I didn’t really feel like going to the therapist this morning, but Case had to go to work and let’s face it, no matter how much I don’t feel like going, it beats being forced to go, and docked for the time.
The therapist took me through my paces and finally gave me a clean bill of health. He warned me that my shoulder and arm were functioning at about 96% and that might be all she wrote for it, but he told me that if I kept up with the exercises it wouldn’t hurt. Still 96% is a lot better than the 32% I started with.
After that I made a few checks on Dar Allen to see how he was doing. Turns out he was discharged from the hospital a few days ago and some good Samaritan had picked up his tab.
I thought about that and smiled. Good things do happen– sometimes, you just gotta see to it they do.
I ended up hanging out at the clinic with Trina for the rest of the afternoon. I figured I’d get into a lot less trouble there than I would anywhere else. I was right too. Trina was about to close the place down when one of the local gang members showed up.
One of their people had been ambushed and needed a doc but no Star involvement. Thing is, for Trina to keep her license for the clinic, she has to report anything like that to the Star. I don’t.
I ended up going with them, which was just as well– Jonathan showed up for Trina as I was leaving. I’ll have to ask her about that sometime.
Once I was clear of the clinic the gangers ‘jumped’ me and took me someplace. The had me blindfolded, and I could tell they were circling around trying to make me disoriented. I guess mentioning the GPS system in the head-gear wouldn’t have been a good idea.
The ganger’s wounds weren’t immediately life threatening, but they were painful. I treated the worst of them, cleaned and dressed others and gave him some aspirin. I figure his buddies have something more potent they can give him once I’m gone.
Once I’d taken care of him, they repeated the process of blindfolding me and driving around until they were sure I was disoriented-- and that we hadn’t been followed. When they were sure it was safe, they dropped me off in front of the condo.
When I got inside, Case was waiting for me. I could tell by his expression he had something important to say– something he didn’t want to tell me.
I was trembling as he led me to the couch. “Jess,” he said softly. “... we need to go downtown.”
I could tell it was bad then– and I guessed what it was. They’d found the boys. He tried to tell me they weren’t sure, that they needed positive ID but I could tell it looked like they had them; enough that Case was convinced he needed to take me downtown. I was a nervous wreck by the time we got down to the morgue.
Dr. Chen had stayed up for me– afraid that he was the bearer of bad news but unwilling to let anyone else take the responsibility. Fortunately he didn’t make a big show of it. He just led us down to the three bodies that were on the tables waiting for identification.
Whoever had killed them didn’t want them identified. The fact that there were three of them, that they were of the general size and age of the boys– it was why I was there. There was no sure way to tell who they were– their teeth had been smashed, their faces-- fingers... no... its over...
It was a mess, and for a very tense, haunting, 5 minutes I studied them. For five minutes I felt my life spinning out of control-- all my fears.... Case held my hand... offering support should I need it. It was five minutes until I could breathe again– It wasn’t the boys.
It was hard to tell– but little by little it became obvious that the three men on the tables weren’t my brothers. The oldest didn’t have the barely noticeable scar over his left eye. It had bothered Matt so much– but it was only obvious to him– and those of us who knew him. Same for the burn scars on the next corpse’s right leg– it was below the skin. The youngest... his ears had never been pierced.
I was relieved and still... totally drained. Case took me home, holding my hand as he drove.
He took me back to his place and carried me inside– not giving me a chance to wallow in my fear and worries. He did his best to remind me that I’m still alive–
Convincing me the boys are isn’t as easy.... they just have to be.
Last night made it clear-- I can’t wait on the sidelines anymore. If I do it’ll drive me insane. I think Case understands. He didn’t push anything, let me call the shots on this. We stopped by the bank and I pulled out the 3x5 index cards.
I was starting over again. I’m going to have to buy the guys a new wall at this rate. I looked at the cards-- read through them, read them out loud to Case as he took his own notes. It was no clearer than when we started.
I was starting to get frustrated when Case pulled out a map and started marking points on it. Places where we knew the boys had been. Places I’d gotten waylaid. It was like a spiral spinning away from the Condo and then coiling tight again.
Spinning away, it had been sightings of the boys, Matt’s car... the dead bodies from last night. Spinning towards the Condo had been the attacks on me.
I just didn’t get it.
If the boys had had enough time to grab their gear-- why hadn’t they done something with the cats-- left some sort of clue.
"Jess," Case asked softly. "What’s on your mind?"
I looked at him and then the cards. "I don’t know," I finally sighed. "Its like one big game of cat and mouse."
I nodded, and looked at the map again. "I guess the question is-- are they the mice... or the cats."
It was almost as if a buzzer went off in my mind as I looked from Taco to Maxwell. "The Cats!" I exclaimed.
Case must have thought I was nuts. I probably was too, but everything suddenly clicked. They had left a clue, two clues... the cats. Taco and Maxwell would only let somebody they knew and trusted near them-- somebody like Mario... or me.
It took us a while to find them... the boy’s messages. They were inside the cats' tags.. All this time and the clues had been staring me in the face-- demanding to be fed.
I think I'd have stared at the tags all night if Case hadn't finally taken them away from me and made me concentrate on something else.
The inscriptions meant nothing. I know they wanted to keep strangers from finding the clues, but the least they could have done was leave a message that I could understand.
From Maxwell's tag:
Quiche' 1 - 184.108.40.206.1.
From Taco's a few bars of music- and the words: ‘Naranja del mundo'-- orange of the world?
None of it made any sense. I stared at the numbers; played the music on the guitar Tal had given me; looked for any recipe books with Quiche in them– nothing.
Case, God bless him, put up with my manic obsession with the tags, but after three hours of mulling over them, I was no closer to figuring them out. Worse, I was getting tired of dealing with me too. Case made me put the tags down, and then took me out to dinner.
I know I wasn't much company, but there was also an odd giddiness to me. I at least had something, even if I didn't understand what it was.
Case seemed to understand and did his best to engage me in conversation. I was a distracted dinner partner at best. He seemed to want to say something, but he held off, letting it slide-- I guess he figured it was my problem to mull over and anything he said would probably just annoy me at this point. He was probably right.
The only problem was-- even after dinner after taking time away from it, it still made no sense.
We ended the weekend with brunch and comics again. It was a relaxing day although I still don’t know what to make of the clues. I have a feeling they’ll probably remain a mystery until something happens. The numbers could be a combination to a lock, then again, the music could too– I just don’t know.
Part of me wonders if I serve Maxwell quiche’ will he suddenly tell me what it means... or just demand ketchup with it? With my luck, if the cats suddenly decided they could talk it would be mostly a lot of complaining about opposable thumbs and where the best nip is.
Case was understanding almost to a fault and this time he was one who suggested a work out. The exertion and the steam were just what I needed to get myself geared up for another work week.
Before we parted ways, he asked me out after work on Wednesday. I was thinking about the simulator runs, but he pointed out it was Valentines day. I’d completely forgotten. I smiled at him and reminded him what happened the last time he tried to do something special. He smiled and kissed the top of my head.
“Its over,” he assured me, and then teasingly added a ‘hon’ to his statement.
I had to laugh. I’m rubbing off on the man.
Work is work. At least I don’t have to see the therapist anymore... but I still have exercises to do. After the briefing I went over the bike while the guys went over the truck. The bike was just as I’d left it, which makes sense since I’m the only one using it right now. We need more bike medics soon. Officer Smiley would be a good candidate for an accelerated track, but he needs more time with a supervisor on the medic side. The others are medics with need of the biking skills. If we could just combine their skills... then clone them...
Wishful thinking I guess.
I ended up getting a visit from Knight Errant as I was finishing my workout. They’d put together their case and needed me for a grand jury hearing Thursday.
I nodded and promised them I’d be there. I wanted to ask who and what, but refrained. If they told me they’d be jeopardizing their case. Glad that they at least have something– and its not me.
Not only does the Knight Errant have something– somebody knows it.
I almost had an untimely accident on my way to a call. The Local Star were appalled– nothing like that happens in their part of town. Yeah, right– tell it to the judge.
Its seems to them Mr. Worthington-Hyde-Smythe’s untimely demise wasn’t all that bad. I have a feeling the local Yak’s might agree with that. Its not that the police were indifferent to me– they just– told me it would probably be better for everybody if I had a sudden case of amnesia.
You know– I’m going to get a nice permanent folder that I can carry around with me. And its going to have nice laminated sheets, documenting all the occasions where people have done this to me and what’s happened to their respective careers once it was over with.
I have a very long memory and a very long list of friends to help me out with it. When I got cleaned up I gave Case a call. He was out of the office and I did not want to talk to his partner. The two Knights that had questioned me earlier arrived as soon as they’d heard what had happened.
I gave them the names and badge numbers of the officers and what exactly they said. All nicely stored on chip. I copied it and handed them the original. Hope I don’t need any advanced neuro-computer treatment techniques for the next few days– that’s what was slotted at the time.
I was not amused– neither were they. Neither was Case when he found out. I mean, lets face it– its one thing to hassle me when I’m a suspect but quite another to threaten me because I’m rocking a crooked operation.
Between the Knights and Case we have a little operation of our own going. Another thing Case and I have in common– we hate crooked cops with a passion. He talked to the Knights, who by now have seen the laminated copy of my file. They didn’t like setting me up as a target, but lets face it, I already was the target, we were just using that to our advantage.
‘Sides– I don’t think Citywide would like if I missed anymore time because of law enforcement problems. They can be patient and understanding to a point– and when the point becomes one where they aren’t getting any work out of me– its time for them to find a new medic.
Case promised me he’d check in on me and have me tailed– he also warned me that at the first hint of trouble, he’s going to pull rank and get me the hell out of there. I smiled at that.
“Hon,” I told him. “The first hint of trouble is me being here.”
He chuckled, but I could see the worry in his eyes, even over the vid-phone. I nodded. I was worried too and with good reason. Whoever the Knights were indicting was obviously well connected and loaded which means nothing but trouble for poor old helpless medics like me.
I checked my vest and my Walther and made sure they were in good working order. From the looks of things I’m going to need them. Sometimes I wish these people would do their homework and just leave me alone.
Of course– if they did their research they probably would have opted for a more permanent solution, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly.
Whoever’s working against me on this is very, very good. They managed to deliver another ‘message’ to me without any of the Feds or Knights catching on. The message itself was very simple– ‘Forget or regret it.’
But the real message was that I’d gotten it in the first place. They were telling me that, should I decide not to play things their way, they could easily deal with me and my ‘protectors’ wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop them.
It’s really a bit unnerving to get up in the morning– relax in the shower since you’re the only one there. (one of the advantages to being the only woman on staff– your own bathroom.) Only to find a message like that written on the steam covered mirror-- a message that wasn’t there when the shower had begun. They had been there when I was at my most vulnerable.
I didn’t tell Case about it– but I did tell the Knights and the Feds so I guess it was the same thing. It took him maybe ten minutes to be there and start taking over. I tried to get him to calm down, but he couldn’t.
Not that I blame him really– these guys seem intent on what they’re doing. That they didn’t kill me outright was a good sign, but I’ve already seen the results of their work. Case and the others made quick work of the scene, determining that the message was delivered magically.
Case tried to convince me this was a good thing– but I couldn’t help disagreeing. I knew how to deal with a physical attack– magic was something else entirely. Case smiled and tried to be reassuring, but I couldn’t help but remember the thing in my livingroom– and what it would have done to me if Mario and the others hadn’t been there.
I think Case understood– but he also explained that magic could be combated and I knew some of the best in the business. It was about then that Jonathan showed up.
I guess it’s the fact that I know and understand the physical end of things: weapons and the damage they can do, but I also know how to tend those wounds. Magic is... well– magic. It’s the unknown and unfamiliar and therefore the most dangerous.
Jonathan on the other hand has grown up with magic– and knew his own strengths there as well. It was nice knowing the people protecting me– and that they're family.
Still it didn’t make for a very relaxing day. I wish there’d been more calls and less time to think about things. Something tells me their next visit will not be quite as nice.
I guess we’ll see.
Jonathan did his best to remain my shadow– but it was still unnerving. I knew he was there, and I knew why he was there. Every time I thought about it or saw him it only brought home the fact that the concentric circles were closing in on me– again.
The day started off rather badly and only seemed to be getting worse. I had several false alarm calls where the only things I found were almond shells and bullet casings. Cute.
Thing was– their attempts to scare me off were only managing to tick me off . I was beginning to wish they had read my file and realized that their tactics wouldn’t work with me– I figured I could deal much better with a frontal assault
Boy was I wrong.
After the second false alarm Citywide pulled rank– put me on the truck for the rest of the day. Once they did that, I didn’t hear much more from my-- fan club. It was just the usual mayhem.
By quitting time I was ready for a nice quiet evening with Case– and Jonathan and ‘Daniel’ and ‘Robert’ – and four of Cases dearest friends and co-workers...
The evening was one to remember– just not the way you usually want to remember Valentine’s day. More like the way people still remember the St. Valentine’s day Massacre.
Case was determined to take me out and unfortunately the person being indicted was too. I much prefer Case’s methods.
I don’t really remember everything that happened. One minute Case was staring into my eyes with this look that just– it was so serious and tender, then suddenly his eyes flared as fire sprung up behind us.
Not fire but a fire elemental. I don’t know how strong it was but I know Jonathan had his work cut out for him. Case pulled me out of the way and stood between me and it somehow managing to watch everything at once.
Adding to the pandemonium was a random spray of gunfire designed to cause as much panic as possible. It more than did the job. Between the elemental and panicked patrons there was no way Case could watch everything.
I think that was the point. I saw the man who’d answered the door that day at Worthington-Hyde-Smythe’s place. He was smiling at me– almost gloating as he pulled a gun and aimed it at the back of Case’s head.
I didn’t think– I just moved. I was drawing my gun as I dropped to one knee. The motion caught Case off guard, but he recovered quickly, dropping with me.
Everything slowed down as I watched the man’s finger tighten on the trigger. He fired before I could get my gun up, and then his chest and head were ripped from side to side with miniature explosions– compliments of Case’s backup.
I felt Case moving behind me and turned in time to see him hit the ground.
I was screaming his name until I realized it wasn’t doing him any good. Case needed me– as a medic– I knelt beside him and started to assess his injuries. I was half crying, half laughing as Case groaned. Opening up his shirt, I was relieved to see the familiar off white shell encasing his chest.
“You wore a vest,” I managed to say between manic chuckles.
He managed to smile at me. “Why should you have all the fun?”
It took a while to sort everything out– I’m still not sure what all happened. Case was all right and that was all that mattered to me.