(Stand back, folks, they're at it again
A note from Ashley Calvert:
Okay guys, we had a lot of fun with A Joint Venture. But, predictably,
we got bored and within the first week of finishing it and decided to
start this one. So this isn't really a sequel, but our characters (E.J.
Ramis and Claudia Reid) are showing up again. And if you've read A Joint
Venture (then I love you!) then you're probably scared this one will
be as long. 'Fraid not, folks. AJV was near 100 pages, this one's only
about half that. And also, you may be wondering, 'Can they write a story
where no one goes to the hospital?' The answer is
no. We're working
on it. My thank you kindly's go out to Ben and Michele, two people who
may never realize just how big of an encouragement they were. Also my
Mom, who helpfully pointed out that bacon does *not* explode, but potatoes
do, so I had to have E.J. blow up the homefries instead of the bacon,
(you'll figure it out when you read the story), and my co-author/cohort
in crime for being my inspiration, accomplice, encouragement, and friend.
("Let's mess with their heads!")
A note from Ashley Sametz:
Hey, howcome you got to do yours first...? Oh well. Ditto on what Ash
said. RayK warning! What can we say, we love the guy. TYK's to my mum,
who is a great help when it comes to the medical procedures(we use a
lot of them), my Barbara's buddies, Kitt, Oasis and Freak, who I can
always throw an idea at, and have one even more insane thrown back(No,
no Assley, *this* is crazy...) that kind man on the HMCS Haida who told
me all about those flag signals, my uncle, who is a great help when it
comes to the police terminology, and Cody, who gets me out of the house
twice a day. And last, but never least, my Alterash. I couldn't ask for
a better person to write with, mess with peoples heads with, call a Damn
Yankee, or say "Oh..I've been drinking.." to.
A Joint Venture II: Code 207
Ashley Sametz and Ashley Calvert, 1998
"He's making you
work Friday night?"
Claudia Reid nodded sadly.
"Yup, that's Benny for you." Francesca Vecchio shook her head
sympathetically. Constable Benton Fraser and Detective Ray Vecchio walked
up to Claudia and Francesca.
"Claudia, Ray and
I are going out to investigate a hit-and-run. Would you two like anything?"
Francesca put on a charming
smile. "Fraser, that's so kind of you to offer. I'd love a French-vanilla
She shook her head and
continued typing. "Unless you can get me out of working tonight,
nope. Thanks anyway though."
Fraser looked at his
Goddaughter. "Claudia I've already told you I don't like you staying
home alone when I'm working late."
"I know, I know.
Go, investigate. Have fun." Claud sighed.
"Well, see you two
later," Ray said to the girls. He and Fraser waved to them, and
then left the station. Claudia let out another sigh.
"It's so boring
doing desk-duty. All we get to do is paperwork."
"I know Claudia,
that's the way it always is. Men go out and have fun, and we women do
the dirty work." They went back to their typing.
replied, engrossed in her typing.
"This thing just
came up on my screen."
"What's it say?"
"Incoming File transfer.
File unknown. And there's another one that says 'Files will commence
termination in 50 seconds...48...'"
Claudia shot up out of
her chair. "Someone's deleting our files!" she cried. "Where's
the panic disk?" she yelped, thumbing through the disk case.
"What's a panic
disk?!" Francesca shouted.
"A disk you use
when you're panicking! How much time do we have left before the files
are gone?" said Claudia, frenzied, still searching for the disk.
"Where is the damn
thing?!" she muttered, throwing stuff out of her desk at record
breaking speed. "Found it!" she yelled, holding a disk up triumphantly.
Claudia jammed the disk into the hard drive, and quickly hit a number
of buttons. The computer froze, and then turned off.
"What just happened?"
Claudia shook her head.
"I don't know. What were you doing?" Claudia sank into her
"Ummm, I was retrieving
new files. Welsh was waiting for some background files to be sent to
"Did you go to any
"No. I just typed
in the address, typed in a code to access the Chicago PD headquarters
mainframe, and all these garbage characters popped up on the screen."
"Then a file was
being sent to me, and another application started deleting everything.
Do you think it did anything?"
"I don't know. Re-boot
the computer, see what happened. Wait. Is the modem internal, or external?"
"On this one? External.
Yours is internal. I should unplug it?" Claudia nodded. Francesca
poked around under the desk, and unplugged the modem. She then flicked
back on the computer, and hit the switch on the monitor. The screen lit-up,
and Franny sat in her chair.
on my desktop."
on the icon, and a file opened up. It was blank.
She told Claudia.
"Type in the password
for the Chicago PD headquarters' files." Francesca did so, and the
document opened. "What is it?"
she said. "Nothing but names....But I know all of them. They're
all gang members." Claudia leaned forward, and put her glasses on.
She stared at the screen.
"What gang do they
"Not one specific
one..."said Franny as she scrolled down the page. "A whole
bunch....The Cryps, La Familia
"Who's got connections
to all these gangs?" Claudia asked. "It's gotta be his information."
Italian-Hispanic guy. Has more connections than.... well, he's got a
lot of connections."
"O.K., exit the
Francesca pressed a number
of buttons, and then escape. But instead of exiting the program, more
appeared on the screen.
Pin numbers, rendezvous
points, telephone numbers and addresses appeared on the screen beside
almost all the names. Printed in the top left margin of the file was
the word "Xlist".
"What did you hit?"
"I don't know. I
think I skipped a button," explained Francesca.
"Do you know what
this is?" Claudia stated, not asked. "We've got almost every
single person who's a part of organized crime in front of us. When this
file began to transfer, he probably tried to wipe it out. That's why
everything was going to delete." Claudia thought for a moment. "Save
it to disk."
Francesca pulled a Memorex
disk out of her file cabinet, and saved it as 'xlist.txt', in read-only
format. She then checked to make sure none of the files had been erased.
"Hey, Claudia. Do
you think Fraser'll be impressed enough to take me out to dinner?"
Lt. Welsh looked up from
his elegantly layered sandwich. He carefully eyed the two anxious-looking
females that were now blocking the door to his office.
"Yes, Ms. Vecchio?"
Francesca and Claudia took this as permission to enter. Franny quickly
sat down and tapped the black plastic disk on his desk. She grinned at
him. "What might this be, Ms. Vecchio?" Welsh asked with typical
"That might just
be the most unbelievably valuable information you've ever seen, Lieutenant,"
Francesca said, beaming. She placed the disk in front of his tie. Welsh
raised an eyebrow at the disk.
"Sir, someone tried
to hack into one of our computers and upload a major deleteall file.
We managed to stop the transfer in time, and when we rebooted, this file
was left. It should have been erased with the rest of the files, but
since we intercepted the nuke, it was left on the desktop instead,"
"And what's in the
file?" Welsh said, his visible skepticism apparently decreasing.
Franny said, leaning forward. "Absolutely everything."
safehouse addresses, leader profiles
of every detrimental guy in
Chicago," Claudia told him.
Harmful, unfavorable....you know, detrimental."
"In this disk?"
the Lieutenant asked. They nodded. Welsh slowly looked down at the diskette
and picked it up. He examined it closely.
"I'll check it out,"
Welsh said flatly. He looked up. "Well, Ms. Vecchio, if this file
is as unbelievably valuable as you claim," he said, a small approving
smile forming on his face, "I think you two earned yourselves a
No, I'm Francesca
"Claudia, mia figlia,"
Mrs. Vecchio said, greeting Claudia with a wet kiss on the forehead.
"How are you?"
Claudia smiled at the
large, loving woman beside her. "I'm great, Mrs. V. How are you?"
Claudia and Francesca draped a huge quilt over the fold-out bed in the
"I am fine, Claudia.
Are you sure you'll be comfortable in the guest room?" Franny threw
a few fluffy pillows upon the bed.
"I'm sure, Mrs.
V.," Claudia replied graciously.
"Because you can
have Francesca's room, if you'd rather," Mrs. Vecchio continued.
hissed. "She'll be fine!"
"All right. Just
let me know if you need anything, Claudia," said Francesca's mother.
"This is really
wonderful, Mrs. Vecchio. Thank you very much."
Mrs. Vecchio kissed her daughter and her daughter's younger companion
goodnight, then retired to her own bedroom.
Francesca said. "I'm right across the hallway if you need anything.
Goodnight." She left Claudia in the bedroom and closed the door
behind her. Claudia sighed and sat down on the hide-away bed. She laid
back on the pillows and covered herself with the warm, blue hand-stitched
quilt. She leaned over, clicked off the table lamp, and closed her eyes.
Several hours passed.
Claudia was slowly awoken by the sound of voices carrying through the
thin walls of the Vecchio home. As her level of consciousness increased,
Claudia realized the voices, unfamiliar, were coming from Franny's room.
She sat up sharply in her bed and listened.
She couldn't make out
any words, but she knew for certain they were not the voices of any of
the Vecchio's. Claudia quickly shot out of bed, pulled on her jeans,
and left the room.
whispered harshly, knocking on Francesca's door. The voices abruptly
subsided. She knocked again, this time opening the door and entering
the dark room. "What "
There was a gun in her
back. She realized with shame that she had made a bit of a tactical blunder.
a deep, male voice breathed. Claudia froze, wide-eyed. There were four
men in the room, all dressed in dark black apparel. Two of them appeared
to be rooting through Franny's belongings, one of them was pointing a
gun at Francesca, and the fourth was hidden in the corner, holding a
gun to Claudia's back.
"Who are you?"
the same voice demanded. Claudia did not respond at all. She tried to
look at Francesca for an explanation, but Franny was staring wide-eyed
at the two men digging into her bureau.
"Which one of you
is Francesca Vecchio?" ordered the other man with a gun. Franny
and Claudia quickly glanced at each other.
"I am," both
of them said together. Franny looked at Claudia, dumbfounded. She shook
her head violently.
"No, I am,"
Francesca told the men. One of the men stepped out of Franny's closet
to inspect the two females.
"No, no," Claudia
insisted. "*I'm* Francesca Vecchio." Franny opened her mouth,
baffled, to speak again, but was interrupted by the man directly in front
told them, annoyed. "Whichever one of you two broads is Francesca
Vecchio, answer this "
replied toughly. Franny shot her a bewildered look.
"Where's the disk?"
the man finished.
asked Franny. She was jabbed fiercely in the stomach with the nose of
"You know damn well
what disk. The disk with the Xlist! Where is it?"
"We don't have it!
We Hey, that is *cashmere*, pal!" Francesca cried at the
man throwing her clothes to the floor. He ignored her and continued his
"If you don't have
it, where is it?" the second voice croaked. He received silence
as his answer.
"It's not here,"
the man in Franny's closet told him. The man behind Claudia snorted angrily.
he said bitterly. "Unless you can produce the disk right now, you
two are going for a little ride with us."
She Was Probably Kidnapped
"Hey, Claudia! Open
Fraser opened the door
to his apartment. "Hello, E.J.!" he greeted the girl pleasantly.
E.J. Ramis stepped into the apartment and returned his warm smile.
"Hey, Fraser. Is
Claudia ready yet?" Fraser shook his head.
"No, actually, she's
not here. She called last night to say that she was spending the night
with the Vecchios, so she's probably at the station right now,"
"Yes, I was working
late last night, so she stayed there." E.J. looked disappointed.
"We got hockey tickets
for this afternoon, I wish she had called me first. Now I have to truck
all the way over to the precinct to find her," E.J. grumbled.
"I'm going out now,
but I'll show you to the payphone outside the building, if you'd like,"
Fraser said, escorting her back out the door and shutting it behind him.
"Yeah, thank you,"
E.J. said. As they exited the building, Fraser handed her a quarter
and directed to the phone booth half a block away. Fraser courteously
left her alone and waited patiently outside as she made the call. E.J.
entered the small phone booth, picked up the phone and dialed Ray's cell
phone. Ray picked up and sniffed loudly in here ear.
he said groggily.
"Hey Ray, it's me,"
E.J. said. "Is Claudia there yet?" There was a pause.
"Well, I don't see
her, so I guess not," Ray replied. E.J. groaned.
"Great, just great,"
she murmured. "If she shows up before I get there, tell her I'm
giving away her ticket, okay?" Ray laughed at her.
he said. They hung up.
E.J. hung up the
plastic black phone and left the small booth. "She's not there yet,"
she told Fraser. "She was probably kidnapped, and forgot all about
our plans." She let out a dramatic sigh. "I'll be going then.
See ya, Fraser." E.J. said.
"Good bye, E.J.,"
Fraser replied. "Have fun at your hockey game."
"Why the hell isn't
Franny here yet? She's gotta do my firearms reports!" whined Ray
that afternoon. "And where's Claud? Oh man, I bet they're out shopping.
Fraser, I feel sorry for you. One trip with Franny and she's gonna become
Fraser looked up from
the book he was reading. "Ray, I'm sure they're not out shopping."
"Then where are
Ray picked up the phone,
and barked into it, "Franny, this better be good." He was surprised
to hear Mrs. Vecchio's voice on the other end of the line.
Mrs. Vecchio began, "Where is Francesca? I never saw her and Claudia
leave this morning."
Ray was silent for a
moment. "Wait, you mean they were gone when you got up?"
"She isn't at the
station? Where is my bambino? Why did she leave so early?"
"Mrs. Ve-uh, Ma,
calm down. I'm sure nothing happened to her. Look, you just sit tight,
and Fraser and I'll figure something out."
"But Raymondo, my
baby is missing! File a report! Do something!"
"Look, Ma, I can't.
I mean, not yet at least. I've gotta wait 24 hours before I file a missing
persons report. And we don't even know if she's missing. She probably
found out that The Shoe Emporium was having a midnight madness sale or
something. Don't worry."
Mrs. Vecchio cried. "Raymondo, I will worry! My baby is lost! I
don't know where she is!"
"Ma! Would you relax!?
Nothing's happened to Francesca!"
Fraser looked worriedly
at Ray. Ray shook his head at Fraser, and went back to calming his 'mother'.
"Ma! I promise!
No, I can't go looking for her right now, I've got other things do!"
Ray nodded, anger registering on his face. "Yeah, I'm sure he would
too." He slammed the phone down so hard it bounced off the hook.
"That woman drives me nuts sometimes! I mean, I'm not....forget
Fraser looked at his
friend and frowned . "Mrs. Vecchio doesn't know where they are either?"
Ray shook his head.
"But I'm sure they're
fine. I mean, with Franny's annoying voice, and Claudia's brains, who'd
mess with them?"
Fraser didn't seem convinced.
Frnunny, Stup Conpaining
"Jesus Christ, what
kind of cheap rope did these morons buy?! The stuff is cutting into my
"Frnunny, stup conpaining."
Claudia said to Francesca, struggling to get the gag out of her mouth.
"And do you think
they could *get* a smaller car? I mean, this trunk is worse than our
spat the bandanna out of her mouth and squirmed around in the trunk.
She was hoping she would be able to pull out the wires connected to the
brake lights and hope a police officer would stop them, and search the
trunk. But since it was so dark, and cramped, she doubted she would be
able to reach them.
"...And man, does
it smell in here, what did they used to do, haul hadavers around in here?"
cadavers." Claudia was beginning to wish they had gagged Franny
more tightly. She shifted around a little, trying to free her hands with
no prevail. The mental image that kept coming to mind was being stuffed
Troy McCallister's locker after drama practice the week before. She shuddered.
"Okay Franny, I
need you to do something," Claudia told her. Franny gave her the
best too-weak-and-feminine-to-do-something-hard look she could muster.
said. "I can barely even breathe in this salmon can."
forget it," Claudia said. "You have to do this, it's the only
chance we have out."
Franny replied crabbily, "What's your brilliant plan?"
"You have to get
my Swiss Army knife out of my left pocket so we can cut off these ropes,"
Claudia told her. "Do you think you can do that?"
The two of them took several minutes, struggling against the confines
of the trunk. At last Claudia managed to roll over so her back was facing
toward Francesca, although this was not accomplished without some measure
of pain. Claudia's left arm was wedged very tightly between her side
and the floor of the trunk. Franny was still busy struggling behind her.
asked, straining as hard as she could to see behind her. There was very
minimum light inside the trunk, Claudia's own legs were nothing more
than dim shadows.
Francesca replied. She tried her best to hobble on her side to reach
for Claudia's pocket. She accidentally rolled onto her face when she
lifted her arm up behind her own back. "Ugh!" she shrieked.
"I think I'm stuck!"
"Just get the knife
out, once my hands are free I'll help you up!" Claudia whispered
back harshly. Reluctantly, Franny fumbled until one hand managed to make
it's way into Claudia's pocket. She retrieved the knife.
"Got it," she
replied. "Open it."
Franny said. "It's too dark!"
"Well then give
it to me!" Claudia shot back, her patience weakening. There was
a soft clunk. A pause followed.
"Give me the knife."
"I dropped it."
"Well pick it up!"
"I can't see a thing,
Claud. I, um
"I don't know where
Claudia buried her face
deep into the carpet of the trunk to muffle her frustrated scream.
"Oh, this is great!
Now *Ray* is gone, too!" E.J. cried, throwing her hands in the air,
defeated. She peeked behind Ray's desk, looking to see if anyone might
be hiding from her. "This is wonderful. I'm never going to get to
see the Hawks, I know it," she grumbled, putting her hands on her
hips in disgust.
called out. Dewey was positioned in front of Lt. Welsh's door. He smiled
"Hey, E.J.! What's
shaking?" he replied to the tense-looking teenager in front of him.
She let out a garbled growl.
"Um, where's Ray?"
"Ray went to the
Vecchio's place. Franny and your pal are missing." E.J.'s eyes widened
"They are? Where
are they?" Dewey gave her a very blank look. He knocked on the top
of E.J.'s head, as if testing to see if anyone was home.
she replied, abashed. "So where's Fraser?"
"He went with Ray."
"Oh," she said
slowly. "Um, do they know what happened to them?"
Dewey replied. He checked his watch. "Ah, I gotta go. I'll see you
around, kid," he said. She sighed.
"Yeah, see you,
Dewey." He exited the station.
You Get Them Back, Caro
Ray breathed as he entered Francesca's room. "I think I have an
idea of what happened to them
" Clothes were strewn all over
the bed and floor, and all of the shelves in Franny's bureau had been
opened, some laying on the ground. Her room looked like it had fallen
victim to a tornado.
Mrs. Vecchio cried, smacking Ray in the back of the head. "You see
what I tell you? My bambino is gone, she's gone!"
"I'm sorry, Mrs.
uh, Ma. You were right," Ray apologized, covering the now-aching
spot on his head. "Look at this, Frase, all the signs of forced
entry. They were abducted."
Fraser cocked his head
curiously as he made his way into the bedroom. He moved to the window,
which was predictably unlocked and still well-open. He turned to Ray
and nodded. "I think you're right. But who would want to abduct
Francesca and Claudia?"
Like a sign from God,
Ray's cell phone rang at that same moment. He popped the lid open.
he answered. His eyes grew wide as he listened to the person on the other
end. The room filled with silence as Ray listened to the caller. "Yeah,
okay," he said. "We'll be there soon." He flipped the
lid of the phone shut and put it away.
he said, "we got our answer. We gotta get to the station."
"Who was that?"
replied. "The abductors called the station. C'mon, pitter patter,
let's get at 'er."
Fraser asked, surprised. "Who are they?"
"Ever hear of Campitelli-Fernendez?"
Ray asked him. Fraser shook his head no. "One of the biggest gangsters
in Chicago. Come on, we gotta go right now." Ray moved out the door
and Fraser followed him. Before he could exit, Mrs. Vecchio placed both
of her hands on the chest of his tunic and stopped him.
said weakly. Fraser looked down at the woman before him. "Please,
Benton, get my Francesca back."
Fraser took the poor
woman's hands in his own and gave her a reassuring look. "We will,
Mrs. Vecchio. I will do everything in my power to get your daughter back,
you have my word." Mrs. Vecchio looked as if she was about to cry.
Fraser instinctively brought her in to a hug, and she started to sob.
"That's your baby
out there with my baby, isn't it, caro
" she said. "It's
so hard to be the parent, Benton."
"Yes it is, ma'am."
"You get them back,
caro. Bring them to safety," she said, releasing her hold on Fraser.
He nodded assuredly.
I'm sorry, sir. It's dead.
"That's, um, that's
that's not good."
"No Ray, I think
that's quite bad, actually."
Ray and Fraser crouched
over Lt. Welsh's desk. The three of them stared at Welsh's computer screen,
it's deleting your hard drive, sir."
"I see that, Ray,
Ray scratched the back
of his head, curious to find a solution. Fraser stood upright and folded
his arms over his chest, thinking.
"Do you have a panic
disk, sir?" Fraser asked. Welsh turned behind him and eyed the Mountie
"What's a panic
"Well, sir, it's
a disk that one would use to stop a virus. E.g., a panic disk would be
used when one is
The glowing computer
screen read "C: DELETALL 79%". Lt. Welsh pursed his lips together
and rubbed his chin.
"Claudia would know
what to do."
The three continued staring
at the screen. The percentage bar was still filling itself up.
"Well, how about
"Sir, you didn't
have anything terribly important on this computer, did you?"
"Oh, no, Constable.
Nothing terribly important, no. Just a couple of files and whatnot."
Fraser leaned over the
desk again. He knew for certain he should have educated himself properly
on viruses and their elimination. He shook his head in shame.
"Sir, you didn't
perchance invest in a Zip drive, did you?"
"Uh, I think it's
The computer's screen
went all black. The only noise left in Lt. Welsh's office was that of
the soft hum coming from the near-dead machine.
"Well, that didn't
hurt too much," Welsh said, pressing the white reboot button on
the front of his computer. The computer screen flickered for a moment,
then went back to black. The hum gave a pause, then resumed.
"I'm sorry, sir.
It's dead," the Mountie told him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Welsh sighed and hung his head.
the Xlist couldn't be copied," Ray said.
the Lieutenant replied.
"We're meeting the
abductors tonight in Daley Plaza. They want us to bring the disk and
ten thousand dollars in exchange for Franny and your Goddaughter,"
Welsh told them. "They said they want minimum officers there or
"We giving them
the real disk?" Ray asked.
"No. I'm guessing
by the time they figure out it's a fake, we'll have Franny and the kid
"So sir, who will
be accompanying you to meet these
gangsters?" Fraser inquired.
Welsh turned around to face the pair.
"You two, Huey,
and Dewey," he replied. "You can go home, get yourselves some
vests, and be back here at 6:30."
Fraser said. He held the door open for Ray and exited the office.
"Come on, dammit
work!" Claudia whispered angrily at the wires she was
tugging at. She twisted her body around and squinted, trying desperately
to see the wires that triggered the brake lights. No such luck. She couldn't
even see her hands that were squished tightly in front of her face.
"Let's go, MacGyver.
We haven't got all day," Franny whined.
"Shut UP, Franny!"
Claudia barked, exasperated. Francesca had no idea Claudia could become
so irritable, but then again, being trapped within the confines of a
three-foot trunk with another full-grown woman could do that to a person.
Claudia tugged at the wires again and listened carefully. At last, she
heard the faint metallic clicking of a brake lights flashing outside
the trunk. She breathed a sigh of relief, her plan might just work after
An hour and a half went
by of incessant pulling at that damned wire. Soon, Claudia kept telling
herself, soon someone will see these faulty brake lights flashing and
pull these guys over. Soon.
Her arm was cramping
up very, very badly. She shifted arms again, and resumed tugging. Another
hour passed. Claudia was on the brink of sleep, she didn't think she
could manage pulling on that blasted wire any longer
maybe if she
just closed her eyes for a second. She wouldn't stop yanking the wire,
she'd just close her eyes. Just for a second
The car stopped. Claudia's
eyes shot wide open and she listened very carefully to the noises occurring
outside the car.
hissed, kneeing her. "Wake up!" Francesca's eyes fluttered
open. They both became still and silent.
"Excuse me, sir
"Is there a problem,
officer?" Claudia realized what was going on. Her plan had actually
screamed. "Officer!! Help! In the trunk!! HELP!" She began
pounding on the lid of the trunk with her fists. Franny did the same.
The two were pounding and screaming. Outside of the car, the police officer
had become more than curious, the faulty brake light forgotten.
"Sir, would you
mind opening the trunk for me?" Teo Campitelli-Fernendez reluctantly
stepped out of the car.
"We're in here!!"
Franny screamed. The two were both yelling and kicking as hard as they
could. They knew by now the officer would come to their rescue.
Claudia was interrupted
by the sound of gunshot. The outside suspicion had ceased. She realized
with an incredibly intense fear that her plan had failed. She could feel
her face and the back of her neck break out into a cold sweat as she
realized with horror there would be consequences to pay.
trunk door opened and two huge, fierce-looking brutes grabbed them roughly
and hauled them out of the trunk. Claudia could only manage to stagger,
since her legs were weak and horribly cramped up. A man with black, angry
eyes was glaring at both of them.
"What the fuck was
that about, ladies? Huh?!" he snarled. "Either of you know
why my brake lights have been randomly flashing on and off?"
Both Francesca and Claudia
met his question by staring down at the road. Neither of them had any
idea where they were, but it was someplace barren. There was no moving
vehicle to be seen anywhere on the long stretches of road behind and
in front of them.
"I asked you a question!"
he snapped viciously. Neither replied. When Claudia gained the courage
to look up, she saw a cop car about ten feet behind them. About two feet
behind their own car was a police officer lying still in the road in
a pool of dark blood. She forced herself to look away.
"I'm going to make
sure neither one of you pulls a stunt like this again," he growled
at them. "Harris," he said, motioning towards Francesca. The
thug apparently entitled "Harris" nodded at Teo, then took
a firm hold of Franny's arm and yanked her away. He coarsely escorted
her to the opposite side of the car. Teo looked Claudia right in the
eye and glared at her.
was now very afraid for her own life. She held very still and silently
prayed for protection.
The next thing she knew,
her head had been slammed fiercely against the closed trunk lid. She
let out of cry of pain as the bright white stars flashed sharply in her
eyes. She struggled to stand upright, groggy. When she did so she was
knocked to the gravel by a strong blow to her face. She winced and fought
as hard as she could to hold back her tears. Before she could even regain
her strength, she was grabbed quickly by the back of her t-shirt and
jerked painfully back to her feet.
*Please don't let him hit me again,* she prayed. She was snapped around
and was faced in the opposite direction. Teo pushed Claudia's head back
to the lid of the trunk again, although not nearly as sharply as the
first time. She winced in pain. She could feel her arms being pulled
behind her back and her hands being tied together tightly. She mustered
the energy to look up slightly, and saw that Franny was experiencing
the same hell that she was. She saw Harris hit Franny in the face, which
sent Franny to the gravel.
was yanking on Claudia's shirt now. At least, she thought it was him
her vision was blurry. Why was it blurry? Where was she again? She could
feel herself being backed into the front of a large man behind her
he forced one of those horrible bandannas back into her mouth and tied
it behind her head, too tightly. She didn't want to be gagged. She just
well, right now she just wanted an aspirin. She couldn't
stand up straight. She
Claudia lost consciousness.
Fernendez picked up her limp body and pushed her back into the trunk.
Fraser drummed his fingers impatiently on Lt. Welsh's desk. Ray looked
at him, his eyes clearly saying, 'stop before I punch you.'
"Sorry Ray." Fraser placed his hands in his lap, and made a
quick glance at his watch. 6:28 p.m. The door opened, and Lt. Welsh poked
his head in the room.
"Lets go, boys." Ray and Fraser quickly got to their feet,
and exited the office with Huey, Dewey and two rookies in tow. They walked
briskly through the station to the parking lot. "Got the money?"
Dewey held up a black briefcase, and popped it open. Of course, it wasn't
*all* real, only the top and bottom bills in each stack, making the total
only about 200 dollars.
"Onwards," said Ray, eyes still on the money. "Fraser
an' I'll go in my Lex, Duck Boys, take Huey's car with Welsh. The uniforms
will take a marked car." The group nodded, and climbed into the
cars. After shouting a few last minute details to each other, they drove
off. Ray turned the radio on to some rock station, and followed Huey's
car to Daley Plaza. They traveled in silence.
Francesca and Claudia were tired. They were tired because of the lack
of sleep they got, they were tired because the sleep they *did* get was
on the floor of a boat house by the lakeshore, and they were tired of
being transported around Chicago in car trunks.
"Come on girlies, lets go for a little ride." One of the larger
thugs grabbed the girls by their arms and brought them to a standing
position. He lead them to a white, un-marked van, with a large storage
space in the back.
"Let me guess," said Claudia. "That's where we go."
"No," said the man, "but that's a good idea." He
threw them into the back of the vehicle, and slammed the double doors.
"Nice going, Claud," said Francesca, bringing herself into
a sitting position, a formidable task, seeing her arms were tied behind
"Francesca, shut up. They were going to throw us back here anyway."
"Typical geeks," mused Franny, stretching her legs in front
of her. It took a moment for Claudia to understand.
"Goons, Franny, goons."
"Goons, geeks, freaks of nature, whatever. You know what I mean."
Franny leaned back against the side of the van, and sighed. "Do
you think Fraser'll be at the inchange?" Claudia kept herself from
"Doesn't he work at the Consulate?"
"He does. But usually nights. Or sentry duty. You know, when he
stands in front of the building, like a fire hydrant when Thatcher is
pissed at him? That happens a lot." Francesca nodded, and stared
down at her feet. An engine roared to life, and they soon became aware
that they were moving. Claudia swung her arms under her legs, and held
onto a ladder hook that was in the back. Francesca tried the maneuver
as well, but couldn't manage to accomplish it. She let out a frustrated
"Franny!" Claudia hissed. "Relax!"
Francesca continued to squirm around the van. Claudia watched with mild
interest, and thought of possible escapes, but the thoughts were quickly
dashed as she realized that a sixteen year old girl was no match for
three middle aged men, armed to the teeth. She sighed, and closed her
eyes. Franny gave up, and also shut her eyes, hoping to catch up on her
A short while later, the van stopped. Claudia opened her eyes, and left
her state of semi-consciousness, and became aware of what was happening
around her. She kicked Francesca's leg gently.
She stirred. "Umm...?"
"Fran-cescaaa, we're heee-re," sang Claudia. Franny opened
her eyes, turned, and peered out the translucent window.
"But I don't see the cooo-ppps," said one of the goons, throwing
open the door. "Lets go, Francescas." He yanked them out of
the van, and mercilessly threw them onto the pavement. Claudia and Francesca
were becoming accustomed to this treatment. "Get up," he commanded
them. Claud got up without difficulty, as her arms were in an ordinary
position. Franny on the other hand...
"Ummph." She rolled onto her knees, and rocked back and forth,
gathering momentum. She finally got up after trying a few times. The
man grabbed the two hostages, and walked them to the front of the van.
He grabbed Claudia. "We tied your arms behind your back for a reason,"
he said, grabbing her jaw, and looking into her eyes.
"Man, invest in some Mentos," quipped Claudia, bringing her
hands up to her face, and fanning in front of her nose for emphasis.
The man smacked her. Franny winced.
"Shut up, you little bitch." Claudia reeled, and squinted her
eyes to re-focus them. The man re-tied Claudia's arms behind her back.
"Hey! Manny! The cops are here!" called one of the smaller
men from the side of the van. Manny turned his head, and saw the two
cars pulling up. He smiled, and grabbed the ransom by their arms. "Lets
go." Fernendez and one other man walked towards the cars, stopping
about 25 feet away from them. Welsh, Huey, Dewey, Fraser, Ray and two
uniforms got out of their cars.
"Gentlemen! So glad you could make it!" called Fernendez. Seeing
the briefcase and disk in Ray's hands, he smiled. "I see you brought
gifts! How thoughtful!" Ray handed the briefcase over to Fernendez,
then the disk.
"OK, where's our part of the bargain?" he asked the gangster.
Manny pulled Franny and Claudia out into view. Ray looked at them with
pity. "You two look like crap," he mused.
Fernendez snapped his fingers, and his 2 lackeys walked up beside him.
"Collateral," he said, pointing to Ray. They grabbed Ray by
the shoulders, and held him tightly. "Hope this is the real thing,
Lieutenant!" Fernendez called to Welsh. Fernendez opened his own
briefcase, and pulled out a laptop. Ray began to struggle. Fernendez
popped the disk in the hard drive, and shook his head. "Bad move
on your behalf, Lieutenant!" he called. He pulled out a .45 so quickly
no one noticed it until the shots were fired. Ray fell.
"Ray!" Francesca struggled against her abductors hold. She
bit his hand. He loosened his grip and cursed, but she still couldn't
get out of his grasp.
By this time, Welsh and his men, had drawn their weapons, but not fired,
for fear of hitting Francesca or Claudia. Manny threw Claudia and Francesca
back into the van and got in. Welsh then ordered to fire. Fernendez quickly
ran into the van, and was followed by the smaller man, but he was stopped
as a bullet his him in the shoulder. He stumbled, then fell. The van
sped away. Ray got up, and pulled his cuffs out of his back pocket. Welsh
went to assist him.
"I told you to wear a vest," he said.
"And I am eternally grateful," replied Ray.
How was I supposed to
The next day came, and
as predicted, Claudia and Francesca were once again bound, gagged, and
tossed into the back of a white van. By this time, the two of them didn't
even complain; they were simply obedient in the quiet hopes they would
not be so severely manhandled. However, on this particular road trip,
one of Fernendez's lackeys was accompanying the two hostages in the back
of the van. He sat opposite Francesca and Claudia, one hand on his gun,
the other on the floor of the van to brace himself. He seemed expressionless;
aside from the occasional apathetic glances he threw at the two women,
his eyes remained fixed on whatever it was that was so intriguing behind
Back in the station, Welsh was preparing his officers for one more excursion.
He silently ran through each of his men. Standing in his office was Ray
and the Mountie in the corner, Huey on his couch, and two blue and whites
leaning against a wall. That counted five, not including himself.
"Jack, where's Dewey?"
asked Welsh. Huey shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't think he
knows we're doing the second exchange today," Huey replied.
you be so kind
?" Welsh asked Fraser, motioning to go after
the missing officer.
"Yes, of course,
Lieutenant," Fraser replied graciously. He exited Welsh's office.
"So what's the plan,
sir?" asked one of the rookies.
"We give them the
disk, they give us the hostages. That's it," Welsh replied.
"And it's the real
disk this time?" Ray asked.
"Yeah. You all have
your vests on, right?" Welsh asked his officers. They all nodded.
"Good," he said. "Then we're just waiting on Dewey."
began hesitantly, "What if what if they don't give back the
"Then we fire. But
not before then, understand?" Welsh replied, nodding at the other
Ray said, a hint of disappointment showing through in his voice.
"It is," Welsh
A moment later, Dewey
walked into the office, escorted by Fraser. "Sorry about that,"
Dewey apologized. "I thought it would be somebody else's turn besides
me to do the second exchange."
"All right, let's
go," Welsh motioned.
the gangster sitting across from the hostages ordered tonelessly. Both
Francescas obediently hopped out of the van, stumbled to get their balance,
and awaited their next instruction. The goon looked for the signal from
Fernendez, and all three abductors started to move in the direction of
the awaiting police officers.
Fraser was the first
to notice how unhealthy both females looked. They were being escorted
roughly behind Fernendez, both of them pale and weak. When the gangsters
arrived in front of the cops, Fernendez gave Ray an acidic smile. Ray
glowered back at him bitterly.
"Nice to see you
again, gentlemen. You've brought the real disk this time, I presume?"
asked Fernendez, looking down at the black plastic disk Ray was holding
in his hand.
"Give us the hostages
first," commanded Ray, staring Fernendez right in the eye.
"Not so fast, Detective.
Why should we trust you?" Teo asked, turning behind him and yanking
Franny in front of him. He slowly pulled out his gun and brought it to
Francesca's neck. "I don't think we want to risk it. And I'm sure,
Detective, that you don't want to run any risks either," Teo said
in a low voice, cocking the gun against Franny's neck for extra emphasis.
"You son of a bitch
Ray growled. Fraser, sensing impending danger, immediately stepped forward
and placed a hand on Ray's shoulder. "
That's my sister!"
snarled Ray, lunging for Fernendez. Fraser and Welsh instantly grabbed
Ray and restrained him just as Fernendez's two goons reflexively pulled
out their guns. When the other officers saw the gangsters' weapons aimed,
they too also unthinkingly pulled out their guns and aimed them at the
Fernendez said in a very casual, voice. Ray, now thoroughly irritated,
began to relax, but did not take his eyes off Fernendez. Lt. Welsh and
Fraser released their grip on him. "We can settle this in a civilized
manner, can't we?" Fernendez un-cocked his gun but still held it
closely to Francesca's neck. With his other hand, he motioned for his
lackeys to lower their guns. They did so, and the officers reluctantly
withdrew theirs as well. "Now, Lieutenant, if you would kindly instruct
your officer to hand over the disk, and this can all be overwith."
Welsh hesitated, then
obliged. "Ray," he said, motioning towards the disk. Ray still
had not removed his eyes from Fernendez. Slowly, Ray uneagerly approached
one of Fernendez's goons and slapped the disk in the palm of his hand.
Fernendez made a "shoo" motion with the tip of his gun, and
Ray gradually backed up next to Fraser.
said. "The hostages."
Fernendez shook his head.
"Not just yet, Lieutenant. We want to make sure that you haven't
tried another stunt like yesterday." He snapped his fingers, and
the goon now in possession of the disk pulled a black laptop computer
out of his briefcase. The second goon, Manny, appeared from behind Fernendez,
gripping Claudia tightly in front of him.
All of the men waited in
silence as Fernendez's lackey inspected the disk.
"It's the real thing,"
he announced, shutting the laptop closed. Fernendez smiled maliciously.
said slowly. "We won't have to do this" In a heartbeat,
Fernendez had fired his gun. Three bullets escaped the .45 before he
shouted at the henchman with the disk, "Move!" The goon took
off in a run.
The officers looked in
horror to see where to shots had landed. Fraser and Ray reached to catch
Dewey's fall, just as he keeled forward, letting out a small cry of pain.
There was blood, blood everywhere, running from beneath his shirt.
Huey breathed, horrified. They gently placed Dewey on the ground, and
he coiled himself up tightly, his face wrenching in pain. The two uniforms
took off running after the goon with the disk. Ray and Welsh shot to
their feet, guns up and aimed at Fernendez and Manny.
"There was no cause
for that, Fernendez," Welsh said, trying hard to stay calm. Fernendez
appeared to have abandoned his casual façade, and had gained a
frighteningly menacing air about him. "Give us the hostages, now."
Fernendez took one look
behind him, detected where his van was, and immediately fired his gun
twice more. However, the bulletproof vests both Ray and Welsh were wearing
intercepted the bullets and the shots had little impact. Ray's adrenaline
was urging him badly to shoot back, but he had little faith that he would
be able to hit Fernendez, who was using Francesca as his shield. Fernendez
fired again, but this lucky bullet managed to find its way into Ray's
arm. Ray yelped in pain and he let out a loud curse.
Fernendez and Manny quickly
took off in a fast sprint to their van, using both Francesca and Claudia
as their armor. Ray, cringing from the hot sting of the bullet, took
off after them, Welsh close behind. Both Manny and Fernendez were now
firing openly at them, and, unable to fire back, they were forced to
retaliate. Ray looked down at his arm, which was covered with trickling
Welsh asked him, moving back towards Dewey. Ray followed him, slowly,
gripping his injured arm.
"Ah, no," Ray
replied, tightening the grip on his bleeding arm. He and Welsh knelt
down next to the badly wounded man lying on the pavement.
"How you doing,
Dewey?" Welsh asked uncertainly, not expecting an answer. The only
reply Dewey could give was an obscure murmur of pain.
"We need to get
him to a hospital right away," Fraser said. Huey nodded, pulled
out his cell phone, and dialed 911.
"Why wasn't he wearing
a vest?" Welsh demanded.
"Well sir, if you
remember, no one told him that we were going on the second exchange today.
So no one reminded him to put on a bulletproof vest, either. I blame
myself, I was the one who retrieved him from the break room," Fraser
"Where'd he get
hit?" asked Ray. He looked down at Dewey's severely bloodied front,
startled. Dewey's injuries were more severe than he thought.
"In the stomach,
I think. He might have taken one in the chest, I can't tell," Fraser
answered. Just as Huey hung up with the paramedics, Dewey briefly gave
a few more fierce twists of pain, then went limp on the concrete.
Huey cried. "Please, God, no
Fraser placed his hands
on Dewey's neck and checked for his pulse. "It's okay, Jack,"
the Mountie told him, Dewey's pulse beating very weakly beneath his fingers.
"He just lost consciousness, that's all. He's lost a lot of blood."
Huey was a very strong man, and it was a great change for the other men
to see him ready to crumble.
"I can't lose another
partner, I can't
he's my friend," Huey said, on the brink
of tears. "I can't lose him."
Ray removed a handkerchief
from his pocket and wrapped it tightly around the wound on his own arm.
Fraser pulled his glance away from Dewey momentarily to examine Ray's
"How is it?"
Fraser asked his friend.
"I think it's broken,"
Ray mumbled. Fraser put his hand out, palm-out, and extended it to Ray.
"Push against my
hand as hard as you can," he instructed. Ray obediently placed his
hand against Fraser's and attempted to push.
"Ah!" he cried
as what seemed like his entire right side filled with searing hot pain.
Fraser nodded his head, verifying his partner's broken arm .
What seemed like an eternity
later, the paramedics finally arrived in two separate ambulances. Welsh,
Huey, Ray and Fraser were forced to back away from the man bleeding to
death on the pavement. Several EMT's were instantly at Dewey's sides.
One of the men in a black jacket shouted, "On three!" He counted
to three, and the men quickly lifted Dewey's body up off the ground and
onto a waiting stretcher. They wheeled him into the ambulance, the EMT's
climbing into the back with him.
told them. "Let me come, " he pleaded, still visibly shaken.
"Okay, pal, come
on," one of the paramedics replied. He offered a hand to Huey and
helped him climb into the back of the ambulance. "Stay there,"
he instructed, pointing to a small bench on the side. Huey obliged and
sat parallel to the stretcher where his partner lay.
The doors of the ambulance
slammed shut, and the vehicle roared out of sight, nothing more than
a blur of blue and red lights, blaring sirens. Fraser looked down at
the pavement, or moreover the dark lake of blood that Thomas Dewey left
behind. He briefly closed his eyes and sighed.
"You're next, amigo,"
another EMT told Ray. "Onto the stretcher," he ordered, pointing
to the stretcher that was positioned beside the second awaiting ambulance.
reluctantly hopped onto the stretcher and allowed himself to
be hauled into the back of the other vehicle. After the paramedics got
in, Fraser and Welsh followed them and sat upon the bench on the side,
out of the way.
The ambulance carrying Ray arrived at the hospital only seconds after
the first ambulance. The three of them watched apprehensively as Dewey
was carted out of the back of his ambulance and rushed inside. Huey was
not far behind them. As the EMT's pulled Ray's stretcher out, he instinctively
sat up to watch what was going on. The paramedic that was stationed behind
his head took his forehead in her hand and gently pushed him back down
into a reclined position.
"I'd better go after
Huey," Welsh told Ray as they wheeled him into the hospital. Ray
nodded, beginning to feel slightly dizzy. He blinked hard and tried to
"I'm sorry sir,
you'll have to wait out here," a man in blue scrubs informed Fraser,
stopping him by placing a hand on the front of his red tunic.
"See you, Frase,"
Ray mumbled as they towed him out of his partner's sight. Fraser sighed
and made himself comfortable in the hard waiting room chairs.
Fraser and Lt. Welsh
made an unlikely pair, sitting beside one another in the waiting room
of the hospital. Fraser, sitting neatly in his spotless red tunic, had
his hands folded in his lap. Next to him, Welsh was slouched over in
his chair, his tie loosened to the brink of unattachment.
"This has to be
the worst part of this job," Welsh said, thinking out loud. His
eyebrows were furrowed, partly frustrated, partly angry. Fraser did not
speak. "It's horrible, watching your men go down. Knowing you should
have been able to protect them." Welsh clenched his eyes shut.
"This wasn't your
fault, Lieutenant," Fraser comforted.
"This is my fault,
Constable," Welsh disagreed, his eyes still closed. "I was
supposed to make sure everybody was wearing a vest. And Dewey wasn't
Sir. It could have happened to anyone."
"It was careless,"
the Lieutenant retorted. "If he had just been wearing a damn vest,
this never would have happened." Welsh sighed and sat up in his
chair. "Just careless," he repeated.
Moments later, a nurse
appeared, wheeling Ray in a wheelchair into the waiting room. Ray looked
like he was ready to pass out right there on the floor. His right arm
was enveloped in a thick blue cast that ran from his shoulder to the
middle of his lower arm, which was buried in a sling.
"Here you are, Detective
Vecchio," the nurse told him sweetly. Ray looked up at her and smiled
"Thanks a bundle,"
he said. His voice sounded as if it could go into a giggle spasm at any
moment. The young nurse took his un-injured elbow and escorted him to
his feet. Welsh gave her a grateful smile, and he and the Mountie ushered
Ray into a chair.
the nurse replied. "Here's his prescription."
"Thank you kindly,
ma'am," Fraser said to the nurse, taking the slip of paper from
her hand. Ray leaned way back in his seat, until the back of his head
was gravitationally dependent on the wall for support. He rolled his
head around so he could see Fraser.
"Hey, Benny, old
buddy," he said, grinning. "Wanna sign my cast?"
"Eh, sure, Ray,"
Fraser said slowly, as if speaking to a four-year-old. "How are
"I've never been
better," he said, mumbling. Ray closed his eyes. "How are you,
"Just fine, Ray,
thank you," Fraser replied, just as Ray drifted off into a stupor.
Fraser leaned his head back against the wall as well, and let out a sigh.
Welsh left to go and find out about his detective.
A half an hour later,
Welsh walked back into the room, looking as if ten years had been added
to his age. He plopped down beside Fraser.
"How is he, sir?"
Welsh shook his head.
"In all honesty,
I have no idea." Welsh stood up, anxious. "He doesn't look
good, but he doesn't look as bad as he did." Welsh rubbed his eyes.
"I'm not a doctor. Why don't you take Ray home. He'll probably want
to interrogate the guy we arrested yesterday." Fraser nodded.
"Of course, Leftenant."
Welsh nodded a good-bye, and left Fraser to deal with the doped-up detective.
Fraser lightly tapped Ray on the shoulder. "Ray, we'd better get
going." Ray opened his eyes, which were very glassy.
"I don't know. What
if we sink? I can't swim, remember?" Fraser hung his head. This
was going to be more difficult than he thought.
Thank You Kindly, Sir
"Did you hear that? That was my *stomach* , Claudia." Claudia
closed her eyes. Her headache was back. "Man, I'm hungry. Do you
know what Ma was gonna make tonight? She was gonna make tiramisu. I would
kill for a piece of that, I'm so hungry.
"Just don't resort
to cannibalism, Franny," mumbled Claudia, who was making a feeble
attempt to go to sleep on the floor. Her eyes shut, and she relaxed every
part of her body. "I feel so grubby," she said, eyes still
closed. "I've been wearing these jeans forever."
Franny sighed, and nodded,
kicking off her heels." I know. And I haven't brushed my hair fo-"
She gasped. Claudia bolted upright.
wrong!? Did something bite you?"
"No! Fraser saw
me like this!" she cried, horrified. Claudia flopped down onto the
floor with a thump.
"Franny, he probably
didn't even get a good look at you. And please, as a sixteen year old
girl, I need approximately 9 hours of sleep, at least. So, if you wouldn't
mind keeping your fears to yourself, I'll be sleeping, right on that
tarp over there." Claudia crawled over, to exhausted to bother walking.
She flopped into the blue tarp, and sighed. Franny plopped down beside
her. Claudia became aware that she was relaxing. Just a few more moments,
and she'd be asleep....
"I'm still hungry,
Claud. And I need a brush."
"Where are they!?" cried Huey. "We gave you our part of
the bargain. We gave you the disk. And the money. We gave you everything
you asked for! And what do we get in return?! Two people missing, two
people we care about, and you've injured two officers. One was my partner!
Now, you cough up a place, or I'll beat you so hard you'll become one
with the floor!"
Ray stood in the corner
of the room. He was still somewhat out of it, but threw in a comment
here and there. Fraser sat in a chair opposite the man.
The man was still silent.
Huey kicked his chair over and let out an incoherent, frustrated yell.
Huey leaned on the table, now face to face with the gangster. "Look
punk," he spat out, " I don't know what you want. Personally,
I don't care. But we can make you a deal. You've gotta stay here for
a long time, but if you give a place, we may give you a lighter sentence."
The man did not find this reason to speak. Welsh entered the room.
"Hey there Mr. Carter."
Lt. Welsh said, taking a seat beside him. "You'll be happy to know
that we've given you a life sentence."
"What?! I didn't
even do anything!"
"Oh! So you *can*
speak!" The man promptly shut up again. "Look, I'm not joking.
We can place you at the scene of the crime. You're not talking. You shot
a cop. You're finished. Twenty-five years, pal. Think about it.
"I have. You can't nail me for anything. I can get the best criminal
defense lawyer you've ever met.
"I don't know. You see, we've got to keep you here overnight. There's
a lot of people who don't like you, Mr. Carter. Including us."
Welsh pointed to Ray. "That guy, he's already un-hinged, so's the
guy in the red suit. Our security isn't that great. Someone may happen
to sneak in. Into *your* cell. Get in *your* face. You may not be able
to meet with that wonderful criminal defense." He turned to Ray,
in the corner. "Book him." Ray nodded. Welsh walked to the
Fraser looked down at
the table. "Sir, please. We are offering to aid you in your circumstance.
All you have to tell us is the locale where the hostages are."
"Why should I tell
"People we care
about are missing, Mr. Carter. Now, I'm not sure how you would feel in
this situation, but we're all quite worried."
"Which one's yours?"
Carter asked Ben.
"The young one."
"Who's the skanky
broad related to?" Ray's temper flared. He calmly walked from his
place in the corner to Carter's chair. He put his good hand on Carter's
shoulder and squatted down.
"That's my sister,"
Ray said, applying pressure to Carter's shoulder and neck. The felon
tried to turn and see who was hurting him. "And I'd appreciate it
if you would tell us where she is, so I don't have to keep hurting you."
"You can't hurt
me. I'll get you for assault." Ray faced the man's face.
"Do you think I
care?! 'Cause I don't. People look at you, know what they see? A wannabe
bad-boy. Sorry pal, but it's not working!" Fraser tried to calm
"Ray, you've been
under a lot of stress, calm down."
"I'll calm down,
as soon as a break his neck." Ray's fist flew towards Carter's face.
Fraser stopped Ray's
fist from colliding with Carter's jaw. All eyes turned from Ray and Fraser
and faced the man. He let out a shaky sigh. "I-I know where he's
keeping them." Silence reigned. "Some boat house. By Lake Shore
Drive. I don't know which one. He, he moves around a lot, just in case.
That's all I know. I swear."
Ray nodded, pleased.
Fraser thanked the man.
"Thank you kindly for cooperating, sir." Ray shook his head.
And for God's sakes
E.J. fumbled, trying
to get her key in the lock of Ray's door. It was still only about 6:00
AM, she still had time to start her surprise for Ray before he woke up.
She felt the lock finally click into the unlocked position, and she placed
a hand on the doorknob and very cautiously opened it. The door squeaked
slightly, but other than that she managed to get inside inconspicuously.
She very slowly entered his apartment, turned around, and shut the door
as quietly as possible. It was still extremely dark outside, and just
as dark inside the confines of the apartment. Now she would just make
her way into the kitchen, start cooking breakfast, and Ray would be wonderfully
surprised when he awoke.
"Freeze! Hands in
Startled, E.J. threw
her hands above her head and quickly dropped to her knees. "Don't
shoot, don't shoot!" she cried, terrified. She shut her eyes tightly
as a light flickered on and her pupils dilated. Ray too was squinting
at the light, and he was one-handedly pointing the barrel of his gun
at the girl. His other arm was buried deep in a sling. As his eyes adjusted
to the light, he managed to absorb the entirety of the situation. He
let out a disgusted groan and dropped the gun to his side.
shouted. "What the hell are you doing here?!"
began, still facing toward the opposite direction. "I, uh, came
to cook breakfast for you
Because I thought you'd
be tired and all, and, uh, what with the arm and everything, uh
Her voice trailed off.
"For God's sakes,
put your arms down," he murmured. She immediately dropped her arms
and stood up to face him. She noticed that he was unshaven, and his eyes
were a little glossy. Probably pain medication, she thought to herself.
He let out a sigh. "You really came all the way over here to cook
She looked ashamedly
at her feet. "Yeah. I, um
I guess I kind of got lonely. I
just wanted to surprise you, I didn't mean to freak you out like that.
You were supposed to be asleep."
"How can I sleep
when there's nutbag kids like you trying to break into my apartment and
use my stove?" he retorted, his hostility apparently subsiding.
"What did you think
I was going to do, beat you to death with a waffle?" she protested.
"I bet if Martha Stewart broke into your apartment, you wouldn't
hold her at gunpoint."
"Yeah, well Martha
Stewart can use a microwave without blowing up the food," Ray said.
"Hey man, that was
a long time ago and no one was injured that badly. Get over it,"
E.J. replied. The both stood silent for a moment.
"Well, I guess it
was a pretty nice gesture and all on your part," Ray said, softening.
"And I could use some breakfast. So if you want to cook, I guess
it's okay." E.J. grinned at him.
"Cool. You'll love
it, I promise." She immediately removed her coat and made her way
to Ray's kitchen.
"You did tell the
Scotts you were coming over here, right?" he questioned.
"Oh, sure. It was
their idea," E.J. replied.
"You've been living
with your new foster parents for less than a month, and they're already
trying to get rid of you? That's pretty funny."
"It's not a wise
idea to torment the person preparing your food, Ray," she warned.
"All right, all
right. I'm going back to bed, I don't think I can stay awake much longer.
So take your time, and for God's sakes don't set anything on fire."
she said solemnly.
"Or blow up anything,"
"I already learned
"Or burn down the
"Now you're exaggerating.
Go back to sleep," she told him.
Ray said wearily. Before he left, he moved to the sink and picked up
a small container of pills. He popped the lid off and helped himself
to one of the large white tablets. "My happy pills," he explained,
making his way back out of the kitchen. He stopped abruptly before he
left the room. "Hey, you know, E.J
"When Claudia came
over here, she cleaned the place for me."
"I'm not Claudia.
Don't push your luck."
The smell of freshly
blackened food was slowly filling the atmosphere. E.J. turned around
to lower the heat on the griddle, but stopped herself as she realized
her cheese omelets were turning a rather unappealing brown color. She
grabbed the spatula and quickly flipped the foamy yellow-orange catastrophe
burning in the frying pan. As the omelet was turned upside down, the
gooey cheese in the center quickly dripped out and landed in the pan,
where it immediately became plastered to the surface. The egg-like creation
was dropped upon it. She had to get rid of that horrible smell, where
was it coming from?!
she shrieked as she turned around and saw with horror that her pancakes
had burst into flames. "Fire!" she screamed, lunging towards
the thick smoke being emitted from the griddle. She grabbed the temperature
dial and quickly twisted the heat off, but she let out a loud yelp of
pain when her hand touched the searing hot surface of the griddle.
"Okay, E.J., stay
calm. Put out the fire. Put out the fire," she told herself as she
instinctively brought her burned hand to her chest and clutched it protectively.
"Put out the fire," she repeated. E.J. yanked the griddle's
plug out of the wall, then immediately grabbed the thick plastic handles
of the griddle and projected it into the sink, pancakes, flame, and all.
She reached over the flames on the griddle to turn on the faucet. She
quickly pushed the handle on the faucet upwards, sending a large stream
of water spraying onto the blazing griddle. She yanked her hand backwards
as she felt the flame touch her arm. The water showering the disastrous
mess quickly extinguished the fire.
"Oh my GOD!"
E.J. screamed as she realized the sleeve of her shirt had become set
aflame as well. She dove back to the sink and hit the water back on,
engulfing her arm in the cool water. She breathed a sigh of relief as
she soaked her burned arm in the chilly water. She stood still for a
second, hovering over the sink. She would just take a moment to relax.
*EEE EEE EEE EEE!!!*
"AUGH! Smoke alarm!"
E.J. cried, slapping her hands to her head. She quickly climbed up on
Ray's kitchen counter and reached up to the squealing smoke alarm. She
removed the lid and yanked out the alarm's batteries. The high-pitched
drone ceased, and the flashing red light that was blinking in the center
went dead. E.J. relaxed again. She leaned down slowly and sat upon the
"E.J.!!! What the
HELL is going on in here?!" Ray barked at her. She winced with the
same look of fear that a four-year-old gets when she's about to be reprimanded.
didn't turn out so well. Sorry," she said weakly. Ray's jaw dropped
as he saw the total disaster his kitchen had been transformed into. His
eyes widened, he apparently had a very sudden loss of words. His jaw
hung well open as his eyes went from the black, bubbly object smoking
in the pan on his stove to the steamy silver griddle emitting a trail
of gray smoke. There appeared to be some kind of crusty, charcoal-black
dough glued to the griddle's surface. He closed his eyes and hung his
He opened his mouth to
speak, but stopped himself as he heard a faint, sizzling, humming sound
coming from the side of the kitchen.
he said slowly. The girl did not have the courage to look him in the
eyes. "What's that noise?"
E.J. was staring at the
floor, but slowly looked up and listened. The humming grew louder and
more vehement. Her eyes flew wide opened as she saw the cooking potato,
her plans for homefries in an early stage, droning loudly in the microwave.
she said very softly. The humming became more intense. She jumped off
"Oh my God! Hit
the deck!!" she screamed. They both dropped to the floor and covered
their heads in the same instant the microwave door flew wide open and
the huge potato exploded.
Ray and E.J. remained
silent, lying on their stomachs on the cold linoleum floor. After a few
moments, Ray dared to look up from his elbow, which he had been burying
his face in for protection. E.J. did the same.
he began slowly. "How on earth could anyone
" He slowly
stood up and observed the damage. "How the hell did you manage to
E.J. stood up and backed
herself into the corner of the kitchen. She was clutching her burned
arm in her hand.
"I mean, how could
Ray closed his eyes and
shook his head.
"You know, E.J
he began again, words still failing him. "I only gave you three
do you remember what they were?"
"What were they,
set anything on fire
"Don't blow anything
"Don't burn down
" she said, avoiding his glare.
" she said, cautiously looking up to face him. "At
least I didn't burn down your building, right?"
A Sailboat, Mr. Bond?
Claudia cracked her neck
and sat up. She was thirsty. And hungry. She pinched the skin on the
top of her hand. It stayed up for a moment, then went back into it's
"Great. I'm dehydrated,
too." Beside her, Franny let out a sonic-boom of a snore. "Oh,
come on, Franny," she grumbled, "you had to add just one more
dose of hell to this nightmare, didn't you? Snoring all night?"
Claudia stood up and dusted the dirt from her jeans. Just as soon as
she twisted around to crack her back, the door of the boat house swung
open violently. Claudia gave Franny a small kick in the leg, and Franny
slowly came to and sat up, squinting into the morning sunlight.
"Up and at 'em,
Francescas. We're going for another ride today," Manny told them,
a smirk plastered on his face. Franny covered her eyes with her hand,
shielding her vision from the bright daylight. Manny entered the cramped
boathouse with a henchman at his side. He pointed to Francesca and the
goon immediately grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to her feet. Manny
took hold of the back of Claudia's shirt and dragged her outside. Franny
simply rolled her eyes.
"Where are we going?"
asked Claudia. Manny did not speak; instead, he used the tip of his gun
to point to two small speedboats that were positioned at the edge of
a tiny private dock overlooking a vast edge of water.
Claudia said, mocking him understandingly. Manny gave her a shove.
"Hi Elizabeth, my
name is Dr. Ericson," the young redhead said without looking up
from the manila folder.
"Uh, it's E.J.,"
E.J. corrected her, embarrassed. Standing next to her, Ray gave a small
snicker. Dr. Ericson looked up from the folder very suddenly and eyed
the girl with surprise.
"Oh!" she exclaimed.
"Hi, I I didn't recognize you," she explained. She looked
to Ray and grinned at him. "Hi, Ray," she said. E.J. looked
beside her to see that Ray too had a small foolish smile on his face,
which he was trying to cover with his left hand. E.J. raised an eyebrow.
"Ah, correct me
if I'm wrong, Doctor, but I think the last time we met was directly after
Ray's face had a rather violent encounter with the side of a door, right?"
E.J. asked. The adults exchanged glances.
"The last time we
met, you were in a coma, E.J.," Dr. Ericson told her. "I'm
glad to see you're doing better." E.J. became quiet. Dr. Ericson
glanced down at the thick cast on Ray's arm. "What happened to your
arm? Another '2 by 4'?"
Ray replied, a hint of pride showing through his voice. The doctor nodded.
"So what's the trouble
today, miss? You burned your arm?" Dr. Ericson asked her, placing
the manila folder down on the bed upon which E.J. sat.
"The punk arsonist
tried to burn my kitchen down and set herself on fire," Ray muttered.
"Ah, no, not exactly,"
E.J. corrected him. "I was simply trying to fix breakfast for my
dear friend Ray " Another snicker interrupted her. She ignored
it. "But it turned out that his skillet was defective, as was his
stove, and they were both far too hot, and
"She set breakfast
on fire and 'er arm got caught in the flame," Ray clarified.
Ericson said, attempting to cover the smirk that was trying to form on
her lips. "Let's take a look." Dr. Ericson picked up E.J.'s
hand and carefully rolled up the sleeve of her long-sleeved t-shirt,
pausing as a sharp wince appeared on the girl's face.
"I'll be back, kid,"
Ray told her, moving to leave from inside the curtained-off area. E.J.
let out a small whimper of pain, and neither woman noticed him leave.
"Thomas Dewey, please,"
Ray told the receptionist stationed in the front office. She looked up,
appearing pained to assist him.
she told him annoyedly. She returned to her work.
Ray said, slowly opening the door to the hospital room. Dewey rolled
his head around to face Ray. There was another patient lying in bed across
the room from him, a small old woman who appeared to be whispering to
another invisible person. Ray shook his head.
Dewey said quietly, smiling. "You came all the way over here just
to see me?"
Ray hesitated before
he answered. "Ah, yeah," he replied.
answered. Ray looked down at recognized the glaze that had formed over
Ray began awkwardly. "Does it hurt a lot?" Dewey returned his
question with a very blank look.
Dewey became silent.
"Why so quiet, Tom?"
Ray asked. Dewey studied the bracelet on his hand for a moment.
"You know Ray, I
could have died."
Ray nodded. "Yeah?
Any of us could. That's part of the job, Dewey, you take risks."
"I don't think I
want to take those risks anymore, Ray." It took a moment for Ray
to realize what Dewey was saying. "I want to quit the force,"
he said, just in case Ray missed the point.
"Tom... wh.. Why?"
"I'm only 33, Ray.
I've got a lot of stuff I want to do. Get married, have some kids..."
"And you can't do
that while still on the force? What are you gonna do if you quit?"
Ray didn't smile.
"Look, Tom. You're
willing to give up a job, a job you're good at, because of one incident.
One little incident that won't even affect you long term. The doctor
said that there was no permanent damage, what have you got to lose?"
"My life? Look Ray,
I was lucky that time. Another inch, and I'd be a goner. Next time....I
might not be that lucky."
"So you're gonna
quit because you're afraid this might happen again."
"Pretty much, yeah."
Ray hung his head, shaking it. "Can you give Welsh my shield?"
"He's going to want
to talk to you, Dewey." Ray took the badge from Dewey's bedside
table and left the room. "Sell fish...yeah, right, Tom." Ray
turned and exited the room.
Ray almost physically
walked into E.J. in the hallway. "Hey!" she said. "Look,
cool bandage, huh?" she said, extending her wrapped arm for Ray
"Wow E.J., that's
really special," Ray told her dryly. She glared at him, then realized
his own arm was covered in a much larger, more impressive-looking cast.
"You ready to leave, or do I have to sign you out or something?"
"Wait, don't I get
to see Dewey too?" she protested. Ray gave a long sigh.
"Sure, I don't care.
I'll be out here." Ray walked away. E.J. wondered what had made
him so suddenly irritable more so than directly after she caused
his kitchen to explode, nonetheless.
E.J. greeted her favorite detective with a playful smile. Dewey looked
up at the girl and grinned.
he replied. He noticed her freshly wrapped arm.
"Man, what happened
to you?" he asked her.
"Freak kitchen accident,"
she explained. "Not nearly as bad as a few bullet holes, but, you
" her voice trailed off. She was happy to see Dewey recovering
so well. "So when you coming back to work, Dewey?"
She was giving him those
eyes. Those big, innocent, still-just-a-dumb-kid eyes. He took a deep
I don't know if I'm coming back, Eej," he said slowly. She narrowed
her eyes at him.
"You don't know?
What do you mean?"
Dewey sighed. This would
be hard enough to explain to the Lieutenant, he really wasn't in the
mood to explain it to his groupie just yet.
"I don't know,"
he replied. "Just
scared." Dewey made his point as briefly
as possible. Evidently, his answer wasn't satisfactory. E.J. frowned
quitting?" He couldn't look at her. He knew not to. If he looked
up, he'd be sorry. Her face looked
Sad. Argh, why did he
"I don't know, Eej.
I think I am," Dewey replied. "I haven't really decided
E.J. said, uneasy. "I don't believe you, man. You can't quit."
Dewey did his best not
to roll his eyes. He didn't care to hear other people telling him how
wrong he was. He needed someone to back him up.
was all he managed to say. E.J. glared at him.
"Yeah, you're sorry,"
she repeated in a low, quiet voice, almost to herself. "I looked
up to you, Dewey."
Dewey was feeling more
isolated than he had before. He let out a very languid breath, then looked
up to E.J. for any kind of compassion. He didn't get any.
"I'll see you, Dewey,"
she said quietly before she walked out of the room.
"Stay here. I'll
be right back." Claudia and Franny were shoved into one of the cabins.
Manny left to speak to Fernendez. They were on a boat, anchored about
100 feet away from the dock.
"O.K. I'm worrying,"
said Francesca to no one in particular. "We're on a boat, probably
going to go to some distant country, and be sold as slaves." Franny
buried her head in her hands. Claudia's eyes wandered around the cabin.
Her eyes fell upon a bunch of flags stuffed in a bookshelf. Her eyes
went from the flags to the windows.
"Not if I can help
it," said Claudia, jumping out of her chair. She sorted through
the flags. "Woo-hoo! We're saved!" she whispered to herself
as she pulled out two flags. One was checkered blue and white, and the
other was striped blue, white, red, white, blue.
"What are we going
to do, Mr. Bond? Make a sailboat?" Claudia shook her head and opened
the window and closed it on the two flags.
"Nope. We're signaling
to people. The checkered one is November, the striped on is Charlie.
It's a flag signal. It means 'I am in distress, and need immediate assistance.'
So, if anyone sees it, they'll come, and see what's wrong."
"What if Fernendez
shoots him, like he did the cop?"
Well, maybe it'll be the navy seals or something."
"Seals? I don't
Claudia shrugged. "Well....what
if Ben comes? They probably got something from that guy Ray arrested,
right? So, if Ben sees this, then they'll assume we're in here."
"And what if the
don't know flag signals."
"Must you be so
pessimistic? And Benny knows them. So there." Claudia sat back down
in her chair. Fernendez entered the room, grinning.
he spat, cuffing them to the chairs they were in. He opened a suitcase
that had already been previously placed on the desk beside them.
Fernendez clicked something
on inside the suitcase and turned away. "A device which will dispose
of you two, and this boat, in a very easy, very quick procedure."
Francesca shook her head,
"It's a bomb, Franny,"
said Claudia, hanging her head.
"You've got ten
minutes to live. It's been a pleasure." Fernendez took a dramatic
bow and left the room. Francesca and Claudia looked at each other, then
Welsh tried his best
to ignore the old woman that appeared to be talking to an invisible friend
when he entered the hospital room. There was a chair beside Dewey's bed,
but he did not take it. Instead he remained standing, a tower shadowing
over Dewey like God upon a frightened village.
greeted the Lieutenant.
replied tonelessly. Dewey tried his best to decipher the deadpan expression
on the Lieutenant's face; was it disappointment? Dissatisfaction? Or
anger? Oh, man, he was in for it now.
"So Vecchio tells
me you're packing it in," Welsh said, not shaking the void look
from his face.
"Uh, yes sir,"
Dewey replied, looking up. "I, I think I am."
"You think you are,"
Welsh repeated. "Any particular reason why you think you are?"
Dewey looked around uncomfortably.
pulled a bullet out of my chest, sir
" Dewey began. "They
told me I was a lucky one. One more inch and I wouldn't have made it."
He broke eye contact as he became more deeply involved in his thought.
"Well, I don't know what they think, but taking a couple shots in
the gut and one in the chest isn't exactly lucky in my book."
Welsh was silent for
a moment. Although he did not allow his officer to see it, his insides
were slowly twisting with guilt. Dewey may not have known it, but Welsh
knew he should have been wearing a vest, it was Welsh's fault.
He was slow to speak.
"So that's it, huh,"
he started. "You take a few close hits, and all of a sudden you
wanna throw in the towel, run off with your tail between your legs?"
Dewey regained eye contact and lowered his brow at the Lieutenant. "Is
that what you want, Dewey? Quit the force?"
know. I just don't want to take those kinds of risks anymore, I'm not
ready to give it all up for some stupid accident." He waited inside
a horrible, awkward moment, waiting for Welsh to reply. He remained cold
silent. Finally, Welsh looked up from his gaze on the floor and looked
Dewey right in the eye.
This took Dewey by surprise.
"I said, fine. If
that's what you want, then go."
"It is?" Dewey
said, suddenly wishing his prepared speech had included a bit more melodrama.
"Sure, Tom. I don't
need men on my team that are too afraid to go out there and do their
job. If your heart's not in it, I don't want you around anymore."
"Welsh, it's not
that," Dewey objected. "I'm not afraid, I'm just "
"You are too afraid,"
Welsh interrupted him. "And I don't blame you. Go ahead and leave,
Dewey. You could quit the force, and go where? You could be a busboy.
Nice, low risk there. Or work at a 7-11. Not too many chances. Or you
could go sell fish."
said slowly. "I mean, it's not that my heart isn't in it. I've been
on the force for more than ten years, I love this job. I just
just afraid that "
"There, you admitted
it!" Welsh interrupted again. "You just said so, you are afraid."
"No, I'm not!"
Dewey protested. "I'm not afraid of this job!"
"So, let me get
this straight. You're not afraid to do your work, your heart's still
in it, and you love your job. Correct?" Welsh asked him. Dewey's
eyes dropped in slow realization.
the detective replied slowly.
said, speaking in a softer tone, "You really want to do this?"
Dewey was quiet. He didn't
think for very long.
Dewey told him. At last, Welsh's face cracked into a much less serious
expression. He smiled.
"I'm glad, Tom."
Welsh turned to leave. When he reached the doorway, he turned around
to face his officer again.
"See you when you
get out of here, Dewey," Welsh told him, reaching into his breast
pocket. "And here," he added, "this is yours." Welsh
removed the badge from within his pocket and tossed it across the room
to Dewey's bed.
Not Sharks, Not Sharks,
"We're gonna die.
We are, aren't we? That bomb's gonna go off any second now and we're
both going to die. Claudia! We're gonna die, aren't we?"
Claudia rolled her eyes.
She was doing her best to hold her November Charlie distress signal against
the window of their boat, although the task was made considerably more
difficult due to the fact that both her hands were handcuffed securely
to her metal chair. She was using her feet to press the flags to the
glass, meanwhile hoping her chair would not betray her and tip over.
hysterical. You're starting to blither," Claudia told her. "Listen
to me, ok? You need to calm down."
"How can I calm
down?!" Francesca cried. "I'm going to be blown to bits, my
bloodied carcass pieces strewn across the water! We have three minutes
Claudia sighed. Granted,
she had been in very few situations worse than this one, but she had
still survived all of them. Panicking would certainly not help their
chance of survival.
She felt around the metal cuffs, wondering if she could escape them.
E.J. knew how to get out of handcuffs, didn't she? Why, oh why didn't
Claudia ask how she did it? Think logically, now. She must have dislocated
her thumbs. Wait, ew! That's gross! Dislocate your own thumbs?! That
would hurt! Her own thumbs couldn't possibly bend that way, could they?
And even if she *could* pop out her thumbs, how would she get them back
in? She would have to-
screamed, her voice violently shaking Claudia from her train of thought.
"Two minutes and
fifty-four seconds to live!"
Claudia told her firmly. "Try to stay *calm*, okay? We'll have to
A creaking interrupted
Claudia. Franny looked at her, confused. She opened her mouth to speak,
but Claudia silenced her with a shush. The two listened closely.
It appeared that a large
something, or someone, had struck the side of the captive's boat. Claudia's
eyes listened with fear; she had read books of passengers whose boats
were capsized by sharks in search of food. No, wait, that was just silly.
She knew sharks would not come anywhere near their boat unless there
was some kind of meat in the water, which there was none. Still, it had
Another loud *thunk*
made her jump. Not sharks, not sharks, not sharks, she silently repeated
to herself. She and Francesca exchanged worried glances, each one's ears
still trained on the water outside. Franny looked down at the mechanical
explosive still sitting on the desk, ready to pounce at any moment.
Francesca whispered harshly.
"Don't freak out!"
Claudia ordered. "Just stay calm!"
"I'm not freaking
out!" Franny shouted. "I am *not* freaking out! I'm a foot
and a half away from a piece of dynamite that's gonna go off in
one minute and fifty-three seconds, but I am *not* freaking out!!"
Yet another *thunk*.
Claudia's eyes grew large, she listened as carefully as she could. She
realized that the noise was not a something in the water, but now had
become a something in their boat. The two froze.
The handle on the door
to the cabin turned. Claudia did not realize that she was holding her
breath. The door slowly swung open, and in cautiously stepped
A dripping wet Mountie.
Claudia released her
breath. "Ben!" she cried, ecstatic that at last, for the first
time in God knows how many days, *something* had *finally* gone *right*.
"Oh, Fraser, are
we glad to see you," Franny said, a grateful smile quickly spreading
across her face.
"I'm glad to see
you as well," Fraser told them, displeased to see their visible
cuts and bruises. "Are you two alright?" Fraser held up his
Stetson and removed a piece of algae that was clinging to the rim, then
placed it back on his head.
"Ah, no, actually,"
Claudia said, noticing the water that was dripping from Fraser's tunic
and onto the floor. The Mountie had obviously just been for a recent
swim. "There's a bomb in that suitcase on the desk, and we're cuffed
to these chairs," she explained.
"I see," Fraser
said, making his way to the suitcase. He bent down to pick it up, but
stopped as he realized the explosive felt far heavier than it should
Claudia asked him, panic at last settling in the pit of her stomach.
"It would appear
it's drilled to the table," Fraser told the hostages. "If we
can't throw it overboard, we'll have to jump."
Franny began, "Please, get us out of here!" Claudia rolled
"Can't you disarm
it?" Claudia asked the him, worried.
yes, but the clock is running dangerously low, and I'd be afraid that
if I couldn't neutralize it, we would still be left here during the course
of its explosion," he explained. "Let's try to get those cuffs
"Oh, Ben, do mine,
please?" Francesca asked him, giving him large, sad eyes. Fraser
hesitated, looking to Claudia. She agreed silently with her eyes. Fraser
quickly pulled a thick, sharp chisel and a hammer from the pocket on
said as Fraser began pounding away at the chain on Francesca's cuffs,
"Why were you carrying "
"That's not important
right now, Claudia," Fraser interjected. "What is important
is getting you two off this boat immediately." Claudia became silent,
waiting patiently. Fraser was forcefully hacking the bits of chain from
Claudia leaned forward
and glimpsed at the timer on the suitcase. One minute, sixteen seconds.
She swallowed sharply, feeling her heart throbbing in the back of her
throat. She would have preferred a rescue with a bit more time to spare,
Claudia grew impatient.
"Ben, hurry!" she told him, just in case he was deliberately
"Just a minute,
Claudia," Fraser told her, not yet seeming panicked at all. He continued
whacking away at Franny's chain. Fraser's Goddaughter was becoming visibly
discouraged; surely there was some simpler way to undo those cuffs? Cut
the chair open? Claudia inspected her own chair to see if a self-rescue
was possible. It didn't seem that way; the leg of the chair her hands
were fastened to was some kind of thick, heavy metal. She'd have to break
it off somehow to remove the cuffs not likely from where she was
More seconds passed as
the Mountie continued chipping at the chain. Claudia nervously checked
the clock once again. Forty-three seconds. Not good, not good at all
"Got it," Fraser
said, swatting the broken link to the floor. Francesca shot to her feet,
grinning, and embraced him in a hug. Trying to maintain his habitual
politeness, Fraser gently pushed her away to free the younger one of
Fraser knelt down beside
Claudia's chair and began the hacking procedure once more. Thirty-four
seconds. Claudia pulled her wrists as far apart as she could make them,
making the chain taut. She clenched her eyes shut, waiting for the chain
to break. Waiting.
Claudia said softly. At last the panic she had been suppressing earlier
was suddenly and intensely rising inside her. Twenty-nine. She felt tears
start to sting her eyes. "Ben, please
"It'll be alright,
Claudia. Just hold still, I'll get you out of this. No need to panic,"
he assured her, still hammering as hard as he could on the chain. Twenty-two.
Something was different with Claudia's cuffs, they weren't the same as
he couldn't quite find the right weak angle to pound into.
Claudia was now staring
wide-eyed, terrified, at the quickly-moving digital timer. Fourteen.
Another tear escaped her eye. What was wrong with this chain? Why wouldn't
it break? Think clearly, Ben, just give it a few more good hits, it'll
break. One hit. Two hits. Three hits. Still not broken
Fraser let a frustrated
groan escape his lips. The noise was overheard by the young hostage,
pushing her closer to the brink of a nervous outburst. Fraser threw down
his tools and stood up.
need to jump," Fraser told her firmly.
"But Ben, I "
"We don't have time,
Francesca! Jump!" he ordered. Claudia's breathing was near out of
control. Was she about to be abandoned by her own Godfather? She watched
as Francesca left the cabin. Ten.
He did nothing remotely
in the way of abandoning the girl. Fraser received another jolt of adrenaline
just as his strongest father-bear instincts were activated. He placed
both of his hands on the back of her chair, tightly gripping the backrest.
He leaned his weight backwards, then suddenly projected his foot as hard
as he could into the leg of the chair. He knew he felt something come
loose. Seven. More tears were falling from Claudia's eyes as Fraser hurled
all his tension into the next kick. She cringed, his boot was very near
her fingers. The leg loosened again, one more kick would do it. Five.
He shoved his foot as hard as he could back into the chair. The leg flew
off and sent Claudia flying to the ground. Fraser gave a quick breath
Three. There was no more
time to spare, but Claudia did not get off the ground right away. As
she was leaning forwards to get up, she was startled by the two strong
arms that picked her up and swept her from the floor. Fraser picked up
the girl in his arms in a strong hug-hold and went racing for the cabin
door. He kicked it open, reached the deck, and had one foot on the railing
of the boat ready to project himself into the water just as the bomb
It happened so quickly,
neither the Mountie or the girl absorbed right away what had just occurred.
The hot, fiery explosion had sent the Mountie hurtling from the boat
and into the air at full-force, still wrapping his Goddaughter tightly
in front of him. They both hit the water at a painfully great speed.
Fraser was the first
to surface, managing to tread water professionally, despite the RCMP-issue
boots that were weighing him down. Claudia quickly popped up after him,
gasping for air. The cold water seemed to slap the hysteria out of her.
Fraser noticed that she, too, was successfully treading water.
said, beginning to laugh, "my cuffs finally came undone." Claudia
raised her still shackle-bound wrists up for him to see, the chain link
unattached at the left cuff. Fraser briefly shook his head at the irony.
He swam a few inches and pulled his Stetson from the water, placing it
back on his head.
"What a relief
Claudia said. However, the same dreadful thought must have occurred to
her at the same time it occurred to the Mountie. Their eyes grew wide
Claudia said, quickly jerking around. As she turned, she saw the few,
scattered, flaming remains of their recently-expired boat. Fraser scanned
the surface, searching. He quickly dove beneath the water. Claudia submerged
herself under the surface and swam a few feet down, not moving, just
looking. Still no Francesca.
After several seconds,
Claudia was forced to return to the surface and take in more air. However,
Fraser did not surface when she did. In fact, Fraser didn't surface at
all. Claudia whipped around, looking in every direction for either lost
body. She quickly dove back under, her eyes scanning through the cloudy
green the water. Now both persons were missing, and Claudia was filled
with another overwhelming sense of panic. The stray thought that once
again crept into her mind was that of the sharks. No, no sharks here,
shouted into the very light, cold wind. No answer. "Ben!" she
cried. Her feet were still kicking, keeping her afloat on the water.
She would be fine, she could see the dock from where she swam, but where
were the other two?
A loud splash ten feet
away from her was the reassurance she received. At last, Fraser popped
up from the water, taking in huge breaths of air. Basketed beneath his
left arm was Francesca, although she did not appear to be conscious.
Claudia quickly swam to him, following his lead to the wooden dock about
20 feet away. Claudia saw she would be unable to help carry the person
that Ben was bringing to safety, so she did the next most helpful thing
she retrieved his hat from the water. Claudia grabbed the Stetson
and swam to the dock, where Fraser was already doing his best to lift
Franny up onto landing. Claudia reached the wooden boards, pulled herself
up onto it, and turned around to help lift Francesca up. The two of them
managed to drag her limp body onto the dock with some effort, and then
Claudia extended her hand to help her Godfather climb up as well.
said, shaking her arm. Francesca didn't stir. Fraser placed his hand
on her neck and found her pulse, relieved. He leaned her head back, opened
her mouth, and listened for any breath. There was none. Claudia leaned
back to stay as much out of the way as possible. Fraser checked to see
if there was an obtrusive object blocking her airway. There was nothing,
so it must have been water trapped in her lungs. Typical of the hero
he was, he bravely began mouth to mouth resuscitation. Fraser leaned
down, tilted her head, lifted her chin, and pinched her nose shut. Fraser
leaned down and breathed into Francesca's mouth. He waited a moment,
then let out another breath.
"One one thousand,
two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, breathe."
she told him as she continued to time one minute in her head. Ben gave
Francesca another breath. And another. And another. Still, she was not
"That's almost a
minute," Claudia told him. "I should call EMS. Where's a phone?"
Fraser leaned down and listened for a breath. Still none. Her pulse was
still beating strongly, however. A little fast even. He tilted her head
back again and continued resuscitation.
Suddenly, Fraser's arms
released the hold supporting Francesca's head and he tried to jerk backwards.
Claudia's eyes shot upward to the top of Ben's head just in time to see
Francesca wrap her two hands around the Mountie's shoulder's, clutching
him tightly against her. Claudia's jaw dropped.
Francesca had one hand
in Fraser's hair, holding his lips to her own. "Francesca!"
Claudia cried, mortified. Fraser was now visibly struggling, appalled,
pushing as hard as he could against the docks to break free. At last
he managed to slip away from Franny's grasp, quickly shooting to his
feet, severely embarrassed.
Francesca sat up slowly,
a large, contented smile on her face. The younger Canadian was staring
at her wide-eyed, absolutely horrified. The older Canadian had broken
eye contact and was looking down to the wooden boards beneath his feet,
his cheeks a visible shade of abashed pink.
Francesca took a deep
breath before she spoke. "That was the best rescue I ever had."
The recently-released hostages barely made it through the door of the
Vecchio home before they collapsed on the couch and were smothered with
dozens of hugs and kisses from each member of the Vecchio tribe. Both
women were covered with horrible filth, cuts needing to be tended to,
and tattered clothing, yet it did not seem to slow down the welcome they
received. Maria Vecchio was nearly in tears when she brought her younger
sister into a hug and held her there. Mrs. Vecchio had already begun
pampering Benton's Goddaughter with pity, food, and warm clothes. Maria's
kids were crawling all over Claudia and Francesca, wanting to know what
it had been like, did they have to walk the plank, did Claudia beat up
the bad guys. The women sank into the soft comfort of the couch, the
feeling of safety and contentment too great and satisfying to describe.
Fraser made himself comfortable on a nearby sofa, overcome with relief
and also fatigue. Mrs. Vecchio soon supplied the adventurers with platefuls
of food, much to their satisfaction.
It was difficult to tell their tale to the curious family members through
mouthfuls of warm baked ziti, but they managed to explain everything
up to the part about when the bullets began flying for a second time,
and they saw Dewey and Ray being shot. The adults appeared just as fascinated
as the young kids clinging Francesca's feet. However, their narrative
was cut short as Mrs. Vecchio took control.
"My figlias, it is time for you to sleep. You have had more of an
adventure than any two women need in a lifetime. You may finish your
story tomorrow morning, I promise you we will all still be here to listen."
The women gave little resistance, as they were very much aching for real
beds to sleep in. The two were escorted up the stairs, helped into pajamas,
and put right to bed. They fell fast asleep, soaked in a mattress and
sheets for a change, rather than concrete and tarp. Outside the bedrooms,
Mrs. Vecchio spoke with the Mountie.
"Oh, caro," she said, touching her hand to Benton's face. "Thank
you, thank you so much for bringing my baby back home safely."
"Your quite welcome," Fraser replied quietly. The strenuous
events of that day were beginning to take their toll on him.
"Can you imagine, those horrible things they put our babies through,"
Ray's mother said with the spite of a protective mother tiger. Fraser's
eyes glanced into the guest bedroom, where Claudia was fast asleep, wrapped
tightly in her blanket. Mrs. Vecchio caught Fraser's glance and looked
to his sleeping Goddaughter.
"Must be the best sleep she's had in a while," she told him.
Fraser looked down at the woman and smiled.
Francesca and her younger
companion returned to work the following Monday. To their subtle dismay,
no one appeared to notice when they entered the station. No heads turned.
No eyes gave them a second look. They glanced at each other, a little
confused, very disappointed. Francesca gave a loud cough. Her patience
diminishing, she spoke up loudly, "We're back!"
Work ceased. No noise
crossed the floor. The two looked around expectantly. Then without warning,
every single person in the twenty-seventh district began to cheer for
Francesca grinned. Claudia
saw that bunches of balloons popped up from hidden places beneath desks,
and blushed. Every officer had their eyes on the two, all of them clapping.
They couldn't help but smile.
Ray said, approaching the two. He extended his good arm and wrapped his
sister in a half-hug, his right arm still restricted by the sling. "Good
to have you back, sis." It was also a huge relief, although he didn't
want to give Francesca the satisfaction of admitting it.
Ray said, bringing Claudia into a hug as well. Claudia couldn't help
but smile again.
she retorted in reference to his hair, being mindful of his broken arm
as she returned the hug. "Miss me?"
said slyly. "Here, there's someone else who missed you, too,"
he added. He pointed behind her and Claudia turned around. There stood
E.J., arms extended, holding a large, smiley-face balloon for her best
cried, followed by more hugging.
E.J. said into her ear. "Don't scare me like that again!" Claudia
laughed. The girls released each other, and Claudia let out a contented
"I was afraid you
guys didn't notice we were gone," Claudia told Ray. She noticed
Lt. Welsh was coming across the room to welcome them as well.
"It was chaos without
you two, man," Ray said. "By the way, you've got your work
cut out for you. We didn't know what to do with the papers as they came
along, so you'll be busy for awhile." Claudia and Francesca looked
over and spotted their desks, which were buried under a mountain of paperwork.
Each of them groaned.
"You might like
this, though," the Lieutenant spoke up, producing a rectangular
white box from under his arm. He handed it to Claudia. "We felt
bad, so we chipped in and bought this for ya." Claudia looked at
the box in her hands cautiously. She looked around at her audience, consisting
of Ray and Fraser, E.J., the Lieutenant, Huey, and several blue shirts.
Claudia raised an eyebrow and removed the red ribbon from the box. She
lifted the lid and gasped.
she cried. Claudia lifted the blue shirt from within the box and held
it up in the air, examining it. "Is it
"Yes, it's real.
Your very own 'Civilian Aid' shirt. You're official now, Claud,"
Ray told her. Claudia inspected the patch reading her new title and beamed
she breathed. "Does this mean I
Welsh shook his head.
"Nope. You still don't get paid."
Claudia let out a small
whimper, but proudly kept the shirt in her arms nonetheless.
"Oh yeah, I forgot
to tell you guys," Welsh started again, stealing everyone's attention
away from Francesca and Claudia. "I talked to Dewey."
Silence rolled over the
murmuring crowd. "And?" Ray prompted.
"He's decided to
stay," Welsh announced. The news pleased everyone, including E.J.,
who looked up and grinned to herself.
"It's good to have
everything back to normal," Ray said to Fraser as the officers all
faded back into their work. Claudia and Francesca returned to their desks
and jumped into their work. They were followed by E.J., who reluctantly
offered to help out Claudia with her paperwork.
"Yes, it is,"
Fraser agreed, accompanying Ray back to his desk also. "Well,"
Fraser began again, "relatively speaking."
Ray replied. "Normal for us, that is."
agreed. "Normal for us."
June 7th, 1998
Ashley Sametz (CKRs.email@example.com)