The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are the sole property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal Pictures. Of course, we don’t really need to worry about all that because the characters in this story are mine… all mine! Any resemblance to persons or characters, living or dead, past or present is purely coincidental, particularly those of ancient Greece and the Xenaverse.

This story takes place in present day San Diego, but please bear in mind that it’s been almost 14 years since I’ve lived in southern California so a lot of the particulars are from memory. Yikes, that’s a scary thought!

Violence: Well… duh! We are talking about the descendants of the greatest crime-fighting duo of all time… ancient or otherwise.

Sex: Ummm… working on it. This is a work in progress. Rest assured, any such activity will be pg-13…sorry folks, my imagination just isn’t that good ;)

Language: This story centers heavily on law enforcement, and let’s just say that police professionals can be pretty foul-mouthed when not dealing with the public. I’m surrounded by police officers just about every waking (and non-waking) moment of my existence, so I’m not taking a great deal of "poetic license" with the characters’ actions and/or mouths. What you read here is fairly realistic.

Subtext: This story deals with an emotional and physical relationship between two women. If you find that type of subject matter offensive you may not want to continue reading. If, however, you do brave the perils of my writing I think you’ll find a good action packed story with just enough "mush" thrown in to balance things out. Enjoy!!
 
 


The Angel Gabriel

"The Angel which redeemed me from all evil—"

Genesis 48:16


 





It was unbelievably cold that weekend. Hell, it was San Diego; it was unregionally cold. If the temperature ever dropped below 70 degrees, the locals were donning sweatshirts and jackets. When Detective Katherine Gabriel opened the front door to her painfully lonely home she was taken back by the cold morning air that assaulted her with its frigidity.

"34 degrees… I moved here to escape cold winters. Jesus, there’s frost on the ground!" The petite detective grumbled as she made her way to her Jeep, regretting the convertible top and its present placement outside her garage. "I haven’t had to scrape a windshield since I was in college… El Nino, you really need to find better things to do with your time." Detective Gabriel cast emerald greens heavenward hoping the force of nature that brought bizarre weather fronts to southern California was paying heed to her order. She tried to re-clasp her silky blond hair in its brown barrette, but her slender fingers were too numb from the cold. "Unghhh… fine! You wanna fly free in the wind, you go right ahead."

After the painful process of scraping ice from the Jeep’s front glass, in glove-less hands, Katherine climbed in behind the steering wheel and cursed the phone call that dragged her from the warmth of her bed at the ungodly hour of 4am. "Damn! It’s already 5 o’clock, they’re gonna give me such shit when I get there… if I get there. A little ice on the ground and people suddenly lose the ability to drive!" She maneuvered the black Wrangler through dark city streets, opting to avoid the gridlock of the shutdown freeway. "Things could be worse," she mused. "I could be directing traffic on the freeway praying that another big-rig doesn’t jack-knife into my patrol car." Katherine pondered her days as a patrol officer, when she was called to direct traffic and solve domestic squabbles and wasn’t on-call.

This 27-year-old homicide detective, probably the youngest and certainly most attractive, the department had ever seen, never once regretted her decision to go into law enforcement. Even this morning, despite being ripped from Morpheus’ realm and cursing ‘Old Man Nino’s’ viciousness, the young woman was exhilarated at the thought of investigating mankind’s brutality. Her desire had always been to help people, and as fate would have it, she sought out the task of helping the brutalized and murdered souls of the world to find justice in spite of the monsters who victimized them. Detective Katherine Gabriel told the horrifying tales of victims who were silenced and unable to speak for themselves.

Defense attorneys hated facing Katherine Gabriel on the witness stand and would often times try and get their clients to plea-bargain their charges when they found out she was the lead detective on the case. Detective Gabriel was methodically thorough in her investigations and had the uncanny ability to draw a jury into her testimony and make them see the crime scene and the defendant through the victim’s tortured eyes. This ability to recreate the heinousness of these crimes afforded her the reputation of a near 90% conviction rate. It also afforded her the notoriety of being the best at what she does. And, through the permission and blessing of the Chief of police, it invited her into the ongoing investigation as lead detective of a series of murders that seemed to be linked by a desperately common factor: the same killer.
 


*****


 


Katherine usually went to the station first, when she was called in, so she could get her unmarked police car; a 95 white Ford Crown Victoria. The thought of bringing her personal car to a homicide scene wasn’t smart and tactically unsafe at best. Unfortunately the trip from her house had taken far too long and she wanted to expedite her arrival on the scene as much as possible.

As Katherine pulled down Sea Lane she saw the glowing spotlights from the ever-preset news vans that lined the street. She rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh as she approached the outer most band of crime scene tape. Luckily the officer who was in charge of security recognized her Jeep and didn’t give her a hard time when she parked it in front of him. "’Mornin Gabe, s’bout time you showed up!" The officer proclaimed into his hands, trying to keep them warm.

"That’s Detective Gabe to you!" Katherine hissed before relaxing her face into a smile. "How’ve you been Ronnie? When the hell you gonna pull some seniority and get off third shift?" The banter she shared with the older patrolman didn’t escape the rookie officer standing next to him.

"Ahh, Detective Gabe… if I left third I’d lose out on training the rooks!" He offered a smirk as he nodded in the direction of an officer that didn’t look to be out of puberty much less old enough to patrol the streets of San Diego with a gun and the right to throw people in jail. The new officers were most often trained on third shift because it allowed them the opportunity to peek into the face of evil… it was rare for boogie men to rear their ugly heads during the brightness of the day. The darkness of the night offered the clandestine cover necessary to collect on the spoils of their victories. These spoils were nothing less than the fear generated by their actions, and fueled the constant hunger for evil to pervade the lives of the most unsuspecting. "Plus the fact… I was already awake this fine November morning. I’ll bet you’re happy little ass was sound asleep before…"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Where is Sgt. Kintrell, anyway?" The young detective was shivering uncontrollably, desperately hoping that Kintrell was somewhere warm.

"Ask, and ye shall receive!" The baritone voice barked from behind, causing Katherine to whip around, unsettled by the fact that Kintrell had gotten so close without her being aware of his presence. "We’ve got another one, Kat."

"Well I figured that much Sarge. I’m not on call, for once, but look where I’m spending my Saturday morning." She met the most deceptively dark eyes she’d ever known. Most people feared his presence, but Katherine saw past the haunting eyes and formidable size and looked upon a man she revered as much as she did her own father. Sgt. Albert "Al" Kintrell was a trusted mentor who’d taken Katherine under his protective graces when she first came on the force. His disheveled gray mane always looked like it was trying to escape his scalp, and despite his efforts to be clean-shaven he normally sported a five-o’clock-shadow-of-a-beard.

"When you’re good, you’re good." Kintrell spoke the cliché and laughed in spite of their present situation.

"Yeah, whatever, old man. You really do need to invest in some hair spray or gel or something. That mop on top of your head is just outta control." With that the small woman flashed a brilliant smile, spun around on one heel and started her way toward the inner band of crime scene tape.

The burly sergeant stood his ground for a moment shaking his head. "Incorrigible!" He gruffed under his breath.

Kintrell caught up to Gabriel as she approached the front porch. The front door was still closed and there was a uniformed police officer standing his sentry post in front of it. "Is Crime Scene inside?" Katherine asked, referring to the Crime Scene Search technicians who were responsible for documenting the scene and collecting physical evidence.

"Uh…yeah." Kintrell’s voice was notably quiet.

"Kintrreelllll? Whaddya mean, ‘uh yeah’? Bright’s not in there is he?" She shook her head, slowly, from side to side as she thought of the man whose last name was either a simple contradiction or one of the cruelest twists of fate known to mankind.

"That would be a bitch wouldn’t it? Nah, it’s Julie Adams and Brenda Mackins." Kintrell offered Katherine a faint glimmer of hope before slamming her with the tid-bit of information he’d withheld from her during their earlier phone conversation.

"Very cool! At least I’ve got a silver lining. How far have they gotten in there? I’m sure they’re working it for trace evidence. I hope they have some extra booties and a tyvek suit, I didn’t have time to go by the station—"

"Uh, Kat. Wait a sec. All they’ve done is process the doors so we won’t contaminate any fingerprint evidence coming and going. They’re probably done with overall photographs by now…"

"Kintrell, what are you talking about? They’ve been on the scene—" Katherine glanced at her analog Seiko before returning her intense eyes to Kintrell. "For several hours. I know those girls… they’re the best at what they do. Hell, I’ve seen’em work big scenes in record time. They should be a helluva lot further along than ‘overall photographs’." Katherine’s eyes where almost emerald green as her frustration began to grow inside. The softening orange and yellow flecks faded from her irises as she awaited an explanation from her superior.

"Katherine. We were instructed to do the bare minimum until the FBI—" He wasn’t able to finish the statement.

"FBI?! Oh for Christ’s sake! You’ve got to be kidding me! This city’s had serial killers before and we’ve never been ordered to halt an investigation just to allow them time to arrive." Katherine’s mood was rapidly deteriorating at the impending loss of control over her investigation. She considered for a moment which field agents might be sent out. In all fairness, local law enforcement had a good rapport with their FBI field office. The problem was that most of them were from the old school and simply didn’t appreciate the presence of females in their world of ‘men only’.

The young woman closed her eyes and allowed her head to drop slightly. Her soft blond hair, which she still hadn’t had time to pull back properly, jostled loose from its clip and cascaded forward, masking her face from her mentor. Al Kintrell knit his brow at the look of defeat he caught on Katherine’s face before she looked away from him. "Which one’s coming out?" Was all she could ask.

Al regarded his friend warmly as he realized that the stress of these killings must be getting to her and he was amazed at the young woman’s strength by refusing to let it show. "I dunno, Sam Christopher or something like that. I’ve never met him."

"You’ve never met him? They’re holding up an investigation for a rookie agent? I don’t get it, Al. They’re desperate to get their grubby hands on my investigation but the best they can do is send us a rookie?!" The detective’s adrenaline was on the upswing and causing a rush of sensation that should have brought warmth to her blood, but she shivered at another cold chill.

"Well, I don’t think he’s you’re run-of-the-mill field agent. The city council said after the last killing, that if we got another one, that they were gonna call in some help. I think they’re getting tired of the IceMan taking over the million-dollar-neighborhoods, i.e. money’s no object."

Katherine let a malevolent snicker escape her throat as she considered the media’s nickname for the city’s latest predator. It started as a cruel joke on the patrol level and managed to work its way through felony investigations and, recently, straight out to the press. "Money and politics… that’s a dangerous combination. Glad to know the city council decided to give a damn for the highest tax-paying bracket. Ya know, if the IceMan was prowling crack town they wouldn’t give a damn. I reckon money makes the world cower at the feet of those who have it." Katherine delivered her sarcasm with a fluidity that Kintrell would never understand. She was probably one of the kindest, most compassionate people he’d ever known. Despite the ugliness that smothered its aura around her profession, Katherine Gabriel maintained an internal innocence that seemed untouchable. But in her case, naiveté and innocence would never be synonymous.

"Well, whoever Mr. Pompous is, I wish he’d…" Katherine started again.

"Ahem. I believe that’d be Ms. Pompous." The voice from the walkway in front of the porch startled both the Sergeant and his detective. They met each other’s eyes with furrowed brows before cocking their heads toward the source of this latest interruption.

Katherine quirked her right brow at the sight before her. Ms. Pompous was all of six feet tall with raven black hair that framed her strong beautiful features and rested behind her shoulders. The young detective was captivated by the woman’s blue eyes. Well, she guessed they were blue, she’d never seen eyes like that. "Ms. Pomp—um I’m sorry, Sam Christopher?"

"It’s short for Samantha." The dark haired agent replied and offered her strong, sleek hand to Katherine. "’Mornin, I’m Special Agent Samantha Christopher… I suppose ‘of the FBI’ goes without mentioning."

Katherine took the offer and returned it with a strong handshake. "Agent Christopher… I’m Detective Katherine Gabriel. This is the Sergeant over homicide, Sgt. Al Kintrell." Katherine smiled warmly and glanced over at Kintrell, as she released her hold on the agent’s hand.

Samantha Christopher was already absorbing the two figures before her, trying to crawl inside their minds. When she took a firm grasp of Kintrell’s hand she was impressed with the strength that squeezed back at her own. Whether he had any respect for the FBI or women in this line of work… he was at least giving her the benefit of the doubt, and that impressed her a great deal. "Sgt. Kintrell. It’s a pleasure. So what do we know about the scene thus far?"

She doesn’t waste any time. "Quite frankly, we don’t know much at all. We were instructed to await your investigative expertise." Katherine’s words were harsh and not lost on their target.

The agent tightened her jaw as she stepped onto the porch and faced the detective. "Detective Gabriel, I believe you have been misinformed. I have no intention of taking over your investigation. Quite frankly I’m not that type of agent. It’s not often that I get to survey a crime scene in its original state, that’s why I arranged it through your Chief to be called in."

Arranged it? Ah shit! Her mouth was gonna get her in trouble before this day was out. Katherine tightened her jaws as she pondered this and was finding it hard to contain her growing distaste.

"I’m here to profile your killer… to get inside his mind and offer you a glimpse into his soul. Where’s the officer who was first on the scene? I need to talk to him… her? First." Agent Christopher locked a penetrating stare that had cleared to an iridescent blue on the deep greens of the smaller woman.

"Agent Christopher, he’s in his patrol car, the one there in the drive." Sgt. Kintrell placed a soft hand on the agent’s back and directed her to the black and white patrol car parked on the side of the house with its engine running and heat on high. She acknowledged the sergeant with a closed-lipped half-smile and ducked her head before stalking of the porch. Kintrell followed the agent, her full-length black leather coat drifting along smoothly behind her. As he stepped off the last step of the porch Kintrell looked over his shoulder at Katherine who had yet to budge. She returned his look with a scowl of her own and rolled her eyes before following. The young detective swallowed with indignation and followed her mentor and this new thorn-in-her-side.

As Katherine approached the black and white Crown Vic she circled around to the front left fender, and stood to the agent’s left side as Christopher talked to the officer who’d found the victim.

"Officer Petrelli, what brought you out to this house tonight?" Christopher began questioning the officer who’d just glimpsed the handy work of a madman. Before he answered the question he cast hesitant eyes toward Katherine. The agent followed the officer’s eyes and watched Katherine assure him with a barely noticeable, but comforting smile and a gentle nod of her head. Samantha was struck by the exchange between Petrelli and the detective, realizing that Katherine had the trust and respect of the line officers. The agent knew that this wasn’t an easy task for a female detective and she decided to leave her assumptions about the detective’s character open for a little more observation. This was certainly easier said than done, though, considering her inclination toward first impressions.

Samantha bit at the corner of her lip before returning her blue eyes to the officer who’d begun to perspire, ever so slightly, above his upper lip. The agent allowed her eyes to soften just a bit, to create a better environment for the officer to re-tell the events that led to the discovery of the 6th body.

"I responded to the house in reference to a report of a burglar alarm. When I got out I checked the perimeter of the residence. All the doors and windows appeared secure," Sam listened earnestly to the officer’s rhetoric, placing his tenure at two and a half to three years of service. He’d been on long enough to describe his actions in sequence, like he was simply telling a story, although the story was complete it was concise. However, he was new enough to still be using all the typical police jargon. "I was walking back to my patrol car when my back-up arrived."

"Had you requested a back-up unit?" Sam inquired.

"No ma’am. It’s pretty standard for dispatch to send 2 units to an alarm call, especially at night."

"But you didn’t wait for your back up before you started checking the residence?" Sam asked even though she already knew his answer.

"No ma’am. We get sent to hundreds of false alarms. Especially in this neighborhood. They normally screw up the code or forget to turn off the system all together. No offense but money doesn’t buy a lot of common sense." Petrelli nibbled his bottom lip hoping the last comment wouldn’t bring anyone’s wrath. After all, he had an FBI agent looming in his window, a homicide detective hanging on his every word, and the scariest sergeant he’d ever met ready to pound his head if he screwed up.

Sam turned the corners of her mouth up slightly and patiently waited for him to continue. "Well, I waited for her to get out of her car and walk up to me. I advised her that the residence was secure and I took my radio out of its holder. I called into dispatch about everything appearing secure and that’s when they told me a keyholder was en route. Officer Andrews and I stayed in the driveway until Mr. Sinclair came over from next door. He let us in the house and we started to check everything, just to be sure. I found the- uh, body in the upstairs bedroom." Petrelli’s eyes were now focused on his MDT screen willing it to speak out to him and beckon him to respond to another call. Anything to free him of the eyes that were trying their damnedest to stare through to his core.

"Thank you Officer Petrelli. Just make sure you’re supplement includes everything, for Detective Gabriel. No detail on a case like this is too small." The agent made her request in a surprisingly non-threatening tone. Petrelli’s eyes went wide as he realized the FBI inquisition was over, and had been relatively painless.

"Oh, yes ma’am. My reports are always really detailed. Records hates to see my name on stuff. You… uh, Detective Gabriel won’t be disappointed."

Okay Petrelli, don’t get your knickers in a knot. Just calm it down a notch or twenty. Samantha smiled to herself at the thought of the officer’s nervousness. "Thank you, I’m sure the detective will be pleased. Detective…" The agent stood away from the patrol car and regarded Katherine with a sense of purpose hidden under the truce of a warm smile. "If it meets with your approval—Shall we?"

Sam waited for Katherine’s response and fell in behind her as the much smaller woman walked back to the front porch. Okay, she’s either patronizing me or she really doesn’t have any intention of bullying her way around my crime scene. God it’s gonna be a long day! Katherine thought to herself as she led the way to the front door of the house.
 


*****


 


Katherine and Samantha stood in the foyer waiting for Julie to bring them booties and tyvek suits. The apparel, along with plenty of latex gloves, would help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of evidence while inside the house. "Jules, I must recommend you to the fashion elite of this fine city. I’m sure oversized yellow jumpsuits will be all the rage at the next big country club gala!" Katherine expressed her dissatisfaction over her new attire and couldn’t completely inhibit a soft chuckle at the FBI agent in yellow tyvek.

"What are you laughing at?" Sam spoke in an even tone with a firmly arched brow.

"I’m sorry, but you look like a six foot banana in that thing."

Julie and Brenda stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed at Katherine’s bold statement and couldn’t believe she was speaking to an FBI agent in such a manner; a particularly menacing looking agent at that. Kintrell looked on helplessly from outside the front door. Agent Christopher was rather taken back as well, she didn’t know whether to be angry or amused. She chose the latter and allowed a touch of respect for the young detective to ease its way into her heart.

A glimmer of a smile threatened to invade the agent’s intimidating icy stare, to which she gave in completely and grinned wide. "Actually…six foot one, but you owe me a hot fudge sundae for that comment, or perhaps a banana split…"

"Banana split…good one! It’s 30 degrees out there! How could you possibly consider eating ice cream on a day like today?"

"Call it poetic justice… Besides its actually closer to 34 degrees—" The agent’s senses were being allowed to drift somewhat. It was a trait to which she wasn’t accustomed and it unnerved her. Nonetheless, Sam’s last comment earned her a sardonic look from the detective and an upturned brow, which allowed the incandescent light from the chandelier above her head to dance upon the golden specks of her hazel eyes.

"Speaking of 34 degrees… it doesn’t feel much warmer than that in here. Brenda, what’s the heat set on in this place?" Katherine forced herself back to the presence of the moment. In all the other cases the heat had been turned down to keep the houses cool. Katherine surmised that it was because the killer wanted to mask the time of death and prolong the rate of decomposition… that way it would take longer for the bodies to start smelling. This house was colder, somehow.

"Actually Kat, the heat isn’t on. The a/c’s pumped up. It’s just over 32 in here."

The nickname didn’t escape the agent. Samantha was quickly realizing that everyone seemed to like the detective and that she had a natural way with people. "That’s odd." It was Sam who broke in. "In all the other cases the heat was simply turned down. Besides, as I recall, it’s not common for people to have central air conditioning in San Diego, especially if they live near the shore."

Katherine was a little irritated that Samantha already knew about the other cases. She hadn’t even known that the FBI was being brought in, much less had she sent copies of the case files to the agent, but she decided to shrug it off. "Not many people waste the money on central air because of the mild temperatures. In recent years, though the summers have been getting warmer and the winters much colder… besides, look at the house you’re standing in." Katherine spread her arms wide as if displaying the vast expanse of wealth that surrounded them. "As a matter of fact… I’d be willing to wager that all of the victims so far had central heat and air. Money wasn’t a concern for any of the IceMan’s victims. I…I’ll, um…check back through the reports and statements." Katherine muttered the last to herself and cast her eyes toward infinity.

But the comment didn’t escape the agent’s astute ears, nor did the self-deprecating look that shrouded the detective’s face. Sam realized in that instant that Katherine had allowed these murders to seep into the hollows of her core. She was taking them personally and her inability to discover the identity of the killer was bearing down on the young woman’s soul.

"Well, we’ll worry about that later. Maybe you’ll let me visit your office Monday morning and we can mull over all the cases. Two heads area always better than one. Even if one of them’s mine." The agent didn’t know why, but she was trying to ease the detective away from the confines of her own personal reprimand. Sam softened her smile and finished with, "C’mon, let’s get started."

Katherine allowed the angelic voice of some beautiful being to draw her from the hole into which she’d begun to sink… beautiful? What the… Who was… The young detective snapped her attention to the FBI agent who was now standing close enough to her that she saw her own reflection in the azure pools of the dark woman’s eyes.

Sam’s brows were knit together in a concerned expression that the detective wasn’t prepared to behold. Katherine didn’t usually allow people to stand this close to her unless it was on her terms. It was a police officer’s natural inclination to keep people out of their personal space but Samantha was standing so close that the detective could smell the faint spicy scent of the agent’s perfume. Katherine’s instinct was to back away but she couldn’t move…she was drawn to the comfort of the closeness.

"Gabe, you okay? Looked like we lost ya for a sec." Julie approached Katherine from her left side and placed a comforting hand on her forearm.

"Uh, yeah. I’m sorry guys. I’m fine… I just—" Katherine wasn’t prone to speechlessness but her mind simply wouldn’t cooperate with her tongue, causing an internal betrayal to which she was unaccustomed. God damn it, Gabriel…get a grip! Katherine tried to clear her foggy state.

"Hey… we’re not in any rush here. If you need to take a break before we get—" Julie broke in again, her own concern for the now fragile looking detective was evident in her voice.

"No, Jules. I’m fine, really. Agent Christopher, where would you like to start first?" Katherine cleared her painfully dry throat, not really paying attention to her own words.

"Detective Gabriel, this investigation is yours, I’m here as an observer. I just want to absorb the crime scene in its undisturbed state, the investigation and the processing of the scene are your show."

Katherine’s brow furrowed. "You’ve never been on a crime scene before, have you?" The remark wasn’t said with sarcasm, instead it was uttered with simple curiosity.

The many crime scenes that Agent Christopher was responsible for blasted their way into her mind’s eye. "No…Detective Gabriel! Not in the sense to which you are referring." The words flowed from Sam’s lips with a hollowness that brought a shudder to Katherine’s bones. The darkness that blanketed the agent’s face was lightened only by the icy blue-white of her eyes. Sam backed away from the young detective as if she were an animal retreating to the safety of its den. The agent regretted her tone as soon as her words were ushered. As she slid away from the detective she fully expected a defensive retaliation. It didn’t come.

Instinctively, Katherine wanted to recapture the distance between herself and the woman who’d just withdrawn. Detective Gabriel was also a hostage negotiator and her ability to draw people out of their own internal wars was borne out of her desire to help people with their problems. It was almost a sixth sense of Katherine’s to be able to tell when a person’s mind was heavy with the world’s problems; and this was the case with Special Agent Samantha Christopher. Despite her desire to draw the agent into her confidence, though, Katherine halted herself and spoke to the two crime scene techs.

"All right girls. Let’s process a ‘path to the body’ so the M.E.’s office can get to her. Then we’ll deal with the body itself. After that… we’ll tear the rest of the house apart." Katherine watched the back of the agent’s elegant form, wondering what was torturing her thoughts, while she spoke her instructions to Julie and Brenda.
 


*****


 


"Was the point of entry the same? The rear kitchen door?" Katherine started for the kitchen with the same solemn mood that drove her on every homicide scene she had ever worked. Julie and Brenda followed with the agent silently in their wake.

"Yeah, Gabe. The locks were pried as well, like the others." Julie Adams opened the kitchen door, which was already covered with black fingerprint powder.

The young detective stooped down and surveyed the tool marks on the exterior doorknob. "That’s odd… the deadbolt’s lock doesn’t appear to have been pried. Maybe the victim hadn’t locked it."

"How would the killer have known that though?" The agent thought aloud drawing an interested look from the detective.

"He wouldn’t have." The detective held the agent’s gaze for a brief moment before turning her emerald eyes back to the doorknob. Katherine brought her eyebrows together and flexed her jaw muscles. "This isn’t right… these tool marks—"

"Whaddya mean, Kat?" Brenda leaned over Katherine’s shoulder and focused on the keyhole of the doorknob. "Look like you’re run-of-the-mill tool marks to me." The wry comment drew a quirked brow from Katherine. "Sorry Kat." Brenda shrugged and looked at the marks again. "Ya know, you’re right. They’re pretty superficial. I don’t remember what they looked like on the other IceMan I worked…" The technician looked over to Julie.

"Me either. I know we casted all the pried locks on the other cases." Julie was chewing on her bottom lip trying to remember the other cases.

"Lemme ask you guys something. Of all the break ins you’ve ever worked, what do most of the points of entry look like? I mean where the doors were used to gain entry." Katherine was still examining the lock. She was unaware of the silent eyes watching her from high above. Christopher was impressed by the young detective and trying not to be sidetracked by the golden hair still trying to free itself from the worn leather barrette at the nape of her neck. Samantha blinked several times…an attempt to reorder her thoughts.

Julie offered her testimony first. "Well, actually, the most popular form is to just kick the hell out of the door. A testosterone-filled-show-of-machismo, I guess."

"Yeah," the other tech sneered in agreement. "But of the doors that are pried… most of the tool marks are actually at the door jamb, near the face and strike plates. Usually the wood around the face plate is splintered—or if it’s a metal door, you’ll find gouge marks."

"Right, but what about when the keyhole is picked?"

"Well, that’s just it. Normally if the keyhole’s been picked, it indicates a professional. Someone who uses specialized tools… and doesn’t leave behind took marks."

"Is that to say you never find tool marks on the keyholes?" The agent broke her silence again, somewhat perplexed that this would have gone unnoticed in the other killings.

Brenda and Julie looked at one another first, before Julie offered her explanation to the ominous FBI agent. "No. I’ve found tool marks plenty of times, but—"

"But," Katherine interrupted. "They’re usually a lot deeper than this. Like the goober trying to break in is trying to bore his way through the lock. Prying the lock isn’t how the IceMan gained entry. Jules… go ahead and collect the knob and the deadbolt." Katherine stood slowly, wincing at the pain in her knee from being bent so long. "This freak either had a key or the victim let him in."

"So you’re saying the killer scratched up the locks to make it look—"

"—To make it look like he’d broken in." Katherine finished the agent’s thought for her.

"Hey! Have any of you seen that movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas… Oh man, what was it called—" Brenda closed her eyes to help the piece of trivia creep into her mind.

"Yeah! Ohhh, umm… A Perfect Murder! That’s the one!" The other technician chimed in her answer ahead of the pack. Alex Trebek would be so proud!

"Oh for the love uh… I refuse to accept the notion that the IceMan has, thus far, been able to completely elude us simply because he’s getting his Doctorate in ‘How-to-be-a-serial-killer’ from the Sally Struther’s home correspondence class of watching movies!" The detective wasn’t quite sure she’d said that aloud until she read the bemused expressions on the faces of her present co-workers. Her eyes were momentarily drawn to Samantha. The dark haired agent was doing her damnedest to fight off a grin but the sparkle in her pale eyes was another story.

"Hell, maybe he’s just a couch potato." Brenda was knowingly working the last of the detective’s frayed nerves. When she glanced down at Katherine and saw the detective roll her eyes she tried desperately to bite back her laughter. Katherine was clearly trying to maintain her irritation but gave in at last allowing her eyes to soften to a golden shade of hazel and quirked the corners of her mouth.

"Detective Gabriel? Was that a hint of a southern accent?" Pale blue eyes sparkled some more.

"It most certainly was not."

"Oh hell yes it was!" Julie offered in a mock drawl of her own.

"Okay, fine. It was a very slight hint of a southern accent. Now if the rest of you linguists would like to get back to work…"

Sam relaxed in the presence of the lightened tone and she was struck by the sudden sense of familiarity she found in the young detective. She knit her brows together and shrugged it off with a gentle shake of her head.
 


*****


 


It was noon by the time the group made their way to the room that entombed the owner of this lavish home. The bedroom door was open allowing the soft golden light from a bedside table to drift down the hallway. Katherine stood at the doorway for a brief moment and inhaled deeply to take in the hint of any peculiar odors. She scanned the room before entering as if her body’s displacement of the room’s air would disturb the victim who lay on her back atop the king-sized bed. Katherine crossed over the threshold and walked to the side of the victim’s bed and lowered her head, offering a silent prayer to the mortally and savagely wounded woman. She lifted her head and looked over her shoulder at the doorway that was now framing the FBI agent. Samantha Christopher wasn’t typically inclined to require the permission of anyone to enter a room or to perform her duties, but she was compelled to allow this young detective her private moment with the victim who lay motionless, her soul having been ripped from its vessel.

Agent Christopher was silently chastising herself for her earlier remark to Katherine. She wished she could retract the words but they’d rolled off her tongue with no consideration to their consequences. Katherine had taken the assault and didn’t offer a defense. She allowed Sam to retreat without a verbal strike of her own. The agent certainly knew she deserved some berate and was surprised when it hadn’t followed. Sam was also aware that a police officer’s natural instinct is to lash out at whatever strikes first, so when Katherine didn’t do that, Sam wanted to understand why. It was like she had read Sam’s face, her mood, and her body language and simply let it go.

Katherine had no fear reserved for this dark agent and Sam knew it, so it just didn’t make any sense for the detective to let it go the way she did.

"Oh come now, Agent Christopher, not scared of a little blood are we?" The slight remark was presented as a challenge while a golden hue eased its way back over the detective’s eyes.

If you only knew of the blood I’ve spilled… in the name of the United States Government. May your innocence never be tainted with those horrors. The agent realized how ludicrous those words sounded as they bounced off her internal ears. Katherine was a homicide detective for God’s sake "Not hardly, Detective. Evil Dead II is my favorite movie. Doesn’t get much bloodier than that, now does it?" Sam delivered a half smile over brilliant white teeth.

"Hmph… shows what you know. The first one was much better." Katherine quipped as she brushed past the now slack-mouthed agent. "Bren, Jules… you know the drill ladies. Bag her hands and methanol-tape the floor around the bed, and the sheets around her body. We’ll do it again after the body’s been removed." Katherine didn’t miss a beat as she slipped back into detective-mode.

Katherine plowed on with the crime scene techs, overseeing the fingerprint dusting, and the application of methanol lined tape to every conceivable surface of the bedroom, picking up loose fibers and hairs and anything that might link back to the killer.
 


*****


 


The body had long been removed from the house and was now the concern of the Medical Examiner’s office. It always struck Katherine as odd, but the most important piece of evidence went relatively untouched by law enforcement. Instead the body would be scrutinized and picked apart by a forensic pathologist and his morgue assistants.

The young detective would catch herself watching the FBI agent’s deep concentration over her surroundings, wondering what thoughts were occupying the dark woman’s mind. Samantha worked silently as she watched and looked and learned.

The detective was trying to think like the killer; trying to determine what his actions were, where he walked and what he touched.

The agent was consumed with becoming the killer, feeling his essence, trying to understand what motivated him to commit his crimes. It takes a killer to know a killer. I suppose that’s what makes me the best at what I do. Samantha’s thoughts were grim but held a truth she wished didn’t exist.

Both women’s approaches were designed to catch the IceMan. Their needs and motivations prompted them to extract separate elements from the scene, however, the desired outcome was the same, as was the emotional weight that would be carried by both: collectively and independently.
 


*****


 


The sun had risen and set despite the goings on in the IceMan’s latest hunting ground. The four women remained inside the home until nearly midnight before they decided that as much evidence had been collected as was going to be collected.

"All right folks. Let’s lock her down for the night—"

Katherine’s latest request was interrupted by the dark-haired agent. "’For the night?’ We’re coming back?"

"We? No. Brenda and Julie and yours truly? Yes. I just want to do a final vacuuming in the rooms with carpeting. Agent Christopher, it’s not necessary for you to be here for that."

"I’d be happy to come back if there’s anything I can do to help." The agent offered her sincere request to the detective, who obviously appreciated the gesture.

Katherine’s face lit with the sincerity of the agent’s words. She slid in front of the dark woman and looked up to meet Sam’s eyes, as she placed her hand on the side of the agent’s shoulder. "Thank you Agent Christopher, but that’s not necessary. You get to sleep-in in the morning and if I were you, I’d spend the day doing not much of anything else. I owe you a banana split… you can collect Monday, but I’m gonna make you work for it." Katherine couldn’t contain the smile that developed her beautiful features. It proved infectious too, because the agent was drawn into its peacefulness and mirrored the detective’s with one of her own.

"Fair enough Detective Gabriel… but it’s Sam. Remember, short for Samantha?"

The golden-haired woman offered a firmly arched brow in return and cocked her head to the side. "Detective Gabriel?"

"Ah yes. Fair is fair… Katherine—"

"Very good! Till Monday morning, then. Bren, Jules… I’ll see you two tomorrow."

An unexplainable warmth had developed between the detective and the dark haired agent. The connection was unspoken but each woman acknowledged its presence silently. As Katherine filed out of the victim’s bedroom behind Julie and Brenda she was aware of the tall form behind her and found herself comforted by a sense of familiarity.
 
 

Chapter 2


 


The four women were standing on the front walkway, the inky black sky not offering any relief from the chill in the air. All the doors and windows on the ground level of the house were sealed with adhesive tape bearing the seal of the San Diego PD and a warning that unauthorized entry was prohibited. Each seal also bore the date/time and the initials of the detective and Julie Adams.

"Sure doesn’t take long for the excitement to die down, does it?" The icy night’s silence was broken first by Brenda.

Katherine scanned her surroundings and agreed with the technician’s appraisal of the desolate street. The soirée of marked and unmarked patrol cars, news vans and dutiful onlookers had all but dispersed. The only vehicles remaining on the street were two crime scene vans, the detective’s jeep, and a lone black and white patrol car. Even Sgt. Kintrell had disappeared into the night air, or the day air, Katherine wasn’t sure which. Hell. Katherine didn’t even remember him leaving. "Wait that’s odd…there’s a car missing." Katherine spoke softly to herself before directing her attention toward the tall agent. "Hey, Samantha. Where’s your wheels?"

Sam held up her index finger to the detective who was now standing in front of her. "Um, yes. The number for Yellow Cab…? -6161. Thank you." Sam brought the phone down and cleared the call to information.

"Yellow Cab?"

"Later Gabe, we’ll see ya in the mornin’, hon!" Julie was waving to Katherine as she and Brenda walked to their respective vans and escaped behind their steering wheels.

The small detective flagged her right arm in the air but was distracted by a phone call about Yellow Cab. "FBI can’t set its agents up with transportation? Don’t you have a rental?"

The taller woman hesitated at dialing the number for the cab company and raised her eyes. Her strong features softened with the warmth of a captivating smile before she responded. "I haven’t had time to get a rental yet. My car was supposed to be here waiting for me, but as is the case with everything in life… things don’t always go as planned. She’s supposed to be delivered Tuesday morning, though."

"She’s supposed to be delivered?" The young detective was a little awestruck by this supposedly harsh woman’s personalizing of a vehicle. Of course, her own Jeep was her pride and joy, but it certainly wasn’t gender specific. "What is she? A Benz, Lexus… what?"

"It’s a long story… Oh, she’s a 65 Mustang." The agent tried for the phone call again.

"Whoa… now. You don’t have to take a cab. My car’s right there. I’ll just drop you off. If, of course, you don’t mind riding in a car that doesn’t bear its own pronoun."

"SDPD issues Wranglers to its detectives?" Samantha arched a brow in the direction of the detective's personal vehicle.

"That too, my dear, is a long story. C’mon, let’s blow this popcicle stand."
 


*****


 


Katherine slid in behind the steering wheel and unlocked the passenger door. Samantha opened the Jeep’s canvas door but hesitated before getting in, goose bumps blanketing her body and the hair on the nape of her neck was standing on end. The dark woman’s brow knit together and the color of her eyes sharpened to a steely-blue. Samantha scanned the street to her left, then her right. She couldn’t see the nefarious eyes that were fixed on her rigid form as she stood next to the Jeep, but she could sense their presence. Samantha was suddenly filled with a sense of protectiveness for the woman sitting in the Jeep…

"Hey Ms. Pompous… you gonna get in or what?" Katherine craned her neck to try and make eye contact with the agent.

"Huh? Yeah, I’m sorry." Samantha reluctantly withdrew from the dark night and climbed into the Jeep. Somebody was watching her, she knew it; she felt it. The agent was silent as she drew the safety belt across her chest. She wasn’t trying to alienate the woman next to her; she was merely trying to get a fix on the eerie cloud that was enveloping her.

"Earth to Agent Scully… Come in Scully." Katherine had already started the engine and had the heat on high despite the fact that the fan was still blowing out cold air. "Samantha? Are you okay?" The young detective had unfastened her safety belt and was sitting sideways in her seat, trying to get the agent’s attention. Samantha’s mind had drifted away from the moment and it was like her eyes were trying to catch up before she was lost forever. The dark woman’s breathing had increased, preparing her for the most basic of animal instincts: fight or flight.

This particular animal wasn’t generally given to running from the physical world, though, and when Katherine placed a gentle hand on the agent’s left forearm she had to duck the same arm as it came crashing through the air.

"Holy shit! Samantha, whoa. Hey lady, calm down." Katherine had already pinned Sam’s arm against the driver’s headrest and took control of the agent’s other shoulder. The young detective was deceptively strong, physically as well as emotionally. When she was sure that Sam was no longer struggling against her touch, Kat eased up on her grip and placed her palm on the side of the agent’s firmly set jaw. Katherine held Sam’s gaze until frightening light irises softened to a deeper blue. "Samantha… shhh, it’s okay."

Samantha closed her eyes for a brief moment and arched her brows high just before she opened them again, blinking several times. Sam’s mouth was dry and when she tried to talk all she could offer was a horse, "Are you okay?" Although her mind had forced her to retreat from the moment, she was still painfully aware of what she’d just done. Sam couldn’t explain it but she was racked with guilt for physically striking out at the young woman next to her.

"Am I okay?! Honey, you’re the one I’m worried about." The detective bore no Ill will toward the agent, which was evident in the desperate concern that had washed over her face.

"But I just tried to decapitate you—"

"Noooo… actually, I think you were trying to protect yourself. I guess it’s true what they say about not waking someone who’s having a bad dream." Katherine just didn’t realize that it applied to people who were still awake. "It’s okay. You didn’t get me. One of the benefits of growing up in Catholic school, with Nuns like Sister-Mary-Margaret-of-the- Wielding-Paddle…quick reflexes."

Samantha smiled a sentiment she didn’t totally feel. She cursed herself when her body reacted like that. For as long as she could remember her body has been attuned to unseen dangers that lurk beyond the normal spectrum of human senses. It had protected her and kept her alive for most of her adult life, especially during her time with the CIA. It truly was a gift born of something supernatural, and it was what helped her ease her way into the minds of the most savage of human beings. Unfortunately it could also result in a shutdown of her mind. It was like her body would allow no more extra sensory input and would shut down, shrouding her with a protective coating that would blank out the rest of the world. Oh God! This hasn’t happened since…

"Samuel!!!!! Noooo! Oh God please say this isn’t happening." Samantha Christopher bolted across the crowded lobby of the Federal Reserve Building toward the fallen man. He was lying on his back grasping at his left shoulder. The young CIA agent got to within 15 feet of the injured man and dove for him as more shots rang out. The world around Samantha seemed to come to a halt as everything blurred. She was somehow aware of the pandemonium surrounding her but her focus was on the fawn haired man who was now lying motionless. Samantha barely missed the other shots that were now intended for her. Instead, the mortally wounded man sustained four more hits, two hit him center mass and two hit his upper left thigh.

Samantha came to a skidding stop across the polished granite floor, as she slammed into the golden man, his hair seemed to develop into a brilliant halo before her eyes. She brought herself up to her knees and placed her blood soaked hands on the sides of his face in a single fluid motion.

"Samuel! Don’t you leave me, goddamn it! Open your eyes!" More shots rang out. One found its target, deep in the CIA agent’s left side. "Unnghh. Dammit!" Samantha squeezed the man’s face tighter, and shook his head, willing his eyes to open.

"Saammmyy… Get. Outta…here." The man struggled to speak through the blood that was pooling from his mouth, over purplish lips.

"Wha… Oh thank you Jesus! C’mon baby brother. I’m gonna get you outta here." Samantha planted her right hand on the cold granite floor, which was warming from the blood escaping the man’s wounds. She vaulted her pain stricken body across his chest and landed behind his head with her right knee bent at his right shoulder and her left leg extended across his face. She came up on both feet and put her hands under his shoulders and grabbed him under the armpits. Once she had a firm hold on him she started dragging him across the cold floor. People were still running and screaming, without sound, from all areas of her mind, and the agent was faintly aware of a number of bodies that littered the granite floor… bullets meant for her and her brother missed their marks and took out several innocents in their frenzy of escape. A faint glimmer of hope tugged at her eyes as she neared some useful cover behind an ugly marble statue that rested atop a huge pedestal.

Another searing white-hot pain ripped into the woman’s left leg, tearing a large mass of muscle. That was the leg she had been standing on when the bullet struck, and wouldn’t bear her weight, forcing her to drop her brother and land across his mangled chest.

"Sammy please, leave me here. Its over, honey."

"Samuel, don’t do this to me." Samantha’s face was contorted with pain, and it wasn’t of the physical sense, because her body was beginning to numb all over. She leaned close to her brother’s face, and pressed her forehead against his. She remembered the cold, clammy feel of his skin. "I love you." The whisper was barely audible.

"I love you too, honey. Sammy… it’s gonna. Be. Okay. Sammy…?"

"Huh… what, baby?" Samantha brought her tear-streaked face up and looked into a pair of blue eyes that mirrored her own.

"I’m only your baby brother by four-and-a-half minutes." His face lit with a familiar smile that broke the dark woman’s heart every time she was blessed with it. She couldn’t respond, she could only hold his gaze until his eyes glassed over and his life force drifted from his body. Samantha’s brother went limp in her arms, which prompted a final hug that she could scarcely bring herself to release. She eased his body to the cold floor and whispered an apology into his ear. Leaning over his face again she touched trembling lips to his forehead and bade him goodnight for eternity. As she withdrew, she waved her hand over his eyes drawing them closed, but not before they burned their clear blue image into her mind’s eye forever.

It was with one motion that the CIA agent retrieved her service pistol in her right hand and her brother’s pistol in her left. Samantha was standing and scanning her surroundings for the sniper that had just robbed her of the single most precious element of her life. A chill ran the length of her spine and the hairs just above her shirt collar stood on end. Once fully poised, she leveled her steely gaze at the mezzanine that towered above the lobby, without completely raising her head.

Her breathing was fast, but even, as she flexed her jaw muscles. "Where are you, you bastard?" A faint sparkle twinkled in her eyes as a wicked grin spread wide across her face, before disappearing into a tightly clenched jaw. The sniper was spotted and he knew it, but before he could make it to his feet Samantha had him in her sights. He tried to rise and prepare his escape, but Samantha unloaded an entire magazine of Black Talon ammunition into his chest, the spent rounds following his corpse to the railing of the mezzanine, and over it to the unforgiving floor below. The expression on Samantha’s face never changed as she dropped her weapon and exchanged it for her brother’s.

"Too many shots were fired on us for you to have been working alone… and from too many directions—" Samantha hissed as she recalled every shot that drove her brother over death’s threshold and triangulated their origins. She glanced to the right about 45 degrees and found a second sniper. He was already standing, contemplating his escape. Sam leveled the barrel of her brother’s gun and squeezed the trigger once and turned to face the third gunman. The single shot had found its mark just above the sniper’s right eye, obliterating his skull and propelling bits of bone and brain on the wall and ceiling behind him. Samantha already had the third gunman in her sights before the second man’s body melted to the floor, high above the lobby. With the slightest of head starts, the third sniper had already made it to the mezzanine’s staircase. He slung his sniper rifle over his left shoulder and started his decent on the staircase, three steps at a time.

Samantha allowed the front sight of her brother’s gun to follow the third and final gunman. The first round struck him in the right shoulder, slamming him against the railing. The second one was aimed at his thigh and hit with exquisite accuracy, drawing the man toward the railing closest to Samantha. The third and fourth round hit him in the center of his chest. Instead of throwing him backward again, he continued to slump over the rail, already fighting unconsciousness. A final application of pressure on the trigger of her brother’s Sig Sauer P229 delivered a HydraShok hollowpoint into the back of the man’s head as he toppled over the railing.

Samantha stood, motionless leaving her blank stare fixated on the final gunman. The rate of her breathing had increased as the grip she had on her brother’s gun continued to tighten. With a single motion she spun around on one heel at the barely perceptible touch on her left shoulder. When she completed the 180-degree turn her right arm was fully extended and the barrel of the Sig Sauer was pressed into the forehead of her partner. It took several seconds for the agent to return to the moment, but not before the damage had been done to her psyche.

Samantha’s twin brother was gunned down over ten years ago. It was the event that led her down a path to hell and allowed the essence of pure evil to absorb into her soul.
 


*****


 


"I’m sorry…" was all the FBI agent could offer as she turned her head away from the emerald greens that were desperately trying to draw her in to their confidence. Samantha swallowed hard past a dry throat and squeezed her eyes shut, cursing the tears that were yearning to escape. Her right hand was covering her mouth and her left hand tightened on her left thigh, the pain of her brother’s murder would remain forever fresh in her mind.

"Samantha… I told you it’s okay." Instinctively, Katherine reached over and placed her hand atop the dark agent’s left hand and wrapped her fingers around Samantha’s white knuckles. The gesture did not go unnoticed nor did it go unwanted. Samantha eased her grasp on her own leg and displaced some of her strength around the smaller woman’s fingers. ‘Come on Samantha, talk to me. Tell me where you went.’ It was the detective’s turn to surge with a sense of protectiveness.

For a comfortably silent moment the two women sat in the Jeep. The heater had finally eased the chill from the vehicle’s passenger area. Again the temptation was there for Katherine to try and draw out the darker woman, but she held back. She sat there, patiently, withholding her words, and simply waited for Samantha to come back to her.

"Thank you." The words were whispered to Katherine as the agent returned her eyes to the golden woman’s gaze. When Samantha looked upon Katherine she saw a gentle, compassionate soul that was reaching out to pull her from the depths of herself. She didn’t know why Katherine hadn’t merely flung her out of the Jeep, but she was grateful for the detective’s kindness and understanding and quiet sympathy.

Katherine drew her brows together and cocked her head to the side. "Thank you? For what?"

"For… being there." Sam’s words felt awkward because she hadn’t relied on anyone on an emotional level in such a long time. But she knew that the golden woman had eased her from atop the dangerous perch upon which she was teetering. Katherine had called her back without words, using a force that was foreign to the dark agent.

Hazel eyes glinted with flecks of gold, and the agent looked in awe at a familiar smile. "Honey, that’s what friends are for." As Katherine spoke, Samantha’s words caught in her throat at the declaration from the young detective. Sammy, it’s gonna be okay. Samuel’s words echoed in the agent’s head, and in that instant, Samantha Christopher realized that for the first time in over ten years, her heart was breaking over a smile she did not deserve.

"Friends…"
 


*****


 


Katherine piloted the Jeep through dark dreary streets, trying to make her way toward downtown and to the agent’s hotel. Speed was definitely of the essence, given the height to which everyone’s stress levels had piqued over the last 20 or so hours. Despite all the emotional upheavals, though, the silence that was shared between these two, newly declared friends, was comfortably relaxing. Katherine got on I-5 and headed south intending on getting off on the Pacific Highway to maneuver downtown to the Hyatt Regency on Market Street.

After only a couple of minutes on the freeway, Kat tightened her grasp on the steering wheel. Samantha noted the increased tension and glanced up at the detective. Katherine was flexing her jaw muscles as she alternated her piercing greens from the road in front of her to her rearview mirrors.

Samantha arched her left brow. "How long has he been following us?"

"Wha… how’d you know?"

"Call it women’s intuition. By the way, you might wanna ease up on the death drip you have on that wheel." Sam nodded at the steering wheel. "How long?"

"I first noticed him on Neptune Place. I made a few extra turns before picking up I-5—"

"I was wondering what you were doing. I was about to ask if you were lost before you finally hit Grand Ave-" The last comment earned the agent a sardonic look from her driver. She quelled a sharp retort from the detective by asking, "May I?" and indicated the rear view mirror.

Katherine nodded her silent approval. Samantha adjusted the mirror and searched the sparse array of cars traveling behind them. "It’s a dark sedan…almost looks like a Volvo.

"Gotcha." Samantha’s senses started to focus instinctively. "Has he always been three car lengths behind?"

"Yeah. He keeps mirroring me, too." Katherine referred to the other driver’s tenacity for matching each of her turns and lane changes.

"What kind of time delay?"

"’Bout 3 to 4 seconds."

"Okay, if we’re gonna lose—"

"Lose him?! I don’t wanna lose him! What if it’s the IceMan? You know Mr.Freeze was probably at that crime scene watching us come and go…" The hue of Katherine’s eyes was darkening.

"Oh I’m quite sure he was. But this guy’s not the IceMan. It’s not his style… trust me."

Katherine glanced at Sam, understanding the agent’s meaning. "Damn profilers. All right. But whoever he is, I’d just as soon slam on breaks and force a confrontation."

"I’m sure you would detective…" Katherine looked incredulously at playful blue eyes. "But, we’re both exhausted and if you don’t get home soon and take something for that fever you’ve been harboring for the past 8 hours, you won’t do anyone any good tomorrow."

"What? How’d you… oh, never mind, I don’t wanna know." Katherine sneered and awaited the agent’s instructions. When it got right down to it, Katherine realized how weak she’d gotten over the last few hours and wasn’t sure she’d be able to lose this guy on her own much less stand and fight him.

Please just agree with me, Katherine. If this is who I think it is, I do not want you in the crossfire. It was a silent plea. With no further arguments from the detective, Samantha began her instructions. "If we have a 3 to 4 second delay, we’ll be able to lose him, but you’re going to have to trust my judgment and follow my instructions precisely."

"No problem, Chief."

Samantha rolled her eyes and continued. "We’re gonna go past the Pacific Highway." "We’ll lose him at the Cabrillo. We’ll have to wait till the last possible second, but when I say cut it… yank her off the freeway onto the exit ramp. Don’t break or slow down. He’ll keep mirroring us but he won’t be able to compensate for the sudden turn. After we get off on Cabrillo go south and get off again at the first available exit. Once were on city streets, go to the third right hand turn and pull off. We’ll wait it out for a bit… make sure we lost’em."

Katherine was thoroughly impressed and agreed to the instructions without hesitation. "I just hope she doesn’t flip when we cut this turn."

"If you had better taste in cars we wouldn’t have to worry about it. I suppose we’ll find out if the roll bar works, huh?" Samantha was enjoying the patter between her and the smaller woman.

"All right, Chief, here we go…"

"Keep your speed constant… don’t break. Steady, steady… steady. CUT IT!"

Sccreeeeccchhhhh!! The Jeep was more than tempted to topple over on its high center of gravity but, miraculously, it held on. Thank God no one else was exiting! Katherine ushered the silent prayer as she held fast to the steering wheel, trying to maintain a steady turn radius. As she rounded the ramp she regained complete control of the Jeep and eased her onto the Cabrillo Freeway, continuing to follow the agent’s instructions.

"Good girl." Katherine sighed aloud as she patted the dashboard in front of the steering wheel. "Agent Christopher… I do, so sincerely, hope you’re car arrives on Tuesday."

"Me too, Detective Gabriel. Dear God, me too."
 


*****


 


It was almost 2 in the morning by the time Katherine finally got home from dropping Sam off at the Hyatt Regency. The final leg of her trip went without incident, for which she was extremely grateful. Although the young detective hungered for the comfort and warmth of her bed she forced herself to follow the agent’s final set of instructions. ‘A 20-minute shower with the water as hot as you can stand. Don’t forget to dry your hair!’ "Oh that’s dry enough. Jesus, you’d think she was here making sure I was doing as I was told." The detective finally collapsed in her bed around 3 o’clock, Sunday morning. Five hours’ll be enough sleep. It bettteerrrr bbbeee… with that the exhausted woman drifted off to a deep and fitful sleep.

Nnooooo!! Samantha it’s over. She can’t hurt us any more.

--She tried to kill you…

Sammy it’s okay. Honey, give me the gun.

--I can’t… let her… get away with it.

She won’t. I’ll put her away for a very long time… Sammy give me the gun…

BAM-YOW!! "Samantha noooo!! What the…" Katherine was fighting off her dreams, trying to figure out where Morpheus’ realm ended and her own world began. She scanned her bedroom and listened for any out of place noise that could be lurking in her home. Her bedroom was dark with a faint hint of breaking dawn attempting to escape past her heavy blinds. She glared over at the clock and cursed the numbers 06:14… "Damn paper boy! Of course, I should never have hung that damn storm door. It’s just a huge snare drum for the Union-Tribune. Well hell, if those papers had never merged… I’d still be getting the afternoon paper and wouldn’t have to worry about unreasonably early Sunday morning wake up calls!" Katherine spoke aloud to the empty room then fell back to her bed, and contemplated other things she could complain about.

Katherine pounded her aching bones into the bathroom and took her temperature while she waited for the water pulsating from the shower massage to heat up to a respectable warmth. "102.4… ughhhh. I hate being sick. God, this sucks!" After swallowing 4 Advil, wincing over a most painful throat, the pale young woman stood in the shower stall, weak-kneed.

Katherine took her time getting ready for work, vertigo taunting her with its dizzying effects. She actually had to sit on the edge of the bathtub while she dried her hair or run the risk of collapsing under the pressure of a blistering headache. It was after 9:30 by the time she fell into her Jeep. As she tried to navigate the streets, her hopeful destination 1401 Broadway, she was so racked with pain that she didn’t notice the charcoal gray Volvo keeping itself in her wake.

Katherine was supposed to meet Julie and Brenda at the PD at 10 and she was pleased with herself that she was only a half-hour late. "Gabe! You look like shit!" Julie exclaimed as she plopped herself on Katherine’s desk. The young technician reached up and put the back of her hand on Gabriel’s cheek. "You’re burning up. You need to go back to bed!"

"Oh no… not till we finish the scene."

"Gabe… all we’ve gotta do is vacuum. We’ll bag each room separately… just the way you like." Julie was a born nurturer, which was evident as her face softened with concern. Katherine was silently chastising herself for even considering it.

"But you should have a detective on the scene with you."

"Katherine! Buckingham’s here… it’s not like he’s got anything better to do. We’ll get him to tag along. You’re gonna need your strength for tomorrow. Ms. FBI’s comin’ to go over the case files with you… isn’t she?"

Katherine’s face recaptured the tiniest hue of color in her cheeks at the mention of her new friend. She couldn’t explain it but she felt a closeness to Samantha; it was like she’d known the agent her entire life… like they were somehow connected… Oiy… This is what I get for reading about eastern religions!

"Fair enough. Thank you, Jules. I owe ya one." Katherine was rounding her cubicle when Julie called out to her.

"I say banana splits… all around!"

"Keep dreamin’ babe!" The detective taunted but she somehow knew she’d be paying big for leaving early.
 


*****


 


06:14 at the Hyatt, room 320: Special Agent Samantha Christopher was sound asleep and completely oblivious to the world around her. It was 11 o’clock before the agent even considered greeting the new day. She flipped on the television and found the local weather report as she applied a generous helping of Crest to her toothbrush.

-High of 70 degrees and… the weatherman’s words drifted through the hotel room.

"Excellent! It’s about damn time. Now this is the San Diego I remember." Samantha was suddenly struck by the thought of the small detective and a faint glimmer of fear ran the length of her spine.
 


*****


 


Katherine started the engine to her Jeep still hopeful for the Advil to have an effect on her fever. Unfortunately none of the world’s gods were shining upon her this morning. It was almost 11 o’clock as she pulled out of the employee parking lot; the Volvo found its mark as the Wrangler pulled onto Broadway and headed east. The rogue CIA agent, with a penchant for foreign niceties maneuvered the Volvo through downtown San Diego decreasing the distance between himself and his new target.

"You won’t get away from me again, little girl." The dark figure muttered to himself, as he increased his speed, closing the detective’s lead to one car length. His training dictated that he always maintain a 3 car-length distance between himself and the car he was tailing. It allowed for space to maneuver while providing enough distance to keep himself hidden. But his twisted mind was lost to everything at the moment except striking out at the woman who’d outsmarted him the night before.

The Volvo was now immediately behind its target.

Katherine checked her rear view mirror before changing lanes and noticed a dark gray Volvo. Her heart lurched. "Oh shit! How the hell did I miss you? Better than that, how’d you find me?" Katherine’s breathing increased and the palms of her hands got clammy. "My tag… you bastard, you got my tag!"
 


*****


 


"Fuck! Her tag!! If he got her tag number he knows where she lives." Samantha spit out her toothpaste and ran to her briefcase, and started rummaging for Sgt. Kintrell’s business card. "Dammit, his home number isn’t on here." She whipped out her Nokia and entered the sergeant’s pager number with a request that he call her cell phone. While she waited for his call she bolstered through a quick shower, not waiting for the water to pound out the tension in her shoulders. Samantha was almost dressed by the time Kintrell returned her call. She buttoned her worn Levi 550’s and answered the Nokia before she found a shirt to wear. Goose bumps dappled her bronzed skin as she spoke into the tiny phone.

"Sgt. Kintrell?" She breathed into the phone as a cold chill danced up her spine.

"Agent Christopher? Are you okay?"

"Yes sir, I’m fine. I need to get in touch with Detective Gabriel. It’s extremely important."

"Uh, yeah. Okay, hold on a sec. I’m at home, I need to look up her numbers on the rolodex. It’ll take me just a minute."

"Thank you." Samantha thought she should feel bad for disturbing the sergeant at home, but a sense of urgency was flushing her entire body.
 


*****


 


"Oh God, this isn’t happening. I am not in the mood for this!" Katherine knew she had to control her breathing but she was finding it difficult. "Why the hell hasn’t the Advil kicked in yet." A sense of urgency was flooding through the detective, as her equilibrium was giving way to the fever that continued to pulse through her veins. I shouldn’t have been a baby… I shoulda just got the damn flu shot. The detective’s thoughts were rambling; it was becoming difficult for her to hold a single thought. Darkness was filling her vision as panic started to suffuse itself into her aching bones. Katherine was on the brink of passing out and barely detected the rear-end collision that sent her careening across 2 lanes of traffic and into a barrel roll that catapulted the Jeep over it’s ever precious center of gravity.
 


*****


 


"Agent Christopher? I found them."

Thank God! Oh dammit! Ow… Oh God it hurts! Samantha grabbed at her chest and balled her hand into a fist. She was overcome with a tightness that threatened to rip her heart from the very confines of its ribcage. The tightness subsided and gave way to a throbbing in her head.

"Agent Christopher? Are you still there?"

"Yes sir, I’m still here." Samantha was forcing herself to control her breathing. Her pulse was rapid and her skin cool and clammy. She was taken back, very briefly to the moments just before the shots rang out at the Federal Reserve Building, over 10 years ago. The same tightness in her chest and skull-splitting headache racked her body moments before she broke into that flat run across the lobby floor, and slid into her brother. "Katherine" The barely audible plea escaped her lips before she had a chance to contain it.

"Huh? Agent Christiph… Ah, crap. Hold on a second. My other line’s beeping—" Sgt. Kintrell didn’t wait for the agent’s response before he clicked over.

"Sgt. Kintrell…? Dammit!"
 


*****


 


Katherine’s tightly muscled body was completely limp as it was thrashed about in the driver’s seat of her Wrangler, but her shoulder harness restrained her body from being flung out of the vehicle. The black canvas top was reduced to shredded bits of material and plastic and was strewn for two city blocks. When the Jeep finally came to a rest it was upside down teetering on its roll bar. The unconscious detective was hanging, also upside down, the only thing keeping her body from crashing to the pavement was her safety belt.

A marked patrol unit was less than a block away and the officer had been driving with his window down so he heard the sound of metal connecting with pavement and the screeching of a mangled vehicle coming to a stop. When the officer arrived on the scene, the crumpled Wrangler was still rocking. He bolted out of his patrol car and sprinted to the driver’s side. "Oh my God!" The officer recognized the driver and without hesitation he ripped his radio out of its holder, not wasting time with the useless shoulder mike. "Adam 211 to headquarters!"

--"211 go ahead."

"10-4, I need MEDIC and an additional patrol unit to Broadway and 32nd reference traffic accident with injuries. Officer down, headquarters… I repeat, officer down!" The officer replaced his radio and dropped to his knees at the driver’s door. He reached in the contorted metal frame of the Jeep and cut off the engine. "Detective Gabe… Katherine! Listen to me dammit! I know you can hear me. I want you to start gettin’ pissed off, girl. Do you hear me?" The officer didn’t see any other vehicles on his approach to the scene and figured it was a hit and run. Right now his main concern was getting through to the officer that had taken "Top Gun" in his academy class. He remembered the crush he’d had on her in the academy and he also remembered officer survival training.

If you get hurt in the line of duty… get pissed off. Make yourself as angry as you can. You people have everything to lose out there, but you can not allow yourself the luxury to think about that. These crack-head-drug-dealing-pieces-of-shit survive gunshot wounds, cuttings, and beatings because they’ve got nothing to lose and they don’t give a damn about life. When you are faced with a life threatening injury the only two things that will keep you alive are the most vicious anger you can muster and the knowledge that you will not die.

"Katherine! Look at what this motherfucker did to your Jeep! Your daddy bought you this thing and look what’s happened. Hell, you’re gonna be taking the trolley because of that bastard!" The officer’s heart rate was increasing and tears were welling in his eyes. She was still breathing… barely and it was hard for him to disguise his fear.

The sirens sounded in the distance, their wailing getting closer. What took only seconds for the advanced life saving crew to arrive seemed to pull on for an eternity while the youthful looking patrolman continued encouraging his fallen comrade.
 


*****


 


"Yeah, this is Kintrell."

"Sgt. Kintrell? This is Rainey in Dispatch. Sgt. Riley asked me to call you. It’s Detective Gabriel…" The older sounding dispatcher’s voice trailed off.

"Gabriel? What about her?!" His own concern intermingled in his words.

"She’s been involved in an apparent hit and run, sir. She’s been transported to the UCSD Medical Center."

"What?! What’s her condition?"

"We really don’t know much more than that sir. It’s only been about 10 minutes since the ambulance left the scene. The trauma unit was standing by for her, though… that’s about all I know. I can tell you that Sgt. Riley just checked en route to the hospital."

"Um. Uh… thank you Ms. Rainey."

"Sgt. Kintrell? Is there anyone I can call for her. We don’t have the officers’ emergency contact numbers here in dispatch. I’d be happy to take care of that for you."

The imposing sergeant let out a deep, but shaky breath. "You already have…"
 


*****


 


CLICK… "Sgt. Kintrell? Do you have those numbers?" Samantha was still battling with her anxiety.

Kintrell’s mouth was dry and his voice was raspy when he tried to speak. "Agent… ahem. Agent Christopher—"

Samantha’s heart lurched. "Kintrell what is it!" She dispensed with his title, anxiety fleeing in the face of outright fear and anger.

"Agent Christopher… Detective Gabriel’s been involved in a hit and run, she’s been transported—"

Oh dear God, no. That bastard! Lemme guess… the suspect vehicle was a gray Volvo. Samantha’s heart was pounding loud enough that she was sure Kintrell could hear it over the wireless phone. Her icy blue eyes were darting across the room for her Sig. "The University Medical Center?"

"Yeah, on W. Arbor."

"I’m familiar. I’ll meet you there." There was a coldness to the agent’s voice that did not go undetected by the seasoned sergeant.

"Agent Christopher… are you okay?"

"I’m fine, Sgt. Kintrell." She clenched her teeth and sent a searing pain through her temple. I’ll be much better after I’ve dealt with him, though! Samantha kept her last thought to herself.

Part 2


Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse