DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, Fox does. I'm only
taking them out for a test drive.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains some adult situations, so be forewarned.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die
After the Fall
I'm gonna change my name
Things won't be the same
Cos I'm tired of playing your game
Ain't no use baby I tell you ain't no use
- Nina Simone
"Please come in, Lieutenant."
Billie nodded, passing by the woman holding the door as she entered the small apartment. The layout made it possible for her to get a glimpse into each room, and every inch of sparsely furnished space was immaculate. It reminded her of her own place, which she decided was probably an indication that, like her, its occupant didn't spend much time at home.
"I appreciate you letting me stop by so late," she offered.
"Not a problem," the woman responded as she closed the door. "I have a pile of work that'll keep me up for hours, anyway. I'm almost grateful for the diversion."
"I know the feeling," the lieutenant replied.
The older woman headed toward the kitchen, talking to Billie over her shoulder as she went. "Can I get you anything? I was just making myself some coffee."
The brunette followed her, stopping at the small divider between the living room and the kitchen. "No, thank you." She watched the woman move about, stifling a yawn as she leaned her thin frame, casually, against the counter.
The gesture didn't go unnoticed. "Are you sure?" her host prodded, gently. "You look like you could use it."
Billie grinned, sardonically. "Spoken like a caffeine junkie."
"Sometimes I think it would be easier to just stick a needle in my arm and eliminate the middleman," the woman replied, good-naturedly.
"Been there, done that."
A raised eyebrow was the woman's only response. "So, you were a bit cryptic on the phone."
"I know," Billie acknowledged. "But, I wanted to speak to you in person, Ms. Spencer."
Lois Spencer had been working in social services in the state of California for nearly thirty years, having begun her career as a caseworker back in the early seventies. When she first started out, much of her time had been spent in the placement of children into foster care.
"Well, then," Lois replied as she set her cup on the counter and grabbed a stool. "What can I do for you?" She motioned for Billie to sit down, as well.
The lieutenant seated herself. "I was hoping to jog your memory about an old case."
"What old case?" she questioned as she lifted the coffee to her lips.
"A young girl named Ilsa Karlsen."
The cup froze halfway to the woman's mouth. "Ilsa?" Lois looked at Billie in shock.
"You remember her?" the brunette questioned.
The woman immediately set her cup down. "What is this about?"
"Her name came up in an investigation," Billie explained vaguely. "So, you do remember her?"
Lois leveled her gaze at the young woman. "Vividly."
"I was hoping you might be able to give me a little background on her. I know she was in the system for about a year before she ran away. But, other than the basic info, there isn't much in the files. I was hoping you could fill in a few details."
Lois gave a subtle shake of her head. "I honestly don't know how much help I can be." She picked up her cup and took a long sip.
Billie eyed her, curiously. "According to the records I have, you were her caseworker."
"Yes, I was," the woman confirmed. "But, all I really did was shuffle her around from place to place. When she finally ran away, that was the last I ever saw of her."
The lieutenant seemed to be lost in thought for a moment before she said, "I'd still appreciate whatever insight you can provide."
"Well, I'm not sure what insight I can offer into that child."
"Why is that?"
The woman let out a heavy sigh, as though she were preparing to unload some enormous burden. "No one really knew Ilsa, Lieutenant, least of all me. I spent a lot of time with her in the beginning, but she never seemed interested in getting close to anyone. She could be very charming, at times, I will say that." She stared down at her coffee, swirling the liquid, slowly, in her hands. "But, that was only when she really wanted something."
"You make her sound very manipulative for a young girl," Billie commented.
"That's because she was," Lois said firmly. "Do you want my honest opinion?" Billie nodded. "Ilsa Karlsen was a classic sociopath. egocentric, incapable of any real empathy. In fact, if anything, I think most people bored her."
"What about her foster families? Did she ever make a connection with anyone there?"
"No," the woman replied sadly. "I don't think she was even capable of such a thing. She lied to them, stole from them, and even when they found out, she didn't seem to care. For Ilsa, relationships were simply a means to an end. She moved from house to house, family to family, always wearing out her welcome before too long. She basically burned a trail through the foster care system, and when it no longer served her purposes, she simply moved on."
"So," Billie pushed on, "What happened when she ran away?"
The older woman frowned. "I had to pick her up from another foster family. When I got there, I asked her to wait in the car while I spoke to them. I wasn't inside more than three or four minutes, but when I got back to the car, she was gone."
"And that was the last time you ever saw her?"
Lois nodded, noting the look of disappointment on the brunette's face. She stared at the lieutenant for a moment, as though she were holding something back, and debating with herself whether or not she should speak of it. "There is one thing.truthfully, I don't feel entirely comfortable telling you about it. Ilsa is a grown woman now, with a life I know nothing about. I wouldn't want to bring anything to light that might cause her pain or embarrassment."
"Look, Ms. Spencer, I understand your hesitancy to divulge certain information, but I wouldn't be here if it weren't vitally important." Billie's gaze was intense as she fixed the woman with a serious look. "Please.I need something."
Lois could hear the desperation in the young woman's voice, despite her best efforts to conceal it, and not for the first time this evening, she found herself wondering what it was that caused Ilsa Karlsen and Lieutenant Billie Chambers to cross paths. "Alright. But, I just want to say that this information never made it into Ilsa's records, mainly because I was never able to confirm it."
"I understand," Billie responded softly. "And I promise to keep your name out of this."
The woman released a heavy sigh. "About a month after Ilsa disappeared, I'd been having dinner with a friend of mine. He was a police officer over in West Hollywood. Well, given the nature of our work, we would often compare notes on some of the more difficult cases we'd dealt with. Since I'd nearly lost my job after Ilsa took off, he was extremely interested in hearing about her. After telling him what I could, he told me about a raid they'd conducted on a massage parlor up on Santa Monica Boulevard the week before. At least a dozen or so girls were picked up on suspicion of prostitution."
"Because he thought one of these girls might have been Ilsa?"
Lois nodded. "Well, his physical description of her certainly fit. She was unusually tall, which Ilsa certainly was, and she had long, blonde hair. He also said that she occasionally spoke in a foreign language."
"What language?" Billie asked, although she already felt certain of the answer.
"He wasn't sure, of course, but he thought it could have been Norwegian." Lois held her hand up, quickly. "Now, as I've already said, I couldn't confirm any of this, but there seemed to be too many coincidences. And, she wouldn't be the first runaway to have ended up turning tricks."
"Was there an arrest record?" the lieutenant asked.
"Unfortunately, no. I'm sure you must know these sweeps have been pretty routine for a long time, Lieutenant. They take names and check I.D's, but little else can be done, short of filling every jail cell in the county with these poor young women. And back then, I'm afraid these types of places were a dime a dozen."
Billie nodded in agreement as she pondered this new piece of information. If Felicia had been a prostitute, that might account for the name change. She certainly wouldn't have wanted anyone to find out what she'd done to earn money as a young woman. And, provided she'd managed to find the right backer, that could also explain how she'd earned enough money to move into L.A.'s upscale social scene.
During her time working undercover, the lieutenant had met a few high- priced call girls. Some of them were extremely well educated, even a few college grads. And the money they pulled in could be quite impressive. Of course, these were not the type of women who worked in massage parlors giving hand jobs, or walked the streets at night hustling frustrated husbands and college boys from car windows. They were set up with fancy digs, and their clientele consisted mainly of well-to-do men and women who required the utmost discretion, and were willing to pay top dollar for it.
"Do you know Ilsa, Lieutenant?"
Billie pulled herself out of her thoughts and glanced at Lois. "We've recently become acquainted."
"What is she like?" the woman asked softly. "How has her life turned out?"
The lieutenant looked pensive for a moment. She guessed that Lois had probably needed to hear the answers to those questions for many years, no doubt still feeling some sense of responsibility for the young girl that ran away so long ago.
"She seems happy.and she's done very well for herself."
"I hope the things I've told you won't be hurtful to her in any way," Lois lamented.
"I'm sure they won't," Billie lied.
Billie left a trail of debris from the door to the bed as she collapsed onto the mattress, clad only in her black tank top and underwear. She stretched out onto her stomach, arms sliding underneath the pillows as she burrowed her head into the soft, feathery down. She couldn't remember ever feeling so tired in all her life.
A single lid lifted up as a bloodshot, blue eye glanced at the clock on the bedside table. It was almost midnight. Her muscles protested as she shifted, slightly, reminding her of the fact that she hadn't slept since yesterday morning. Just then, her stomach decided to get in on the game, as well, growling at her for not having eaten anything since.since when?
Last night. Sara had cooked grilled salmon.
Billie rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. She needed to stop thinking. Thinking was counterproductive to sleep, and if there was one thing she wanted more than anything at that moment, it was to sleep. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, taking slow, deep breaths, and willing her body to shut down.
Her mind, however, was another story.
She couldn't help wondering where Sara was sleeping tonight. Was she okay? Was she with friends? Was she thinking about Billie?
"Oh, for Christ's sake," the brunette muttered as she grabbed a pillow and placed it over her face. She held it there, firmly, trying to determine whether or not it was possible to render herself unconscious. The sound of her cell phone ringing was a clear indication that it wasn't working.
She groaned, loudly and climbed out of the bed, hunting around for her jacket. She found it lying near the door and fished her cell phone out of the pocket, collapsing back onto the bed in a heap as she answered, "This had better be an emergency."
"Would you consider phone sex an emergency?"
The corner of her mouth twisted up in a small grin. "Why do you people always call late at night?"
"The rates are cheaper."
Billie tucked an arm under her head and closed her eyes as she conjured up an image in her mind. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Beautiful face. Killer body. "Remind me to buy you a phone card."
"Why, that would practically make me a working girl," Sara responded in mock indignation. "Now, where was I?"
"Emergency phone sex, I believe."
"Oh, yeah." There was a brief pause. "So, what are you wearing?"
Billie smiled into the dark. "Nothing but a smile."
"Mmm.Well, then, I think I'll start at your cute little earlobe...stroke it softly with the tip of my tongue, take it between my teeth and nibble on it as the tips of my fingers slide, slowly, down to that lovely, sensitive spot at the base of your throat." Her soft, husky voice continued on as she verbally roamed Billie's body, describing, in the most lurid detail, all of the delicious deeds as she performed them in her head. After several uninterrupted minutes, she stopped, waiting for her lover to respond in kind.
Sara strained her ear, listening for anything on the other end of the line. For a brief moment, she thought they'd lost their connection. Finally, she heard a faint sound coming through. It was strangely familiar.
Billie was snoring.
The lieutenant opened her eyes, a feeling of disorientation permeating her senses until she finally realized she was in her own bed. She sat up, quickly, feeling something drop to the blanket beside her. It was her cell phone.
She picked it up as she glanced over at the clock. It read four- thirty. She'd fallen asleep right in the middle of.something. Still fighting the cobwebs, she rubbed at her eyes as she struggled to recall what she'd been doing before going to sleep. She glanced down at the phone in her hand.
Sara. She'd been talking to Sara and.
"Oh, shit," she said aloud to the empty room. She dropped back to the mattress again, letting the phone fall from her grasp as it bounced across the bed. How on earth could she have fallen asleep in the middle of that?
She glanced over at the phone again, watching the tiny green light as it flickered like a beacon in the darkness. Sara must have realized what happened, otherwise her lover probably would have already beaten her door down to make sure she was okay. She considered calling her for a moment, but realized it would have to wait until a more reasonable hour. As she reached over to grab it, her cell phone rang, startling her as she snatched it up and hit the button.
"I'm sorry," she blurted out immediately. "I've never fallen asleep in the middle before."
"No need to apologize, elsker."
Billie was taken completely off guard by the sound of her voice. She lay there in the darkness, suddenly feeling very alone.
"I know you're still there, Billie. I can hear your heart beating."
"What do you want?" the lieutenant asked, not liking the way her voice sounded.
Felicia made a noise reminiscent of a purring cat. "I just awoke from the most wonderful dream, and I had to call and share it with you."
"Did it involve iron bars and a woman named Big Mary?" There. That sounded better.
"You never stop, do you?" the woman chided, gently. "Actually, there was a woman in my dream. Would you like to know who it was?"
"I'm breathless with anticipation," the lieutenant replied flatly.
"It was you," Felicia said softly.
Billie could feel her control slipping. "Felicia, why don't you just knock off this shit-"
"And do you know what the best part was, Billie?" the woman continued speaking, completely ignoring the lieutenant's outburst.
Felicia was goading her, of course, and as she seemed to so often these days, Billie took the bait. "What?"
Felicia's voice lowered to a whisper. "You were mine."
The line went dead.
Billie sat up, staring at the phone as the woman's words echoed in her mind. Felicia certainly loved to play her games. But, Billie was already way past the point of play.
She was ready to fight.
Deaq walked up the stairs to Billie's office, stopping in the doorway as he took in her appearance. She sat behind her desk, staring down at a pad of paper as her hand remained poised above it with pen in hand. She seemed to be lost in thought, not noticing him until he finally cleared his throat to alert her to his presence. "Hey, Billie."
"Hey," she responded without looking up as she began to write again.
"I've never seen you in your fancy threads," he commented, taking note of her dress uniform.
"Funny, I feel like I've worn them more in the last year than during the entire span of my career." She dropped the pen and looked up at him. "I know you and Van want to be there, but you know it's too high profile."
"Yeah, we get that," he confirmed. "But, it still sucks. Ollie was one of our own."
"I know." Billie got up from her desk and grabbed her hat and gloves. She looked around for a moment. "Where's Van?"
"Well," he held his hands out to either side. "Slick was out kinda late last night."
Billie arched a brow. "A new girlfriend?"
Deaq smiled. "Now, come on, Boss. You know, if it don't have a rap sheet, he just can't get with it."
"Right," the brunette smirked. "So, what's the story?"
"Ellis was doin' a little braggin' about him being able to drink anybody under the table and shit."
Billie took a second to process his words. Ellis. The drug dealer. The Candy Store's latest mark. "Oh, God, don't tell me..."
"He was sick as a dog," Deaq laughed. "You should have seen him. all `I love you man' and everything. I had to carry him out over my shoulder when he started singin' Neil Diamond songs."
"Are we still in?"
"I got a meeting with him this morning," Deaq answered confidently. "Everything goes fly, we should be making a deal by the end of the week. One mil in smack, two mil in blow."
Billie nodded. "Nice work."
Deaq approached her desk. "You still got that info on the warehouse?"
"Yeah," she answered, handing him a folder. "This is where we want to set up the buy, but if he seems too jiggy let him make the call. So long as we have some notice, we'll be able to get everything set up. And I want to meet with the two of you later this afternoon when I get back."
"Right." Deaq glanced down at the pad of paper on Billie's desk, narrowing his dark eyes as he tried to read her writing upside down. He had trouble making sense of the words, until he finally realized it was only one word.written over and over again. He turned to Billie as she started out the door. "Hey."
She stopped in the doorway and looked back at him. "Yeah?"
"What does `elsker' mean?"
Billie fixed her hat onto her head, giving it a firm tug. "It means `lover'."
Deaq's gaze followed her as she quickly headed down the stairs and strode, purposefully, toward the large metal doors at the other end of the warehouse. Blinding sunshine spilled in as the main entrance opened before her, bathing the young lieutenant in its warmth as she walked outside.
It was a great day for a funeral.
All I feel is heat and flame
and all I see are dark eyes.
- Bob Dylan
"Felicia Ralston was a hooker?"
Billie was leaning against the driver's door of a Red Lamborghini, watching with feigned interest while Van slid a soft rag across the hood, his arm moving in slow, lazy circles as he polished it to a pristine shine.
She'd been bringing her two operatives up to date on recent developments, including her visit to Lois Spencer last night. She kept the details of Jill's disappearance vague, purposely omitting Sara's participation in the whole fiasco. Deaq, in particular, had been very unhappy to find out she'd jumped bail, and Billie had no desire to tell him that her lover had been the reason Jill had gotten away. Additionally, the two men were more than curious over Sara's decision to leave town for a while, but they seemed to understand Billie's need to table that discussion for the time being.
"I still have to confirm it," she answered. "But, that's the gist of what I got."
"Doesn't seem so out there to me," Deaq commented as he walked over to them, a basketball cradled in his hands. "A fifteen year old girl, no family, no money, out on the streets.you do what you gotta do to survive." He rolled the ball between his fingertips. "But, that's still goin' back quite a ways, Billie. You got somebody in mind?"
"I know a couple of people I can tap. One of them operates some upscale digs in Inglewood now. I'm paying her a visit as soon as I go home and get changed."
Van immediately stopped his motions and looked up at her. "Ahh, you sure you wouldn't rather leave that up to us?"
"Yeah," Deaq agreed as he flashed a broad smile. "We'd be happy to do some of the.leg work."
"I'm sure you would," Billie smirked. "But, Maeve isn't about to talk to the two of you. And besides," she shrugged, "I helped her out of a little jam once, so she owes me."
Van glanced over at his partner. "Translation: We don't get to go the whorehouse."
Billie shook her head, briefly, before turning her attention to Deaq. "So, what's up with Ellis?"
"A1, baby," he answered as he twirled the ball on his index finger. "We're down for five on Friday." He breathed in, deeply, through his nose and let it out in a quick, heavy sigh. "Nothing like a good bust to start your day out right."
Van turned to him. "Five in the morning?"
Deaq rolled his eyes. "I told you-"
"When you said five, I thought you meant, like, five at night, not five in the morning," Van argued. "That is just way too early."
"So whatcha want me to do? Call up Ellis and tell him that we can't make our score because poor little Van needs his beauty rest?"
"I'm a night owl," Van replied defensively. "I can't help it." He looked over at Billie. "It's an internal clock thing."
"Well, you better make an adjustment," she informed him. "We'll have everything in place. They'll be hauling the both of you in, as well, so make it look good." She suddenly pointed a finger at Van. "Just don't hit any Unis, alright?"
"Why do you always direct those comments to me instead of-"
"No problem, Boss," Deaq replied quickly cutting off his partner.
Billie straightened up and grabbed her uniform jacket off the seat of a nearby motorcycle. "Alright, guys. Play nice. I'll catch up with you later." She started toward the doors as Deaq called out to her.
"Hey, hold up."
The lieutenant stopped and turned to look at him. "Yeah?"
"You said there were a couple of people you could tap," he reminded her. "Who's the other one?"
"A last resort." She waved a hand at them and strolled out the door.
He stared after her for a moment before turning back to his partner. "Looks like things are getting extremely complicated, my man."
"You think maybe Sara's hooking up with Jill?"
Deaq shook his head, slowly. "She seems like she's got some genuine concern for Billie, and all, especially since the house went up. And she wanted to stay close, so I kinda doubt she'd take off for good."
Van straightened up and tossed the rag aside. "So, maybe she just needed a little breathing room," he suggested.
"Or, maybe she's got Billie's back without Billie knowin' about it."
Felicia walked, briskly, through the warehouse, her long strides giving her movements an almost feline gracefulness. She nodded on occasion to a passing employee, more out of habit than any genuine sense of camaraderie. The constant presence of U.S. Customs was making everyone a bit tense, and she'd discovered that simply by acknowledging the hired help, it seemed to assuage some of the discomfort everyone was feeling. She honestly couldn't have cared less about the scrutiny, knowing it was mostly manufactured for the sole purpose of irritating her.
Thinking about the root of that little thorn brought a smile to the blonde's face as she approached her office. The phone call she'd made to Billie early this morning had been her own way of planting a little seed of discord. She knew the move was unanticipated, and it gave her a small thrill to know she'd thrown the young lieutenant a curve she'd been unable to see.
She slipped a key into the lock and pushed the door open, letting it swing wide as she walked over to the desk and dropped her purse on top. The sound of the door shutting behind her was completely unexpected. She spun around, fully prepared to dress down whoever had the nerve to come in without first announcing themselves, but, when she saw who it was, the words died on her lips.
Felicia took a few seconds to regain her composure, as well as wanting a chance to assess the other person's demeanor. The visit didn't come as much of a surprise to her, although she'd been expecting it sooner. She endeavored to keep her expression neutral as her eyes fell on the gun now being pointed in her direction. "How are you, Sara?"
"I'm good," the young blonde answered casually. "Well, except for a teeny, tiny skull fracture." She cocked the trigger and leveled the gun at the taller woman. "And you?"
Felicia gave her a tight smile. "I'm so happy to see you haven't lost your sense of humor."
Sara shrugged her shoulders and moved a step closer. "Yeah, well, if you can't laugh at life.blah, blah, blah." Her eyes narrowed, dangerously. "I thought it was time for you and me to have a talk. Or, better yet, I'll talk, you listen."
Felicia's dark eyes remained fixed on the gun. "You have my undivided attention."
"Good," she replied, the tone of her voice remaining soft and steady. "Now that Jill's gone, I think it's time to put all of this nasty revenge business away, don't you?" She took another step, bringing the barrel of the gun to within inches of Felicia's chest. "Because if you so much as look at Billie again, I'm going to come back here with a step stool and put a bullet right through that fucked up little head of yours." She tilted her head, slightly. "Are we clear?"
Felicia pursed her lips as she shook her head, giving the young woman a look of pity. She released a heavy sigh and said, "I think you've misread the situation, Sara."
The taller woman lifted her hands, slowly, in a gesture of surrender. "I have no quarrel with Billie."
"Oh, I see," Sara said, her brows knitting together. "So you go around blowing up houses just for the hell of it?"
Felicia leaned back, slowly, and perched herself on the edge of the desk. "Admittedly, my actions were irrational. I was blinded by my feelings for Jill, and I allowed those misguided emotions to get in the way of my good judgment. But, as you say, now that she's gone, all of that unpleasant business is settled."
The blonde stared at Felicia. "You have got to be kidding."
"I assure you that I'm not." She crossed her arms and legs, briefly flashing back to the other day, when Billie had been seated in the exact same spot. A tiny smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, and it took enormous effort for her to suppress it. "When I explained everything to Billie yesterday, she was very.understanding."
"You're full of shit, Felicia," Sara shot back, not liking the way her lover's name rolled off the woman's tongue. It had an intimate quality that she didn't like. Not one little bit. "Billie would never fall for that pile of crap."
Felicia could see the tiny shred of doubt in the young woman's eyes. Mistrust was like a cancer. If you gave it the opportunity, it would spread, eventually killing everything in its path.
"It might interest you to know that she and I have recently discovered that we have a great many things in common." Her eyes fixed, pointedly, on the gun in Sara's hand. "I suppose now we can add one more item to the list."
"You are every bit as crazy as Jill said you were." Sara's voice lowered to a husky whisper. "And I'm not going to stand by while you set your sights on Billie."
"Is that what you think is happening here, Sara?" Felicia laughed, softly. "Jill was right about you. You are a misguided, naïve young woman."
Sara's jaw clenched as her finger tightened on the trigger. "I'm warning you," she said menacingly. "Stay away from her."
The tall blonde cast a sly look. "What if that isn't what she wants?"
Sara rolled her eyes, almost laughing aloud in exasperation. "You really are out there, lady, you know that? You don't know anything about what Billie wants."
"Perhaps not," Felicia conceded as she started to rise. "But, more importantly, do you know what she wants, Sara?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I have something in there that might be of interest to you," the woman answered as she gestured toward the far wall.
Sara followed her gaze, immediately spotting the large fireproof safe sitting in the corner. Her blue eyes narrowed in suspicion as she looked back at the older woman. She knew she should just get the hell out of there. Her only intent had been to deliver a message, and she'd accomplished that. Still, she couldn't seem to contain her curiosity. And if she really wanted to help Billie, it would be better for her to know what Felicia was hiding up her sleeve.
"Be my guest." She gestured toward the safe with her gun and allowed Felicia to walk over to it. As the woman knelt down and began to press a series of numbers on the electronic keypad, Sara hovered directly over her, readying herself for any sign of trickery. Purely out of habit, she made a mental note of the combination: 36040.
Felicia removed a small, manila envelope, which she promptly held over her shoulder for Sara to take. "This should make everything perfectly clear."
She reached out and snatched the envelope from the woman's hand before moving back toward the front of the desk. She kept the gun trained on Felicia as the woman stood up and walked over to stand on the other side. Sara dropped the small packet to the desk, emptying its contents with a quick motion of her hand. An array of photographs spilled out, and she quickly scattered them around trying to get a better look at the images.
The young woman stared in disbelief, unable or unwilling to take her eyes off the pictures. Each snapshot was like a knife tearing into her, and she finally closed her eyes for a few seconds, her head slowly moving back and forth, as if she were trying to rid herself of what she'd just seen. "This is some kind of trick. These pictures." Sara finally opened her eyes, shooting the other woman a hateful glare. "You did this," she accused Felicia, angrily. "Billie would never-"
"Never what?" Felicia interrupted. "Never lie to you?"
"She would never be with someone like you," Sara spat, her eyes darting between the pictures and Felicia.
"As opposed to someone like you, Sara?" Felicia said calmly. "Why, you're little more than a common thug, as well as being a fugitive from the law. If you and she were ever discovered, it would mean utter disaster for Billie. Her career would be over. She could even go to prison." The tall blonde leaned forward a bit, her voice lowering to a near whisper. "Do you know what they do to police officers in prison, Sara? She's already been there once, and you've seen the scar she carries from that awful experience. Are you so eager to see more?"
"What are you talking about?" Sara demanded, watching as Felicia dragged the tip of her finger across her mid-section.
Sara had noticed the scar on Billie's stomach the first night they'd spent together. But, the story given was that it was the result of a mugging. Of course, that was before she knew Billie was a cop. Even after everything came out, she'd never given it a second thought. And her lover had never bothered to correct the lie, probably because there were so many lies that the lieutenant simply couldn't remember all the ones she'd told.
She could feel her rage bubbling up, threatening to choke her if she didn't let it go. She moved with amazing speed, grabbing Felicia by the arm as she shoved her, roughly, into the chair behind the desk. With murderous intent, she pressed the gun against the woman's forehead. "I don't know how you got those," she gestured toward the pile of pictures with a quick jerk of her head. "But, right now, the only thing I care about is making sure you stay away from her. Period."
A knock at the door drew their attention and Sara leaned down as she whispered, "Tell them you're on the phone."
"I'm on the phone," Felicia called out in a steady voice. She remained silent until she was certain the person had gone away. Her dark gaze fixed on Sara's blue eyes, the anger and jealousy now residing in them giving her incentive to push the young woman just a bit further. "What are you going to do now, Sara? Shoot me? That would most certainly ruin any chance you have with the lovely lieutenant, now wouldn't it?"
Sara could only stare at her with pure hatred.
"I think you're angrier at Billie right now," Felicia continued to taunt her. "She certainly keeps many secrets, doesn't she? And she refuses to let you in, to let you know who she really is." The woman's tone sounded reasonable, but her poisonous words were beginning to worm their way into Sara's somewhat troubled psyche.
The young woman tried to block them out, to tell herself that it was merely Felicia's way of attempting to drive a wedge between her and Billie. But, there was no denying that those words were hitting just a little bit too close to home.
Billie had deliberately lied about her confrontation with Felicia, and the photographs certainly spoke volumes about how much she was purposefully hiding. Unfortunately, that critical omission had only served to give Felicia the opportunity to blindside Sara, allowing her to brandish those pictures like a weapon. And they were definitely having the desired effect, by shattering an already delicate bond of trust.
She glanced over at the pictures again, a pained expression crossing her face as she straightened up and lowered the gun, slightly. "I'm going to slip out the back door. Make a sound, and I'll come back here and kill you. You understand me?"
Sara stepped back, her eyes straying to the pictures as she came around to the front of the desk. She reached down and scooped them up, along with the envelope, and headed out the back door without another word.
Felicia leaned back in her chair with a pleased look on her face. "Well, something tells me our young lovers are about to have a nasty quarrel."
Dark and exotic.
Those were the words that came to her mind as Billie stepped off the elevator, pausing a moment to examine the dimly lit hallway as the doors closed behind her. She took a few slow, tentative steps, unsure of where she should go, as there didn't appear to be anything ahead of her except a narrow, empty corridor.
Since the logical move was to go forward, she began to pick up her pace, the sounds of her footsteps muted by the plush carpeting beneath her. The walls on either side were covered with a rich, textured tapestry that served to swallow up what little brightness the overhead lights could offer.
As she approached the end of the hall, a door opened in front of her, emitting a shadowed figure, and Billie immediately felt the hair on the back of neck rise in response. She knew the surroundings were meant to be mysterious and alluring, but with everything that had already happened over the last week, the sensory deprivation was merely serving to make her cautious and tense.
"Can I help you?" came a soft and distinctly feminine voice.
Billie watched as the woman closed the door behind her, although she made no move to come out of the shadows. "I'm here to see Maeve."
"And you are?"
"Just tell her Billie is here to see her."
There was a brief pause. "Would you mind waiting for a moment?"
"Not at all."
The door opened again as the woman retreated back to wherever she came from, and Billie began to fidget in place, reaching her hand out to stroke the soft material on the wall. As her fingers brushed it, the door opened and another figure emerged. The lieutenant could tell right away it was someone else by the outline of his or her shadow. This new person was decidedly taller.and wider.
"Would you follow me, please?" It was another woman's voice this time, which made Billie's brow arch in surprise. She obediently followed them through the door, slowing as she stepped inside so she could have a chance to survey her surroundings.
The room she was led into reminded her of a small hotel lobby, complete with velvet couches, floor plants, and a front desk. There were two women seated against the far wall, and both made eye contact with her as she looked in their direction. There was a third woman, a very attractive brunette with dark eyes and skin to match, standing behind the counter. When she saw Billie, she flashed a brief smile.
The woman directly in front of Billie turned to the others across the room and said, "Why don't the two of you wait in the other room?" They immediately stood and walked around the desk, disappearing through a door located just behind it. She then turned her attention back to Billie. "My name is Sondra."
The lieutenant's blue eyes fixed on the taller woman, taking in her formidable appearance: jet black hair, closely cropped, and a rock- solid frame covered with lean, taught muscle. She wore a white silk shirt and dark green pants, her statuesque look seeming more like that of a model than a bouncer, which is how Billie thought of her.
"Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" Sondra asked.
Billie knew she wouldn't get any further if she refused the request. "Go ahead."
"Are you with a law enforcement agency?"
"I'm LAPD, which Maeve is aware of."
"Can I see your I.D?"
Billie immediately produced her badge, which Sondra took a moment to examine before giving a slight nod. "Anything else?"
"Are you carrying a weapon?"
"Yes," she answered. "And it stays with me."
Sondra nodded in understanding. "Do you have any electronic listening devices on you at this moment?"
"Would you mind if we checked?"
Billie sighed in exasperation. "Look, I'm not here for any action. I just want to talk to Maeve."
"I'm afraid the only way you're getting through there," Sondra pointed to the door behind the desk, "is if we can verify that you are not wearing a wire."
"Oh, for Christ's sake," the lieutenant muttered. She looked between the two women, noticing the dark beauty behind the desk smiling at her again. With a quick shake of her head she reluctantly replied, "Fine."
The sound of a cell phone interrupted them as Sondra removed her phone from her pocket and answered a call. After a brief exchange, she ended it and glanced at the other woman present. "Someone's on their way up that I need to greet. Why don't you take care of this?" She turned her attention to Billie and said, "This is Maria. She'll do the search, and then, when I come back I'll take you to see Maeve." She didn't wait for a response before exiting the room.
Billie glanced at the pretty brunette. "Alright, Maria, let's just get this over with."
A mischievous smile curled the young woman's lips as she came around from behind the desk holding a device in her hand. She removed a small wand attached to the side and held it up in front of the lieutenant. "Feet slightly apart, arms out to your sides please."
Following the woman's instructions, Billie adjusted her stance, waiting patiently while Maria moved the wand across her body. As it passed over her hip, Billie heard it make a slight chirping noise.
"Your gun?" Maria asked. Billie nodded, moving her jacket aside and exposing it to her. She continued on for a few seconds, until she got a signal from Billie's waist. "Do you have a belly piercing?"
Maria repeated her motion, getting the same reaction again. "Would you mind undoing your belt?"
Billie complied with a slightly irritable gesture as she unbuckled it and let the ends hang loose. The same thing happened a third time. "That thing must be defective."
The other woman turned away from her and placed the device on the counter before turning back to look at her. "I'll have to check for myself."
Billie's eyes widened, slightly. "Excuse me?"
Maria smiled and said, "Don't worry, I'll be gentle." Without further ado, she reached over and unsnapped the waistband of Billie's jeans, slowing pulling the zipper down and sliding her hand inside.
The lieutenant visibly stiffened as she felt the woman's slender fingers moving across her skin, flirting with the thin band of her underwear. A thumb stroked her rapidly tightening abdominal muscles. "Ahh.I don't-"
"You're in very good shape, Billie." The two women were standing face to face as Maria's other hand slipped inside, as well. Her fingertips glided along the edge of the brunette's pants, probing the rough material in search of something she knew she wouldn't find. "You've put on a little weight. It looks good on you."
The lieutenant's voice sounded distracted. "Umm.thanks." She stared at those dark, beautiful eyes, blinking several times as the realization of Maria's words finally struck her. "Have we met before?"
"Yes, we have," Maria said softly. "Unfortunately, you don't seem to remember." Her face hovered in front of Billie, their eyes locking as her hand moved a little lower. "Maybe, I can jog your memory."
Billie's hips jerked as she felt a pleasurable jolt between her legs, the young woman's fingers brushing against her as soft, full lips pressed against her own. She reached up and gently pried the woman's hands from her body as she broke off the kiss.
Maria frowned, slightly. "I'm sorry if I-"
"Don't apologize." Billie could feel the heat emitting from her face. along with one or two other places. "Believe me, it's taking every ounce of willpower I have right now to put on the brakes."
The young woman smiled. "You still make the same correlation between sex and cars."
The lieutenant's face was somber. "We met a few years ago, right?"
"So, you do remember?"
Billie took a step back and proceeded to put herself back together, avoiding eye contact with Maria as she answered, "Actually.no."
The dark-haired woman's expression registered confusion. "But, you just said we-"
"Let's just say I have a few blank pages from back then," Billie interrupted.
"Because of the drugs?" Maria asked gently.
The lieutenant stared at her. "Yeah.yeah, that's right." She found it extremely unsettling that this young woman seemed to know so much about her when she couldn't even remember her.
Maria seemed to sense her level of discomfort, because she immediately changed the subject. "Why don't you go on ahead, and I'll let Sondra know when she gets back."
"You sure that isn't a problem?" Billie asked, suddenly feeling as though she'd just offended the young woman.
"No, not at all," Maria responded. "I'm sure Maeve will be happy to see you."
She walked around to the door and paused, turning back to Maria as she said, "Why didn't you just tell Sondra that you knew who I was?"
The woman leaned across the counter, her eyes raking over Billie as she answered, "Then, I wouldn't have had a chance to.check you over."
"And what if Sondra had done it?" Billie asked, curiously.
"I would've watched."
The lieutenant met Maria's steady gaze. "You know, I really wish I could remember."
A seductive smile played across the young woman's lips. "Well, I'll tell you this much," she replied softly. "It was fabulous." She gave Billie a quick wink.
Billie smiled at her and went inside.
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