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
By Sam

Part 31

You will never see
So come dance with me
       - Jonathan Davis

Sara sat in the front seat of Billie's truck with the key in the ignition, her tired eyes still red, but no longer moist. It had been so long since she'd really cried that she'd almost forgotten how physically draining it could be. But, she was finally finished, the deep-rooted pain slowly being replaced by a feeling of numbness. And acceptance.

Her friend's murder had most definitely come as a shock, but she'd already been forced to admit to herself that it wasn't entirely unexpected. Between the two of them, Jill had always been the bigger risk taker. When they began robbing people, she was the one who carried a gun. Sara never bothered. She owned one, but kept it mostly for personal protection.

At heart, Sara was a thief, nothing more. Shooting someone who deserved it was one thing, but the idea of killing someone simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time was quite another. Fortunately, she and Jill had been exceptionally good at what they did, managing to maintain their `occupation' for nearly three years without incident. Of course, her friend told her time and again that if anything went wrong they might have to hurt someone, but she simply chose to shrug off those unpleasant thoughts.

Until it actually happened.

Ever since that awful day, two images had stayed with her: The housekeeper's agonized expression as she crumpled to the floor, and Jill's face suddenly exposed from behind, cold and passive as she watched her fall.

At the time of the shooting, Sara had been so shocked that her only thought was one of self-preservation. She never intended to hurt anyone. All she wanted was the money. Leaving the woman to die was something she still struggled with, and now, in the wake of Jill's murder, her only desire was to bring this horrible chapter of her life to a close.

But, could she ever really do that?

Perhaps the answer to that question lay somewhere in between her anguish over Jill's death, and the belief that she, herself, had gotten off way too easy. Logically, Sara knew she'd hardly walked away from the whole mess unscathed, but when the dust settled, she had Billie and the chance for some real happiness for the first time in her life. All Jill got was a bullet.

After staring, vacantly, through the windshield for several long minutes, Sara finally started the vehicle and backed out of her parking space, quickly heading through the garage toward the exit one floor up. She didn't know where she was going, but her mind was so full of grief and worry, that she thought a drive might help to clear her head.

As she rounded the first corner, something caught her eye and she slammed her foot down on the brake, immediately stopping the truck. She jumped out of the SUV and ran over to the car parked near the wall, not even giving a thought as to whether its owner might still be lurking nearby. As she came to stand directly behind it, she felt her blood run cold.

It was a black Mercedes SL600.

"Oh, fuck," she breathed softly as she turned and sprinted back to her own vehicle. She jumped in and grabbed her cell phone from the console, nervous fingers fumbling over the buttons as she dialed, already fearing the worst.

One ring.two rings.

"Come on, Billie," she pleaded, her eyes moving about, anxiously, now searching for any sign of Felicia.

The familiar recording of Billie's voice mail sounded in her ear and Sara's heart sank, the terrible possibilities playing through her mind as she began to dial again.

Deaq slammed the cover down on the notebook sitting on the table in front of him and leaned back, a frustrated sigh escaping his lips. "There's nothin' here, man."

Van was pacing the small, carpeted area a few feet away, a cell phone pressed to his ear. "Big surprise," he responded to his partner, who'd been busy sifting through the contents of Felicia Ralston's personal computer. "If she's half as-" His attention was suddenly diverted to the person on the other end of the line. "Just send it over, okay? We might need it." He ended the call and walked over to the other cop, dropping down, heavily, on to the sofa beside him. "Well, at least the info Billie wanted is on its way. Surveillance reports for the last three weeks."

"How bad?"

He shrugged his shoulders, knowing that every single place Felicia had been to since the LAPD began it's round the clock surveillance on the woman was in the process of being checked out. And from the look of things, it was going to take a while. "She got around."

"Speaking of Billie." Deaq glanced at his watch. "Where the hell is she?"

Van dropped his gaze and began picking at an imaginary piece of lint on his pants. "Probably busy consoling the ice queen," he replied, contemptuously.

"It was a nasty way to go," his partner commented.

"Yeah, well, if you ask me, she had it coming."

"We all got it coming, slick." Deaq was just getting to his feet when his cell phone rang. He immediately pulled it from his pocket and flipped it open. "Hello?"


The detective felt his gut clench. Every time she called him it was bad news. "Sara?"

"What's the plate number on Felicia's car?" Her voice was tight and edged with panic.

Quickly grabbing the pad of paper lying next to the laptop, he answered, "SLG-588." Van was now perched on the edge of the sofa, giving him a questioning look.

"Oh, God."

"Did you see her?"

"She's here.at Billie's, or she was here. I don't know." Sara responded, now sounding slightly breathless. "Her car is parked in the garage. But, I already tried Billie's cell and she's not answering."

"How long ago did she leave?" Deaq questioned as his partner now stood up in front of him.

"A little over an hour, I guess," she answered in a distressed tone.

"Stay outta sight," he told her. "We're on our way."

The entire parking garage was alive with activity. Crime scene tape cordoned off the area surrounding Felicia's car as investigators went over the automobile with careful scrutiny. Some of the building tenants were standing around watching, but were kept at bay by a small group of uniformed officers.

On the lower level, there was a similar setting, though only three young people were keeping vigil. An older man wearing gloves and carrying a small bag of equipment hovered near the ground, examining the space once occupied by Billie's Corvette.

Sara was leaning against a cement support pillar, her eyes fixed on that single, empty parking spot. Billie had now been missing for over two hours. She still couldn't believe it. Almost every cop in LA had been looking for Felicia Ralston, including her lover, and now it appeared that she'd been right under everyone's noses all along, lying in wait for the opportunity to get Billie alone and-

"Hayes. Ray."

She quickly straightened up and watched as Deaq and Van, both of whom had been standing nearby looking every bit as anxious as she was, approached the investigator she'd been observing, who was now kneeling down with some type of odd looking flashlight in his hand. The blonde immediately walked around another car to get a better view, since they wouldn't allow her on the other side of the tape.

Everyone was too far away for her to hear them, but she could see the man holding the light to the ground and pointing at the car beside him, apparently explaining his discovery to the two young officers. After several minutes of discussion, Van threw his arms up in exasperation and immediately turned and headed in her direction.

"That crazy bitch got the jump on her," Van seethed. "That's it. I gotta get the fuck outta here."

"Whoa, man," Deaq rested a firm hand on his shoulder to stop him from fleeing. "Where you going?"

"My question, exactly."

The two men turned to see Captain Parish standing a few feet away. Van opened his mouth, fully intending to vent his frustration at the man, but felt Deaq squeeze his shoulder, almost to the point of pain. He immediately reeled in his temper as best he could. "I can't sit here on my ass looking at hair samples and paint scratches while Billie is out there somewhere at the mercy of some psycho." He paused, meaningfully. "Sir."

If Parish was annoyed at the young man's attitude, he didn't show it. "You planning on knocking on every door in LA?" he asked calmly.

"At least, I'd be doing something," Van retorted. "Because, right now, I feel pretty fucking useless."

"You want to do something?" the captain queried. "Be a cop. Think with your head, or you will be useless." He watched Van deflating a bit, and addressed his next question to Deaq. "What about a Triggerfish?"

The detective shook his head. "Nothing yet." He could see Parish' gaze wander toward a certain young blonde standing nearby.

"She ID'd the car," Deaq supplied, unsure as to why he suddenly felt a bit protective of Sara. Maybe it was because he knew she cared about Billie. And since his boss wasn't here to look out for her, a part of him thought someone needed to do it in her absence.

"Then, that still leaves us with the big question, gentlemen: What does Felicia Ralston want with Billie?" Parish questioned, looking at each of them in turn.

The two young men exchanged a look, but said nothing.

The room was dark, save for the gentle warmth of candlelight casting long shadows that flickered and danced across the bare walls. There was a single exposed metal girder running across the ceiling, thick heavy rope coiled around its center. A few cords hung down, pulled taut by the weight of the body suspended beneath it.

Felicia moved, silently, her expression contemplative as she lit a few more candles resting on a small table near the corner. The glow was both comforting and titillating to her, and her eyes continually wandered over to rest on the room's only other occupant, who remained still and unmoving, as if willfully trying to build her anticipation to a fevered pitch.

With a few quiet steps, she found herself standing in front of Billie's unconscious form. The young detective's arms were stretched up above her head, wrists bound together, tightly. Her chin rested on her chest, leaving her long, dark hair covering her face like a shroud.

Having prepared everything to her satisfaction, Felicia needed to perform one final task. She removed a piece of cloth from her pocket, stopping to finger the soft material before reaching out with both hands and lifting Billie's head, gently, tilting it back so her face was now exposed and pointed toward the ceiling.

She walked behind the brunette and covered her closed eyes with the black scarf, being careful to tie it comfortably, but firmly. The tips of her fingers traced the edges, taking a moment to enjoy the feel of silk against skin, and she leaned in to whisper, softly, "Don't keep me waiting too long, Billie."

A quiet moan brought a smile to her lips.

"Miss Matthews."

Sara looked over at the man as he approached, eyeing him with a look of distrust. She couldn't help it. Her lover might be a cop, but the rest of them still got her fur up, and she automatically folded her arms across her chest, her stance already full of attitude.

"I'm Robert Parish," the man told her, not bothering with gestures of civility. "Billie works for me."

"What's going on?" she immediately asked.

"I was hoping you could tell me."

He certainly talked like a cop. "Look, Mr. Parish-"


"Whatever," she continued on. "I already told them everything I know," she replied with a brief glance toward the two young men watching them. "Now, how about you tell me what's being done to find her?"

Parish studied her for a moment, thankful that she seemed to be just as shocked by Billie's apparent abduction as everyone else. Unfortunately, it also confirmed his suspicions about the extent of their relationship, which, for the sake of Billie's career, he'd hoped had been completely off the mark. "We're pulling out all the stops, but it would help if we knew more."

Sara stared back at him, trying to get a sense of this man who might be her only hope of finding Billie. His face was inscrutable, but something about him told her that his concern was more than just a professional one. "If I knew more, I would tell you."

The captain nodded as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Instead of giving me facts, let's talk about your personal observations." The blonde opened her mouth to speak, but quickly snapped it shut and looked away. "Miss Matthews, I'm not exactly blind to what's been going on between you and Billie, which means that, right now, you are the only person that can shed any light on this."

"Look," Sara finally relented with a heavy sigh. "You may not believe this, but Billie kept me in the dark just as much as everyone else about her dealings with Felicia."

"I don't doubt that," Parish replied, all too familiar with the young lieutenant's reticent nature. "But, I understand that you and Felicia had a run in earlier today." He quickly lifted a hand to stop her from responding. "I'm not saying that I think you have any culpability here. But, I do think that you're holding something back. Maybe you think it's irrelevant. I don't." He hovered over her, lowering his voice to a more dangerous tone. "Billie is in serious trouble here and finding her is my top priority."

The blonde narrowed her eyes at him. "It's my only priority."

"Then, tell me why Felicia was here today," Parish pressed on, fully aware that she was already carefully crafting her response.

"She came to see Billie." There was the barest hint of hesitation. "But, she wasn't here."


"I don't know," Sara answered impatiently. "And I don't see how any of this is helping us find out where Billie is..." She put a slightly trembling hand to her forehead and looked beyond him, the empty parking space almost mocking her.

"Because, I think you're hiding something."

Her blue eyes locked on his brown ones and immediately she knew what he was thinking. "Look, this isn't about me, okay?" she said hotly. "Felicia is fucking crazy. She went after Billie because she's totally fixated on her. Don't you get that?"

Van and Deaq approached them and she turned her anger and frustration on them. "Why the hell are you all standing around here staring at me like I have the answers? You're the ones that are supposed to be looking out for her!"

"Hey, you were the reason she came back here," Van quickly retorted. "And speaking of which, if it weren't for you and Jill, we wouldn't even be standing here!"

Deaq stepped in between them just in time to catch Sara's arm as she raised it to take a swing at Van. "Hey, come on!" He held her by the wrists and yanked hard enough to get her attention. When her furious gaze settled on him, he could see the tears threatening and willed himself to speak calmly, despite his own desire to let loose on someone. "None of this is helping Billie, so let's all just chill out for a minute, alright?"

Van glared at him. "If you want to sit here and play nursemaid to her, be my guest, but I'm outta here." He turned and stormed off in the direction of his car.

Sara pulled away from Deaq. "I have to get the hell out of here."

"Miss Matthews," Parish called after her after as she started to walk away. "We're not done here." The blonde completely ignored him and headed toward Billie's SUV. An officer standing nearby glanced at Parish as he moved to stop her, but the captain merely shook his head.

Deaq released a heavy sigh as he watched her leave. "I don't think she's involved in this."

Parish gave him a skeptical look. "She may not know what happened to Billie, but she is most definitely involved."

Van suddenly pulled up beside them and leaned his head out the window. "You coming?"

"Yeah," Deaq nodded before turning his attention back to the captain. "We'll work a few angles.see what's what."

"Keep me posted," the captain ordered. "Got that?"

"I got it," Deaq acknowledged.

Parish watched as Van and Deaq followed the same path Sara had taken a moment ago, his stoic façade still fastened, firmly, into place. The only outward expression of stress and anxiety he would allow himself was a quick rub of his fingers along his brow.

"Wherever you are, Billie," he muttered softly. "Hang in there."


The unpleasant sensation wormed its way into Billie's drugged mind as she struggled to wakefulness. Everything hurt. Her muscles flexed in response to the severe discomfort, and her movements caused a terrible cramping in her shoulders. She sucked in a quick breath and held it, instinctively trying to pull her arms closer to her body in order to relieve the strain - only to discover that she couldn't.

That realization propelled her into action and she began to thrash about, ignoring the pain and focusing on freeing her arms from whatever was holding them in place. She opened her eyes.or at least she thought she did, but all she could see was darkness.

Her motions ceased as a rush of comprehension finally broke through the fog that still lingered and she fought, desperately, to push down the panic threatening to overwhelm her. Still feeling disoriented, the young woman bowed her head, slightly, and pressed her face against the inside of her arm, almost breathing a sigh of relief when she felt the cloth touching her skin. At least, that was one question answered.

Slowly drawing a few deep breaths, Billie took a moment to gather her thoughts, which were somewhat murky, bringing her to the conclusion that she'd been given some kind of sedative to put her out.

The last clear memory she had was of leaving the apartment and heading down to the garage. The `Vette was parked in its usual spot, and she'd been about to get in when something stopped her.

She stiffened recalling the feel of the taser on her back. She'd been struck with stun guns before during training exercises back when she was still a beat cop, but whatever had hit her was much more intense than she remembered. It had certainly brought her down quickly and efficiently, and had left her vulnerable to whatever happened afterwards. Unfortunately, that was the one critical detail that still eluded her.

Other sensations were now creeping into her body and mind, and Billie became more alert to her predicament. She had no idea where she was, or how long she'd been out. She tried working at the bindings holding her hands aloft, but numbness had already settled into her fingers, and she only succeeded in causing more pain from the rope biting into her wrists. Her ankles were tied in a similar fashion, but she discovered that by stretching her legs she could just barely touch the floor, and she balanced, precariously, on the tip of one boot in an attempt to give her wrists some much needed relief.

A ghostly touch against her cheek made her jump, and she quickly recoiled, spinning her head around in that direction. "Felicia?"


"I know you're there," Billie rasped, swallowing hard against the dryness in her throat. The rational part of her mind was telling her to be careful. The woman was already unbalanced, and the fact that she'd now committed murder meant she had little to lose. "Talk to me, goddammit!" A firm tug on the back of her shirt startled the young detective and she tried to pull away, grunting in pain as her full weight bore down on her arms, once again, the pressure on her shoulders becoming almost unbearable.

The fabric was being cut away from her body and Billie struggled in her bonds, doing a half-spin as she tried to raise her legs, hoping she could strike a blow at her unseen attacker. But, whatever was holding them together was also keeping them anchored to the floor.

She hissed as something sharp pierced the skin on her back and she had to stop herself, knowing that her frantic motions could do her more harm. What remained of her shirt was finally torn off with a single, vicious yank, and she shivered at the unwanted exposure.

"What are you doing, Felicia?" Billie called out, angrily, sensing movement all around her. Getting no response, she held still for a moment, trying to catch any sound that might reveal the woman's location. "Is this your way of getting what you want from me? We've been going round and round all this time.and for what? So you could tie me up and fuck around with me? Is that what this is about?" Her voice was strong and steady, without a trace of the fear she was feeling inside.


Warm breath tickled her ear, and Billie turned her head, only to feel the touch of cold steel against her cheek. It took every ounce of willpower she had not to pull away as it traced the edge of her jaw and slid down, teasingly, along the slender contour of her throat. Her heart was racing, waiting for the blade to pierce her skin, and her tormentor pressed the sharpened point to her vein, the pulse pounding beneath it in response.

"Don't be afraid, elsker," whispered a soft, seductive voice.

Despite her best efforts, Billie could feel her body trembling, every muscle wrung and exhausted from the punishment they'd already endured. "I'm not," she lied. Soft, lilting laughter filled the impenetrable darkness around her.

"I almost believe you."

"Take off the blindfold," the lieutenant demanded, trying to remain calm. Several agonizing minutes ticked by and Billie could feel the woman's presence hovering close, purposefully making her wait, wanting to see her anxiety build.

Finally, the woman responded, "As you wish." The movement was swift and reckless, the tip of the blade cutting into silk and skin with equal ease. The cloth was sheared away from Billie's face, leaving a thin trail of blood running down from her brow. "Hmm.it would appear I'm out of practice."

Billie barely noticed as she squinted, trying to focus her blurred vision and take in her surroundings. At first glance, the space around her was little more than shadow and light, shifting ominously with the flicker of each candle.

The room was unfamiliar. There were no discerning features that might give an indication as to where she was. From what she could make out through the dimness, there were also no windows, and only one door was visible from her point of view.

Taking in as many details as she could, something caught Billie's eye and she dropped her gaze to the floor. Still struggling to see clearly, it took several seconds for her to comprehend what she was looking at. A pair of arms slid around her from behind, encircling her waist as the fingertips stroked across her taut abdomen and hot breath scalded her neck.

"Now do you see, Billie?" Felicia asked softly. "This is all about you. It always has been."

The pictures were strewn about in seemingly random order, fanning around them in small arcs that grew wider as Billie's eyes followed the trail across the room, where they were eventually swallowed up by the darkness.

From everywhere, familiar faces stared back at her. All the photographs she'd thought were long gone now lay out before her like some kind of crazy collage.

"You took them?" the detective finally managed to say, still not quite believing what she was seeing.

"Actually, it was David," Felicia answered, wistfully, the barest hint of regret in her voice. "He went inside the house shortly before the explosion." Her tone suddenly brightened, as she added, "Imagine how delighted I was when he surprised me with your little treasure trove."

Billie's expression hardened, now wishing that everything had been destroyed, rather than saved as some kind of perverted tool to be used against her. It was just too much, all of it way too personal. In the past, she'd been beaten, stabbed, shot, and had a host of other punishments inflicted on her, but no one had ever gotten to her in this way, using the intimate details of her life as a means to break her down.

"I'm gonna fucking kill you!" she suddenly erupted in a blind rage, trying to lash out with everything she had, not caring what Felicia would do to her as she pulled and twisted against the ropes, anger and adrenaline momentarily masking the shards of pain that radiated up and down her body.

The blonde stepped back and watched, passively, as the young woman quickly wore herself out with her futile exertions. Seizing an opportunity, Felicia reached out with one hand and grabbed a fistful of dark hair, pulling back, savagely, until Billie was forced to arch her back. She hovered over the lieutenant, her face moving down to glare into a pair of hate-filled eyes as she brought her other hand up and pressed the knife to Billie's exposed throat. "I understand that you're angry, Billie, but I'm only doing all of this for your own good."

"Fuck you," Billie spat in defiance.

The blade left her throat and was halfway into her shoulder before the pain even registered, all the while the two women's gazes remaining locked on one another. Billie's face scrunched up in agony as the knife slid out, the flawless metal now stained with her blood, its dark wetness shining in the subtle glow of candlelight.

"I can hurt you in ways you can't possibly begin to imagine," Felicia whispered, menacingly. "You'd be wise to remember that."

Tears of pain stung the brunette's eyes as she looked up into Felicia's cold, cruel gaze. She was finally being given a true glimpse into the woman's darker personality, and what she was seeing was far worse than she could have imagined.

She knew now that Jill's murder hadn't been a fluke. Felicia may not have planned it, but she executed her former lover without hesitation. It wasn't a crime of passion. It wasn't anger. It wasn't even panic.

And it definitely wasn't her first time.

"It was you," Billie released the words through a ragged breath, her shoulder throbbing, painfully, with every beat of her heart. "You killed them."

Felicia suddenly released her hold and walked around the younger woman, slowly dragging the flat of the blade along the gentle curve of Billie's hip, leaving a crimson trail across worn, faded denim. As they faced each other, even with the knife hovering dangerously close, Billie's startling blue eyes never wavered from hers, and the blonde could feel her desire growing more intense with each passing second.

"I was hoping you would be the one to discover the truth, Billie," Felicia admitted. "And, as always, you haven't disappointed me."

Billie's mind was reeling. All along she thought David was the killer. It had made perfect sense, given his background. He fit the profile to a tee. The fact that his most recent crimes had been committed with a gun only meant that his MO had changed, which was not unusual when killers continued their spree over a long period of time.

But, she'd been wrong.

And now, here she was, face to face with perhaps the most exceptional breed of killer. Female serial murderers were extremely rare. Even more uncommon was the woman who killed for reasons other than monetary gain or a warped sense of mercy. Billie didn't yet know what motivations drove Felicia, but the one characteristic that certainly fit her was the need for power and control, two things the young lieutenant could very much appreciate at that moment.

"What do you want from me?" Billie questioned in a strained voice.

"It's not what I want from you," the blonde corrected her. "But, rather.for you."

Given her situation, the detective had little patience for word games, but her aching shoulder was a reminder to her that keeping the woman talking might be the only thing stopping her from delivering more of the same. "Which is what?" she asked, her body trembling from pain and shock.

"You have so much potential, Billie," Felicia explained, her dark eyes and the knife she held constantly in motion across her prisoner's bare midriff. "But, you also have certain.constraints. I'm going to help you overcome them."


"As I told you before, the two of us are very much alike."

"Yeah, we're like two peas in a pod," Billie answered derisively, her tone sounding a bit distracted as her own gaze followed the weapon's movement.

"We're both killers, are we not?" The blonde looked up and caught Billie's eye.

"It's my job to protect people," the lieutenant said firmly. "Sometimes, in order to do that, someone dies."

"Indeed," Felicia responded, her eyes locking onto the tip of the blade as she raised it up and held it in front of Billie's face. "Which is precisely the point of all of this."

"What point?" the young detective finally pleaded with her. "What the hell is this about, Felicia?"

"Protecting you, Billie." Felicia bent down and picked up a photograph, holding it up to the young woman's confused gaze.

It was a picture of Sara. One that Billie had never seen before.

"And, as you stated so eloquently, sometimes in order to do that." She suddenly skewered Sara's image with the tip of her knife.

Billie tried to stop the fear from showing in her eyes as she stared at the picture in Felicia's hand, immediately grasping the horrifying implication, but she couldn't stop the echo of her own words from filling her mind.

.someone dies.

Part 32

You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charybidis
       - Sting

"If you touch her, I'll kill you."

"I don't doubt that," Felicia replied, pulling Sara's picture off the blade and holding it between her two fingers. She stared at it, thoughtfully, before tossing it aside.

"Leave her alone," Billie warned, feeling the warmth of her own blood traveling down her back. The pain in her shoulder was excruciating, but at least it was helping to shake off her drug-

induced lethargy. "This is between you and me."

"Sara isn't good for you," Felicia stated. "And she doesn't understand you.not the way I do. That's why you didn't tell her about us."

"There is no `us', Felicia."

The blonde reached out and stroked Billie's hair, fondly. "I'm not a fool, Billie. I was always aware that our `encounters' were little more than a means to an end for you. The truth is, they were for me, as well. But, as I learned more about you, I soon came to realize that our relationship had a greater purpose. You needed me, Billie, which is why fate saw fit to cross our paths. I'm the only one who sees what lies beneath, and armed with that knowledge, I will do what I must to set it free."

"Set it free? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" she shot back, angrily, wincing as her frustrated motions only increased the throbbing pain.

"There are very few people like you and I," Felicia responded, holding the point of her knife against the detective's stomach. "We both have a killer's instinct. But, a part of you still tries, desperately, to cling to certain ideals, even if they have become somewhat tarnished by experience. Your life is governed by two different worlds, the one you've sworn to protect, and the one you dwell within in order to do so. I believe it's time to break the tether that holds you to the benign."

Without warning, Felicia drew the blade across the brunette's midriff, deliberately mirroring the same path as her previous injury, causing Billie to release a strangled gasp as the searing pain took her breath away. It was an all too familiar sensation, but now, unlike last time, she was powerless to fight back.

"You were sent to prison once for doing what had to be done, weren't you?" Felicia scorned, her eyes narrowing as if to study her own handiwork. "When everyone else stood around wringing their hands in vacillation, you acted without hesitation. Your determination and cunning won the day, but the people you work for obviously lack the ability to see that."

Billie's muscles quivered, violently, as she tried in vain to close in on herself, desperate to protect her body from any further damage. Her breathing became increasingly labored and uneven.

"And what about this?" Felicia queried, shifting to a more conversational tone as she raised the knife and rested it against the younger woman's left arm.

Instinctively, Billie recoiled from the wicked steel, but with no slack in the ropes, she could barely even twist her arm. "Felicia.no.


"Once again, your colleagues stumbled about, allowing some insipid little worm to escape from police custody. As a result, he murdered your closest friend. Fortunately, even though you were accompanied by a group of officers, you were able to deal with him on your own terms." Felicia lifted a finger and stroked the small indentation of flesh still visible from the bullet that struck Billie's arm all those months ago.

"I have to admit," she continued on in a slightly dreamy voice. "I've often wondered what that must have been like for you, the opportunity to kill at will, no restraints, no cloak of secrecy, just your anger and rage unleashed for all to see." The blonde stopped talking for a moment, turning the knife and rolling it across the palm of her hand with practiced precision. As her slender fingers closed around the smooth, ivory handle, she pulled her arm back and whispered, "I envy you the freedom you must have experienced in that moment."

Billie's head snapped back, her tortured scream filling the room as the knife was driven into her arm, slicing through flesh and muscle as though it were little more than wisps of vapor. She kept her eyes shut tight against the blinding pain, her lungs still fighting for air.

Felicia withdrew her weapon in one quick motion, eliciting another moan of agony from her captive, and began to circle Billie, walking at an almost leisurely pace. She ran her fingertip along the flat of the blade, watching with mild fascination as the red liquid smeared across her finger. "I know how difficult it is to be true to your nature when it goes against everything you've been taught to believe." She lifted her hand and brushed the tip of her tongue against her finger.

It tasted like heaven.

An eerie silence fell over the two women. Billie was aware of the sound of her own ragged breathing and the soft, methodic tap of Felicia's footsteps, but the awful pain seemed to be making everything fade to the background. She was in shock, every inch of her body shaking in response to the brutal punishment Felicia was inflicting. She had never felt so much pain, which she knew was precisely the point: Her injuries weren't meant to kill. But, logically, it was only a matter of time before her body shut down, and she almost welcomed the thought of passing out for a while.

"So, you pursue the worst of humankind, sometimes adhering to the rules imposed upon you, often times not. And what, exactly, do you get in return?" Felicia continued her query, dark eyes moving over Billie's form as she walked. "The constant drone of some annoying little flies, always questioning your motives and methods, thinking that they have control over you." She shook her head, slowly, her long, blonde tresses brushing against her back and shoulders. "Those idiots have no idea what you're capable of.but I do."

Billie finally lifted her head, blue eyes squinting against the sting of both tears and sweat, watching as Felicia came around from behind and stood in front of her, studying her, closely. "Isn't that what you really want, Felicia?" she croaked. "To control me?"

"No," the blonde stated firmly. "I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I could control you, nor would I want to. I'm merely employing some rather harsh methods to gain your undivided attention."

The detective closed her eyes as hot pulses of pain coursed through her. Speaking was becoming a tremendous effort. "Well.you have it," she mumbled, her voice soft and distant. Felicia turned away from her and walked to the small table in the corner, lingering for a moment and picking up another item, which she immediately pocketed.

"I've tried to determine what it is that holds you back, Billie. Why do you continue to be beholden to others, when they clearly are not worth your time and effort? The death of your parents certainly must have changed your perspective on the world. Your behavior during that time was nothing short of reckless.professionally, at least. I can only imagine what must have transpired after hours."

Billie's eyes opened only slightly and her unfocused gaze drifted across the floor. Lying just a few feet away was a picture of her mother and father. It was a photo she had taken as the three of them were going out for a celebratory dinner after her mother had won a particularly grueling case in court. The snapshot was an impulse, and it had always been one of her favorites. A sudden surge of grief squeezed her heart, the pain of her loss so frighteningly close to the surface after all this time.

The young woman closed her eyes as the tears began to fall. She didn't want to do this, would have given just about anything to make it stop, in fact, but she was being brutalized on all fronts, her defenses systematically broken down, and there was very little she could do about it.except to keep telling herself that everyone was out looking for her by now. She just needed to hold on for a while, and try not to give anything away to this woman who seemed so intent on dissecting her, both physically and mentally.

"Perhaps, your friend had something to do with that, hmm?" As Felicia walked back, her eyes scanned the young woman from top to bottom. Billie wasn't moving very much anymore, except for the involuntary shudders that wracked her body almost constantly. Her skin was pale and slick with sweat, and blood flowed, freely, from her wounds, which meant that time was running short. "But, soon after, Alexa was taken from you, as well, viciously murdered with you only minutes away and unable to prevent it. That must have brought you closer to the edge than you have ever been before." The blonde leaned in close and lifted the detective's down-turned face.

Billie willed her eyes to open, feeling a small sense of triumph at still having the strength to look her tormentor in the eye.

"What would become of you, if you had nothing left to hold on to?" Felicia prodded gently.

"I guess I'd end up a soulless, sadistic monster like you," Billie answered in an equally soft tone.

Felicia's face darkened as she drew her hand away. Without another word, she bent down and picked up the silk scarf she had used as a blindfold, making a show of checking the knots strength by pulling on either end of the fabric. Seemingly satisfied, she lifted her hands toward Billie's face.

Despite her condition, Billie made an attempt to back away in protest. "No.don't put that-" Her words were cut off as the cloth was pressed against her mouth, wedging between her teeth and tied, firmly, behind her head, rendering her incapable of speaking. She could only utter soft moans from the back of her throat. Even supplying any volume required more lung capacity than she could give.

When she finished, Felicia remained where she was, hovering over her prisoner, enjoying the closeness that she knew would be over too soon. She removed something from her pocket and held it up in front of Billie, whose glazed eyes immediately sharpened in recognition.

It was her cell phone.

"I think it's time to call your lover."

"Sorry, but the gallery is closed."

Sara nodded and glanced around the policeman, trying to see through the darkened glass of the main door. "Umm.I had an appointment with the owner. Is she expected back soon?"

"I'm only here to watch the door," he answered in his standard-issue monotone.

"Is there anyone inside I could speak with?"

"No, Ma'am. All of the employees have gone home for the day."

"Okay, well, thanks anyway."

"Your welcome."

With a heavy sigh, Sara turned and headed back to the car. She didn't even know what she was doing there in the first place. The police had been at every stop she'd made, including the warehouse, and it was obvious they had all the bases covered should Felicia make an appearance. In the meantime, all she could do was continue to grasp at straws.

She got to the car and leaned back against it, thoughts of what might be happening to Billie playing over and over in her mind.

"Where are you?" she whispered to herself.

The cell phone in her pocket suddenly rang and she straightened up immediately and pulled it out, quickly spotting the I.D. on the display screen.

Her heart stopped.

She hit the button and nearly shouted into the phone. "Billie?"

"Say a single word before I've finished speaking and I'll hurt her."

Sara recognized Felicia's voice and opened her mouth before the words even registered, but she quickly pressed her fingers to her lips to stop herself.

"Good girl," Felicia told her. "Now, I'm going to ask you several questions. You will answer me without hesitation. A simple yes or no. If you lie to me I'll know, and Billie will suffer the consequences. Do you understand?"

"Yes," came Sara's immediate reply.

"Are you alone?"


"Is anyone else listening in?"


"Are you near a car?"


"Do you want to save Billie's life?"

Sara closed her eyes and placed a hand to her forehead. "Yes," she said softly.

"Excellent," the wealthy woman praised. "Now, tell me exactly where you are."

"Standing in front of your gallery in Beverly Hills."

Felicia chuckled softly. "Playing detective in your lover's absence?"

"Let me talk to her, Felicia," Sara pleaded. There was a momentary pause and she pressed the phone, tightly, to her ear, trying to catch the slightest background noise, but was greeted with nothing but a deafening silence.

Until a muffled scream cut through her like a knife.

"No! Stop!" Sara shouted into the phone, oblivious to the curious onlookers that passed by her as she pounded her fist on the car in frustration.

"Now, are you ready to do as I instruct?" Felicia spoke up in a dulcet tone.

Sara slumped against the car, her head coming to rest on her forearm. She had never wanted to kill anyone before, but at that very moment, her only desire was to hunt down Felicia Ralston and tear her apart with her bare hands.

She shot a quick glance at the cop standing nearby, who was looking over at her. The idea of trying to alert him occurred to her, but she didn't know exactly what to do or say. There was also the risk of Felicia overhearing, or worse, he might try to stop her from leaving. She decided she just couldn't take that chance, not with Billie's life.

"Yes." She barely managed to get the word out.

"Get in your vehicle."

The young blonde did as she was told. After starting the engine, she slipped a hand under the front seat, pulled out a gun, and dropped it onto her lap. "Where to?"

"Head east on Santa Monica Boulevard," Felicia ordered. "Keep to a normal speed. Obey the traffic lights. The trip shouldn't take you more than twenty minutes."

Sara kept the phone pressed to her ear and pulled out into traffic. She knew Felicia was still on the line, a deliberate move to keep her from calling anyone. After driving for several minutes in silence, the older woman's voice finally sounded in her ear again.

"To keep you from becoming bored, what say we have a little chat?"

"Why are you doing this?" Sara asked.

"Maybe I just thought it would be fun to piss you off."

"You-" Sara immediately bit back her retort knowing anything she said would only put Billie in more danger.

"Temper, temper," Felicia chided.

Without realizing what she was doing, Sara ran straight through a red light. "Shit!"

Felicia's tone changed, instantly. "What's wrong?"

"I ran a light." Her announcement was met with silence. "Felicia?" Nothing. "Felicia?"

"You want to know why, little girl?"

Sara breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "Yes," she answered as her eyes flickered between the windshield and the rearview mirror.

"Because she belongs to me," Felicia declared. "From now on, I'll do the talking. You just concentrate on driving."

With a death grip on the wheel, Sara followed Felicia's instructions to the letter, all the while praying, silently, that Billie would still be alive when she reached her destination.

".and then she drove straight to some building on West Temple. It looks like one of those old factories that's been converted to apartments. I saw her get out of the car and head inside. She was talking to someone on her cell the whole time, and it seemed like a pretty serious conversation. Just like the last one."

Van changed hands on his cell phone as he grabbed a stack of paper off the dashboard. "Whoa.wait a minute. West Temple. That's familiar."

Deaq watched his partner from his position behind the wheel as the younger man rifled through the surveillance reports Billie had requested. The two of them had been checking out leads for almost two hours and, so far, nothing. As their frustration mounted, so did their fear of what they might eventually find.

"She was there a week ago," Van practically shouted in excitement. "That's gotta be it." He shoved the paper in Deaq's face. "There. Let's go."

"We're not that far," Deaq replied with just hint of optimism. "Tell him to call it in."

"Don't fuck this up, you got that?" Van was speaking to the caller again. "Yeah, call it in. We'll be there in five." He hung up the phone and turned to his partner. "Sara got a call on her cell outside of Felicia's shop on Rodeo and it left her pretty torqued. She took off and headed straight to some apartment building." Again, he pointed to the paperwork. "No stops, no nothing."

"No shit."

Van pounded his fist on the dashboard. "I knew that bitch had something to do with this!"

"Hey, man, now hold on," Deaq soothed. "We don't know jack, alright? All we gotta do right now is work this thing with a cool head and a steady hand. You down for that?"

"Yeah." Van pulled his gun from its holster and checked the clip. He knew it was full, but just going through the motions helped him to focus. He was more than ready. "Yeah, I'm good."

"What about Jarod?"

"He'll scope it out in the meantime," Van replied.

"Okay," Deaq sighed. "Let's punch it."

Sara walked down the alley and straight to the side door as Felicia had told her to do. Glancing around, cautiously, she pulled on the handle, not at all surprised to find it unlocked.

Her hand moved to the gun tucked into the back of her pants, more as a comfort than anything else. She didn't know if Felicia could see her, so she thought it best to keep it concealed for the moment.

Stepping inside the dimly lit hallway, she noticed a few garage doors to her right, each one leading to a small parking bay. Her eyes fell on the last car in the row.

Billie's Corvette.

Seeing it sitting there in plain view was unnerving. Felicia didn't seem the least bit concerned with anyone finding it.

"Take the stairs straight ahead."

The young blonde had been so focused on the car that she jumped at the unnaturally loud sound of Felicia's voice in her ear. She turned and walked down the short corridor, stopping as she put her foot on the first stair.

She could do this. She had to. "What floor?"

"I always prefer to be on top," Felicia replied in a seductive tone. "Just ask Billie."

Ignoring the woman's attempts at baiting her, Sara began her ascent. Her strong, well-toned legs took the stairs two at a time, heart pounding, breath quickening, and upon reaching the top floor, she carefully slipped the gun out and held it behind her.

She stood in front of the only door. Even though the phone was still pressed to her ear, she called out, "I'm here." Getting no response, she glanced at the cell phone.

The call had ended.

She snapped it shut and tucked it away, bringing the gun up in front of her. There was no element of surprise here, but her instincts told her the situation still warranted going in as quietly as possible.

With a quick wipe of her hand on her pant leg, Sara reached out and turned the doorknob, giving the door a gentle push, causing it to swing wide. She stepped inside and pointed the gun, sweeping back and forth as she tried to take in a full view of the room.

It was empty.

She looked around, taking slow, careful steps and trying to keep her back to the nearest wall. The cavernous loft had an `L' shaped layout and the two outside walls were lined with oversized windows, allowing a generous amount of moonlight to filter through.

As Sara walked further, she noticed a door on her left leading to what looked like a smaller room that took up the remaining corner of space. She stared at it for a moment before deciding to check the rest of the surrounding area first. She crept further along, peering around the corner, but all she could see were two small sofas sitting in the middle of the floor.

She leaned back again and took a deep breath, silently easing back the way she came. The gun suddenly felt very heavy in her hands.

With deliberate slowness, she moved back to the second door and opened it. Although her eyes had adjusted to the lack of lighting, the room beyond seemed almost pitch.until she stepped inside and noticed the small flicker of candles.

The shock of seeing her lover strung up and covered in her own blood made Sara forget about everything else, and she immediately charged across the small room.

"Billie.Oh, God!"

Billie hung, motionless, scarcely able to lift her head. She heard the familiar voice, but for a split-second, thought she had imagined it. She opened her eyes and made a small noise.

Sara looked around, but could see nothing in the surrounding darkness. She tucked the gun in her pants and reached for Billie, cupping her face and talking in a soothing tone. "Billie.Billie, it's me. Can you hear me?" She looked into the brunette's eyes, trying to get her to focus on her.

The young lieutenant felt warm hands touching her face and she realized that the voice wasn't a hallucination at all. She groaned around the gag in her mouth, suddenly remembering where she was.

"It's okay, Billie," Sara whispered softly. "I'll get you out of here." She looked up at the ropes, longingly, wishing she had a knife.

Becoming more alert, Billie began shaking her head in a somewhat frantic motion. She tried to talk, but could only make weak, pathetic mewling sounds.

"I know," Sara acknowledged her lover's warning as she reached around her to remove the gag. "Felicia's here somewhere. But, I can't leave you like this. I just want-"

Billie could feel Sara's body lurch against her, the arms around her suddenly stiffening before slumping down against her shoulders. Their gazes locked, and she could see the pain erupting from the depths of Sara's cornflower blue eyes.

Sara opened her mouth, but no sound would come. She wanted so desperately to hold onto Billie, to comfort her, to tell her everything would be all right, but her body betrayed her and she fell to the floor at her lover's feet.

Billie watched her fall, the feeling of those strong, loving hands slipping away from her like having her heart torn out. She couldn't breath. She couldn't even move. Inside, her mind was screaming, but outwardly, she was frozen in place, as if denying the release of her agony could somehow stop it all from happening.

Felicia knelt down beside Sara, her hand still clutching the knife, both covered with the young woman's blood. She leaned over her and drew the blonde's head around with her free hand, turning her away from Billie. "I told you, Sara.Billie belongs to me."

Sara could feel her heartbeat slowing down, all the warmth in her body seeping out from beneath her. This couldn't be it. It wasn't fair. She and Billie had only just found each other, had only just moved in together. They hadn't even had a chance to celebrate.

To have dinner.to dance.to make love in the home they now shared.

The young woman closed her eyes.

Billie's paralysis was finally broken, and though her cries were unintelligible, Felicia knew it was only one word she screamed out over and over again.

Part 33

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