DISCLAIMER: Rizzoli & Isles and its characters are the property of Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT television network.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By D.S.


They met halfway between Homicide and the morgue, each bearing a gift. "Great minds," Jane said absently, eager to see the contents of Maura's blue folder. She held out a piping hot cup of coffee, leafing through the report as soon as both hands were free.

"That's it?" she asked a moment later.

Jane had already been operating under the wild assumption that the gaping hole in McKellon's chest had something to do with his death. And anyone could tell it was a .22 from a glance at the wound. She hadn't expected anything in particular, but she had hoped for something. Hell, Maura had solved a floater last year just because the guy's food wasn't fully digested.

"I'm sorry," Maura replied.

Jane looked at the first page again. EXTERNAL EXAMINATION: The autopsy commences at 0924 on June 3, 2011. Present during the autopsy is Boston Police Department homicide detective Jane Rizzoli. When first viewed, the deceased is clothed in—

"I'll have to request a rain delay for tonight."

"Rain check," Jane corrected automatically, before realizing what Maura's words meant. "Wait, what? You're not coming?" Dollar Beer Night and Maura wasn't coming? "We were going to get blitzed."

"Well, you can still 'get blitzed,'" Maura pointed out. "I'm sure Korsak and Frost will be happy to assist you."

"Yeah, but . . . ." It wasn't the same. "I'll be the only woman."

"In a bar full of males who find you attractive and are looking to let off some steam," Maura replied. "I'm sure you could find something to occupy you if you tried. I have to fly out to Peoria for a funeral."

"Peoria? Whose funeral?" Funny that Maura hadn't mentioned the death of someone close to her.

"Actually, I should have been more precise," Maura said. "I'm flying in to Peoria because it's the nearest airport; the funeral itself is in Allensburg, approximately forty miles away. The cemetery is—"

"And whose funeral?"

"Oh. Tamon Peeples," Maura replied. "We served together in Medecins Sans Frontiers—" She caught herself. "—Doctors Without Borders."

Jane had always meant to ask Maura about that. Guess this was as good a time as any. "Where was that, again?" She probably should have remembered.

"Dakar," Maura replied.

Um . . .

"In Senegal?"

Um . . . .

"The Atlantic coast of Africa?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah." Jane knew where Africa was. "So, what was it like?"

"I quite enjoyed it," Maura said.

Automatic lights signaled their entrance to the morgue.

"There were four of us," she went on. "Tamon, Bill, Mark, and I."

"You were the only woman?" At her friend's nod, Jane said playfully, "Any extracurricular activities?"

Confused, Maura replied, "There was no curriculum. This was after I graduated."

Of course. "Any hanky panky?" Jane elaborated. "Horizontal mambo?"

"They were all married," Maura chided her. "And older. And . . ." She shrugged. "They didn't exactly like me."

"I'm sure that's not true," Jane fudged.

"It's all right," Maura replied. "I wasn't particularly comfortable around people at the time. They thought I was . . . ."

Jane could think of a few words, but she didn't particularly want Maura doing it. "Brilliant, probably," she said.

"Anyway, we worked out a useful arrangement," Maura said. "They handled the field work, and I handled lab work and diagnostics. I hadn't completed a residency, so that fit well with my status anyway."

"Well, we know you're good at diagnostics," Jane said. Too good at times. "When were you there?"


Wait a minute . . . . "'96? What were you, twelve?"

Maura smiled at her. "It was my first assignment after medical school."

"Yeah, but . . . ." Either Maura was older than Jane thought, or something was wrong with this math. "You were at BCU when you were twenty." Jane remembered that clearly enough; that's when Maura said she had met Garrett Loser Fairfield.

"Graduated when I was twenty," Maura corrected her. "From college, and from medical school a year later."

"You can't graduate from medical school in one year." At the expression on her friend's face, Jane realized she was once again about to be awestruck by Maura Isles.

"I received a special dispensation," Maura said vaguely.

Special dispensation? "What is that, some kind of genius fast track?"

"Not exactly . . . ."

But yeah. "Jesus, Maura." No wonder Jane felt she could barely keep up sometimes. "Did you even do a residency? You know what, I don't even want to know."

Jane was still absorbing the latest evidence of her inferiority when Maura spoke up again. "We were stationed in Dakar, but we spent a lot of time in poorer areas along the coast," she said. "It's a lovely country; I wouldn't mind going back for a visit, if you're interested . . . ."

Right, Africa. Jane could see spending two weeks digging post holes or whatever 'working vacation' Maura would probably come up with. Changing the subject, she asked, "So, what happened to him? Heart attack?"

"The medical examiner ruled it natural causes."

Jane's interest level rose. "Medical examiner?"

"His body was found in a marsh," Maura replied. "He'd been missing for six weeks."

Oh, God. Floaters looked godawful after six days.

"The examiner found no signs of foul play." She took another sip of caffeine. "They surmise that he fell while hiking. He often went for walks alone in Dakar."

"Well, I'm sorry, Maura." There wasn't much more to say, she supposed. "Need a ride to the airport?"

"You'd have to leave work early," Maura said. "I can take a cab."

"No, I'm good," Jane insisted. "Really."

"Then yes," Maura said. "Thank you."

Jane was not surprised to see two expensive, oversized suitcases lying open on Maura's bed. Jane could have packed for a two-day funeral trip, black dress and all, in one small bag, but this was Maura, after all.

Curious, Jane peered into the bags. "What's this?" She held up a plastic container with contents unknown.

Maura glanced over her shoulder. "Sheets."

"You take your own sheets?"

"Of course," Maura said. "You do realize that travelers face nearly a ten percent risk of encountering bedbugs in hotels?"

Gross. Jane leaned over to replace the linens inside the bag. Leave it to Maura to—

"And I often sleep in the nude, so . . . ."

Jane paused. "You like to sleep naked?"

"When practicable."

"You don't sleep naked when you're at my place," Jane said.

Maura laughed. "Well, obviously that would be inappropriate."

Obviously. Jane pictured Maura in some strange hotel room, lying naked under sheets that were probably 100 percent something. Something silky, and smooth . . . .

One pair of black heels and another blue pair landed on the bed beside her, and Jane reached for them. "Can't you just wear the black ones twice in a row?" she asked.

Ignoring her, Maura instructed, "The bag on the left."

"I think I've got your system figured out," Jane replied.

"Have you?" Maura held up two pair of Givenchies.

"Okay, panty hose . . . ." Jane thought about it for a moment. Bag 1 was outerwear, Bag 2 was other stuff. "This one," she guessed, pointing at the second bag.

"Very good," Maura praised her. "Perhaps you do know me."

"I've observed you in your native habitat, Dr. Isles."

Maura laughed again. "Well, I appreciate the ride, and the company," she said. "Last month I was on my own."

"Last month?"

"When Bill died," Maura said. "You were in Washington."

For the Pinson extradition. And, while she was there, dinner with Joe Grant. Jane hadn't mentioned the latter to Maura.

"Bill, as in Bill from Dakar?"

Maura nodded.

Jane Rizzolli hadn't become one of the youngest homicide detectives in Boston through some genius track, but through a damn reliable gut. "Wait a minute," she said. "Two of you dead in the same month?"

"Well, technically not the same month," Maura said. "Still, it is rather disconcerting."

"It's rather weird," Jane said. "Two guys in their, what, forties?"

"It is anomalous, statistically speaking," Maura granted. "Coincidence is fascinating. Once during a trip to Switzerland, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—"

"You know, I do want to hear about Arthur Conan Doyle," Jane said, "but we're gonna be late."

Maura looked at the clock. "Oh, my goodness. 'Time flies,' as the saying goes." Turning back toward her closet, she said, "Although that is not how the original quotation actually reads, and I guess we can't say that we've been having fun."

"Geez, sorry," Jane said with a frown.

"No, of course I'm having fun being with you." Maura placed a carefully folded blouse into the larger suitcase and then zipped it up. "I always have fun when I'm with you. Well, nearly always. Certainly a very high percentage of occasions."

Jane rolled her eyes.

"I just meant that packing is considered fun by only a relatively small percentage of the population, and even among—"

"Apology accepted," Jane said. "I have fun with you, too, even with all your . . . ." She twirled a finger, searching for a word, finally settling on, "Brains."

Maura smiled happily at her. "Thank you, Jane."

Outside Logan International, after a hug and a kiss on the cheek from Maura, Jane watched her friend entrust her bags to an enthusiastic porter before turning back for a final wave and disappearing into the crowd.

She hated feeling this dependent on Maura, but she missed her already, damn it. It wasn't like Jane spent all day with her, but they usually had lunch together, and often had dinner together, and generally she knew it was at least an option to pop down to the morgue.

Without another woman to talk to, The Dirty Robber wasn't as much fun as usual, and Jane bagged out early to accusations of having drunk like a girl. It did leave her with some free time, though . . . .

As she often told Maura, she knew how to use Google, too, and it didn't take Jane long to find articles about a doctor named William Marvell who died in Hartford a month earlier. A few even mentioned the guy's stint in Doctors Without Borders, so this was "Bill," Jane figured.

Dr. Marvell had taken a header down the internal stairwell of a fancy hospital complex that had opened about a year before, the Courant-Citizen reported. An armload of patient files may have contributed to the cause, police speculated, while hospital administration insisted it had nothing to do with the design of the stairwell. A link from the paper's website directed readers to an article nine months earlier in which hospital staff complained about the height of the stair tread, among other things.

Yep, file folders appeared to be the culprit, Detective Jackson of the Hartford P.D. confirmed an hour later. Or the good doctor had just lost his step. No witnesses, but no reason to suspect foul play. What was Boston P.D.'s interest in the case?

"None," Jane replied. Not officially, anyway. "Just checking it out for a friend."

There weren't any witnesses in Allensburg, Illinois, either, when Tamon Peeples did whatever the hell he did to himself. The guy's body was messed up – a month and a half in a bog tended to do that – but the local M.E. hadn't found any red flags. "You got something on this?" her Illinois counterpart asked.

No, Detective Rizzoli admitted. Other than an aversion to coincidence and a hypersensitivity to all things Isles, she had nothing to suggest otherwise. "Mind if I call the family . . . ?"

Said family, she soon learned, were of a different opinion: Immensely grateful to hear from a detective – any detective, even one a thousand miles away – a sobbing daughter insisted that her father was always careful when he hiked, and he usually left a note when he went out, and they just couldn't believe it. They just couldn't. Firm of conviction, but with even less evidence than Jane. Jane hated to worry, though . . . .

"Hey, Maura," she greeted her friend's voice mail. "Listen – I talked to Peeples' family, and they'd like a second opinion on the autopsy. They'll pay," she added quickly. Ever since that mess a few years ago when nearby Westchester was pawning off autopsies to save money, Boston P.D.'s charges for extra-jurisdictional consultations had been strictly enforced. "I mean, maybe you don't want to, and you'd probably have to do it, like, tonight, but… here's their number, anyway. Call me later."

To Jane's disappointment, her cell didn't ring while she went for a pre-fucking-dawn jog the next morning just to tell Maura she had done it. Nor had she heard from her friend by the time she munched on a salad at the Italian café that she and Maura had found last week.

The day itself provided no distractions. Zero for six on witness interviews – "Remind me to commit a crime in this neighborhood," she told Frost – and nothing on the gun yet. Maybe the McKellons could scrape up a reward.

At Jane's suggestion, the usual Friday night get-together had been moved to Sunday in honor of Game 5, and so that Maura could be there, which left Jane at a loose end for the evening. "Hey, Jo, wanna go see Bass?" she asked, knowing what the answer would be.

Jane took seriously her role as turtle-checker and, after placing some of the kale or whatever on his plate along with a dish of fresh water, she decided to watch television or something for a while, so the thing wouldn't think he had been abandoned.

When she awakened hours later, Jo was asleep on the floor, leaning against the hard shell of an African . . . African something. She reached for the note in Maura's handwriting. African Spurred Tortoise, it reminded her. Thursday night – Timothy grass (2). Apparently not expecting Jane to know what Timothy grass or other adult-turtle cuisine was, Maura had placed the specified foodstuffs into little numbered sandwich bags. Saturday morning – mulberry leaves (3). Sprinkle powdered calcium (1) over all foods.

The words "powdered" and "calcium" were well within her vocabulary, she planned to inform Dr. Isles, but Maura had nonetheless taped a neat little 1 to the side of the bottle.

"Woohoo, Bass," she called over. "Baggie number three today!"

It did not respond, and Jane wondered if she should go check on it. And do what, she wondered. Knock on the shell? Check for a pulse? Turtles were one of the few animals that looked the same dead or alive, she had observed once, to Maura's outraged disagreement.

She glanced at the note again – African. Had Maura picked it up in Senegal? These big turtles lived for decades, Jane remembered Maura saying. Guess she should ask her. It made her friend happy to talk about Bass, and this time Jane actually was kind of curious.

She walked over to the living room window. Yep – she let the curtain fall back into place – it was a nice Saturday morning. A beautiful, boring Saturday morning.

Jane considered her options: Yoga? Yeah, right. She could hang out with her annoying brother, but he was taking an extra shift today. She could read a book, she supposed; that one about Paul Revere's ride that Maura had given Jane for her birthday was still sitting on her bedside table. Or she could log some hours off the clock on her unsolveds . . . . She grabbed her car keys from the table.

By the time Jane's phone finally rang, she didn't need to ask whether Maura had done the second autopsy or what she had found, because Jane's news alert for "Maura Isles" had been pinging all morning. "Family fears confirmed by second autopsy," the Chicago Tribune's website reported. "Findings delay funeral of local doctor." "Controversy swells over missed bullet."

"It's a mess."

"You found a bullet?" Jane asked.

"Fragments," Maura said. "And an entrance wound in the lower parietal near the lambdoid suture."

"The . . . ."

"Back of the head."

"Shit – that's natural causes?" Jane's gut was roiling like crazy now. "Is the M.E. in on it?"

"I don't think so," Maura said. "Tamon's body had been exposed to the elements for weeks. It was very difficult to find."

"You found it," Jane pointed out.

"Only because I observed fragments when I digitally x-rayed the body and decided to x-ray the organs that had been removed," Maura replied. "It's not common practice."

"I guess I shouldn't hold everyone to your standard."

Maura sighed. "I'm sorry I didn't call earlier," she said. "This is the first moment I've had to myself."

"Oh, hey, whatever." Jane felt a little guilty now for the number of "Damn it, Mauras!" uttered in the past twenty-four hours. "I'm sorry I got you into this."

"The funeral has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning," Maura went on. "I haven't even steam pressed my dress yet."

"Well, you know, you ought to just hole up in your hotel room," Jane said casually. "Get some sleep."

"It's still early here; there's a seafood restaurant down the—"

"Seafood in the midwest? Seriously, Maura, you should stay in. Order a pizza."

"But I—"

Enough subtlety. "Maura, please," Jane interrupted. "Stay in your room tonight and lock your door."

There was a brief pause, and then, "What are you saying, Jane?"

"This guy was shot execution style, by someone who was about to get away with it until you blew it for him," Jane replied. "He might be pissed."

"The murder occurred nearly two months ago."

"Which doesn't mean it's safe," Jane urged. "Just humor me, okay?"

"Well, I didn't have a chance to finish the Scientific American I picked up at the airport. . . ."

"There you go," Jane said. "Or, you know, PBS probably has something on."

Jane tended toward paranoia when it came to the safety of loved ones, but sometimes it was best just to go along with her, Maura had long ago concluded. And so, not for the first time, she spent her Saturday night watching the History Channel and perusing the latest issue of Scientific American. Errors in the current issue were relatively few, and after e-mailing a list to the publisher and a quick goodnight to Jane, she closed her laptop for the evening and slid between luxurious satin sheets.

The funeral service itself was subdued even for the occasion, not unexpected given that his family had just learned that their husband and father had been murdered. Missing from the list of accomplishments recited by the pastor was any mention of recent public service, but that did not surprise Maura; Tamon had made rather clear that MSF was more public service than most physicians gave, and it would be his last. No "slumming" for him, as Jane would say.

She supposed it was a tad selfish to make Jane pick her up at the airport, but Jane had offered, and Maura was sufficiently self aware to recognize that she had missed her friend and was anxious to see her. She wasn't angry at having essentially been volunteered to perform a second examination, as Jane seemed to fear. It had produced an important truth, but it had been an exhausting and unpleasant weekend.

Local media wanted her to criticize their medical examiner, and, in truth, he should have discovered the wound. But Maura had far greater experience with bullets – more than two thirds of Boston's homicides were from gunshot wounds – and with bodies submerged in water, or "floaters" as Jane and Korsak insisted on calling them. Had Jane been here, she could have squelched the pestering in her unique way, but Maura was on her own, and had chosen simply to say as little to reporters as possible.

She had already informed Jane as to the estimated time of arrival of her flight, but a reminder wouldn't hurt after check in, Maura decided. At the risk of a little Rizzoli mocking, Maura had indulged in first class, and there was no line as she approached the counter and handed her driver's license to the attendant.

"Thank you, Miss . . . Isles?" Maura nodded, and the attendant typed her information into the keyboard. Efficiency was rather poor at this airport, Maura had nearly concluded when two men in TSA uniforms suddenly appeared beside her.

"Miss Isles?" one addressed her. "Could you please come with us?"

Damn, her aim was off this afternoon, and she wasn't even drinking. Oh, wait – Detective Rizzoli suddenly had a theory. Maura wouldn't approve of Jane picking her up in the car after consuming alcohol, but it wasn't even halftime yet, and hadn't Maura herself said that, with Jane's height and weight or metabolism or whatever that one beer wouldn't make her drunk?

"Rematch," she called.

She raised a finger to the server and yanked half a dozen yellow darts from various locations on the board (and, in one instance, the floor). Vibration from her pocket postponed her comeback for a moment.

"One sec," she said. "Gotta take this." Stepping away from the crowd, Jane said, "You're not here already, are you?"

"No." Maura sounded upset. "I can't fly."

"What do you mean?"

"They won't let me on the plane."

What the hell? "Who won't?"

"I'm on a no-fly list," Maura said.

"What?" Jane stepped outside onto the sidewalk. "You weren't two days ago."

"I know!"

"Your name must be like someone else's," Jane said. "Like Ted Kennedy." It seemed a little unlikely – how many "Maura Isleses" were running around out there? – but everyone knew the no-fly list was fucked up.

"That's what I presumed as well," Maura replied. "I verified my identification through the City's website. A Google search retrieved a number of news items with my photograph."


"They said it was immaterial," Maura said. "I am indeed the person on the list. I'm befuddled."

"Me, too," Jane said, if befuddled meant 'pissed.' Her Something'sWrong-dar had been pinging for three days now.

"I'm not sure how long it will take to clear this up," Maura said. "I just want to go home."

This was bullshit. "Maybe I can make some calls," Jane offered.

"I was able to reach the governor," Maura replied. "But they said state officials can't override a federal designation."

Federal? That gave Jane an idea. "I'll try to get hold of Dean," she said. "Maybe he can do something for you."

"I suspect he'd rather do something for you," Maura teased.

"Gimme a break." Jane had never looked back from that particular decision.

"Amtrak doesn't have a no-ride list," Maura went on. "I'm told the nearest station is in Galesburg."

This was so freaking bizarre.

"It's twenty-four hours to Boston. You'll have to look in on Bass again."

"Geez, Maura, twenty-four hours?" Jane exclaimed. "You could drive it in half that."

"I think not, Jane; it's more than a thousand miles." Maura sighed. "I could rent a car, but I don't really have the energy. I suppose I could hire a driver . . . I think I would rather just take the train."

A notion popped into Jane's head. "I'll drive!" she said excitedly. "You rent a car; I'll fly in. Frankie'll check on Bass."

Maura hesitated, which meant that she was interested. "That's sweet, Jane, but hardly practical," she finally said. "Amtrak has sleeper cars now; it's really the sensible thing to do."

"Screw sensible," Jane said. "You want to be stuck on a train by yourself or on a road trip with your best friend? Come on, Thelma . . . ."

"You'll miss work." Maura was smiling, Jane could tell.

"I'll take the day off." The more Jane thought about it, the better it sounded. She could spend time with a friend she had missed badly and also protect her, if need be. One never knew what one might encounter on a train. Some perv might hit on her. And screw it – it would be just her and Maura, together, alone. "I'll call you when I land."

Hurrying over to where her brother, partner, and former partner were having a good time, Jane deposited a handful of darts on the table. "How sloshed are you?" she asked the only one with a car.

"Hi, Janie!" Frankie slurred.

"I'll take a cab." She poked him in the chest. "You, too."

"Where you going?"

"Where you going, Jane?" Frost echoed.

"I'm flying out to Illinois," she said. "Maura ran into some trouble."

"Maura's in Illinois?" Frankie asked.

"I told you that already," she said. "The third time you asked why she wasn't here. Now, listen, Frankie -- you'll have to stop by my place and Maura's tomorrow. Okay?" He nodded, but, noting his slightly blurred vision, she added, "I'll call and remind you."

"She's so pretty," Frost declared. "Whatsamatter with her?"

"Just a screw up with the airline," Jane said. "I'm going to keep her company." With two hands on his face, she managed to draw her partner's attention to the movement of her lips. "Sign me out tomorrow, will you?" She pressed his cheeks. "Jane. Out. You got it?"

"Got it," he replied. "Say hi for us."

"I will."

"She's so pretty."

"Yeah, I know."

She stepped outside and gestured toward a passing cab, which veered through two lanes and slammed on its brakes directly in front of her. Yellow Cab in three seconds – a good omen, Jane decided. This was going to be great.

This was stupid, Jane decided when her plane landed at the Greater Peoria Airport some six hours later. Had Maura taken the Amtrak, she would have been on her way home already, and Jane would have had $248 more in her bank account. Yes, Jane's gut was bothering her, but, if she were honest with herself, her main motivation had been that she missed Maura and an excuse to spend time with her had just been too tempting.

Had Maura seen through the lame excuse, and just been too polite to say anything? Maybe not; if anyone was likely to believe a lame excuse, it was Maura Isles.

Her doubts dissolved when she strolled down the ramp and spied her friend smiling delightedly at her. "Jane!" Maura held out her arms.

"Hey," Jane said with some relief. Guess Maura didn't think this was dumb after all.

"Are you hungry?" Maura asked. "I'm told there are a couple of nice restaurants on the way out of town."

"I could go for a taco," Jane suggested, but at the expression on Maura's face, she quickly added, "or not. I can wait til we stop for gas. Where's the rental counter?"

"I've already taken care of it," Maura said. "The car's in short-term parking and I got some cash for the trip, so we're ready to go. As you're doing me a favor, I splurged a little."

More than a little, Jane soon discovered. "No way," she exclaimed softly a few minutes later, running her palm across a sleek navy blue frame. "You can rent Lamborghinis in Peoria?"

Maura smiled. "Not exactly. I had it brought down from Chicago."

At the reminder of how long Maura had been waiting for her, Jane said with a twinge of guilt, "I guess you didn't have to stay here. We could have met somewhere in between . . . ."

"I appreciated the extra time," Maura said. "I got in a nice nap."

Jane continued to caress the car. "This thing is so hot . . . ."

"Would you two like to be alone . . . ?"

Eastbound on the interstate, her face aglow from dull illumination of the dashboard, Jane kept it at just shy of ninety. Ninety in this thing was as smooth as fifty in her beater. "Zero to sixty in three point nine," she said conversationally.

"Good to know," Maura replied, "although I wonder how often one really needs to go from zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds."

"All the time," Jane insisted. "Merging . . . passing . . . impressing chicks . . . ."

"Is that why you've been driving so aggressively?" Maura said. "To impress me?"

"Yeah." She grinned at Maura.

"How very alpha male of you."

"I told you I'd be the guy."

"So if you went dancing with Joe Grant, who would lead?"

"Lead?" Jane repeated. "Nobody leads in dancing any more."

"Oh, Jane . . . ," Maura tsked. "How is Lieutenant Grant anyway?"

Uncomfortably, Jane replied, "How would I know?"

"Because you saw him in Washington last month."

"I—how do you know?" Damn that Frost.

"You were in Washington, Joe Grant is in Washington."

She turned her head to look at Maura. "So, you're just assuming . . . drawing wild inferences from unconfirmed speculation."

"That, and when you had me answer your phone last week, I saw the text from Grant asking when you would be back in town again."


"I was surprised that you hadn't mentioned it."

Might as well come clean. "Well, nothing to mention, really," Jane equivocated. "We went to dinner."


"And the eggplant was good but overpriced."


"And what?" As if she didn't know. Sometimes it seemed that Maura was more interested in Jane's love life than her own. "And we had a good time."

"So, when are you going back?"

"I don't know," Jane said. "Next time we get an extradition and Korsak won't get off his ass, I guess."

"Washington's not that far, Jane. You could take the train almost any weekend."

"I could get called into work almost any weekend."

"That's a rather patent excuse," Maura declared. "I understand that you may be concerned about long-distance relationships, and yes, statistically the majority are unsuccessful, but an argument could be made that this doesn't qualify."

"I know it doesn't," Jane said, "because there is no relationship."

"What do you mean?"

"Not everyone keeps shaving stuff in their purse, Maura."

"Oh, dear," Maura said sympathetically. "You hadn't shaved your legs?"

"No, that was just an analogy," Jane explained.

"An analogy? To what?"

"Okay, a metaphor."

"A metaphor would—"

"I was just saying that not everyone jumps in the sack as easily as you apparently do!"

That had not come out like she intended, and a glance at Maura confirmed that her friend was taken aback.

"Sorry," Jane said. "I didn't mean . . . ."

She didn't mean to take it out on Maura. It wasn't Maura who called Grant thinking that yeah, maybe they might hook up, a little stress relief with an old friend, then wimped out at his doorstep and went back to a motel that probably did indeed have bedbugs. No, Maura would have lectured her about missed opportunities, or quizzed her about what she had been thinking. As if Jane knew.

"Sorry," she said again. How could she make this right? "I shouldn't have yelled, and I don't really think you're . . . ."

"Of loose morals?"

"You're confusing me with my mother," Jane said. "You know I don't have a problem with sex outside of marriage."

"I didn't think so," Maura said. "So why are you so angry that I want you to have a fulfilling sex life?"

"I'm not." Damn it . . . . "In fact, I love you for it, Maura. I just . . . I don't know what's up. He was there. He was interested, and I just . . . I don't know."

Thankfully, Maura did not offer any of the opinions that Jane had already formed: Because you're a loser. Because there's something wrong with you. Because you were still bothered by the realization halfway through dinner that you were talking about your medical examiner way too much, and that you wanted to call her more than you wanted to be with your date.

"Perhaps you were just nervous at the thought of initiating a sexual relationship that could have deeper ramifications," Maura said. "Next time you'll feel more comfortable."

"Right . . . ."

Maura herself seemed more comfortable – and damn adorable, Jane decided – in the reclined passenger seat a short while later, sleeping noiselessly. And soundly, it seemed. Safely secured with her seatbelt still on. On a long, flat, stretch of highway . . . .

Just once, Jane told herself. One chance to see what this baby could do. What was the point of driving a Lamborghini if you didn't put that expensive German engineering to the test?

Smooth . . . . Jane watched the speedometer climb to 100, then 120, then 150. Even though she could barely tell the difference in how the car was handling, that was enough adventure for her, and she let it decelerate naturally. Indiscretion out of her system and Maura none the wiser, she thought smugly.

Unfortunately, a glance in the rear view mirror burst her bubble. "Fuck me!" she exclaimed.

Maura stirred. "What?"

"Fuck fuck fuck!" The headlights that had suddenly appeared drew closer. Fucking speed trap, just waiting for some poor sucker to punch it. "I'm about to get a bufu speeding ticket in Bufu, Indiana, that's what."

Drawing her seat upright, Maura murmured, "How fast were you going?"

Jane didn't answer. What kind of a break did cops give for 150 – "I'll just write it for 130?"

They were back down to eighty now. Jane decided to leave it there; if the fucker wanted her to slow down, he could hit his lights.

To her surprise, the car drifted into the left lane as it drew near. "He's passing us?" she said to no one. She peered into her side mirror. No markings – highway patrol didn't use unmarked cars. And was that a Jag? "Something's—" She saw the face in the window an instant before she saw the gun. "Shit!"

She slammed on the brakes, and they careened sideways wildly as Jane tried to swing the car around. A shot rang out, and then another, pinging against metal. Grasping the steering wheel tightly, she . . . just . . . needed . . . and there it was – traction. Was a Lamborghini faster than a Jaguar? They were about to find out.

"Get my gun, Maura!" She tapped at the console between them. "In here."

Maura reached in and drew the .38 from its holster.

"Take off the safety."


"Like I showed you, Maura."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Shoot 'em!" She swerved into the other lane.

"Through the window?"

Jane pressed the electric window button.

The first retort caught Maura by surprise, and she dropped the gun with an agitated, "Oh!" She fished around for it on the seat, then gripped it more carefully and pulled the trigger over and over until they heard a click.

The M.E. must have hit something, Jane figured; she had no idea what, other than it sounded metallic and the headlights were suddenly far behind them. She floored it.

Miles passed without any sound other than their own heavy breathing until Jane, certain now they were not being followed, pulled off at a random exit and parked behind a gas station closed for the night. Cracking the window to listen for vehicles on the highway, she switched off the engine and swung around to confront her passenger. "Maura, what the fuck?"

"I don't know!" Maura replied. "I truly don't!"

"Someone's trying to kill you!"

"Evidently," Maura agreed nervously. "I just – I don't . . . ."

"What happened over in Africa?" Jane demanded. "Why does someone want you all dead?"

"Nothing happened!" Maura insisted. "We helped people! We saved lives! I mean, we couldn't save everyone, but no one harbored ill will toward us."

You're tired, Janie. Tired and scared and cranky, and now was not the time to say anything that might hurt her best friend's feelings. Whatever was happening, she was relatively certain that it was not Maura's fault.

"Okay," Jane said. "We need help. What was the last town we passed?"

Maura struggled to respond, and Jane realized that, out of fear of angering Jane, she was refraining from pointing out that she had been asleep for the past hour.

"South Bend?" Jane recalled vaguely. No, that was earlier. "It doesn't matter," she declared. "We've got to go back."

"Nothing back yet," a young deputy reported forty minutes later.

Jane paused, one hand reaching for the coffee pot. "'Back yet?'"

"On the wire," he explained.

Oh, dear. Maura hoped that didn't mean what she thought. She shifted her attention to Jane.

"You put something out on the wire?" her friend asked darkly.

He seemed confused. "Well, yeah," he replied. He waved a hand toward the two women.

"Our names?" Jane said more specifically.

Oh, dear.

"Department policy."

It didn't take intimate knowledge of Jane Rizzoli to recognize that she was about to explode. "How about a snack?" Maura quickly interjected. She drew Jane away from the well-meaning officer about to be orally eviscerated and toward the candy machine in the corner. "What are you thinking, Jane?" she asked quietly.

"I'm thinking he's a fucking moron!" Jane replied. "Did I not say this had to be kept under the radar? Did I not say that?"

"You said that," Maura agreed. Multiple times, in fact, to both of the officers on graveyard shift who had been startled by two women stepping through their door a short while ago with a tale rather outside the norm. Calmly, she clarified, "I mean, what are you thinking about our situation?"

"Fucking idiot!" Jane repeated. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Okay. What am I thinking? They manage to make two murders look like accidents. You blow the lid on a murder in Peoria, and a day later you're on some top-secret no-fly list," she said. "You rent a Lamborghini, and five hours later they're after us in a Jag. Someone has a lot of information about you, and a lot of pull."

Although Jane's conclusion was in actuality an inference, it was not unreasonable, Maura conceded.

Jane unclipped her phone and examined it. "Our phones may be screwed. I think this is high level stuff." She pulled off the back, but appeared uncertain what to look for. "Give me yours." She chucked them both into the trash.

Feeling impelled to point out a flaw in Jane's analysis, Maura said, "Shooting us would not have appeared accidental."

"Yeah, well, that was my fault," Jane replied. "I punched it on the straightaway. They must have thought we were makin' a run for it. They figured we were on to them."

"And now . . . ."

"We need to get out of here," Jane said. "They could be coming." She seemed to be eying a row of Snickers. "Now I wish we'd eaten before we left. You got any change?"

"Wouldn't you rather have one of the apples?" Maura asked. "Nutritionally,—"

Jane shot her a glare.

"Sixty five cents?" Maura pulled out her coin purse.

Pressing the D-3 combination, Jane asked, "You want one?"

"I think—oh, why not?" As Jane pointed out rather frequently, she had eaten "this kind of shit" her whole life. Maura had reviewed Jane's lab results after the shooting – not one of Maura's favorite topics – and they were all within normal parameters. But that was nearly a year ago. "Do you have annual physicals?" she asked.


"I would like to see more regular blood work on you."

Jane stared at her. "Does that have anything to do with this?"

"No," Maura admitted.

"Could we stick to the someone-wants-us-dead, please?" Leading Maura by the elbow, she strolled up to the single deputy out front and patted him on the back. "Where can we get some shuteye around here . . . ?"

In the parking lot outside, Maura watched wordlessly as her friend disabled the car's GPS "the old fashioned way," as Jane put it. Maura wasn't concerned; returning a rental car with yanked wires would be no more difficult than returning one with .45 caliber bullets lodged in the bumper and car door handle.

A left on Main Street would take them straight to the Days Inn, Deputy Thompson had advised them. Maura again said nothing when Jane turned right. Her life was in Jane's hands, as it had been before, and if the detective felt that doubling back onto a little used two-lane was the best course of action, Maura was fine with it. She was fine with anything Jane Rizzoli wanted.

At 3:18 a.m., Jane was surprised to see a red OPEN sign on an optimistically named Melody Motel. On instinct, she pulled into the parking lot. "I'm whacked," she said. "You want to get a couple of hours?"

"If you think it's safe."

Safer than continuing on without some rest, Jane had reluctantly concluded. She was hungry and tired. "The car's been swept," she said. "We ditched the phones. I don't think they can track us. If we keep off the grid, I think we're okay."

Easier said than done, she soon learned.

"No cash," the clerk repeated.

"How about if we leave an extra deposit?" Jane tried again. "We're not going to wreck the place."

"I can't," the young man said. "Don't you have any credit cards?" He glanced again at the woman who stood silently at her side.

"Uh, yeah," Jane said. She leaned in across the counter. "Look, her husband's an asshole. It's not your problem, I know, but he's got a P.I. on me and he goes through her credit card statements. We just want a little time together." She slid an arm around Maura's waist. "You understand?"

His gaze shifted between the two of them. Jane let her hand rest on Maura's hip, and fixed him with her best "We're about to have hot sex with each other on your premises" expression.

As they stepped into the room a few minutes later, Maura observed, "You took advantage of that young man's prurient interests."

"And he's probably taking advantage of them right now."


"Hey, for a soft bed, I would have done you on the lobby floor."

"Well, I would prefer not to be 'done' on the lobby floor," Maura replied. She unzipped one of her bags.

"Where would you prefer to be done?"

With a bright smile, Maura held up a bag. "Sheets!"

Jane paused. Was that an answer to her question?

"They won't fit well on a double," Maura went on, "but 'he must needs go that the devil drives.'"

"What? Are you on about my driving again?"

"No, I was just – We'll just have to make do." She unfolded a pillow case. "The bed's smaller than we're used to, so I'll excuse you if you end up on top of me in your sleep."

That image made Jane a little less drowsy. "Sorry," she said. "I couldn't really ask for the two queens, what with . . . ."

"With the clerk thinking you were about to jump me." She slipped the cover off of one of the pillows.

"Well, I am—"

"—'the guy,'" Maura finished for her. "Although that doesn't necessarily mean that you would do all the jumping."

Jane glanced at the linens. "Did you use those on your trip?"

"Of course."

She couldn't stop herself. "Did you have any clothes on?"

Maura straightened. "No. Will that bother you?"

"No." Not in the way Maura meant, anyway. Maura's bare skin had pressed against those sheets last night, her breasts, her thighs, sliding, turning . . . . Too tired, Rizzoli. And way too much flirting going on, even for the two of them.

"You can go natural tonight, too, if you want," she said. "We'll have to take turns anyway. If it's okay with you, I'm gonna go first. Wake me in two hours." She handed her reloaded gun to Maura. "Been there, done this."

"Yes, we have."

"Jane . . . ."

A noise in her ear.

"Jane . . . ."

Not a noise, she realized, but the calling of her name by a friend whose front – whose breasts, more specifically – were pressed against Jane's back.

"The change in your breathing pattern suggests that you are awake," Maura announced.

"Prove it."

After enjoying the physical sensation a moment longer, Jane rolled onto her stomach and reached up for a loud stretch, before turning her head toward the other woman on the bed. Maura moved away from her and crossed her legs.

"I didn't want to startle you," Maura said. She was fully clothed, and appeared even to have showered. "I tried touching you first."

"That's why I didn't get up," Jane joked. Sexual innuendo while in bed with Maura was normally against her better judgment, but at the moment she didn't particularly care.

"You must have been exhausted," Maura said. "You're not usually such a heavy sleeper. I could easily have had my way with you."

"I could go back to sleep . . . ."

"What fun would that be?" Maura asked, but then she thought about it. "Although I suppose it could be quite fun."

"If you're doing it right." Enough, Rizzoli.

"Perhaps another time, when we're not being pursued by men with guns."

"Can't get lucky with Grant, can't get lucky with you," Jane muttered tiredly. The sliver of light peeking through the curtains was giving her a headache. "What time is it?"

"Eight-twenty. You said you wanted to be back on the road by eight."

So Maura had let her sleep the whole time. Guess she couldn't complain. "I'd rather spend the day in bed," she said. She dropped her face down into the pillow.

"We can do that when we get back to Boston."

We can?

Maura patted Jane's hip. "'Up and at them,' Jane."

Later, as her friend nibbled uncertainly on a McHash Brown – cash-conserving, drive-thru meals only from now on, Jane had declared – Detective Rizzoli decided to state the obvious. "We need to find out what the hell is going on."

Maura looked over at her.

"We need to call the fourth guy."


"Yeah. We got enough cash left for some prepaid cells?"

"I've never purchased one, but I imagine so."

Internet was available "'two blocks down at the Carnegie,'" Maura reported from her chat with a passerby while Jane handed a twenty to a gas station clerk. Carnegie, of course, referred to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who funded nearly half of the libraries erected in the United States from 1883 through 1919, and whose charitable contributions, if expressed in today's dollars, would exceed four bill—

"Hey, Biography Channel – which way?" Jane interrupted.

Maura pointed. "There."

The only contact information they could find was an office number, but it was a work day, Maura noted optimistically.

"Put it on speaker," Jane instructed her as she dialed.

"Medvig Clinic," a chipper voice answered.

"Dr. Medvig, please," Maura said. "This is Dr. Maura Isles."

"I'll see if he's available."

Jane jabbed a finger toward the phone. "He'd better be available," she declared. "Tell the fucker he gives us a straight answer or I'm gonna fuck him over. I've had enough of this shit. You got it?"

"Yes, although the ratio of four-letter-words seems to be increasing in proportion to your level of stress," Maura observed.

A male voice came over the line. "Maura?"

"Fuck him over," Jane mouthed. She gestured to Maura, who waved her off.

"Mark, I—"

"Maura, thank God you're all right!" the man interrupted with a sigh.

That was a surprise. "You've heard about Bill and Tamon then," Maura replied. "You weren't at the funerals, so I wasn't sure."

"I heard, and I'm sorry, Maura. I'm really sorry."

Strange choice of words, Jane thought. "Sorry for what?" she yelled over impatiently.

"Is someone with you?"

Maura laid a hand on Jane's thigh. "Just a friend," she said. "Mark, someone is attempting to kill me. Tamon was murdered, and it's possible that Bill was as well, although at this point that would be conject—"

"Maura!" Jane growled.

"Do you know what's going on, Mark?" Maura asked.

"Only the biggest mistake of my life," he said. "Did you follow the elections last year?"

Crap; did this shit have something to do with Republicans?

"In Senegal?"


"Of course," Maura replied.

Didn't we all? Jane thought sarcastically. Brainiacs.

"Ibrahim Ndain was elected prime minister," he went on.

"Yes, I saw that."

"We've been blackmailing him."

"What?" Maura and Jane exclaimed simultaneously.

"Four million dollars, split four ways."

"Blackmail?" Maura repeated.

But it was another set of words that caught Jane's attention. "Four ways?" She had a sinking feeling about this.

"Maura, who's with you?" the voice insisted.

"My . . . ." She turned to Jane for help.

"Detective Jane Rizzoli, Boston P.D. and friend of Maura," Jane yelled at the phone. "Someone's trying to kill her because of you assholes. What did you get her into?"

Maura caressed her thigh calmingly. "Now, Jane, he's—"

"No, Maura, no more Mr. Nice Guy." She spoke toward the phone. "You had something on this guy from when you were in Senegal," she guessed. "You told him that all four of you were splitting the money."

A pause, and then, "Yes. I'm really sorry, Maura."

Shocked, Maura said, "Why would you do that?"

To get more money, Jane nearly shouted. The sap would more likely pay $4 million to four people than to three.

"You have a successful practice," Maura went on. "You don't need the money."

"No, you don't need the money," he corrected her. "You know how much Tamon dumped into real estate before the crash? My daughter's husband took my retirement and hers, and now I've got three grandkids living in my basement."

"And Bill?"

"Bill just liked money."

"I did see him pick up a roll from the floor once rather than pay ten cents for a new one," Maura mused.

Jane waved a hand in frustration. "Off topic," she declared. "What have you got on him?"

This time, the pause was longer. Could it be worse than what he had already confessed to?

"While we were there, Senegalese government decentralized."

Maura nodded. "I remember that." To Jane, she said, "Four hundred and thirty-four local governments were recognized in the form of regions, district communes and local communes. You probably read about it at the time."

Yeah, right after the sports section.

"Ndain became one of the regional administrators," the man's voice continued.

"A very powerful position," Maura added for her friend's benefit.

Impatiently, Jane said, "And?"

After another pause, he replied, "His son raped two girls. At least two. We treated them out in the field and kept our mouths shut."

Maura gasped.

"In exchange for . . . ," Jane said.

"Look, I owed two hundred thousand dollars on my student loan," he said. "I didn't . . . . We didn't tell you, Maura. We knew you would . . . ."

Do the right thing. Maura Isles always did the right thing. At least they knew her that well. She appeared too stunned to respond to the backhanded compliment.

Bitterly, Jane said, "You're just full of excuses, aren't you? You already blackmailed this guy once and you came back for more?"

"The first one wasn't blackmail. He approached us."

"Potato, potahto." Jane glanced at the clock on the dashboard. "Look, Jerk, we've gotta cut this short. They're gonna be after you, too. Get to the nearest police station and stay put." She grabbed the phone from Maura's hand and pressed the End button.

At a gas station a mile up the road, she wedged the device into the tailgate of a tractor-trailer, then backtracked in the Lamborghini until she found a road that would take them to the interstate.

Maura hadn't spoken for several minutes, and Jane wasn't sure what she could herself say. "Sorry," she tried.

"I thought I knew them," she said. "I mean, we weren't close, but . . . ."

"But like you said, they were older and you didn't hang out with them," Jane said. "I don't think they meant to hurt you with this, though."


Activating the second pre-paid cellular, Jane dialed another number. This one had been a little harder to get for the cautious detective: Step one had been a call to one of Vince Korsak's ex-wives who lived near the station and whose number Jane happened to remember ("It spells V-U-L-T-U-R-E," Korsak had pointed out). Talking the woman into stopping by to see Vince had taken some outright begging, but eventually she had agreed to pass along a veiled message to her ex-husband and Jane's ex-partner.

At 12:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Jane had called the 'family' line for Schmidt's Deli. To her relief, after a brief greeting from the owner to a long-time customer, the phone was handed over to a familiar voice. "What's going on, Janie?"

"Someone's after us, Vince," she said. "I think we've lost 'em, but I don't know. We're heading home off the grid."

"What do you need?"

Straight to the point; one reason Jane loved Vince Korsak. "Remember where we were when we found out that Cavanaugh got promoted?" News that made an already lousy road trip stink even worse, as her partner had declared. "I need you to meet me there with Frost."

She also needed him to remind Frankie to feed the dependents, and, if he could get it, a direct dial for the D.C. office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation…

"Hey, it's Jane," she said a few minutes later on what she knew would be a secured line. "I need a big favor."

"Does it involve the two of us and an espresso?"

"No." Jane cut to the chase. "Maura and I are in trouble."

Maura gestured toward her, Put it on speaker.

She handed the phone to Maura, who pressed the button and then held it out to her. "We're in Indiana—"

"Ohio," Maura whispered.

"—or Ohio, and there's an African hit squad after us."

A brief silence followed, and then the agent said, "Hitting the Robber a little early, are we?"

"What? No!" Jane gritted her teeth. "There's a damn hit squad after Maura and this other guy, Dr. Mark—" What was the asshole's name?

"Medvig," Maura supplied.

"Mark Medvig in Pittsburgh. Maura and this guy knew each other in Africa, and the president of Senegal is after them."

"Okaaaay," he replied. "Put Maura on."

Maura leaned in toward the phone. "Agent Dean, hello."

"How are you, Dr. Isles?"

"Not well, actually," Maura replied. "An attempt was made on our lives yesterday and now we're 'on the lam,' as I believe the saying goes."

"Dr. Isles, are you honestly telling me that the president of Senegal is ordering assassinations of American citizens?"

"The Prime Minister, actually," Maura corrected. "Governmental structure in Senegal is divided among—"

"He's two for two already!" Jane yelled at the phone. "I'm not screwing with you, Gabriel." A moment passed, and then she repeated more calmly, "I'm not. We're in trouble."

"What do you need?"

"Medvig should be at the Pittsburg P.D. or at his clinic; I need you to get protection on him ASAP," Jane said. "If they whack him before he goes public, Maura's fucked. Plus then I won't be able to whack him."

Maura laid a hand on her thigh, and Jane calmed a little.

What they also needed, but was less easily arranged, was an investigation into the head of state of a sovereign nation. Publicity would have to be the trigger, they agreed, and with a phone call to a Globe editor who liked Maura – a lot, apparently – two reporters were dispatched to Pennsylvania.

"Did you screw that guy?" Jane asked as soon as the call ended.

Maura seemed surprised by the question. "What?"

"I mean, just talkin' to you I thought he was gonna—"

"He's a friend."

"With benefits?"

"Why do you ask?"

Because she couldn't help it. Struggling for an answer, Jane finally said, "Just wondered how good a contact he's gonna be. No big deal."

Maura moved the hand on Jane's thigh slightly. "No, it's not. He's just a friend." With another motion, she said, "Your quadriceps femoris is becoming well defined."

"My thigh's getting big?"

"Toned," Maura clarified. "The leg extensions are working." She ran her palm across the top of Jane's slacks and squeezed gently.

Jane nearly groaned. They wouldn't need to run into the shooters again; Maura's hand was going to kill her.

"So, where is Korsak meeting us?" Maura asked.

"The Super 8 in Buffalo."

"That's less than two hundred miles," Maura said with a smile. "It'll be over soon." She gave Jane's leg another stroke, and leaned back into her seat.

"You can leave it there," Jane blurted. "If you want."

Maura looked at her.

Quickly changing the subject, a mortified Jane said, "Once we meet up with the guys, we'll head on into Boston and get you to a safe house til the Globe stuff runs."

"Do you–"

"Is there anybody up ahead in that lane?"

"No. Jane . . . ."

Great; Maura wasn't going to let it go. "I just meant that a little human contact was comforting, you know, with all this stress," Jane said. "You know, nothing weird."


Jane looked over at her, but couldn't read Maura's expression. "You didn't think I was hitting on you, did you?" she asked. Great; now she was the one who couldn't let it go.

"I . . . ." Maura seemed unsure of her response, not uncommon for a person incapable of lying. Finally, she said, "I thought you liked having my hand on your thigh."

Jane did not respond. This could be a turning point, she realized. She could make a joke, or she could be honest. If Maura freaked out, they would be trapped together in an enclosed space for a long and very awkward three hours. But if she didn't freak out . . . .

"I kind of did," she said finally. That was ambiguous enough, wasn't it?

"And I like touching you," Maura said.

That seemed less ambiguous, although with Maura it was hard to tell. What now?

"It's been a crazy couple of days," Jane replied. "We're probably both feeling a little . . . . weird."

"Yes," Maura replied, "but I've been attracted to you for far longer than two days."

Jane could feel her heart racing. "Attracted to me?"

"Yes, physically attracted. Sexually."

A car swooshed past, and Jane realized she had let off the accelerator. Pay attention, Rizzoli.

"Do you feel any attraction toward me?" Maura asked.

Avoiding the question, Jane said, "Boy, once you let it out, you let it all out, don't you?"

"I'm sorry," Maura said. "Is this making you uncomfortable?"

Uncomfortable? Nervous, maybe. Dizzy. Excited. "No," she admitted. "I . . . every once in a while, I . . . ." Oh, to hell with it. "I think you're hot."

Maura smiled brightly at her, and Jane knew she was done. "Thank you, Jane."

Somewhat humorously, she reminded Maura, "I thought I wasn't your type."

"Sexuality is fluid, Jane."

"Don't talk dirty when we're stuck in this car."

Maura returned her hand to Jane's thigh. "Cars and sex aren't mutually exclusive . . . ."

Christ . . . . Talk about zero to sixty. "You're a Lamborghini, Maura," she said.

"Considering how you were molesting the car earlier, I'll take that as a compliment," Maura said.

"It is—Shit!" Maura's hand had begun to wander. I am sitting in a hot car with the hottest woman on the planet and she wants to have sex with me. I am gonna die. "I want to kiss you."

"I'd like that. And more."

Jane's mind was spinning. No way was she going to make it all the way back to Boston without getting her hands on this woman. She laid her hand on top of Maura's to halt its exploration and give herself a moment of lucidity.

"Hey, Human Computer, try this one," she said. "Two cops leave for Buffalo at the same time, one from Boston and the other from wherever we were in Ohio when I called Korsak. Who gets there first?"

"Are they both traveling by car?"

Hmm, good question. "Not sure. Probably."

Maura pondered for a moment, and then opined, "Either way, the officer in Ohio. Even if the Boston officer flies, the most likely—"

"Good enough," Jane said. "So, how much time would the first cop have with her girlfriend at the motel before the Boston cop got there?"

Maura smiled at her. "Plenty . . . ."

"And so Halley's Comet also served as one of the first confirmations of Newtonian physics."

"Newton . . . ," Jane mused. "Is that the guy that got beaned with an apple?"

"Newton wrote that he was inspired by seeing an apple fall to the ground," Maura said. "There is no evidence that it actually struck him."

"Oh. Well, good for him," Jane replied. "So, when's the next comet?"


"I'll calendar it."

"Well, the precise date isn't known, but I suppose you could calendar it for January 1, with periodic reminders." A moment passed, and then Maura said, "Did that help?"

"Nope." Jane shook her head. "Still thinking about sex. Tell me about . . . I don't know, dinosaurs."

"Maybe we should just get it over with," Maura suggested. "I find myself rather preoccupied as well."

"That's what I'm planning to do when we get to Buffalo," Jane said. "You, me—"

"Our own sheets!"

"Right." Jane glanced over at her. "You, unbuttoning your blouse . . . ."

"I thought you said we shouldn't fantasize," Maura reminded her. "'I'm already about to freaking explode,' I believe you said."

"I'm stupid."

"Well . . . ." After another covetous glance from Jane, Maura said, "Is this what you want?" She unfastened one of her buttons.

Jane shifted in her seat, and then looked over again to see Maura unbuttoning another. Jane could see the curves of her breasts now.

Hell, yes. She waited, but Maura's fingers didn't move again.

"C'mon," she urged quietly.

"What if we were in an accident?" Maura asked. "It would be difficult to explain."

"We'll just say you were changing clothes," Jane said, then quickly amended, "I'll say it."

Maura reached for another button, and then another. Just as Jane felt she was already about to combust, she suddenly realized – "Is that a front hook bra?" There was a God.

What else should she have expected from a woman who took shaving equipment on dates? "Maura . . . ."

Maura's hands went to the front of her bra, and then—

"Oh, God," Jane groaned. "Jesus, Maura."

Turning toward the driver's seat, giving Jane an even more mouth watering view, Maura laid a hand on Jane's stomach. "Why don't you let me take care of it for you?" she asked. Her fingers moved to the button on Jane's slacks.

Because she wanted to see Maura, to be kissing her, to be telling Maura that she loved her, when they first shared this experience. Damn this romance shit.

"And then, if you want, you can watch me."


With a firm grip on the wheel, Jane took a deep breath and said, "So, were whales around at the time of the dinosaurs?"

Sipping from her cup, Maura was happy to see two familiar faces, and she raised a hand to attract their attention.

"Dr. Isles," Korsak greeted her.

"Please call me Maura," she reminded him.

"Where's Jane?"

"She went for a walk," Maura said. "She's a bit . . . frustrated. The motel won't accept cash, and it's not safe to use our credit cards."

Gesturing toward her drink, Frost reached for his wallet. "Need me to get that?"

"What? No, I meant they wouldn't accept cash for a room." As soon as she said it, Maura realized her error.

"You guys tried to get a room?"

She could feel herself beginning to hyperventilate. Where was Jane? "Yes. Well . . . ."

"Tired, huh?" Frost said.

That was technically true, Maura thought with some relief. "Yes, we are." And extremely "wired," as Jane said. It had become almost painful. An extended period of foreplay colloquially referred to as a makeout session in an interior stairwell had just exacerbated the problem.

"The coffee is free and 'almost drinkable,' according to Jane," Maura said, and the officers headed over for a sampling.

"Okay, Maura, I can't take it any more!" The announcement from behind her startled the M.E. "I found a place we can—"

"Look who's here!" Maura interrupted, pointing toward two friends approaching the table holding Styrofoam cups.

"Oh – hey, guys," Jane said.

"Found a place we can what?" Frost said.

"Found . . . the laundry," Jane replied. "Maura keeps going on and on about hotel sheets, and I can't take it any more."

Slightly offended, Maura replied, "I wouldn't say—"

"So I'm just gonna show her the laundry room, which looks totally hygienic like I've been saying." Jane reached out for Maura's arm. "Come on."

To Maura's surprise, Jane did indeed lead her to a small room containing three oversized sets of washers and dryers. "Housekeepers are in the next building," Jane said. Shoving Maura inside, she removed a stick wedged under the door.

"You turned down my suggestion of the back seat and the Phillips 66 restroom because they were 'tacky,'" Maura pointed out. "Are you so desperate that you're now willing for our first sexual encounter to be in a cramped laundry room at a cheap motel?"


"Thank God."

Jane's mouth was on her then, kissing her, on her neck, on the breasts that Jane's eager hands quickly uncovered, returning frequently to her lips as Jane's hands explored her body.

But Maura had warned Jane that she would not be doing all the jumping. "Let me," she said.

Jane turned around to lean against a washing machine. Urgently unfastening her slacks, Jane shoved them and her panties down to her knees, which sent Maura's heart racing.

Maura ran a hand up Jane's thigh, nudging Jane's legs further apart, and then eased two fingers inside. Oh, yes – this felt as heavenly as Maura had imagined.

"Shit, Maura!" Jane exclaimed.

Maura thrust into her, leisurely at first, enjoying the sensation, and then faster at Jane's whispered urging. Maura moved her palm, knowing that this angle should add—

"Yeah . . . . Like that . . . oh, yeah . . . ."

Maura pressed her teeth into Jane's neck. Jane was as ready as she had proclaimed herself, and within moments she stiffened, grabbing Maura's hand and holding it in place as she moved against it, gasping for breath as she let out a long, satisfied groan.

After recovering for a moment, Jane gently grasped Maura's shoulders and switched their positions, then dropped to her knees and yanked down Maura's panty hose. She shoved Maura's skirt up and dipped her head, letting a hand on the back of her head guide her.

"Oh, Jane, yes . . . ."

Maura's hips moved gently, rhythmically with Jane's tongue, as her hands clasped Jane to her. Jane's tongue . . . Jane's mouth between her legs. Jane's.

"Ah—" Maura's grip tightened, and Jane fought to stay with her when Maura's legs buckled and she slammed back against the dryer. "Yes - don't stop . . . ."

Jane wasn't stopping, and, after an extended series of cries, Maura slumped against the machine with a sigh.

A long moment later, she opened her eyes. "I think we needed that . . . ."

"Clean enough for you, Doc?" Korsak asked as they walked back into the lounge.

"I . . . ."

"She loved it," Jane intervened. Nodding toward the only full cup of coffee left on the table, she said, "That mine?"

At Frost's nod, Jane gratefully took a sip. Lukewarm; guess it had taken longer than she thought for Maura to vacillate between putting her hose back on or leaving them off.

"Eastbound?" Frost asked.

"ASAP," Jane said. "I've had enough of this road trip."

Dropping the cup into the trash, she held out a palm for the keys dropped into it by Maura.

"By the way," Maura said politely to the newcomers, "thank you both for coming. It was very considerate."

Jane looked over at her. "Really? It's 'considerate' not to let us get whacked?"


"We were glad to help out," Frost replied. "In fact, Korsak insisted – he was afraid his ex would call again if he didn't."

Jane paused. "Call? I asked her to go in person."

"She did, but we were out on a shot alert," Korsak said. "She had an interview and couldn't wait any longer, so she called my cell."

"From the station?" Jane asked. No problem. There was no problem here.

"Jane, don't worry," he said. "You really think they could tap a homicide detective's phone?"

They got ours, Jane almost said, but she supposed they didn't really know that. "Paranoid," she declared. "It's been a crazy couple of days."

And in so many ways . . . . With the terrain starting to look a little more familiar and cruise control set at 74, Jane glanced over at her companion, who had been staring out the passenger window for nearly half an hour. "So . . . ."

Maura turned toward her. "Yes, Jane?"

"You wanna . . . talk about anything?"

"Such as having sex with you at the motel?"

"Such as that."

"I quite enjoyed it," Maura said. "In fact, I was just thinking about sex."

"Yeah?" That was a turn on. At the risk of being subjected to some New England Journal of Medicine case study about intercourse, Jane asked, "What were you thinking of?"

"We were in my bed," Maura replied, "naked, of course, as this was a sexual fantasy. Although that's not always correlative; a surprisingly high percentage of sexual acts are performed while one or both parties remain at least partially—"

"We were naked . . . ," Jane prompted her.

"Yes. We were naked, and I was lying on my back while you straddled my shoulders. You were holding onto the headboard, and I—"

"Okay, too much," Jane said, squirming uneasily behind the wheel. Fuck. "I am too wired for this. Tell me when we get home." But they would have to set up at a damn safe house, and having two guards stationed on the other side of a thin wall could be a problem…

She looked over at Maura again, who managed to look elegant even as she lazed against the back of the seat. If Maura hiked up her skirt a little—

Wait—"What are they doing?" she said. Their backup had just passed them, and steered onto an upcoming offramp. "Someone's hungry, apparently."

She pulled in next to the guys at Edison's, self-declared residence of a World Famous Oven Baked Pizza.

"World famous," Jane pointed out to Maura. "Don't say I never take you anywhere."

"I suspect that claim is an exaggeration," Maura replied.

Eying the luscious slice that Korsak was enjoying from his seat next to her, Jane bit into the thin crust that she had agreed to share with health-conscious Maura. "Pretty good," she admitted.

Korsak mumbled something through a mouthful of cheese, but Jane, staring out at the parking lot, did not ask him to repeat it. The hair on the back of her neck rose.

"Pizza is one dish that I find difficult to improvise," Maura said.

A fourth dark-skinned male, all wearing sunglasses and long, concealing jackets, had just emerged from an out-of-place Mercedes. A Mercedes, not the Jag that Maura's random shot selection must have disabled, but there was no question in Jane's mind who these men were.

"Jane's mother makes excellent homemade pizza," Maura continued. "Have you ever had one?"

It was long past rush hour, thank God; the place was relatively empty.

"I haven't," Frost replied. "How 'bout you, Vince?"

"Nine customers, two servers, and whoever's in the back," Korsak said quietly.

"I'm down a clip," Jane warned.

"I'm sorry?" Maura said.

"Maura," Jane said, "Get in the back now. Find somewhere to hide."

"I don't—"

"We've got trouble," Jane said. "Frost, stay with her."

She rose, thinking back to when they drove in. The glass then had reflected the sun almost painfully; Jane couldn't see inside even wearing her sunglasses. Was that still the case?

Police reports, dry and purportedly objective as they are, rarely "let the story out," a fellow uni with John Gresham aspirations had once lamented. ("Good!" Jane had replied.) Reading the draft of a 4 minute-52 second incident at Edison's World Famous Oven Baked Pizza, authored by senior officer and detective V. Korsak in just under two single-spaced pages, Jane understood his point for the first time.

. . . Det. Korsak then instructed potential civilian targets to move to a central location out of the subjects' anticipated line of fire—

"What? Police?"

"Oh, my God, what's happening? Are we in danger?"

—while Det. Rizzoli attempted to dissuade the subjects from entering the premises.

Jane eased open the door a crack. "Hold it!" she called out. "One more step and we'll open fire!"

The four hired killers ducked behind their Mercedes. For a moment, Jane thought they might retreat, speed off in the car and try again some other time when the odds might be better for three Boston detectives, their Chief Medical Examiner, and a room full of civilians.

"More cops are on the way!" she added.

It was true, assuming the cashier had called 911 as instructed, but the wrong thing to say, Jane chided herself later. She had meant to make the shooters nervous that they would soon be outnumbered, but instead it had moved up their timetable. They weren't stupid, they knew as did Jane that the nearest police force was probably fifteen minutes away or more.

The subjects then entered the premises with weapons drawn.

Like goddamned Butch and Sundance, three of the men charged the restaurant, covering their entrance with automatic weapons fire while the fourth started around the back. "Frost, one headed your way!" Jane yelled. Maura, please be hiding.

She scrambled away from the door and behind one of several hastily overturned tables. From the other side of the room, Korsak picked off the first man through the door, a direct shot to the neck dropping him where he stood.

These guys were professionals; there was a good chance they were wearing vests, the detectives had speculated while Frost led Maura toward the back. "Head and legs," Korsak had suggested.

Easier said than done, Jane knew. Splitting up would divide the shooters' attention, they hoped, and reduce the risk of crossfire in the middle where unarmed patrons crouched behind the counter.

Gunfire was exchanged—

Discharge from an automatic weapon sent splinters flying on Korsak's side of the room. Jane wasn't sure where her ex-partner was, but he needed cover. She peered out from behind her makeshift shield, and was startled to see one of the shooters looking right at her. "Shit!" Instinctively, she aimed and pulled the trigger twice. Neither shot landed where she wanted, but after the second the fucker at least grabbed his side. As Jane knew all too well, a bullet could still hurt even through a vest.

He stayed on his feet, though, and another barrage erupted, chopping her table into pieces. Cut in two, the top half of the table dropped to the ground, and Jane ducked as bullets whizzed past where her head had been a second earlier.

Hearing cover shots from a .38 – thank you, Vince – she dove behind another table that was still intact.

– during which Det. Frost, who was assisting Chief Medical Examiner Isles in the rear of the premises, was struck by automatic weapons fire.

Jane heard the shots and Frost's cry of pain. Goddamn it! "Frost?" How bad was it? Where was Maura?

As she processed the latest development, Jane realized that something was different – she only heard one shooter up front now. Peering carefully around the edge, she saw the second sitting on the ground, a hand pressed to his side, blood flowing through his fingers. Jane realized giddily that she had shot the gap – the narrow strip of Velcro holding the vest together.

"Numbers!" she called out to Korsak – it was now two to one. Both detectives raised up and began firing at their single target. A moment later, he dropped to the floor.

Breathing heavily, Jane studied the shooters. Neither appeared dead so they were both still dangerous, but Korsak could handle it.

"Going back," she announced.

"Good here," he confirmed.

Jane crept down the passageway that led from the counter to the kitchen. "Frost?" she called out, but there was no reply. She didn't dare call out to Maura, the intended target of this whole damn thing. Jane prayed that her friend was folded safely into the back of a closet somewhere.

Leading with her gun, she swung around the corner into the kitchen. Two poofy white chef caps ducked down behind a long metal counter, along which lay a row of circular pizza dough that, until a few minutes ago, had been destined for a world famous oven. "Police!" Jane informed them. "Stay down."

A bullet sailed past Jane's forehead, missing her by an inch, and Jane returned fire. But unless her math was off . . . . She stepped back into the narrow passageway and checked her gun. Fuck.

"Hey, Korsak," she yelled. "I'm Houdini here." I'm out of bullets.

To her shock, a moment later the remaining shooter stepped calmly into the kitchen. What was he doing? He couldn't know. Houdini was an inside reference, harkening back to a humiliating loss to Narcotics in paintball when Jane had chewed Korsak's ass for not taking out Joe Grant when he had her pinned down. "I was out of ammo, Jane," Korsak had replied. "What am I, Houdini?"

This guy was guessing – he had to be. In a final bluff, Jane stepped into the brightly lit room and raised her weapon. "Wrong," she said.

He smirked at her, but Jane was more surprised to see movement from the corner of her eye. Not another shooter, her mind told her. Not even a person, actually. A single hand, reaching up for a . . . . Really?

"You're under arrest," Jane declared. "You have the right to—"

"I don't believe so," he interrupted with a refined English accent. But as he raised his own gun, a figure in white suddenly popped up from behind the island, swinging a flour- covered rolling pin that connected solidly with the man's head. A puff of white filled the air as he went down in a heap.

"Form!" Maura exclaimed delightedly.

"Perfect," Jane said with a smile. "Home run, Maura." Her friend looked adorable in the Edison's apron and matching hat that covered her locks and forehead. Hiding in plain sight – "Good job, Dr. Isles," Jane said.



With a nod to the officers outside in the car, Maura stepped through the doorway, newly assigned cell phone cradled beneath her jaw as she struggled with two coffees and a doorknob. Jane was in the middle of the bed reading the paper.

"I'm sure she'd love to," Maura said. She set the coffees down on the napkins they were using as coasters. "Why, yes, that's a lovely idea. . . . I will . . . . You, too." To Jane, Maura said, "Your mother is cooking a special dinner."

"That was my mother?"


"I'm right here, and you just hang up the phone?"

That was a confusing statement. When Jane had seen this morning's headline, she had made quite clear that she did not wish to speak to Angela. "You said, and I quote, 'God, they can probably hear my mother freaking out all the way to Illinois. If she calls, shoot me,'" Maura pointed out.

"Well, yeah, but . . . . Whatever," Jane said. "If she doesn't care that her chances of grandchildren were almost reduced by a third . . . ."

"Of course she cares," Maura said. "That's why she called. She's a little . . . energized . . . that we kept this from her, but now she understands why we've been absenting ourselves since our return."

Jane laughed. "'Absenting' ourselves?"

"Yes," Maura said, puzzled again. Jane was well aware that they had been staying at the safe house. "Incommunicado; not—"

"I know what it means," Jane interrupted. "I just haven't heard anyone say it before." She waggled her eyebrows at Maura. "It sounded kinda . . . sexy."

Maura smiled back at her. "Many things have sounded sexy to you over the past two days." Just this morning, Maura had been only a few minutes into explaining agrarian adaptations among ecosystems before Jane had begun nuzzling her neck.

"And it has been, when you said it," Jane replied. Tossing the paper aside, she drew back the sheet. "Come here . . . ."

"Jane!" Maura chided. "Frost and Korsak will be here in less than an hour."

"We won't need an hour. Trust me."

"But we might need a shower." And they well might. Jane was very energized in bed, Maura had learned – repeatedly – and they both tended to get sweaty. . . . sweaty, and glistening, with Jane breathing hard in her ear, and . . . . "Move over."

The End

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