It feels strange, I'd finally taken control again, done something with it, and now I was surrendering it almost as quickly. Still after what Jonathan and the Walkers found out, and what I managed to remember, its probably for the best.
They agreed with me that the woman behind all of this must not be allowed to get away with this, but they also agree with each other, that I should let them handle things. I started to object: tell them that this was my battle, but Jonathan just smiled and shook his head.
"No Jess," he told me gently. "This is a family matter now... one of ours has been threatened."
I gave him a worried look. "Who... who did they..."
He chuckled at my cluelessness on the matter, then kissed my forehead. "Don't change little sister," he told me and then he left the room. I could hear him in the other room talking to Mr. and Mrs Walker about the situation.
Mr. and Mrs. Walker, his parents, and now mine as well. His gesture was so much like Matt-- I wasn't sure what to do. Part of me was offended that they were planning on fighting my battle, without including me, but then sanity prevailed. This was a case where the less I knew, the better it was for everyone involved, But I didn't have to like it.
And I didn't!
Work was actually a welcomed bit of structured insanity that put everything back in perspective. We had enough cases to keep us busy most of the evening. It was a standard case of do what you can when you can, and don't sweat what you can't control.
Its kinda been the watchword since I got here, I just have trouble listening to it.
It was nice to be working with Ray again. Walter may have relaxed a little around me, but all that meant was that at best I was semi accepted at as a junior partner, and at worst, as a necessary evil. Of course, all I had to say was 'Johns Hopkins' and he'd let up on me again. Think I'll have to call back to the guys and have them send me a jacket in his size.
Anyway, looks like we got another call.
Busy day, busy night. I woke up with Taco sitting on my chest proclaiming that there was no cat food in his bowl and demanding that I do something about it. Of course, he didn’t help any by continuing to stand on my chest and meow, and when I finally got up, he seemed to be doing his best to trip me on the way to the kitchen.
Maxwell on the other hand sat regally by the bowl waiting. When I finally managed to get food into both their bowls, Maxwell blinked slowly at me and then dug into the food. “Blowing cat kisses,” Alan had called it.
I tried not to think about him or the others as I got ready for work. It was hard not to. I’ve been here almost two months– two, and I’m no closer to finding out what had happened than I was before. Ah well, I knew it would take time when I came here. Still I’d hoped to have found something, something only a sister could find...
I looked at the all too familiar portrait of the four of us and down at the cats. “They didn’t happen to tell you two anything did they?”
Maxwell looked up at me, made a ‘gert’ noise as he blew a cat kiss at me. I chuckled as I got dressed and tried to see what was happening in the world around me. Then it was grab a shower and head to work.
Work was... well work. We had a rape case to deal with. Standard procedure is to have one, non-threatening, member of the team stay with the victim, give them comfort and support and see them through all the testing and exams that are required. In this case, it meant me.
I stayed with the guy, convinced him to go to the hospital and get checked out. He was too messed up physically not to. It was not an easy time, it never is.
Thing is how do you explain to someone who’s been through that – its not about sex, its about power and control? And how do you tell a guy that its not somehow worse when it happens to a man? It’s the same deal, same problem, same aftermath, same fallout.
“What will my girlfriend think?” That was his main concern. Personally, I figure if she holds it against him, she’s got some serious issues to deal with and he’s better off without her. But again, its not my place to say anything, just be there, be comforting, be consistent. Although I did promise to deck anybody who said anything. That at least got a smile out of him.
He’ll be okay with some counseling, but it’s a hard thing to go through.
Even with what I’ve been through with Aaron– yeah, he tried to kill me, which I guess is the ultimate power trip, but I still haven’t fallen victim to him and a lot of that was plain dumb luck.
That reminded me that I need to check on his status with the guys back in ‘Balmer’. Cases like that one are emotionally draining. Seeing people victimized is never easy, guess that’s another part of why I do what I do. I see them through a crisis and hopefully get them where they need to be. Still, sometimes, I wish there weren’t so many people giving me folks to help. There’s enough freaky stuff out there without adding to it.
At least the visible tails are gone and my life seems to be un-freaking. No worries, I’m sure that will change too.
Know what I said about un-freaking, well, forget it. When I got up to get ready for work everything seemed normal enough, but when I got out to my bike... there was another token on it. Now I admit, there are a lot of tokens on the bike, and I could probably remove half of them since I won’t be back in Baltimore anytime soon, but I know each and everyone of them, and this was not one of the ones I’d put there.
I saw it as I strapped my kit, and bagel down and got ready to head towards work. Needless to say I gave the bike a serious once over after that. Nothing else had changed. None of the other tokens had been touched. I took it off, inspected it– nothing. I even ran the detector Fin had left with me over the bike, but there was nothing new.
As I finally put the token back and prepared to leave, one of the local kids came over, a big grin on his face.
I watched expectantly as he gave me a conspiratorial smile. “We have a truce with the Night Hunters... Doc Rivers got some of their people too. They asked us to give that to you.”
I could tell by his smile, he’d watched me check over each of the other tokens. I think it amused him, but he was also a bit surprised that I knew what each of them were and where they’d come from.
I nodded. “Thanks.”
“You be careful out there Doc,” he told me softly. “There are a lot of people been asking about you lately.”
My eyes widened slightly as he studied me again. “So this is more than just a social call,” I commented.
“Yeah,” he answered. “They’ve been hanging out, watching mostly showed up two days ago, askin’ questions like cops, flashing lotsa creds. They talk like you, outta towners. We chased em’ out, but they’ll be back.”
“Thanks,” I said again.
“We look after our own,” he answered. His voice was rather gruff, but I knew that meant me. “It true you nearly killed a guy before you came here?”
My eyes widened. Aaron. Was he somehow behind this? He was supposed to be locked up on parole violation and assault charges, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hire somebody to do something.
“Actually he tried to kill me,” I answered, trying to cover my surprise. “And the cops back home knew that.”
He nodded. “You want, we’ll deal with them,” he said in earnest.
I know my response was probably a little too fast, but I didn’t think they needed any extra trouble and I knew how they’d deal with these folks. At least he seemed to understand. “Don’t forget Doc, we’re here if you need us– just like you’re there for us.”
That said, he drifted back down the street.
I had hoped that would be enough to keep the fates busy, but of course, my life was getting uncomplicated so something had to come up.
It came in the form of an accident. The damage on the car indicated that someone had hit it repeatedly, probably trying to run the driver, a 34 year old woman, off the road. As usual, since she had to be extricated, I stayed with her as Ray put together the extrication plan.
It was good to be working with him again. Ray and I don’t order each other around we work together and that’s it. While Ray discussed the cutting required, I continued to check the woman’s vitals and try to keep her awake.
She was trembling and worried and I did my best to comfort her. When she asked me for her cigarettes, I tried to tell her she couldn’t smoke and she became more adamant. In an effort to calm her down I followed her instructions.
Inside her purse was a camera, a press id and her cigarettes. She nodded as I pulled them out. “Inside”
I looked at her worriedly and checked her pulse again, but she pushed my hand away. “Inside!” She insisted.
I opened up the pack and found two film disks tucked inside. “Keep them safe,” she told me. “Big... very big..” she told me. I nodded carefully putting them in my storage unit and closed it up. Once I’d stowed them away she nodded.
After the call and the standard clean-up and prep, I slipped one out and slotted it. The first pictures were normal enough. They were covert pictures, but nothing really out of the ordinary. People coming and going from an office building. Then I recognized one of the men as one of Andrews’ missing persons.
He was walking into what looked like a normal office, but then there were pictures from inside. It was setup like a medical exam room. There were pictures of him on an operating table, and then, with his chest open, not cut, but opened, like a cabinet. He was couriering something in his chest cavity.
I had no idea what it was, but it was obviously important enough that someone had tried to kill the woman who’d taken the pictures– and now I had them.
There was no hesitation, no big moral debate, I knew who to take them to.
I stopped by the precinct house on the way home and surprised the desk Sargent when I announced that I was here to see Andrews. He even objected that it was just Sunday morning. I grinned and took the visitor ID and clipped it on. “No rest for the wicked,” I told him with a lopsided grin.
When I told Andrews what I had he nodded. He was very interested in the pictures and the patient. When he finished looking at them, he tossed me one of his new case files.
Homicide: Lydia Greenwood – the reporter.
I nodded. “Figures.”
“Jess...” He called. I knew he was trying to warn me, but we both knew it was pointless.
“What can I say, I’m a trouble magnet,” I told him with a shrug.
At least when I left the station I wasn’t followed. I headed over to Council Island and checked on Mike before going home and grabbing some shut-eye.
The day was rather normal, except that I noticed the two men I’d been warned about. They were poking around the diner. I ended up skipping breakfast, but I shouldn’t have worried about it too much: there was a bagel waiting for me on my bike. I’m beginning to wonder if everybody in the neighborhood is watching out for me.
Lord knows I need it.
I’m not entirely sure what these people are up to, especially since its not like I’m hiding. Judging by the reports I’m getting from the gang they seem to be trying to discredit me. Asking lots of leading questions, making it look like I was running from something. Of course, after two months, everybody here knows me well enough that if they’re suspicious, they’re going to ask me about it, not speculate.
Not that I think Mario would let them, and Mario is family to just about everybody here.
By the time I got to the station, George and Walter were out on a call and I couldn’t do anything except prep my bike and think.
How much did the people in the neighborhood really know me? How well did I really know them? It didn’t really matter, but those questions led to the real one – how much did I really know about my brothers.
I mean, I know that Matt likes butter on his toast and Alan snores, but– I had no idea what they were really doing here. I mean, I assumed that Matt was teaching martial arts, and that Alan was probably studying at the university, but I hadn’t found any sign of him every registering at the school. Andy– I just assumed he was sponging off the boys, trying to find himself.
Tells you how much I know.
George and Walter came stumbling in about an hour after shift change. Walter being Walter was already starting his clean-up and inventory when Ray and I took over. We shooed them out, telling them to get home and get some sleep. I could tell that George was all for our taking over on the scrub-down (and inventory) but Walter seemed convinced that he had to finish what he’d started. We ended up compromising and sharing the duties.
Almost as soon as we reported the unit as in service, we were on the road. As soon as we were finished with one call and clean up, we were on another. It ran that way for most of the shift. It was bad enough that I just crashed at the station house for a few hours before heading out.
I stopped by records and split a half a dozen doughnuts with Saunders. (His four to my two). There was still nothing new on the boys’ case, but at least I had breakfast. Or was it a late night snack? I really need to get my schedule together.
Once again, I was planning on sleeping in, but somehow I’m beginning to think that I’m not meant to sleep on Mondays. I’d finished feeding the cats and reading the morning papers when the phone rang.
I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end and their face was hidden in the shadows, but they certainly seemed to know me.
“Jess? Jess Miller?” the person asked, his voice was tense almost worried.
“Yes?” I answered evenly, trying to figure out who’d be calling me. If the person had known me, then he would’ve known that I’d be sleeping about now.
“Look, I can’t talk long. Your brothers are in trouble. They asked me to call you. They need money..”
He was moving fast, too fast and I knew it. He was telling me what I wanted to hear, but he wasn’t really saying anything.
“Tell me where they are and I’ll take it to them,” I answered evenly.
“No,” he answered quickly. “Its too dangerous. That’s why they asked me to contact you. I’ll get it to them, but I need you to get as much as you can without drawing attention. Meet me at Willy’s Bar down in Kingsgate. Two hours.”
He hung up before I could say anything, so I did the only thing I could do. I spoke into the phone. “Did you guys get that?” I asked and then hung up the phone.
It rang a minute later.
“Jess,” the voice was terse and familiar. Then the picture came in, it was Daniels.
“Yeah,” I answered. “Is it just me or did that sound like a setup if ever there was one?”
“You aren’t planning on going there are you?” he objected.
“Well, that depends on whether or not you’re planning on sending anyone there to watch over me.”
I could hear him hesitate. “Its not our jurisdiction,” he answered.
“Aw, come on,” I objected. “You guys have carte-blanche.”
I could hear him talking to Cummings and was surprised when Cummings took over the call. “We can’t guarantee your safety,” he stated tensely.
“Yeah, but are you going to be there?” I asked with a smile.
His scowl gave me all the answer I needed.
“Okay, I’ll be there,” I told him. “There was a guy running this sort of scam back east, sounds way too much like his approach.”
He nodded, still scowling. “Think he moved out here, we’ve had several attacks on citizens,” he admitted gruffly.
It was interesting to me: Cummings really wanted this guy. “Okay, tell me what you want.”
“We’ll put a unit on your apartment in case he’s just trying to get you out of the place, meet us at...” again there was a pause. “The Quickmart on 78th Ave,” he finished.
They were waiting for me by the drink dispenser. Daniels started taping a wire to me as Cummings told me what they had. It was weird working with these two, especially since it was what, a week ago that they were following me around making my life an interesting situation?
“Play naive, but not stupid,” Cummings warned, forgetting to scowl. “And whatever you do, don’t let him take you anywhere.”
With their instructions I headed into Renton. Admittedly it wasn’t my choice of places to go, but it was ideal for meeting someone who was trying to not be noticed, and to avoid police intervention.
I took a seat in one of the booths and waited, trying very hard not to watch everything. Like Cummings said, I had to play naive but not stupid. When the waitress came I ordered a glass of wine. I watched as she placed the order with the bartender and then brought it over to me. As she served me, the man I was supposed to meet entered and headed towards my booth. I couldn’t help but notice the look the bartender gave him as he moved by.
Something told me I didn’t want to drink the wine. I picked up the glass and pretended to take a nervous sip.
After he introduced himself he gave a quick furtive look around and then sat down.
“The boys,” I asked, sounding hopeful. “How are they?”
“They’re fine,” he assured me, looking around again. “There’s no time, did you bring the money?”
I shook my head. “No,” I answered, watching his reaction carefully. He was not very happy about that, and yet, it was almost as if it meant something more to him.
If he was the same person as the guy who’d been running the scam in Baltimore then, I knew that I was in danger of losing more than my money. Assaults were another part of the his M.O. and the look he’d given the bartender made me suspect my drink as well.
“Look, every moment we’re together, its more dangerous for you...”
I nodded. “I... just needed to know they were alright,” I told him.
He looked at me for a minute and then nodded. “They’re fine... but we have to get them the money...”
I nodded and pulled out a credstick. “They’ll know the password,” I told him with a smile as I pretended to take another sip of my wine.
It was obvious he wasn’t expecting that. He smiled, suddenly forgetting that he had to leave quickly. It was then I knew there was something in the wine. I smiled at him, my eyes looking slightly less fixed.
“Do you have more money?” he asked softly.
I smiled and nodded. His smile grew, sure that I had had enough of whatever the bartender had slipped me. He viewed that as his signal that he was in control. With a smile, he moved around to my side of the booth and proceeded to get too friendly. That was Daniel’s and Cummings’ cue. They nabbed my so called ‘friend’ and his accomplice and I needed a shower.
And for thanks, I got to go home and get some much needed sleep.
Tuesday, missing persons check. I stopped by central and picked up the list from Andrews. There always seems to be a lot more cases added and very few removed. At the morgue I didn’t find any leads on the boys, but I did find the man in Lydia Greenwood’s pictures.
Missing person, mystery courier, and now DB. Thing was, his chest cavity was a normal human chest cavity again. That was enough to bring Andrews to the morgue. Dr. Chen noticed our interested and bumped the case up so we could have the results. Andrews ended up having to make a few phone calls while he worked.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand that one. The man works Homicide and Missing persons and can’t watch an autopsy. I guess its different when someone’s being cut open to determine the cause of death, but I’ve seen some deaths that make the coroner’s table look mild, besides, they’re already dead when they get here.
There was some sign of scar tissue, but nothing definite. His chest cavity was indeed a normal chest cavity. I tried not to think about it as I made my rounds on the John Doe hospital check. It was Andrews’ case. I was only involved from the periphery.
Yeah, right, if that’s the case then why do I have the deep sinking feeling that its going to drag me in like everything else that’s been happening around me? By the time I got home, I’d almost convinced myself that I’d have a nice quiet evening and hit the sack early.
That lasted until I opened the fridge and pulled out my water bottle. Taped to the side was a message from Fin.
Need your help, garage midnight.
I stared at the note, then looked at the clock, then stared at the note again. If I was lucky I could get three hours sleep before I’d have to get dressed and head out, but I couldn’t.
Once again Fin had slipped through my supposed security and left a cryptic message for me. I’m glad he’s on my side, although sometimes I’m beginning to wonder.
Okay, there’s no wondering, Fin’s on his side. Not that there really was any real doubt on the matter. I’m a friend and he’ll watch over me, but when he ‘needs my services’ I’m not a friend, I’m a team-mate and I better pull my own weight or get left in the dust.
It probably doesn’t help that I was planning on a nice quiet evening: get some extra sleep, get ready for work. I had no idea what was up until it was too late to do anything but follow through. I think it’s the city. Nothing like this happened to me back in Baltimore. Here, I’ve been turned from paramedic, to assistant investigator (read bait) and now... shadowrunner. I think I need to make a better class of friends.
In this case Fin had need of my explosives expertise. I just had to set things up and set them off at the appropriate time. My instructions were simple: set things up, wait for his signal, then fade back into the night and keep from becoming a liability.
When I showed up in the garage, there was no sign of Fin, but I had another set of instructions waiting for me. It was like a scavenger hunt. I was supposed to ride over to the quick-mart, slip into a protective pair of coveralls, put some oversized cloths on over them and take a bike that was waiting for me in the alleyway.
I followed his directions and by the time I arrived at the designated area, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize me. Fin was very careful to not introduce me to his companions, which was fine by all of us.
The setup was simple: rig a car that’s running on remote, wait for the signal and then blow it up. Somebody else was driving it, I just had to make sure we were on different frequencies and control the explosion as the car drove by a gate. It was obviously a diversion, for what I don’t know–that wasn’t something I needed to know or really wanted to know.
I could tell his ‘associates’ weren’t to crazy about having me there, but they admitted it was nice to have someone who knew what they were doing handle the demo. My heart was pounding as I followed Fin’s directions.
I fired the charges and then faded into the night. I walked to the metro, took it south, towards Renton. Got off, faded into the crowds there, then slipped down yet another alley way, changing into a set of cloths that were waiting for me. I left the first set there, then took the Metro west. Two more changes and I was finally in my own cloths, the coveralls being the last thing to go. I took the train back to the city, went to the movies. When I left the theater, my bike was waiting for me, along with the ticket stub to an earlier movie.
I marveled at how well he’d covered my tracks, and when I found out what I was helping with, I was very glad.
It was all over the trid in the morning, everybody was talking about the failed gang raid on Aztechnology. The police were putting it off as a prank, but it was obvious that the corp wasn’t being quite as blase about the whole thing. Something had happened last night and I had been a part of it.
As I write this, I realize, I’ve taken my first step into entering into my brothers’ world. It’s a scary place.