DISCLAIMER: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Matter of Trust
The ceiling fan rotated overhead, its slight vibration offering the only sound in the otherwise peaceful room. Below the turning blades, two lovers lay entwined on the bed; blonde hair spilled over a pale breast as Nora snuggled closer to her lover. Both women smiled in their sleep, their evening of lovemaking still fresh in their memories.
The shrill ringing of the phone broke through the stillness of the night, and a very groggy Nikki reached a long arm towards the nightstand. Snatching up the phone, she answered sleepily, "Hello."
"Nikki? This is Charlie; I'm so sorry to wake you, but I didn't know who else to call. I tried Nora, but she's not answering."
"Oh hey, Charlie; no problem. What's up?" Nora stirred at the mention of the coroner's name, figuring that a call from Charlie meant their sleep time had come to an end. She exhaled heavily across a nearby nipple.
Nikki sat straight up in bed, dislodging her unsuspecting partner and almost sending Nora off the edge.
"I really don't want to talk about this over the phone. Is there somewhere we can meet?" Charlie's voice was filled with trepidation, his fear palpable over the phone line.
"Um, you could come here." Nikki offered, glancing at her wide-eyed lover.
Nora jumped off the bed, frantically looking around for her t-shirt and sweat pants. Spotting her shirt under the bed, she dove to the floor and swept it up, sliding it over her head in one motion.
Nikki rattled off her address and ended the call just as Nora found her sweat pants barely hanging onto the fan blade overhead. She stepped on the bed, and the vibrating sound ended the moment the blonde reached up and grabbed the pants leg, freeing the sweats from the blade.
"Nora, would you relax?"
"Relax? Nikki, you just asked Charlie to come over. How in the world can we explain why I'm here at . . ." Nora squinted at the clock display, ". . . one o'clock in the morning?" Shimmying into her sweats, Nora searched for her running shoes.
"I don't think Charlie's going to notice." Nikki watched in amusement as her lover was on the verge of a meltdown.
Nora stopped her shoe hunt and turned towards the bed. "Not notice? How could he not notice?"
"Well, okay. He'll know you're here, but I really don't think he's going to care one way or another."
Nora resumed her search. "I don't think I want to wait around and find out."
Nikki suddenly turned deadly serious. "Nora, you've got to stay. Charlie's in real trouble. He needs us both."
The three NOPD employees sat around the breakfast table, sipping coffee and trying to figure out a solution to Charlie's problem. Nikki had been right about the coroner not caring how or why Nora had happened to be there, he was just grateful that she was.
"Okay, Charlie. I need for you to explain this one more time." Nora flipped to a clean page of her notebook, preparing to add to her copious notes.
Charlie frowned. "Nora, I've already told you. Nothing's changed."
"Humor her, Charlie. You'd be amazed how easy it is to forget something." Nikki rose to grab the coffeepot. It looked like the three of them would be in need of another cup.
"Alright. I'd just finished up with Bill Arceneaux's autopsy and was getting ready to test the evidence bags Georgia had brought in earlier from that big drug bust down in the French Quarter. Anyway, I closed the drawer on Mr. Arceneaux and headed into the next room. Dan had asked that every bag be checked to confirm that the contents were indeed cocaine. I was to chart the consistency, purity, and weight of the substance, and then log it into the PD's evidence room."
Nora nodded, jotting down a few lines. "Was anyone else in the lab with you?"
Charlie looked away in thought. "No, I'd told the others that I'd lock up and for them to go on home."
"What did you do next?" Nikki poured a round of refills before retaking her seat.
"Well, I started to unzip the bags, but thought I'd get some coffee before I began my tests, kind of refresh me, you know?"
"I understand." Nora assured, making another notation. "So, you got your coffee from your office and then what?"
Charlie hesitated. "Um, my pot was empty. I had to go down the hallway to the family room. We always make sure to have coffee 24/7 for the people that have to come down to identify a family member. It's the least we can do."
"You left the lab unattended while you went for some coffee?" Nora sat up in her chair and placed her pen down on the table. Charlie hadn't mentioned that little piece of information before; he'd just said that he'd gotten a cup of coffee. "How long were you gone?"
"Hey, I locked the lab, Nora. I'm not a complete idiot."
Nikki intervened before her lover's temper could flare; Nora didn't take kindly to sarcasm of any kind. "Charlie, were you gone long enough for someone to have taken the cocaine and fled?"
The coroner shook his head. "No, even with two people, it would have taken at least fifteen minutes to carry all those individual bags out of the lab. Besides, I was only gone for about five minutes."
"Wait. You mean the evidence bags were still there, just the contents were gone?" Nora flipped back to Charlie's first statement, frustration clearly etched on her face
"Didn't I say that already?"
"No, Charlie, you didn't." Nikki supplied, continuing to act as a buffer; Nora hated it when people left out pertinent information, too. "Um, Charlie? You said you started to unzip the bags. Maybe the drugs had already been taken."
Charlie shook his head. "No, there was definitely something in those bags before I left the room. The second time I checked they were completely empty."
"We need to file a missing evidence report, Charlie." Nora closed her notebook and sipped from her mug.
Charlie began to fidget. "They're going to think I took the drugs. Peterson signed them over to me. I was the last person in possession before they went missing. Even if they do believe I didn't take them, they're going to fire me for sure."
Nikki reached over and patted the coroner on the arm. "We'll figure this out, Charlie, but just so you know, Dan will never believe that you took the cocaine. Your record is spotless."
"Except for that time in college," Charlie muttered under his breath.
Thirty minutes later, Nora and Charlie sat outside a nearby cemetery, Nora in the driver's seat and Charlie directly behind her; Nikki walked through the entrance and slipped from view.
"I don't understand, Nora. Why are we here?"
"Nikki's got to check out something."
"In the cemetery? Is she buying my plot for when my wife kills me?"
Nora chuckled. "No, she's meeting someone. If anyone tries to move that coke, we'll soon find out."
Charlie closed his eyes and leaned his head against the seat. "I can't believe this is happening to me. I should've let Peterson help out; I was just trying to be nice. He's got a new girl, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Nora whispered too low for Charlie to hear. She'd only been living with Nikki for a few months, though, she truly believed that the two of them would never get enough of each other.
Aloud, she asked, "Charlie? Did you notice anything different about the bags other than they were empty?"
"Um, the zipper was stuck on one of them, and I don't remember having problems with any of the bags earlier."
"It was off the track. Come to think of it, that particular bag looked used. I remember Georgia making the remark that they'd finally gotten some new bags in the PD."
Nora turned in her seat and smiled. "That means that someone could have left the empty bags and took the others. It would certainly cut down on the amount of time needed to get the drugs out of the lab."
Before Charlie could respond, the passenger door opened and both occupants nearly jumped out of their skin.
"Jeez, Nikki. Give us a little warning would you?"
"Sorry, you usually see me coming."
Nora bit down on the inside of her cheek, and Nikki grinned; she knew exactly what her lover had been thinking.
"We need to call Dan. There's an exchange scheduled for six a.m. at the marina. Darius says the cocaine is going to be shipped somewhere down the coastline. He isn't sure of the destination, but he's sure they're Charlie's drugs."
"Hey, they are not my drugs!"
Five a.m. found the two detectives sitting in their car between two metal buildings, the location affording them a perfect view of the marina. Dan and Georgia were on the other side of the docking area behind their own cover. Ten patrol cars stood at the ready, blocks from the marina and also hidden from sight; at Dan's signal, they could converge on the area in seconds.
"How'd you get Charlie to go home?" Nikki cracked her window to let in some fresh air.
"I might've mentioned what a bad idea it would be for him to be anywhere near the exchange since he was the last person to have possession of the drugs."
"Yeah, well, it's good he's not here. Darius called a little while ago; he had a brief description of the seller. Sure sounded like Peterson."
Nora shook her head. "Why would he get involved in something like this?"
"Who knows why people do the things they do? I just hope we catch whoever it is so Charlie will be off the hook. Even if he's not charged, he's sure to lose his job if we don't nail the person who took the drugs."
"Then I'd have to find another source for my crawfish."
Nikki hit her partner on the shoulder. "Nora! What a thing to say."
Rubbing her shoulder, Nora defended herself. "Kidding... I was just kidding."
Nikki reached out, helping with the shoulder massage. "Well, I'm sure there'll be some kind of reprimand regardless of the outcome. Although, if it's an inside job, he'll probably just get a stern talking to."
"Yeah, but we better warn him to stay away from Georgia for awhile. She's certainly not happy that the drugs she'd already confiscated are out on the street again."
Nikki chuckled but stilled when Nora put a hand on her arm. "We've got company."
"And they're early; a sure sign of nerves." Nikki scanned the area, not noting any other movement.
A black sedan rolled to the edge of the docks and stopped near a set of bollards. The occupant remained behind the wheel, glancing left and right, and occasionally, checking the rearview mirror.
Nora grabbed the binoculars and focused on the driver. "It's Peterson, alright."
"Here, let me see." Nora passed the binoculars over to Nikki, never taking her eyes off the car.
"You're right, and I think there's someone in the back seat. I can't get a clear view though."
Nora squinted, looking for movement in the back area of the car. A head suddenly poked over the seat, and something was being pressed against Peterson's temple. The exploding sound of a single gunshot echoed in the stillness of the early morning.
"Oh my God, Nora. He's shot! Someone shot Peterson." Nikki fumbled for the door handle as Dan's voice cracked over the radio.
"Stay put! I repeat, everyone stay where you are."
Nora reached out and grabbed her partner's hand. "We can't do anything for him now, Nikki. We have to wait for the exchange." Squeezing gently, Nora asked, "Are you okay?"
Nikki exhaled loudly. "You mean for someone who just saw a colleague's brain spatter all over the car window?"
"Oh, Nikki, . . ." Nora began but stopped at her lover's words.
"Don't say anything, Nora. I've got to keep it together right now, just promise me that you'll be there for me later when I fall apart."
"Always," was the single word reply. The two detectives sat in silence, gripping each other's hands tightly and waiting for the other car to show. A few minutes later, a second vehicle slid into view.
Dan's voice came to life once again. "Okay, let's see who the players are before we take over the game."
Two men stepped from the second car and made their way over to the black sedan. The back door of Peterson's vehicle slowly opened and a long, sexy leg emerged. Nikki and Nora watched in shock as a tall blonde stepped from the car and right into the embrace of one of the men.
"You don't think . . ." Nikki started, only to have her thought completed by her lover.
"The girlfriend; she set Peterson up."
The three individuals moved to the trunk as the beep of a remote chirped quietly. The blonde kissed her boyfriend soundly as the second man began to remove the stolen evidence bags from the trunk.
"Okay, everyone, move in!" Dan's orders had Nora reaching for the ignition and Nikki for the shotgun.
Six hours later, Nora pulled into the driveway and cut the engine. "Poor Georgia; she's going to be at the station all night getting that cocaine logged in again."
"You mean, poor Charlie." Nikki chuckled. "I bet his ears will be singed by the time she gets through with him."
"Well, I don't blame her for sticking around and making certain the tests are run properly. I'm sure she won't let up on Charlie for a single minute; serves him right for leaving the evidence in the first place."
The exhausted couple stepped from the car and headed for the house. Nikki slid her arm around her lover's waist.
"You know, Charlie's need for coffee probably saved his life. According to the girlfriend, she expected him to put up a fight, but Charlie thinks Peterson is the one who made sure his office coffeepot was empty. He knew Charlie would probably go looking for a cup before he began his testing."
Nora opened the door, gesturing for Nikki to enter first. "Yeah, it's a real shame about Peterson. I kind of liked the guy."
"Darius said word's out on the street that one of the guys from today called in the tip for Georgia's bust. It was all an elaborate scheme to get the drugs away from his gang. He had his girlfriend set her sights on Peterson so that he and his buddy wouldn't have to share the profits with the others. I guess it just goes to show that you need to be very careful who you fall for." Nikki pushed the door closed and pulled her lover into an embrace.
Nora smiled. "Oh really, so you saying I should've been more careful?"
"Nora, if you'd been any more careful, we'd have never gotten together. I was beginning to wonder if you were being purposefully obtuse."
"No, I just wanted to be certain that I was reading the signals correctly."
Nikki leaned forward, stopping mere centimeters from her lover's lips. "So, when did you finally figure it out?"
"Hmm, that's a tough one, but I'd have to say it became crystal clear when you pushed me against the wall and kissed me senseless."
Nora's back hit the door just as a pair of lips descended onto her own. She smiled into the kiss and gripped Nikki's hips tightly, but just as Nora pulled her lover closer, a knock sounded on the very same door she was pinned against. She released Nikki's lips and closed her eyes, banging her head against the wood in frustration.
Nikki chuckled. "Could you move out the way, dear? Someone's at the door."
One eye popped open, and Nora groaned and walked away, heading for the couch. Plopping down, she hugged a sofa pillow to her chest and leaned her head back against the cushions.
"Thank you." Nikki's words filtered into the den, followed a few moments later by a very enticing aroma.
Nora turned to find Nikki standing behind the couch, the movement of her hand wafting the steam of the pizza into the den. "Hey, where did that come from?"
"According to the delivery boy, Charlie." Nikki turned towards the kitchen as Nora scrambled off the couch. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until now.
Nikki pulled two plates from the cabinet while Nora grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge. Soon, the two women were piling their plates with their favorite pizza.
Nora groaned her approval. "God, this is good. I can't believe Charlie sent both our favorites; half mine and the other half yours. Perfect."
Taking a bite, Nikki smiled knowingly. "Hey, Nora? How do you suppose Charlie knew you were going to be here?"
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