DISCLAIMER: I don't own Nikki & Nora or the other characters associated with. Nancy Myatt and others do. I'm just playing with them for some recreational fun and entertainment. The original characters I do. The series title and story titles are as follows and belong to the entities as stated below (I thank each group for the entertainment and inspiration): Series Title - Why Don't You and I Carlos Santana and his record company 1.1 - Despite All This Cock Sparrer and their record company 1.2 - White Riot The Clash and their record company 2.1 - Corozon de Oro Rancid and their record company 2.2 - Leave the Pieces The Wreckers and their record company 3.1 - Up to My Neck ACDC and their record company 3.2 - Whiskey Sour Sixer and their record company As a side note: If any of you are looking for the above music, you may find the better known bands, but you may have trouble with Sixer or Cock Sparrer
if you wanna give them a listen, contact me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I had been off work sick. That translates into me being bored. That usually means badness. The good was that I started reading some fanfic about a show that never saw the light of day except for a pilot episode that's available on YouTube (thank you, Ralst). There's a few things you should know about me, I love detective stories, with the caveat that they are well told and the science isn't bunk *cough CSI cough*, I love femslash, there are a few fandoms that play to those things that I dig. Nikki and Nora did. So my mind took a little adventure as I was bummed that this show didn't make it. I think that it would have been great. It sort of reminded me of Firefly in so far as the way the cast gelled from the moment they appeared on screen. Firefly had that. Nikki & Nora did as well. What I've planned are three sets of two stories in each set. Here's the first of the lot.
THANK YOU'S: The creators of the show, the music that's listed above, Winddrinker for some beta work and to Abby who served as primary beta for this side project.
PLEASE NOTE: I really suck at spelling, it's a proven fact. While this has been through a round of beta work, I'm sure there are mistakes Oops. Blame me 'cause it's usually all my fault anyhow.
FEEDBACK: Good, bad, I usually take it all leave it here or drop me a line: email@example.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Leave the Pieces
I rest against the high, leather back of the booth I'm in. Taking in the smooth jazz that's being played towards the rear of the club, I think it's these small moments that I live for. Where everything is perfect; with a nice, smooth bourbon to drink, time with my friends and great music. I feel more at home here than anywhere else sometimes. Even the cigarette smoke adds to the feel of the place as I pick up small bits of conversation mixed with the clink and clatter of glasses and beer bottles.
"Nor," Ann's voice sounds to my left, bringing me out of my head and causing me to turn and crack an eye in her direction. "You didn't fall asleep on me did you?" She smirks at me and I laugh.
"No, I most certainly did not. I'm just enjoying the moment," I say as I pick up my drink and take a sip. "Seeing as how you're leaving me, we won't have the chance to do this much anymore."
She nods and a small look of regret passes over her features. Reaching for her hand, I give it a squeeze and say, "It's a good thing."
She sighs wistfully and with her drink in her hand, points to the bar. "I can't lie. I'd follow that woman into Hell."
I turn my gaze to the backside of Jill and laugh. I know that's true. "Of course," I say, "the fact that going back to Richmond means you're also joining up and becoming a suit doesn't hurt."
She blushes and nods. "Can you blame me? A chance in the Bureau is nearly a dream come true."
"Can't believe you're going federal on me." I shake my head.
"They would offer you a spot," she says, teasing.
She and I both know that's the last damn thing I'd want to do.
"Although that'd mean leaving the great state of Louisiana," she purrs.
"That ain't gonna happen. I'd have to give up this newly minted detective's shield for a suit and high heels. Besides, Special Agent Flemming, I'm a Southerner and I damn well intend to stay that way." I make of show of pounding my fist against the tabletop for emphasis and it sends her into a fit of giggles.
I'm gonna miss hearing her laugh.
Once she gets herself under control, she sobers and looks back up at the bar. "Nor, you gonna be okay?"
I grin. "I got on without you for twenty-one years; I think I can manage not having you around all day every day. It does mean you have to visit though."
"That," she says as she slings an arm around my shoulders, "is something I can most definitely do." She pulls me tight and says, "So, since you won't have my gorgeous ass to look at, what are you gonna do about the gorgeous ass you've been dating for the past four months?" She air quotes the word 'dating' and sends me a sour look.
"The same as I have been," I say shrugging. I look back up at the bar and Jill and Casey are still talking. How Casey is able to fill drink orders and listen to Jill talk is beyond me, but they both seem to be enjoying themselves.
"So the idea of settling down a bit in a serious relationship doesn't appeal?" She smirks at me. I hate it when she looks at me like that. "Nora, baby, darling, suggapie, you know, that I know that you are probably one of the world's last true romantics. You are the type of woman that was born for a serious relationship." She raises a sculpted eyebrow at me and presses, "What gives?"
I squirm. "It's not her "
"It's me," she echoes and mocks. Pursing her lips, her arms fold across her chest and she says, "Bullshit. But I'll give you your bullshit for a moment and ask you this: If it were me, where would we be today?"
I sit slack jawed, rubbing the back of my neck. How exactly do I answer that?
Apparently, I don't have to. "Nora, forget what your parents say or think. I know you. Casey's a nice girl. She's smart and fucking hilarious. It also doesn't hurt that she's drop dead gorgeous with big, brown doe eyes that melt every time she sees you."
The corner of my mouth turns up in a smirk. Yeah, she really does have some of the prettiest eyes I've ever seen. Sighing, I hold my hand up in concession. "Ann, I appreciate it, but it's just not the right time. Do you understand?"
She looks at me for a minute before nodding. "That tune will change Nora Delaney. When you meet the right woman, that tune will most certainly change."
Luckily, I'm saved from any more mothering as Jill slides in next to Ann and Casey's body presses against mine. I turn my head and accept the hello kiss. Pulling back, I ask, "Break?"
She shakes her head. "Nope, I'm all done. Eddie took over so I can spend the last night out with some friends before they hightail it out of NOLA."
Jill and Ann beam and I can't help but smile. Happy that they are happy. I'm going to miss both of them, Ann more than Jill, although she's become a good friend too, but Ann will be missed the most. I raise my tumbler and wait for the ladies at my table to do the same. With our drinks held high, I toast, "To Jill and Ann. May the great state of Louisiana bite you in the ass on your way out and may that bite be followed by years of happiness."
Our glasses clink in a chorus of 'here here's' as I settle in for a memorable evening.
I stuff my gym bag inside my locker and grab my holstered gun. Clipping it to my belt, I also make sure my badge is secured on the opposite hip. I smile. Sometimes it's the small things that just make everything alright. I make my way out of the women's locker room and head straight for my desk, making sure to say hello to some of the officers scattered around.
By the time I make it through the maze of desks my partner's just sitting down at his. As usual he's red faced and huffing. Jerry's not a horrible guy. We just don't get along real well. I smile at him and say, "Mornin'."
"Nora," he acknowledges my presence with a nod and begins to check his voice mail.
Right, he's going to be in rare form today. I take my seat and check through the messages Patty pulled for me this morning before I got in. The first one just reads, "Crazy cat lady wants to report that she's being spied on." And below in red block lettering, "DO NOT CALL third call this week." I laugh, crumple it up and toss it in the trash. The next is from a witness I need to follow up with. I debate calling him right now, but stop. He's a night foreman at a local warehouse. He's probably just now getting to sleep.
Setting that aside, I look at the other two. One's from my mom, the other is "Special Agent Flemming called said that she needs to speak with you. Call when you can 804-555-1546 said something about getting ready to eat peaches ?" I laugh and shake my head.
Of course she would. They've been gone three months and it seems the only thing the northern air has done for Ann is make her a tad more of a pervert. I crumple the message and toss it in the trash, making a note to call her on my lunch break.
"Delaney," Jerry says garnering my attention. "Cap'n called said there was another jump last night. Wants us to see if it's related to the one we caught the other day." He stands to leave and I toss my mother's message on to my desk.
She's going to have to wait.
Catching up to Jerry isn't that hard. The man moves slower than molasses on his good days. Today isn't one of his good days. His eyes are bloodshot and he has two day old stubble that would make sandpaper jealous.
"I'm driving," I declare before he even has a chance to fish his keys out his pockets. I'm not sure if he's still drunk or just horribly hungover. I'm really not takin' any chances one way or the other.
He grumps, but still follows me to my baby. I run a hand over the shiny, black, wax coated surface of June Lee, my nineteen-sixty-eight El Camino. I pat her lovingly and whisper, "Mama loves you." Jerry's opens the passenger door and manages to annoy me by slamming it closed behind him. Another soft pat and a coo, "Even if some don't, but I'll get him for you."
I slip inside the car and crank the engine over. It really is music to my ears.
I pull out of the parking as Jerry gives me the name of the hospital of our latest victim. I head south and am parked in the hospital visitor's lot in under fifteen minutes. Given the mid-morning traffic, I'm mildly pleased with myself.
Jerry stumbles out of June and snaps, "Could you have gotten here breaking more traffic laws?"
I shrug and say, "Probably, but I didn't want to give that old ticker of yours a reason to quit on me before we got here."
I ignore the grumbling under his breath and follow him inside.
The hospital's like any other. White linoleum floors, off white walls, with hideous splashes of color. We flash our badges and ask for the name of the latest victim, Ryan Luther. The candy striper on duty sends us up three flights of stairs to room three-twenty-one.
I put a hand on Jerry's arm and stop him before he steps through the open door. "Let me do the talking with this one, Jerr." Not leaving him anytime to respond, I dart inside the low lighted room. I only notice one occupant as I walk over to the bed and see the battered face of Ryan Luther. He has stitches in his forehead and cheek. One eye is swollen shut while the rest of his face is varying shades of purple and blue. One arm is elevated and wrapped in a cast.
Whoever did this was mad, that much is obvious. An image of Wyle E. Coyote comes to mind and I resist the urge to snark about the roadrunner. Sometimes I think being a cop has done nothing for my sense of compassion and empathy.
Approaching the bed cautiously, I say, "Hi Ryan. My name's Detective Delaney and this is my partner, Detective Tombridge. We're with the N.O.P.D. and we'd like to ask you some questions about the attack."
He blinks at me and finally manages to find his voice, "There ain't much to say. I was walkin' home and got jumped. Didn't see anyone, don't know what any of 'em looked like."
So there was more than one. That's one consistency with the other beating. I ask for clarification, "So there was more than one attacker?"
He tries to roll his eyes and sigh, but only manages to cause himself pain. Instead, he snips, "I dunno. Maybe. It was hard to tell after the first kick to my head."
I nod. The boy's already shut down and I know that he won't say anything anymore. Time to cut ties and scram. "Alright," I say pulling a card from the back pocket of my jeans. "I'm going to leave you my card. If you think of anything that might help, please call." I set the card on the bedside table and add, "We think your attack might be related to another. We'd like to stop others from getting hurt. Anything you might have to tell us could be helpful."
I turn around and pull Jerry out of the room.
"Ya know, Delaney," Jerry drawls on our ride down to the lobby, "he ain't gonna say nothin' else. Kid's scared. Just like the other."
I want to disagree. I want to tell him to stuff it. I don't. He's right and we can't rely on the victims to help us with this.
We make our way back outside and the spring chill has given away to muggy heat and I find myself wondering why I was wishin' for the summer to come so soon.
Fingers ghost up and down my back, causing me to mumble, "If you keep at that, Casey Gerard, you and I will not be going to sleep anytime soon."
She giggles. "Is that such a bad thing?"
I roll over and in one swift movement capture her in my arms. "Yeah," I inform, kissing her forehead and then her cheek. "I need to be at the hospital in the morning."
She grows quiet and then asks, "How's he doing?"
I shrug. "He's dying."
Her arms wrap around me tighter as she snuggles further into me. Gladly I accept the offer of comfort. I won't talk about it much. Really there's not much to say. He's my dad. He raised me, he's made me who I am and there isn't a thing I wouldn't do for him. If I could trade places with him, I would.
And that's the most frustrating thing.
This sense of helplessness that's infused me. I'm a cop for Christ's sake and I can't even save the one person responsible for making me who I am because
Because it's not an outside force that's doing this. It's a disease.
"Nora, baby, if you wanna," she stops and fidgets with my hair, "I mean, look I know you and I are pretty casual, but if you wanna talk about it, I'm here."
"Cas, there really isn't much to say. The chemo isn't working and they can't radiate the lungs. We've been battling this for a year. I know the outcome."
She tilts her head and looks up at me. "Maybe you do, but your dad's dying of cancer and I know that has to hurt."
I shrug and as I watch her look at me, I know I'm going to have to admit something. "It does, but I've accepted that. The only thing that I can hope for now is that he doesn't suffer."
Her head drops back down to rest between my breasts seeming to accept the answer I gave. Silently, I'm thankful for her not pressing the issue. It's not something I want to talk to about. Especially not with her.
I run my fingers through her hair and love the way the short, silky strands slip through my fingers. I'm thankful I let her buy that drink those months ago and I'm also really happy that we can share a bed. It's honestly one of the easiest relationships that I've had.
I smile as I think back to the first night we met. She took me home and she made it a point to inform me that she wasn't a "relationship" type of gal.
I find it funny that even as our first encounter was as casual as it could have possibly been, we're still each other's booty call over six months later. She's got a key to my place, as I do hers, but it's still a no label, no commitment arrangement that suits me just fine.
I'm also very thankful that Casey is as casual about it as I am or at least I hope she is. We've never really discussed it, but for some reason, tonight, there's a need to know. "Cas?" I say softly not wanting to stir her if she's sleeping.
"Hmm," she answers back.
"Uh, I know this is a little late comin', but what are we or what do you want us to be?" I ask nervously.
She turns her face up to me and blinks trying to adjust to the soft light of the room. "Eh?"
I take a hand and smooth away some of the hair that's covering her beautiful face. "I was just thinkin' that we've been doing this for awhile and I really don't want anyone to get hurt."
One of her hands comes up and mops her face, trying to catch up with the conversation I started. I should have just let well enough alone.
As she's about to respond, my pager vibrates its way across the bedside table and we both groan. I reach for the stupid thing and read the display. Jerry's number and nine-one-one appear on the small display. Instinctively, I reach for the phone. Dialing his number, I smile apologetically to Casey who smirks and buries her head back into my chest, playing with the smooth skin between my breasts.
"Tombridge," my partner answers.
"Jerry, it's five in the fucking morning. What gives?" I answer back.
"Delaney," he semi-slurs into the line, "Well, good fuckin' mornin' to you too."
And this is exactly what I don't need. "Jer, what's up?" I need to get him back on track.
"Oh, yeah, uh," he stops talking and I hear some rustling of some papers and he picks back up, "There's another kid that got the shit kicked out of him. Same area, alley off Dauphine, near Toulouse."
Well so much for sleep.
"Alright, I'll be there soon. Are you gonna be at the scene?"
"Fuck yeah I'm gonna be there."
I think a second before replying. "Jerry, look, why don't you get some sleep. I'll handle the techs, any witnesses and vic. Meet me at the station house at nine?"
Stony silence meets my offer, so I try again, "Jer, it won't do either of us any good if both of us are sleep deprived. You come in fresh and then maybe let me cut out a bit early? It'd be a favor to me."
He sighs and manages, "Yeah, alright Delaney. I'll see you in a few hours." The line goes dead and I exhale.
Well that was one fire put out. Now, if he'll be sober by nine a.m. is a whole different story, but one can hope.
I set the phone down and Casey, grudgingly, rolls off me as I move to stand up. I pick up my scattered clothes, jeans, underwear, bra and a faded Zeppelin t-shirt that I wore over here. I manage to dress in the most efficient way possible and am nearly ready to go. I grab my gun and badge that I had rested on top of her dresser, securing them both to my belt.
Casey's apartment is a large studio that I find mismatched and like her, uncomplicated. She's risen from the bed and has found a pair of shorts and a tank top to put on before she walks me to the door. We hover at the doorway as she pulls me to her using my shirt as handles.
She rises on her tip toes and presses her lips firmly to mine. I find it cute that she's so short. I'm not an Amazon, but I'm five-foot-seven-inches and Casey's lucky if I give her five-feet even. She breaks away, leaving me warm and slightly hazed. A small blush colors my cheeks and she smirks. "We are what we are Nora. That's what's good about us." She lays her hands on my shoulders and turns me around to face the hallway. "Now scoot. I need sleep and you have to go catch bad guys."
With a swat on my ass, she sends me down the hallway and out of the building into the cool May morning. Fishing June's keys from my pocket, I hop inside and head off towards the Quarter, not looking forward to whatever will be waiting on me there.
I finally stumble into the precinct. I'm exhausted, it's nearly noon and the only thing I had to eat since four o'clock yesterday afternoon was half a catfish po-boy from Luizetta's. I bypass my desk and head straight for the coffee station. Peering in, the only thing that looks back at me is a tar-like ring of something that once resembled coffee.
I bite my lip and resist the urge to cuss the string of expletives that have popped up into my brain. Instead, I turn around, head right back out and dart across the street to a small café. I order a large coffee and a double meat, double cheese sandwich and head back to the precinct.
I should have just stopped before I got in, but I was so excited. We have, or I have, a lead. Two hours at the scene that went from aggravated assault to murder, but there's finally a lead. I just need to eat and have something in my stomach before I share with Jerry.
I'm not really sure how he's going to take it. I'm really not sure how I'm taking it. I was supposed to be at the hospital with my mom at nine this morning. That got shot to hell and instead of spending some time with her like I know I should I get to go with my lush of a partner and try to find a few kids that like to beat the shit of the other for the hell of it.
I set my coffee and sandwich down, looking around for my partner. Not seeing him, I sigh and sit down, preparing myself to dig into my sandwich. Unwrapping my food, I lick my lips and prepare myself for the first bite.
The ringing of my phone stops me from taking it and I glare at the offending piece of technology. For the love of God, I just want to fucking have a bite to eat. I sigh and put down my food and grab my phone instead. "Delaney," I answer.
"Nora?" Charlie, our new medical examiner, answers.
"Hey there, buddy." I pick up a napkin and wipe my greasy finger tips. "You got anything for me?"
"I do. I was just gonna do a preliminary of the body and found something interesting." I hear paper crinkling in the back and wonder what he's doing.
"Alright, you wanna tell me what it is?" I look up and see Jerry come from the back hallway. He gives a small wave and I resist the urge to shake my head.
He looked like shit yesterday. Today he looks like something that shit would shit out.
"Why don't you come on down and I'll show you. We can even have lunch afterwards."
I think about his offer and begin to re-wrap my sandwich. That's not horrible and it would kill two birds with one stone. "Fine, do you want me to pick you up anything?"
"Nah, the missus packed me a fine lunch. Just bring yours and if you're really lucky I may even share my pudding cup with you." He laughs and I smile.
He really is a good guy.
"Alright, give me five minutes and I'll be there." He mumbles his okay and I hang up the phone.
"Be where?" Jerry asks as he takes his seat and pulls open his bottom drawer, coming up with a bottle of aspirin and bottle of water.
"Charlie's got some info to share." I give him a once over and come up with a plan. "Look, why don't I head over to the morgue, find out what Charlie's got for us. I'll call you when I'm done and fill you in. You can take over for the rest of the day and let me cut out early. I need to get over to the hospital sometime today before my mama does somethin' drastic like call Thibodeaux and put me on leave or worse, breaks down and finds someone to work some gris-gris."
He dumps four aspirin into the palm of his hand and knocks them back, chasing it with the bottled water. He nods as he grimaces and swallows the pill and liquid. Once he's able to speak, he says, "Yeah sure. Call me."
I don't give him much else as I stuff my sandwich back in its bag and snatch my coffee from my desk. I'll fill Jerry in when I call him later. I make my way out of the station house, hop into June and head south on Royal Street. It takes a few minutes longer than I'd like, but I get there soon enough and manage to find a parking spot right in front on Camp. I stick the police placard in June's windshield and head in.
The Medical Examiner's office is a four story brick building that looks like a set of apartments. It's not something you'd think that holds lockers for dead people and lab rats on the first three floors. That's exactly what it is though. I enter through the lobby and sign in. I head towards the basement steps and follow the well worn path to Charlie's office.
His door's open and when I step through he's talking animatedly to someone on the phone. I allow him a minute to finish his conversation before sitting down. He smiles at me and holds up one finger, signaling his request for patience.
His conversation comes to a close and he smiles at me. "Nora, how's life?"
I shrug and take a sip of my coffee. "The same. So you have something for me?"
He nods and takes a chunk out of his three layer sandwich while handing me a file folder. Leaning back into the chair, I open it and find a small stack of eight-by-ten glossies of tilting my head I try to figure out what I'm looking at.
Charlie must see the confusion on my face as he says, "Those are of the inside of our victim's colon. You're looking at two objects. The first one, when removed, is the third photograph in the stack." I quickly flip to the one he's talking about and a crumpled Nazi flag is unfolded against a stainless steel tray. "The second thing that was removed was the shell of an M80." The photo behind the flag shows it's partially hollowed out burnt cardboard shell.
I swallow trying to resist the urge to vomit.
I look up at Charlie as he chews happily away on his sandwich. My jaw clenches and I breathe through my nose to stave off the nausea.
"When I looked at the body at the scene I noticed some irregularities, but didn't wanna say anything in case I was wrong. It's why I looked at the boy the first thing. I've got six other bodies stacked in the racks, but for you, darlin', I went and made this the first of the day." He sets his sandwich down and leans back, his face grim. "This poor kid took a beating, Nora. He was beat, then raped. From the damage to his throat, I'd say that they forced this kid to perform fellatio then or at the same time, I can't be sure, sodomized him. After that, they shoved the firework up him and the flag."
I shake my head trying to get the picture of this out of my mind. Trying to quell the rage and sickness bubbling up. I manage to get out a question, "How'd they the M80, how'd it get lit?"
Charlie sighs and says, "The paths pretty clear, the fuse was extended and lit outside the anal cavity."
"So cause of death?" I ask.
"Endotoximia and shock. The kid wasn't supposed to make it through that. As soon as the lower intestines ruptured, it released millions of bacteria into his abdominal cavity. He didn't have a chance."
"How long?" I'm amazed I can manage short sentences at this point. I always wondered what the whole "I'm so mad my blood is boiling" thing was about. I get it now.
"He may have lasted a minute. My estimation is less. The shock would have masked the pain and then he would have had at the most five minutes." He sips his juice box and says, "I've got my guys in the lab running all the tests. It's going to be a few weeks before you get any DNA information back, but I can at least have the histological and hematological reports back to you sometime tomorrow. We're also runnin' tox screens and the like."
"Links?" I manage. I was trying for something different. I hope he understands.
"I'm trying to rush. See if the semen that was found in the anal cavity match what we could harvest from the esophagus and stomach. I'll let you know, Nor." He smiles at me. It's warm and sincere. It's completely out of place for the information he just gave me.
I nod. I look at the sack of food containing the sandwich I brought with me. The idea of eating nearly accomplishes what Charlie's detailed findings didn't. I toss the bag of food in the waste basket by his desk.
Who needs to eat anyhow?
I stand and hand him back the file he gave me. He shakes his head and says, "I made you a copy. I'll courier over a complete one by tomorrow morning. Take it."
I nod and say, "Thanks."
Turning I have my hand on the door, but his voice stops me, "Nora, this kid, the I.D. puts him at nineteen years old. It's obvious how much he suffered. You will find the S.O.B.'s that did this and when you do, give'em a kick to the kidney's for me."
I turn back and offer a weak smile. He grins at me and winks. I open the door and shuffle out. I make my way out of the building, shoulders slumped and way more tired than when I went in.
I hand the nurse back the phone and thank her for its use. With Jerry filled in on some of the latest findings, I at least can trust him enough to start looking for the pieces to the puzzle, and do so in the right direction. I drag my weary ass to the bank of elevators and ride them up the four flights to my father's room.
This really isn't something that I'm looking forward to. I know that it's something I need to do, but since well since my entrance into the force, there's this wall that's been building brick by brick between me and my family, or at least me and my parents. My brother's I don't see much of, Patrick took off to join the Marines, no doubt he's crazier than horse shit and I know for damn sure the service didn't help him none. Terry's got a job with the National Guard and is stationed in Baton Rouge. He comes home for the holidays and the occasional birthday. Bobby's the only one I got left in the area and we're okay. He's just now graduating the academy and is more green than the ones my mama cooks for family dinner.
I'm twenty-seven which means my mom can only seem to focus on me "settling down" and she doesn't seem to see that, that just isn't me. I straighten my back and prepare myself for the upcoming confrontations. None of my brothers are here today even though both Terry and Patrick have come in on a small leave from their jobs. I'm the only still actively working.
I stride along the east corridor of Tulane's Cancer Center and hope that I can be spared, even just a little bit today. I find my father's hospital room and knock on the closed door before peaking my nose inside. My mother's stoic, Irish features smile grimly at me.
"Nora, dear. Come on in. Your daddy and I were just talkin' about you." She rises from her seat next to the bed and pulls me fully inside. I close my eyes briefly before taking in the man lying in the bed. There are two monitors hooked to his chest with pads, one I.V. sticks from the back of his hand pumping in a weird yellowish substance, the other I.V., the one they call a 'Central Line' sticks out from the internal jugular vein on the right side of his neck.
He smiles at me weakly and motions for me to come sit down on the other side of him. My mother lets my hand go and I move to the right side of his bed and offer a light kiss on his cheek. Taking the brown plastic chair, I scoot it closer and take my father's hand. He gives a light squeeze in return.
We both turn our attention to mama as she says, "Nora, you look absolutely dreadful. When's the last time you got some sleep."
I sigh. Gee thanks mom. I love you too. Instead of the sarcastic remark that would usually get me into trouble, I shrug. "A day or two ago. Jerry and I caught a case that went from serial beatings to murder. I've been working non-stop since early this morning."
Her head tilts to the side. "You get called out while you were asleep?"
I shake my head. "I was at home," I lie, "but not asleep."
She clucks her tongue in a way that shows her displeasure. She's become a master at that over the years. When my brothers and me were growing up, she'd just come out and tell you. Now, since we're all grown, she clucks.
It drives me up a wall. Her sayin' something one way or the other would be preferable to the clucking she's mastered.
"Mama," my Daddy rasps, "I'm sure our little girl could use a cup of coffee and maybe something to eat."
I watch her blonde head nod in agreement, as she leans down and reaches for her purse. "I'll just run down then and grab something from the cafeteria." She pats his hand and kisses him on the forehead. "You want me to pick you up a bit of that cherry-slushy thing you like?"
He nods and she turns to leave the room. We both watch as she shuts the door behind her and both of us relax a bit.
My father breaks the silence and says, "I swear I love that woman to death, but sometimes she just don't know when to leave well enough alone."
I laugh a little and he smiles. "You know, pitit fi, she ain't changed that much since we started dating forty years ago. She's still the spit fire that I fell in love with."
"Daddy, I don't think she ever will change. That woman will probably outlast us all." I squeeze his hand and my joke sends him into a coughing a fit. The monitors pick up a bit until he finally manages to regain his composure.
"I have a sneaking suspicion you may be right." He takes a moment and regains his breath, slipping the oxygen mask down to cover his nose and mouth. I watch as condensation builds inside of the clear plastic shell.
A few deep breaths later and he removes it. His grip tightens on my hand and he stares me in the eye. "Nora Marie," he rasps and I do an internal groan. The man only uses my full name when I'm in trouble.
"You and I need to talk," he says, "I'm gonna say this first 'cause it's the most important." He pulls down his mask and takes a deep breath before removing it. "I love you. That won't change. So take what I gotta say to heart. I know what you are Nora Marie."
I blanch and he sucks in more oxygen.
"You," he continues removing his mask, "didn't listen to me when it came to that woman, Ann. The force don't like queers. There was one I knew of a bit before I retired." He pulls more oxygen in and continues, "When the boys found out, they made his life so hard, he ate his service revolver in the locker room."
I try to let go of his hand, but he holds strong.
The mask is brought to his face once again and afterwards he looks at me, his eyes full of sorrow. "I don't rightly know if you can change what you are, but I'm tellin' you now, you don't let a soul know. Your family in blue will stick by you in most cases, but depravity such as the one you've chosen, will not be tolerated."
My jaw clenches and I resist the urge to flee.
The mask drops and he pushes, "Not only do you keep your private life private; you protect that woman that's spent most her life with this aje moun." He takes the masks and sucks in a deep breath. Once he's finished, the mask comes up and rests on his forehead. He grips my hands and forces me to look him in his eyes, "I couldn't stand anything happenin' to you. You promise me, Nora Marie Delaney, you tell no one. Especially your mama. Don't break her heart, like you broke mine."
I keep the tears at bay; I keep my grip frim and nod my agreement. My head swims and I feel like I've been dropped into the middle of a life that isn't mine. I can't wrap my head around what he said. What he asked.
His mask slips back over his nose and mouth as my mother comes in carrying a tray of drinks and a white paper bag. I stand quickly, letting go of my father's hand. "I need sorry, but I need to go." I rush out of the room and down to the bank of elevators. I jab the down button and pray that it comes quickly.
The sound of my mom's voice calling after me lets me know it wasn't quick enough.
"Nora," she says, "Here, at least take the coffee and donuts."
She thrusts them into my hand and the doors open. I stumble into the elevator and hit the lobby button with my mother staring at me in wonder.
As the door slips shut, I lean against the back wall and rest my head, close my eyes and allow a few tears to escape.
I squint and look at my computer screen, trying to figure what kind of bullshit I'm reading. Of all the inane, fucked up things I've seen as a cop, researching Neo-Nazi groups in the greater NOLA area has probably been one of the most.
I reach for my cup of tar and take a sip. Wincing as the hot, thick liquid burns my throat. At least it wakes me up a little.
It's been four days since I've been home, three since I've seen an actual bed. The three hours I've caught here and there in the crash room aren't really working for me, but Jerry and I are close to finding this group of sick slime bags.
After the death of Josh Lebron, we went back and re-interviewed Ryan and Chris, our first two victims. After getting them to admit that they were gay and they thought the attacks were because of their sexuality, it got a little easier.
All three were at a local gay dance club in the Quarter. All three had gotten separated from their friends and all three were assaulted. Josh Lebron was our first death. The other two were lucky. I sigh and Jerry looks up from his stack of paperwork.
"What gives, Delaney?" he asks.
I shake my head and lean back in my chair. "I just can't believe that some people actually believe this shit. And it really is utter shit."
He leans forward and smirks. "I ain't sayin' that what they did was right, but take a look around. Where are all are problems? The Blacks and Mexicans are all nuthin' but a bunch of low-life drug runnin', welfare livin' lowlifes. We see it day in and day out. And queers," he scoffs and shakes his head.
I'm about to retort, but my phone rings and I snatch it up, thankful that there was some type of interruption before I shoved my fist down my partner's throat. "Delaney," I snarl into the line.
"H hello?" the small voice on the other end of the line says.
I take a moment and soften my voice, "Yeah."
"Hi, Detective, this is Courtney," the voice gains a little more confidence and I remember where she's from. "You said to call if I heard anything."
"Hi Courtney," I smile genuinely for the first time in two days and say, "I did, you wanna talk?"
"Well, I do, but I don't wanna meet. Can I just tell you over the phone?"
"Sure thing." I grab a pen and piece of paper.
"Well," she starts, "I was in English class and like, Nick and his buddy, Steven were talking right. Their always together, they think they're like God's gift to the human race or whatever, but that's like beside the point. You were talking about Chris Moore gettin' hurt and I liked Chris. He's a funny guy and he helps me out in Chemistry."
I pinch the phone between my shoulder and ear and lean back in my chair. This is going to take awhile.
"Anyhow," she continues, "Like I was just sitting in English talking to Leah about the Prom when I overheard Nick and Steven whispering about how they gave it to that fag." She stops and gathers her breath. "I mean, like, I know it's not much, but they both run with a few older boys and they were like all mean stuff to some black kids at our school. I know Nick shoved Chris around at lunch one day. Called him some stuff."
I jot down some of the things that she said and make note of the names. I flip open a folder and look over a list, spotting the two names of the kids she was talking about.
"So Detective, does that help, 'cause I really wanna help." The rattling on her end lets me know Courtney switches the phone to her other ear.
"You did, Courtney," I placate her and then ask, "Do you think that if you had to, you would testify?"
She stammers a second and then says, "Yeah I guess. Will I get to be on T.V.?"
I smile again and say, "I dunno, but we'll do what we can."
"Cool. Then yeah sure. Why not, right?"
"Alright, look I need to go and follow up on some things, but you just helped us out a lot. Thank you." I say my goodbyes and hang up the phone.
"Delaney!" my captain shouts from his office doorway. "Get your scrawny, Irish ass in here, double time."
Sighing, I shake my head and wonder why he couldn't have just stayed in the military instead of becoming a cop. I make my way over to his office and he motions me inside. I shut the door and he says, "What the hell are you doing here?"
My hands rest petulantly on my hips and I say, "My job, Sir."
"Delaney," his voice softens just a tad and he shakes his head. "Your father's funeral is tomorrow. You should be at home. You should be with your family. Give me one good reason why I don't kick your ass out of here and send you on leave for a few days?"
My jaw clenches and I bite the inside of my cheek. "Because working keeps my minds off of it. I got two aggravated assaults that are turning into hate crimes and a murder that was motivated by sexual orientation. I just got a lead and sending me home now would be a complete fucking waste of both of our times," I spit.
He sits back in his chair and looks me over. "Is Tombridge incapable of handling this?"
I snort and fold my arms across my chest. "With all due respect, Captain, but the only thing that partner of mine can handle is a fifth of whiskey. It doesn't help the fact that he's just been sitting across from me sympathizing with a bunch of Neo-Nazi, homophobic pieces of shit."
His eyebrows raise in mild shock.
I run my fingers through my hair and try for a mildly softer approach. Let's face it throwing your partner under the bus isn't a way to win friends and influence people. "Look, just let me make this collar and I'll go home."
"Fine," he barks. "You and I are gonna have a talk about that partner of yours when you get back from your days off."
I nod and ask, "We done?"
He nods and I don't bother to say another word. I head out of his office, stop by my desk and grab my thin leather coat. "Let's go Jer. I want to collar some boneheads."
The amber liquid distorts the bar underneath the glass as I stare down into the tumbler. The music is soft and melancholy tonight. I think the girl spinning the disks has dedicated tonight to Nina Simone. For some reason I'm thankful. The bar has a light crowd and I'm slumped over in my stool. I've got my dress uniform on. The clean white collared shirt pressed, my tie hangs a little loose, my jacket takes up residence on the barstool to my right, where my hat rests on top of it.
A woman comes up to my left and slides a pack of Marlboro's over. I look over and see Casey's friend, Victoria smiling at me.
"You look like you need it, Officer." She winks at me and then saunters away.
I shake my head and recognize the irony. Doesn't mean I don't give in. I pull a cigarette from the pack and tap the butt against the bar, packing it a little more. I slip the butt between my lips and then there's Casey, a lighter in hand, wearing that smirk.
I want to tell her to fuck off, but I don't.
"One ain't gonna kill you, baby." She flicks her thumb and lights my cigarette. Leaning forward, she leans into the gray-blue smoke that I blow from my lungs. "You should go home."
I shake my head and knock back the rest of my drink. Her hand comes up from behind the bar and she's refilling my tumbler before I say a word.
Her smile is soft and flirty. It promises me comfort and understanding. These are the things I need the night of my father's funeral.
After I left that hospital the last time, I thought about giving Casey up, I thought about denying the person inside of me and I thought about living the lie that I've sold my mother.
I can't deny who I am.
I can lie to my mama. I will continue to lie to her. I'll keep that promise to my father. I'm still not sure which one will land me a place in Hell quicker though, the lying or my choice of bedmates.
In the end, tonight, I can't seem to really give a shit.
I won't give up the things in this shit world that make me happy. Tonight it's the five-foot pixie that tends bar at one my favorite jazz clubs.
I polish off the fresh glass of bourbon and finish off the cigarette. Casey's there again, refilling my glass and running her hand over mine, squeezing it reassuringly.
I smile at her and ask, "You gonna be done soon?"
She nods. "Eddie's cashing in and then I'm golden."
I nod and she scurries off to fill another drink order.
I finish the fourth glass of bourbon and know I'm pushing the limits. Spinning on the stool, I look at the dance floor. Couples sway gently to the music. They have these normal lives. These things that I know I'll never get.
Some day's it's okay. I can accept that.
My jacket and hat appear to float in front of me as Casey stands before me in a mid-thigh skirt, ripped tank top and knee-high boots.
"Come on, sugga, let me take you home and put you to bed." She plops my hat on top of my head and throws my jacket over her shoulders.
I let her grab my hand and lead me out of the club. I may never have normal and my family may never know the truth, but for tonight, like everything else, it'll have to do. It's a choice I'll live with.
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