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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die, Mighty Blue, Defense/Offense
After the Fall
Night turns to day
And I still get no answers
- Chris Martin
Billie swung her fist, feeling the satisfaction of hard impact all the way up to her shoulder as she moved in closer with a tight, left jab and quickly followed through with a spinning kick. The muscles in her arms and legs were aching, fiercely, but she just ignored the pain and continued a rabid dance around the bag. Sweat stung her eyes as the young lieutenant's hands pounded, relentlessly, her sole intent to push all rational thought from her mind, and with it, her mounting frustration.
After finding out about Colby's suicide, she and Parish had a brief meeting with the District Attorney's office, who made it perfectly clear that the investigation into the deaths of Officers Mason and McKenzie had run its course now that they had a signed confession. Williams had gone over the particulars of Warren's statement, which included his admission to the shootings, as well as the location of the gun he'd used on Hill. By being able to provide intimate knowledge of the events, there was no doubt in the D.A.'s mind that Colby was the perpetrator, and with his death, their case had just reached a conclusion.
The lieutenant had immediately launched into her own dissertation of the facts of the case, including Cathy McKenzie's role in Sara's attack. Unfortunately, Williams quickly pointed out that there were only two people who could explain that connection, one of whom was now dead, and the other still a fugitive from the law. Until Jill Kistler was caught, there was no way to tie everything together, which, in Billie's mind, meant only one thing.
Felicia had gotten away with it.
The wealthy woman had been pulling all the strings, yet she was completely untouchable. There was no proof to connect her to Warren, only the word of a career criminal who would never come forward for fear of implicating himself. Jill jumped bail, so any hopes Billie may have had to convince her to turn on her rich lover were quickly dashed. All of which meant that there was now only one person left who knew of Felicia's guilt, firsthand, and who was still close enough to expose the truth.
With increasing speed, Billie continued to pummel the bag, feelings of anger and helplessness threatening to overwhelm her as she started to beat the heavy canvas, repeatedly, with her right fist. She put all of her remaining strength into one final punch and nearly stumbled, grabbing the bag with both hands to keep from falling over. Her breath was coming out in harsh gasps and she took a step back, leaning over to rest her hands on her knees.
"I know that right hook."
Billie looked up at the familiar voice, still fighting to catch her breath. "What...what are you doing here?"
Deaq raised his eyebrows. "I work here, remember?"
The brunette paused to straighten up and take a few long, deep breaths. "I told you to take the day off," she reminded him.
"I thought that worked both ways." His eyes followed her as she walked past him and started down the stairs. "You and V must have been separated at birth," he mumbled.
"I heard that," she shot back, grabbing a towel off the railing and patting her face dry before draping it around her neck. It was obvious from her sluggish walk that she'd overdone it, and she stopped every few seconds to stretch out a limb.
"So, you wanna tell me why you're here instead of...well, wherever you were gonna be before Colby decided to check out?"
"I just needed a workout," she replied casually. "You?"
"I got tired of staring at four walls," he explained. "So, I thought I'd come down and give the bikes a tune-up."
"Really?" Billie asked, giving him a skeptical look. "Because, I could have sworn that you did that two weeks ago."
Deaq shrugged. "What can I say? I'm thorough."
She stared at him for a moment. "You're also a liar."
"Thank You," he answered with a smug grin. "I do it for a living, you know."
"Not for long," she warned.
"Take it easy, boss." Deaq used his most reasonable tone in an attempt to sooth her. "I just thought I'd check in, is all, alright?" No matter how long he knew Billie, he would never understand how she could be so cool and so hot-tempered at the same time.
"How did you even know I'd be here?"
Deaq gave her a look. "Like I said before, I work here, remember?"
"Everything's fine," she told him before turning away and heading for her office.
"Yeah, I can see that," he called after her.
Billie just waved him off. "Let it go, Deaq."
The lieutenant went into her office and dropped, heavily, into the chair behind her desk. She carefully removed the gloves from her hands, wincing at the reddened, raw skin underneath. Despite wearing protection, her knuckles still received some fierce punishment. She looked down at them, her jaw flexing as she finally rested her elbows on the desk and dropped her head into her hands.
After leaving the D.A.'s office, it had been her intention to pay Felicia a visit. But, less than halfway there she turned around and headed to the Candy Store instead. She felt too tense. She needed some release. And based on past experience, she knew the last place she should be when she felt that way was anywhere near Felicia Ralston. She was growing weary of playing the woman's game, and now that Sara had agreed to move in with her, Billie wasn't even sure she could do it anymore.
Her own feelings of guilt were becoming increasingly difficult to bear. Sara knew she was hiding something from her, and the last thing Billie wanted was to have a repeat of the other night.
Before Warren's death, a part of her had already decided to come clean about her most recent encounter with Felicia. She knew it was a huge risk. Sara could easily turn around and reject her for what she'd done. But, no matter what the consequences, she had a right to know. She deserved the chance to walk away, if she wanted to.
Unfortunately, things had suddenly changed.
Colby was dead. Felicia was still free. And Sara was moving in with her.
"God, what next?" Billie muttered into her hands.
Sara chewed on her thumbnail as she looked around the room, pondering where she would put all of the clothes she now had strewn across the bed. The closet space was moderate at best, and there were only two bureaus to choose from. She still didn't understand why Billie lived so frugally when it was obvious she could afford so much more.
After being dropped off, she borrowed Billie's truck to go and pick up some of her things, since neither of them had any way of knowing how long Billie would be gone. The storage space had been filled to capacity, and at first, Sara was afraid she'd never find her clothes. But, she quickly discovered that Billie had left them conveniently located just inside the door, already packed in suitcases and ready to go.
"Maybe I should just become a minimalist," Sara muttered to herself as she decided to pick a drawer at random. When she pulled it open, she was surprised to find a few lingerie items inside. "Oh...what's this?" Her fingers danced along the silky material as an evil grin spread across her face. Upon removing the sexy, sheer nightie a small chuckle escaped her lips. "Black. Why am I not surprised?"
The sound of the doorbell interrupted her lascivious thoughts, and she dropped the item back into the drawer, making a mental note to have Billie model it for her later. She headed out of the bedroom and down the hallway, her mood suddenly buoyed by thoughts of how she and her lover would celebrate their new living arrangement tonight.
With a quick turn of the knob, Sara yanked the door open, the smile on her lips withering instantly.
"Well, this is a surprise," Felicia stated icily.
Sara's glare was pure venom. "What do you want?"
"I'm here to see Billie," the blonde responded, looking beyond her toward the interior of the apartment.
"She's not here," Sara stated as she started to swing the door closed. She immediately felt some resistance and glanced down to see Felicia's hand gripping the doorknob.
"Harboring a fugitive is a dangerous offense," the woman warned. "I would have thought Billie more intelligent than that."
"Gee, you mean you haven't heard?" Sara asked, mockingly. "Oh wait, your little grapevine's been cut off, hasn't it? Well, the charges against me have been dropped." Her gaze flickered between the woman's face, and the hand holding the door ajar. "Now, if you don't let go of that doorknob, I'm gonna break your fucking wrist."
Felicia's dark eyes bore into the young woman. The opportunity to confront Sara directly was unexpected...but not unwelcome. "Perhaps her absence is fortuitous, Sara, since you're actually the reason why I'm here."
"Really?" she responded. "Well, unlike Billie, I don't have to talk to you. So, why don't you-"
"Did you really think you could get away with it, Sara?" Felicia interrupted in a calm voice.
"Get away with what?" Despite trying to appear indifferent, it was obvious that Felicia had gotten her attention, and Sara's hold on the door slackened just a bit.
"I do have to say, I am impressed with your ingenuity," the wealthy woman commented as she held Sara's gaze. "You managed to fool the manufacturer of that fork truck, as well as the arson investigator from the fire department."
"Sorry," Sara responded with a casual shrug of her shoulders. "Still no clue here."
"Did you know that several months ago, one of my employees tried to steal some money from my office?" the woman inquired in a conversational tone. "No, I suppose not. Well, the clever boy managed to cover up the security camera on the wall, but fortunately my foreman caught him in the act. It occurred to me that our system had some major flaws, and that even the most foolproof security can be tampered with...by the right person."
"Look, this is all very uninteresting," Sara snapped. "And I don't see what any of this has to do with me."
Felicia could feel the young woman's nervousness. "After that incident, I had a digital camera installed in my office. It's small and very easy to conceal. This way, in the event of sabotage, my office still has some type of surveillance."
Sara could feel her heart beginning to beat faster as she fought to keep her expression neutral. Felicia had been correct when she said that the security system at her warehouse had some major flaws. Still did, in fact.
Because she'd easily managed to exploit them.
Getting into the building had been easy enough, and after a few minor adjustments, she bypassed the zones she needed to access, and set to work on the fork truck. Tampering with the wiring had been tricky, but during her `career' she had been well schooled in some fairly sophisticated devices, both mechanical and electrical. Afterwards, she'd even moved a few packing crates closer to the fire for good measure.
Her motive had been a simple one: Get Felicia away from Billie. Sara knew it was her fault that Billie had to agree to that stupid dinner date in the first place, and she was not about to sit by and do nothing. Her only concern had been the method to use, and the idea of a fire at the warehouse held a certain appeal for her. All she had to do was wait for Billie to arrive at Felicia's house, and then she could set everything in motion. Her lover would be keeping her end of the bargain, and Felicia would have a big, fat mess on her hands. Certainly not a perfect plan, but short of storming the house and carrying Billie out over her shoulder, it was the only one Sara could come up with.
Unfortunately, she had overlooked one small detail.
"Imagine my surprise when I examined the contents of the memory card this afternoon and just happened upon this." Felicia reached into the purse hanging on her shoulder and produced a single photograph, holding it high enough for Sara to view it straight on. "The quality could be better, but under the circumstances, I believe it's still worth a thousand words, don't you?"
With a heavy sigh, Sara reached out and snatched the item from Felicia's hand. "More pictures? You really need to get a new hobby." She had used Felicia's private entrance to sneak into the warehouse since it was the only part of the building she was familiar with, and evidently walked straight into the camera's path. After taking a moment to study her own image, she added, "And this doesn't really prove anything."
"Your ridiculous stunt was little more than an inconvenience," Felicia stated matter-of-factly as she pushed the door open and walked passed Sara, who followed her movements with a stunned look.
"I don't recall inviting you in," she said angrily.
"Did Billie know?" Felicia quickly spun around to face her. "Or, was this merely your own pathetic attempt to save your lover from my evil clutches?" she asked in a mocking tone.
"She didn't know anything about it, and she certainly doesn't need me to save her from anyone," Sara pronounced. "Maybe I just thought it would be fun to piss you off."
The taller women took a threatening step toward her. "You have no idea who you're dealing with, little girl."
Sara stood her ground, the photograph slipping from her fingers. "Right now, I'm thinking `big blonde psycho', but feel free to come up with a better analogy, if you like." She tilted her chin up in a gesture of defiance, waiting for Felicia to strike out at her. But, the older woman seemed to grow calmer, suddenly, and that made Sara even more leery of her.
Felicia closed her eyes, as though reliving a pleasant memory. "You think Billie is yours, don't you?" she asked softly.
"I think it's time for you to get the hell out of here," Sara said firmly.
"Oh, I know she feels a strong attachment to you," the blonde continued as if she hadn't heard. "And she certainly has done a lot for you, hasn't she?" She ran her manicured nails through her long, platinum mane in an almost thoughtful gesture. "But, that's just a part of her nature, that desire to help people. It certainly contradicts other aspects of her personality though, wouldn't you say?"
Sara eyed her with a look of suspicion. "What are you talking about?"
Felicia fixed her with a hard, cold stare. "Billie is driven by compulsions that you know nothing about, Sara. She deliberately put herself in my path. And with each passing day, she finds it increasingly difficult to control those dangerous impulses of hers."
Sara found herself at a loss for words. She knew Felicia was unbalanced, even Jill had been somewhat fearful of her, which said a great deal. But, she had no idea how bad things actually were, until she saw that fevered glint in the woman's dark eyes. She suddenly wondered if Billie knew how dangerous this woman really was.
Felicia leaned in close and whispered, intimately, to her. "I nurture that part of her, Sara, because I know it's what she really wants. And every time she gives in, a little bit more of her belongs to me."
The feel of Felicia's warm breath caressing her face caused a chill to run up Sara's spine.
"Gee, am I interrupting something?"
Sara jumped at the sound of another voice and shifted her startled gaze to the open doorway, almost wanting to cry out in relief at the person's sudden appearance.
Felicia turned to look at the young man standing in the hallway. "Not at all," she answered smoothly as she started toward him. "I was just leaving."
Van stood aside as she approached, offering her his most charming smile. "Not on my account, I hope?"
The wealthy widow smiled in return as she passed by him, pausing to glance back at Sara. "Do be sure to tell Billie I stopped by." With that, she walked away, her long, elegant strides carrying her swiftly down the hall and out of sight.
Van turned to Sara, his expression now completely serious. "What the hell was she doing here?"
"She was looking for Billie, who isn't here, by the way." The petite blonde spun on her heel and headed into the living room. She felt a bit shaken up by the bizarre encounter, but didn't want him to notice. Van was the last person Sara would confide in, besides which, the only one she wanted to speak with about it was Billie.
The young cop was about to follow when he spotted something lying on the floor. He bent down and grabbed the photograph, looking it over, carefully, before shutting the door behind him.
Sara heard the door shut and dropped onto the sofa, closing her eyes and breathing a sigh of relief.
"Why was she really here?"
The blonde opened her eyes and glared at Van. "I thought you left."
Van returned her look with equal malice. He didn't like Sara, and he most definitely didn't trust her. Their first meeting had set the tone for everything that followed, and regardless of whether she straightened herself out or not, he decided from that very moment that she wasn't someone he would ever turn his back on. Add to that the fact that she was sleeping with Billie, and his feelings of intense dislike turned into something darker.
"Hey, I find you in Billie's apartment with Felicia Ralston, having what looks like a pretty intense conversation...and I also just happened to find this on the floor." He held the picture up between his fingers. "Now, I'm gonna ask you again, what the fuck's going on here?"
"I already told you," she replied, quickly getting to her feet. "She came to see Billie, and we had a few words. That's all." Without thinking, she marched over and snatched the picture from his hand. "Now, would you please leave?"
"Where is Billie?"
"I don't know," Sara answered impatiently. "She went to the hospital to see Hill a few hours ago. My guess is she's still working."
Instinctively, Van knew that Sara had no knowledge of Colby's suicide, which only made him wonder all the more what had brought Felicia to Billie's door. And Sara was definitely hiding something. He'd noticed the date on the photograph, and his mind was already playing through a number of possible scenarios.
"Isn't that what you should be doing, by the way?" Sara said pointedly.
Van gave her a menacing look as he stepped closer to her. "If I find out that you're working Billie, or that all of this is some kind of a setup, I'll make that scratch on your arm seem like a love nip."
Sara folded her arms across her chest, fingers brushing the small scar without realizing it. "You know where the door is," she told him, coolly, as she turned and walked out of the room.
"Bitch," he muttered under his breath as he stormed out of the apartment.
Billie was staring through a large window that overlooked an expanse of thick, dense woods, but the view wasn't holding her interest. Instead, her mind was busy calculating her next move as the sound of footsteps came closer.
"What a pleasant surprise."
The lieutenant turned to see Felicia coming through the door of the study. The blonde immediately approached, and without evening realizing it, Billie folded her arms in a protective gesture. "I doubt that," she immediately replied.
"Well, I'll admit that I'm not entirely surprised to see you," Felicia conceded, "But, having you in my home is always a pleasure." She stopped a few feet away, sensing the young woman's defensive body language, and smiled, inwardly. It was obvious they were about to have another confrontation, and nothing could have made her happier. "Would you care for a drink?"
"Sure, why not?" Billie's eyes followed her adversary as she made her way to the bar and began to fill a couple of glasses. She remained silent as the woman worked, still unsure as to how she wanted to play her hand.
Felicia finally walked back to her carrying two glasses, one of which she held out to her young guest. "Vodka, neat." As Billie took the drink from her hand, their gazes locked. "Well, here we are again, Billie," she remarked. "What shall we drink to this time?"
The brunette raised her glass. "To you...Ilsa." The smile on Felicia's face turned to an icy glare as Billie reached over and tapped the edge of the fine-cut crystal tumbler against its mate. Without waiting for a response, she tilted her head back and tossed the entire contents down her throat. "Mmm...very smooth," she commented, quickly placing the empty glass on the table beside her.
"Feeling adventurous, are we?" the taller woman questioned as she continued to stare at Billie, her own glass still poised in front of her.
"Let's just say I'm feeling the need to dig a little deeper." The lieutenant felt a warm flush coursing through her, the alcohol now traveling quickly into her blood stream. She let her jacket slip from her shoulders and tossed it aside, casually, onto the back of a nearby sofa.
Felicia placed her glass down next to Billie's, leaving it untouched. "I think the ground beneath our feet is already quite unstable," she stated with clear warning.
The lieutenant walked away from her and began to amble around the room, once again looking over the beautiful works of art and expensive objects that only someone with great wealth could ever acquire.
"More candy," she muttered to herself.
Billie turned and gave Felicia an innocent look. "I was just thinking out loud."
The blonde shook her head, impatiently. "Why are you here, Lieutenant?"
"What's wrong, Ilsa?" Billie asked. "Don't feel like playing today?"
"Stop calling me that," Felicia ordered calmly.
"Why?" The detective held her arms out to her side. "That is your name, isn't it?" She suddenly dropped herself into the chair behind her, leaning back and throwing a leather clad leg over the side, swinging it like an impatient teenager.
The older woman was becoming suspicious of Billie's odd behavior. "You obviously have something on your mind," she coaxed. "Why don't you just tell me what it is?"
Billie began to chew on her lower lip in an exaggerated gesture of deep thought. "Something on my mind." she repeated softly. "You know what? You're absolutely right. I do have something on my mind."
Felicia was trying not to lose her patience, knowing full well that was Billie's aim. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, steadying her voice before responding, "Would you care to share it with me?" she asked in a clipped tone. "Or, am I to remain in suspense?"
The brunette rested her elbow on the arm of the chair and dropped her chin into her upturned palm. "I guess I'm just wondering what Anthony Pelligrini would say if he could see you now."
The woman's posture visibly stiffened and she stared at Billie, unable to hide the look of genuine surprise from her face. She hadn't heard that name in many years, and had sincerely hoped she would never hear it again.
A pair of dark eyebrows shot up. "Cat got your tongue, Ilsa?" She could see Felicia's breaths coming more rapidly, so she stood up and walked over to stand in front of her, pressing the attack. "You know, seeing you now, amidst all of this wealth." Billie's eyes wandered around the room before settling on her again. "It makes me realize how lucrative a career one can have laying on their back."
The stinging slap wasn't entirely unexpected, but Billie was still annoyed with herself for not putting a hand up to stop it. She cocked her head and looked at Felicia, whose face was beginning to twist into an angry sneer. "Poor Ilsa," she said softly. "Your mask is slipping." Felicia quickly brought her hand up for another strike, but this time Billie was ready for it and seized her wrist in a tight grip. "Sorry, only one to a customer."
Felicia tugged her arm free and took a step back, still reeling from the shock of Billie's revelation. Of course, the logical explanation was that David had betrayed her, but she refused to believe that. Not after all this time. Which could only mean that Billie discovered the truth some other way. Unfortunately, she knew the young lieutenant would be far too clever to reveal her source.
"David signed a confession earlier this afternoon," Billie stated, using her best poker face. This would be her only opportunity to try and corner Felicia. Once the woman knew the truth about David's confession, and worse still, his suicide, there would be no chance of getting to her. "He owned up to all of it, Felicia. McKenzie's murder, Hill's shooting. The only question now is, what are you going to do?"
After weeks of verbal sparring and emotional, as well as physical tension, Felicia believed she had gained some insight into Billie's moods, and at that very moment, she could almost feel the rush of adrenaline pumping through the detective's veins, could recognize the expectation behind her shimmering blue eyes.
Cold. Calculating. Anticipating the kill.
"What can I do?" Felicia questioned, suddenly drawing closer to the young woman. "It seems you've somehow managed to peel away the layers that it took me years to build. I didn't even think that was possible." Her hand reached up and cupped the lieutenant's cheek in a warm, loving gesture, the pad of her thumb stroking across the smooth skin, still burning an angry red from her brief outburst.
Billie resisted the urge to knock the woman's hand away, instead choosing to allow her this last, fruitless attempt at seducing her. But, there was something much different in the way Felicia was looking at her now. It was the same kind of look her mother used to give her whenever she won a swimming competition in high school.
She was proud.
"I was right about you, Billie," Felicia told her. "You deserve to be the one."
"The one?" Billie asked cautiously.
"My one," the blonde clarified as her hand slipped under the brunette's chin, lifting her head up, slightly. "My one...and only." She turned Billie's head just a bit and placed a soft kiss on the same spot where she'd struck her only a moment ago.
Billie was immediately reminded of Sara, and their early morning encounter on a warm, Malibu beach...and she shivered in spite of herself. "If you cooperate, I'll make you a deal," she offered.
Felicia lowered her hand and pulled away, staring at Billie for a moment before casting a sly grin. "You are very good, Lieutenant." She reached over and picked up the previously abandoned drink, her gaze never wavering from the young woman as she brought the glass to her lips and took a long, slow sip. "So smooth," she remarked, pressing the moist rim against her chin as she continued to contemplate the detective.
"You almost had me, you know," she continued, looking away and setting the glass back onto the table. "Using my past association with Mr. Pelligrini was wonderfully devious of you." She glanced over, smiling at the young woman's obvious frustration. "How long have you known?"
"A while," Billie admitted.
"And how is Anthony?"
The lieutenant knew she was fishing for information. "As big an asshole as ever."
"It sounds as though you have a history with him, as well," Felicia commented.
"Not as colorful as yours."
"Probably not," the blonde conceded with a soft chuckle. "So, you knew about David before last night."
Felicia walked around the table and seated herself on the sofa, crossing her long, slim legs elegantly. "I certainly did underestimate you, Billie." She smoothed a hand across the cushion beside her and patted it, gently. "Tell me what else you know."
"That's supposed to be my line."
"Indeed," she acknowledged with a slight tilt of her head. "Quid pro quo, then?"
"I don't think so." Billie grabbed her jacket off the sofa.
"Don't leave yet, Billie," Felicia pleaded. "Things were just getting interesting."
"Interesting?" Billie responded angrily as she rounded the end of the sofa to confront the woman directly. "You know, you haven't even once asked me how David is. You took him in when he was just a kid. Apparently, at some point in your life you must have cared for him. You even arranged it so he would have a family when you could just as easily have thrown him back on the streets." She shook her head in disbelief. "He was willing to give up everything for you, and you don't seem to give two shits about what's happened to him."
Felicia's expression was solemn as she replied, "He made his decision and it has nothing to do with me."
"Really?" Billie glared at her, hatefully. "Well, I think it has everything to do with you."
"My dear Billie, David is a grown man," she pointed out. "And he knows full well the consequences of his own actions."
Billie shook her head. "No, Felicia, he doesn't. David doesn't know anything anymore, because he's dead." She immediately detected the tiniest flicker of emotion in the woman's brown eyes...and then it was gone.
"How?" the blonde asked simply.
"He tied his pants around his neck and hung himself in his jail cell."
Felicia took a moment to process Billie's words. She could see the young woman studying her intently, searching for a weak spot, wondering if she would fall to pieces at the news of David's death. In truth, there was a part of her that would miss him. She'd known him nearly his entire life, and even though they had been separated from time to time, he had always managed to find his way back to her.
But, that was no longer to be.
"Suicide?" There was a note of surprise and awe underpinning Felicia's voice. She would never have imagined him strong enough to do such a thing, to be capable of such sacrifice. And she knew he had done it for her.
But, for the first time in many years, she found herself alone again. David was the only person she'd genuinely cared for since her mother's death, and the two had shared a journey of self-discovery that changed the course of both their lives. Their long, and often arduous relationship was almost symbiotic, and with him suddenly gone, there seemed a strange sense of unbalance in her world.
"Felicia?" Billie continued to watch her carefully, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on behind the woman's icy façade. Felicia's gaze had grown distant, fixing on a point just beyond her, and without really understanding why she was doing it, the lieutenant walked over and sat down next to her on the sofa. "Felicia?"
The blonde finally turned to her, dark eyes clear and focused, and as Billie was caught by the woman's cold, penetrating gaze, she suddenly realized the true connotation behind the question David had posed to her last night.
"Why was David afraid of you?" she asked softly.
She took a moment to consider the question. "Perhaps, because I revealed the truth to him," Felicia answered, holding the young lieutenant's gaze. "And confronting your demons can be a very frightening experience, particularly if your guide already knows what they are." She slowly lifted her hand and brushed a few errant strands of hair from Billie's brow. "Your time is coming, Billie, and I promise you I'll be there to help you through it."
Billie reached up and clasped the woman's wrist, gently coaxing it down. "I think you've got that backwards, Felicia. You're the one whose time is coming." She stood up, still gripping her jacket, loosely, in one hand. "And I will definitely be there. Every step of the way."
Felicia shot up from her seat as Billie started for the door, feeling a sudden surge of desperation, as if, by allowing the young woman to leave, she would never see her again. "Our conversation isn't over, Billie."
"Well, you'll have to continue it without me," the lieutenant told her without looking back. "I have more important things to do." As she reached the double doors, Billie pulled on one of the handles and opened it, almost walking right into the person standing on the other side of the threshold.
"I doubt that, Chambers."
For the third time in her life, Billie found herself staring down the barrel of a gun.
And straight into the eyes of Jill Kistler.
The harder the chase
The sweeter the catch
- Mikael Rickfors
"Keep your hands where I can see them."
Billie stepped back, slowly, her eyes never leaving Jill's face. "You know, Jill, you really need to bone up on the whole fugitive concept," she stated calmly. "The idea is to avoid the police."
Jill moved forward, watching the young detective, carefully, as she closed the door behind her. "Believe me," she sneered. "I'd like nothing better than to avoid you like the plague."
Felicia remained standing on the other side of the room, taking only a few steps toward them, her hand coming to rest atop a large antique desk. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey, Felicia," the young woman responded, not bothering to spare a glance. "I think it's time for me and Billie to finish what we started."
The lieutenant cocked an eyebrow. "And what would that be?"
"You wanted something from me," Jill explained. "Now, I'm ready to deliver. And the two of you being here together makes it that much easier for me...since I can kill two birds with one stone." Her lip turned up in a smirk. "Just a figure of speech."
Billie was relieved to hear that, whatever Jill's reasons were for coming, shooting her didn't seem to be one of them. She watched as the tall brunette looked over at her former lover for the first time, and gauging by the reaction she witnessed, it was suddenly clear to her: Jill had some damning evidence...and Felicia knew it.
"So, it was you," the blonde surmised.
"I was keeping them for insurance," Jill offered. "In case I needed more money, or whatever. But, somebody made me realize just how valuable they really are. And after everything that's happened, I decided it was time for a little payback." She shifted her gaze back to Billie. "I'm sure you'll agree once you see what I have. All I need to know from you is...how bad do you want it?"
"Okay," Billie spoke up with an impatient tone. "Since it's obvious I'm the odd man out," she remarked, looking at each of them in turn as she dropped her jacket onto the chair beside her. "Just show me what you've got."
Jill shook her head. "Not until I know what I'm getting in return."
"I can't answer that until I see it for myself."
"Look, Chambers, you and I both know that is bullshit," she replied angrily. "You better make it worth my while, or I'm outta here." She raised her gun, pointedly. "Alone."
Billie stared at her, not at all happy about being pushed into a corner, especially when there was so much at stake. Jill was dangerous. She knew that first hand. Unfortunately, having to concede to one criminal in order to catch another was pretty standard stuff, even if it was a bitter pill to swallow.
But swallow it she would, if it meant that she might finally get some hard evidence on Felicia.
"Less than twenty," she finally said.
Jill snorted. "That's the best you can do?"
"You shot someone, for Christ's sake," Billie retorted. "During a robbery. And you attacked a police officer. I'm not a fucking miracle worker."
The young woman stared at her for a moment. "I can't."
"Jill." the lieutenant warned.
"I can't do that much," she said adamantly, a hint of desperation in her voice. She continued to look at Billie, her eyes nearly pleading with the woman to make her a better offer.
After being in hiding for more than a week, Jill was tired. Getting out of the country was far more difficult than she thought it would be, and trying to elude the police in the process was wearing her down much too fast. She had to avoid everyone she knew, and it seemed as though there was never an opportunity to relax and regroup.
Paperwork. Transportation. A new identity. Each minute of the day brought new and more dangerous hazards as she weaved her way through a series of contacts, trying to get everything she needed to move on. It was all she could do just to find safe places to stay while she tried to put it all together.
And then, she got a message from Sara.
It had come through a mutual acquaintance. Someone they could both trust. Jill immediately got in touch with her, and after talking things over, her friend had finally managed to convince her that perhaps it was time to re-examine her options.
Going to Billie Chambers was the last thing in the world Jill wanted, but she knew better than anyone how desperate the situation was with Felicia, and with the evidence she'd stolen in tow, she might just have the edge she needed to start getting her life back. Suddenly, doing some time didn't seem like the end of the world, especially if she could cut the amount by working out a deal.
"Five to ten," Billie said firmly. "Take it, or leave it."
Jill lowered the gun, slowly, as she reached into the back of her jeans and produced a small envelope, tossing it to Billie, who caught it with both hands. "I haven't touched anything inside," she informed her. "But, I'm betting Felicia's prints are all over them."
Billie glanced up at Jill, questioningly, before opening the envelope and gazing at its contents. Her eyes widened, instantly, and she held her hand out, allowing the photographs to slide, carefully, into her palm.
"You." She almost choked on her own words as she turned and glared at Felicia, who met her gaze, but remained eerily quiet. "You kept pictures?" Billie's eyes were filled with cold fury.
"My guess is that cop probably used her own camera," Jill commented with a sickened look on her face. "I know it might not be enough, so... I'm willing to testify about the bombing in Malibu. I owe Sara that much."
That was more than enough for Billie, and she slipped the pictures back into the envelope and extended her empty hand. "Give me the gun."
The young woman glanced over at Felicia as she turned the gun around in her hand, holding it out to Billie. "Yeah?"
"In lieu of the fact that you've chosen to betray me, the least you can do is provide a distraction."
Out of the corner of her eye, Billie could see Felicia's arm coming up, and in the split second it took for her to see what the woman was holding in her hand, the loud crack of gunshots began to fill the air.
Jill didn't seem to comprehend what was happening until the second bullet penetrated her chest, causing her own weapon to slip from her fingers, and she felt her legs giving out on her, unable to keep her body from falling to the floor.
Felicia immediately redirected her aim, sweeping to the right as she continued to pull the trigger. Billie turned and dove behind the chair, her own gun already out as she got to her knees and readied herself to return fire. She stole a glance at Jill, who was laying on her back a few feet away, blood pooling, rapidly, beneath her still form.
Without bothering to look for her target, Billie stuck her hand out and fired a few shots in Felicia's direction, hoping to score a hit. She poked her head around the edge of the chair, just in time to see the blonde heading toward a door in the corner of the room. She was still shooting as she moved, pausing only long enough to pull the door open and make her escape.
Billie immediately rose up and took aim, just missing her mark and demolishing a sculpture perched on a small table just to the left of the open door. Without thinking, she bolted across the room, closing the distance in a matter of seconds.
She pressed her back against the doorjamb, peering around it and into the hall beyond. It was empty. There were at least four different doorways leading off the small corridor, but no sign of her target. Felicia definitely had the advantage here. This was her territory, and Billie had absolutely no idea where anything would lead, making pursuit both difficult and dangerous.
The decision was a hard one, and Billie released a frustrated breath, knowing she had no choice but to abandon the chase. Jill had to be her first priority. As she lowered her weapon, an agonized wail split the quiet. The lieutenant looked over to see Sophia standing over Jill, hands covering her mouth in horror.
"Call 911!" Billie shouted to her.
Sophia was visibly shaking as she met the young woman's wide-eyed gaze. "Mrs. Ralston?"
"Gone," the lieutenant told her. "Now, do as I say and call 911!" Her harsh tone seemed to jolt the older woman into action and she ran to the phone and began to dial.
Billie took out her cell phone and rushed back to Jill's prone form, grabbing her jacket as she went. "This is Lieutenant Wilhemina Chambers, 8W5K90. I have a 246 at the Ralston Estate, 1730 Langley Drive, Bel Air. Single victim. Shooter is still at large. Code 3." She gave the dispatcher Felicia's description, finished her instructions and tossed the phone aside.
Sophia was hovering over Billie's shoulder as the lieutenant knelt down and placed her jacket on Jill's chest, pressing on the wounds in an effort to staunch the flow of blood. But, she knew it was in vain. There was already so much blood loss, no doubt indicating that a major artery had been severed.
Jill's eyes fluttered open and she emitted a harsh, guttural moan.
"Be still, now," Billie admonished gently.
"I can't." the young woman's voice was thick and hoarse. "...believe."
"Jill, don't talk."
"...you'll be the last.person I see." Jill finally focused her anguished gaze on the young detective, sounding weaker as she added, "It figures."
Billie offered her a half-hearted smirk. "We both know you're too much of a bitch to die, Kistler." The woman's body shuddered, violently. "Jill, stay with me. Come on, help's on the way." She could see Jill's grey eyes losing their focus. "Jill, can you hear me?"
The sound of sirens could be heard in the distance and Billie turned to Sophia without breaking eye contact with Jill. "Go to the front door and bring them here." The distressed servant said nothing as she left the two women alone.
"That's right," Billie stated firmly. "Think about Sara. She cares about you, Jill. You're her best friend." The lieutenant couldn't stop herself from thinking of Alexa, of wishing someone had been there with her when she died.
Someone other than her killer.
"Stay with me," the detective commanded as she watched Jill's face slacken.
"...always had...lousy taste.in women," Jill mumbled.
Billie continued to apply direct pressure to the young woman's decimated chest, no longer able to feel the heart pumping against the palms of her hands. "God, Jill, don't do this," she responded, already mourning her lover's loss, despite her own feelings toward the woman.
After a moment, Billie lifted her bloodied hands and sat back on her heels, her face hardening in anger as she pressed her fingers to Jill's throat. With grim determination, she got to her feet, using the front of her shirt to wipe the dead woman's blood from her hands before pulling out her gun and walking out of the room.
Sara leaned against the kitchen counter, dialing Billie's cell phone for the third time in the past hour. After several rings, she got put into voice mail again and simply hung up, not bothering to leave another message.
Logically, she knew there was probably nothing wrong. Billie might have been tied up with her boss, or still wrapping things up at the hospital. But, she still couldn't seem to shake the feeling that her lover had run into some kind of trouble.
"God, this sucks," she muttered miserably, tossing the cell phone onto the counter. She reached for the beer she'd been drinking and made her way back into the living room, pausing to run her fingers along the edge of the stereo on the bookcase. There was a modest collection of CD's on the shelf above it, and the blonde glanced at the titles, suddenly wondering what kind of music her lover enjoyed.
A smile curled her lips as she slipped a case from its slot and examined it closely. "You have got to be kidding me." With a soft laugh, she tucked it back where it belonged, unable to picture Billie grooving to the easy listening sounds of Neil Diamond.
After pacing the room a few times, she finally dropped to the sofa and grabbed the remote, turning the television on and settling back. Programs flipped by rapidly as she pressed the button, not actually seeing anything...and not really caring.
As she went by KABC, something caught her eye, and she immediately flipped back, her heartbeat quickening when she saw the man on the screen and recognized him instantly.
It was the man from the courthouse. The one she assumed was Billie's boss. He appeared to be making some kind of statement to the press, and Sara turned the volume up to listen.
"...released until we have a chance to notify the family."
"How long has she been missing?"
"The suspect has been gone for eighty-five minutes," Parish spoke over the throng of voices. "We have people searching the entire area, and we're working with other agencies as we expand our search beyond the Los Angeles area."
"Do you know what she's driving?"
"The only vehicle owned by Mrs. Ralston that is currently unaccounted for is a black Mercedes SL600 Roadster."
While the reporters continued to barrage the man with questions, Sara watched in shock as an overview of Felicia's mansion came on the screen, the shaky picture obviously being provided by a helicopter as it passed over the property. There were police cars everywhere, and several other types of emergency vehicles, creating a cacophony of colored lights, adding to the surreal chaos.
Sara heard a key turn in the door and jumped up from her seat, racing out to the hallway. As she saw the familiar figure stepping inside, she released the breath she'd been holding in a great sigh of relief. "Billie, what's going on? I just saw the news."
Billie turned toward her, giving the blonde a full view of her bloodstained clothes. When she saw Sara's eyes widen in shock, she held her hands out and reached for her. "I'm alright."
"Oh, my god." The lieutenant's words didn't seem to register as Sara approached her, eyes and hands moving over her lover with increasing alarm. "What happened?" Her voice rose, slightly, as she held Billie's face.
Billie covered Sara's hands with her own, saying calmly, "I'm okay, Sara. Honestly. This isn't." she hesitated for a brief second. "I'm fine." Her voice sounded firm and reassuring.
Sara threw her arms around the young woman, who melted, gratefully, into her strong embrace. "Are you sure?" She could feel the brunette's affirmative nod against her shoulder. "God, I knew something was wrong."
The sound of the television reached the weary detective's ears and she suddenly pulled away from Sara. "How much have you heard?"
"Not much," Sara answered. "I just turned it on."
Billie marched into the living room and grabbed the remote, immediately shutting the T.V. off with a heavy sigh. "I came as quick as I could. By the time I got your message I was already halfway here." She looked away and ran a hand through her hair, seemingly at a loss for words.
"It's okay, Billie," Sara soothed as she came forward and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
The lieutenant reached up and removed her hand, squeezing it, gently, as she used it to guide her to the sofa. "Let's sit down for a minute."
The blonde eased down next to Billie. "They were showing Felicia's place on the news."
"Yeah, I just came from there," Billie explained, pulling Sara's hands into her lap as she readied herself for what she had to do. "I don't have a lot of time."
Her lover's grave expression was beginning to frighten her. "What happened?" Sara asked again.
Billie met the young woman's concerned gaze. "I stopped by Felicia's this afternoon. I had some information I was hoping to use." She shook her head, impatiently. "I won't bother to get into the details of that right now. What matters is what happened when I was leaving." She could feel Sara's hands tighten their grip, and she responded in kind. "Jill showed up."
Sara's eyes narrowed. "What?"
"Believe me, I was just as shocked as you are."
"But, she." The blonde looked down for a moment. "Why did she show up there?"
Billie hesitated, momentarily stunned at the sudden realization that her lover was not at all surprised to find out that Jill was back in town. A hot flare of anger ignited within her, but she immediately quelled it. This was not the time for recriminations, and since Jill was dead, it didn't really matter now anyway. "She had some evidence against Felicia and wanted to use it to make a deal," she said evenly. "But, I get the feeling you already knew that."
Sara nodded, slowly. "I wanted her to come back. I was afraid something bad was going to happen." Comprehension dawned in Sara's eyes as they traveled up from the blood on Billie's shirt to her somber face.
"I'm sorry, Sara," the lieutenant said softly.
The whole room seemed to tilt for a split-second as Sara opened her mouth, the accusation already dangling from her parted lips. "Did you." Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn't even complete the thought, let alone give voice to it.
"No," Billie responded quickly. "No, it wasn't me." She released another long sigh, wishing she could spare the young woman the pain that she knew so well. "It was Felicia. She shot her, Sara. Jill's dead."
Sara stared at Billie with a bewildered expression, her voice barely a whisper as she echoed her lover's words. "Jill's dead?"
"Everything happened so fast. I couldn't stop it," Billie replied, knowing that if she'd paid closer attention to Felicia's demeanor when Jill arrived, perhaps she could have prevented what happened.
But, admittedly, she'd been so thrown by seeing the pictures of Sara, those images she'd tried to put out of her mind all brought back with sudden, brutal clarity, that she never even gave a second thought as to what the woman's state of mind might be with everything caving in on her. In those few precious moments, overwhelming anger had blinded Billie's instincts, and Jill was dead because of it.
The brief snippets from the news report suddenly began to make sense to Sara. "She got away, didn't she?" Her voice was tight with anger as she looked down at the floor.
"Yes, she did. But, she won't get far, Sara. I promise you-"
"Don't," Sara interrupted as hot tears began to course down her cheeks. "You said you couldn't make me any promises, remember?" Her eyes met Billie's again as she said, "I don't want any more lies between us."
Her words cut Billie like a knife. Sara was hurting, and the fact that Billie had to be the one to tell her about Jill, knowing how the two women felt about each other, couldn't be making it any easier. She and Sara both knew that, given the right circumstances, it could just as easily have been Billie who pulled the trigger.
When Jill and Sara had chosen to live life on the wrong side of the law, they accepted all the risks that came with it. But, Sara had been given a momentary reprieve. She was the lucky one. No one could predict whether she would continue to walk the straight and narrow, least of all the woman who loved her, but at least she seemed to be heading in the right direction.
Unfortunately, Jill Kistler, like so many others before her, was left to suffer the awful consequences of her ill-fated decision. It didn't matter that she was trying to look to the future, because the present had finally caught up with her.
Billie could sense Sara withdrawing from her and she moved down to the floor, resting on her knees in front of her lover, whose head was now bowed in quiet grief. "Sara, I may not have cared for Jill, but I do know what this feels like. I lost my best friend, too." She waited until their eyes met before continuing in a soft tone.
"I've never told you how Alexa died. She broke cover during an investigation and the man she arrested escaped from custody. He tracked her down and." Billie hesitated. She'd never said it out loud before and was surprised to find how difficult it was to form the words, as if speaking about it were some kind of sacrilege.
Sara was watching her, intently, eyes still blurred with tears. She could see the anguish in Billie's face, but remained silent, wanting to give her lover a chance to work through it in her own time.
"He cut her throat." The brunette shut her eyes against the memory, amazed that all the months gone by since that day still hadn't managed to dull the pain. "By the time I got there, she was already dead."
"I'm sorry, Billie," Sara told her as she felt her own emotions getting away from her. "I can't imagine how hard it must have been to see her that way." She suddenly got up from the sofa and walked over to stand near the window, hugging herself, tightly. "But, this was my fault. I was the one that convinced Jill to come back."
The lieutenant got to her feet and approached Sara from behind, wrapping her arms around her, protectively. "I made the arrangements for Jackson Yu's transport that day," she said as her eyes met Sara's reflection in the glass. "If I had put on an extra detail, Alexa would still be here." The blonde immediately spun around to face her.
"There was no way you could have known what would happen," Sara stated firmly, cheeks flushed and wet with tears.
"I could say the same thing to you." Billie held Sara close. "You were right to try and get Jill to come in, Sara. We both know the police would have caught up with her sooner or later." She placed her hands on the blonde's shoulders, her grip gentle, but firm. "And the only person responsible for her death is Felicia."
Sara nodded her head, although she still wasn't fully convinced. Billie was trying to ease her guilt, even reliving her own painful memories for Sara's sake, and for that she was grateful. She hugged Billie tight to her, a thought suddenly occurring as she pulled back to look at her. "What ever happened to that guy?"
The detective's face darkened. "I killed him." The familiar ring of a cell phone interrupted them and Billie quickly dropped her gaze as she removed it from her pocket. "Chambers."
Once again, Sara witnessed the strange shift in Billie's demeanor and wondered if the young woman was even aware of it happening. Her lover was quickly being buried somewhere underneath the ice-cool detective, and a part of Sara had come to hate the transition, feeling an irrational stab of fear that the present persona might one day take over completely, and the person she loved would never come back.
"Yeah, I'll be there shortly," Billie informed the caller before hanging up and looking at Sara with a mixture of apology and regret.
"We still have a lot of ground to cover," the lieutenant answered vaguely.
"Which obviously means you're leaving," Sara replied impatiently.
"I have to find her, Sara."
"Why you?" the blonde nearly exploded with pent-up rage and anger, backing away from Billie and pacing around the room. "Why the hell can't they find someone else to do it?"
"The whole department is straight out on this," the detective stated calmly. "Sara, she's dangerous-"
"Yeah," Sara cut her off. "To you, especially, Billie. Or, have you forgotten how obsessed she is?"
"I'm certain Felicia's main concern right now is getting as far away from here as she can," Billie reassured her. "She's done, Sara. We're talking murder one. She either gets the hell out of the country, or she gets a needle. There isn't anything keeping her here."
The blonde looked at her, doubtfully. "You're talking about her like she's a rational person."
"Well, I don't know about rational," the brunette conceded. "But she's smart. And sticking around waiting to get caught would be infinitely stupid."
A heavy silence descended between the two young women, stretching on for more than a minute, until Sara finally covered her face with her hands and began to cry, softly. "I can't believe she's gone."
Billie immediately closed the gap between them and took Sara into her arms. She hugged her, fiercely, as the young woman's body shook with the force of her grief, no longer focused on blame or guilt, only the profound sense of loss.
After a short time, Sara's crying began to ease, replaced by quiet sniffles. She pulled back and wiped her eyes, only to find them being drawn to the front of Billie's shirt, the terrible image forcing her to turn away as she said softly, "You'll need to change before you go." The blonde took a few steps toward the hallway, pausing to hold her hand out to her lover, who merely nodded as she clasped it and followed her.
When they reached the bedroom, Billie quickly grabbed a pair of jeans and a black tank top and removed her soiled clothes. She took everything and disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, while Sara seated herself on the edge of the bed, still trying to absorb the shocking news.
The lieutenant soon emerged with a small duffel bag clutched in her hand, already changed and ready to go. She grabbed a pair of boots and sat down next to Sara, bending over to lace them up as she said, "Maybe you should think about staying somewhere else tonight."
Sara furrowed her brow. "Why?"
"Because, I'd feel better if you weren't here alone."
"I'll be fine, Billie," she responded. "She could care less about me."
The lieutenant straightened up and looked at her with concern. "What about staying with a friend? Wouldn't you rather do that than stay here by yourself?"
"I'd rather be with you."
Billie felt a terrible pang of guilt, torn between wanting to stay and comfort Sara, and needing to go after the person who had done so much to hurt her. But, she had to see this through. Felicia was out there somewhere. If they didn't find her soon she would end up hurting someone else, all because Billie had failed to stop her.
And that was something she couldn't live with.
"I'll be back as soon as I can." The brunette was about to stand up when she felt Sara's hand on her arm and she looked at her, expectantly.
"Was it quick?" Sara asked quietly.
The young detective gave an affirmative nod and wrapped an arm around Sara's shoulders. She thought of saying more, but decided it was better to leave things as they were for now.
The sound of Billie's footsteps echoed through the small parking garage as she made her way to the car. She slowed down to remove her keys, approaching the driver's door and disarming the Corvette's alarm before tossing her bag onto the passenger seat.
Her hand was reaching for the handle of the door when something hit her in the back. The impact felt like a sledgehammer and her body went completely rigid from head to toe, every muscle clenching in response to the electrical current racing along the length of her nerve endings.
With an inaudible sound, she fell backwards and slammed into the car behind her, back pressed against the door as she slid to the ground, finally coming to rest on her side and feeling the touch of cool cement on her cheek.
Her limbs continued to twitch, slightly, and she was aware of someone standing over her, but she couldn't seem to concentrate. The stun gun's effects were still causing a wave of interference, leaving her physically helpless and unable to think clearly.
Felicia leaned down and removed something from her pocket, moving the collar of Billie's jacket aside and brushing her fingertips against the detective's throat. Without hesitation, she pierced the tender skin and pushed the plunger, emptying the contents of the syringe into her victim's momentarily defenseless body.
"I'm sorry, Billie," she said softly. "I'm sure you must have an aversion to needles, but it's much less painful than an additional shock would be."
Billie's blue eyes tried desperately to focus on her assailant. For a split-second, her muscles began to respond to her commands again and she moved the arm lying against her hip, only to feel a restraining hand on her wrist, forcing it back down toward the ground.
"No more guns, Billie," Felicia chided her. "There's been enough of that for today, don't you think?"
The detective's eyes began to roll up in her head, her eyelids fluttering as the drug began to take hold. "Felicia." she mumbled.
"Ssh, it's alright," the blonde soothed, lovingly. "Just relax. I promised you I'd be there for you, and I'm a woman of my word."
Billie felt as if she were falling down a hole, everything around her growing darker with each passing second. She tried to fight it, willing herself to stay awake and alert, but before too long she finally succumbed as her eyes closed and her body went limp.
Felicia leaned in close and studied her for a moment. She lifted an eyelid, taking note of the inactivity beneath it and smiled, removing the wires that had attached to Billie's back and wrapping them around the taser she had set on the ground beside her. Quickly snatching Billie's keys, she lifted the unconscious young woman to a sitting position, allowing her to rest against the car, which caused Billie's head to fall forward against her shoulder.
The older woman closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of complete and utter control. She had waited so long for this one. It was inevitable from the moment she first saw Billie, and she knew that the young detective felt it, too...maybe even desired it on some level, though she would never admit to it.
As she cradled Billie's head, Felicia placed a gentle kiss on her temple and whispered, softly, into the detective's ear. "We must be going, now, elsker. It's time to face your demons."
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