DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For Katastic who had this kickass idea for this story in the first place and to vfullart for inspiring a monster plot bunny that attacked my brain with a vengeance. Thank you to you both!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Geekgrrl.lurking[at]gmail.com
Sins of the Daughter
The porch light glinted off the silver key as it slipped into the lock, before it was turned with a solid click. Pushing the door open quietly, Natalia Rivera made her way inside the dark house, locking the door again behind her. Slipping off her shoes, she made her way to the staircase and padded upstairs. The bedroom door was slightly ajar and as Natalia nudged it open just a little wider, she smiled at the sight that greeted her.
Pulling her black leather jacket off and dropping it onto the carpet, Natalia carefully removed her gun and holster and placed it on the dresser. The rest of her clothes dropped with barely a whisper of material hitting the floor. The mattress dipped and she snuggled up behind the woman sleeping peacefully beneath the covers, spooning with her.
A sharp inhalation was the only clue that her lover was awake. That, and the low moan that was issued as Natalia started to drop sweet kisses along her neck and run her hands along the curve of the woman's hip.
"Mmm, baby? I didn't think I'd see you tonight," a low sleepy voice rasped up at her, and Natalia just smiled against warm skin, her hands continuing to move up and under the soft cotton t-shirt her partner always slept in.
"The stakeout ended early. We think someone tipped of Santos' men, and no one showed at the warehouse." Natalia nipped at a tempting earlobe as her hand gently cupped a full breast and started to squeeze, her fingers finding and rolling a stiffening nipple. "Besides I had something much more important I needed to attend too."
The woman in her arms moaned softly and rolled to her back to look up at her. Natalia looked down into the darkest brown eyes she had ever seen as long fingers reached up and wrapped around her neck, drawing her closer.
"And don't you forget it, Special Agent Rivera." The blonde's lips twitched up into a teasing smile as Natalia dipped her head, claiming her with a much needed kiss. Natalia swiped along the full lower lip, and sank into the woman's warmth to tangle their tongues together playfully. Slowly they pulled apart, Natalia's eyes fluttering open as she memorized Harley's beautiful face for what seemed like the millionth time.
"Never, Detective Cooper," Natalia grinned as her hands continued to explore her lover's seductive curves, thrilling as the lithe woman arched and writhed at her touch. "Never."
Natalia's head dipped once more and no more words were needed.
The board room was silent, except for the faint ticking of the air conditioning unit turning on in the building and the low level hum of the florescent lighting. Alan Spaulding sat calmly waiting for the fall out of this latest news. There was no way to change it anyway, and a part of him was secretly thrilled by it all.
Phillip and Alan-Michael simply stared at the documentation in front of them. Irrefutable proof, DNA results don't lie, and the copy of the birth certificate was just icing on the cake. Phillip turned to his younger brother and they just looked at each other. Phillip turned back to their father, unable to hold it in any longer.
"With my nanny? Really?" Phillip spat out and leaned back.
"Your mother never knew, and I didn't know about the baby. If I did " Alan's voice trailed off, and he ran a hand through his short, graying hair, lost in thought.
"What? You'd have done what? Marry her?" Phillip glared at his father, a short bark of disbelieving laughter escaping. He wasn't really surprised about the affair, he was more surprised that the man actually thought that he could have had something lasting with Lucia. "The nanny?"
"Natalia would have been in our lives from the beginning." Alan growled, and leaned forward. "Unlike you two, I have a sense of responsibility where family is concerned." He stared down both of his sons.
In truth, Alan wondered if having a daughter and the love of a good woman would have smoothed out some of his rough edges, eased that competitive edge, that drive for perfection, his need for power and control. With sweet Lucia in his life, with an innocent baby daughter to look after, her deep religious and moral beliefs that he had made fun of at the time, might actually have made a difference in how his life had been lived.
Alan sighed. It was all water under the bridge now, with Natalia's mother having died last year. According to the girl it had only been then that the truth had come to light. It had been revealed to her who her father really was in a letter that the lawyer had given her from her mother, explaining it all.
"How long have you known? Rivera's been in Springfield for months stirring up trouble, hell bent on bringing down the Santos mob and their various gangs." Phillip asked, flipping through the woman's blood analysis report from the second private corporation his father had sent the sample to. There was no disputing the science, unfortunately. Therefore the only other option was to figure out how to use this to his advantage. Before Alan-Michael did.
"She came to me with this six months ago," Alan stood and wandered over to the large picture window overlooking downtown Springfield and stared out. As Phillip and Alan-Michael started to squawk with outrage, he turned and waved them down. "I needed to be sure before I told you boys. And I had her background checked. Extensively. I needed to know what we're dealing with." Alan turned back to stare out at the peaceful town he called home and shook his head.
"How dirty is she?" Alan-Michael asked as Phillip closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, both of them expecting the worst. They looked up as Alan turned to face them, smiling widely as he sat back down and tossed another thick file at them across the black polished table top.
"Natalia Rivera is as upstanding a citizen as you can get. She joined the FBI right out of high school, graduated in the top ten of her class and her service record has been exemplary. Her last case had her undercover with a Chicago gang, she was instrumental in bringing them down."
"Jesus, are you sure she's a Spaulding?" Alan-Michael snorted at that. Alan just leveled a long suffering gaze at his son as Phillip chuckled quietly to himself.
"The question is how do we get her to leave the FBI and come join us here at Spaulding? That kind of determination should be funneled into the family business." Alan leaned forward and stared hard at his sons. "And I want her on our side, not against us. Natalia is family now."
"I'd say throw money at her. She might be a fed, but she's human." Alan-Michael said, knowing that deep down everyone had a price, whether it was money or something else.
"No, that would just turn her away," Phillip shook his head, his own moral battles with the Spaulding wealth the cause of some of his own demons. He liked the perks and the power, but there was also a down side to the wealth that had a funny way of biting you in the end. "Natalia seems to need a challenge, a goal to achieve. Just look at how ambitious she is in her FBI career. What we need to do is to think of some way for her to prove to us that she's a Spaulding."
"Go on," Alan leaned forward, his eyes narrowing in interest.
"Natalia came to you first, looking for something. I think she wants you to recognize her, needs you to accept her for some reason, wants to be part of a larger family maybe. So instead of offering her the world to turn her head and woo her into the family business, make her prove that she deserves to be here. If she wants to be a part of the family, I bet she'll take the bait and be unable to resist the challenge." Phillip leaned back as Alan thought about his reasoning.
"You might have a point, Phillip." Alan nodded. If Natalia truly wanted to be a part of their world, gain his respect and love, she would need to prove it. Alan smiled widely at Phillip, pleased. It was perfect.
And Alan had just the carrot to dangle in front of the young woman.
Natalia slammed the file cabinet shut and sank down into the chair at her desk with a frustrated sigh.
"Problems?" Detective Frank Cooper said from where he stood at her office door. He had his usual cup of coffee and donut in hand, with his dopey smile grating on her nerves. Harley's brother was a nice enough guy, but Natalia was very aware that the man had a crush on her, which sent shivers of disgust down her spine. She had even tried to butch it up around him and drop not so subtle hints, but he had been oblivious. It was getting to the point where she might have to be outright rude to the man, which would not make Harley very happy with her.
Natalia looked up and smiled but it didn't reach her eyes. It would make her life so much easier if Harley would just bite the bullet and come out to her family. However, she knew her lover wasn't in that headspace yet. Harley certainly was not ready or comfortable telling her family that she enjoyed the company of men or women in her bedroom, let alone springing her new girlfriend on them.
It would be nice to be part of a big family and a part of Natalia longed for that. Then again, she already had her own big family to try to become a part of. She closed her eyes, not wanting to think about her biological father and the rest of the clan she was now linked to.
"No, Frank," Natalia sighed and leaned back in her chair. "I'm just a little pissed off at my informant. I had hoped that we would be able to get more intel on where the Santos mob has been running their operation from but the warehouse stakeout was a waste of time. And I just spoke with my supervisors in the Chicago office and they want me to wrap up this case and move on to another assignment."
"Really?" Concerned, Frank wandered deeper into her office and sat down on the edge of her desk, much to her annoyance. She just nodded and grabbed a pen from her desk chewing on the end as her mind whirled.
"You know, I can feel it in my gut," Natalia continued, tapping her ball point pen against her desk as she thought. "Even though we injured them badly by getting Danny Santos to roll over on them, and then all but shut them down in Chicago, and now in Springfield, there is somewhere else they are still operating out of, festering away. The one thing I do know is that the Santos family are like cockroaches, and Keith Richards survivors."
Frank barked with laughter and shook his head, tossing his empty Styrofoam cup into the trash before standing to face the dark beauty.
"Well, I'd sure hate to see you go." He smiled down at her but Natalia took no real notice of him. He shifted and tried another tactic. "Are you sure you would want to leave? Springfield PD is always looking for good cops. You could make a home here; maybe even settle down with some lucky guy " He blinked those sad puppy dog eyes at her and Natalia frowned up at him, flexing her hand, wanting to go for her gun. Instead she just smiled and sighed, praying that he would just leave her office already. Still the man had a point.
"Well, it would be good to find some roots again," Natalia's mind shifted unconsciously to her estranged father and the Spauldings. With her mother dead and the man she considered her father long gone, Natalia did crave family ties. She just worried about what her new family would cost her in the long run.
"Is my brother annoying you again?" Harley smiled from the office door, a much needed friendly face breaking into her disturbing thoughts.
"I am not bothering Natalia." Frank grumbled good-naturedly, but took the hint and made his way towards the exit. "That's your job." He pointed at his sister and smirked before waving and disappearing down the hallway to the main squad room.
Harley elbowed the door shut behind him and pulled the mini-blinds closed before sauntering over towards Natalia's desk.
"So, am I bothering you?" Harley finally stopped, standing between Natalia's legs, forcing her to spread them slightly wider to accommodate her. She reached out and threaded her long fingers into the thick dark hair, needing to touch her, wanting so much more.
"Definitely, but in a good way," Natalia looked up into mischievous dark eyes and smirked, running her hands playfully along her lover's thighs to rest on her hips. "Hot and bothered."
"Good, just the way I like it." Harley dipped her head and dropped a sweet kiss to Natalia's full lips, slowly enticing her to open to her, their tongues dancing and stroking together. Finally pulling apart, their eyes locked for a moment before the blonde finally spoke again. "Have dinner with me tonight?"
"I can't," Natalia groaned and leaned back in her chair. "Alan wants me to meet him at his country club."
"Well, well, well. Someone has made the grade." Harley raised an eyebrow and straightened, moving away from Natalia's tempting curves. "He must be ready to finally acknowledge you as his daughter if he's bringing you there."
"Do you think?" Natalia glanced up at her lover; she hadn't looked at it that way. Natalia figured that the man was just going to put her off yet again. After all she'd already been waiting for over six months for him to do something with the news she was his child.
"You never know, sweetie," Harley just shrugged and made her way to the office door. Natalia cocked her head and watched the sway to the woman's hips. As much as she hated to see Harley go, she loved to watch her walk away. "Call me when you're done, and maybe we can " Harley waggled her eyebrows and smirked naughtily, before opening the door and disappearing down the hall, leaving Natalia's dirty mind to fill in the blanks.
"God, give me strength. Those Coopers will be the death of me." Natalia grinned and turned her attention back to the file in front of her, her mind once more turning back to the Santos debacle, knowing that she would need to speak with her informant again soon to find out just had gone wrong.
The heavy oak door to the sanctuary of the small Catholic church creaked open and Natalia stepped into the stillness. Her shoes sounded loud on the polished wood floor as she walked down the aisle coming to stop at the front. Crossing herself, she looked up at the crucifix hanging above the altar and stared at it for long moments, still finding no peace. Finally turning to her right she made her way to the table of votive candles, some lit and some not, but the smell of burning wax was familiar and comforting.
Finding a long match, Natalia struck it against the side of the box and reached out to light a small votive candle. The small flame flickered to life, quickly burning brighter, stronger. She blew out the match and watched the swirl of smoke twist its way upwards to the rafters, her prayers going with it.
Her mother would be pleased. Natalia couldn't remember when the last time she'd darkened the door before her mother's death, but since the formidable woman's passing she had somehow found her way to a church every Thursday afternoon, to light a candle in remembrance.
Natalia sighed and checked her watch, knowing that this was not the optimum place to have a meeting but her informant had been insistent that they didn't want to talk over the phone. Besides she wanted answers and there would only be one person who could shed some light on what the hell happened. She froze as she heard footsteps on the wood floor and knew that she wasn't alone in the sanctuary. She saw a dark figure disappear into the confessional booth at the back and she relaxed, easing her hand from her holstered revolver.
Her secret informant had arrived.
Making her way quietly to the same confessional, Natalia tugged on the door and entered the small compartment. Sitting down on the small bench inside, she heard the small partition slide open and a low cough on the other side of the privacy screen caught her attention.
"The rain in Spain " A low male voice came through the partition, saying the agreed upon code words, but she still couldn't make out any of his features.
"Falls mainly on the plain." Natalia replied with the appropriate response and they both visibly relaxed. "So what the hell happened last night " She all but growled at the mysterious person on the other side of the screen.
"Agent Rivera, I can explain." The informant leaned forward, anxious to calm her down and make amends. The man had been cagey about revealing himself to her from the beginning, but over the last year they had learned to trust one another. It was a huge, dangerous step to actually meet in person, but the warehouse misstep had damaged their working relationship. This meeting would go a long way to restoring it and it would all be worth it if she was finally able to find out the man's identity.
"I'm listening," Natalia leaned back and tried to remain calm, reigning in her frustration and forcing herself to stay focused. She heard a long suffering sigh on the other side and waited.
"Someone called and warned them off. I didn't find out until it was too late and your team was already in motion." The man on the other side shifted, his feet making a soft scuffing sound. "It would have tipped them off, and they are already watching me. I don't need someone inside the Springfield police department making my life harder than it already is "
"Wait. What?"" Natalia sat straighter trying to make sense of what the man was implying. "Are you saying there's a leak in police force?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying," The man on the other side shifted and coughed again, clearly nervous. "I heard them talking on his phone with the leak. There was no doubt it was a cop he was talking to. And they knew everything about the operation, when and where you were going and how many men were assigned. I snuck away as they started making calls to their boys, switching the shipment to another time and place."
Natalia pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Things were going from bad to worse.
"I have to call my boss and fill him in," Natalia's mind whirled with all that she needed to take care of and then she paused, realizing her informant should be her first priority. The man on the other side was risking a lot by meeting with her. She needed to make sure that he wasn't going to be compromised; maybe it was time she knew just who she was dealing with. She leaned forward, trying to see in, honestly concerned for his safety. "Are you going to be secure or would you like protection? I have resources available to take care of you."
A long moment passed and then the man on the other side sighed sadly. Natalia watched as he reached up and pulled the screen away, and she was finally able to see the face of the man who had been instrumental in helping the FBI.
Father Ray Santos straightened his shoulders and leaned forward a sad but determined look on his face. Natalia didn't envy the man at all.
"Thank you, but there is still good I can do. And as long as your leak doesn't rat me out, I have faith in you." The priest's dark eyes radiated fear and yet a quiet confidence.
"No one will know your identity, but me. I swear." They stared at each other a moment longer and then Natalia nodded and she started to leave.
"Agent Rivera?" The priest's voice gave her pause, and Natalia sank back down.
"Yes, Father?" Natalia watched curious as the man's eyes shifted down to his hands and then flicked back up to meet hers again as if not sure he should speak.
"When was your last confession?" Father Ray's eyes showed nothing but concern and a need to help. Natalia inhaled sharply, not expecting the question. She glared back at the man on the other side of the confessional, not sure what to say exactly. "It's just I know you come here every Thursday, but you never stay or come to service. I thought I'd "
"Thanks Father, but I'm not ready to come back yet," Natalia said softly, her thoughts turning to her mother once more. "I'm still a little pissed off at God at the moment."
"I understand." The priest on the other side nodded. "When you are "
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." Natalia smiled and stood again, putting her hand to the door latch before pausing a moment. "Let me know if they have anything else scheduled soon. I'm hoping I can dig something big up so I can talk my supervisor into letting me stay on the case and find out where the last remnants of the Santos mob are working from."
"I pray everyday that we can end this madness." Father Ray ran a hand through his dark hair, clearly upset by what his family was doing. "The deaths and the drugs, and now the guns that are being sent here, every week, it has to stop."
Natalia sighed, knowing the man was right. The good father had his own family demons to exorcise, just as she did. Her mother's husband, the man she always thought was her father, had disappeared all those years ago. She knew that lay at the feet of the Santos mob syndicate and it had shaped her into who she was today. And while they had never found his body, she had no doubt that the man's gambling debts had ended up costing him his life. She would take them down, each and every one, if it was the last thing she did.
Or die trying.
Natalia ran her hand through her long dark hair nervously trying to straighten it out into some semblance of order. Tugging on her tailored suit blazer, she made her way to the front reception of the Springfield Golf and Country Club and signed in.
"Ah, Ms. Rivera, of course. Mr. Spaulding is in the lower lounge awaiting your arrival." The duty manager smiled as she quickly scribbled her name into a leather bound log book and indicated that she should enter deeper into the opulent club house. Marble tiles melded quickly into thick carpeting and before she realized it, she had found the dining area. The host greeted her and led the way to a private table by the large windows.
Alan Spaulding sat staring out the windows, watching the tennis match that was currently being played. He turned and stood as he noticed her approaching.
"Natalia, I'm so glad you could come." Alan said, waiting until the host had pulled out her chair and the young woman had been seated before he too sank down onto his chair.
"Thank you again for asking me," Natalia said as their host disappeared and a young woman came to leave menus and take their drink order. Alan was already nursing a whiskey so she ordered a glass of red wine and then they were alone again.
"This place is nice," Natalia glanced around the elegant formal dining room.
"Your great-grandfather was a founding member." Alan sat up a little straighter, clearly proud of this tidbit of information. "You'll find the Spaulding name is sprinkled throughout Springfield's history. There are deep roots here, if you want them." He paused and took a sip of his drink, letting his words sink in.
Natalia nodded. She wanted those roots, more than he knew. With no family of her own left, she was alone in the world. Her mother's letter had been a bombshell, but also a revelation, a lifeline that she wasn't alone in the world after all. A curse and a blessing.
The server returned with Natalia's wine and took their dinner orders before disappearing once more and a somewhat awkward silence descended. Alan took a drink of his whiskey and leaned forward as if preparing to attack. Whatever his game was, Natalia knew they were about to play.
"I have looked into your background. I wanted to know what to expect." Alan said, shifting a little in his chair, trying to gauge her reaction.
"Really? So have I." Natalia smiled before taking a sip of the excellent merlot. "You want to go first or shall I?"
Alan's eyes narrowed and he nodded to himself. His daughter would not be a push over or easily intimidated apparently. There was definitely Spaulding genes at work in the young woman, and it definitely pleased him.
"In fact, your last girlfriend was most forth coming with information, once my private detective had plied her with enough alcohol." Alan smiled knowingly, curious how she'd react.
Natalia stilled, waiting to see what the fallout of her sexual orientation was going to be. Would it be a deal breaker and completely ostracize her from getting to know the old man and her siblings? She pursed her lips and realized that she didn't want to live a lie where her friends and family were concerned, like Harley had been doing for years. The Spaulding clan would either accept her or not, but it would be on her terms. Taking a calming breath, she lifted her chin and smiled.
"Callie never could hold her liquor," She murmured taking another sip of her wine as she watched her father over the rim of the glass.
Alan laughed outright, and leaned back in his chair. The girl had spunk, which was a step up from some of the other simpering drones that populated his life.
"Listen here now. I don't care if you're gay, straight or anything in between, got it? I do care about the reputation of our good name and the power that entails, so if there are any skeletons in that closet you've just stepped out of, just tell me now." Alan cocked an eyebrow and took a drink of his whiskey, not sure that the woman would tell him what they were anyway. Still it would be refreshing to have an open honest relationship with someone in his life, why not try starting off that way at least.
"There is nothing that you need to worry about on that front." Natalia said as she felt herself relax suddenly, not fully realizing until that moment just how much she had wanted Alan to accept her as she was. And now that the dialogue was happening, and he seemed okay with her private life, it seemed a little too good to be true. She somehow suspected there would be more to it all and she waited for the other shoe to drop.
"Good. I know you are young and ambitious but that's a dime a dozen out there. If you really want to be a part of this family, well you're gonna have to earn it. I don't like the idea of you getting yourself killed over something as stupid as a drug bust gone bad or being killed in the line of duty, as honorable as that seems to be." Alan grimaced before leaning forward wanting to make sure she was listening.
"Alan, that's what I do," Natalia started to interrupt, defending her career choices, decisions that were ingrained in her very being now. It wasn't something that she could just switch on and off now that she was a Spaulding. "It's who I am."
Alan just stared back at her, spinning his whiskey in his glass, the ice pieces clinking together as he thought. Damn she was like her mother, so noble and idealistic. It was going to be a problem.
"I told your brothers about you." He blurted out. It wasn't what he had meant to say and her eyes widened at his words, not expecting it either. "They want to meet you. Soon."
"Uhh of course," Natalia stammered, stunned at the definite movement on the home front. "I'd like to meet them too."
"And we talked about making you an offer, to bring you into the family business. I want you learning about Spaulding Enterprises at my side and at the side of your brothers. I need to know if you are serious about being a part of our lives, or if this is just some ploy for your share of the family fortune," Alan paused, extending his finger to point at her, emphasizing his point. "Because I can tell you now, you are not in the will. You need to prove you are truly family first."
Natalia bristled at the suggestion that she was out to grab the man's money, but deep inside she could understand how he might think that. Here she was some stranger blowing into town and dropped the news on him out of the blue. The other Spauldings probably thought the same thing. The question was how she would prove to them that she just wanted to get to know them, their wives and children and become part of the extended family. The money meant nothing to her.
"Alan, I will not leave my job because you want me to come work for you. That's not how this works." Natalia shook her head. She saw his eyes narrow. "You can not run my life and I will not suck up to you because of your money. This is about becoming family, not business partners."
"It's been my experience that the two tend to go hand in hand, my dear." Alan said quietly. He caught the eye of a server and nodded for another drink, which arrived within moments.
"My investigators also said that you've been like a dog with a bone where the Santos mob family is concerned," Alan smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. Dealings with the Santos family were not to be taken lightly. "That is a no win situation."
"So you say." Natalia looked up as their meals arrived, smelling delicious. She took a bite of her Atlantic salmon, expertly prepared and started digging in as her father elaborated.
"I've done business with them before, a little construction project off shore." Alan cut into his rare steak, pink juices flowing onto his plate and mixing with his mashed potatoes. Natalia looked up sharply.
"Oh, really? Where?" She tried to sound casual about it, but Alan saw through it easily.
"Well, I'd tell you more, but really, that's family business now, isn't it?" Alan smiled and sliced off another bite of steak as he watched his daughter's clever mind chew away at his words. She truly was magnificent, a thrilling mix of Lucia's sweetness and beauty and his real world smarts. No wonder Natalia had moved so quickly in the FBI ranks.
Natalia's cell phone buzzed in her pocket and anything she had been about to say was lost. She slipped her BlackBerry out to look at the text message quickly.
HCooper - 7:34 pm
Your informant called the precinct said that the shipment is moving tonight instead. 125 Wilson Street, Unit 16. The team is on our way, meet you there in an hour.
Natalia frowned. Why would Father Ray call the precinct and not her directly? And how did Harley end up getting this information? Dread filled her gut as a horrible suspicion took hold. Could her lover be the leak?
"Is there a problem, Natalia?" Alan asked, concerned at how serious his daughter had become.
"I'm sorry, Alan." Natalia pulled the napkin from her lap and tossed it to the tabletop. "We'll have to discuss you trying to woo me to the Spaulding dark side later. Duty calls." She cocked her head as she took in the disappointment that flashed across the man's face before he quickly stuffed his emotions deep down inside once more. It made her smile, a flicker of hope that despite his machinations, he wanted a relationship with her as much as she wanted one with him. "Rain check?"
"I'd like that," Alan nodded, smiling up at her as she stood.
"I'd like that too." Natalia said, and actually meant it as she smiled back. Maybe this hadn't been a total waste of time after all, but a tentative first step, a beginning.
Whatever it was, she'd take it.
Natalia tossed her duffel bag into the trunk of her car and slammed the lid down. She had almost laughed out loud at the look on the front desk attendant's face when she had quickly ducked back into the club to change and came back out in her casual work clothes. It was a long time habit to keep a change of comfortable clothes in her car for just these sorts of circumstances.
Grabbing her black leather jacket from the backseat, Natalia tugged it on like a second skin and dropped down into the driver's seat. Slipping out her cell phone, she dialed a number she knew by heart, listening as it rang twice and then picked up.
"O'Neill." The familiar voice of her FBI supervisor came through from the other side, his calm quiet voice easing her jangled nerves a little. If stuff was about to hit the fan, she needed him in the loop.
"It's Rivera, sir." Natalia bit her lower lip, not happy about calling him during off duty hours.
"Natalia? Is there a problem?" His voice deepened, and she heard the background noise lessen as he obviously moved to a more secure location.
"There could be, sir." Natalia tapped her steering wheel nervously. "The Santos family is moving the shipment of weapons this evening. I'm concerned that my informant has been compromised and that it could be a trap set up by the Springfield PD leak I told you about earlier today. I'm going to need some back up and I don't trust the local force."
There was silence on the other side of the phone and she could just make out the sounds of her boss sighing in frustration. She could definitely relate.
"Give me half an hour. What's the location?"
"120 Wilson, Unit 16." Natalia bit the bullet and divulged her last tidbit of information. "Jeffrey, Harley contacted me about the sudden change in plans. I don't know why my informant would call the precinct and trust her with the information. She could be our leak." Natalia's voice trailed off and there was another short silence on the other side. She had told him of her budding relationship with the woman months ago, not wanting there to be any issues down the road. She had never thought anything like this would be a problem.
"Oh, Natalia," Jeffrey's voice held nothing but sympathy for her. She almost would have preferred anger or the ever popular disappointment. Tears pricked at the back of her eyes but she refused to let them fall.
"No, don't. I just wanted you to be apprised. It seems too obvious somehow." Natalia's voice dropped lower. "I trusted her, and I still do, but who knows what the Santos' could do to convince someone to help them?" Natalia sighed, hoping that Harley wasn't in too deep with any of this. "I'll keep a close eye on the situation though."
"Ok, I'll have backup at your location in thirty." Jeffrey paused a moment before continuing, his voice softening. "Be careful, okay?"
"Always." Natalia smiled, and then hung up, putting her phone back into her inside jacket pocket. She started her car and headed out towards the bad side of town, not looking forward to the next few hours, but she had a job to do.
The old candy factory down on Wilson St. had long fallen into disrepair, with few businesses wanting to move into this rough part of Springfield. Natalia parked her car and took a moment to check her gun and review the last text she'd received from Harley.
Truck has arrived we're moving in for a closer look. Where are you?
Natalia had responded that she was five minutes away but had not had a reply and now she was trying hard to control the urge to rush off to find her, backup be damned.
Glancing down along the west side of the old building she could see a cube van backed up against a loading dock. That must be where the deal was going down. She didn't see anyone looking like cops anywhere and no obvious looking vehicles on the street. Nothing.
Natalia didn't like this at all. There were too many strange things happening all at once. Someone was messing with her and she had a sinking feeling the Santos family was definitely pulling the strings behind it all. She quickly checked her watch wondering where her backup was.
A gunshot rang out into the night air.
So much for patiently waiting for her back up to arrive. Natalia was stealthily crossing the street and headed for the cube van before she even paused to think about her next steps. Keeping to the shadows she heard another pop-pop-pop of gunfire inside the warehouse.
"Damn it!" Natalia hissed, pulling her service revolver and preparing for the worst. Just before reaching the loading dock, she found an unlocked door, but it was stuck, something behind it blocking her entry. She pushed hard, forcing it open and making just enough room to squeeze her thin frame through. She ducked behind the old pile of crates that had been stacked against the door and tried to get her bearings.
She heard people talking, several voices floating towards her but nothing that she could make out. Scrambling along the rows of barrels and stacked boxes, Natalia kept to the shadows as she strained to hear what was being said as she headed deeper in the warehouse. She stopped when she heard a very familiar voice.
" know about the deal. We can help you out of this, just put the gun down and no one else needs to get hurt." Harley sounded calm but definitely scared. Natalia peered over the edge of the boxes, her heart sinking as she took in the tense scene before her.
Father Ray lay in a pool of his own blood, his lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling. Scattered about to her left were several of her Springfield PD team, also shot but she was unable to tell if it was fatal. And exposed in the middle of the room, Harley stood with her gun drawn, talking to someone hidden from view amongst the boxes that had been pulled out of the still loaded cube van.
"It's too late for me now." A lower female voice spoke, a heavy sadness weighing the words. Natalia's eyes widened as a glint of metal caught her attention. There was no time to respond as the nine millimeter Glock flashed as it fired.
"NO!" Natalia screamed, as she saw her lover hit, Harley falling back and slumping down in a heap to the ground. Firing blindly towards the boxes where the killer was hiding, she heard several feet scurry away and cursing. No other shots were being fired back and finally Natalia couldn't stand it any longer, she ran out to Harley, dropping to her knees beside her body.
Gently as possible she rolled Harley to her back, red foam oozing from her lover's full lips and dribbling down her very pale cheek. Blood pumped steadily from the gaping chest wound, as Natalia applied pressure, praying that it wasn't as bad as it looked, but Harley's vest had been little use against the armour piercing ammo.
"Natalia " Harley coughed, bringing up a stronger flow of blood from her mouth. Her eyes were wide and terrified but she clutched Natalia's arm like a lifeline.
"Don't talk, sweetheart," Natalia pulled Harley closer, easing her against her legs and wrapping her arms around her tighter, fearing the worst as she couldn't get the blood flow under control.
"I-I love you " Harley ground out, whimpering from the pain those few words caused.
"I know baby, I know. I love you too," Natalia felt hot tears burn down her cheeks, but she wouldn't take her eyes away from Harley's. "So very much."
Harley smiled, her eyes growing dimmer, more glazed and she reached up struggling to touch Natalia's cheek. She gasped and tensed, shivering in her arms and then Harley's head rolled limply to the side as her whole body relaxed, staring blankly ahead as the breath escaped from her lips.
"Harley?" Natalia felt her stomach drop, fear gripping her soul. "No, baby, please! Stay with me!"
She shook the woman in her arms, hoping that it wasn't too late, but knowing the truth in her shattered heart.
Harley was gone.
A box suddenly crashed to the floor, illegal guns clattering out across the floor as Natalia whipped her revolver up to protect herself from whoever was still out there.
A stranger dressed in black stood before her, clearly a woman by how her clothes clung to her full curves, a full mask covering her head completely, a Glock clutched in her right hand at her side. Natalia felt a shiver run down her spine, as sharp green eyes stared back, locking with her own.
Harley's killer stood before her.
Fury nearly overwhelmed Natalia and she swore in that instant to make the woman pay for her crimes. Her finger twitched on the trigger of her gun, but as much as she wanted to kill the woman, Natalia refused to shoot with the Glock hanging impotent at her side. The woman looked to her left suddenly and Natalia risked a glance to see what had so captured her attention. She heard the sound of several people approaching as the murderer's head swung back to her and their eyes met yet again.
"FREEZE! FBI!" A man's voice called out in the distance. Relief washed over Natalia, but she refused to let the killer out of her sight.
"In here. Officers down." Natalia yelled out to her backup. The woman before her stood stock still, sadness and something inexplicable haunting her vibrant green eyes. Natalia saw her look past her and nod ever so slightly. A flash of bright light seemed to explode inside her head as something incredibly hard struck the back of her skull.
Darkness seemed to spiral around her and the woman's intense stare was the last thing Natalia knew before she slumped forward, unconscious.
To Be Continued
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