Duck Day Afternoon
Tracker and Bear have lost the Duck,
and don't know where to find her.
Leave her alone, and she'll come home,
a trail of mayhem behind her
Duck Day Afternoon
A Trail of Mayhem
Tracker allowed himself to relax as the air conditioning finally surrounded him. He could almost feel the heat radiating from his own body as he made his way up the stairs and into the second floor office.
He hated Memphis in the summer. Between the humidity and short tempers it was a wonder someone hadn't already gone off the deep end.
He paused at the top of the stairs, noticing the temperature change. He'd been used to
thermal-climes when diving, but rarely in a building. When he entered the office he realized the problem- Bear was sprawled out on the couch, basking in the warmth radiating from the candles he'd arrayed around himself.
"Missing the desert?" he asked as he closed the door behind him.
Bear looked up and gave him a sheepish grin. "Guilty as charged."
Tracker snorted and dropped his keys on the desk.
"Where's Duck?" He asked.
"Went to pick up a few things."
Tracker looked at Bear. "What sort of things?"
"Relax, she just went to the Stuffers around the corner."
Bear sat up and nodded. "Tracker, she's not that bad. It's right around the corner. How much trouble can she get into?"
There was a brief pause as Bear's words sunk in, then they were both moving towards the door.
They were after all, talking about the Duck.
Bear had almost managed to convince himself that he was overreacting when they reached the Stuffer's and found the crime scene team taping off the store and surrounding area. Bear's eyes widened as he surveyed the area and found no sign of Duck.
He looked at Tracker. There was no way this could be good.
With a slight nod from Tracker, Bear sat down on the sidewalk and surveyed the scene astrally. He could sense the crime team as they took pictures of the damage and the bodies of the victims, but again, there was no sign of Duck.
He looked up at Tracker and shook his head. Tracker's face was grim as he offered Bear a hand up.
"We ask about her," Tracker stated once Bear was standing. Bear nodded numbly and followed Tracker as he headed towards the tape.
"Will everybody please stand back. If you saw what happened- I want to talk to you. If not, there's nothing to see. Please stand aside and let us do our job." Detective Stuart took a deep breath and turned back towards the crime scene.
The waste never seemed to surprise him and yet it always disturbed him how a simple thing like going to the corner store could result in nothing but chaos and death.
As his men began interviewing the witnesses he scanned the crowd. It had thinned out some, but there were still clumps of people gathered round. Family, friends of the victims- wanting reassurances, needing to know.
He wished there was something he could tell them, but with four critically injured people and one fatality it wasn't going to be the news they wanted.
At least they'd caught the perps. Gangers, as if they didn't have enough trouble with the heat and everything else. It was pretty much an open and shut case, but he wanted to make sure that he had everything in order.
He took one last drag on his cigarette and then headed towards those people who hadn't left.
Tracker nodded towards the police, "looks like we're up."
Bear followed his gaze. "Now- maybe we'll find out."
As they waited, Tracker scanned the area. When he was sure there were no threats he moved closer to the tape and the approaching police detective.
Detective Stuart paused as he noticed the look the two men exchanged. Like the others, they were anxiously watching the scene, but unlike them they lacked any sign of shock over what had happened.
"Gentlemen," he greeted them.
"Detective," the first man, a slenderish, nondescript elf answered.
He gave them both a quick once over. A nondescript elf and a fairly large Amerind... on the streets of Memphis. He knew he was getting into something he probably didn't want to get into.
"Detective," the second man began. "My wife was supposed to have been here."
"And you would be?"
The man gave him a slightly startled look and then nodded. "I am Daniel TwoBears."
"Can you describe your wife?"
"Redhead... about..." He paused as he held his hand out to an approximate level. "1.7 meters, 72 Kilos..."
He froze as Stuart drew his gun.
"Stand right where you are," Stuart ordered, then called over his shoulder. "Can I have some back up here?"
The elf turned to his friend, an odd smile playing across his face. "I think they've met the Duck," he stated sotto voce.
"That would be my guess," the Amerind answered as he raised his hands.
Detective Stuart's eyes narrowed as he waited for either man to make a move. When back-up arrived, he holstered his gun and reached for his cuffs.
"They won't be necessary," the first man stated. His expression remained calm and non-threatening. "I don't know what happened here- but if... Kate was here... she was a victim, not a suspect."
"Sure, whatever you say," Stuart answered as he pulled out two pair of cuffs.
The man stiffened slightly, but there was something in the way his gaze was focused on his companion and not Stuart that made him stop.
"Bear Shaman," the man explained, nodding towards his friend. "Bear Shaman looking for his missing wife," he elaborated.
Stuart paused, realizing that the man was warning him. The Amerind wasn't a threat- but if he were cuffed... there was no guarantee that he'd remain that way. Bear shaman were notorious for having no sense of humor when it came to friends or family in danger.
"Call Sam Reiger. Tell him that Tracker and Bear are here... and that we need him. He can verify who we are," the elf added in the same calm, even voice.
Stuart took a deep breath and then finally agreed. If they were on the up and up, Sam would verify it- if not...
"Call it in," he ordered not taking his eyes off the two men. "If you're jerking my chain..."
The elf shook his head. "No jerking... no hassling. Just looking for his wife..."
There was an odd combination of coolness and concern in the man's voice. He didn't want this getting out of hand and taking them away from whatever their goal was.
They stood there for almost ten minutes before Sam Reiger arrived- or more to the point his drone arrived. The police drone hovered over them for a minute then moved between the police and their two suspects.
Stuart was surprised when he realized that the drone was facing the suspects and not him.
"Tracker, Bear!" The drone greeted them.
The elf looked at the drone for a moment and then back at the police. "Sam? Thought you didn't like... merging with the equipment."
"Still don't- but since it would take me another twenty minutes to get down there..." There was a pause as the drone's camera section spun around for a full 360 degrees. "What's up."
"Duck- went to the Stuffer's right before all hell broke lose."
The drone seemed to nod as it dipped slightly and then turned towards Stuart. "Anything to add?"
Stuart studied the drone for a moment, verifying its numbers, then gave his full report. "There was a gang attack on the Stuffer Shack behind us. Several civilians were shot as were two of the gangers. We fired in stun rounds and sorted out the victims and the suspects. Perps are in transit to your location."
Again the drone dipped, then rotated slightly on its side so that it looked almost like a human head tilting when questioning someone.
"And you're pointing guns at these two gentlemen because?"
"Because they described perfectly one of the perps."
The done spun around to look at Tracker. "Duck?"
Tracker gave an almost exasperated nod. "Duck."
The drone turned and looked at Stuart again. "Why did you log her as a suspect?"
"Camera footage showed her taking out her guns before the shooting started. She was packing two Ares Predators."
Stuart looked from the drone to Tracker as he shrugged and looked at Bear.
"She was only going for burgers and a soda," the bear shaman answered.
Again the drone dipped slightly, and then its camera focused on Stuart. "What's the ETA on the paddy wagon?""
Stuart looked at his watch. "Probably another ten minutes."
"I'll pull her out of the group... send her back home," the drone announced as it once again focused on Bear and Tracker. "Sorry for the trouble."
"No trouble," Tracker assured him then looked around. "Although it might be better if you held onto her until we got there."
There was a pause as Reiger tried to process the request.
"We are talking about the Duck," Tracker reminded him.
"True. I'll have her wait here with me."
The drone turned its focus back to Stuart. "These gentlemen are private security- they've helped us out in the past. Duck is... let's just say that she has a tendency to end up in these sort of situations. She probably saw what was happening before people started shooting."
Stuart gave the Tracker and Bear a final look and nodded.
Reiger, satisfied that the situation was under control, landed the drone and disconnected from it.
Stuart paused then signaled the others to lower their weapons.
"Gentlemen- if you'd like to come with me..."
The elf, Tracker, smiled. "Thanks, but I think we can get there faster on bikes."
"Then I'll see you there," Stuart commented.
Tracker's gaze focused on the detective. "Meaning?"
"Meaning... I'll see you at the station?" Stuart looked at them for a moment. "I'll need your wife's statement," he explained to Bear.
Bear gave a single nod, but Stuart could see the relief in the man's expression-- his wife was safe.
Tracker sighed as he wove in and out of traffic. A ten minute trip had already taken them twenty and he was fairly certain that they were just on the edge of the tie up. He looked over at Bear as he matched Tracker's movements through the traffic.
At least they were getting closer to the station. Ten minutes later they arrived, only to find the source of the congestion: LoneStar officers were directing traffic around the police station.
Tracker could feel his pulse quicken as he looked from the cordoned off building to Bear, who had pulled up next to him.
"What are the odds?" He asked wearily.
Tracker gave him a wry smile. "Ridiculous... until you factor in Duck's natural ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Bear nodded, then focused on the officer in front of them. He tried to ask him a question, but the officer gave him an authoritative ‘move along' gesture. Tracker immediately moved between them, knowing all too well that Bear's patience was wearing thin.
He paused, then signaled Bear to follow him. They were going about this all wrong.
Once clear of the blockade he pulled to the side of the road and pulled off his helmet.
"What?" Bear asked when he saw the exasperated expression on Tracker's face.
"You're going to hate me after I say this- but have you tried radioing her?"
Bear bowed his head. "Of course not- that would have made sense."
Tracker shrugged. "Me either."
Bear looked towards the sky and shook his head. "And we call ourselves professionals..."
That said he activated his comm-link. "Duck?"
There was a long silence and then a very faint. "Bear?"
Bear was about to ask more when he heard a squelching wave of static- then nothing.
"This is not good," Tracker commented.
Bear looked around. "Park here- we hoof it back to the station."
Tracker nodded already lowering his kick stand. "I'll try to raise Sam... you scan the Lonestar frequencies."
By the time they'd reached the Lonestar station- they had their answers. Sam was no longer at the station and neither was Duck.
The transport van had arrived at the station just as a jailbreak was initiated. The van, its prisoners and Sam Reiger had been commandeered by the escapees.
Detective Stuart scanned the crowd looking for any sign of Bear or Tracker. Finally he saw them as they stood on the sidelines, staring at the station in disbelief. Judging by their expressions they knew what had happened.
He moved over to the tape and lifted it for them. "Gentlemen..."
Bear gave him a bewildered half smile and ducked under the tape. "Any... ideas?"
"They're going to have a hard time hiding the van from us. It has a locator beacon- not to mention that it kind of stands out."
Tracker nodded. "Do you have any security feeds..."
Stuart studied them for a moment, as if trying to make up his mind. Sam Reiger had vouched for them but...
"Let's see what we can find."
He led them over to the command post and introduced them to the HRT Field Commander. "LT. Mark Wilson, this is..."
"Tracker? Bear? Boom's on his way over here... you heard?" The lieutenant was already shaking their hands, obviously relieved by their presence.
Stuart paused, surprised that everyone else seemed to know these two.
"We heard," Bear answered barely keeping himself in check.
Something in his voice made the LT.'s focus to snap focus on the bear shaman. "Bear?"
"Duck was... being detained," Tracker answered when Bear failed to answer.
Tracker gave him a wry smile. "Fraid so."
The LT. looked from Tracker to Bear and back again. "You two are drafted- temporary officers... effective immediately."
Tracker smiled wryly and looked over at Bear. "Don't you just love field commissions?"
Bear shrugged. "They have their uses," he admitted. "Do you have any ritual samples on Sam?"
Mark shook his head. "Sorry... not something we normally do. Don't you have something for Duck?"
Bear looked at him for a minute then shook his head. "They never last with Duck. Every time I take one... I end up having to use it."
Mark nodded sympathetically. "You all hang loose here- I'll let you know when we're clear- we can plan from there."
Bear looked around and sighed. "I can try and locate Duck... but if they're still in the van... I can tell you where they were when I checked."
"Probably better we wait until they've stopped. Only problem is knowing when they've stopped, which means waiting until we have a better fix on the van," Mark agreed. "Tracker?"
"Get me a line in- I want to see the security footage."
"My people are working the building now- they should be done soon."
Tracker nodded then looked at Bear. "How long will it take you to find Duck your way?"
"Probably less than ten minutes- but I won't be able to sustain it long... Be faster if I had a ritual sample..."
"If she's thinking... she'll leave us one... otherwise we wait... save it- if we need it later..."
Bear met Tracker's gaze. "If I do..."
"I'll take care of her," Tracker promised knowing that Bear would be in no shape to do anything if he had to resort to searching for her without a sample.
Stuart watched as the two of them discussed their options. It was obvious not only that they knew what they were doing, but they'd also done it before.
And he'd been willing to book them as street thugs...
Tracker was about to deck into the system when the radio call came in- they'd found the van.
Tracker turned to Mark, who'd been talking with Detective Stuart.
Mark gave a single nod. "Detective... take these men to the van- follow their lead on this... we don't have time for SOP."
Stuart paused for a moment then looked towards the building. "What about your people- you have mages trained for this."
"And right now they're securing the building," Mark reminded him. "We've got to get there while the scene is still fresh."
Stuart nodded, finally agreeing. "Gentlemen?"
Tracker nodded then looked at the LT. "Mark.. Tell Boom we're sorry we missed him."
"Will do. Keep us apprized of the situation..."
"You too," Tracker answered. "Soon as we know anything."
Bear looked at Stuart and nodded. "Lets go."
It was clear the day's events were starting to wear on him.
Stuart looked over at Bear as he sat in the passenger seat with his eyes closed. He almost looked as if he was asleep, but the man's fingers were twitching in a rhythmic pattern on his legs... almost as if he were drumming.
He gave a worried look into the back seat, only to find his other passenger dozing off. If he didn't know better, he'd think that they were bored.
He concentrated on the road, unsure of what to make of any of this.
"Conservation of energy," the elf explained quietly from the back seat. "When you aren't sure what's going on or how long its going to go on- you rest when you can so that you're ready for whatever happens."
Stuart shot him a glance in the rear view mirror. It was obvious that he didn't understand any of this.
"Duck, Bear's wife... she can take care of herself. Knowing her- she's probably already working her way out of whatever she's in. Worrying about her isn't going to do any of us any good, so we concentrate on what we can do- and on being there when she needs us."
Stuart shook his head. "But..."
"No 'buts'," Bear's voice was soft and calm. "You don't borrow trouble- especially where the Duck is concerned."
Tracker smiled. "Because she gives trouble a whole new meaning."
Stuart nodded again, but it was obvious he didn't understand. Maybe on an intellectual level he did, but he was too used to dealing with people on the emotional level.
"We should be there in another five minutes."
Tracker closed his eyes. "Wake me when we get there."
Stuart shot him a surprised glance and then looked over at Bear.
The shaman simply shrugged and closed his eyes. "We will find her- when she is ready to be found."
Stuart didn't want to remind Bear that his wife was in handcuffs being held hostage by a band of escaped prisoners and that injured policeman was involved.
He found himself wishing he could relax- but he knew the reality of the situation. The odd thing was so did they.
Five minutes later, the presence of ‘Crime Scene' tape announced their arrival. "Gentlemen..." Stuart called.
He watched in amazement as his two passengers reacted. They were fully awake and ready to move.
"You've done this before haven't you?"
"More times than I care to remember," the elf assured him. "Bear?"
"Lets see what we can find mundanely- if we're lucky... she's left something for us."
Stuart watched as Bear and Tracker surveyed the area. Tracker was smiling, pointing out several surveillance cameras in the area. Then they turned towards him.
"Detective," Bear called.
Stuart took a deep breath finally deciding something. "Jim," he said.
Bear nodded. "Jim... if you can have your people go over the van- Tracker's going to see what he can find out from those cameras."
Stuart looked at him in surprise. He wasn't sure what he was expecting- but this was not it. Lt. Wilson had said to follow their lead... but they were delegating.
Bear smiled. "Each does their job- your people are trained to go over that vehicle and find every piece of evidence, no matter how minuscule... I can track a physical trail- Tracker an electronic one. Every man on the team has a job... you try and do it all- you'll lose."
Stuart nodded. In spite of himself he found himself liking these two. He signaled the forensics team to go over the van, then watched as Tracker surveyed the area and then headed back towards the car.
He was puzzled for a moment until he realized that Tracker was plugging himself into the car's MVD. All the while his friend, Bear was watching the area- covering him. Sam Reiner's words came back to him- ‘they work security.'
He was beginning to wonder if that meant that they supplied security, or circumvented it. He'd pretty much made up his mind that it didn't matter when his car's printer started listing out names.
He stared in disbelief as Tracker printed out summarized rap sheets on all the prisoners from the back of the van. Then a second set that listed the names of the escapees... and the gang members that met them when they ditched the van.
Tracker's expression was slightly disgusted as he focused on Stuart. "Nice bunch of people," he commented as he pulled the reports off the printer and handed them to the detective.
"Rival gang- none of them too nice."
Stuart looked up from the report and watched as Bear listened to Tracker's report. His expression was completely neutral- as if he was just being briefed on a new case. Only the tension in his neck betrayed any hint of personal involvement.
When Tracker finished Bear nodded once and then headed over to the van to see if he could spot anything out of the ordinary.
Tracker was about to follow him when Stuart stopped him.
"How's he holding up?"
Tracker shrugged. "He's Bear."
The detective shook his head. "How can he deal with all this? How can either of you?"
Tracker gave him a disconcerting grin. "We have to."
Stuart shook his head in total disbelief. "She's his wife..."
"And my best friend," Tracker reminded him. "And she's counting on us to be there for her- we have to count on her to make the best of any situation."
Tracker shook his head, and then gestured towards the MVD unit on the console. "I've made a composite of the surveillance tapes... watch them. Then if you have any questions, we'll talk. I'll be at the van."
Stuart looked from him to the terminal to Bear. Finally he nodded and sat down.
Stuart watched the tapes amazed by the efficiency the gangers displayed in herding their rivals along with Duck and Sam to waiting vehicles. It was over in less than a minute, but then the tape showed the same sequence at half speed, focusing on Duck. The next pass focused on Duck's eyes, then her left eye.
Stuart's eyes narrowed as he realized that there were images playing in her eye.
The tape slowed yet again, enlarging the images in Duck's eye until he finally understood. She had recorded everything she could and played it back where the camera would pick it up.
The tape played the images one last time, pausing on each scene. In less than a five second glance, she'd given them information on armament, numbers and Sam's condition.
Any fear or concern the woman had shown never reached her eyes. He wondered how he could have missed it when he'd arrested her, but then realized- she'd been stunned then.
Up until that moment he'd been imagining how he would have felt it if were his wife in the middle of this, but the look Duck had given the camera changed all that. She knew exactly what she was doing- and exactly what they would need to do their jobs. More- she knew she could count on her husband to do what was needed to help her out. Her husband- and their friend.
He looked up to find Tracker watching him from the sidelines. Tracker gave him a simple shrug, then turned back to the van and the forensics team.
Stuart watched him for a moment and then nodded- it was time for him to do his job and leave the others to theirs.
Stuart looked up from his console. Based on the information Tracker had given him, he now knew they were dealing with the Crimson Tigers, arch rivals of the Central Falcons he'd arrested at the Stuffer's. Things did not look good in the slightest, but at least they knew who they were dealing with and more importantly, their known hangouts.
The forensics team had been equally helpful, finding a piece of cloth that seemed to have been used as a bandage and several strands of red hair.
According to the forensics expert the hair had been pulled from someone's scalp- not something that fell out.
Duck had managed to get them hair and skin samples just in case they needed them. After a brief consultation it was decided to use the samples Duck had been kind enough to leave behind. Between her hair and what they assumed was Sam's blood- they had enough to locate them, provided they were still together.
That served as a stark reminder of how bad the situation was. With the samples in hand, Bear wasted no time preparing the ritual. It was obvious to all of them that Duck needed to be found.
The preparations seemed to take forever, but the ritual itself took less than ten minutes and when it was finished Bear seemed satisfied. He looked at Stuart and asked for a map.
It took him a few minutes to match up what he'd seen with what was on the map, but when he did, Stuart was surprised-- it wasn't one of their usual hang outs.
"I'll call it in," Stuart agreed
Bear and Tracker discussed this plan for a moment then focused on Stuart again.
"Jim," Bear's voice took on a blunt tone. "There's no telling what will have happened by the time we can get an HRT over there. There's no guarantee that they'll still be there- or that they'll still be alive. Tracker and I will move in- scout things out, act if necessary..."
Stuart weighed the options for a moment and then nodded. "Good luck."
Bear smiled as he checked his weapons.
"They're going to need it," Tracker answered. His voice was ice cold.
Detective Stuart was glad they were on his side.
Bear gave Tracker a half-amused/half-concerned look. They'd found the warehouse the ritual had indicated. It wasn't all that hard-- not with all the white smoke was pouring out of its windows.
Tracker gave him a wry smile. "Either Duck has been here, or they've elected a new Pope."
Bear nodded. "Guess I better find out."
Tracker looked around, checking for a safer place for Bear to go astral. He noticed a sheltered doorway across the street and nodded towards it. "What do you think?"
Bear studied it for a moment then shrugged. "Sounds good to me."
Together they worked their way around the smoke and gathering crowd. Once they were clear, Tracker verified that the place was secure then took up a defensive position at the front of the doorway, giving Bear what cover he could.
Bear quickly squatted down and leaned against the wall. He forced the chaos and smoke from his mind. All that mattered was the astral world and finding Duck. Relief washed through him as he realized that the building was empty, but it was short lived.
There was no sign of Duck anywhere. With a resigned sigh his consciousness returned to his body and he stood.
"She's not there."
Tracker looked around and then back at Bear. "Didn't we just leave this party?"
Bear muttered something under his breath that Tracker was fairly certain he didn't want to hear.
Tracker shrugged. "Knowing Duck, she's probably back at the office wondering where we are."
Bear smiled. "That sounds like something Duck would do."
They looked at the building for a moment and then at each other.
"Clear the smoke and see what's inside?" Tracker suggested.
Bear nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
Tracker waited for a moment and then looked at Bear. It was clear his mind was elsewhere.
"Smoke clearing is your job," Tracker reminded him gently.
Bear gave him a startled look then sighed. "Sorry."
"We'll find her," Tracker promised.
"I hope so," Bear grumbled. "And then I'm going to permanently attach a watcher spirit to her."
Tracker chuckled. "It would probably run screaming within a week."
"If it lasts that long," Bear agreed.
After another pause Tracker looked at Bear. "Smoke?"
Bear bowed his head. "Must be getting old," he grumbled.
"Running with the Duck'll do that to you."
"Tell me about it," Bear groused as he called upon the wind spirits.
Tracker continued to watch their surroundings. They were still in hostile territory and the day was starting to wear on both of them.
By the time the HRT team arrived, the smoke had cleared and Bear and Tracker had finished a cursory pass through the building. They flagged down the truck as it entered the parking lot.
"Anything?" Mark Wilson asked anxiously as he and Detective Stuart joined them.
"They were here," Tracker told him in a rather resigned tone.
"Were?" Detective Stuart asked.
"Were," Bear assured him. "We've got seven pairs of cuffs in there with their locks picked, and someone set off several smoke grenades in the air ducts."
Bear looked at the Mark and shrugged. "More than likely."
"I'm not even going to ask where she got the smoke grenade," Stuart muttered.
"Probably for the better," Tracker agreed, then continued his report. "Bad news is- there's no sign of them."
Stuart looked around. "So we're right back where we started."
"No," Tracker corrected him. "We're in a different part of town."
Stuart gave him a stunned look and then realized that it was just Tracker's way of coping.
"So- what do we do now?"
Tracker and Bear exchanged glances and then smiled at each other nodding.
"Hospital?" Bear asked.
"Hospital," Tracker agreed then turned to the others. "What's the nearest hospital?"
"Hospital?...Sam, right..." Mark agreed.
"Wouldn't she take him to the nearest clinic?" Detective Stuart asked.
Bear shook his head.
"She's in the middle of hostile territory- she's going to take him someplace where there's decent security. She's not going to take any chances with his safety," Tracker explained.
Stuart paused, then nodded. It made sense. "Let me make a few calls," he offered, then headed back to his car.
Bear and Tracker scanned the area again, making sure they hadn't missed anything.
After several minutes of silence, Mark turned towards Bear.
"How you holding up?" He asked.
Bear gave him a lopsided smile. "About average," he answered.
Tracker laughed. "I think we're up to a watcher spirit and taking daily ritual samples."
Bear gave them both a long suffering look. "It's either that or handcuffing her to the wall, and we all know how well that would go over."
Mark nodded understandingly. "Boomer's got the guys keeping an eye out for her."
"It's appreciated," Bear told him as he watched Stuart step out of his car and give them the thumbs up sign. "But I think we may have found her."
"Good luck," Mark called as Bear and Tracker headed over to the car.
"Thanks," Tracker answered as he climbed in back. "We'll let you know how it works out."
Bear watched in disbelief, as yet another patient was wheeled into the emergency room. It had taken them almost 20 minutes worth of waiting before the duty nurse had a chance to talk to them, and even then she was called away a minute later.
LeBonheur Health Care-South was living up to its reputation as the city's busiest emergency room.
The nurse had shown back up, but almost immediately another patient in full cardiac arrest was wheeled in. She was about to leave when Bear moved in. "You- stay," he ordered brusquely.
The nurse stared at him in shock and disbelief as he took over the man's treatment. She was about to hit the panic button when she realized that Bear knew what he was doing.
"He's a Bear Shaman, and fully trained medic," Tracker assured her. "Now- we need to find Sam Reiger- he was admitted with a gunshot wound. There was a woman with him..."
She looked at him for a moment, then checked her records. "He's in post-op... stable..." She looked up at him. "I have no record of the woman."
Tracker stiffened slightly and then looked around. It wasn't like Duck to just leave Sam there. "Are you sure?"
She nodded. "I'm sorry- there's nothing on the duty logs... You can check with security but..."
She stopped in mid sentence distracted by the latest arrivals. "Take him to treatment three," she ordered, then looked back at Tracker
"Sorry," she apologized, then headed back to the treatment area.
Tracker smiled. "Thanks."
"We know she got Sam here," Stuart offered.
Tracker shrugged. "But we don't know why she didn't stay with him." He studied the detective and shook his head. "Duck would have stayed."
Stuart realized that this was what was bothering him as well. He looked over a Bear as he finished with his patient.
"I'll tell him," Tracker said. "You find someone in security- if they don't know anything, see if you can get them to let us go through their tapes. If they say ‘no'-- just back down... I can take it from there, but if we don't get something soon..." He shook his head.
It was obvious he didn't want to think about it.
Detective Stuart didn't have far to go- all he had to do was try and enter the main hospital through the emergency ward, and security was right there.
Before the guard could object to his being there, Detective Stuart showed the man his badge. He was in his element now.
"I'm Detective Stuart, LoneStar- one of our officers was brought in..."
The man perked up immediately. "Yes sir, gunshot wound."
Stuart allowed himself a slightly relieved smile.
"There was a woman with him..."
The security guard's smile broadened, but there was something in the way the man puffed his chest out that set the detective's nerves on end.
"When she was unable to identify herself- we detained her- she's in the holding room in our office."
Detective Stuart's shoulders sagged. He'd learned enough about "Duck" to know that 'holding room' and 'safe' were not synonymous... 'holding room' and 'still there' were probably too much to hope for.
"Wait right here," he told the guard then headed back into the emergency ward where Tracker and Bear were waiting.
"They detained her," he told them evenly.
"Terrific," Tracker sighed. His tone was resigned.
"This means we have to start looking for her all over again," Bear grumbled.
Detective Stuart paused, realizing they were probably right. "Let's find out what we can from Hospital Security."
The two men nodded, but he could tell- they weren't too hopeful.
The Security guard led them to his office proudly telling them how he had apprehended the suspect.
It was obvious to all three that he was trying to impress them. Stuart smiled and nodded, knowing that was what was expected. Tracker and Bear just exchanged knowing looks.
When the arrived, Bear and Tracker immediately looked at the security camera setup and began discussing it.
"We aren't going to get anything useful here," Tracker commented as he studied the single camera in the front office as it slowly scanned the room.
Bear followed his gaze and watched the camera for a moment. "Minute from end to end?"
"If that," Tracker agreed.
Stuart very quickly engaged the guard in conversation, allowing Tracker and Bear to do their job. He allowed the guard to show him his duty logs and then asked to see the suspect.
It was hard enough keeping a straight face when the guard looked in and didn't see anybody, but when he started telling his prisoner that hiding behind the door only worked in cheap trids, Stuart had to bite his lip.
Keeping a straight face was even harder when the man opened the door and found the room empty. If they hadn't been through as much as they had, he probably would have laughed anyway. The guard was standing there in slack jawed disbelief.
His prisoner was gone.
He rushed over to the security room and logged into the surveillance system. Stuart paused to see if Tracker and Bear were coming, but they were busy inspecting one of the locked cabinets.
The guard was nearly hyperventilating by the time he had the holding cell's tape queued up.
Together the guard and Detective Stuart watched the tape.
It started with Duck sitting at the table- looking very bored. She watched the camera for a while and then rested her head on the table. The next time the camera was pointed at the table- she was gone. There was no sign of her on the hall tape, or any other tape for that matter.
The guard was still trying to understand when Stuart led him back to the main office where Bear and Tracker were waiting.
"She's... gone. I don't understand..." he stated in shocked disbelief.
Tracker looked at him for a moment and then nodded towards the cabinet he and Bear had been studying.
"Could you tell me what was in this cabinet?"
The guard gave him a confused look. "It's my locker," he answered.
"Could you tell us what's missing?"
The guard moved over, his disbelief starting to give way to anger.
Stuart couldn't help but notice the distress in the man's voice. He could understand- the man had a prisoner, he knew his job... and suddenly that prisoner had turned his world upside down. It took Detective Stuart a minute to realize that pretty much described his day so far.
He watched as the guard went through his possessions and could almost feel his anger and disbelief growing, then a sigh of relief.
"Everything's still here," he stated confidently.
"Are you sure?" Bear prompted.
He held up his wallet with a relieved expression on his face. "That's it."
"Could you- look inside the wallet?" Tracker asked.
Stuart could see the blood drain from the man's face as he realized that his suspect could have taken his money. The guard went through his wallet and gave a relieved sigh- his money was still there. It took him a moment to realize that his bus pass wasn't.
Bear and Tracker were already discussing their next move, leaving Stuart to deal with the now angry guard.
"That little... " he sputtered. "I'm going to..."
Stuart barely had time to gasp as Bear whirled around and grabbed the man by his throat.
"You will do nothing," Bear growled at him.
Stuart let his breath out slowly and started to say something when Tracker moved in and gently put a hand on Bear's shoulder.
"Bear..." he called in an even tone. "He's just letting off steam. He's not going to hurt Duck, cause he knows that if he does- he's going to have to deal with both of us..."
Stuart was sure the last comment was more for the security guard than for Bear's benefit. He held his breath as Tracker's words sunk in and Bear finally released the hapless security guard.
Tracker gave Bear a steady look and remained there until Bear returned his look and nodded.
"Okay," Tracker said as if he was agreeing with Bear. Then he looked over at Stuart.
"I'm going to take Bear outside and see if we can find anything. Can you...deal with things here?"
Stuart nodded. It was probably for the best. He watched as Bear and Tracker left, all too aware how close he'd come to being on the receiving end of Bear's wrath.
"Did you?... He just!"
Stuart sighed. "You just threatened his wife... a wife that has been missing all day..."
The guard was still obviously confused.
"You said the wrong thing, in front of the wrong person, at precisely the wrong time," Stuart explained slowly.
Stuart gave him an exasperated look. "She could have taken your gun-- or your credstick... All she took, was your bus pass... You're just lucky that the woman you captured is one of the good guys..."
The guard was staring to calm down, but Stuart knew it was going to take a little bit more convincing if he didn't want the man to file charges against Duck.
"Look- the lady's had a really bad day, and her husband's just trying to catch up with her and go home."
The guard looked around and then back at Stuart. "But- I didn't do anything wrong..."
Stuart shook his head. "You followed protocol. From the looks of things, you did everything you were supposed to do but, and mind you I've only been dealing with the woman for about six hours now," he began. "From what I've seen, standard procedures are a waste of time with this lady. Okay?"
The guard nodded, but his expression was still befuddled.
"Look, so far today she's been shot at, mistakenly arrested, kidnaped ...taken hostage. She's had to pull herself, and an injured officer out of that mess... your detaining her was just the icing on the cake."
"And breaking out of our holding area?"
Stuart smiled. "As near as I can tell- that's normal for her..."
Tracker watched Bear as the reality of what he'd done hit him. The security guard wasn't the enemy-- he just managed to hit what was becoming a raw nerve. They'd been unable to help Duck when she needed them and it was wearing on both of them.
Tracker ran his hand through his hair and sighed. He wasn't used to being the comforter. That was Bear's job, he was the healer, only now...
Only now it was Tracker's job.
"Look, you lost your cool, that's all," he told the bear shaman. "He threatened Duck..."
"And I should have known that it wasn't..."
"Bear," Tracker sighed. "He meant it at the time. So quit beating yourself up about it. You slipped- you know that now so you'll remember to think before you react the next time, right?"
"I don't know Tracker, that's the problem."
Tracker studied Bear for a moment, unsure how to continue. Bluntness certainly hadn't worked...
A slightly amused smiled crossed his face. The direct approach was his way, but the answer lay in Duck's way of handling it- humor.
Tracker chuckled to himself. "I was just thinking what Duck would do in this situation."
Bear looked at him for a minute and then chuckled. "She'd probably grouse at me and complain that she was the one who hadn't had anything to eat yet."
Tracker snickered. "That sounds like Duck."
Bear looked at him, an exasperated smile on his face. "Or, knowing Duck, she'd get into bigger trouble. What are we going to do about her?"
Tracker shook his head. "What can we do? Hardest thing about Duck is keeping up with her."
"You've known her longer."
"You married her."
Bear smiled. "There is that. I thought maybe..."
"That she'd settle down? That her innate ability of getting into trouble would dissipate? Bear- you of all people should have seen through that one."
Bear gave him a sheepish grin and shrugged. "So now what?"
"We can either go home and wait for her- or try and find her. Either way, she's in no immediate trouble."
"That we know of," Bear sighed.
"That we know of," Tracker agreed.
"Of course- if there's trouble to be found."
"She'll be the one to find it."
Bear grinned. "I almost feel sorry for whoever's causing it."
"Almost," Tracker agreed.
He was relieved that Bear was come around a little.
"You okay now?" Tracker finally asked.
Bear nodded. "Yeah. Guess I better go in and apologize."
Tracker turned and headed back towards the building. He knew that it wouldn't help them get to Duck any sooner, but once apologies were made, Bear would be more focused.
Stuart was finally making some headway with the guard when Tracker and Bear returned. He could feel the man tense up as Bear moved forward.
Neither of them was prepared for what happened next.
"I apologize," Bear stated. There was something in his tone that indicated not only regret, but self-recrimination. "I reacted without thinking and I truly regret my actions."
The guard nodded. "From what the Detective here's been telling me..."
Bear shook his head. "It is still no excuse."
The guard looked at him and shook his head. "No- it's not, but I understand."
The man smiled and slowly reached out his hand. "No harm."
Bear took it gratefully. "Thank you."
Tracker gave Stuart a relieved smile. Now they could get back to the matter at hand- finding Duck.
"I don't know if it will help or not," the guard offered. "But I do know my bus pass number."
Stuart smiled at that. "We can track her if she uses it."
When his excitement wasn't shared by Tracker or Bear he sighed. "She wouldn't use it?"
Bear shook his head. "Probably not directly."
"First thing she'd do after breaking out of here would be to go down to the locker room," Tracker stated.
"And start switching bus passes," Bear finished with a long suffering sigh.
Stuart looked at them and sighed. "Is nothing easy with this woman?"
Bear shook his head. "Not a thing."
"And this is her wanting to be found?" Stuart asked in disbelief.
"By now she just wants to get home. She's going to do her best to avoid any more trouble- especially with the police."
"But," Tracker added. "She's Duck. And being Duck means getting into trouble as a matter of course."
"So in the meantime?"
"Meantime we check all our leads," Tracker answered giving Bear a look. "You follow the bus passes, I'll put a tracer on all her accounts."
Stuart gave them a confused look. "Wait a minute," he said shaking his head. "She's not going to let herself be traced by a bus pass- but then she's going to use her accounts?"
Bear shook his head. "She won't use a bus pass where an outsider knows the number."
"But she wouldn't care if she used one of the accounts that only we know about," Tracker added.
Stuart shook his head. "Even if she wanted to- how would she? We confiscated her wallet, her credstick..."
Tracker just shook his head. "Do your really think that's going to stop her?"
Stuart's shoulders sagged. "Probably not."
The guard watched all this with a combination of confusion and bemusement. "There's nothing I can do here is there?"
Tracker gave him an apologetic look. "Probably not. But if it makes you feel any better, there hasn't been a whole lot we've been able to do for her either."
"Isn't that the truth?" Bear agreed glumly.
Tracker took a deep breath and looked at his watch. Duck had been missing for almost five hours now. "So- you heading back to the station?"
Stuart nodded. "You want to ride back with me, pick up your bikes?"
"Thanks." Tracker answered with a nod.
"Least I can do," Stuart answered, then thanked the guard for his help.
The trip back to the station was uneventful. Stuart found himself wishing there was something he could do, but the truth of the matter was with Sam at the hospital- his involvement was officially over short of filing the paperwork.
He parked the car in the back lot and held the back door open for Tracker.
If we find anything- we'll let you know."
Tracker nodded and handed him a card. "Call us at the LTG on the back."
Stuart pocketed the card and wished them good luck.
"We're going to need it," Tracker answered.
Bear and Tracker watched detective Stuart as he waved good-bye and entered the station. Then they headed back over to their bikes.
"You know we can't just wait for her to show up."
Tracker nodded. "I know- but without any clues to go on, we'll be running in circles..."
Bear looked around and then shrugged. "Then I guess regroup at the office and see if we can find anything I guess."
Tracker straddled his bike. "Back to the office then."
Bear nodded. It was probably their best bet right now. Knowing Duck, he knew she could be anywhere at this point.
He offered up a quick prayer, then followed Tracker out into traffic. He tried to take solace in the knowledge that Duck was safe- but he knew that probably wasn't the case.
Tracker sighed as he pulled up in front of the office building and shut off his bike. He couldn't help but get the feeling of deja vu.
When Bear pulled in next to him, it was obvious that he was not looking forward to going into the office without her.
"Why don't you get us something to eat and I'll see if I can pick up her trail..."
Bear shook his head. "Let's get inside and get organized. You never know... she might have called."
Tracker smiled, but he wasn't holding his breath. "Have you checked her Comm?"
"Nothing but static," Bear answered.
"Unfortunately..." Bear sighed. Duck was good and knew what she was doing, but she was too used to mission scenarios, which meant that once communications had been compromised, she wouldn't use it again.
"I'm going to assign 4 watcher spirits to her- and another one to watch over them," Bear grumbled as they climbed the stairs.
Tracker just laughed as he unlocked the door and checked the answering machine. His pulse rate increased when he saw the flashing message light and hit 'play'.
It was Duck, calling from a public terminal. Tracker smiled and moved aside slight so that Bear could see the message.
"Bear, Tracker- uhm... I had a little trouble at the Stuffer Shack... I'm downtown right now... trying to catch the bus."
"A little trouble she says," Tracker sighed.
"Well, for Duck it was," Bear reminded him.
Suddenly Bear's smile disappeared, replaced by a look of shock and concern.
Tracker turned back into the screen in time to see someone taping the glass with a gun. His shoulders sagged. "No..."
He replayed the call, noting the time stamp and call area.
"This is not good," Bear stated as he watched the call again.
"Downtown," Tracker stated as he studied the tape. "Near a park..."
Bear nodded as Tracker slowed the tape down again. "How may parks downtown?"
"Too many," Tracker answered as his eyes narrowed slightly. "Hold on a sec..."
Bear watched anxiously as Tracker began analyzing the image. "... She's not downtown... not exactly... she's down by the river front.." He pointed towards the bridge in the background. "DeSoto Bridge... Looks like Tom Lee Park to me."
Bear nodded already heading for the door. Tracker paused long enough to forward the message to Detective Stuart and let him know what was going on.
The trip downtown was a tense one, but at least traffic had died down a little. Bear and Tracker discussed their options, but they both knew that no amount of planning could prepare them for dealing with Duck's warped sense of reality.
They weren't disappointed when they finally found the phone booth Duck had used.
Bear nearly wrecked his bike when they turned the corner and saw four would be shadowrunners duct taped to the light pole.
Tracker pulled in next to him and smiled. "I think she was here."
Bear shook his head. "The girl is just asking for it now."
Tracker nodded. "I'll check around."
Bear looked at the four men. "What about them?"
Tracker shrugged. "Star should be here soon enough- and I don't think they're going anywhere."
"Probably better that way," Bear agreed.
Tracker studied the men for a minute and then surveyed the area. "No cameras," he commented. "Have to rely on satellite images."
Bear scanned the area around them. "Lay you odds nobody saw anything."
Tracker looked at him and smiled. "Of course not. Life is safer that way."
Tracker gave the area another look then looked at Bear. "Your turn."
Bear nodded and leaned against the phone booth. As he exhaled, Bear closed his eyes; as he inhaled he caught the faint hint of Patchouli and Myrrh. A faint smile crossed his face as he recognized it as Duck's.
Then he viewed his surroundings from the Astral. He could sense Tracker's heightened awareness, the anger radiating from the men taped to the pole... anger, and confusion. It was the only astral sign of Duck ever being there.
He opened his eyes and shrugged when his eyes met Tracker's. "She was here- but she hasn't been here for at least a half an hour. Probably more."
Tracker nodded. Duck wouldn't have stuck around-- no way of knowing if the men she'd dealt with had any friends... or enemies in the area.
"Shall we ask her new friends?"
Bear Smiled. "Oh, I'm sure they'll have some choice words for our fine feathered friend."
Tracker gave one of the men an apologetic smile as he reached for the duct tape covering the man's mouth. The man cringed as Tracker grabbed hold of the tape and then nodded.
Tracker took a deep breath and ripped the tape off.
It took the man a few minutes to regain his composure, then he looked up at Tracker. "You've got to get us out of this," he told Tracker in as calm a tone as he could muster.
Tracker merely looked at him. "Mind tell me what you were doing here- and what you were doing pointing a gun at the young lady who was on the phone?"
The man's eyes flashed. "That..."
Tracker held a up a single finger and shook his head. "Be very careful what you say," he warned. "She's a friend- and considering the day she's had- you're lucky all she did was tape you up."
The man's eyes narrowed, but he held his tongue. "She took the ransom."
"Ransom?" Tracker asked tilting his head.
"We were supposed to wait for a call that would tell us where to deliver the money. Our client was very specific..."
Tracker bowed his head. "So you pulled her out of the phone booth..."
"We had to- only now..."
"You've missed the call."
The man nodded. "And she has the money."
Tracker's eyes narrowed. "She took the money?"
"She took our car- which has the money," the man explained. "Now will you please get us out of this?"
Tracker looked at him and then at Bear. "Bear?"
"He's telling the truth," the Shaman agreed. "But he also isn't telling you everything."
Tracker turned back to the man questioningly.
The man looked at him and shook his head. "I've told you everything that matters here. We needed the phone..."
"Tracker looked at him and reached for his pocket knife. "Who's your client?"
The man shook his head. "I'm not allowed to say."
Tracker shook his head. "I'm going to need more than that."
The man was incredulous. "Now look..."
"No, you look. I have a phone message with you threatening the young lady in question. You make it sound like she attacked you without provocation- which I know isn't true..."
The man's expression darkened. "Look, unless you release us, our client's wife is going to die!"
"So you keep telling us."
The man started to say something, then heard the sirens.
"You don't want to talk to us, that's fine. The Star will be here in a moment."
The man shook his head violently. "NO! There's to be no police involvement! If..."
"I know, I know," Tracker told him. "Your client's wife..."
Tracker looked back at Bear and then at the men as he tried to make up his mind. The man was struggling now as were his teammates.
"We can't be here when the police come- there's got to be some way..."
Tracker shook his head. "I don't think so..."
"What?" The man's struggling became more violent.
Tracker just backed away and waited.
Bear moved closer and watched as the police arrived. "I hope you know what you're doing."
Tracker just smiled. "He's not telling us everything- and we don't have the time to sort through things. If he's on the up and up... " Tracker shrugged. "Something tells me-- we're going to need the Star to get to the bottom of this."
Bear sighed. "You do know we're going to end up in the back of a patrol car, right?"
Tracker smiled. "Oh ye of little faith."
Bear shifted uncomfortably in the back of the patrol car. Sitting on a bench seat in handcuffs was never one of his favorite positions. He looked out the window towards the patrol car where Tracker was being held. "I told you so," he sub-vocalized into his com-unit..
Tracker simply shrugged and looked out his window.
Bear sighed. "They're never going to believe us."
Tracker shook his head. "I wouldn't."
"Yeah, but you're paranoid."
Tracker sighed, "You know at this rate, Duck's going to be home long before we are."
Bear smiled. "Good-- she can go look for us for a change."
"Memphis will never be the same."
Bear chuckled as he watched the activity outside the police car. "Looks like our duct taped friends are making us out to be the bad guys."
"Given their situation, wouldn't you?"
Bear shook his head. "I wouldn't have been in their situation."
Tracker laughed. "There is that."
As they watched the men began pointing towards the phone booth, and then at the cars. The police officer taking notes paused and turned towards the car where Tracker was being held. The expression on his face indicated that he was buying into whatever the four 'victims' were telling him.
"Oh yeah," Tracker sighed. "We're in for a very long night."
Bear nodded in agreement. "Next time-- I'm just going to stay at home and just wait for Duck to get back."
Tracker turned and stared at him. "Yeah right, tell me another one ‘Shaker."
Bear rewarded Tracker with a longsuffering sidelong glance. "You know- for a paranoid 'Jacker, you sure get arrested a lot."
Tracker sighed as he settled into the seat. "It's the only way I get any shut-eye when Duck's on the loose."
Bear chuckled. "I have to admit, these misunderstandings do give us time to catch up on our rest."
"You want to me to call Stuart?"
"Probably call Mark too- don't know how long its going to take them to sort these things out, but if we don't do something, the bozo's are going to walk and they're going to have to keep us on general principal."
"I wouldn't worry about that too much," Tracker assured him. "The officer in charge is doing a good job of following protocol."
Bear nodded to himself. "At least there's that. Tell you what- since it looks like we're going to be here a while- why don't I try and find Duck?"
"I wouldn't right now ‘Shaker."
"Cop car... back seat... anti magic devices- if you're lucky, all it'll do is give you a headache."
Bear sighed. He hadn't thought of that and said as much.
"Of course not," Tracker answered. "You don't get arrested all that often... Damn," he added. "Can't get a hold of Mark and Stuart has left for the evening."
"It has been a long day for both of them," Tracker answered.
"So, you want to make up a plausible story or resort to the truth?"
Tracker chuckled. "Lie and get arrested or tell the truth and get sent to Vanderbilt for psych eval... some choice."
"Yeah, there is that," Bear sighed. "At least you look good in a straight jacket."
"Better than stripes," Tracker answered as he watched the newest arrivals. He sat up. "Boneshaker my friend, I think we're on."
Bear looked at him and then at the detective's car that had just pulled in. As they watched two men exited the car and met briefly with the officer that had been talking to the 'victims.'
"I was wondering when they'd get around to questioning us."
The new detectives read through the officer's notes and nodded every now and then, asking a few new questions. Finally when they were satisfied with the story they were getting from the four men, they turned and headed towards the cars where Tracker and Bear were waiting.
Tracker was about to say something when he received an earful of static. "Of course they're going to jam our signals. Little late now guys," he complained.
He watched as the two men paused and started discussing something between them. He could tell, by the way they'd occasionally look at him, that they were doing it for his benefit. Tracker sighed, it was going to be a very long evening.
Bear watched as the two detectives helped Tracker out of the car and frisked him. He could tell by their posturing that they were trying to manipulate Tracker and keep him off balance.
Bear just shook his head. Tracker was too used to dealing with Duck for anything to really surprise him. The only problem was- they were burning up time that would be better used trying to track Duck down.
He could tell Tracker was all too aware of that fact.
Bear let his breath out slowly, concentrating on his own stress and concerns. It wouldn't do to have a repeat performance from the hospital.
Tracker closed his eyes and took a deep breath before beginning the fifth reiteration of what all had happened that day. He understood what they were doing- but it was beginning to get on his nerves.
When they asked him for the sixth repetition he sighed and looked at them. "Would you like a recording?"
"Either you repeat it here, or you repeat it downtown," one of them answered.
"Which part didn't you get?" Tracker asked.
This earned him a glare from the second officer. "Fine- have a seat," he said nodding towards the back seat of the car. "We'll talk to your friend."
Tracker stiffened at that a little. Bear had already displayed the signs of stress and there was no telling how ‘hard' these detectives would go. Especially if they thought they could goad him into revealing something more.
"Just remember- his wife is still missing..."
"We'll go easy on him," one of them answered in a tone that indicated they planned nothing of the sort.
Tracker shook his head and started to get into the car. "Do us all a favor- talk to Detective Stuart, Central Division... Mark Wilson, Central HRT... They'll verify what I've told you."
"Sure," the second detective answered. "Right after we find your accomplice."
Tracker gave him a longsuffering look. "And what part of ‘we've been looking for her all day' haven't you gotten?"
"Just have a seat," the man grumbled.
Tracker nodded and allowed them to help him back into the car. As they closed the door he let out a sigh. "And here I thought I'd be headed home."
Bear forced himself to remain calm, but it was getting harder and harder. Judging by the line of questioning, the two men were convinced that he and Tracker were part of the kidnaping the four men claimed to be working- and that Duck had double crossed them.
The conversation had degenerated into them asking where Cynthia Bordeaux was and Bear telling them that he didn't know and that they should really talk to Detective Stuart.
"We haven't been able to reach Detective Stuart," the first officer told him in an exasperated tone.
"You haven't even tried," Bear answered keeping his voice even. "And until you do- you're never going to get to the bottom of this."
"Did you know that Walter Bordeaux is a voodoon? Do you know what he could do to you- or your wife?"
Bear fought the urge to strangle the man and met his gaze. He was seething.
"I'm a bear shaman- you know what we do when someone is threatening someone we care about? Think for a minute, will you? I follow Bear. The Bear. Do you really think He's going to support me in something so against his teachings?"
"You tell me?"
Bear let his breath out slowly, praying for patience. "Bear is a healer- a protector. Kidnaping, especially for money..." Bear shook his head. "You're talking a one way trip to his ‘unfavored' list."
The two detectives looked at each other and shook their heads- it was obvious they weren't going to get anywhere.
"Fine- we'll talk again, after you've been processed."
Bear sighed. It was obvious that there would be no talking to these two until they'd bothered to run background checks on all the players. Not that he believed for a minute that the four runners were using their real names. Then again, neither was Tracker.
"Talk to Detective Stuart," Bear urged.
"Sure thing," the first detective answered as he helped Bear back into the car. "Right after you tell us where your wife is."
Bear snorted and shook his head. "If I knew that- I wouldn't be out here looking for her."
Detective Stuart sighed as he climbed the precinct house stairs. He was beginning to understand Tracker's sentiment on getting sleep while you can. He had just managed to doze off when the phone started ringing.
Now he was back at the office trying to unravel a mystery involving kidnaping, car theft and the Duck. At least it sounded like ‘The Duck' : four men found duct taped to a light pole, a pawn shop ticket for their weapons stuffed into one of their pockets, a missing car with the ransom still inside… a case where nothing added up.
It was just too weird not to be Duck.
He was glad he wasn't the lead on this case, he liked being able to sleep at night. Then again, if he was the lead on this case, he wouldn't have made another detective come all the way back to the station to ID a set of prisoners.
A set of prisoners that sounded way too much like Tracker and Bear to be anybody else.
He'd gotten as far as the holding area when Detectives Green and Friseur greeted him.
"Jim," Detective Green called. "Sorry to bring you down here this late…"
Stuart smiled. "No you're not-you're loving every minute of this."
Green grinned. "I would be if it weren't so…"
"Yeah, that's a good word for it."
"Want to fill me in-I've heard some of it, but not all…"
Friseur shook his head. "You're never going to believe this one," he began. "Disturbance call… patrol car gets there, finds four men duct taped to a light pole and another two men threatening them."
"According to the victims, they were handling a ransom exchanged for a client, when a third suspect, a woman, held them at gun point, then duct taped them to the pole before stealing their car and the ransom money," Green added.
Stuart looked at them. "And what do the ‘suspects' say?"
"Some story about one of them helping the other to find his wife, and that she had called them from the phone booth next to the light pole…"
"I see," Stuart sighed. "And did they happen to give you names?"
"Thomas Richardson and Daniel Two-Bears." Green answered checking his clipboard. He handed the board to Stuart, with the arrest reports.
Stuart looked at the mug shots and sighed. "They were with me all day today… looking for TwoBear's wife, who I mistakenly arrested."
Green gave him a surprised look. "You mean… they weren't lying?"
Stuart shook his head. "No, and if I were you-I'd be checking on your supposed victims."
Green looked at him for a moment and nodded.
Stuart shook his head as he passed by the holding cells. The four ‘victims' were pacing the confines of their cells, tense… alert. Tracker sat slumped over, leaning against the wall with his chin was resting on his chest. Further down the hall Bear seemed to be meditating in his cell. Of the six of them, he knew that Bear and Tracker were the ones ready for any eventuality.
He opened Bear's door first.
The bear shaman was on his feet immediately, his expression alert and yet oddly relaxed.
Stuart smiled. "Sorry-it would seem that misunderstandings run in the family."
Bear nodded. "More often than not." He looked around for a moment and then back at Stuart. "I'm assuming that we have been exonerated?"
"More than that," Stuart answered. "Mrs. Bordeaux showed up about half an hour ago, telling a very interesting story. "
Bear looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
"Let me wake Tracker up and I'll tell you all about it."
Bear smiled noting that the detective had said ‘wake Tracker up' rather than ‘get Tracker out.'
Stuart held the door open for Bear and then handed him the envelope filled with his personal belongings. As Bear began pocketing his wallet and keys, Stuart looked through the trasparent plasteel window into Tracker's cell.
"He looks so peaceful."
"Its all an act," Tracker stated without moving his head. "Are we out?"
"You're out," Stuart answered.
Tracker nodded and walked over to the door. "Good."
Stuart opened the door and signaled the two to follow him. "You're going to love this," he told them as they filed into his office.
Tracker and Bear watched Stuart expectantly as he closed the door and signaled them to take a seat. "About ten minutes ago, we got a call from Mr. Bordeaux the gentleman who's wife had been kidnaped."
"So, they were telling the truth," Bear commented about the runners.
"Sort of," Stuart answered. "He'd hired them to act as go betweens between him and the kidnapers. Only thing was-they were also the kidnapers."
Bear gave him a slightly surprised look. "Oh really?"
Stuart smiled. "The probably would have gotten away with it too…"
"If they hadn't run into Duck?"
Stuart nodded. "It must be really interesting living with her."
"Well, its never boring," Bear admitted.
"So-why did they threaten Duck? I mean if they had the money and the lady…" Tracker prompted.
Stuart looked at Tracker. "Random chance. They needed go through the motions of rescuing Mrs. Bordeaux. It was time for them to ‘receive their instructions.' Duck just happened to be there and I think they believed they'd found an easy mark…"
"Duck…" Tracker said with a disgusted smile.
"Duck," Stuart agreed. "Only problem with their plan…"
"Was that they picked the Duck," Bear finished with a smile. "Bastards got off easy."
"Not really," Stuart answered. "Mr. and Mrs. Bordeaux are refusing to press charges…"
"And, exactly how is that not ‘getting off easy'?" Tracker asked.
Bear turned. "Oh, you hadn't heard? The nice detectives must have figured I needed more threatening. It seems that our Mr. Bordeaux is a voodoon."
Tracker let out a wry chuckle and shook his head. "Priceless!" After a moment's thought he added, "they do know we weren't involved, right?"
"No worries there, I think Mrs. Bordeaux was more upset that they'd threatened that ‘mere slip of a girl,' as she called her."
"Mere slip of a girl?" Tracker repeated in disbelief. "Duck!?"
Stuart nodded. "The same. And you have to admit, when she isn't packing 2 predators, she does look rather… unassuming…"
"You just don't know her well enough," Bear assured him.
Stuart pulled up the report on his desk computer and skimmed through the information. "As near as we can tell, after Duck… secured the kidnapers, she pawned their weapons. Took a lot less cash than they were worth, then went back and left them the receipt so they could get them back…"
Stuart was shaking his head when Tracer just smiled. "That's a Duck move."
Bear laughed. "You know, we spend more time explaining the Duck to people,"
"She didn't know what they were up to. They were no longer a threat to her, but she didn't want someone to have access to their weapons."
"So she sold them to a pawn shop?
"She used the pawn shop as a weapons check," Tracker corrected.
Stuart smiled. "I never would have thought of that."
"No normal person ever would," Bear assured him.
"With Duck its just SOP."
Stuart thought about that for a moment and then continued. "After she gave them the pawn ticket… she headed south again."
"Throw anybody who'd see her off the track," Bear explained.
Stuart nodded. That had crossed his mind. "Anyway… Mrs. Bordeaux was locked in the trunk and not too happy about it. She started pounding on the trunk lid and that's how Duck found her."
"So Duck dropped her off with the ransom?"
Stuart shook his head. "She gave her the car and had Mrs. Bordeaux drop her off at the trolley station. Mrs. Bordeaux was very worried about leaving her alone at the station that late at night…"
Tracker barely suppressed a smirk.
Bear on the other hand was already back on track about finding Duck. "How long ago was this?"
"Probably four hours or so," Stuart answered with a sigh.
"So we have no idea where she is now?"
Stuart shook his head. "Sorry."
Bear nodded and then looked at Tracker.
"She could be anywhere by now," Tracker stated. "With that time frame, it'd be like trying to scan the entire city and pray that she managed to cross in front of a camera right when I was checking it."
Bear let out a deep sigh. "How about we go back to the office and I'll locate her the hard way."
Tracker nodded. "Sounds like a plan," he agreed.
"You could do it here," Stuart offered. "We do have a ritual room…"
Bear shook his head. "Thanks anyway, but I'm not going to be much good to anybody after this, and if I do it at the office, I can just crash out on the couch."
"I'll give you a ride over to the impound lot, you can pick up your bikes there," Stuart offered.
Bear smiled. "Thanks."
"It's the least I can do," Stuart told them. "I'm really sorry…"
Bear smiled and shook his head. "Jim, you did your job… you had no way of knowing she wasn't involved. You secured the scene and you would have sorted things out here."
"If the Crimson Tigers hadn't escaped."
"There was no way you could have known," Bear told him. "Hell, I know Duck and still let her go out on her own for burgers."
Stuart smiled. "Fair enough."
"We'll call you if we find anything," Tracker assured him.
"Thanks," Stuart said. "I'd kind of like to know how it works out… and…"
Bear laughed at the detective's hesitant smile. "You still need her statement"
Detective Stuart nodded. "For the Stuffer shack, the shooting, the hostage situation, the kidnaping…"
"And any other odd unsolved crimes from today," Tracker added.
"The night is still young," Bear agreed.
Stuart looked at the two of them and shuddered. "You know-I don't know which of you three scares me more."
"Good," Tracker commented with a smile.
"Let's go," Bear urged. "The sooner we find Duck, the sooner we can get back to business."
Stuart grabbed his keys and nodded towards the door. "Gentlemen."
Bear watched as Tracker cautiously surveyed the area.
"What are you looking for?" He finally asked.
"Floods, fire, famine...locusts?" Tracker answered with a smile.
"She's not that bad."
Tracker gave him ‘the look' and blinked.
Tracker shook his head and nodded towards the office. "Anyway-it looks like we're safe for now."
Bear scowled a Tracker, then keyed in the access code to get into the building. "If you need help getting her-call the Wilsons…"
Tracker smiled. "She'll be fine. I'll make sure we have back up-you just have to tell me where to look."
Bear nodded. When he got to the top of the stairs he froze. "Someone's in the office," he signed.
Tracker stiffened slightly, then drew his gun, covering the door.
Bear quietly eased the door open and tensed. Just inside the office was a stroller. Further in he could see a muumuu and a straw hat, then he relaxed and gave Tracker the all clear sign.
Holstering his gun Tracker entered the office and stared. Duck lay curled up on the couch sound asleep with the telephone cradled in her arms.
He bowed his head started laughing.
"Tracker? Bear?" Duck asked in a sleepy tone. She stretched and sat up. "Where have you been? I was worried about you."
Bear started at her in disbelief. "You…were worried?"
Tracker was still laughing and shaking his head.
"That's it Duck," Tracker told her between chuckles. "First thing in the morning-I'm getting you a lo-jack implant!"
Duck looked at him as Bear started laughing as well.
Her confused expression only made them laugh harder.
"Katya," Bear managed to gasp between chuckles. "Don't ever change."
Copyright 2001 - M.T. Decker
Acknowledgements and Notes
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