly valued was already ripped away. But then she moved into the emptiness
mending the wounds, giving him a reason to care, and a reason to be vulnerable
again.
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“Maria, I need...”
“I know.” She said softly, and she pulled him into her.

~~~

Michael sat in the doctor’s office looking out of the corners of his eyes at all
the women occasionally watching him. Maria was reading a magazine she brought
with her, and occasionally making a clucking noise under her breath. Michael tried
to find something to read but all the magazines were about women’s health, with
not a single one about cars or sports.
“Stop fidgeting.” Maria whispered to him. Michael frowned at two women
giggled to each other as they kept staring at him.
“I’m not.” He whispered hotly back at her. “They’re staring at me!”
”It’s your imagination.”
“No it’s not.” Maria glanced up quickly and noticed that some of the women
were watching Michael.
Smiling to herself, she went back to reading her journal. It was to be
expected. He was the impregnator, able to beat birth control pills in a single bound,
on top of being so very masculine in a dominatingly feminine office with his pissy
demeanor. What woman could resist being utterly fascinated? Maria out of the
corner of her eye watched him reach for his gun, and unsnap the safety as he
started to pull out his arrest book.
“Put it away.” she said casually. He looked at her, and shrugged. He was only
going shake down a few of the more obvious offenders and maybe ticket them,
except for that one in the corner who kept trying to catch his eye with weird
gestures. She was obviously deeply disturbed.
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“I thought your doctor was a baby doctor, not a shrink.”
“He’s an OB/GYN, not a baby doctor. That’s a Pediatrician. And OB/GYN docs
are not shrinks. They are women’s doctors.” Maria said quietly and offhandedly.
“He?” Michael whispered hotly. The women around them giggled quietly, as
Maria sighed, shaking her head. Michael scowled at a few women near him. He.
Maria never mentioned her doctor was a he. That means he looked at her...checked
her over...saw her without...Michael reached for his gun again.
Maria slapped at his hand. “Behave.”
“Maria?” Maria turned her attention back to the nurse calling her name and
smiled. Closing her magazine she started to follow her in the back room.
“Wait, where are you going?” Michael asked nervously.
“It’s my turn.”
Michael quickly got up and crowded into her. “You’re not leaving me alone in
here.” Maria looked at the room and had to agree. God only knew what kind of
trouble he would get into out here alone. Taking his hand, she took him with her.
Michael watched as the nurse took down all of Maria’s vital statistics. His eyes
narrowed at her weight. He hadn’t realized she was that small, making a note to
feed her more when the absurdity of the thought hit him. She ate like an army.
When they took her blood he bit back a response, his jaw muscles clenching as he
shoved his fist in his pockets. Maria just calmly took her other hand and reached up
to touch his arm to calm him down.
“You okay?” Maria asked quietly looking up at him. He just nodded. “Come
down here.” Michael squatted next to her chair and she moved her hand over his
cheek as he closed his eyes and rested against her. He knew they needed her
blood, but watching the needle...he looked away.”

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The nurse, Carolyn, watched them for a second. “All done.” She put a colorful
BandAid over Maria’s arm holding a cotton swab in place, and bent her arm up.
“Just keep pressure on that for a few minutes until it stops bleeding.” Reaching into
a drawer, she took out a lollypop and handed it to Michael. “You did really well.”
Michael stayed in the lab room with the nurse when Maria went to the
bathroom. She refused to let him go with her while she got a urine sample. Carolyn
watched him and smiled. He seemed to take up the whole room just standing there,
unsure whether to keep standing or to sit.
“Is it your first?” she asked him.
Michael looked at her for a moment until the words sunk in. First. “Yeah, our
first.” First, that implied one in the long line of many, and that meant they needed
to be married before they started begetting more. “We just realized that she was
two weeks late so we did a home pregnancy test. It was positive.”
Carolyn smiled at the sound of his voice. He sounded like he created the test
himself, clever little soul. She heard the special specimen window close, and went
and retrieved Maria’s urine sample.” Taking a small amount she added it to a special
small vial and noted the reaction. Showing Michael. “Well congratulations. It’s
official. Definitely pregnant.”
Michael loosened up enough to go over and watch her work. “What is that?”
“It’s a test that checks for HCG, a special placental hormone that stops the
body from menstruating. It’s only present if a baby is onboard, or taken as a
fertility drug. Basically the same kind of test you did at home, but more accurate.”
Carolyn smiled as he continued to watch her label Maria’s blood. “So did this cause
you to freak, when you did covered your girlfriend was pregnant?”

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Michael shook his head no. “Fiancée, and no I was fine. Maria was the one that
freaked. She doesn’t do change well.” Michael looked over as Maria came out of the
bathroom.
They waited in the exam room for the doctor after Michael said goodbye to
Carolyn. Maria watched in amazement as Michael struck up a conversation asking
questions, and Carolyn promised to find him literature. Getting undressed, Maria
sat on the exam table while Michael was reading a brochure.
Pulling off the tape on her arm, Maria looked at her puncture wound to see if it
had stopped bleeding. The taped pulled at her skin, and Michael was beside her
immediately at the sound of her reaction to the pain. Taking her arm in his, he
gently removed the tape and looked at the wound. Maria watched his face, when
suddenly his body shuddered and he bent his head to cover the wound with his
mouth.
“Oh damn!” Maria moaned closing her eyes. He couldn’t start that here. Not
now. “Michael.” He looked up and they shared a look before both of their eyes
dropped to the other’s mouth as Michael moved forward resting his hands on the
table on either side of her and his mouth moving closer to hers, as the door
suddenly opened and the doctor entered. Michael moved away quickly,
straightening and rubbing the back of his neck as Maria cleared her throat.
“Maria.” The man looked over at Michael in surprise. “And Michael. This is a
surprise, Detective. I would have bet my entire life savings that you’d be the last
person I’d ever see in my offices.” Michael just scowled at the gray haired
gentleman he had met a few times over the last year at parties he and Maria
attended. He never realized that the man was Maria’s doctor.
“Jim. How are you?” Maria cleared her throat again to take out that husky
sound.
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“I’m the doctor. I think that’s my question.” Jim looked over at Michael.
“Michael, do you think you’ll be more comfortable in the waiting room while I
examine Maria?” Seeing the larger man’s deepening scowl, Jim smiled. Perhaps not
the waiting room. “How about my office?” Michael just shook his head no.
“I’m fine here.”
Jim leaned forward and asked Maria in a quiet whisper. “Is he going to shoot
me?”
“You’ll be fine. I’ll protect you.” Jim nodded, but uncertainly. He wasn’t too
comfortable under the dark scrutiny of those eyes. But he got to work asking Maria
questions and examining her. Everything was fine until Maria winced once at the
coldness of the instruments and Michael started to stand up.
“It’s just cold. Stop worrying.” Michael sat down again. Maria turned her
attention back to the doctor. “So, do you hear from Harry?”
The man smiled. “Too often for my liking. Every time he calls, he needs more
money. Senior year in College, and he seems to spend more and more.”
“That’s not going to change, Jim. He’s starting medical school this fall, right?”
“Yeah, I’m already seeing the bills.” Jim looked over at Michael. “I might have
to increase my fees to cover them all.” He watched Michael’s eyes narrow, and just
shrugged. Okay, joking was out.
Standing up, he covered Maria up and went to the counter to mark in her
chart and fix the slides for lab. “That’s it for now. Why don’t you get dressed, Maria,
and you and Michael can come into my office and we’ll set you a delivery date.”
Afterward, Michael lightened up, and asked lots of questions. As they were
leaving the office Jim and Michael were actually conversing freely, much to Maria’s
amazement. Hello! Who was the pregnant person here?

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“So she doesn’t need another appointment in a few weeks?” Jim patted
Michael on the back as they walked down the hall towards the reception’s desk.
“No. Not this early in the pregnancy. The receptionist will set you up for the
next appointment. Just follow the diet, exercise, and take the prenatal vitamins. No
more caffeine, and alcohol abstinence is a given. If morning sickness gets to be a
problem call me and I’ll give her something.” They stopped as Carolyn came up and
gave Michael a small pile of literature. Maria rolled her eyes in disgust. “So Michael
it looks like you and your girlfriend are going to have your lives pretty full in about
seven and a half months.” Maria frowned at that. Girlfriend? Hellooo, the name is
Maria! The knocked up one-the frickin’ patient!
Michael flipped through the literature and smiled his thanks at Carolyn, then
answered Jim’s question. “Fiancée, and yes I suppose we are.” Michael missed
Maria’s startled look at him.

“Fiancée? I didn’t realize! Congratulations you two!” Maria looked at the two
men in utter shock. Neither did she.
But Michael appeared to be enjoying himself. Pig. What the hell was wrong
with him? By the time they left the office he had the doctor’s private number and
emergency number, a crapload of literature, knew half the office workers' names,
and carried a balloon, two stickers and a lollypop. Maria growled when she heard
voices wishing Michael a good day on their way out. Maria was surprised they didn’t
lose her in a closet or something with all the attention anyone paid her.
On the way to the PD, she kept looking over at him in the passenger seat
reading through a brochure. Occasionally he would read her a fullfledged passage
about the changes soon to befall her tortured body. Finally Maria couldn’t take any
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more. Cutting off another car, she pulled into a parking lot. Michael looked up at the
Dunkin’ Donuts shop. Great idea. He could eat, but Maria better have herbal tea,
and...Michael searched his book quickly...too much sugar was bad. Maybe an egg
and ham croissant for Maria. Protein was essential.
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Me? Nothing. I’m just reading.”
“I’m not talking about that. What is with telling everyone I’m your fiancée?”
“What about it? It’s what they call the person you’re going to marry before you
actually get married.”
“That usually implies that you ask the person, you intend to marry. Oh, let me
see...” Maria paused dramatically. “Nope, don’t remember a proposal of any sort.
Ergo, not a fiancée.”
Michael frowned. He was supposed to ask? Hadn't he? Dammit it shouldn’t be
this hard. Of course they were getting married. It was a given. “Maria, okay, maybe
I forgot to ask,” Michael continued ignoring her snort of derision, “but you should
have realized that with the baby coming and...”
Michael winced in pain at the loud high screech of indignation that emanated
from her. Maybe he said the wrong thing? “Baby? This is about the baby? Aw,
oh...I? Oh...” Maria actually turned red and Michael looked at her in concern. She
didn’t look like she was breathing. This could be very good for the ba... “Get out!”
“What?”
“Get out of my car.” Michael was confused by her reaction, but complied before
she burst a blood vessel.
“Maria...” Michael jumped back quickly to save his feet, as she gunned the car
into gear and took off, stranding him in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Maria!” Michael flopped his arms at his sides in agitation. What the hell did he say?
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Taking out his cell phone he called her number. At the answer, “Maria?” which
was followed swiftly by a disconnecting dial tone. Michael dialed again…
“Max? Look, can you pick me up at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop on the corner of
Fillmore and 37th?”
Michael headed into the shop to get himself some breakfast and coffee. Ring.
He couldn’t believe he forgot the ring. This was Max’s fault. He could have
mentioned a ring last night. Maria’s reaction was startling, but Michael comforted
himself with the knowledge that she was more than likely highly emotional and
hormonal. He had just read about it in that one brochure.
“Could I have another half a dozen glazed buttermilks over here?”
“So you going to tell me what happened?” Max asked as he retrieved his donut
laden partner.
“Maria. It was Maria. She stranded me in the parking lot.”
“Uh huh.”
“We were talking, and suddenly she went all pissy and angry, ordered me out
of her car, and then she almost ran over my feet.” Michael was starting to feel really
put upon.
“What did you do?” Max asked in a resigned sigh.
“Me, I didn’t do a thing. I went to the doctor’s office with her, was all
supportive...you know, showing her she wasn’t alone in this.” Michael said, very
proud of his actions. “I think she took offense at me telling people we’re getting
married.”
“Why? She must have known that people would find out once she said yes.”
Max frowned leaning closer to a mumbling Michael trying to catch what he was
saying as they drove into the PD garage. “Did you just say that you forgot to ask
her?”
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“Technically, yeah. But, it’s not my fault. I got home early this morning, and
we sort of were busy...Well anyway, between that and going to the doctor’s office, it
might have slipped my mind.” Michael wasn’t going to let Max put all the blame on
his doorstep. “Did you have a ring ready when you asked Tess?”
“No. I just figured if she said yes, we’d choose it together.” Michael nodded.
Exactly. So not having a ring wasn’t that big deal. “Of course, I did ask her and not
just inform her by announcing it to the world at large.”
“You might have mentioned that last night!” Michael growled. What? Did they
have fucking books on this shit?
“Hey, don’t put this on me!”
“I don’t see what the big deal is.” Michael said as they headed for the
elevators. “It’s a given that we’d get married with the baby on the way, and all.”
Max turned and looked at Michael in horror. “You didn’t say that to Maria did
you?”
“Sort of, but hey, she didn’t let me explain. Next thing I knew she was kicking
me out of the car and then she almost ran over my damn feet.” Max just groaned.
Yeah, like Michael trying to explain was going to make it better and not worse.
“Then she hung up on me when I tried to call her. I can understand it though,” said
Michael as he got in the elevator with Max. “She’s all hormonal and everything,
highly unreasonable.”
Max couldn’t take anymore. He just buried his head in his hands and groaned.
“What? What the hell did I do?”

~~~

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By the time Maria made the University she was slightly calmer, but not by
much. The phone rang the moment she entered her office. Answering it, she quickly
hung up on Michael. After the third call she called Cheryl and requested that all her
calls go through the switchboard, and that she wasn’t taking any calls from
Detective Guerin today.
Maria tried to calm down enough to go through some of her workload when
her cell phone started ringing. “Maria?” She just shook her head and disconnected.
But that didn’t stop him. He kept ringing and finally in a fit of anger, she threw the
phone against the wall.
Tess walked in just as the phone hit the wall. Ducking in alarm, Tess looked at
the phone and the angry Maria.
“Yeah, I hate it when they fly like that.” Maria just sat down and gripped her
chair trying to quell the rising tremors. “You okay?”
“No. No. I’m not.” Maria took large calming breaths, and tried to settle her
stomach. There was no use abusing Tess in Michael’s place. God that man got under
her skin at times. “Look, I’ve got an hour before my next class right? I think I’ll go
over to the staff dining room and have a little breakfast.”
Tess watched her go, curious over what was going on. Maria’s mood was so
black and unusual for her, that even Kenneth Price who seeing her had started in
her direction, quickly changed his mind and went the other way. Maria was on her
second breakfast, and a nice hot cup of tea when her day took yet another turn for
the worse. Gerald Tiny came through the door, and seeing her, was making his way
to join her like the Titanic heading full steam into an iceberg.

~~~

330

Max watched as Michael tried Maria again. “Would you stop it? Give her some
time to calm down, and talk to her later tonight.”
“I should call her and let her know I’m working late tonight.”
“Michael, focus! Work! Murders! She’ll be fine.” Michael finally settled down to
do some work. All the preliminary reports were back on the two women. They had
nothing in common except that the last place they were seen was in Club Hell.
Sean was running missing reports for the last few years. Maria had been right,
the dumping was wrong. For some reason these women where dumped beside
garbage skips, but that didn’t negate the possibility of other victims that weren’t
out there hiding under the guise of being runaways or missing persons, much like
Krystal Whitman's case began. Without a body or evidence of foul play, missing
persons would remain categorized as "Missing Persons" indefinitely.
Max picked up the phone on the second ring before Michael could grab it. It
wasn’t Maria. It was Liz. After talking to her for a few moments, Max hung up and
accessed his interdepartmental mail for the report Liz just sent them. Maria’s bug
juice was a dead match for the shellac covering the two women. “Parker matched
the Professor’s bug juice to the coating.”
Michael stood up suddenly. “Let’s go visit the Bug guys she gave us a card for
at the University.”
Max frowned at the word ‘University’ and began to suspect an ulterior motive.
“Michael...” Max said to the receding back of his partner. “Come on, Kyle. This
should prove interesting. Hey, Phone Boy, give us a jingle if anything comes up.”
Kyle waved goodbye to his partner. Poor Sean, everyone felt for him. No one liked
to be on desk duty only.
The Bug guys were two entomologists working in the Biology Department at
UNM, Roswell. Jeremy and George were nothing if not enthusiastic. They showed
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the three detectives around their labs and explained the processing of samples.
Michael noticed a white bucket under the lab table.
“What's that?”
George looked down at the bucket while pushing his glasses up his nose.
“Garbage, it’s for the tossers.”
“Tossers?” Kyle asked looking at the pinned samples. They were incredibly
preserved and so colorful. He hadn't realized that butterflies were so diverse.
Jeremy nodded as he passed everyone a cup of coffee. “Those are the kills
that have blemishes. We usually process the sample, and then carefully mount and
examine it. We sometimes photograph too if it's utterly unique and rare. Real
collectors will look for the most perfect sample, and a blemish or scar can really
throw off the value of a collection.”
Jeremy sat on the side of the table. He was a smaller man than George with a
hint of Hispanic ancestry, Hispanic and German. He also had glasses, but his were a
special pair hanging from his neck. Michael could tell that the glasses were used for
a specific purpose since the lenses were thick and unusual.
“George, remember that Ecuadorian dung beetle we tracked for three days,
and finally caught to find it had lost an antenna sometime before? What a
disappointment.”
“Crushing.” Michael said looking the men over with interest. Both men were
meticulous in handling all materials. George was showing Kyle and Max how
samples were pinned and Michael noticed that his tools and equipment were not
only used, but placed carefully back almost in the same spot they had originally
been.
“What would determine when a sample isn’t worth keeping?” Michael asked
quietly.
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“The collector would.” Jeremy said. “Each collector has his own agenda, or set
parameters of what they're looking for. I know some who only collect exotic
butterflies and moths, and others who have a total love of roaches.”
“Do you process the internal organs?” Max asked George.
“Normally, no. Though there are some larger specimens that might need it.
The thing with insects is that they will desiccate. You have to worry about caving in
the larger specimens as they age, so taking out the internals and using foam filler is
the best route. I think the taxidermists do it more often, stuffing large meaty
specimens.”
Michael moved in closer. “Do you have any of the foam filler?”
George just shook his head no. “Not really. We don’t process anything that big
to warrant the expense, but I think Zoology might. Let me go check.” Michael
gestured to Kyle to follow the man as he went out.
Max and Michael watched as Jeremy packed up them some samples of other
materials used in the processing technique. He also included a list of their favorite
suppliers.
“So Detective,” Jeremy said to Michael as Max packed up the specimens to be
delivered to Liz’s lab. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I recall meeting you at
the staff Holiday Party this past year. You were Professor DeLuca’s date.”
Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, we live together, getting married.”
“Really! I hadn’t realized that. Well congratulations are in order than. We love
Maria. She a wonderful educator, and a great person just to know. George and I
also seek her out in the staff dining room.”
“I’m sure she appreciates that.” Michael made a note to himself to practice
coming to the University more often for lunch. This staff dining room sounded sort
of shady.
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“Michael.” Kyle stood in the doorway with a sample of foam filler. It was pink,
and filled up the entire area of the specimen jar.
They stayed with the Bug guys for a few more hours, and then went to talk to
members of the Zoology Department. Michael was fascinated by the meticulous
work and time it took to process the specimens.
“It’s more than time, Detective,” said George. “It also takes a lot of work to
find the correct sample or specimen. We use killing jars in populated areas, but
even after a few nights or even longer, you might only find a few possibilities. Out
of those few, if you’re lucky, one will be a keeper.”
“What do you mean by 'populated areas'? Just anywhere there are lots of
bugs?” Michael couldn’t grasp the concept of putting all that time into something
that wouldn’t pan out.
“No, just anywhere. There are known areas, hunting or killing zones. These
zones for bugs and insects are usually under well-lit areas at night, like street
lights. But the best type of zone is the one you create yourself.” Jeremy took out a
special light and turned it on. “We’ll go out to wooded areas or the desert, hook this
to a battery, turn on the light, and put a special attractant in a killing jar and sit out
there for hours. End of the evening or early morning, we cover the jar and go
home.”
“So you know what’s out there, what you can catch?” Kyle asked sitting down
on the edge of the table. That seemed like a random sampling method.
“Well you’ve got an idea what’s in the area. Obvious specimens from Mexico
are rarely found in killing jars in New Mexico. The next day is the kicker, the pay off.
It’s like a general grab bag. You don’t know what you've caught, so you anesthetize
the jar by dropping in a special agent. I like the stuff we used on Drosophilae
because it's fast and you can control the amount to either put to sleep or kill.”
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Max was writing notes, but stopped at Jeremy’s lecture. “Drosophilae?”
“Common fruit fly, but in truth there is nothing common about it. The number
of species within the genus alone is...”
“Professor.” Michael warned, interrupting the man. He was very familiar with
the beginnings of a lecture that could wind out of control and last for hours.
“Sorry. As I was saying, you can control the drug. I use the killing jar with a
special sponge where drops of the drug can be dribbled into the jar. The real fun is
afterwards. You look at your catch.”
George smiled. “It really is like Christmas-opening a present and finding a
whole world of possibilities.”
Michael frowned. “And if a specimen isn’t up to snuff?”
“You toss it out,” said George pointing to the white bucket under the table.
Michael, Max and Kyle shared silent looks.
By the time they returned to the PD, Sean had amassed great quantities of
information and reports for them. Michael tried to convince Max and Kyle to stop
and see Maria, but they talked him out of it. They turned over the new samples to
the lab, and took Sean on an early dinner break. It was going to be a long night.

~~~

Maria walked into the CrashDown and looked for Liz. Not seeing her, she took
a seat and began looking through the menu. Strange, but she hadn’t been to this
diner since that first time with Dianne and Roger. After Dianne was murdered last
year, it was hard to remember the last place they dined together. The menu looked
the same. Michael loved it. Maria quickly pushed thoughts of Michael to the side.

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Her anger at him was slowly bleeding away, but it was hard to deal with his
bulldozer tactics for everything.
“Maria.”
“Hi, Liz.” Maria smiled at her friend.
“Did I keep you long?”
“Not long enough, I’m still looking at the menu. You’ve got the inside scoop.
You want to recommend anything to me?”
Liz laughed and sat down at the front counter with Maria. “All the pies are
great, but otherwise stay away from the Saturn rings because they're deep fried in
grease, and too addicting.”
“Just when I’m in need of some good totally worthless calories from fats and
sugar, but I’d hate to become a slave to a fascination for Saturn Rings.”
Maria couldn’t decide. Her lunch of a sandwich wasn’t holding her. She had
been so upset that she couldn’t really eat. Now she was starving, and the notion of
eating for two hit her.
“Maria, let's move to a booth. That way we can have more privacy.” The two
women moved, and Maria looked at Liz critically. In the last year, the woman had
improved, become more outspoken. But even with those changes, she was still a
meek and unassuming person.
As Maria was sucking down a chocolate malt, eating pickles with ketchup and
Tabasco, and consuming two large cheeseburgers, she noticed Liz fidgeting.
“What’s wrong, Liz?”
Liz didn’t want to tell Maria because Maria hadn't mentioned it. Liz assumed
she didn’t know. “Sean and I broke up.”
“I know, or maybe I should say, I assumed.” Maria said quietly worried that
her friend was having a hard time with things. “You want to talk about it?”
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“Yes.” Liz paused and then said, “No. Okay maybe.” Liz groaned. “I don’t know.
It’s just that I see him at work, and half the time I’m not sure what I should do.
Should I be his friend only, or...damn, I shouldn't ask you, because it’s unfair.
You’re his family. And if we don’t leave soon, we’ll miss the movie.”
“Liz, you’re family too. True, Sean is blood, but friends are the family that you
choose. And for the movie? Screw it. Movies come and go. There’s always videos.”
Maria looked at the young woman that in some ways had replaced her best
friend, Dianne. And yet, didn't. Dianne had been vibrant and alive, full of living, and
Liz Parker was still a walking ghost, waiting for something or someone to save her.
But every once in a while Maria saw the glimpse of the woman that Liz could be,
shining out from inside, trapped.
“Liz, don’t tell me what you think I need to hear, or what you think you should
do to be proper and polite. Tell me what’s in your heart.”
“I don’t understand.” Liz was confused. What did Maria want her to do?
“Talk to me from the heart, Liz. Put away perfect Liz Parker, that person that
does what everyone wants her to do, who's afraid to be flawed and human, and
speak to me from your heart.”
Liz said softly, “I’m far from perfect.” She unconsciously was stroking the scar
across her throat that almost killed her a year ago, and left her the legacy of a
huskier voice.
Maria reached across and removed Liz hand, holding it in her own. “Our scars,
they define us Liz, teach us that we can survive. Don’t let it be the flaw that
wounds, but the one that strengthens. It’s just a scar, and in time it will fade, or
you could have it removed with laser.”
“I know. It’s just...I don’t know. I can’t help but feel ugly.”

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“You’re far from ugly, Liz. You’re Sleeping Beauty, and you’ve been sleeping
since you were sixteen, waiting for a Prince Charming to wake you.” Maria looked at
Liz and frowned. “Does Beauty wait forever in slumber, while the Prince is fighting
demons to get to her? What if the dragons are too many, the fight too long?”
“I've hated him almost my whole life.” Liz said, her voice husky with unshed
emotions tethered in her soul.
“Who?” Maria shook her head. Who hurt her so deeply that she remained
hating him for so long?
“My Prince Charming. I've hated him for not coming sooner, for not being
there when I was sixteen to save me.” Liz wiped a tear off her cheek. “It felt wrong.
I felt wrong, like my life took a turn at that junction and the turn it took was
because he wasn’t there to save me.”
Maria looked at her friend sadly. “Maybe Liz, he needed to find you too. And he
didn’t, and his life has been lost and confused ever since. Did Prince Charming
really save Sleeping Beauty or did she save him?”
“I don’t know. It’s just a fairytale.”
“No it’s not. It’s not the story, Liz. Any person can write or build a story, but
the quality and meaning behind the story is what's important. It’s not the words
and how they're written that matters, but the heart and soul of the message. Prince
Charming was fighting dragons, cutting through twisted vines of steel, and
defeating an evil witch, but in truth he was freeing himself, not Beauty. He was
freeing himself from the rigors of his brain, his mind, the part of him that tied him
to responsibility and duty to his people. With life there are responsibilities and
burdens placed on each of us, demands from people we love, and even from those
we hardly know. But in it all, hidden deep inside, are our hearts. Our hearts rule our
heads at time, but mostly it’s the purest part of us, the seat of our spirit.” Maria
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stopped to stack her garbage and push it aside. “Prince Charming would one day be
the King he was born to be, but without his heart, without Beauty, would it ever
matter? A King that can love with a full heart finds that his heart isn't confined to
one person, but it’s open enough to spread to all people. Our heart gives us wings
to extend beyond the toil of everyday, to see a brightness in living.”
“The brightness of living, that’s it, Maria. That’s what I want. That spark of life
that makes living every day through the good and bad worth it.”
“Then do what Beauty should’ve done, if the story hadn’t been written in a
sexist society perpetuated by small-minded sexist individuals.”
“What is that?”
“Wake up, Beauty! Pick up your sword, and fight that weighty drug that keeps
you sleeping, battle the vines that hold you captive and meet Prince Charming half
way.” Maria motioned for the waitress and asked her for a large clear cola, no
caffeine. Liz asked for a cherry coke. “People who look at the hardworking, tragic
Prince, and feel only for him, want Beauty to be nothing more than his prize, his
reward. They reduce Beauty to nothing but a sexist puppet. If Beauty fights for
herself, defines her life, and fights her way towards her Prince Charming, then when
they find each other, really find each other, Beauty will be more than a person
revered for her charm and grace, her ability to be ‘the little woman who captured a
King’s heart and soul’, but she'll be a strong equal partner worthy of a King. She'll
stand before him, a strong warrior of her own heart, showing the toughness of her
metal, and her blood and sweat is an example that not only was he worth the fight,
but he was her prize as well. A strong King needs a strong Queen, not some
mindless puppet waiting for scraps of attention from an overtaxed hero, waiting to
be saved when he gets there.”

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Liz sucked on the straw in her drink as Maria rewrote and redefined a classic
fairytale to fit in a more modern age. Had Beauty been sleeping all those hundreds
of years to wake to a King that needed a more modern Queen?
“Sean was like an attendant standing beside my bed, holding my hand, and
protecting me while I slept.” Liz looked at her friend and smiled an ironic smile. “He
couldn’t be my Prince Charming because he never felt me in his heart, like I never
felt him. He didn’t make me want to wake up and live. We just kept time together.”
“That time might have been necessary to regroup, to mend enough, so both of
you could go on and fight. No one ever said it would be easy, or that there would
never be times that you would need to take a breather.” Maria continued to hold
Liz’s hand squeezing it hard, to give Liz a sense that she was real, alive. “Sean
didn’t leave because of you, Liz. He left because of him. Every hero has to fight his
own demons, and struggle down his own path. Your path and his crossed and you
journeyed together for awhile, but there was always going to come a time when
both of you would need to continue alone, because you weren’t destined to go to
the same place.”
Liz grabbed Maria’s other hand and held on tight. “What should I do?”
“Wake up, Beauty. Wake up, pick up your sword, and fight to find your life,
your Prince Charming. You didn’t really think you could sleep forever?”
“I don’t know how,” said Liz as a wave of helplessness overcame her.
“I’ll show you.” Maria told her distraught friend. “The path is there, and all you
have to do is chose to follow it.”

~~~

340

When Michael finally made it home it was after nine at night. The loft was dark
and quiet, and Mr. Booboo met him at the door whining about being left unattended
so long. Michael quickly went upstairs to change out of his day clothes and find
something more comfortable to wear as the cat meowed after him, telling him of
his day. Maria wasn’t home, and he experienced a moment of pure terror until he
remembered that she was out with Liz.
“What do you think, Boo? Is she going to actually talk to me?” The cat calmly
sat at his feet and licked his paw with refinement and an ironical lack of concern as
Michael searched for food for both of them, “I was afraid of that.”
Michael pulled out the coldcuts to make himself a sandwich, but memories of
lunch made him put it back. He had had an Italian sub, tuna and peanut butter with
mayo. Max almost lost it, watching Michael eat that concoction, and thinking about
it now, Michael had to admit he wasn’t feeling all that great either.
“Pizza. It’s time to order a pizza.” Michael looked down at the cat. “I’ll order
some of that special shaved ham they use on the subs that you like so well if...if
you tell me what to do.” Mr. Booboo suddenly was up and winding around his feet
purring loudly until he crouched down to stroke the cat's soft coat.
“Excellent idea. Ham it is.” The cat meow plaintively, and Michael frowned.
“Smoked salmon, too? Dammit, you’re getting spoiled and fat.” The cat mewed his
protest as Michael took a beer into the living room, and called in the pizza order
with a generous side of shaven ham and smoked salmon.
When Maria arrived home she found Michael sitting on the sofa with his feet
up, reading a book with the cat lying across his legs that bridged the area between
the sofa and coffee table. Michael looked up from his reading and the two of them
stared at each other searchingly.
Michael cleared his throat. “Did I mess this all up?”
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“No.”
“I just wanted you to feel better about the baby, know that it wasn’t going to
be you alone, but the two of us.”
“I know.” Maria came to sit at the opposite end of the sofa and turned to look
at him. Michael turned his book over on the arm of the sofa, and careful not to
knock Mr. Boo off his perch, reached down and grabbed Maria’s feet dragging them
up on the sofa, forcing her to lie back. Taking her feet in his lap, he removed her
shoes.
“If we get married...”
“No.” Michael looked at her sharply. What did that mean? Where they over, or
what? His heart shuddered in his chest, and Maria watched a dark look of pain
move over his face. “I just mean no to marriage.”
“You don’t want to marry me?”
“Yes, maybe...no. Not for this reason. I don’t want to be married because I’m
pregnant. It’s stupid, archaic and the worst reason any two people could have to
get married.” Maria moaned as he rubbed her feet. “I won’t do it.”
“Maria, I don’t want to marry you just because of the baby.” Michael hadn’t
realized how true that was. Marriage. It was a word that had never popped into his
head, never even occurred to him. But once he said it, thought it, it was all he
could think about. If they hadn’t been heading that way naturally, then where were
they heading? The concept of her not being in his life was too impossible to even
entertain.
“Yes it is, Michael. Admit it, if I wasn’t pregnant you’d have never asked. Waityou didn’t ask, so what I mean is you never had the idea in your head.”
That was true, and he hated that it was. It wasn’t that he didn’t see Maria as
forever, but until the baby it seemed like they had all the time in the world. Things
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had been going so well that he was caught up in it. The baby woke him up to the
concept that maybe they had stayed in one spot too long.
Michael sighed, wondering how bad this was going to go for him. “True. I
guess that I was so comfortable in what we have that I didn’t feel a push to change
it. But things change Maria. Now that the baby...”
“It doesn’t change a thing. The baby doesn’t change anything.”
“Yes, it does.” Maria just kept shaking her head. “Maria, I want the baby to be
mine.”
“It is yours. You know that.” Maria knew what he was saying, but he wasn’t
listening to her. “Nothing will change that. Not a marriage certificate or lack of one.
We don’t have to be married to conceive a baby obviously, and by the same token,
we don’t have to be married to deliver one either.”
“I know that, but I think we should get married anyway, to create a stable
home.”
“We already have a stable home, and this baby will be loved whether we say ‘I
do’ or not. You're right, our lives together have been comfortable so why mess with
it?”
Michael cursed under his breath. What the hell was he thinking referring to
their lives together as ‘comfortable’ like some worn old shoe? “Maria.”
“Why didn’t you ask me a few days ago? Or last week, or even last month?”
Maria looked at him and shrugged. “Over the last year? Why didn’t you ask me to
marry you then?”
Michael wished he had, but it was too late now. “You’re going to hold it against
me that I didn’t ask before?”
“No, of course not. But you only asked now because of the baby. If I wasn’t
pregnant, would you’ve asked me?”
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No. No he wouldn’t have, and she knew that. He knew it too. There was no
pressure in their lives to make it an immediate need, so they were sailing through
their lives waiting for that magical moment when they both would want it.
“I would’ve asked eventually.” Michael said quietly.
“I know, but you didn’t. You didn’t because you weren’t ready, and maybe I
wasn’t ready either. The baby changed that, and I refuse to have you by default. I
want to marry you when it’s time, time for us. And I won’t marry you until then.”
“Maria.”
“No.” Michael rubbed the back of his neck.
“Okay, I heard you, but now you can hear me. We’re getting married.” Maria
just stubbornly shook her head no. “Yes, we are. Maybe not immediately, maybe
not until after the baby is born, but we’re going to do this. I need it. I didn’t know I
needed it until this moment. I need to see my ring on your finger, and…” he held up
his hand to stop her from interrupting him, “and not because I don’t think we
already belong together. I need it for me, something in me. It’s another form of
marking, Maria.”
She went quiet. Suddenly it became possible to almost say yes. It was like the
bites, the blood, and that constant irritating need to be inside his skin, to touch it.
The need was too strong to ignore, and if it extended to the whole idea of being
married, she was in trouble. He was going to make a pest of himself until she finally
said yes.
“I’ll think about it.” Michael nodded. That was something. There were many
things about Maria, and one of the most important ones was she was fair, and if she
promised to think about it, she would.

344

“I had a rotten day. Kiss me and make it better.” Michael said pulling her into
his arms. Mr. Booboo, seeing where this was going, vacated his perch with a cat's
version of a sigh.
Michael's favorite part of fighting with Maria was making up. She smiled and
moved her hands over his body, kissing his mouth gently, and then again and
again, each time increasing in intensity and passion. “I hated that you wouldn’t talk
to me,” he whispered in her mouth.
“I hated it too. And you caused me to destroy my cell phone.” Michael’s head
tipped in confusion. “I tossed it against the wall because it wouldn’t stop ringing.
Who knew you could be such a bug?”
“You haven’t seen anything yet Professor.” Michael promised. Maria just
groaned. She knew it. He was going to make a pest of himself. “Um, you know
those phones come with off switches, right?” Michael just laughed as Maria attacked
him.

~~~

He walked through the club enjoying the noise and sounds, but mostly
reveling at the vibes of panic and horror. They knew. The hunting ground was aware
that it was being stalked, and somehow he hadn't expected that it would sing in his
blood, this almost intolerable edge of panic, like a bird caught under glass.
Sitting up at the bar, he offered the bowl of pretzels to the woman sitting next
to him unassumingly. She smiled her thanks and he smiled back slowly, letting the
warmth of it reach his eyes. The first rule was to disarm and distract. So he
patiently turned to look at the man drinking next to him and casually struck up a
conversation.
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Tonight he had something special in mind, a new desired specimen. The
search for the wordsmith was tiring. The last one was perfect, or so she seemed,
but then the marring of the skin hit him. They were all so imperfect, destroying
what nature created. The very skin of the earth was showing the same pollutants.
The need to preserve perfection, those that were still unmarred, was even more
pressing. He was going to have to speed up his efforts.
Smiling at the man next to him, he ordered a new drink. “So you’re Oriental.
Would that be Korean or Chinese? Japanese! What a great culture. Are both your
parents Japanese?”

346

Day 9: Thursday- 9:30 a.m.

Maria sat on the counter drinking tea in the bathroom, watching Michael
shave. It was one of her favorite things to do. The whole concept of a man still
shaving with a straight razor was just too sexy to ignore.
“I was thinking.” Michael just grunted in response. “I was thinking we need to
expand the loft.” Michael paused and looked at Maria.
“It’s plenty big, Maria. It’s bigger than most people’s homes.”
“I think we need a larger bathroom. The bathtub is fine, and I love the corner
shower, but if we expand we can move in two dressing rooms, one on your side
with lots of closet space, and one on my side with the same.”
“You already have a walk-in closet.” Maria sighed. Why did he always have to
be so difficult? “I already have a closet too. A damn nice closet with built-in shelves,
drawers, and enough space...if someone would stop buying me new clothes all the
time.”
Maria just shrugged. Like he didn’t need them. When he had moved in with
her, his clothes were shockingly pitiful, holey, and looked like he had bought them
from either a second hand store or just got them from a dumpster. Maria didn’t let
his complaints bother her because he wore the sweaters she bought him, dressed
up when he had to in his new suits, and even though she hadn't tossed his old stuff,
on most days he wore the new stuff.
“The sink space in here is awful. We run into each other all the time, and...”
Maria went in for the kill. “If we expand the loft and bathroom we could put in a
whirlpool hot tub and sauna. And downstairs have room to put in a weight room for
your weights and stuff.”

347

Michael stopped shaving and looked at her. “What’s going on? Are you trying
to tell me that I’m making you claustrophobic?”
“No! God, no. I just think with the baby coming, and we only have seven and
a half months, that we should think about it.”
Michael looked at her closely, watching her wad the edge of her dressing gown
in her hands. Nesting. He got it. She was nesting. And before it was through she
would totally rearrange the entire loft a hundred times, driving him and the cat
insane. Technically, the loft was hers to do with as she pleased, but they had never
found that an issue. In the past all decisions affecting their home were made as a
couple, especially after the fiasco of Amy rearranging their furniture that one time.
He had tripped over it in the dark, landing on his head with a huge gash and it took
two days to talk Mr. Boo out of hiding.
“The loft is plenty big, Maria. If you want to change something, we can empty
out your office, turn it into a nursery, and move the office downstairs.” Michael
thought that was a generous offer. The room that was off their bedroom had been a
mystery to him for first three months of living together until one day he looked
inside. The horror was too much. The room was officially her at home office, but to
his eyes it was wall to wall crap. Books, artifacts, and trinkets from traveling, and
even large monoliths from unknown regions. The first time he entered the room she
warned him not to step back. He almost stepped into a bundle burial in the corner
with burial darts included. It seemed he was on the verge of impaling himself on a
dart and Maria warned him that despite being hundreds of years old, the curare on
the darts was still active.
Maria shuddered at the task he was proposing. “I think it would be easier to
just expand. We’re going to need an extra suite of rooms anyway off the nursery to
accommodate the live-in nanny.”
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Michael stopped wiping the shaving cream from his face. “Nanny? We’re not
getting a nanny. And sure as hell not a live-in one.” Michael scowled at her. He
could live with her, the baby and the cat, but anyone else was out of the question.
“Okay, then maybe a real nice gay guy needing a good home?”
“Maria! No. We’ll worry about making childcare arrangements later. If we need
to find more space we have the entire area over the living room where another
upper loft area can be built. There’s no reason to expand outward. And if you really
want to worry about something, then think about how we’re going to tell your
mother about the baby, and the fact you're refusing to marry me.” Michael left her
sitting there to chew on that thought as he went to find something to wear.
“I possibly hate you!” Maria screamed after his back as he walked away. “That
was cruel and vicious, and a damn low blow!”
Michael just smirked. Yeah, it was. Now Maria would spend the rest of the day
worrying about Amy. And maybe, just maybe he could forestall her from ripping
their home into a huge construction zone with dust and workers everywhere. The
blow was low and dirty. But no one really fought clean, especially not with the ones
they loved. Fighting a good fight meant pulling no punches, and only an idiot would
try to fight a nice fight with Maria DeLuca. She won too often anyway. If he wanted
to fight a clean, nice fight he would have the blood removed from his veins, ice
water installed and become pretentious.
Maria sat in the bathroom fuming over his underhanded blow. Amy was going
to be a problem, a real problem. She’d be on Michael’s side demanding Maria marry
him immediately to the point of postponing her own wedding plans again. Mean,
mean, mean! Mean man. God, she hated the bathroom tile! Maybe something more
in the color peach? The bedroom color scheme was all wrong too, and those shades

349

needed a cleaning, maybe some new paint or coating. Maria rushed off into the
bedroom to find a pencil and pad to start making a list.

~~~

“Sean, you’re invited to dinner tonight,” Michael told Sean on his way to his
desk. Maria had decided that they needed to practice before telling Amy, so she
chose Sean, her cousin, and Isabel, Michael’s sister. It was best to start with family,
and since Max already knew...
“You telling me, or asking?” Michael just rolled his eyes. These damn DeLucas
and their persnickety attention to detail.
“It’s free food, do you accept or what?” Michael asked nastily. Like he really
wanted to deal with another DeLuca at this juncture in his life.
“I could eat.” Michael told him the time, and hoped Maria remembered to call
Isabel.
“DeLuca!” Cap’s voice called out above the usual morning bustle of the
bullpen. “Get in here.”
Michael made a rude comment, and Max smirked and Kyle told his partner
that he was going to get it now. Sean just waved a finger at the group and went to
face the music.
“Cap?”
“Shut the door.” Jim looked up from his work on his desk at Sean. “Do you
remember the Rubio case?”
Sean nodded. “Sure, it was one of my last Vice cases. Jason Rubio was a
bottom feeder for Pierce’s larger corp. We busted his illegal firearms sales. He was
toting Cop Killers. We couldn’t catch him, but an informant, the small time
350

bookmaker fingered him for us, and in a large sting we took him down. He even
confessed during interrogation.”
“Well being the land of the free and the home of the expedient of the law, it’s
finally coming to trial. Tomorrow is the first real day after months of lengthy
preliminaries, delay tactics, requests for change of venue, and jury selection. The
accused pleaded not guilty despite the confession. They need you. But today, the
DA’s office has requested you to meet with the new Asst. DA Julia...” Jim looked
down to find the name. “MacLeod. I told them you would meet her for lunch at the
courthouse.”
Sean started to protest. He hated the courthouse, and the food there sucked.
Sean’s forehead wrinkled. He already did some testifying in some preliminary crap,
but that was months ago. “Cap, I’ve got this murder case I’m working, and...”
“Noon. I told them you would be on the courthouse stairs at noon.” Jim made
a gesture for him to scram. “And Sean, you might want to dig up your old case files
about this case. The new ADA was a big time lawyer in Texas, smart and young
and, I hear, ambitious. She transferred here to be close to her mom, so she isn’t
happy giving up her fast-track job. Don’t make her think we’re not professionals
too.”
“Best foot forward, Cap. I promise.” Sean left the office cussing in his mind all
the words best left unspoken in Valenti’s presence. What the hell was his best foot
anyway? He better ask Michael. For some reason that thought hit him as really,
really funny.
“Michael,” Kyle looked up from checking their monitoring report. “We’ve got
another missing persons report. Young Japanese male, early twenties, went missing
last night.”
Sean joined them as he came back to the desk. “Where did he go missing?”
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“Club Hell.”
Michael swore. Club Hell again. It had to be the hunting ground. “Someone
find and rouse Whitman. Ask him to come in.” Max nodded and grabbed the phone.
“Sean, you still have all the missing persons reports from the last few years
floating around?” Sean nodded. “Good bring them into the conference room...”
Michael looked over and called to a woman. “Rhonda what room can we have?”
Michael nodded his acknowledgment. “Conference 3-B.”
Michael walked away to knock on Valenti’s door. He entered at the voice.
“Cap?”
“What is it, Guerin?” Jim was ready to watch Michael try to weasel Sean out of
court, but he was wrong.
“I’ve got a hunch-a real strong one-that our killer isn’t new, isn’t an amateur,
and we’ve got more victims, just no bodies.”
Valenti rubbed his face. Great. Another high profile serial killer. “What you
thinking?”
“He’s dumping, but lots of work went into the process. He processes them to
keep. Something changed, something big, so he’s getting sloppy and dumping at
random. I think some of the unsolved missing reports might be undiscovered
bodies.”
“Why is he dumping them?”
Michael looked at Jim with dark angry eyes. “They were blemished, not
perfect. First recovery, Janet Seers had a small birthmark on her inner thigh that
was more than likely not noticeable until much later. Krystal Whitman had a tiny
butterfly tattoo. He coated her body, and while preparing to process, he noticed it.
He didn’t even bother to process her. He just waited until he could dump her.”

352

“I want this person found before the press gets ahold of it. They slime into this
Department and walk away with too much information.”
“Bigger problem. I think he took another one last night. This time he took a
male, Japanese, and a student at the University.”
“You, and your team need to move on this, I don’t care what it takes.”
“That’s what I need you to do, Cap. I need downstairs to process any and all
missing person’s claims without the forty-eight hour wait. All missing persons need
to be routed to uniforms, and us. He’s hunting, and the dumping of two bodies
within a week is a lot. There’ll be more.”
“Get on it. Clean my house.” Michael nodded and was on his way out. “And,
Michael,” he turned back. “Make sure DeLuca makes the noon meeting with the
ADA. Defense moved the trial to late docket today. After dragging their feet for
almost a year, suddenly they're complaining about the lack of a speedy trial.”
“He’ll be there. He likes pain. It should be a fun day for him.”
They worked the rest of the morning on separating out the stack of missing
persons over the last two years. Even an interactive computer program running the
known cases couldn’t find any common traits. The three missing persons from Club
Hell were all from different social, economic, and religious backgrounds. There was
nothing to tie them together except that they were all taken from Club Hell.
“Sean, lets reorganize the cases.” Sean sighed and looked at his watch. Ten
more minutes, and he’d be out of there. Never thought he would see the day that
he wanted to go to court rather than work a case.
“Give us a break, Guerin. We moved them into so many piles, now there’s no
corresponding commonality. This case is an enigma.” Sean hit his partner on the
back of the shoulders. “You’ve got Kyle folding paper cranes. In another nine
hundred and thirty-seven he gets his wish. And you don’t want to know what it is.”
353

“Sort them by last known location. If he’s hunting, that means he has a
hunting ground. Right now it’s Club Hell, three months ago it might have been
somewhere else. Cases with the person leaving home, dump out of the mix. Keep
only night clubs, raves, and undergrounds.”
Sean looked at Michael and nodded. That was smart. He had to hunt, a place
to find them, watch them, a place that they wouldn’t be too uptight to let their
guard down. A club or bar was perfect. Most of the people there were out looking
for something, someone, and so if someone found them, it wouldn’t be too
alarming.

~~~

Sean finally left to make his noon meeting. It was irritating to have to leave.
Not only were they ordering food, but the piles were taking shape. A gruesome
picture of numerous victims, all which had been ignored to date, because their
bodies had never been recovered.
Standing on the steps was both a vision of beauty and a nightmare at the
same time. It had to be the new ADA MacLeod. She was tall and thin, with legs that
made a statement. Her features were small, delicate and well proportioned, with
fine light brunette hair blowing in the breeze and sharp hazel green eyes pinning
him to the wall from a distance. It was hard to miss the obvious lawyer stance, the
barely controlled patience, and the Armani grey pinstripe with a short skirt showing
the legs to their best advantage. Oh, it had to be Armani red label with silk inner
lining rubbing up against that skin. When she walked down the steps towards him,
his very observant Detective’s eye caught a tattoo on the inner thigh, high on the
inner thigh.
354

Sean groaned under his breath. A nightmare, a total nightmare. He’d give up
an entire year's wages for a moment under her hand. Or so he thought, until she
spoke. The soft lilt of her voice with an almost husky Texan sound had him
entranced, but the words were what knocked him over. Two year's wages, definitely
two year's! Her voice was full of anger and irritation, so arousing. He was one very
sick man. His therapist should’ve warned him there would be days like these.
“You’re late!” The vision looked at her watch. “It was agreed on for noon, and
it’s quarter past. You might have all day to whittle away, but I do not.”
She stopped to look at he man and then rolled her eyes. Great. An idiot. He
was too stupid to even babble. “Hello? Are you in there, or does English not
compute? ‘No ah speaka English?’ Damn, they didn’t tell me you were
developmentally disabled.” Looking at the cut across his eye and the bruises on his
face she almost stomped her foot. He must have fallen off his tricycle. She looked
around for his guardian or keeper. Finally she grabbed him and gave him a good
shake. “Wake up, Barney. I’ve got no time for you.”
The Barney comment woke him out of his daze. What the hell? He wasn’t the
resident Barney, that was Hanson. Looking at her critically, Sean decided she didn’t
look that great. Well, except for the legs.
“Sorry, I was thinking over my last case. Are you ADA MacLeod?” She nodded.
“Good. What can I do for you, and,” Sean looked at his watch. “...can we make it
fast? I’ve got a murder case that looks serial, so I need to get back.”
“Well make time. Follow me.” Sean just shrugged and hung back a few steps
to enjoy the view. Wonder if she knows the skirt rides up a bit in the back?
Sean was amazed when she led them to a local Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I
hope you don’t mind Ken-tuck-y Fried Chicken? I hate the food in the courthouse.”
Sean just shook his head, dumbfounded again. Not his fault. How was he to know
355

her pronouncing the establishment's name as ‘Ken-tuck-ee’ was going to be
so...stimulating? Liz used to be real slow at her speech too, but this was different.
The syllables just rolled off her tongue like a caress.
“If I can’t get your attention, this is going to take longer than I’ve got time for.
Detective, I asked you a question.”
“What?”
She just sighed and dug out another piece of the popcorn chicken from the
large bucket, tossing a piece of Jalapeno on it before popping it in her mouth. “I
asked you to tell me the circumstances that led up to your arrest of Mr. Rubio. I
need all details. After a year of stalling, the Defense has finally demanded a speedy
trial, and I’m on docket today, late afternoon. In addition to that, Mr. Rubio has
suddenly decided to plead 'Not Guilty', after confessing to the crime. Doesn't take a
genius to work out that something is up, and I need to know what.” She leaned
forward on her arms and looked Sean deeply in the eyes. “I don’t deal well with
surprises.”

“No surprises. Pretty standard case really. We had a witness come forward with vital
information, planned a sting, and caught him on premises. Later he confessed to his unlawful
actions. No big.” Sean went into greater detail as they ate. When he finally finished his chicken
and the story, he wondered if she would share the rest of her chicken with him. Her bucket of
popcorn chicken looked bigger than she did. But almost like she could sense his thoughts, she
pulled her chicken closer. “Do you need me for court?”
“No, your testimony in preliminaries should be enough and stand. Today, with the late
start, I think we’ll be lucky to get through Opening Statements. I do want you available
tomorrow though. If there are no real surprises, I might be able to cut you loose by midmorning.”

356

“I’ll be here.” Sean took the slip of information she passed him with the
courtroom number, time and meeting space. “Well if there’s nothing else, Mrs.
MacLeod...”
“Ms. MacLeod? Mrs. MacLeod is my mother.”
Sean smiled his best DeLuca smile, just dripping in charm. “Good to know. See
you tomorrow, Mac.” Sean walked off whistling under his breath. Yep, a total
nightmare. Last thing he needed was another loose-cannon female walking into his
life, but the woman did have a thing for chicken, so she was more than likely worth
a second look.

~~~

Sean made it back in time to join the others in the dark room looking in on
Interrogation Room Three. Behind the one-way glass was Alex Whitman. The man
looked trashed and totally out of it. Michael looked at Max and nodded for him to
follow. Sean and Kyle stayed put and turned on the speaker.
Alex looked up when they walked in. His eyes were bloodshot and tired, and
Michael watched as he lit another cigarette. Not even bothering to tell the man that
there was no smoking in the rooms, Michael took a chair across from him.
The two men stared at each other unmoving, and it was Max moving and
clearing his throat that finally broke the silence.
“I don’t like being called in, Detectives.” Alex drew heavily on his cigarette.
“It was necessary, Alex.” Michael didn’t offer Alex any condolences over his
loss. There was no need. Nothing could bring Krystal back, and there was nothing
left but justice.
“You find the person who did my cousin?”
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“No. We’ve found a monster.” Michael motioned for Max who came forward and
dropped a pile of folder in front of the two men. “Your cousin wasn’t the first, not
even the second. So far we’ve got thirty-seven missing people all over the last two
years. There might be even more if we dig back far enough. Seven were taken from
your club. Three recently, and four other ones some seven months ago.”
Alex looked at Michael intently and nodded to the pile. “Show me.”
Michael passed him only the folders of the ones taken from his place. Alex
quickly looked through the pile. One picture caught his eyes. Jennifer Quilter.
“This girl I knew. She was one of my people, a server in the club.” Michael just
waited for Alex to tell him what he knew. It wasn’t really necessary since Michael
already knew Alex was the one who filed that MP report as well. “She was a good
kid, clean. Working my place at nights to make money for school. Her father threw
her out when she was sixteen, but she lived with friends, finished High School, and
was working on an Associates in Design. She was very talented.”
“Another was taken last night. A young Japanese man, early twenties, also a
student. Jack Tso. He was a first generation Japanese. His family relocated to
America with his father’s company, and he took a position in New Mexico because
he wanted to see the great American West.”
Alex grounded out his smoke on the floor. Another, taken in his club, under his
protection. “I’m closing my club.”
Alex stood to leave. “Don’t.” Michael said. He expected that reaction, it was
the one he would have had. “We need it open.”
“I can’t. Above my doors are words, in French. ‘Entrez l'enfer, là êtes ici nulle
part d'autre.’ It is a welcome to Hell, and the freedom to know that in Hell there is
no other place to go. Rock bottom. It is a symbol of protection and a type of
freedom.” Alex sat back down. “My place is tainted, soiled.”
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“It’s his hunting ground.”
Alex was silent. “His pattern?”
“Two months, and then he moves. He rotates. Seven months ago he hunted in
your place. He took four in two months. Today, he's taken three in less than two
weeks. He's accelerated his pattern and came back to your place. It's prime to him,
good pickings. I need that place open, so we can hunt the hunter.”
“Who protects my people, my innocents?”
“We do. I do.” Michael understood what Alex was asking, the commitment.
“The blood, it can stain.”
“It’ll be on my hands.”
Alex shook his head. Michael knew better. If Alex left the club open, let the
cops come in and another child was lost, the blood would cover them all-especially
Alex.
“My doors are open. We hunt the hunter, but no more die.”
“Thank you.” Michael said quietly. It was hard for a man like Alex to open the
doors of his community to outsiders, cops.
“I don’t do it for you.” Alex looked down at all the files, his cousin’s included.
“I do it for them.” Alex headed for the door of the room. Without looking back at
either of them, “I do it for Krystal, and I do it for Isabel. At one time she could’ve
been one of them.”
Neither Max nor Michael spoke a word as he left. He was right. Isabel lived in
the hunting ground for years. It was stupid blind luck that sent her away a year
ago, because the woman Alex reported missing seven months ago, Jennifer Quilter,
resembled Isabel enough to be a sister.

~~~
359

Julia could feel her spine tickling. The smarmy Defense attorney was looking a
tad too smug. Something was wrong. Very wrong. As the Judge entered the
Courtroom from his chambers with all the "Hear ye! Hear ye! The Honorable Judge
blah, blah, blah-heard it all before" she knew that it was over.
There it was. Before the trial was even begun and the docket read, the
Defense requested to approach the bench. Expressionless, Julia waited along with
her two assistants, hands folded on her papers. It was important to appear
unaffected by the move, as the Jury would be watching all parties' reactions,
curious at this sudden turn of events.
“Would the Counsel for the People please approach the bench.” Not losing
contact with the Judge’s eyes, Julia felt the sinking in her stomach.
They Judge looked at her. “The Defense has entered a motion to suppress the
confession entered in this case.”
“On what grounds?” No way. There was no way that the valid confession
logged into the case during preliminaries could be turned.
“Defense maintains that the defendant was coerced to make the confession,
and he was denied his right to have counsel present during his interrogation.”
“The confession was signed and validated by the arresting officer and
numerous witnesses present. All affidavits and validations were disclosed months
ago, as per Defense Counsel's request. No objection to them was made at any point
during the preliminary hearings.”
“My client made the confession under duress and in fear of his life.”
She turned and nearly sneered at him. “That being the case, this information
should have been brought to the Prosecution's attention prior to trial!!”

360

“What do you not understand about the words ‘duress’ and ‘afraid for his life’,
Miss MacLeod? And given the nature of the coercion..."
As their voices rose, the Judge stood up and banged his gavel. “Counsel will
continue this in my chambers.” The Judge looked at the Panel of Jurors. “The Jury is
instructed to disregard this matter, and not discuss it with anyone. Court will be
adjourned until further notice.”

~~~

She found him in the PD parking garage on his way home for the evening.
Sean stopped and enjoyed the view of the lady ADA stalking towards him. He might
have to cancel his dinner with Michael and Maria, if the chicken-eating ADA was
free.
“Already finished with court, Counselor? You must be good.” Sean smiled.
“I should shove that plastic phony smile down your gullet, you chickenshit,
two bit, scruffy nerferder.” She stopped barely an inch from his nose, and she was
hot. Hot to look at, hot under the collar and just hot. He could feel the heat pealing
off her.
“Scruffy? Hey, it’s been a long day!”
“The Defense entered a motion to have the confession suppressed!”
“The confession was good. I was there. The little weasel sang his heart out,
sweating bullets the whole time. He not only dropped a dime on Pierce, but he
rolled in it.” Sean frowned at her rising color.
“According to the accused he was coerced. By you! He named names! Yours
specifically, and being the arresting officer..."
“That little pipsqueak, I have a mind...”
361

“No you do not!” Her voice rose even louder as passing officers and personnel
watched the spectacle. “Did you do it? Just tell me truthfully, did you lean on the
suspect?”
Sean went quiet. “Define ‘lean’.”
“You know what I mean, Detective. The accused said he requested counsel,
and before he could lawyer up, you and he had a conversation. And the longer it
took, the more threatened he felt. His lawyer said that he was detained downstairs
in booking while the front desk tried to locate his client. He was kept waiting for
forty-five minutes! Does any of this stink of coercion or 'leaning' to you? Search
your pea-size brain, and string me together some words that make sense. Tell me
what I want to hear.”
“We didn't...I didn’t work outside the law. I followed procedure to the letter. To
the letter. I didn’t do what isn’t done every day. I brought in the bad guy.”
“I’ve seen standard operating procedures for a cop shop before, Detective.
How close to the envelope did you walk?”
Sean lost it. “Didn’t you even read the case file? This was an ammo supply
hub, a turnstile shop. They were peddling ‘Cop Killers’, armor piercing rounds. Not
just for here, but to the boarders. Not just a few cases of live ammo, but hundreds.
Every snitch, crank, every pimp, pusher, runner and gang banger was going to be
covered to the hilt. It was loaded full metal jackets in smooth case with armor head
piercing to the load. Have you seen the damage that does to everyday Kevlar? Do
you know the magnitude of damage it could do, the river of blood to our own? So I
leaned! I stayed within the legal. I made the bust, and I closed the shop. Pierce
didn’t go down, but he felt it up his ass!”

362

Julia groaned and covered her ears. “You stupid, stupid fuck. Didn’t I tell you I
don’t like surprises? And you knew! You knew this was going down skewed. I told
you. You looked me in the eye, and told me that it was clean. Clean!”
Sean rubbed his brow. “What happened?” he asked quietly.
“The case is adjourned, pending the outcome of a hearing tomorrow to
determine whether or not the confession stands. If the court decides it was
coerced, that confession is gone and so are all the materials and information gained
from it and in any way connected to it.”
“What do you want from me?”
Julia snorted. “Besides what I can’t have? I want you in court, in your Sunday
best, all polite and proper, and I want you to sell the Judge on your honesty and
integrity. I want my case back! And you, Detective, are going to stand and deliver
it. You will be there first thing in the morning, on time, and alert.”
“I can do that.”
“OH! Believe me, you will. If I lose this confession, my case is standing by a
thread, and all the time, work, and the endless amount of manpower hours spent
on this case alone, stands in jeopardy.” She stood shouting in his face in a cold hard
voice. “You take yourself off, and you pray to God, your mother, and whatever deity
you can find that my case isn’t going south because of your stretching of the proper
procedures. Otherwise I will find you, and I will twist your balls off until you scream
for mercy.” She stomped her foot in an act of pure fury. “I told you, I don’t like
surprises!”
Sean watched as she turned on her heel and stalked off, the only real sounds
being the angry beating of her stiletto heels on the concrete.
“That could take a lot of twisting, Counselor,” he said softly as he rubbed his
hand over his face and down his body. The dark anger shuddered through his body
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as he tried to relax the tight fist he had plastered to his side. It took all his control
not to reach out and take her down. Oh God, he really needed therapy because he
was so aroused at this moment it was almost impossible to breathe.

~~~

Sean opened the loft door to Isabel. Sighing in great regret, he stood aside
and let her enter. Maria could have warned him that she was the other dinner
guest. What was it? Dial-a-Bitch day?
“Princess Bitch.”
“Elephant Man.” Isabel wiz past him, to take a seat at the kitchen bar. Looking
over she noticed Michael and Maria having what could only be termed a fight.
Turning to look at Sean again, her eyes narrowed. “You’re healing. Who knew that
you would be uglier in your native form? Must be your age.”
“You should be so lucky to look as good when you’re my age.” Sean dug
through the kitchen for food, and looking up at Isabel he smiled nastily. “Wait, you
do look my age.”
“I don’t believe you’re twenty-nine.” Isabel looked him over critically.
“Thirty-four, and if you want me to believe you’re twenty-nine I’ll need to see
some I.D.” Isabel just ignored him and nabbed the bag of chips out of his hand.
Munching on a few she turned to watch the residents of the house still having it
out.
“So what are they arguing over?”
“It doesn’t matter. Maria will win.” Sean said. The argument over rearranging
and expanding the loft was an ongoing one. Michael hated change and thought the
loft was plenty big, but Maria with her added nesting instincts was pushing for more
space.
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“I doubt it. That would require Michael backing down, and Michael never backs
down. Not to no one, no how.” Sean sneered at the Ice Queen.
“Money?”
Isabel reached into her bag and pulled out a twenty. “I’ll go twenty.”
“Covered. Easiest money I ever made.”
“Oh, now you’re trying to convince me that bending over and taking it like a
man is hard work.”
Sean just shrugged as he covered her twenty with his own. “Depends who I’m
taking it from. Now if it was you...that amount of work is unimaginable, trying to
come up with a convincing fake orgasm.”
Isabel just rolled her eyes at him. “Men can’t fake orgasms.”
“Sure they can. Just close your eyes and think of something else, anything
else to get off. God, Country, the Queen, or even white cotton socks.” Sean looked
over at Michael and Maria and reassessed the situation. “Uh oh, Michael is showing
signs of caving. We might want to scram for a while.”
“Michael doesn’t cave.” Isabel insisted as she turned to look at the arguing
couple. Frowning, and almost needing to rub her eyes, it did look like Michael was
wavering. What the hell? Twenty bucks dammit! The man should try to show a little
more self-respect. “I don’t believe it.”
Sean picked up the money and pocketed. It was a matter of time before the
clothes started flying, maybe three minutes on the outside. “You would if you’d
have been around the last year. Maria always wins.”
“How?” Isabel refused to believe Michael Guerin had changed that much.
“Oldest woman’s trick in the book.”
Isabel looked at Sean. “Sex.”

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“Yeah, and no man, no matter how strong, passes up heated sex on top of a
real passionate fight.” Isabel just rolled her eyes. She didn’t really lose. She just
forgot to factor in the male 'thinking with their dick' syndrome.
“We better scram or we’re going to get an eyefull.” Isabel turned to find the
couple plastered to each other kissing wildly and pushing at each other's clothes.
“Normally they would be more conscious of company, but recently...? Best to get
out while the going is good.”
Isabel agreed and quickly followed Sean out of the loft trying to sponge the
sounds of moaning and kissing from her poor brain. “Guess dinner is a wash, and
dammit, I’m hungry.”
“Me, too. Let’s go find some food.” Isabel looked at him and shrugged. Why
the hell not.
“Okay, but you pay.” Isabel said remembering her lost twenty.
“Dutch. When I pay for dinner for a woman, I expect something out of her.”
“Projectile vomiting?”

~~~

“Maria, I don’t think this is such a good idea.” Michael said rubbing his brow
above his right eye. They missed their dinner date with Isabel and Sean for other
things, but after dinner Maria insisted they go to the gym.
“We’ve been doing it for months. I didn’t want to do it, but you made me.
Remember the long winded list of reasons why I should let you teach me self
defense?” Maria pulled her leg up behind her and stretched the hamstring tight. “So
suddenly it’s different? What I’ve got a protective shield around me? Or do I no
longer look tasty enough to abuse?”
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“It’s not that. It just now that you’re...”
“So help me God, if you say pregnant, I’m so going to take down your ass.”
Maria grabbed him by his t-shirt front. “Pregnant doesn’t mean fragile, and it
doesn’t mean I’m helpless, copper. So be a good Pig, and teach me what you said
you would teach me. I swear, if I knew letting you get me in a family way would
turn you to mush, I’d...” Maria stopped herself. She’d still have done it.
“Okay, but nothing too rough, Maria? Okay?”
“Right. Gotcha. Don’t hurt the copper.” They finally got on the mats and
started practicing the different holds that Michael had taught Maria to get out of.
"That's right Maria... right there." Michael urged her.
"Are you sure?" Maria's voice was uncertain but growing in confidence, "like
this?" Times like these, she suddenly realized how large he was compared to her.
"Just like that, yeah," Michael said encouragingly, "Now harder." Maria
groaned. Sure, she heard that before.
"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Maria needed to be sure.
"Just do it, Maria, and quit stalling." There was a note of impatience in his
voice. Maria just shrugged.
"Alright, but remember, this was your idea." Maria took a firm grip on him,
following the technique that they had practiced for the past few months. She didn’t
want to hurt him, and yet she needed to impress on him at the same time that she
was okay, that he didn’t need to guard her all the time.
Foot forward and weight back. No, that was weight forward and foot back, and
pivot and turn on the inside pulling with follow through. Nope, nope it was foot
forward and the weight to the back. She grunted and strained, every muscle in her
body tense as the movement reached its completion, and the smacking ‘umf’ sound
as Michael hit the mat hard.
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Maria stood staring down at her lover, who was now on his back on the gym
mat. "Hey, you okay baby?"
Michael opened his eyes giving Maria a satisfied smile. "Not bad... for a
beginner." He actually liked it when she called him ‘baby’ at times. It only slipped
out when she was really concerned, otherwise it was 'Detective'.
Maria flushed slightly, brushing her hair off of her sweaty face. "Well, I don't
have your old age years of practice to fall back on, or your muscled frame. But my
family didn’t believe in leaving anyone defenseless."
Michael ignored the dig at his age, she was only a year younger than he was.
“I know they taught you some things, Maria. But using a stiletto on someone, and a
few holds isn’t going to cut it.”
“Well, it’s helped me a few times in my past.” Maria watched his face darken,
and sighed. That was the problem wasn’t it? This was all about the past, and his
obsessive need to know she was safe when he wasn’t around. “Okay, we better go
again, because I need the practice.”
"This time I don't want you to hesitate." He said as he picked himself up off
the floor. "When you feel me grab you I just want you to do it." He was going to be
sorry one night, coming home, sneaking up on her, grabbing her from behind, and
‘bam’ his ass was going to go down. Reflexes like a cat.
"You want to do that again?" Maria asked incredulously.
"Practice makes prefect, Maria. Besides I'd feel better knowing that you can
hold your own against a larger opponent."
Maria sighed. Michael had finally decided that she needed to know more than
basics in self defense, and Maria had capitulated, only to help alleviate some of his
tension. So they started going to the PD gym late at night, at least twice a week.
They didn't have time to do it otherwise. The gym was open twenty-four/seven,
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but rarely used at night. The two of them had been at it for about twenty minutes
and they were both covered in sweat.
Michael set himself behind her again, he was teaching Maria how to get away
from an attacker. His eyes wandered over the tight ass in front of him. It was, like
the rest of Maria, beautiful even through the baggy sweats. His lusty feelings were
causing him another problem at the moment, but putting them aside for the sake of
more important things, like attacking her from behind. Michael groaned. He could
feel the heat of her body, smell the sweat mixed with the smell of patchouli and
jasmine. His arms and hands could feel the movement of her muscles, finer and
more delicate than his, as she immediately took to finishing the move. Her body
pushed back deeper into his body, as her foot stepped into the inside to redistribute
her weight and use his against him. She flipped him over.
Michael landed with a grunt onto his back. He knew he had startled her, he felt
it in her body when he grabbed her, and reasoned that Maria had let her mind
wander a bit. He was doing the same thing. With a grin he reached up and grabbed
Maria's arm and pulled her down on him.
"Hey!" Maria groused as she landed on top of him.
"You weren't paying attention, Maria." Michael said trying to be serious, which
was hard when he was chuckling. "You have to watch out for that you know, cause
if someone pulls you down..." With lightening speed he rolled over and pinned her
more supple body beneath his. "Your opponent can use his weight against you."
"You’re just upset because every time I smack you down on the mat I scream
‘take that, ya Pig’." Maria said, not struggling against the hold. Though her arms
were free, Michael's larger body had her effectively pinned. Parts of her brain and
body were enjoying the experience, especially the parts that could feel his fully
erect penis rubbing against her. Nailed to the mat, she could totally handle that.
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"Yeah, what’s with that?" Suddenly Maria’s breath hitched and a redness
moved up her neck. Michael's expression darkened with concern. “You okay? Did I
hurt you?”
"I’m fine, feeling real fine. I just wonder how I keep finding myself in this
position." Maria's face showed arousal and interest in the body above her, then her
face brightened suddenly, became full of mischief. "I did think of a way to get you
off of me though, to take the top."
"Really?" Michael asked, pulling his head up to look in her face. He had moved
his head into her neck and shoulder and was rubbing his face there. He tried to
ignore how pleasant their bodies felt rubbing together. A warning in the back of his
mind told him that moving might be a good idea, if he wanted to stay in control.
"I’m sure it will always work. Of course, I have to want to be on top, mind
you."
"Every time? You think it’ll work every time? That’s impossible, because once
your opponent can anticipate your move then it becomes worthless." Michael said
still not moving off her, and willing his body not to start something. Seeing the
gleam in her eye, he rolled his, and snorted. “Okay, what is it?”
"Just this..." Maria reached up clasping her hands around the back of Michael's
head, pulling him down for a hard closed-mouth kiss, that quickly opened into a
hard, deep sucking kiss with all of him crowding into her. What she got was totally
expected and a whole lot more pleasant than smacking him around on the mat,
though that had a lot to recommend it.
Michael realized Maria was going to kiss him a split second before she did it.
His mind told him to stop it before it started, but his body had wanted to feel those
lips, and taste that mouth since they started that he just couldn't. She was

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distracting him away from what they were supposed to be doing again, and he
didn’t care.
As Maria's lips met his, Michael opened his mouth slightly and closed his eyes
and let her have the lead. Or that was his intention, but with them it never always
happened as intended. Pressing into the kiss Michael's tongue darted out to taste
Maria's lips, her mouth opened under his, and Michael didn't hesitate in exploring
the hot moist cavern. Tongues dueled briefly as the kiss increased in intensity.
Michael wondered if it was possible to lose all sense of self in the taste of a person.
After what seemed like an eternity Maria broke the kiss, gasping for air. Her
head falling back onto the mat. "Oh Michael." She whispered, seeing the passion
unleashed in Michael's eyes. Suddenly all those casual touches turned to more, and
she couldn’t stop her hands from moving over him, touching him gently and then
not so gently. He made her hunger, and the warmth she always felt from them
suddenly erupted into a fire that threatened to consume them. But they were in a
public place! They had to pull back!
Michael saw the confusion and fierce determination on her face that was
warring with a burning passion, and felt his raging hard-on that their brief wrestling
and kiss had caused. Whatever it was about her, she knew how to stoke his fires.
With a predatory gleam he swooped down and claimed those full lips for his own,
sucking on Maria's tongue. His hands were busy as well, one was buried deep into
the shiny golden hair feeling the silky strands move over his fingers, while the other
snaked under Maria's shirt. He moved his thumb over her nipple as he explored the
weight and fullness of her breasts. It had to be his imagination, but they already
felt fuller despite it only being a good six weeks into the pregnancy. His sensitive
fingers pinched and rolled Maria's nipples into points, causing her to writhe under
him.
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Remembering that breathing was a required function of life, Michael pulled
away from the wonderful taste of Maria's mouth. Moving down to the jaw line he
licked and scraped the flesh under his lips in a trail to the delicate earlobe sucking it
lightly.
Maria was moaning softly, her hands running down Michael's back. She
wrapped her legs around him pulling them even closer together. Michael growled
into her neck, Maria shivered at the sensation, turning her head to give better
access. She was rewarded by the feel of teeth on her neck as Michael bit down
lightly, then sucked hard. "Ah... Michael. Don't stop." He could almost feel the rush
of warm blood under the skin where his tongue licked, as the blood pooled in the
sucking mark. Maria felt her body squirm from the multiple sensations assaulting
her at once. She arched into the body above him, their lower bodies rubbing
together through the layers of sweaty clothing. They kept being so aroused so
quickly, and she wondered how things had escalated to this point.
Michael pulled back to look at her before going back to her neck and biting
hard until he drew blood. Her whole body bucked and her moan pulled him back to
look at her again. Never had he seen anyone look so beautiful as Maria did at that
moment. Her eyes dark and wild, with a small smile pulling up the edge of her
mouth. Within a few seconds he managed to divest Maria and himself of their
sweats, pushing her shirt up over her head as his hands ran down her arms and to
her sides. To his delight Maria was more than cooperative in the maneuver,
whimpering with need when Michael's hand brushed against her breasts, and then
continued downward to wrap around a long lean thigh, pulling her deeper into the
cradle of his groin.
Maria's eyes widened and smiled at the fire she saw in Michael's eyes. There
he was, that was who she was waiting for. She felt the well muscled body all over
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her, and licking her lips unconsciously in anticipation. Michael leaned back down,
sliding their bodies together, needing to feel every inch of her on him. As their
bodies aligned Maria took a firm hold of Michael's ass, bringing their groins into
closer contact as she felt him thrust inside with one strong stroke.
"Oh fuck... Michael don't stop, please...oh yes oh yes.”
They moved together in steady rhythm of hard violent thrusts, gasping as they
rode the tide of passion that had so suddenly swept them away. Michael slid a hand
to Maria's ass holding her tight to him as he made a place deep inside her, rearing
back, he pulled her off the mat to practically sit in his lap. Pushing her face to his
chest, he gazed at her, hot and hard.
“Bite me.”
Maria latched onto the skin of his chest, pulling the hardened masculine nipple
into her mouth sucking it hard up against her top palate. Hearing his moans, and a
demand for more, she felt the warmth of the blood rushing to the bruised flesh.
Moving her hands around to his back to hold him close she bit down on his flesh
feeling the skin tear and give away as the salty taste of rusty nails flooded her
mouth, and Michael's whole body jerked into a frenzy as he fucked her harder and
harder, moaning her name.
For a moment, he held her mouth against his body looking down at her
feeding from his flesh, then moving his hand behind her neck he held her firmly in
place as he felt the first rushes of an orgasm rushing down his spine. Pulling back,
and wanting it to last longer, he pushed her mouth off him and looked at her,
feeling his body jump again as he panted, his breath rushing in large gasps. Her
eyes were darkened to that hard emerald green, hard as the precious stone, and
bordering on black with a living green fire burning inside. Michael pulled her up into

373

a kiss, tasting himself in her mouth as he sucked her tongue deep into his mouth
and biting it.
Her nails scratched grooves on his back, as he moved away and suddenly in a
rush, he slammed her hard, flat on the mat. His one hand raised her left arm high
above her threading his fingers through his, pinning the arm and their hands to the
mat. Remaining in her, never stopping the pace, he moved his right leg to the
outside of hers, and moving high up on her body to let his knee dig into the mat
beside her left hip. His other hand came down to take her right leg under the knee,
high on his shoulder as his other leg moved up higher and tighter into her
practically lifting her off the mat with each succeeding thrust. Feeling him
everywhere at once, the thought of Michael taking her like that was too much.
Crying out his name Maria came hard as she felt him thicken even more and the
sexual pounding became like a primitive beat in her blood.
The scent and feel of Maria's orgasm, combined with the sound of his name on
Maria's lips was more than he could stand. With a growl torn from deep within his
soul, he thrust into her convulsing body, and sank his teeth into the juncture
between Maria's neck and shoulder. Marking her again, as he too came.
Maria returned to her body to find Michael laying on his side next to her. His
fingers were carding through her long silky hair slowly as though memorizing its
texture. There was a soft unfamiliar expression on Michael's face that she couldn't
quite identify. Maria watched him through heavy lids, too sated and tired to move.
His mouth moved to lovingly suck and lick the wounds he left on her, as one of his
hands moved lower to stroke the flatness of her stomach. Maria eyes closed in a
moan as he lowered his head to kiss her abdomen low where his child rested.

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"I guess you never expected this to happen to you?" Michael asked softly,
stroking his face lightly into her as she moved her hand down to stroke the long
soft curls of his hair, playing with it, watching it wind around her fingers.
"Trust me, that was the last thing I ever expected to happen." Maria replied,
leaning into the caress as he laid kisses on her flesh.
“I think I’m too rough.”
“I think you’re perfect. You’re you, I’m me, and,” lifting his head to force him
to look at her, “this is us. Don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less
either. And don't make it wrong.”
“Maria. I need...” Michael paused and shook his head against her. “I need...”
Bending down and kissing his head, she laid back and continued to soothe
him. “I know.” Closing her eyes she sighed. She couldn’t give them to him, not yet.
The words were in every touch, and in every kiss, but he needed the spoken words,
and she couldn’t give them up, not yet, not until it was time. Not until he was ready
and complete...free. He wasn’t finished yet, but soon. “I know. Soon. I promise,
real soon.”
They lay together for a long moment, then as though they had just
remembered just where they were, both quickly moved as Michael stood up and
pulled her up with him. Grabbing their discarded clothes, he took her into the men’s
locker room, and they both stood under the hot pounding shower letting some of
the soreness from before wash away.
“So do I’ve got the moves, Detective?” Maria asked as he washed her back.
Pulling her tight against his front, he wrapped his hands around her front and
moved his hands over her skin, pushing the soap across the silky wetness. “All the
right moves, Professor. All the right moves.” He whispered in her ear as he kissed
her neck.
375

Day 10: Friday- 7:51 a.m.

Sean made it to the Courthouse early. Determined to beat the ADA to court,
he was disappointed to already find her there talking to two other 'Suits'. The
courtroom was quiet as the hearing was in closed chambers. Julia barely looked his
way, but she did note his cleaned-up look. Small favors.
Yawning, he tried to keep an attentive look on his face, but it was hard. He
stayed up late reading through the old case file to prepare for his testimony. It was
strange to see his writing from a year ago. It felt like a lifetime had passed since
then. And it almost had.
The hearing began, and he sat behind the Prosecutor’s desk trying to follow
the legal mumbo jumbo. No wonder no one in his family ever became lawyers. Talk,
talk, and more talk. It was better to just kill them.
Sean listened as Julia began her argument by firmly asserting that any
allegations in the matter of coercion should have been addressed during
Arraignment, as it was an evidentiary matter. That to allow it to be admitted at this
late stage in the proceedings would establish a dangerous precedent.
He heard the Judge dryly inform Counsel that, as she well knew, fundamental
constitutional rights could never be entirely voided, irrespective of what stage of
the criminal trial had been reached, and that the 'lady ADA's' argument was
overruled. Sean watched a stain of red run up the back of her neck. She was
fuming. Sean stifled a groan of appreciation. The woman looked good in red.
Sean was so busy watching her, that he almost missed his name being called.
Yeah, he was still under oath. He was to tell the Court everything he knew in a
truthful manner, so help him God.
The story he told was the same that he told during preliminaries, absolutely
unchanged. No, he wasn’t aware that the defendant's counsel was detained on the
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premises that day. No, that was outside his area of operations. He was upstairs with
the defendant when it occurred, but had he known he would have made sure the
two hooked up. Sean ignored Julia’s warning glare.
No, he did not feel that he had coerced the witness. If he had, the witness
would’ve had bruises and a doctor’s statement to prove it. Julia looked at him in
shock and cleared her throat. No Sir, it is not the practice of the Roswell PD to beat
confessions out of suspects, and that is why he could testify that allegations of
coercion were false.
Sean was excused from the witness box, but was reminded that he was still
under oath, should either side choose to recall him.
The suspect took the stand and told a sad tale of how Sean threatened to
make his life a living hell, threatened to hound him relentlessly, and actually make
him pay if the Detective found out he was lying. The man stressed how irritated
Sean said he would be if he found the man was holding out on him, and that it was
best that he just confess immediately and give evidence against his employer. Sean
tried to keep awake during the sad story, but it was too much for him.
The ADA, continued to argue fiercely, stating that the factual scenario in the
present case was almost identical to one that had been brought before the Supreme
Court recently, where the Court had found that extreme actions taken to extract the
confession to be both necessary and within reason, meaning the suspect's
statement was admissible.
The Defense Counsel, looking smug and if possible, even more smarmy,
smoothly countered, explaining in condescending tones that, as the Supreme Court
ruling concerned a Federal matter, it was of no relevance to a case concerning a
state offence. Thus it was well within the rights of the presiding Judge to determine
what was admissible and what was not.
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The arguing went on too long for Sean, and he stopped paying attention until
the Judge ordered a short recess to review the arguments made. While he was
gone, Sean sleepily watched Julia confer with her colleagues. Soon the Judge
returned. Having reviewed the case, all testimony and the police record of the
arresting officer over the past year...Sean became alert at that. Oh shit! They were
toast!
It was not outside the realm of possibility to believe that the arresting officer
was capable of displaying the sort of extreme violence and pressure that would
make a reasonable man in the position of the suspect apprehensive enough to
confess to a crime against his will. Sean closed his eyes and cursed the damn trip
to Hawaii and Guerin in all one breath. Dammit, he loved these pants, and when
the hellion ADA finished trampling his body, kicking him up and down Main Street
and squeezing his balls out of his throat, these pants were going to be a mess.
He listened as the Judge outlined events of the case, and the use of the words
‘extreme force’ kept coming up time and time again. Come on baby, object! Make
him define what exactly ‘extreme force’ means. He drifted as he heard the Defense
seek a motion to dismiss due to the lack of credible evidence. Julia ADA opposed
this through gritted teeth, making mention of confiscated physical evidence found
on the defendant’s premises. This led Defense Counsel to question the legality of
the warrant and the subsequent search and seizure. Points were made about a
witness who had provided information that allowed police to obtain the warrant in
the first place. Mouthpieces, talk, talk and talk...Sean drifted off to sleep.
Julie listened as her solid case slowly dissolved. The final ruling of the Judge
being that, since a witness existed there was still a possible case. But even that was
looking doubtful. The motion to suppress the confession was granted, resulting in a
large portion of the evidence automatically becoming inadmissible-fruits of the
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poisonous tree. A short evidentiary hearing was scheduled for Monday morning to
determine whether the remaining evidence was enough to allow the case to
continue.
Julia stood calmly in front of her table with hands clenched. She briefly nodded
goodbye to her assistants and watched as the Defense and all others filtered out of
the courtroom. All except Sean. She could still feel him behind her. Trying to gather
some control, she turned and stood, shocked to see him sleeping. Her whole case,
her life and her career stood in the balance, and he slept.
Sean came awake violently as a shoe hit him in the head. “Hey!” He quickly
stood up facing the angry heaving woman, all flushed and red, excited… “You made
me bleed!” He said gathering up her flung shoe.
“You were asleep! Did you hear any of this? Do you have any idea of what
happened today?”
“I heard. It’s not my fault. There was this competition thing happening, and...”
Sean wiped the small amount of blood off his forehead where the spike of her heel
had nicked him. Keeping the shoe in his hand, he watched her letting his rage build
inside.
“Save it! I don’t care! Just be here on Monday, bright, early, and AWAKE! Do
not beat up, harass, or coerce any more suspects until then. Can you possibly do
that?”
“Yes.” Sean said quietly trying to keep his own anger down.
“I swear, if you...” That did it. Sean moved so fast she barely noticed him
moving at all until it was too late. Grabbing her pretty blouse in the front, he pulled
her close, very close.
“First, you should know, I’m not a man you should make empty threats to. I
take them all very seriously, and I like the heat. Second, if you want to get me off,
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just keep it up. I’ve no problem taking anything you can throw at me. I’ll be here.
I’ll behave, but not if you keep tempting me.”
Sean let her go, grabbed his jacket and headed out of the courtroom. The
touch of bravado in her eyes, the anger, the flash of heat...he gave his entire body
a full shake. He even liked that touch of apprehension when he crowded her. Good,
it’s not right that she not learn to see him, see that part of him that was scary. He
didn’t want to mislead another woman.
“Dammit! Give me back my shoe!” She stood there on one foot almost too
angry to move.
“Uh uh. Nope. You threw it at me, so now it’s mine.”
“Bastard!” Sean just laughed to himself. He could hear her moving behind him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. If you hit me with the other one, I’ll have the
matched pair, and I might not take it kindly. My mother said I’m not allowed to
spank a woman until she’s my wife, and then only with her consent, so don’t make
me break a promise to my sainted mother.” Sean kept walking as she put her arm
down and screamed in irritation.
Letting the door swing behind him, Sean pulled out his cell phone and called
dispatch. He arranged for the Counselor’s car to be watched and ticketed, if she
drove, for improper footwear while operating a motor vehicle. Sean smiled as he
hung up. This damn therapy shit was really working. He felt better all ready.

~~~

Maria entered the bullpen and surveyed the utter chaos. All the phones were
ringing and Detectives were taking statements left and right. She watched
Detective Waters listening to a man confessing to a crime.
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“I swear, I killed them.”
The Detective sighed, “Okay why did you kill them?”
“Because they wouldn’t dance with me, and they danced bad.” The man
sniffed looking really contrite.
Another detective was taking to a man who looked like he crawled out of a
storm drain. “Okay, maybe if you told me what you did exactly...”
“Why don’t you tell me, and I’ll tell you if it was what I did.” The Detective
gave the man a look of irritation.
“How about I put you in general holding with the prison population, and you
call me when you remember? This is your confession!”
Maria worked her way to Michael’s desk. Handcuffed to a chair, but by the
ankle was a young girl who was stubbornly silent, only occasionally rattling the
handcuffs on her ankle as her hands gripped the arms of the chair. Maria’s eyebrow
raised as her head tipped to the side. Michael was ignoring his suspect, and happily
working in oblivion.
“Detective?” Michael looked up and saw his mate. A nice change from the
hellacious morning he was having. “What’s going on?” Maria gestured to the room
in general.
Michael handed Maria the morning paper. In headlines was the front story
about the murders and the possibility of a serial killer on the loose.
“That hit this morning,” Michael winced as more phone rang in the bullpen.
“Every lunatic, crazy and goon from here to the eastern seaboard is calling up to
confess. And if they don’t want to confess, then they want to give information about
who they think it is. I’m positive that Elvis isn’t a contender, but I’ve got three
confirmed sightings.”
“And the wee one’s story?” Maria asked inclining her head to his prisoner.
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“Hardened criminal, and this one refuses to break.”
“Tragic. Plain tragic. So hard...so young.” Maria said as Michael looked at the
girl and smiled a large vicious smile that even made Maria’s stomach queasy. He
calmly picked up a raised donut, frosted and covered in sprinkles. Maria stood on
her tiptoes to see what her chances were of getting one. Oh, his box was full! He
noisily took a bite, one after another, and as he reached for the next donut the little
songbird broke.
She rattled her handcuffs, shocking Maria. “I confess! I want to confess! I
killed them! I killed them all!” The young face screwed up on contrition and
remorse. “I just wanted to give them a bath!” The entire room broke into applauded
and whistles as Michael undid the handcuffs, and with a small spank to her
backside, pushed the girl towards Waters' desk.
Maria glared at the room in disgust. “You’re sick, all of you! You should be
ashamed.”
“Waters, your felon broke. She confessed to the murder of thirteen
unsuspecting goldfish.” Michael called the girl back and handed her a donut which
she took with a big smile and a sloppy kiss on his cheek before running over to her
daddy. Big man, no hardened criminal stood a chance against him, not even a four
year old girl with a pixie smile.
Maria winced as Valenti’s voice boomed through the bullpen. “I don’t care, find
the scumbag who leaked the information. I want them and I want them now! Did
you see this nightmare?”
Michael quickly stood up and dragged Maria out of the room the other way and
led her into the breakroom. He noticed that she had nabbed two of his donuts and
was hurriedly devouring them.
“Hungry?” Maria just nodded as she headed straight for the coffee.
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“No. No caffeine.”
Maria gulped down her donuts. “But, Michael...”
He went to the refrigerator in the corner and checked the milk in it. It smelt
fresh, so he poured her a glass. Handing it to her, he spied a bag in her hand.
“What’s in the bag?”
“Your lunch.” Maria finished her milk and looked at him. “So what’s the kid’s
story, Lydia isn’t it?”
Michael nodded. Yeah, Waters' youngest, Lydia Waters. “She emptied an entire
bottle of Mr. Bubble Bath into her fish tank.”
“Oh my!” Maria tried not to laugh. “Were they all...?”
“Belly up. Plus the room was covered in bubbles because the tank’s oscillator
sent bubbles spewing everywhere. Her distraught Grandmother ran her in.” Maria
couldn’t help but laugh at the image. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your
company, Professor?”
“Besides your lunch?” Maria asked as Michael nodded. “Well I just wanted you
to know that Sam called after you left this morning. The Mustang is ready to be
picked up.” Maria smiled at the look of surprise crossing Michael’s face. It was done.
Finally.
“Let's go now.”
“Nope, can’t. This detour is all I can afford today, and you look to be
overwhelmed in your own problems.” Maria motioned to the bullpen. “I’ll pick you
up after work, we can take the Jetta home, and catch a cab to Sam’s.”
Michael pulled her close to him where he leaned back against the table. “That
sounds like a plan.” Michael moved in kissing her neck, and rubbing her against
him. “You’ve got enough time to go find a bathroom or supply closet?”

383

Maria hooked her arm around his neck and kissed him passionately. God, he
tasted so good! Sweet, and just like Michael. It was the sound of someone entering
the room, and then quickly leaving that made her pull back.
“I have to go, so save it, and I’ll take care of you later, Detective.”
Michael just groaned as she waved a quick goodbye, and left. Looking into the
bag she left him, he smiled. Philly beefsteak sandwich with extra grilled onions. He
was definitely going to marry her. Philips moved past the breakroom and tossed a
can into the garbage. What the hell?
“Philips! What the hell is wrong with you? Does this garbage look like the
recycling bin? Doesn’t our children have enough garbage to wade through without
you adding more?” The man quickly retrieved his empty can and tossed it in the
proper recycling bin. Michael watched his with a dark gleam in his eye as he took
out his sandwich and took a large bite. His car was done, the Professor brought him
lunch, a hardened criminal snapped under his intense scrutiny, and he just struck a
blow for the environment, all in all, not a bad day.

~~~

Michael made the final turn into Sam’s Paint Shop. They had the cab drop
them off up the access alley. After all the work and labor, it was done. The Mustang
was finished. The third coating of paint was finally heat-dried and primed. His calm
exterior belied the nervous quaking of his stomach and the anticipation. His
Mustang was finally completed, rebuilt. After all those years ago when Mikey first
bought it for him, the dream of rebuilding the classic was realized. Michael looked
over at the small golden woman next to him, practically bouncing in enthusiasm.
She had changed his life, but how the hell did she learn to bounce like that?
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“Hey, guys, I expected you hours ago.” Sam said coming out of the paint
spotting room. The Mustang was parked in the lot with a dry cloth covering it. “I
already worked up the bill and receipt.” Sam handed Michael the paperwork as he
smiled at the excited Maria.
“Does it need any more layers or touchups?”
“No, this last coating should do her. I did include that two year warranty on
the paint job, so if you notice any buckling or chipping just bring her back and I’ll
fix it.” Sam led them to Michael's car. “You ever get tired of this Betty, just give me
a call. I’ll meet any price.”
“Thanks, but it’s not going to happen.” Michael clenched his fist and shoved it
in his pocket. His emotions were all over the place, and seeing his car restored for
the first time was proving to be more emotional than he realized. It felt like Mikey
was standing next to him waiting too, with his arm across his shoulder.
“Didn’t think so.” Sam pulled the cloth and left them alone to take their prize
home.
The couple stood there in shock, frozen in place. It was beautiful--utterly
beautiful! Michael hadn’t chosen any of the standard colors for the car. Instead he
had picked out a dark green that bordered on black with a gold trim. The color
reminded him of Maria’s eyes when she was excited and caught up in passion. The
paint shone with a brilliance like her personality. Maria stood beside him, still with
her hand over her mouth. He had finally found a way to strike her speechless.
“Oh God!” Maria voice spoke of reverence. “I love you!”
Michael looked at her sharply, staring at his car with a strange expression on
her face. Great. She finally says those words, and it’s to his damn car. Too bad. The
car was his. “Sorry Professor, love it all you want, but it belongs to me.”

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“I wasn’t talking to the car, Detective.” Maria turned and looked at Michael in
great earnest. “I said that I loved you, Michael.”
He couldn't breathe. His heart stopped dead in his chest and then took off at
breakneck speed. Trying to talk, but unable to find the words as they stuck in his
throat, he finally cleared it. “Dammit, Professor! I waited a year to hear you say
that, and you wait until I have a decent car?”
“A man with a great ride gets me hot, what can I say?” Maria squeaked when
he grabbed her in a hug and then kissed the life out of her.
He leaned his hot forehead against hers and whispered, “Why now? Why not
last night?”
Maria stroked his face and then kissed him again softly licking his lips before
joining her mouth to his and greedily sucking on his tongue. Why now? “It was
time.” The completing of the car was the final step for him in healing, and for the
first time it was just them, no baggage. For the first time, they were both free.
“Then marry me.” Michael stopped her before she could speak or give reasons
to protest. “Marry me, not because you’re carrying my baby, or because you think I
only want to marry you because of that reason, and don’t marry me just because I
love you. Because I do love you, Maria.” Michael framed her face with his hands.
“Marry me because it’s time.”
Maria opened her mouth to talk, then shut it again. Finally she simply said,
“Okay.”
They'd barely settled in the car before Maria launched herself at Michael. She'd
waited too long for this and didn't want to lose any more time. Pausing to tug
Michael's shirt out of his jeans, she started stroking him through the denim. The
moan her actions elicited from Michael were like manna from heaven, assuring him
that everything was right with the world. Hell, everything was perfect!
386

“Maria, if you don't stop that we're never going to get home."
"Just drive, and keep your eyes on the road," Maria answered as she
unfastened his pants, smiling at the fact that there was no underwear to hinder her.
"I’m in love with a man that goes commando. Mother never warned me how
attractive that could be."
"Mentioning your mother at this time can be classified as a buzzkill, baby.
Anyway, these pants are too tight," Michael groaned. "Maria! Stop it! We're in
public."
"We're in a car with tinted windows. Only buses and big rigs can see what I'm
up to down here. You just get us home."
"How am I supposed to do that with you distracting me?"
"If you really want me to start distracting you, you'd better start driving,
because soon you'll have to pull over and finish this." Maria punctuated her
meaning with a series of licks along Michael's now freed cock.
"Oh GOD!" Michael moaned as he swerved to miss a truck that pulled out into
traffic. “Maria, I’m going to kill us both and destroy my car.”
He tried not to think about the sensations that Maria was causing in him with
that delicious mouth of hers. He tried to focus on his vision and on getting them
home in one piece, but she had him squirming in his seat. His eyes nearly rolled
back into his head as she draped across his lap and took his cock in her mouth so
deep he felt it had to be half way down her throat. As he came to a stoplight,
Michael dropped a hand onto Maria’s head. The silky hair wound around his fingers,
and all he could see or hear was her as he held her tight against his groin.
Someone behind him had to honk to let him know that the light had turned green.
Once he'd crossed the intersection, Michael hit the gas and sped home, ignoring all
speed limits and praying that they didn’t pick up a patrol car. He didn’t want to
387

explain he was speeding because his pregnant fiancée was blowing and feeding on
him while he was driving. They would be lucky to make it home.
As he pulled into the loft parking area, he hit the garage door opener to park
his car in its regular spot and turned off the engine as the door closed behind them.
Michael slumped back in the seat. He couldn't believe he'd been able to hold off
during the ride home. When Maria pulled away, Michael gasped at the loss of
sensation. She just smiled up at him and kissed him passionately while trying to
help him back into his pants so they could go inside.
"Those are never gonna close around that." Maria chuckled.
"You are pure evil. You know that, don't you?"
"Who me? So am not." Maria said trying on her most innocent angelic look.
Michael just grimaced. Fallen angel. “You love me evil.”
"How am I supposed to walk like this?" Michael griped.
"Who said anything about walking? Let’s finish this here. Sort of a christening
of the Mustang." Maria hopped up on her knees and removed her top and unzipped
her skirt. Michael reached down and pushed the seat back while she moved in front
of him between his chest and the steering wheel straddling his hips.
“God, I love you.” Michael kissed her neck and pulled the skin between his
teeth nipping it. It felt good to finally say it.
In deference to his swollen cock already pushed to the edge, Michael took it
slower. But not by much. He caught Maria up to his chest in a crushing hold,
enjoying her panting breath in his ear. Pushing her legs aside and farther apart, he
slid inside, gently at first remembering her delicate condition. But Maria never
settled for things that easily, she pushed him with just a look, a hot look all fire and
violence. Michael grabbed her hips and slammed into her hard, making the next
thrust deeper and longer. He dragged Maria's head from his shoulder while grinding
388

his hips into her and she rode him as he ran his tongue along the contour of her
ear. Laughter poured out of Michael as he felt Maria bucking against him and
shivering in reaction.
"Like that huh, Professor?"
"Oh, yeah." Maria moaned aloud. “I love the way you fuck, Detective.”
Michael swung Maria’s head to look at him, to see into his eyes. “And just
when does fucking become lovemaking, Professor?”
“It always has been, Detective.” Maria said seriously. “Every touch, every kiss
is me making love to you, and when I take you inside my body, that’s me loving
you in a very intense fucking manner. Don’t confuse the two, Detective. They seem
different, but not to me. Sometimes it’s all physical like an ache that I need now,
but every time it's always about love.”
“Maria, I...” She kissed him and started removing his shirt while Michael
flipped his shoes off on the floorboard. He reached past her and pushed his jeans
down the rest of the way and kicked them off his legs without unseating her.
“I like it gentle and soft, sometimes. But most of the time, I need you hot and
hard, with a touch of blood and violence. I need you to be just you.” Michael was
shocked at her description of him. It was almost the image he saw of himself in his
dreams, the warrior painted in blood, not quite human. A primitive spirit.
“Something in you speaks to something in me, something pure. So when I'm
fucking your brains out, either gently or with the touch of fire, it’s always been
about loving you. Since the first moment I saw you. It just took me a while to
untangle the two, and filter out the immediate lust.”
“How long?” Michael asked as he started moving in her again, loving the moan
in her throat that seemed to echo in the car.

389

“About three days after the first time we made love, but definitely the
interrogation room.” Michael knew he wasn’t going to forget that encounter anytime
in his life. It was another time when she just seemed to know just what he needed,
and how give it to him without him losing himself.
He stopped talking and took on the task of making love to her in earnest. It
took almost no time at all before their naked bodies were clinging to one another in
the confines of the space between the seat and the steering wheel. Michael,
deciding turn about was fair play, began to tease his mate, his wife. Starting with
small love bites on Maria's neck, Michael slowly moved lower and lower. He sucked
the flesh over her collarbone into his mouth tonguing the hollow created by the
bones. His hands tweaked nipples and rolled them between his fingers feeling her
entire body bucking to the sensation as her internal muscles gripped him hard and
she sped up her movement on him, taking more and more of his cock inside her
almost frantically. Maria’s pregnant breasts were already sensitive, and they were
becoming his favorite place to linger. By the time Michael took the swollen red
nipple into his mouth, Maria was just one massive undulating pile of soft tissue
moving over him.
"Michael! Please!" Her hand moved into his hair and held him hard against her
flesh.
"Please what?"
"Fuck me! Make love to me!"
Michael blinked as what Maria said registered. She was using both phrases, to
emphasize that it was all the same to her. After a year of living with her, and still
he was learning about her, learning to understand her.

390

Michael seemed to realize how tight the space was, and groaning, how tight
Maria was. He kept forgetting about the small life she carried inside. "Maria, I don't
want to hurt you."
"NOW, Michael. I need you now. Please! I’m fine; we’re fine." She bit his
shoulder hard drawing blood, and almost cried when the rusty nail taste hit her
mouth. The taste of his life source was too much, reaching for him; she took his
head and joined their mouths sharing the taste.
As always, Maria had found the one way to send him out of control to the
point that he couldn't refuse her anything. He pushed, feeling the walls gripping
him and then giving away to make room, as Maria adjusted to the feeling of being
so full. So tight. He wanted to savor the moment, take things slow, but Maria kept
wiggling like a livewire, spurring him on. He nearly lost it completely when she
pulled her legs even farther apart to sink even deeper onto him.
"Oh God, Maria!"
"Let's hear it for yoga," Maria murmured. "YES! Oh yes! Michael! . . . Deeper .
. . oh god . . . oh god, yeah."
Michael knew he couldn't last long, not after all the stimulation he'd gotten
since sunrise that day Using one hand, he reached between them and began to
stroke that nub of nerve endings that he always found so effortlessly. The last thing
he wanted to do was leave Maria behind on this one. When Maria finally came, and
her muscles involuntarily tightened around him, Michael couldn't hold back any
longer. He slammed into her, over and over, until he came with a shout. The orgasm
hit him in waves, and he was somewhere else with her, neither of them noticing the
sounds of the horn that Maria was resting on.
"I vote we move this into the loft and up to our bed." Maria said some time
later.
391

"Why is that?" Michael felt pretty comfortable where he was.
"No wet spots."
It took a few moments before the words registered. “Oh shit, my upholstery!”

~~~

“Are you sure about this?” Tess asked, looking over at Kyle.
“What?” Kyle stopped looking at the woman across the room and turned to
listen to Tess.
“I said, are you sure you want to be here?” Tess looked over at the woman still
trying to catch Kyle’s eye.
“Of course I do. Didn’t I say I would be here for ya?” Kyle leaned in closer to
Tess. “So do you think that woman is pregnant? She keeps trying to get me to
come over and sit with her.”
“She might just be here for a check-up, Kyle. Not all women in the room are
pregnant.” Kyle glanced around the room and just shrugged. Sure they’re not. In
that room, pregnancy looked like an epidemic.
“Tess?” Tess’s name was called from the door. She got up and gathered her
stuff. As she was walking into the doctor’s office she looked back to see Kyle still
making eyes at the strange woman.
“Kyle!” He looked over at her and quickly scrambled after her.
“Did you want me to come in with you? I was just going to...” Tess grabbed his
hand and dragged him with her giving the woman in the corner a hefty glare.
When Tess came out of the bathroom, she stood the doorway to the Lab room
in shock. Kyle had three nurses around him, and Carolyn the Lab Tech was taking
his blood.
392

“Kyle?”
He looked up and smiled at Tess. “Hey, Tess! Carolyn is taking my blood and is
going to check it for me. Isn’t that great?”
Carolyn beamed, “He’s a real good patient. Are you all through?” Tess just
nodded. Carolyn gestured to another nurse who led a quiet Tess to an exam room,
as Kyle stayed talking to the women. “We’ll keep an eye on Kyle for you.”

~~~

“Tess, you can get dressed. I’m going to have Lisa give you an ultrasound.
Normally we don’t do them until the fourth month, but you’re shy of it by about
three weeks.” Jim helped Tess struggle to sit up. “I just want to see the placenta
and uterine walls. With the lateness of discovering the pregnancy and missing the
first trimester almost completely, we’ll keep a real close eye on this one.”
Tess swallowed hard. “You don’t think there’s anything...”
“No.” Jim just patted her hand. “But, we’ll look at everything.” He looked at
her chart and counted up the days. “Your blood is unique, so adding that to the late
discovery issue, we just need to keep a close eye on you.” Jim got up and quickly
filled out a form. “Lisa will come get me and take pictures when she has the
ultrasound all set up.”
“Doctor, do you...”
He took Tess’s hand and held it firmly. “It’s going to be fine. You’ll see. I do
want you to come in for more frequent appointments than is normally warranted,
but it’s nothing to worry about.” Tess just nodded her head, but for the first time
since she suspected she was pregnant she actually felt worried. Jim saw the frown
and tried to distract her. “So how is the Masters coming?”
393

“Oh, it’s coming along nicely. I already submitted most of it to the committee,
but I’ve got a small rewrite required. It looks completed and I was accepted to the
PhD program pending the rewrites.” Tess just shrugged. “The rewrites will keep me
busy. There was some last minute information that came in after I finished my
thesis, so there are few options. I can’t just overlook information.”
“I’m sure you’ll get it done. Now that you’re past the morning sickness phase,
most women find being pregnant gives them a nice burst of energy and
enthusiasm.”
“I never had morning sickness, maybe that was why I didn’t clue in on being
pregnant right away, with that and my spotty menstrual record.” Tess smiled and
breathed deeply. “Actually I feel great, almost like my whole body is humming.”
Jim laughed. “I think Maria wished she could say the same thing. Her gory
tales of eating and feeling tired were long and winding. Is she feeling a little
better?” Tess just nodded, uncertain what else to do. “I tried to call her this
afternoon, but her secretary said she had left for the day and there is no answer at
her house.”
“I think I’m seeing her tonight. Her mother was going to come over to cook,
and that usually means an impromptu call to everyone to come eat. Amy is big on
large family meals.”
“She does have that whole big family thing going. The entire office still has a
pool going as to when the Wedding will actually occur.” Tess just laughed when she
noticed even the Doctor stress ‘Wedding’ as something big. “I wonder if you could
deliver something to Maria for me. I need her to call me, and I have a prescription
for her. I called it in, but the information sheet and instructions are included in the
message.”

394

“No problem. I can do that.” Jim handed Tess her ultrasound sheet to give to
Lisa.
“Thank you, Tess. Now give that to Lisa, and I’ll be in to see you in the
imaging room. Do you need any help in finding it?”
“No. I know where it is.” Jim nodded and left Tess to finish getting dressed.
Tess went to find Kyle on her way to the ultrasound. “Kyle!” He was telling a
small group of women and a few patients included, the story of how he and his
partners had destroyed the Palisades.
“Tess, hey are you okay? Are we ready to leave?” Tess’s eyes narrowed at the
numerous stickers covering Kyle’s person, the two lollypops he was holding and the
happy smilie band-aid covering his needle stick. She only got a plain old neon one.
“No. I’ve got to have an ultrasound, can you come with me?” Kyle just nodded
and wished the women goodbye, and Tess’s eyes became hard when she noticed
one of the nurses slipping her phone number in Kyle’s pocket.
“So is everything okay?” Kyle asked when they were in the darker room, and
Lisa, the ultrasound tech was setting up the equipment. Tess just nodded and
waited until Lisa left the room.
“Kyle, did Michael mention anything to you about Maria being sick?”
Kyle’s brows came together in confusion. “Maria? No. Guerin has been, but I’m
thinking he was born that way.” Kyle looked around the room to make sure Lisa
hadn’t returned. “Why? Did the doctor say something?”
“Yes, and no. We were talking about morning sickness, and he brought up
Maria and how she’s been sick and tired lately.” Tess said in a loud whisper. “She
might have been in for just an annual physical, but him saying that after we were
just talking about morning sickness makes me suspicious, and... and...Maria's been
acting strange lately.” Kyle just snorted. “Okay, stranger than usual.”
395

“So Maria and Michael could be...” Kyle’s face lightened and became full of
mischief. “Oh wait until Amy finds out!” Tess shushed Kyle to be quiet when Lisa
entered the room.

~~~

Sean looked over the placement of the monitors one more time before going
to the back room to the control panels that were recording all incoming displays.
Alex just stood up against the wall watching. This was wrong, so wrong. His placehis club- wired. Here the people came to be free. To listen to music and feel the
wonder of their youth, away from the prying eyes of Johnny Law. Then Alex’s
stomach hollowed out as he realized that some youth, such as Krystal’s, would
never be allowed to play out.
“Is this all you plan to do? Put in security cameras?” Alex asked Sean as he
came over and bummed a smoke.
“No, we have rotating shifts going. Some of Vice will be here, but Majors is
trying to keep it in-house. Our interest isn’t to shake down your people, just protect
them.” Sean watched the monitors as different parts of the club became apparent.
“And Guerin?” Alex asked, lighting another smoke off his lit one. Chain
smoking, a nasty habit, but he had been doing it almost non-stop since losing
Krystal.
“He’s a problem. We’re still trying to figure out how to get him in the door of
this place without all your customers fleeing in terror.” Alex laughed at that. Yeah,
Detective Guerin looked like a killjoy, a real buzzkill with his pissy cop attitude
disapproving of the little people. And yet, it was those little people, those little
flawed people who he strove to protect.
396

“Send him in with a date. Even the most pissy of people or the most hardcore
of men are puss-y-whipped, and can find themselves led around by their dick.” Alex
laughed at the image of Guerin bending to a woman, or even a man.
Sean just shrugged. That was a thought, but the only person who could make
it come off was Maria. Michael wasn’t a good enough actor to be able to portray
utter fascination and devotion to another woman. And to a man? Sean had to laugh
out loud. The first time a man even touched Michael suggestively, Michael would
bellow like a demented cow and then break the man’s arm. Another woman?
Michael would stomp around the Club sneering and scaring the locals while
absentmindedly pulling the ‘little woman’ behind him. Now Maria would be different.
She would coax him on the floor, get him all hot and bothered, and the two of them
would forget the entire operation while fucking each other hard up against the club
wall.
Michael was a problem.
“Getting Guerin a believable date? I don’t think it can be done.” Sean said
reaching over to bum another smoke. Filthy habit, he was glad he never started.
“I offered to date him once. Or twice.” Alex said batting his incredibly long
eyelashes at Sean.
“Really?” Sean looked impressed, and looked Alex up and down. The boy was
still whole and breathing. Impressive. “And yet you never hit on me? What is
Guerin, just sexier?”
Alex laughed, nodding an acknowledgment to one of his men over at the door
who held up a delivery slip. Good, the bootleggers had come to restock the bar.
Their supplies had been dangerously low, and with his manager on vacation Alex
had forgotten to do the ordering.

397

“Oh he is sexy, even I have to give him credit for that. One of my female band
members saw him over a year ago when he first came in my club, and she withered
around on the floor for three days in orgasmic ecstasy without the man doing
anything but scowl at her.” Alex took a long draw on the smoke and went from the
monitoring room to the main bar. Going behind the counter, he checked out the
restocked bar. Good, it looked good.
“I’m crushed.”
“Don’t be,” said Alex distractedly as he checked his spritzer lines. The number
three button that held club soda was still sticking, and the cola line was still too
syrupy. He quickly told his worker, Charley to check the stock lines and reset the
cola mix of cola syrup to carbonation. “You’ve got it in spades too, but you have the
touch of the edge, the unknown, that Guerin doesn’t have. With him, it's obvious
where he stands, what he’ll do, but you…” Alex just shrugged. “Make you an offer,
and there’s a chance a person could find them fucked up the ass real fast. The
unknown factor.” Alex adds derision and sarcasm to his laugh. “Scary!”
Sean’s eyes narrowed. This man saw too much, walked the walk and knew the
count. His confidence in his own understanding was his control. He knew. And
because he knew, much like Michael understood death with a gut feeling, Alex
understood the human spirit that drove men to action.
Needing to teach Alex the meaning of the word 'scary', Sean grabbed him hard
by his shirt and literally dragged his tall lean body across the bar. Taking his mouth
in a long hard kiss, literally exploring Alex’s mouth and staying longer than he
normally would, he refused to relinquish Alex until the man submitted control.
Pushing Alex away from him, Sean took another draw on his smoke and watched
carefully for Alex’s reaction.

398

Alex stood there looking at DeLuca. Yeah, just as he suspected, the soul of
darkness. Alex kept his hands at his waist holding tight, refusing to give in and wipe
his mouth. His eyes searched Sean’s and in silence they stood, staring each other
down until Alex took back what he could. He said the one thing he knew would piss
Sean off. “I knew you would do that, Detective.” And before Sean could react, Alex
grabbed him and kissed him back hard, with violent intent and no emotion except
the power of control.
Pulling away, he half-smiled at Sean as he poured them both a whiskey. “I
know you well, Detective. But make no mistake, sex means nothing to me. It's just
bodies against bodies. I’m not even into smut. When I see stories or watch shows
where the main characters are all over each other, all slutty, I don’t see it as
powerful or breaking edge. I see it for what it is. Sex. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s just another control tactic. Using my body isn’t a problem, but touching my soul
and heart is another thing.”
Sean almost tried another tactic. A beating. Alex Whitman needed a beating.
Sean just nodded at the irony of it. He couldn’t intimidate Guerin either. They all
knew the mark, understood the meaning of powerplay.
“Don’t push me, Whitman. You don’t know where I live.”
Alex drank the burning liquid and let winter rise from his soul to brim out of
his eyes. “Don’t I?” That was Alex’s curse. He knew it too well, saw it all too easily.
“I know that this place is now under the protection of more than just me, and I also
know that Guerin will stand here, his body in the way to save all my innocents, as
will you and all your little minions.” Alex poured another finger of whiskey and
added more to Sean’s glass. “And even with all that, we will fail. We will fail
because more will die before we find this monster and take him down.”
“How do you know? We’ll find him.”
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“I’ll find him.” Alex knew that was true. He knew that he would look into the
eyes of the monster, and no amount of chameleon ability would mask the disease.
He would see it, know it. The trick was to see it before the hunter preyed upon
another innocent soul, and in the balance of things they were running behind.
“Alex...”
“How the fuck could this hunter go so long undetected? Don’t you people have
databases for this crap?” Alex was pissed at his loss. He couldn’t feel it, couldn’t
taste or touch it. The raw anger and need for justice was fueling his body and
diverting him from thoughts of Krystal, but once he found his pound of flesh he
would drown in the pain. But only after he found retribution. His hand shook as he
lit up another cigarette. He needed a release, to tap off the pressure before he
exploded. He didn’t have time for this shit.
“He’s not a real serial killer. He’s a sociopath. A cold calculating one. People
think that serials are just about multiple kills, but it’s more than that. It’s
methodology as well. Serials hunt in their own social groups and races. Usually they
hunt a specific type of target, a certain aspect. It’s like the man who hunts virgins
in order to drug, sodomize and rape. He’s not looking for experienced people, and
not necessarily women. He takes men too. They just have to be innocent. Virgins.
Or the person who targets women who look like his mother. Every day he kills his
mother. Or even Jack the Ripper targeted prostitutes, white prostitutes.”
“So why the hell is this sick fuck walking around undetected? Hasn’t he killed
enough, or are we waiting for some magic number?”
Sean just shook his head. He could understand the anger he was getting from
Alex, because it was the same anger fueling him. It was the impotence of letting
the bastard walk around unhindered.

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“He’s not a classical serial. He’s killed many, or so we believe. His protection
was to hide his bodies. We’ve got missing people, but so does the world. The
human race is full of people who are missing, even as they sit in their own homes
buttering their toast. When people take a walk and disappear into the edge, there is
a part of us that wishes we could so easily just walk too. All these things that tie us
to our world-bills, jobs, obligations, friends and even family at times become
overwhelming. He uses this against us. Uses the ever-increasing incidence of
missing people against us.”
“What’s he looking for? Who?”
“That’s the problem. It changes. The victims have nothing in common. Nothing
that would have tripped the National databases or Quantico crime labs.” Sean drank
down his whiskey and nodded for another. “He’s not a serial because he doesn’t
match the profile of a serial. He’s a sociopath because he feels no remorse or
nagging morality. This hunter has a purpose, a design. And the design changes to
whatever his requirements are for the latest victim. Maybe it's their voice, looks or
heritage. Maybe he's looking for something exotic, like talent. It never stays the
same so it keeps his victims diverse and hidden.”
“So he’s collecting specifics...”
“Yeah.”
“So what was Krystal?”
Sean just sighed and shook his head. “Don’t really know what made her a
target, but whatever the attribute was...he thought she was perfect.”
“So he processes them and then dumps them? What is the purpose in that?”
“He dumped them because they were blemished.” Sean didn’t want to go into
it, but... “Your cousin had a tattoo on her hip, a small butterfly. It marred her skin

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and made him dump her. If she hadn’t had that marking we probably would have
never found her.”
“The tattoo? It was the tattoo that made him toss her out like garbage?” Alex’s
voice rose in anger. Not that the other possibility was better, but the insult of his
cousin tossed out like someone's junk hurt. “I want this fucker. I want to eat his
heart! That tattoo, it was me! She had wanted it forever, but her parents said no. I
didn’t see the harm or the problem. I signed the papers and went with her when
she had it done.” Alex picked up the half-empty bottle of whiskey and suddenly
threw it violently against the wall, watching it shatter into thousands of shards of
broken glass. His hands closed in fists on the bar as he let the rage rock his gut.
Sean knew there was nothing to say, no words.
“Bring your people. This club remains open until we catch this virus.” Alex
turned to leave, to find another bottle to kill or someone to fuck. “But know this,
when it comes to the end, I’ll stand over his dying body and I’ll reach into his chest,
and I will rip out his heart. The last thing he will see is me eating his soul and
sending it to hell.”
“Alex...” Suddenly Sean wanted to join the man, to stand there with him and
smear his face with the blood as well. What could he say? What were the proper
words? Strange to wonder if Guerin had them.
“The thing with men like us...is we were born angels, you know?” Alex headed
for the door, but paused there with his eyes seeing farther than those who saw
nothing but the obvious. “Unlike Lucifer we didn’t fall from Heaven and grace, we
were sent out. He sent us, gave us to them...the lost ones. When Lucifer fell he
found that his angel’s body was encrusted in ice, his soul lost and cold. And he took
up the sword, ripped a hole in his body and cut off his wings to open up the pure
energy and light of the angel’s heart. It’s a brightness like the very light of creation,
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Heaven. But he was evil and that brightness was the blackness of fire. It was from
there that Hell was born, the energy from his black soul. When we were sent we felt
the same cold, but our hearts are the beacons that save the lost ones, the
innocents. It’s all about second chances. We are the protectors and we walk a hard
long road because we lost our grace, so here is where we spend eternity. Unlike
Lucifer we still have our bright souls, but what happens, Detective, when creatures
such as we become so weighed down in the mire?” Alex rubbed the back of his
neck. “I’m afraid to cut open my body, to let the light of creation out to warm my
iced-over bones. What if its light is as dark as the Dark One’s? Do we bleed? Do we
sink to Lucifer’s realm? Was grace just a dream? Who protects the Protectors?”
Sean just sat there as Alex left the room. He felt the darkness again, and
wondered if they were all really damned. All Sean knew was he was no Angel. Who
protected the protectors? Sean knew. That was why God gave them Maria.

~~~

“Honey? Do you have more than tortiglioni? I was looking for something with
more weight.”
“There’s angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccini, linguini, tortellini...what are you
looking for exactly? I think I also have some fusilli, cavatelli, stascinati, and
orecchiette.” Maria frowned at all the pots on her stove. So far it looked like a pesto
sauce, roasted garlic alfredo, and clam sauce. “Mom, what are you making, and
could you not put in eighty cloves of garlic? It does terrible things to Michael’s
digestion. I have to live with him, you know.”
“Perciatelli? That’s what I want.”

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“Nope, don’t have any.” Maria was searching through her dry goods pantry.
“Michael hates it. They’re long and hollow, too firm, and it keeps slapping him in the
face when he tries to roll it up on his fork leaving sauce everywhere.” Maria looked
over at the open garage door when she heard Michael’s laughter. He and Jim were
looking at the Mustang, leaning into the engine. They had moved the Mustang into
the main garage next to the GTO, and now the working garage was open and
waiting for their next project.
“Maria, stop messing around in there and come stuff the mushroom caps. I
was telling Jennifer at the bridal shop that everyone would need material that could
be easily cleaned from spilt tomato sauces.”
“Your menu didn’t have a tomato sauce in it, mom.”
“Oh, I changed the menu.” Maria just groaned as she stuffed the mushrooms,
snacking on food and cheeses while cooking. Amy went off on the full menu she
selected which was a nightmare of Italian, French and Greek. Next week it would be
sitdown Moroccan or Turkish followed by the whole sushi bar dilemma.
“Have you considered letting Jim select the menu?”
Amy stopped and looked at her daughter as she smeared herbal cheese on a
cracker and stuffed it in her mouth, and then another one with added seafood
cocktail sauce. Amy also noticed that Maria was working her way through four
pounds of cold peeled shrimp with cocktail and Tabasco sauces combined.
“You look puny. You’ve been eating enough?” Amy yelled for Michael through
the garage door. “And don’t be ridiculous, Jim can’t pick the menu. He’ll want
barbeque or cocktail weenies.
That sounded better to Maria than some of the stuff her mom was thinking of.
Actually a good barbeque and a nice pot of cocktail weenies sounded like heaven, if
they added grilled shrimp to the menu, or lamb kabobs with mint sauce.
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“I’m just saying that Jim is more of a hearty man-type eater. You might do
better with pork chops and applesauce, or have someone do a pig in a pit or a side
of beef over the fire, with some Tex-Mex specialties from this region. Because
honestly, Mom, not everyone is into the whole 'reduced sauces and elegant food
that looks good, tastes good, costs a fortune, but is hardly filling thing'. Let's feed
some people.” Maria gestured to all the cooking pots on her stove, all the food on
the counters. Italians knew how to feed family, and Amy was losing sight of the fact
that she was feeding family at the Wedding.
“What would Michael want?”
Maria thought about it for a second, and then without hesitation. “Pigs in a
blanket, lots of beef or any type of meat, not made all fussy-just lots of it. Potatoes.
He likes the roasted ones dipped in butter and Parmesan cheese, and desserts with
lots of whipped cream.”
Michael came into the loft followed closely by Jim. Leaning over he kissed Amy
on the cheek as he opened the refrigerator door and grabbed Jim and himself a
beer. “That sounds great. Is that the new menu?” Michael stopped and tasted the
clam sauce off Amy’s wooden cooking spoon. “Mmm, that’s excellent, but does it
have enough garlic?” Maria just groaned.
Smiling at him and very pleased, Amy reached for more garlic. “So why aren’t
you taking care of my daughter? Look at her.” Amy added the garlic to the press as
Michael turned his attention to Maria who was stuffing her face. Going up behind
her, his arms reached around her as he helped her chop up things, eating morsels
she fed him behind her back. “She's wasting away.”
“She eats constantly, Amy. Her metabolism is running high lately, that’s all.”
His metabolism was running high too. Moving his face into her neck, he smelt the

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scent of her skin, and his tongue came out to taste its salt. Moving even closer into
her he let her feel his arousal.
“She? Helloo! She happens to be in the room, so cut out the talking about her
in the third person.” Maria closed her eyes as her breath came in pants. Moving her
hands down and behind her, she found his hips to pull him closer to her. It was
Amy’s mean spoonhand that pulled them apart and kept them from losing control
right there.
“Hey!” Michael said when the wooden spoon hit him.
“Get your hands off my daughter and go stand over there! What is wrong with
the two of you? This is the fourth time I’ve had to break you up since Jim and I got
here.” Jim reached over and took a hot mushroom cap off an oven tray and popped
it in his mouth. Actually the fifth time, but who was counting?
Michael grudgingly released Maria as the doorbell rang. Leaving her
reluctantly, he went to answer it. Tess and Kyle were on the doorstep with a few
bags of groceries. Amy had called them and given them a list of things she needed.
“Kyle!” Amy saw her favorite son and when Tess entered, her smile got larger.
“Tess! Oh honey, Kyle didn’t tell me he was bringing you! I hope I made enough
food. Maria, put on another pot.”
Maria didn’t hear because Michael was distracting her again. He had pulled her
out of the kitchen and had her backed up against the dining room table.
“Michael...” Maria moaned as his mouth left her neck and found her mouth, as
she moaned deeply inside his.
Michael rubbed his head against her. “How about the bathroom just for a quick
one?”
Maria moaned again. He was insane. Not only had they increased their amount
of sex in geometric proportions, but the volume was becoming too loud even for
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utility closets. “My mom will hear and you don't want to have her standing over you
swinging a newspaper or a broom, do you?”
Michael had to agree. Maria was becoming quite the screamer. He conveniently
ignored the fact that he was pretty vocal himself. But then again, he never really
listened to himself.
“Maria! You two better be setting that table.” Amy picked up the phone and
dialed the missing Sean. He was supposed to pick up bread from a special bakery.
Where was he? “Jim, sweetie, hose them down.”
Jim looked at the couple and just shook his head. There was no way, no how
he was coming between that couple. Wetting them down would just mean they
would rut around wet. The only thing he could think of to get them apart was the
lure of food.
“Maria?” Tess took care of it. She interrupted the two with Kyle at her side.
Jim took the opportunity to go join Amy in the kitchen hugging her from
behind as she talked on the phone at Sean. Occasionally she would reach back and
feed Jim sample tastes.
“Oh, Tess. Hi.” Maria straightened up, trying to get herself under control. Tess
handed an envelope to her. Both Maria and Michael came to attention when they
noticed the office letterhead of Maria’s doctor.
“I had an appointment today.” Tess explained as she watched the two read.
“You’re anemic.” Michael said as he read DocJim’s explanation. It seemed
Maria’s bloodwork had come back a little wrong. He changed her prenatal
multivitamin to one with a little more umph, and wrote her a prescription for an
iron supplement.

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“He called it in to the pharmacy.” Maria frowned. She hated medicine and pills.
This sucked, but maybe it could explain her tiredness and her desire for the taste of
rusty nails, which translated into sucking on Michael’s blood.
Tess and Kyle shared a quick look and Tess took the plunge. “So when is your
due date?” She almost screamed at how quickly Michael’s hand covered her mouth,
and the way both Michael and Maria hustled her outside into the garden.
“Hey!” said Kyle angrily. “Take your damn hands off of her!”
Both Michael and Maria looked pale, as they quickly searched for and located
Amy. “Sorry, Tess,” said Maria. “It’s just we’re not announcing it just yet, and with
Mom in the house...”
“What’s wrong? Amy would love to know she’s going to be a grandma.” Kyle
said calming down now that Michael’s hands were off Tess, as he unconsciously
gathered her up closer to him and was soothing her with long strokes down her
body.
“Figure it out, Kyle.” Michael looked back through the glass to make sure Amy
was still far enough away. “What will Amy do when she finds out we're expecting?
I’ll tell you. First, she’ll have a new project. Just like when she finds out about Tess.
She’ll put her wedding plans on hold, and turn it around to getting the unwed
mothers under control.” Michael added emphasis to the word 'mothers' just to share
this horror. Nasty strategy, but misery loved company. “Now Maria and I plan to get
married. But I think Cap has waited and suffered enough. He doesn’t deserve to
have his wedding postponed because of us.”
Michael didn’t mention that both he and Maria realized that Amy would turn all
her efforts and plans to getting them married. It wouldn’t be by shotgun, but with
Amy behind it, it sure the hell would feel like it. Plus, Michael was horrified at the
nightmare affair Amy was planning. He had asked Maria if she was going to do that
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to him, make him such a public display. Maria, being his one and only true mate,
promptly lost her stomach at the suggestion. So it was looking more and more like
a Justice of the Peace, Reno or Atlantic City for them, thank god. They might have
considered a small intimate family wedding with just friends, but with Amy
anywhere within nuclear blasting range, that would turn into something more
almost instantly.
“Oh god, you’re right.” Kyle now looked back at Amy too. What first looked to
be a huge opportunity to get Michael’s goat had now become something horrible
and terrifying. Kyle couldn’t see his dad’s disappointment over having Amy put him
on hold again, and he knew that Amy would meddle. She would see the unwed,
pregnant Tess, and want to fix it. Kyle was damned if he was going to watch his
‘mother’ toss Tess at Max’s head. Fuck that. He had stood in that room and listened
to the swishing noise of the fetal heartbeat, and had seen its motion beating on the
monitor. This baby already had a father.
Sean entered the loft with all the bags he brought, bitching loudly. This
effectively distracted Amy from noticing the two couples huddled in conspiracy.
“What the hell do we need all this bread for? I couldn’t believe it when they
kept processing the order.”
Amy went over and slapped him across the face, and then gently kissed him
on the lips. “Watch your mouth.” Handing the bags over to Jim, Amy critically
looked over Sean’s face. He groaned under his breath. He had forgotten his face.
“What happened to you, Sean?” Amy took his face and gently moved it around
to survey the bruising, the healing cut across his eye and the fresh nick on his
forehead.
Sean wasn’t above blaming the new ADA. “I met a new woman. She threw her
shoe at me and it nicked me on the head.” Amy just clucked her tongue when Sean
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pulled Julia’s shoe out of his pocket. “I had her ticketed for operating a motor
vehicle in improper footwear.”
“Really?” Amy’s eyes became brighter taking on a note of speculation. This
woman had obviously made an impact.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t want the new ADA to think she's above the proper rules and
regulations. Everyone knows that proper procedures and following the letter of the
law is so important.” Jim just rubbed his face and groaned. Dammit, that meant a
call to his office from the DA’s tomorrow.
Michael came back into the room followed by the others. “Sean, are we all set
up with Whitman?”
“Yeah, I spent the rest of the day there after court let out.” Sean didn’t want
to talk about the fiasco of court so he changed the subject. “He’s going to be a
problem.”
“I know.” Michael nodded towards Kyle, who grabbed his father. “We’ll talk
about it when I get back. Help your aunt cook.”
Amy frowned as she noticed Kyle, Jim, and Michael taking off. “Where are you
going? It’s almost time to eat.”
Michael quickly kissed his ‘sort of’ mother-in-law and headed for the door.
“We’re all out of Cap’s favorite beer. Just a quick liquor run and we’ll be back.”
“Oh, honey.” Amy understood perfectly. It was terrible that Jim shouldn’t have
his favorite beer. It was so sweet the way the boys looked after him. She watched
them hustle him out of the loft, and turned her attentions back on Sean.
“So tell me all about this ADA person, and what is ADA? Is that her name, not
that it’s not perfectly lovely because people do go by initials all the time.” Sean
made eye contact with Maria, his lovely hazel eyes begging her for help. “Is she
married?”
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~~~

Jim shook off their hands and shrugged into his jacket that Kyle handed him.
Favorite beer indeed. He was a tap man. Whatever was available made him happy,
except for Black Label which gave him gas. He hated having Amy chase him around
the house with a lit candle and air freshener.
“Okay, what’s going on?”
They took Kyle’s car, and as Kyle headed to the pharmacy to pick up Maria’s
new prescriptions, both he and Michael blurted out their respective ladies' state of
grace at the same time. “Tess is pregnant." "Maria is pregnant.” They looked at
each other and then at Jim.
“At the same time?” Jim’s eyes narrowed. The boys had been busy. Then it hit
him. He was going to be a grandfather! And then cold hard reality shot him right
between his eyes. Amy.
“No, Tess is three months, but it’s not Kyle’s.” Michael ignored Kyle’s scowl.
“Maria is just over six weeks. The problem is...”
“Amy.” Jim rubbed his jaw. “I haven’t been engaged to that woman for six
years to know what this means. Now why the hell couldn't you wait until I finally
got her down the damn aisle before you ran off to procreate? This is a problem.”
“Only if we tell her.” Michael looked at Kyle. They had already talked about
this. “I think someone needs to take Amy in hand. She’s been running amok for too
long, and Maria needs her mom right now. If you don’t get her under control soon,
we’ll be forced to tell her. We can hold out only so long. She’s already noticing that
Maria’s been sick, suffering from morning sickness. It’s just a matter of time before

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she starts putting it together. Amy’s not stupid, just distracted.”

Jim nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”

~~~

Alex walked slowly to his door, tripping over the discarded clothes he had
tossed about. He hadn’t had anyone come in to clean or pick up since Krystal. Still
carrying a bottle in one hand, he looked at the grandfather clock in the front
entryway. Damn, he needed to leave for the Club, but he didn’t feel like it.
Opening the door, he stood rooted to the spot at the clean lines of Isabel
Evan’s back. Turning to the sound of the door opening, she had just been about to
leave, having given up thinking he wasn't there. Isabel had hoped Alex would be
home, because Club Hell was on her list of places to avoid.
“Alex?” Isabel was shocked at the dark, unkempt, dangerous man standing in
front of her. Max had told her about his losing his cousin, and after struggling over
it for a day, she finally went to find him.
“Isabel?” Alex rubbed his face. Okay, he was officially trashed out of his mind.
His dreams of Isabel Evans had just taken solid form.
“You look...” Isabel stopped herself. He looked terrible. Worn and cold. But he
also looked...wonderful. Telling herself to be strong and not to give in to
temptation, she entered his place. The building was a nice modern one, and she
thought it was an apartment building with many new modern upscale units. But
while parking the car, she realized it was one very nice private residence built on a
small hill in Roswell's land of higher priced realty and people who wanted privacy.
The many different angled roofs and the white stucco with red tiled roofing and trim
412

in black wrought iron somehow fit with the landscaping of southwestern shrubs,
bushes and cacti.
“Yeah, like I’ve been swimming in a bottle. Good, because I have.” Alex put
the bottle on Drexel Heritage Signature Ivory Coast Credenza. Isabel gasped and
quickly picked the almost empty bottle off the stone top, and followed Alex into his
home.
“Your place, it surprises me. A year ago, I’d sworn you lived in...”
“A ratty old apartment, run down, and skeevy?” Alex looked for more smokes.
“I did. I still do. I keep an apartment close to the Club for late nights and when I
pick up women. This is my home. I don’t invite just anyone through my doors. And
don’t be too impressed with the décor. My mom did it. She's keeping Ethan Allen
and IKEA in top sales. It seems every time I make it home she's changed the place
again. My stuff tends to be her discards from whenever she redoes her and Dad’s
place. Some stuff I like. There’s a nineteenth century heavy shrunk from the Black
Forest, and a table from Ireland made of moss wood. She can change anything
else, but those things stay. Those and my bed.”
“What kind is it?” Isabel asked as she looked at the décor closely. It was
interesting to see the darker woods of the more traditional styles mixed with more
modern stuff from IKEA. Eclectic. Alex’s mom was a trend setter.
“My bed? Old world stuff. An estate sale in France a few years back got me a
heavy old fashioned bed right out of the Palace. It has all the looks of begetting and
fucking into old age, and I like the thought of the babies born in it, who more than
likely died in it too. It has a feel of living and history. Plus, I replaced the mattress
not too long ago so now it has some mighty fine bounce.” Alex tossed himself down
into a chair and looked at Isabel.

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She looked good. Real good. A far cry from woman he had put in a taxicab
over a year ago. He followed her progress, but stayed out of it. It was her time.
And though she came a long way, he knew that she was just beginning. Part of him
was curious to know how strong she had become.
“Why you here, Isabel?”
Isabel hated how he stayed away from her. “I heard about you from Max, and
I needed to know you were okay.”
“Well I’m not okay, but I’m here.” Alex could feel the anger rising again, the
need for violence and release. “This is not a place you need to be, Isabel. I’m in a
dark place, and believe me you don’t want to go there.”
“I live in the dark, buddy. Don’t lecture me on it. I want to see Alex, the Alex I
know. And I can’t see you for all the dirt and filth. You stink, and when is the last
time you ate?” Alex thought about it for a second, and was actually shocked when
Isabel came forward and pulled him out of his chair and dragged him upstairs.
“Booze doesn’t count, nor do any of those cocktail onions or olives. Real food, Alex.
When did you last eat?”
“I don’t remember. Where are we going? Bed?” Alex could handle pounding
some excess energy into Isabel Evans. Sex. It would be just sex. He kept chanting
that in his head.
“Bath.” Isabel looked at him and the gleam that came into his eyes. “Alone.
Seriously, you really smell.” Alex watched her as she found his bedroom and then
his master bath. Standing there curious, he watched her run the bath, and
stubbornly refused to comply in removing his clothes. She wanted him naked, then
she was going to have to get him there.
Isabel saw the challenge and ignored his eyes. Yeah, like she was afraid of a
little male flesh. Slowly pulling his clothes off, she wasn’t prepared for her response
414

to his flesh. The long lean lines of his body with hard muscles under the skin,
refusing to move to her hands. The pierced nipple was taunting her, making her
remember that sex was her addiction. But Alex was more than that...he was her
fantasy, her goal for an entire year.
“Are you getting me nekid, Isabel?
“It’s pronounced 'naked', Alex. Not 'nekid'.”
Alex didn’t care. She was smelling his skin, smelling the scent of him under
the smell of booze and stale sweat. Running his hands up under her hair and
holding her head firm, he took her mouth in a kiss. It wasn’t just a mating of
mouths, but of bodies. It started in his groin and worked like fire up his spine as
her hands gripped him tightly, holding onto his forearms. Without her noticing, he
removed her clothes and ran his hands down her body to pull her into him as his
hands gripped her ass hard, running his fingers between her asscheeks. Isabel
Evans was no skinny girl. She had some meat, some curves, and a totally fuckable
luscious ass. He needed that right now. He needed a bed partner that could take
what he had, and not break under the pressure.
Alex walked them backwards and pulled her into the bath with him. She was
right. He smelt and was dirty. And he wanted her clean, too. Because what he
planned to do to her was going to make her filthy, and he wanted no mistakes or
misunderstanding that all of it came from him. Isabel hardly noticed the water,
because Alex was hotter as his hands and mouth never stopped touching her.
“It’s 'nekid', Isabel. 'Naked' is the oh so correct northern pronunciation. It
means taking off your clothes. Now 'nekid' is the southern pronunciation, and it
means taking off your clothes and getting all sweaty, hot and ready to cause
trouble.”

415

Isabel laughed at that. But a part of her that fought for so long held back,
pushed him back a ways. “I don’t touch men any more.”
Alex paused and looked at her critically. “You telling me you’re a lesbian?” He
just shrugged. “I’ve got no problem with that. Invite her along. I’ve done it with
two women before. I can easily fuck and eat at the same time. And watching? Not a
problem.”
Isabel rolled her eyes and dunked him under the water. Men. Did they all have
the same fantasy or what? She let him come up for air. “Are all men pigs? Even the
‘nice’ ones?”
Alex gripped her hard, leaving bruises on her arms. “Don’t confuse the facts,
Isabel. I’m not nice. If that’s what you’re expecting I suggest you walk out of here
now, because by tomorrow your body’s going to understand just how mean I am. I
don’t do innocents or virgins, and I’m not looking for some foolish tittering girl who
wants to cow-eye me. I'm looking for an image I had, a dream.”
Isabel was breathing hard. She wasn’t any of those things. And after coming
out of therapy, she was worried that no man could want her, not with all the
damage she had done to her body, all the pollution and waste.
“What is the image?”
“It's just a dream I get. She stands high on a plain, above a battlefield bathed
in blood, as the ashes of war are blackening her skin, not a human skin, but her
skin. And she stinks of blood and death, but her eyes are endless and dark with a
deep fire burning inside. I want to touch that fire, feel that warrior spirit over me,
taking me inside.”
Isabel looked at him in shock. “The rain was red, and the ground was warm to
touch...warmed by the dead. How long...”

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“Almost a year. I could see the trees, they were burned to the ground, and
streaks of lightning rushed the sound as the swells of the dying echoed...she is
what I’m looking for. A soul darker than mine, one that burns in heaven but lives in
Hell.” Alex took Isabel firmly by the head and looked in her eyes seeing that fire,
that power, hidden there. “I can’t return to Heaven, my place is here in Hell. I want
someone who can live in the cold and the fire of ice.”
“Alex...” Isabel moved over his body and reached an arm around his neck
joining her mouth to his in a deep sucking kiss. She couldn’t leave him, not now.
Tomorrow she would hate herself for backsliding, but now there was only him. It
was like coming home.

~~~

After dinner they sat around the table and talked. Amy and Tess were cleaning
the kitchen while Maria was leaning on Michael. Amy almost asked her to help, but
she was asleep against him. So beautiful. Her daughter was so beautiful, and
Michael's large hand moving gently across her face, cradling her, almost made Amy
want to weep. It was wonderful to see her child so loved.
Bringing coffee and tea, Amy and Tess rejoined the rest and silently listened as
the men talked about their case. Max had shown up just before dinner. He was still
eating, trying to get some moments alone to talk to Tess, but Kyle was guarddogging her. He knew she had had an appointment earlier, and he decided that in
the future he wanted to go with her.
“Talking to Alex earlier made me think of something, Michael.” Sean was so
full, he could hardly stand himself. It was too clichéd for him to reach down and

417

unbutton his jeans, so he just suffered. The fourth helping of polenta had been a
mistake.
Michael was busy looking down at his mate. She looked so peaceful, so
beautiful, so sexy all pregnant and...
“Michael?”
“What?” Michael tried to get back into the conversation.
“I said there is something about the body that’s been bothering me.” Sean was
on the verge of giving up on Michael and just talking to Cap.
“Sorry, tell me.”
“It’s just that the way the body was processed reminded me of something I've
heard or seen before.” Sean frowned.
“A memory?”
“No training.” Amy looked at Sean sharply. She understood that term,
understood what it meant. Her own son Frankie Jr., now dead, had been 'trained'
too. But unlike her son, Sean had made a choice and walked away from the Family
business.
“Sean.” Amy said in warning.
“It’s okay, Aunt Amy.” Sean turned to Michael who had that look of interest in
his eyes. “It’s not a member of the Family, but an outsider, a special. Michael, I
know you already processed this, but this man stays hidden for so long because he
gives no one cause to know of his existence. He’s not building a name.”
“I don’t understand,” said Cap. Even Kyle and Max were suddenly quiet.
“What Sean means is that the killer is too good, too efficient at what he does.
He’s been doing it for a long time, longer than we suspect. But even the best and
most careful of killers makes mistakes, or makes themselves known.”

418

Sean looked at Amy and shrugged. In for a penny, in for a pound. It would do
no good not to be honest. “There is one entity or organization I know of that has
made making people disappear into an art.”
Michael and Cap both looked at Sean and then Amy, who suddenly was
suddenly very quiet and staring at her hands clenched in her lap. “Sean, you don’t
have to say anything. I know that you're bound by...” Amy looked up at Jim with
love and gratitude.
“It’s okay. This is not something connected, just an anomaly.” Sean wished he
had a smoke. “When I was young, among my people or my family there was talk
about the killing zone, the Dump as we called it. There were outsiders that found
and used the best Dumps. I don’t really remember much since I never fully became
involved in the business, but I have some memories of discussions about the
special processing of the bodies.”
“Who would know specifics, Sean?” Michael knew that Sean was walking a
sharp line of distinction. Going against The Family, his people, was a crime not
forgiven.
“My father would know. He is now head of our Family.” Sean said quietly.
Cap looked at Sean. “Can you ask, get us details?”
Both Amy and Sean looked at each other, and then both shook their heads.
Amy’s eyes filled with sympathy for Sean. They were both dead to The Family. Amy
when she divorced Franco, Sr., and Sean when he helped his best friend escape and
then walked from the business. Sean had compounded his sins by becoming a Cop,
taking a side against his own.
“How about someone local?” Michael asked.
“No one will talk. It is a matter for the heads of the Families. There are five
major Families, with some smaller ones slowly emerging. The Laegastini Family
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holds territory from Vegas through the southwest and to Florida. Florida, of course
is in faction with the Jewish Families' holdings that have dominated for decades, the
Latino Families are taking hold, and even the Japanese Yakuza are vying for it.
When the Triad walked in it became a blood bath. The Laegastini took control about
forty years ago, but it’s been a power struggle to hold ground. My family is affiliated
with The Laegastini Family. The unrest in Florida has kept my Family in business
and strong for generations.”
“Why Florida?” Kyle asked quietly. All those people fighting for one piece of
land.
“It is a gateway for the drug cartel. There are no boundary checks from the
Keys, and Cuba and other Mediterranean countries are just a spit away. It's a
gateway into the country for all illegal fare, such as guns, drugs, and even Cuban
cigars. Money laundering will always be a huge business. The Cartels are expanding
across the globe, and the reaching arm is immense.” Sean searched for a cigarette.
“It started in Sicily, the Old World, and has expanded. It is its nightmare
image, cast in the precise mold of the Castellammare hills...the heartland of the
Cosa Nostra, the cradle of the Dons. The nightmare has its own logic, its own
bones. Sicilians call it the "sistema del potere." The system of power.” Maria said
softly. Michael hadn’t realized that she was awake.
Michael looked down at Maria. “How much do you know?”
Maria just shrugged. “Most of it I learned on my own, but in the Family wives
and children are outsiders to the Business. It was keeping it among ‘the men’ that
kept them strong.”
“So,” Michael looks at Sean, “how do we get this information without a Family
connection?”

420

Sean and Amy shared a look, and then both turned to Maria. “We have a
Family connection.”

~~~

Jim and Amy had left, but Tess, Kyle, Max and Sean remained. They watched
as Michael and Maria ran around the loft packing and making plans. They were
catching the red-eye to Miami, and Maria was busy making lists while Michael was
asking her about the packing.
“No, take the serge-cut, the other needs to be tailored.” Michael rolled his eyes
and went back into his closet. What the hell was the serge cut? “Kyle, are you sure
you and Tess can babysit Mr. Booboo? He’s delicate.”
“Not a problem. I’ll sack out here with Tess. She can take the downstairs
room, and I’ll take the sofa.” Kyle was looking under the sofa for the cat.
“Someone could sleep in our bed. I’ll have Michael change the sheets.” Maria
called up the stairs to a cussing Michael. “Michael...”
His head came over the banister. “What? Is this the frickin’ serge cut?” He
waved a jacket at her.
“Yes, and take the pressed white shirts, no turtlenecks or sweaters. Oh and
don’t forget the ties.” Michael nodded and started to go back to packing. “Michael,”
He came back. “Change the sheets on the bed, Kyle might sleep up there.” Michael
narrowed his eyes at Kyle and Kyle actually gulped. Okaaay, maybe not. Obviously
Michael had a thing about other men sleeping in his bed.
“How did you get packed so fast?” Michael asked exasperated.
“It’s not that hard, Detective. You just pull the clothes you want and then grab
the accessories and bath items.” Maria finished her list and quickly read it.
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“Bathroom items? Oh shit!” Michael disappeared again.
“Okay, here’s the list for Mr. Booboo, the security cut-off code, the security
password in case you make a mistake and set off the alarm. All outside doors
automatically activate when closed. A special key that opens the door automatically
turns off the alarm when you come in, but it will re-activate once the door is closed.
You can open it from the inside without setting off the alarm, but if you leave a door
ajar for more than a few minutes, the security company will be alerted. So if you
ever enter the house and feel someone is inside, just leave the door ajar and a call
will go through.” Maria looked upstairs at the sounds of cussing and things falling.
“Okay, read that over and I’ll be back. I better go pack for Michael or we’re going to
miss our flight.”
Kyle looked at Maria’s list and felt sweat break out on his forehead. Tess read
it over his shoulder, and she started feeling nauseated. That much for a cat? Oh
god, what does it take with a baby? “Oh, I don’t know, Kyle.” Kyle just nodded.
Maria hit the top of the stairs and saw the chaos. “What are you doing,
Detective?” She surveyed the damage with a clicking of her tongue.
By the time Michael and Maria finally came downstairs with their bags, Kyle
had found the cat. Sean studied the large, black, fluffy cat with a frown.
“M, wasn’t Mr. Boo a striped calico? I swear he was a striped calico and kind of
scrawny.”
Michael looked at the cat they had had over a year and then at Maria. He did
used to be kind of striped, sort of black with some white patches, and red? Now he
was a long haired black cat with white patches on his paws, belly and red highlights
in his coat. “Sean is right.”

422

Maria took the cat from Kyle, hugging and petting him. “What are you
suggesting? That this cat is an imposter? He wasn’t calico or striped. He was...”
Maria voice trailed off.
“What?” Michael asked.
“He was blotchy. Mr. Booboo is very sensitive. When he's upset he sort of loses
his hair, making his coat patchy and then he just looks calico.” Maria kissed the cat
who was purring ridiculously loud. “But look at how happy he is!”
Kyle just looked at the huge fluffy cat. “Neurotic. You’re saying you have a
neurotic cat? And you want me to babysit it?”
“He’s not neurotic! He just likes attention, that’s all. That’s why you’re
babysitting him, so he’s not lonely.” Maria walked off talking to the cat, making
soothing noises to him as she made him a treat.
Kyle looked at Michael. “Tell me that she’s this way because of the pregnancy.”
Michael just shrugged. Mr. B was a very involving cat. He should know. The cat liked
to sleep on his legs at night.
“Pregnant? Who’s pregnant?” Sean looked at the rest in confusion.

~~~

He looked down at the young Japanese man and smiled. It wouldn’t take much
longer. This time he had taken extra care to search the entire body. Perfect. Not one
blemish or scar. The skin was clear and supple, and there was a chance that this
was a purebred. While chatting up the young man the other night, he was told that
the man was a first generation immigrant, and his parents were from Old World
Japan.

423

The clear lacquer had dried, and the beginning telltale signs of death were
slowly creeping over the specimen. Soon it would be time to process the body,
prepare it for display, study its purity, and then mount it. Suddenly it was a good
day.

~~~

Max saw Michael and Maria off at the airport. He couldn’t enter the security
area, so he dropped them off at the departure desk. Michael wasn’t too excited
about meeting Maria’s family. But Maria still was treated as one of the Family, and
despite the viciousness of events that led to her brother’s death, they still kept in
contact. Amy and Sean were both on the outside, but Maria could still walk in the
door. They were staying with Sean’s family. His father, Marco DeLuca, the new head
of the family was the man with the answers.
Sean, Kyle and Max had a running pool going. They were betting on whether
Michael and Maria would become members of the Mile-High Club, and whether it
would be on the outgoing flight, incoming, or both. They also had bets on whether
Michael would be targeted for assassination by the DeLuca family, or would cause
an uproar as a Cop entering a protected household.

Before she left, Maria asked Sean if he had a message for his mother. Sean
just shook his head. Maria quickly hugged him and kissed him goodbye before
leaving. As soon as they left, the cat started meowing and racing around the room,
knocking over things. Then he simply disappeared. It took them two hours to find
him sleeping in Michael’s sock drawer, curled up in a mass of shredded cotton.

424

~~~

Max entered the apartment to darkness. He called for Isabel, but there was no
answer. Letting himself worry for a moment, Max almost picked up the phone. A
hunter on the loose and his sister was out there. A recovering alcoholic, drug
addict, and nymphomaniac shouldn’t be out at night. Max tried to calm down, and
convinced himself that Isabel was more than likely manning a crisis line.
Grabbing a beer and a glass, Max laid back on his sofa and stared at the
phone. Taking a piece of paper out of his pocket, he looked at the number that
Maria had written down. What to do? What to do?
Normally he would have tossed it, convincing himself that kissing Jonathan
Stiller was an aberration caused by being in an unknown environment. But he
couldn’t deny the dreams that kept waking him, the fascination that one slip of
paper had, and the need to discover what was drawing him. After all these years,
all that time, it was strange to think that he could be attracted to men.
No guts, no glory. Max picked up the phone and dialed. The sound of a man’s
voice surprised him. He expected Jonathan to answer, but a part of him wanted the
man to not be home so he could toss the number away as an ‘Oh well, I tried’
event.
“Hello?” The voice paused waiting when Max realized that he was waiting for
him to speak. So he quickly rushed hating how it made him almost stuttered.
“Yes…um, hello.” Max cursed under breath accepting loser status as his curse.
“I was,…um, I mean am looking for...” Max rolled his eyes at himself again and
cussed under his breath. Not ‘looking for’ you idiot. What is this, ‘looking for Mr.
Right?’. Max took a calming breath and began again. “Yes, this is Max Evans, I was
calling to talk to...”
425

“Max?” The voiced sounded surprised, almost pleased. “This is Jonathan. Hi.”
“Hi.” Max wasn’t sure what else to say, so the pause lengthened. “I was...”
“Did you want...” The both spoke at the same time, and then both paused so
the silence was deafening.
Max just sighed. “Look I’m sorry. Maria gave me your number. She said you
asked her for my number, and so I thought that...”
“We should talk?” Jonathan asked quietly.
“Talk. Talking would be good.” Max actually rubbed the back of his neck. “Do
you want to meet? Just to talk.” Max added quickly. He couldn’t, didn’t want to
make it seem like a date.
“When?” Jonathan’s voiced sounded guarded.
“Tomorrow night?” Once Max said it, he regretted it. He should have said
lunch. Lunch is just a meeting, but nighttime is more like a date.
“Area 51?” Jonathan asked.
“No!” Max was horrified. He couldn’t go back there. It was too much like he
really belonged there if he wasn’t on assignment. “No. How about Senior Chows?”
Jonathan just laughed. “Sure. I’ll spot you a game of pool and we can drink
beer and throw peanut shells at each other. Sounds like fun.”
Max thought about the other man. Jonathan was definitely upper society.
Senior Chows was not. Damn. “Maybe you would like to meet somewhere else?”
“Senior Chows, seven-thirty, and I'll buy the first pitcher of beer, Detective.”
Max stared at his phone when he heard the dial tone. Oh god, he just made a date
with Jonathan Stiller.

426

Day 11: Saturday- 9:30 a.m.

Isabel woke to the sun shining in her eyes, and pains all over her body,
especially her back and ass. Alex was sleeping wrapped around her, holding her
tight into his body.
Oh god! Isabel struggled out of his arms and sat on the edge of the bed,
wincing in pain. Her ass hurt and the rest of her felt almost tortured. Her thighs
ached so much, she wasn’t sure she could stand. He wasn’t kidding about sex, and
her body was feeling it. Her head was thick with the lack of sleep, and she was still
wet.
She felt his hand moving over her skin, and quickly jumped out of the bed.
“Don’t!” Isabel could still feel him inside. Dammit, no condoms! She was on the pill,
but she knew better. Condoms were protection against other things besides
pregnancy. “You better be clean, because if I get anything from you I’m going to
find you and kill you!”
“Hey, I’m the one that should worry. I use condoms all the time. Last night
was an aberration. You’re the one that never took much care over your health.”
“Shut up! That was over a year ago. It’s been a long time for me, and I’m
clean.”
“Well so am I.” Alex watched her searching for her clothes. What the hell was
wrong with her? “Isabel...Isabel, come back to bed and we’ll talk, okay? It was a
long time for me too. I waited for you.”
“You said you wouldn’t,” she reminded him.
“I know. I never meant to, but I did.” Alex reached out an arm to her. “Come
back to bed.”

427

“I don’t trust you. You’ve got unholy designs on my ass, don’t think I didn’t
notice. And thanks to you, I can’t sit.”
Alex actually smiled at that. She was right. He definitely had a total thing for
her ass. It was damn near perfect. But her anger didn’t make any sense. “What’s
with getting all indignant on me? Treating me like I took something away from
you?”
“You don’t understand!”
“Then make me!” Alex watched her go into the bathroom to find the rest of
her clothes. She wasn’t going to find that silk scarf. It was still tied to his bed.
She was right. His intentions toward her weren’t all that honorable, and some
of them bordered on the edge of dark and dirty. He could still feel her silky hair
under his hands as he fed himself into her mouth, but he could also feel her fingers
probing him, fucking him. And from her reactions last night, he suspected she had
more experience with that type of sex than he did. So why was she acting like he
took her without consent? He could still hear her husky voice begging him, crying
his name, and not once did she ask him to stop.
His favorite part was sinking his mouth into her, licking broad swipes over her
body, and sucking her down until she came all over him. He lubed up his fingers
and opened her ass while he worked her with his mouth, sucking her clit to the top
of his mouth. Her keening and cries increased as she pushed back on his fingers
opening up her tightest channel. And finally when she was riding the wave of an
orgasm, he flipped her on her stomach and slammed into her ass watching her bite
the pillow, and her hands gripping the mattress hard, and as they got into it, he
pulled her up on her knees and she kept begging him for more, pleading with him
not to stop. So he didn’t, not once or even twice. He just kept working her under

428

him, until finally he had to take them into the bathroom to shower as the sweat
made their bodies slick.
In the shower, they had both rested under the hot pounding water. "Now." The
one word was all she could manage as her eyes homed in on his beautiful cock. She
made a move to reach for him again, suddenly desperate to have him in her mouth,
to feel that hard flesh against her lips.
Alex stopped her, his hands capturing hers and pushed them back against the
glass wall as his thigh slid in between her own. "I can’t wait."
Isabel could feel the wetness seeping onto the hair-roughened flesh of his
thigh as he moved it up, grinding it against her. Then his hands released her and
grasped her thighs, spreading them apart and lifted her up off her feet as he
insinuated himself between her legs. He crowded her up against the glass of the
shower.
She cried out at the first touch of his cock against her, the slick head barely
nudging the clit before sliding between the swollen lips in a teasing motion. She
moaned at the tenderness since he already fucked her once that way. Finally, Isabel
felt it at her opening, the heat of his cock branding her as he began to inch inside.
She grasped his shoulders, bracing herself as he slid home until the entire
throbbing length of him was inside her. He rested there for a moment, his breath
ragged as he struggled to maintain control.
Unable to resist, she rocked against him, moaning as the motion forced him
even deeper inside. His hands grew rough at her wild movements, pulling her legs
up to wrap around his waist until only his body was holding her up, pushed hard
against the glass. Then he began to plunge in hard, at first his long deep strokes
were almost leisurely but grew faster as the sensations made them both cry out.

429

His head was nestled on her shoulder, his arms pulling at her hips and his
hands holding her ass as he thrust up into her body, burying himself inside her as
far as he could go. Isabel was barely aware of the cool glass wall against her back
as he bucked into her, filling her with his cock until it was all she could feel. His hot
mouth fastened on the skin of her neck, latching onto the sensitive skin there and
biting down as he slammed his body into his mate.
Isabel’s fingernails dug deep into his shoulders as she began to spasm around
his cock, each tremor causing her flesh to tighten around him as another climax
tore through her. This was it, the culmination of every sexual thought she’d ever
had for this man was bound up in the deep strokes of his cock inside her. Her own
cry of completion mingled with his as she felt the hot stream of his come shoot up
inside her. His hips continued to piston against her, his cock ramming itself into her
as his orgasm shook them.
Finally, he collapsed against her and the glass, his hands loosening their
bruising grip on her ass. But he continued to use the weight of his body to keep her
nailed in place. Isabel didn't know how long they stayed like that, with her legs
wrapped around his waist as he leaned against her, both of them panting as they
tried to catch their breath, both of them still reeling from the after-effects of what
had been the most intense sex of their life.
Alex allowed himself the pleasure of remembering every dirty searing moment
of it, of her. She was everything he imagined and more, and no matter what he
tossed at her, she took it and gave it back ten-fold. Seeing her frantic movements,
he let the irritation take over again.
“Isabel Evans, get your ass back in bed.” Alex said as he watched her
struggling with her clothes again. He smiled at the bruises and marks he saw on
her back, feeling his body heating up again.
430

“No! NO! I’ve got to think. You’re confusing me, making me...” Isabel swore.
There was no way she could get her nylons back on. “I wanted more. I need more.
Not just fucking, not just physical. I want more.”
Alex rushed to bottom of the bed, and pulled her back onto the bed. “You
think that what we did was physical? Just fucking?”
“No. I don’t know. How do I know? Is it just Isabel being Isabel again? Fucking
for the addiction of feeling good?”
Alex tossed her off his bed in disgust, and returned back to the head lying
back against the pillows, not bothering to cover himself. “That’s all you felt?
Physical? Nothing else?” His eyes narrowed in anger. If she lied to him, he was
going to put her across his knees and spank her. Dammit, his body was still
humming, still feeling the effects, and she was calling it physical?
“No. No. I don’t know what it was. I feel you. I feel you inside like a tingling,
and I still taste you in my mouth, and smell you on my body. Dammit, Alex I never
experienced this before...and what we did, it wasn’t anything new to me. But the
feelings were, the end results.” Isabel stopped with standing in her skirt and bra
with her blouse in hand. “I need it again, and again, and again. And if that isn’t
addiction I don’t know what is. I’m not some outraged virgin wanting promises and
'I Do's'. But I promised myself not to fall into the addiction again, that this time I
wanted more.”
“I can give you that.” Alex said quietly. He didn’t know what that meant, but
he knew he meant it. Whatever it took, no matter how long, Isabel Evans was his,
and damn his worthless soul, he feared he was hers.
“I know. I know you can, but its not enough. I need to be able to give you
back the same, meet you there.” Isabel grabbed her shoes and bag, and not even
bothering to button up her shirt, she fled. “Don’t call...oh god!” She just left.
431

“Isabel!” Alex sat up calling after her. Cussing and tossing a few pillows from
his bed, Alex laid back and listened to the slamming of his front door. She’d be
back.

~~~

Tess was toasting bagels in the kitchen when Kyle came out of the downstairs
bedroom. He had searched upstairs, downstairs, and everywhere for the Demon
Cat. After Michael and Maria left, the cat went insane searching the house for them.
Every time they tried to approach him he would scurry away. Finally he went out his
cat door, and didn’t bother to return until about three in the morning when he
jumped on Kyle, who was sleeping on the sofa. The noise and commotion woke Tess
and she found Kyle nursing a bleeding scratch across his arm while looking under
the sofa.
“Did you find him?” Tess asked.
“No. I found this though.” Kyle showed her some clumps of black hair.
“Oh no! Maria isn’t going to be happy if she comes home to a bald Mr. Booboo.
We can’t have Mr. Booboo as a calico again.” Tess came to join him in the living
room. “I need to get to the museum to cover Maria’s shift. Are you okay alone?”
Kyle looked at Tess in terror. She was going to leave him alone with that
monster? “Tess, I’m begging you! I know, maybe if I just come with...”
“We can’t leave him alone. You heard Maria. He gets lonely.” Tess gathered her
stuff. “Look, I made you breakfast, so don’t worry. Just watch some television or
something, and sooner or later he’ll come out. He’s got to be hungry. And when I
come home, we’ll make some dinner, and see if the cat will come join us.”
“But...”
432

Tess kissed Kyle gently on his lips and patted his face. “It’ll be fine. Good
practice for the baby.” Kyle watched her leave. This was what babies acted like? Oh
lord. And they looked so innocent.

~~~

Sean went to answer his door dripping all over his floor. With soap still in his
hair, he was desperately wiping away the stuff before it hit his eyes. Isabel Evans,
on his door step. Yeah, that had to be right. Hell on Earth.
She entered past him, checking out his exposed body. “God, your body looks
worse than your face.”
“It’s not my fault. Master did the best he could with all the miscellaneous
parts. But I’m just a patchwork of makeshift engineering.”
Isabel just snorted and head for the kitchen. “Frankenstein did better on his
first monster.”
“You should know, being the Bride and all.” Sean ignored her, refused to
demand what the hell she was doing in his apartment on a Saturday morning
looking like, well like she was rode hard and put away wet. He returned to finish his
shower. He was scheduled to work today, but most of it was to cover Club Hell at
night.
When he returned, Isabel had made coffee, and was digging through his
refrigerator. “Oh god, nothing should ever be put in here. Don’t you even buy
food?”
“I order out a lot, not that it’s any of your business.”
“I thought Italians could cook, or liked to eat. Maria seems to keep lots of food
in her house.”
433

Sean poured himself a cup of coffee. “She does, and we do. But it’s hard living
alone and cooking enough food for an army. Maria feeds an army so it’s okay for
her. And why should I buy food when my Aunt Amy and Maria both feed me?”
“So you’re just lazy.”
“Stop with the small talk, Grisella, and tell me why you’re here. Shouldn’t you
be wandering the streets of Roswell turning people into stone and converting men
to the joys of homosexuality?”
“Didn’t get laid last night, huh?” Isabel said pouring herself some coffee.
“No, I was at Michael and Maria’s watching them pack for a trip to Florida.”
“Florida? Why’d they go to Florida?” Sean smiled nastily and decided that
goading her was more fun than picking at a scab.
“To see the DeLuca Family, seeing as how Maria is in a family way.” Sean was
prepared for shock, but not screeching. Wiggling a finger in his ear he tried to
regain the use of his hearing. “Tone it down! Geez, so what if the two lovebirds
have a chipper in the making?”
Isabel collected herself. Michael, too? “They didn’t...Michael didn’t tell me?”
Isabel was devastated. She really was outside the family loop. It seemed the entire
world knew about Max expecting, and now even Dot-to-Dot Boy knew about
Michael before she did.
“Don’t get in a snit. They only confirmed it two or three days ago, and they
ain’t talking until Amy is promptly married off. So if you rat them out it will make
them very unhappy. And before you turn on that siren voice again, I should point
out that they were going to tell us first the other night, but they got distracted. So
your not knowing is just by default.”

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Isabel went into the living room and threw herself down on the sofa. “Is the
entire world going on without me? I mean is everyone getting a life and I’m just
standing still?”
“Nice self-pity. I like. Is this getting you in the mood to run out and do
something strange and self destructive?” Sean asked taking a seat across from her.
“You still didn’t tell me why you’re here.”
“Well, as strange as it may seem, I needed someone to talk to. Somehow you
seemed like the one.”
“I don’t rescue maidens anymore.” Sean said seriously.
“I’m not a maiden.”
“Okay, I don’t reform wicked witches either.” Isabel just smiled.
“Fair enough. Looking at you, I’m not surprised.”
Sean just nodded. As long as she was aware that he wasn’t nice, they could
work together. As strange as it was, he felt the same as she did. Isabel was a
stranger to him, someone with just as many hang-ups, and because he felt no
attraction to her, he could be honest and biting. No need to be nice.
“I slept with a man last night.”
Sean just shrugged. “Thought you used to do that a lot.”
“I did. That’s the problem. As part of my therapy, I've been staying away from
men, and last night...”
“Backslide?” Isabel just nodded. Sean looked at her critically. “How major was
this backslide?”
“Major. I can’t believe it. Just away from the group home for a week, and
already I’m spending hours engaged in mind-numbing dirty sex.”
Sean’s interest piqued. “How dirty are we talking?” Isabel just put her head in
her hands and moaned. “Okay, don’t melt down, on me. Let me get us some more
435

coffee, and then you can unload on Dr. Sean. Um...you better tell me all the
details.” Sean smiled. “The more details the better.”
“Pig.”

~~~

Maria found him outside in the gardens. Last night they had arrived real late,
and one of her uncle’s men picked them up at the airport. Because it was late,
Maria and Michael went straight to bed in the rooms Maria had used in her uncle’s
house since she was a child. The family was already up, and Maria stopped in the
kitchen to see her Aunt Teresa.
Sean’s mother was half Italian and half Irish. She had the fair coloring and
fawn hair of her Irish mother, but the dark eyes of her father. She named Sean, her
first born, after her own maternal grandfather and he looked surprisingly like his
namesake. Sean's name was a long line of Italian and Irish names strung together,
but he used his middle name, Sean.
“Hey, I was looking for you.” Maria said as Michael turned to look at her. She
looked well rested. ”Aunt Teresa says that breakfast is in half an hour, so you better
be hungry.”
“Maria...” Michael looked out over the grounds, and noticed the men around
the place, and the amount of protection. Small children were playing in the open
park, and women in black watched over them. “This is where you come from.”
“Actually, bigger. This is Marco’s home. My father’s home was the main family
house for the DeLuca family.” Maria pointed to a larger house further up the hill
nestled in trees. Maria pulled him down to sit with her on a low stone wall. “What’s
wrong?”
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Michael just looked at the house, the gardens, and everything. It was too
much. “This is money, Maria. Serious money.”
“I know. I thought you understood that. I’ve never hidden my money from
you.”
“I knew about the Foundation, I knew you owned the loft and money was
never a concern, but this...” Michael waved his arms around the area. “I didn’t
imagine this.”
“It’s just family stuff. My family, they have a business, a special business. For
generations in Sicily and then later here in America. They were special protectors,
men who where soldiers for the Families. They made a good life off it.”
“Killing?”
“Yes. It is their business. My brother, our father, and his father’s father.
Contracts Michael, they aren’t a few bucks here and there. They're in six figures or
more, and with them comes reputation and power.”
“She is right, you know.” Michael looked up at the older man, Maria’s Uncle
Marco. He had met them last night before they went to bed. Maria was named for
him. “This is our business and we do not talk about it with outsiders. Maria has
asked that I talk to you, and so I will. But you tell me, why should I talk to you? To
a man that lives with my beloved niece in sin?”
“Uncle...”
“I do not live with her in sin. I live with her until she names the day. She is my
business.” Michael said with a touch of hardness in his voice. He refused to be
intimidated.
The man looked at Maria. “Is this true? Does this man ask you, and you do not
name a date?”

437

“Technically yes, but only recently after we found out about the baby.” Maria’s
uncle stood up with his hands flapping, and called to some other man.
“Get the priest...”
“Zio! No!” Maria grabbed her uncle’s arm. “Stop it. I said yes. I already said
yes. Don’t mess up all the fine work Michael has done convincing me to marry him.”
“He had to convince you? How?”
“Like the pig he is. He announced to the world I was his fiancée and ignored
me when I refused.”
“Eh?” He sized Michael up. “Maria, go help the women in the kitchen.”
“What are you...”
“Go!” He kissed her, and pushed her towards the house. “So, Michael, do you
smoke? No? You should. I have these special cigars, hand-rolled, and when you
smoke them and drink a good whiskey even women almost make sense.” Marco put
his arm around Michael’s shoulder and took him for a stroll around the house.

~~~

Sean was listening attentively as Isabel went on and on about last night and
this morning. Damn, when she backslid, she did it in style! He took in her tumbled
appearance and took pity on her.
“Okay, you know it’s obvious that you just got up and left. You've hardly slept
and haven’t eaten. So go into the bathroom and take a shower. I’ll leave you some
clean clothes outside the door, and then I’ll make you breakfast.”
Isabel looked at him suspiciously. She really didn’t know him. “I don’t know...”

438

Sean moved closer and leaned into her where she sat in the chair. “You afraid?
Of me? You think this is you falling back into the life of gratuitous sex?” Isabel just
nodded and gulped. He was crowding her, making her nervous. “Then fuck me.”
“What?” Isabel tried to push him to the side. But Sean stayed firm.
“You heard me. Come into the bedroom with me, and I’ll continue where
loverboy from last night left off. We can roll around until you can’t tell whose dried
spunk is on you, his or mine.”
Isabel screamed in rage and pushed him aside, getting up. “You're despicable!
I...I come to you because I figure you'll understand. But instead you make
suggestions! Rude, nasty, disgusting suggestions! No wonder you like being beaten.
You deserve it! You slimmy, wormy two-faced maggot...”
Sean ignored her outrage and grabbed her close, real close, speaking to her in
a dark cold voice, “You don’t want to go down on me, Izzy? Don’t want to polish my
head? And why the hell not? Would the Isabel Evans of last year taken the
opportunity, or would she have walked away? Or maybe given me her number and
said, ‘Sorry too tired right now to ball you, but give me a jingle later and I’ll let you
plug my ass’?” Isabel's face became even redder, and she reached out trying to slap
his cold, mean, hard face. Sean easily stopped her. “Answer me! What would you
have done last year?”
Heaving and angry, Isabel sneered at him. “I’d have fucked you hard, taken
you down, given you something you couldn’t find anywhere else and then after I
drained you and used you all up, I’d have walked away.” Isabel poked a hard angry
finger into his chest pushing him backwards. “Count yourself lucky, whipping boy,
that your worthless, scrawny, maggot- infested ass means nothing to me. It doesn’t
even get me wet enough for everyday lubrication. You are Siberian winter to me.”

439

Sean wished he had a cigarette. Angry Isabel was actually fun to watch.
“Would I have gotten you all wet and slick a year ago, Princess? Would that channel
of yours just be begging for it?”
“Not anymore!” Sean just laughed and walked away leaving her still taking
deep breaths to calm her anger.
“Well then, welcome to recovery.” Sean said, going to find his phone. He
needed groceries and if he hurried, he might even get them delivered before Isabel
got out of the shower.
Isabel paused in her tirade, “What do you mean?”
Sean just put up his hand as he gave his order and promised a large tip for
speedy delivery. “You’re beating yourself up over last night, thinking it’s the
nymphomaniac in you coming home to roost. But you don’t want me, and I would
hazard a guess that you don’t want anyone else right now either. But do you still
want him? The guy with the wicked dick? Right now, right here. If he was standing
in front of you with his fly open, would you willingly drop to your knees?”
Isabel closed her eyes and imagined Alex Whitman in front of her, all pierced
and tattooed with his long curling dark hair, unshaven face and dark aloof attitude.
Her body tensed up at the thought. His long thin body, surprisingly muscular and
lean, powerful...
“Save it!” Sean stood there watching her and the emotions rushing across her
face. The change in her body language told him what he needed to know. “Whoever
this guy is, he gets you hot. So instead of thinking the evil Isabel is back, maybe
you should ask yourself what makes him special and why.”
Isabel sat down on the corner of the sofa. “I wanted him for over a year. He
was all I dreamt about. Even though I thought he would go on without me, last

440

night he said he waited.” Isabel actually smiled at that, and picked at her clothes.
She really, really smelt bad.
“Well, that’s just sweet.” Sean said sarcastically. Damn, if Isabel Evans turned
all giddily schoolgirlish and mushy on him, then who was he going to spar with?
Interestingly enough, Sean’s thought turned towards a certain Texas chicken-loving
firecracker who would love to put his balls in a vice and crush them. Now how was
he supposed to recover, with all these perfect women coming out of the woodwork
offering him a backhand? At least Isabel was good for his therapy.
“So what would you have done if I did take you up on your offer?” Isabel
asked curiously.
“It could’ve been a problem. You might've had your work cut out for you.”
Sean said. Isabel didn’t even juice him to tingly.
“Guess I could have offered to beat you.”
“It would’ve taken a two by four to get a rise.” Sean started assembling what
he did have available for breakfast. “So you going to go take a shower and get the
stink off you? I am sure that what’s his name would be flattered, but still...”
“Flattered? I'm not sure about that. Alex looks a little wild and loose on the
outside, but he doesn’t live down. I’m just glad that I didn’t have to find him at
Club Hell.” Isabel picked her dirty clothes off her body in disgust. “It’s one thing to
look like one of the great unwashed, and another to actually be one.”
“Whitman?” Sean paused in his cooking spitting out the coffee he had just
drunk in a full laugh. “You did Whitman? Alex Whitman, owner of Club Hell? He’s
your dream guy?”
“What’s so funny?” Isabel could feel her anger rising again.
“We are!” Sean leaned closer and poured Isabel some coffee. “Tell me, did you
kiss Alex yesterday?”
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“Yeah, of course. I find kissing kind of goes with fucking.” Isabel took a drink
of the coffee.
Sean couldn't contain his mirth and laughed his ass off. Isabel just stared at
him like he was a loon. “Well then, Mizzy Izzy, it looks like we have even more in
common than we thought, given that we both kissed Alex Whitman yesterday.”
Isabel’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”

~~~

Jim came out of the bedroom smelling breakfast in the air. Weekends were his
favorite time. He and Amy usually spent a long late morning eating breakfast,
reading the newspaper and planning their day. Amy finally sold her old house six
months ago, and they were officially living together.
“What are you doing?” Jim asked as he grabbed his coffee and sat down at the
breakfast nook.
“Just going over the wedding preparations. You know, honey, I think I’ve got
the whole scheme wrong. Maybe instead of a ‘fairytale’ motif, I should have gone
for the 'spring time in the heather', or maybe...”
Jim calmly reached over and took the wedding journal and books away from
her, tossing them on the floor next to the table.
“Enough!”
Amy looked at him confused. “Jim?”
“Enough, Amy. I want you happy. It’s all I want. But after six years, it’s
enough. The wedding is important to you, but this obsession over it being perfect is
getting out of hand. I know you want this to be the perfect harmonious union, but
it’s just you and me. That’s all it takes to make it perfect.”
442

“Jim...”
“I’m tired. This wedding is taking all the joy out of our lives. All I need is a
place, a priest, our children and it’s perfect. I don’t care about the color, the
clothes, the theme...I just want to marry the woman I love.” Jim rubbed his face.
“But it doesn’t look like I’m getting that, so here’s the deal. Next Saturday at four in
the afternoon, I’m going to be at the church, our church. I'm going to be in a black
tux 'n tails, with my son, your daughter and whoever else in attendance. The
children will be there, the choir will be singing and the organist will be playing the
wedding march. All you have to do is walk down the aisle at the appropriate
moment on Sean’s arm. Can you do that?”
“Jim...” Amy gulped. “What are you saying? That if...”
“I’m saying that the woman I’m going to make love to next Saturday night will
be my wife, or it’s over.”
Jim took his coffee with him and grabbed a few slices of bacon on his way to
the door. “Wait! Jim, you can’t just leave! You can’t just give me this ultimatum and
walk away!” Amy felt tears in her throat. “You don’t want to marry me?”
Jim sighed and turned around. Trapping Amy between his hands, he pulled her
into a deep kiss, plastering his body along hers, as he moved them back up against
the wall. Amy’s hands were buried in his hair, and she was making those noises in
her throat he loved so much. That clearing sound.
“Oh, Amy... I want to marry you so much, it’s not fair. I’ve been patient and
waited...waited six years. You’ve been the light of my life and the most infuriating
person at the same time. And all I want is to make you happy. I want to marry you.
It’s you who doesn’t want to marry me.” Jim sighed and looked her in the eyes, and
then pulled away.

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Amy clutched him back to her. “That’s not true! I do want to marry you. All of
this is about me wanting to marry you.”
“No it’s not. It’s a delay tactic, because you’re unsure. Every time we choose
the date, you change something and the delays continue. If all you want from me,
Amy DeLuca, is someone to warm your bed, then just be honest.” Jim took her
hands off him. “I’m looking for a life partner, someone to love into my old age, not
just a bed warmer.”
“Oh Jim, honey...”
Jim stopped and looked down at the floor. “Six years ago we were still young
enough to have a baby and make a new family for all of us. But all this time...all
the wasted years...and now those possibilities are gone. Now all we have to look
forward to is grandchildren. But how the hell are we going to get them? Look at our
children! Maria shacking up with Michael, and they seem in no hurry to tie a knot.
Kyle and Tess playing best friends when any idiot can see they’re in love. Sean
running from intimacy and finding release with strange women in leather bars.
What can we say to them when we’re basically doing the same, just biding time
together?”
“You wanted a baby? You never told me.” Amy felt a tremor in her hand. He
had never said a word. Not once.
“I want grandchildren, but none of our kids are going to marry until we do,
and I’m tired of waiting.”
“Jim...”
“Enough, Amy. Next Saturday or never. I’ll be there, and if you’ll do me the
honor, I’ll promise to love and protect you 'til my dying day.”
Amy felt unsure and lost for a second. But Jim was right. They were wasting
time and her poor children were also stalling, waiting for her to finally make up her
444

mind. Her poor Jim was so devastated that he was unsure she even loved him
enough to marry him.
Amy threw herself in his arms and kissed him. Wiping a tear from her cheek
she smiled at him bravely. “Okay, okay, I’ll be there. Next Saturday. I promise.”
“Promise?” Jim asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Absolutely.” Amy laughed when he picked her up in a big bear hug. “Oh I love
it when you get all ‘The Man’ on me.” Amy reached down and whispered in his ear.
“You should wear mirrored glasses and a tight uniform.” Jim laughed at that.
Looked like he had the kids to thank for getting him out of the Wedding preparation
nightmare. Amy looked up at the clock on the wall and gave a small scream of
fright.
“Oh god! I’ve got to go! I’ve got so many things to do and only seven days to
do them in!” Jim put her down and she rushed to gather her things. She ran back
and knocked him hard up against the wall, running her hand down his front and
making him groan. “I’m getting married you know.”
Jim laughed at her mischievous smile and thought of Michael. Man didn’t know
how lucky he was to find a DeLuca woman. These creatures didn’t seem to know
how to age. Before she could step too far away from him, he pulled her back to him
tightly. “And Amy...get me my damn cocktail weenies!”
“Yes, Jim.” And with a quick smile and a kiss, she was out the door to terrorize
Roswell. Seven days. God created the Earth in seven days, and he had no doubt
that Amy DeLuca could destroy it in less.
“It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

~~~

445

Michael watched the chaos of the DeLuca Family household in sheer terror.
There were hoards of them. The more that came, the more there were. Maria’s
Uncle was sitting at the head of the table and Sean’s mother at the other end.
Michael watched the woman in interest. She looked like Sean, or maybe it was that
Sean looked like her. But she had the dark Italian brown eyes of her father, and
Sean had a lighter hazel of his maternal grandmother’s. And even though Marco
ruled the family, it was easy to see that Theresa Fiona DeLuca was the real seat of
power.
Her voice was soft and firm with a hint of laughter. “Caro, I told you to put
that away. Julian, help your brother serve himself and take off your hat. What are
you a ‘ginza'?” Her orders and organization went on and on until everyone was
sitting and eating.
Michael just watched it all in wonder and ate one of the most incredible
breakfasts of his life. It was more like a brunch with mounds of food, more than
even Maria could eat and she was working hard on it. Occasionally he would see her
hand wander into his plate to steal something.
“Stuffing your face again?” Michael teased Maria as she had a dispute with one
of her cousins over the last of the eggs. Her aunt kissed her brow and went into the
kitchen to get her some more. “What is this? Michael asked poking at a dish that
tasted incredible, but one he didn’t know.
“Shut up, and pass me some more bread.” Maria looked at him, and pulled
him close, kissing him hard. “Hungry. Eating for two.” Michael looked up in time to
see the pleased look in Maria’s aunt’s eyes as she put fresh eggs down for Maria.
“That's a special Italian flatbread, usually made in Palermo. It's made with sundried tomatoes and fresh rosemary, baked in olive oil and then a special egg batter

446

is poured on top with ham, sausage, garlic and cheese. It’s sort of an omelet on
bread, like a mixture of the Scottish baker’s egg, and a frittata.”
“Can you make this?” Maria nodded. Of course. Michael leaned down and
whispered in Maria’s ear. “Who are all these people?”
Maria stopped eating and looked around. “Family. Sean has two brothers and
three sisters. These are their children and spouses, plus a few cousins...oh and a
few next door neighbors’ kids.”
After the table was cleared, Maria was pointing out places from the terrace
when her Uncle found them. “Maria, did Sid send the papers to you for the house?”
Maria just nodded. “Good, and we can close on that while you are here?” Her uncle
smiled big. “Then instruct your husband and send him into the library.
Michael watched Marco walk off and turned to Maria. “What?”
“The house,” Maria pointed to the house across the way where she had been
born and raised. “Uncle Marco wishes to purchase it for his son as a wedding
present. Sean’s middle brother will inherit after my Uncle dies, so Marco thinks it is
a good time to put the larger house back in the family. He made a generous offer to
buy it.”
“You own that house?” Michael just sat down. They needed to get their asses
back to Roswell because he was totally out of his element here. Maria just nodded.
“It was my father’s, and when he died, it went to Frankie Jr. Unfortunately
Frankie never made a will and, as the only surviving immediate family, I inherited
everything. Most of the liquid assets I sank into the Foundation, and I just let the
investments run. Over the years I've settled some of the physical property, but the
house has remained a problem.” Maria looked over at the house she was raised in.
“I haven’t set foot in there since I was sixteen, and I never want to again. I'd give it
to Uncle Marco for a dollar.”
447

Michael could understand that. Even though his childhood memories weren’t
as painful as Maria’s, he still had had a hard time walking through Mikey Guerin’s
house after he died. It was silent as though it was haunted, and that made
everything else somehow worse.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“Well, when I was ‘single’, Uncle Marco would deal with me in the Business,
but now that I have you...’my husband’, he will expect you to see to my affairs.”
Michael looked at her in horror.
“You’re kidding, right?” Michael looked at the large house and back at Maria,
seeing she was serious. “The 'old ways', huh? I can’t...I don’t have a clue.”
“Don’t worry. Just listen to the offer, increase it a little, and let him haggle it
back down to a price close to what he originally offered.” Maria grabbed Michael.
“But you have to haggle, make him work for it and get all huffy and angry.
Otherwise it's a matter of losing face. No relative likes to think he's cheating
another, and even though you'll get more than he offered, after you leave he'll tell
himself what a good deal he made because he would have given you a few hundred
thousand more.”
“Pride?”
“Yeah, and now that you're part of the family, they’ll expect you to understand
the games.” Maria looked up when her cousin, Sofia came to the door. “That’s your
cue. He’s ready. Now after you do the family thing, he'll be all happy to answer your
questions about the case. My cousin, Luis will be in there. Watch his face. He's a
soft sell and he can’t hide his reactions. So if you're going too high or too low he'll
let you know.”
“Maria…”

448

“Go. You’ll do fine.” Maria watched him trudge off with a set of doom about his
shoulders.
“How do you think he will do, Ria?” Maria turned to look at her aunt and
smiled.
“He’s tough. He’ll survive. He always does.”
“I like him. I notice he watches you and keeps his hands near, like he is afraid
you will fall. He has beautiful hands.” Theresa looked out over the green and beauty
of the gardens. “And you watch him too.”
“I do. This is hard for him. So much family, so many people. He never had that
before.” Maria looked at her aunt and smiled. “He hasn’t learned that we are more
alike than not, but he will. Then he will understand every thing about Sean.” Maria
said her cousin’s name to test the waters.
“Sean, my child. How is he? Well?”
“Not so good all the time. He survives. He survives to bleed.” Maria took
Theresa’s hands in hers. “He lives to protect. First me and my mom, and now so
many others. God made him a good man, but 'Man' is killing his soul.”
“I light a candle in prayer every day for his continued happiness.” Theresa
looked at the children playing. “He was always different. When he was small, he
thought with his heart and not his head. In the Business, it is important to detach a
little to survive and to do what honor requires. Your cop. Michael. He looks to me
like Sean.”
“They are the same in many ways. But Sean is trapped in despair.” Maria
searched for words that would not come. “He needs to come home.”
Theresa just shook her head no. “There is no place for him here anymore.”
Maria looked at her aunt in pity and frustration. “The 'old ways'. They steal
your children to crime and drugs. And Sean protects in the only way he can, the
449

way that is his nature. The only place he needs is in your heart and if there is no
place for him there, then perhaps it is better that he is dead to you.”
Maria got up quickly and angrily walked away. “Maria! Ria...” Theresa looked
out at the grounds, but saw nothing. After a time, she went to gather her things to
go to pray.

~~~

Sean was finishing up the final touches to breakfast brunch when a knock
came to his front door. The grocery store had already delivered so he frowned on
his way to the door. It couldn’t be his aunt? Surely Cap could keep her busy for at
least a Saturday. Opening the door, he was shocked to see Liz Parker standing on
his doorstep.
“Liz...hi!”
“Can I come in?” Sean just nodded and moved aside to let her enter.
Liz took in the apartment and immediately noticed the cooking and the smells.
Sean only cooked a large breakfast when he...Oh! Liz looked around hurriedly and
felt a blush moving up her face.
“I’m sorry,” she squeaked. “I’m interrupting something...”
Sean caught her before she could flee. “No. No! God, no! Liz, calm down.
Yeah, I’ve got company, but not that type of company. La St. Maria, lo protegge. ”
“What?”
“Sorry. I said, ‘St. Maria, protect me.” Sean went back into the kitchen to
check on his food while Liz put down her bag and jacket and took a stool at the
counter.
“This guest must be some real interesting individual.”
450

“Hardly, just a walk on the icy side in one of the numerous dimensions of Hell,
propagated by Demons of the Gate who offer you the choice of instant death rather
than having to face her.” Sean poured Liz a cup of coffee, and smiled. “Other than
that, she seems really nice.”
Liz just laughed and tossed her head, rolling her eyes, “and she would be...”
Isabel took that moment to come back from her shower wearing one of Sean’s
PD t-shirts and a pair of baggy sweats with her hair up in a ponytail. “That
bathroom should be bombed. Hey, Battery Boy, Comet and a little scrubbing action
and you too can enter the world of the real humans.” Isabel stopped when she saw
Liz, and she quickly looked at Sean. “Sorry, Sean, I didn’t know you had a breakfast
date.”
The women sized each other up as Sean poured Isabel another cup of coffee.
“I didn’t. It’s my morning to be invaded by women. The only thing that would make
it complete would be a certain chicken-eating ADA coming by to fling her chicken
bones at me, while offering me a spanking with her shoe.” Sean paused for a
moment. “Actually that last one works for me.”
“You are bent.” Isabel took a stool next to Liz. “So...” Isabel looked at Sean
and tipped her head towards Liz.
“Oh, sorry. Caught up in a tortuous fantasy. Liz Parker--Isabel Evans, and vice
versa. Liz is a friend of the highest caliber, and once held the unfortunate honor of
being my girlfriend. Alas she has since paid her dues to society and been released
for good behavior.”
Isabel looked at Liz with interest and some amazement. Ex-girlfriend?
Interesting. She didn’t look like the black leather, razor blade type, holding a whip
in one hand and a man’s balls in the other. Silent waters do run deep.

451

“And Lizzie, you are seated in the esteemed company of one Isabel Evans,
sister to the dynamic duo of Guerin and Evans, but destructive in her own
individualistic way. Hell froze over, so they released her back on us, the
unsuspecting humans.” Sean took out plates and set them in front of the girls. “You
two ready to eat? And,” Sean said looking at Isabel, “my bathroom is fine. Cleaning
service doesn’t come until Monday.”
“2004?” Isabel looked at the bread concoction tossed in her plate with some
type of potato to the side. “What is this?” Liz just looked over at the woman and
shrugged. It was good.
“I didn’t know grape Kool-aid stained. It’s Erbazzone...a sort of herb sandwich
from Parma. It’s eggs in a crust.” Isabel poked at it. “Just try it. The pancetta was
fresh and I added extra Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Sean searched until he found some
hot sauce. He liked his eggs with a little spice. Isabel reached over and took the hot
sauce and added a generous amount to her plate.
“What’s the green stuff added in with the eggs?” Isabel asked as she tasted it. Not
bad.
“Spinach. You could just forgo the Erbazzone, and just drink the damn hot
sauce straight. You might have tasted it before you doused it.”
“I like things hot and spicy.” Isabel looked over and noticed that Parker was
almost through with hers, and quickly looking to see how much Sean had made,
Isabel sped up her consumption. Parker was tiny, she didn’t need that much food.
Sean just shrugged. Icy cold people probably needed all the heat they could find.
Isabel reached for the pan to get some more when Sean snatched it away. “Uh
uh.” Picking up his spatula, he threatened her. Reaching over he served Liz another
slice, then Isabel and finally himself. Isabel sneaked a glance over at Parker’s plate
and noticed the serving was larger than hers. Pig.
452

“So Liz, was there something you needed? Other than just some good
company?” Sean ignored the snorting Isabel and tossed another piece of food in her
plate to distract her.
“No, I just wanted to tell you that I called Maria and we went out.” Liz looked
over at the other woman still eating and using lots of Tabasco.
“And...” Sean asked expectantly.
“And, it helped. Maria helped.” Liz moved her empty plate aside and passed
her empty cup over for a refill. “I think I want to move out of my parents' house.”
“Really? When?”
“As soon as possible, I think.”
Sean shifted on his feet. “You know you could stay here until you found
yourself a place...I mean...”
Liz just smiled at the offer. “No thanks, Sean. I think I’ll stay where I’m at
until I find a place. I need a roommate or a cat. I can’t remember the last time I
lived alone, and it might take me making theses changes in degrees.” Sean just
nodded. That made sense. “I wish you made beignets for breakfast. I love those.”
Sean smiled at her. “I could make those for you, Lizzy.”
“What are they?” Isabel asked. His smile was so fake. Yuck.
They’re a New Orleans specialty that Maria picked up in her life in the
cathouse. Fried batter covered in confectioners’ sugar. It’s like a deep-fried donut,
but it melts in your mouth and is best eaten hot.”
“Well get to frying. Liz and I don’t have all day.” Isabel turned to Liz and tried
a friendly smile. “You know, I'm looking for a place to live as well. Do you have any
idea how to start looking?”

453

“No. Actually, I was going to ask Maria. She sort of just knows things.” Liz
looked over at Sean. “Do you know if Maria is working the museum this morning? I
might stop there.”
“She’s out of town. She and Michael took a short trip to Florida, but they’ll be
back tomorrow.” Sean assembled all the stuff he needed and searched for his deep
fryer. “What kind of beignets you want? Peach or plain?” Liz said plain as Isabel said
peach. They looked at each other.
“I’ll make both.” Sean halved the batter and kept cooking. It was his favorite
pastime, something he used to do with his mother.
“Actually, I told Maria I would love to live in a loft like hers.” Isabel told Liz.
“She said she might know of a place, but I would more than likely need a
roommate to share the expenses.”
“Oh, I love Maria’s loft. And the location and the stores, and...”
“Yeah, same here. I could live there.” Sean looked at the two women as they
kept talking about the up and coming Bricktown Yuppie land.
“I think I know what Maria is talking about.” Sean felt their attention move to
him. “The renovated warehouse where Maria’s loft is has five uncompleted loft units
just waiting to be finished, I think. Her loft is at one end with the potential for
another loft next door, but I think Maria is holding on to it in case she wants to
expand, which she does. Her section is like a smaller annex to the larger
warehouse, with that small opening between the buildings were the atrium and
gardens are. The small section leading to the larger building is where her garages
are. So that still leaves the whole larger warehouse open. It currently has room for
eight loft units, but only three are occupied.”

454

Liz was getting excited. “Do you think she can help us get in touch with the
landlord? Do you think they’ll be willing to renovate one of the remaining lofts for
us?”
“I think Maria can arrange it. If you play your cards right, you might get the
one unit that also butts up against the atrium and gardens, and if they put in a
sliding glass door, you could share Maria’s garden.” Sean refrained from mentioning
that Maria was the owner, and more than likely would do it for these two.
Sean kept cooking while the two talked excitedly over the prospects. Maria
was going to have them on her doorstep almost before she landed back in Roswell.
This was good. A new project for Maria, a renovation project that might save
Michael from having to deal with the loft being torn to pieces for a few months.
Sean served them both some hot beignets, and watched Isabel practically melt
on her stool. That good. “So the two of you are planning to be roommates, huh?”
Liz just smiled and nodded. Things were looking up. “Izzy, we should put up a
large board or something, seeing how we’re both single, and label it, ‘Things We
don’t Want in a Man’ just to keep a running tally. It’s so hard to find ‘Mr. Right’ in
this day and age.”
“Good idea. God, do I have a bunch of stuff to add to that list already.” Isabel
looked at Sean and then suddenly tapped Liz on the arm lightly. “Let’s put Sean’s
name on the top of the list!”
“Yeah!”
“Hey!” Sean took the brunt of their teasing well, and to their chagrin added a
few aspects to their list as well.
Liz just laughed at his additions. “Wait, you do all those things, Sean.”
“Yeah, I know. But I hate them in other men.”
~~~
455

Michael sat back, exhausted after the negotiations. Maria was right. Her
cousin, Luis was a dead giveaway, and for a few times he and Marco had stood nose
to nose in a deadlock. But finally the deal was sealed and Marco was serving them
liquor, something Italian and sweet, designed to knock him on his ass.
“Okay, enough of this business. Michael, you come with me and I’ll show you
my lemon trees.” Marco waved the others gone, and took Michael out of the room
onto the terrace. They walked down past the gardens and along a small grove of
trees.
“These aren’t all lemon?” Michael asked as they walked through. The smell
was incredible just from the leaves.
“No, some orange and olive, but the lemon has taken to bloom early this year,
and as long as we don’t get a late freeze it should be a nice harvest.” Michael just
nodded as the older man stopped and lit his cigar offering Michael one, who
refused. “So now we tend to your questions, Cop.”
Michael looked at the man and suddenly saw his son in him. It was the eyes.
They weren’t the same color, but they had the same intensity. This man was a
member of the Brotherhood, and he understood much.
“This case I have. It has a killer, one who makes people disappear. Sean
said...”
Marco made a gesture to dismiss his son’s name. “That our Business is one
that specializes in that very task?” Michael nodded. “That is true. There is power in
fear and control. To see someone you love just vanish, never to be heard from
again. It leaves an impression. So this ‘killer’, is he in the Business?”
Michael frowned at Marco’s low soft tone. He wouldn’t turn in a name of
someone connected, but then neither would Sean. “No. Sean...said it was a
'special', a person who shared the Dump and processed the bodies.”
456

Marco just nodded. He reached up in a tree and took a leaf and crushed it
between his fingers, offering it to Michael. Michael took and smelt it. Lemon. “I
know this man. He makes them shiny with a coating? Yes?”
“Yes.”
“You’re lucky. This person has only been around for about a decade, and Sean
was only just around when he started. But even then, he was impressive. We didn’t
find the Dump. This individual, the specialist-he did. It is like he understood where
the best place is to throw away the trash in a local area, and we followed his
instincts. He used to move around a lot, very seasonal, but over the last few years
he has remained stationary with a few runs to surrounding states.”
“He’s in my area?” Michael watched at Marco checked a tree for a mark on its
trunk.
“The Southwest mostly, but your region, yes. He is a killer among killers, a
real master. We don’t protect him, but we don’t turn him over either. He doesn’t
interfere with us, and we don’t touch him. Now if he turned professional, then
maybe we would notice.” Marco took a draw of his cigar and looked over the grove.
“This one, he has made murder an art.”
Michael had to ask. “Do you know who he is?”
“No. We call him The Collector.” Marco took Michael down another row of trees
and around the back gardens.
“His dumping grounds, can you give me that?” Marco stopped and looked at
Michael with a frown.
“That is not so easy. Many others follow this Collector to dump with him,
because he finds the best locations.” Marco looked at Michael closely. “Why do you
want to know?”

457

“I want to return the lost children to their own. They were taken and their
people wait.” Marco just nodded. So many lost children, so many families that wait.
It was hard.
”I will contact you when I know.”
“Thank you.” Marco just nodded.
“We are not so different, copper. I see you. I feel you. You are una protezione,
un soldato. ” They sat down on the stone benches in the garden. “When the world
was younger, we rose. A class of soldiers, un soldato, protectors sworn to defend
our Families in a promise of fiefdom. All the large families had people such as we,
and we protected with our very blood. That...that is the large trunk from which you
stem, Cop. We practice the old way of protecting our Family, and you practice the
new way of defending all innocents. Sometimes those lines, they aren’t so clear,
no?”
“Sometimes,” Michael admitted, “I dream of things-of places and battles. So
many battles, so many campaigns and so much blood.”
Marco looked at Michael with interest. “Tell me, do these dreams make you
bleed?”
“They make me feel foreign to myself.” Michael stood and walked a few paces
away to look past the hills, past the green, into a world of seas of blood. “The
battlement rose to the left,” said Michael gesturing to some unseen land, “and the
roars of war were in my ears, and it felt...good. The ground shook with the
movement of warriors in the fields, and thirteen battalions were laid to waste. I
walked the field in the crush of dawn before the beginning of the next wave. The
ground was soaked in blood, the armor coated and green with the bodies piled upon
each other so that you had no choice but to walk upon them. I could feel the metal
across my back burning into my skin as I climbed the embankment before they
458

came. In a hollowing rush of silence the ground stood still, then a crash of violence
and they came, and came, and came. I calmly sent sixteen more battalions to their
death and watched the skies rain blood, all for my honor promised to a King.”
Marco stood up and patted Michael on his back, returning him to the present
and leading him towards the house. “Was it a good fight?” Michael nodded. “And did
you serve and protect?”
“What else is there?”
“For men like us? Only our honor, our families and our duty.” Marco and
Michael climbed the stairs to the terrace. “My son is one of these warriors. He was
the one. I could feel it in his eyes, that touch of oldness, of knowing. He walked
away from it, turned his back.”
“He did not.” Michael said quietly. “The path you have chosen is of your
making, not his. He chose the only one he could...his destiny. He still protects. He
still serves. And the choices he makes leave him vulnerable to pain.”
“There is a code.”
“I know. I second him.” Michael looked at the older man. “I will kill him for his
honor if he breaks the code or fails, but he hasn't. He walks it every day, even
though it hurts him, takes from him. It was your mistake to think he was born to
your life and not his own. He made his promise or his fief to the innocent, and he
has never broken it.” Michael noticed Maria coming out the side door with some of
her cousins. “Most men would be so lucky to have such a man to call son.” Michael
looked at his future.

~~~

459

When Tess made it back to the loft, she struggled to get the door open with
her key. Normally she would have expected Kyle to rush to help her, but there was
no Kyle. Once she saw the loft she knew why. The place was in shambles.
“Oh god, Kyle!” Tess looked around frantically. Thieves, assassins, burglars, or
maybe Ninja warriors...Tess’s mind was racing with all the possibilities of where or
what could’ve happened to Kyle. “Kyle! Kyle!” Tess left the door open as she
entered the room cautiously but frantic to find him.
His broken body would be lying there, all covered in blood...Kyle suddenly
walked out of the downstairs bedroom. He did have blood on him from scratches,
but otherwise he was perfectly healthy. His sudden appearance startled her so
much that she screamed. Her hand went to her breast as she felt her own heart
beating so strong it was threatening to break through her chest.
“You bastard!” Tess balled up her fist and slugged him one. She swore as she
hurt her hand.
Kyle took it on the chin, hard. “Dammit, Tess! What the hell did I do?” Kyle
reached up and wiped a tiny drop of blood from his mouth. Great, more blood.
“You’ve still got that good right jab, Tessie. But how many times have I told you not
to leave your thumb hanging? Did you jam it?” Kyle went to take her hand, but she
tossed it off.
“I can’t believe I was frantically screaming your name, thinking of your poor,
bloodied, broken body tossed somewhere as marauders mauled the place, and you
calmly walk out... walk out without calling out to reassure me, or letting me know
you were alive!”
Kyle frowned. “Marauders? What the hell, Tess? What is this, a remake of the
Old West?” Tess picked up a heavy vase that somehow missed being knocked over
or destroyed, and was raising it to heft it at Kyle.
460

“Now honey...”
“Freeze! Put your hands up where I can see them!” Both Kyle and Tess froze at
the loud man’s voice coming from the door. They both looked over at the Uniform
Officer with his gun trained on them.
“You didn’t leave the door open, did you, Tess?” Kyle asked her calmly, already
knowing she did. She had triggered the security alarm.
“What, now this is my fault? I was scared, okay?” He was so fucking irritating
at times.
Kyle turned to the Officer. “There’s been a mistake. I can explain.” Tess just
snorted in derision as Kyle shot her an irritated look. “I’ve got my badge in my back
pocket. I’m Detective Kyle Valenti of Major Crimes.”
Kyle kept eye contact with the Officer pointing a gun at him, and slowly
removed his wallet to flash his badge. It looked bad, real bad. The place looked like
it had been tossed or that the Officer had walked into a really bad domestic dispute.
Tess holding a heavy vase over her head wasn’t helping the image.
It took a little while for them to convince the Officers that it wasn’t a break-in
or a domestic violence scene, and to find the security password code. Once they
had the Officers gone, Kyle turned to watch Tess surveying the damage.
“It was that damn cat. I swear!” Tess just looked at the place and shook her
head. She noticed a dark clump and leaned forward to see it clearer. Mr. Booboo’s
hair. Oh damn.
“What did you do to him?” Tess got on her knees and looked under the sofa.
“Nothing! Not a damn thing. He just went insane running all over the house,
with this loud caterwauling and knocking shit over...” Kyle flapped his arms about
wildly. “I tried to catch him, and this is the results.”

461

“I think he’s looking for them.” Tess said. She went over and quickly picked up
the food she had brought in and dropped at the front door. Taking it into the kitchen
she put away the perishables. “Did you at least feed him?”
“I tried. He wouldn’t come out.” Kyle ran his hands over his head in a helpless
gesture. “I feel like an idiot moving around the house on my hands and knees
calling ‘Here Mr. Booboo, here Mr. Booboo’. It’s undignified. If my name was
Booboo, I’d be neurotic too.” Kyle reached down and began to collect clumps of
black fur.
“What are you doing?” Tess asked as she noticed the pile of black fur in Kyle’s
hand increasing.
“Maybe we could...superglue it back on?” Tess just groaned in disbelief. Right.
Superglue.
“Well, we’re going to have to clean up this mess!” Tess went around and
started picking up things and straightening paintings on the walls. She bent down
to pick up the vase she had planned to crash over Kyle’s head, when he rushed to
help her.
“Let me take that! You shouldn’t be lifting heavy things.” Kyle took it out of her
hands and returned it to its normal place.
“Afraid I was still going to chuck it at you, huh?” Tess asked quietly.
“There was that.” Kyle looked at Tess directly and in the eyes. He avoided that
most of the time. Actually he trained himself to avoid it as much as possible, but
some days he was just weak.
“You scared me, Kyle.” Tess said simply willing him to look at her and see her,
really see her.
“I’m sorry.” Kyle said, kneeling down to pick up some things. Tess knelt next to
him and lifted his face to look her in the eyes.
462

“I was afraid I lost you, too. I can’t take that, Kyle. Anything but that.” Tess
watched his eyes, watched for that something special he kept hidden. It was there.
The spark she recognized from so long ago when they were young, when they were
in love, and the moment in time when they were complete.
As fast as that, he dampened it. And the flicker was gone.
“Damn you!” Tess stood up angrily. “You keep doing that to me.”
“Doing what?”
“Don’t play with me, Kyle Valenti. You know what. Damn you!” Tess tried to
stomp away.
“Tess wait...”
“Wait?” Tess let her voice rise in anger, her eyes flash as she looked at him.
“I’ve waited for you for years. Years, Kyle.” Kyle grabbed her arm, not wanting to
talk about it, but Tess pulled her arm away. “How could you? How could you just
walk away and leave us and pretend it never happened, that we never happened?”
Tess moved in closer to him, her mouth mere inches away. “We waited. We waited
as long as we could for you to come back to us, but you didn’t. How could you just
walk away and pretend it was nothing?”
“Tess...” Kyle swore at the pain in her eyes, and the feel of her warm breath
on his mouth. It was so long ago, over ten years, and he could still feel it.
“Jack, and I, we followed your lead. We let you make the decision for us, and
you just walked away.”
“You were my best friends!” Kyle almost stopped breathing. The cutting rush
of air in his lungs hurt. “It was Roswell. This small conservative town.”
“That doesn’t matter. It never did. Love matters, Kyle. We let you put us on
the track of only being friends, but don’t lie to me. Don’t lie to yourself. You were in
love with Jack.” Tess moved away from him.
463

Kyle yanked her back. “I was in love with you. Both of you.”
They both stood looking at each other, breathing hard. Tess just tossed her
head. “Then why did you wake up that morning, walk out the door and pretend it
never happened? Why were you suddenly 'Kyle, just our best friend', and not a part
of us?”
“You don’t understand.”
“I don’t. We were better when there were three. And then you left and we
waited, until finally we knew you were never coming back. Then Jack and I got
married.” Tess let an angry tear slip from her eye. “And after Jack died, you stayed
away.
“I had to. You chose him. It was you and him, and I was the reason he died,
Tess! He pushed me out of the way and saved my life. What was I supposed to tell
you? That he died for me?” Kyle voice was dark and husky.
“He died because he never stopped loving you, Kyle. Even though you wanted
nothing of a real life with us, he still loved you.” Tess wiped away the tears from her
face still angry. “I still loved you. I was all alone in my pain, and you were the only
person who could feel it too, and you just left me out there.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“I know. And I forgave you last year. But I don’t think I can take a chance on
you again, Kyle. I keep waiting for you, and you keep walking away.” Tess cleared
her throat. “You made it so easy for me to go with Max because I stopped waiting
and decided to go with my life. Look what a mistake that was! The only good that
came out of it was the baby.” Tess ran up the stairs to look for the damn cat and to
get away from him. She should have left it alone.

464

Kyle stomped up the stairs after her. "There isn't an 'us' because I really don't
think you would want anything like that. It's inappropriate, and I know how you
are…"
She looked a but angry then. "You don't know crap about how I am! Or how
Jack and I were. We were incomplete. It was good, but with you it would have been
better. Why do you think we took you into our bed that night? I could see you
looking at me, and every time I turned around you were watching Jack. Pam broke
your heart and we heard you tossing and turning in that bedroom next to ours. We
wanted to be there for you and we were-all night until the early morning. When we
woke up you were gone. Then you pretended nothing happened, and you should’ve
had the guts to say something if…"
She never got to finish her sentence, Kyle simply leaned in and grabbed her by
the back of the head, entwining his fingers in her silky blond hair with the curls
wrapping around his fingers, and pulled her face to his. He was about done with this
wanting and waiting stuff; he was a grown man, and it was about time he acted like
one. She was right. He had run away because he never felt he could be more than a
third wheel in their relationship, and after being with them, he didn’t know how he
could ever survive that. So he distanced himself from them.
The kiss caught her by surprise, not because she never thought he'd kiss her,
but because it had been so long that she had given up on it ever happening again.
Tess remembered what she had seen in his eyes that night, and it made his leaving
that much harder. She remembered every word he had said to her, said to Jack, to
the both of them. He had tried to keep them awake for as long as possible. If they
had known he would walk away, they would have stayed awake forever. And
somewhere in her fogged mind, she remembered he had kissed her face and the
side of her neck before he left.
465

She wasn't in the past at the moment though, and she returned his kiss with
more passion than he expected. Her hands went up around his shoulders and pulled
him closer to her, crushing herself against him, body to body.
Her breath was ragged here as it was earlier, but for an entirely different
reason. The incredible heat of him was driving her crazy, and she pulled her face
away from him for just a second. She wanted to look into his eyes again, to see the
fear disappear and find her lost lover.
"Love me," she whispered to him, and the words sent him out of control, made
his head spin, made his hard cock strain forcefully against his clothes.
The clothes had to go. He started pulling hers off, kissing her again and not
relinquishing her lips for even a second, while they struggled to be free of anything
that could come between them. His hands ran over her body touching her silky skin
as she made noises against him. Her mouth...she had the most incredible mouth!
They were on the bed by the time they got all the clothes out of the way, and he
released her lips reluctantly, replacing them with the rest of her, nuzzling hungrily
at her breasts, tasting every part of her.
Tess thought she was insane herself. Here she was, almost in the middle of
Maria and Michael’s bed with Kyle! They were all alone, naked and fucking like they
were starved. She was gasping, and if his cock was as good as it had been all those
years ago, they were going to be there for a while.
She reached down, wanting to touch the velvet steel of him, and groaned
inwardly at the size of it. She pulled him up on top of her, yearning for him to drive
her relentlessly into the mattress beneath her. The waves of energy she felt around
him came up and caressed them, hot and startling, and still they wouldn't give up
to it in an instant, wouldn't move an inch until they had enough.

466

"You really want this?" Kyle asked her quietly, kissing her face softly, letting
some of his weight rest on her, just so she would know he was there. She definitely
knew he was there. His hand was moving down her body to stroke the gentle swell
of her stomach, his face taking on a hungry look of need.
"I really want this," she told him. "I really want you. I really want us."
He put his mouth on hers and kissed her again, deeply, while he pushed his
cock inside slowly. He wanted to toss her down hard and rage inside her, pounding
away all those years of loss and lust. But he couldn’t. Not with the baby inside. Not
with their child resting.
She thought he would have her exploding with want any minute, he was going
slowly and she wanted him in. Tess knew what he was doing, but they were fine.
She reached down as low as she could and grabbed his hips, pulling insistently. He
needed no further urging. He pushed the rest of the way in, grinding against her,
still kissing her, his hands roaming everywhere they could reach.
She gasped from the sheer size, loving it, delighting in being filled so
completely. She was almost over the edge, and he teased a nipple with his fingers,
pounding his cock into her, she came moaning into his mouth, driving him into
intense spasming with her. Kyle remembered that, remembered the intense orgasm
from ten years ago, and how it ended up shaping his life and becoming the thirst he
could never quench. The power of it moved over his body like a light and he closed
his eyes and rode it with her. Last time it had been centered around Tess and Jack,
but not this time. It was all Tess, and yet more. Kyle’s heart stopped as he felt the
baby almost like a flushing, a knowing...his son. His and Max’s. He felt the
connection and genetics didn’t matter; this baby was his, too.
He dropped his head on her chest trying to catch his breath, and listened to
her heart pound and then gradually slowed down to a normal beat against his
467

cheek. He finally raised his head to kiss her softly, a small wave washing over them,
reminding them where they were.
Tess closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of the bed beneath her, the man above
her and the sounds and smell of them together. It felt complete, and yet they were
still missing Jack. That hit her for a second, but in a rush it also felt like he was still
there. For the first time in two years she felt better, and the first time in almost ten
years, complete.
"Is Michael going to kill us for doing this here?" she asked curiously.
Kyle picked his head up once more, amused. "Yes," he replied, "But I'll see
what Maria can do to calm him down." Tess laughed and stretched against him.
“You done?” she asked mischievously.
Kyle join his hand to hers, intertwining their fingers, and pinning it above her
head, as he looked down their nude sweaty bodies still joined. Her leg came up to
run her white silky thigh along the outside of his hips as her foot found the back of
his thigh and ran down it.
“Not for a long, long time. I was just letting you get your breath back. If
Guerin’s going to kill us, lets make sure our offense is a big one.”
Tess giggled at Kyle’s goofy smile and the light of the devil in his eyes. “In for
a penny, in for a pound?"
Kyle quickly scrambled to his knees between her legs and pushed her harder
back into the tumbled pillows with her golden curls spread across them. He looked
at her swollen mouth and the way her tongue came out to touch her lips as her
eyes narrowed, sending his heart racing out of control.
He pulled her hips up higher to him, burying his renewing erection in deeper
as she groaned his name. Leaning down, he outlined her mouth with his tongue

468

before sinking it inside. He loved the way she moved her whole body sensually
around his, almost like a cat, her nails biting into his skin.
“Definitely, Tessie. Definitely a pound...lots of pounds.”
While they were otherwise engaged, Mr. Booboo had slowly crawled out from
behind the armoire, after hearing the heated argument and the sounds of heavy
breathing and lovemaking. He finally felt safe enough to come out. Okay, so they
weren’t his own pets, but they were curiously similar and familiar. He jumped up in
his favorite cushioned lounger and went about the business of personal care. While
licking his paw and washing behind his ears, his eyes caught the gleam of a set of
keys on the floor.

~~~

Max parked his car in the lot of Senor Chows. The lot was almost full. It was
busy for a Saturday night and looking at his watch, he knew he was already ten
minutes late. Entering the restaurant, he stood in line to get to the hostess when he
felt eyes on him. Turning, he stared into the eyes of Jonathan Stiller. Taking a
calming breath, he walked over to join him at a table in the bar.
“Sorry, I’m late.” Max said. He wasn’t going to admit to being confused as to
what to wear on a ‘date’ with a man, so he opted for jeans and a sweater.
“No problem. The wait is long, but we should be up soon.” Jonathan discreetly
nodded at the bartender who then went to talk to the hostess. Soon she came over
to tell them their table was ready. “You want something from the bar?”
“Just a mineral water. I don’t really drink much. Half a beer is my limit.” Max
said, distractedly looking at the other diners, self-conscious of being with a man.

469

“Cheap date.” Jonathan commented watching Max’s startled reaction to the
word ‘date’.
“Um...”
“Look, Max, this is just a social meeting, a get-together. I swear I won’t even
try to make a move on you.” Jonathan smiled at Max to reassure him. “Just loosen
up. Would you be so worried or concerned if it was Guerin sitting across from you
eating dinner?”
Max just shook his head. Jonathan had a point. If it was he and Michael
catching a meal, he wouldn’t even look to see how other people were taking two
men dining together. He wasn’t worried about Jonathan trying to kiss him as much
as he was worried about him trying to kiss Jonathan.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Okay, so if this isn’t too presumptuous of me, can I order for us? It’s just a
habit of mine, and most people let me have my way.” Max just shrugged. Sure,
whatever. It wasn’t like he was going to taste anything anyway.
By the time the food arrived, Max had calmed down a little, and was leaning
back listening to Jonathan talk. The man was entertaining, that was certain. And
when Max saw the large amount of food that hit the table he was astounded.
“You’re not related to Maria by some strange chance? A lost brother or
something?” Jonathan just laughed.
“No, I assure you, Maria and I have no common stock among us. Though she
is my favorite friend. We could talk and eat for hours, and it’s never a dull moment.
I think that’s why I was so fascinated with her when we first met.” Jonathan popped
another bite in his mouth and motioned to the waitress asking for more guacamole
and sweet and sour sauce. “She was so familiar to me, and later I realized that I
was seeing some of me in her. Nothing like an affair with yourself. Oscar Wilde
470

wrote in one of his plays, ‘that a love of oneself is the beginning of a life-long love
affair’."
Max just laughed. He could see some common traits between Jonathan and
Maria, but some major differences too. “Well I have to admit, my life changed since
I met her, and not just because of how it affected Michael, but other ways too. So
far, all the changes have been to the good.”
“So this kiss thing. It threw you for a loop?” Jonathan asked, curious how the
usually unflappable Max Evans was taking a change in lifestyle.
“Yeah.” Max rubbed his neck. “I’m just not sure...”
“Well let me help you out.” Jonathan said, and he moved in closer on the table.
“I’m not gay. I’m not opposed to same-sex relationships, but when I go looking for
companionship of a sexual nature, it’s usually female.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you...” Max felt the heat running up his
face, feeling that he had made a mistake and insulted Jonathan.
“Stop it. I asked for your number first. I won’t lie. That kiss, it piqued my
interest.” Jonathan watched Max squirm a little in his seat. “And I would be a fool to
walk away from all possibilities. I don’t think the heart sees sex or race like our
heads do. So I don’t want to shut the door without looking inside first, if you know
what I mean.”
“I do.” Max said quietly. That was exactly what Maria said--she’d always want
to know. “I just don’t think I'm ready for anything real earth-shattering right now.
My private life, it’s pretty messed up lately. Add in the fact that I’m expecting a
child in about six months, and you can see my dilemma.”
“Congrats on the kid. I didn’t know you were involved.”
“I’m not, or at least not any longer. My ex-girlfriend just sort of hit me over
the head with it a few days ago. Part of me is still waiting for the reality to sink in,
471

and the other part of me...” Max looked around and leaned on the table closer to
Jonathan, “the other part of me has been stopping in baby shops all week looking
at clothes, toys and stuff.”
Jonathan laughed at that. “I can imagine. It’s like an alien world.”
“Yeah, and those shops...they smell like babies already.” Max sat back and
relaxed and enjoyed the conversation with Jonathan. It wasn’t quite the same as
talking to Michael, but close. He never noticed how Michael looked in his clothes, or
watched Michael's hands, or watched Michael eat. Max could find himself drowning
in the fascination of this powerful man, and he didn’t know what to do about it.
They played four games of pool and Jonathan won all four of them, leaving
Max much lighter in his wallet. But since Jonathan had picked up the dinner tab,
Max didn’t complain too much. They sat on the side of the room resting on their
pool cues and arguing over the last game they both watched, disagreeing on the
outcome. Jonathan pointed out a woman dining with a group and mentioned he
once dated her. Max laughed and said he had dated her too. They started swapping
dating stories.
When they said goodnight, Max walked to his car and smiled to himself. That
wasn’t so painful. Actually it was fun. He just opened his car and was about to get
in when a tap came on his shoulder. Turning he saw Jonathan standing there.
“I’m sorry. I forgot. I owed you this.”
He touched his tongue to the side of Max’s mouth and licked the rough, salty
skin. As Max tried to catch his shuddering breath Jonathan put both his hands on
Max’s face, framing it. He tilted his head to meet his lips fully. Jonathan joined his
mouth to Max’s and tasted him again. His lips and his teeth and his questing
tongue, desire growing until it was a hum to match the roiling of the blood in his
veins, Max just stood there suspended in Jonathan's hands, moaning deep in his
472

throat, with a throbbing pulse like a bass drum. Max pushed him back, shoulders
gripped in his hands. Trailing his fingers across the clean crisp peaks of his starched
shirt.
“Goodnight, Detective.” Jonathan smiled and casually walked away as Max
stood there shocked, as he touched his mouth with his fingertips. Well hell, that
just complicated things again!

~~~Continued in Book 2 of The Killing Jar~~~

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