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Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 008 (unfinished)

A few minutes of walking brought them back to the hotel. No freaky clown cars were in sight and the door to Cathy Young’s room was unlock, and the room empty but ransacked. It seemed the earlier guests had shaken the place up trying to find whatever it was they were looking for. Diana wanted to immediately fall in to bed at the sight of it, but duty came first. Even if the place was a mess, a trained professional find something useful. Just… blessed sleep! But the case… but sleep!

“Why did I think that was a good idea…” she muttered under her breath.

The Thourn siblings certainly didn’t care if anyone knew they were there; the place was a mess! There was practically nothing right side-up in the room. Papers were strewn all over the floor, lamps knocked over, bed sheet balled in a corner, and even the wicker chair was on its side. The large mess gave good indication that they never found what they were looking for before North and Diana showed up. At least that’s what the detective was hoping for before they began snooping around for anything.

Before anything, though, North wanted to take a load off his feet. The first thing he did was sit down on the bed with a heavy plop – which wasn’t as comfortable as he hoped; more along the lines of a soft cinder block. But for now it would have to do. “So…” North’s voice raised softly as he glanced around at the mess. He had no idea where to start and more he looked, the less he really wanted to jump into it. “Where should we begin?”

When he looked back as his partner, he noticed something that had completely slipped his mind – the slit on the dress! And not the one the designer meant to have there. “On second though.” North stood up. “Why don’t you do look at that cut of yours. I’ll start out here.”

“Cut?” Diana looked down at her side and immediately wished she hadn’t. The bleeding had stopped, though it still looked a mess. Still blood was never something she wanted to see, especially her own. “It’s not that bad,” she muttered, while sweeping up a phone book from the floor. The sudden motion made her head spin and she laid a hand on the desk to balance herself.

“Guess it wouldn’t hur-… The hell am I suppose to wear?!” she gave North a arduous look. The dress was on it’s last legs, not that it was the most.. appropriate thing to be wearing at the time. The thought of borrowing another woman’s clothes also didn’t seem appealing, not that she could see anything reasonable thrown about the room. “Never mind.” snatching up a rumpled sheet from the bed, Diana marched towards the bathroom.

“Try to get that box open…”

“Just go…” North said as he was already shuffling through some of the papers strewn across the floor. There wasn’t anything of much interest, just some odd files and the like. Nothing relating to clowns or circuses or anything! When Diana mentioned the box again, the detective took it from his pocket and gave it another quick look over. Still nothing very interesting and he still didn’t get why she felt the need to swipe it. So it was out of place? He was going to have to make sure every thing in his apartment matched if she was going to stick around then.

Setting that aside, North continued to look through some of the papers on the lamp table, a little more closely now. He was beginning to catch a reoccurring name in a lot of them; David Stine. Who, according to these papers he was some sort of director, but North had never heard of him personally. Then again, he hadn’t seen a movie in years, so what did he know? Putting those aside where he could find them later, the detective noticed a strangely neat section of the room, perhaps where they interrupted the sibling’s search. It was worth a look at least, as if they didn’t find anything anywhere else, maybe it was there.

“Might even find a way to get into that box.” North mused to himself. Sure, it was unlikely, but there had to be something of interest in this room if the clowns were searching so violently through it. Thus, the detective began opening drawers one by one, much neater than the previous inspectors, however.

Closing the door behind her, Diana hung the sheet up with the towels so it wouldn’t be a mess on the floor before she turned her sights to her reflection in the mirror. Grimacing at her less than attractive appearance she immediately removed the dress with elation!

It took longer than she would have liked to get herself free from the dirt and blood, but she had finally cleaned and patched herself up before wrapping the sheet around her. She could have put the dress back on, but the sheet seemed more pleasant for the time being. North would have to understand!

Stepping out of the bathroom, North was no where to be seen, however. “Better not have abandoned me…”

When Diana walked back out of the bathroom, North was well on his way to the front office of the motel. He thought he might as well had figured out who to room was registered to. If it was Cathy Young, maybe she left a message at the desk as to where she went. After all, all her stuff was still there.

After a short discussion with the manager, and a long argument over whether North was really a detective, he got his answers. David Stine was the name. So apparently these clowns were after him and Cathy just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luck North and Diana often shared. With that little tidbit, North gave a quick ‘thank you’ and headed back to the room.

“Stine, huh?” North said to himself, unable to really think quietly. “So who would want to kill a movie director?” He was deep in thought. So deep he didn’t even think to knock before bursting back into the room where Diana was messing about in a bed sheet!

When North looked up and caught a glimpse at Diana, he remained quiet for a second, raised an eyebrow – and wasn’t as surprised as he thought he would be. Shrugging it off for the time being, North picked up the papers with Stine’s name on them and handed one to Diana.

“You wouldn’t happen to recognize that name, would you?” He asked, still rather quiet about Diana’s attire. “Apparently he’s the one the room’s rented to. Whatever the clowns were looking for was his, not Cathy’s.”

Diana was startled as North burst in to the room! Damn, he was lucky she didn’t have her gun on her or he’d have a bullet through his brain! He also made no mention of her current attire, which for a brief minuscule second wounded her feminine pride. She didn’t look nice dressed up in a bed sheet? Bah!

David Stine, though did ring a bell. “Sounds familiar, I guess. At least I’ve heard it somewhere before.” She caught the TV out of the corner of her eye before it finally came to her! “Oh jeeze… that guy is a cheesy romance flick director! I er… have seen a movie or two.” Actually she rather enjoyed renting those b-movie flicks, but North McCoy didn’t need to know about that!

“While you were gallivanting around I did manage to find something useful myself!” she held up a very tiny key hooked on to a bracelet chain. “Dropped behind the dresser. Probably Miss Cathy’s and probably opens that box.”

“Movie director, huh?” North said, not bothering to mention the more embarrassed tone near the end of the sentence. He seemed more focused on the case than anything else at the moment, even a sheet clad agent! Plopping down on the hard bed again, North got a little more settled this time; the doors were locked as were the windows. If anyone did come, they’d have to try a bit harder than before.

“Anyway, let me see that key.” He questioned and took it from Diana. It did look like a perfect match for the little case and finding it here made more sense than a lot of other things they’ve been through. While not too eager to get it open as Diana, but he still wondered what was inside it. A little big for a ring, too small for money, what could it have that was so important?

“Well…” North said and picked up the box. “Shall we?” Sliding the key into place, the detective gave of good turn until the little mechanics inside clicked and the lid popped opened a little. With one more glance at each other, North opened the lid to reveal – another key.

Of course, this key was much larger and nicer key. Shaped like one of those old time ones with the rather nicely designed ivory tip. “This isn’t helpful at all.” North sounded almost disappointed. “But it does seem to go alone with the rest of tonight’s events. Just one more question after another. Any clue, Agent?” He handed her the larger key, this time actually taking notice of her now that he was settled down a bit more. Maybe it was just taking longer instead…

Diana blinked at the key before she rolled her eyes and dropped on to the bed next to North. “No, I don’t. You’d think there’d be something a little more interesting in there.” The severe lack of doing anything constructive was a bother, not to mention the huge mess things turned out to be. She suddenly took notice that North was covered head to toe in every kind of dirt imaginable and promptly gave him a poke in the side.

“You’re covered in mud,” she blatantly pointed out the obvious. “Did you roll your way to the carnival?”

“I just had a … couple falls.” North replied, noticing he was leaving a large mud spot on the bed. He didn’t realize just how dirty he was until he wiped his face and smeared brown across his cheek. “Well, you try thinking straight when your partner-temporary partner gets kidnapped.”

Standing up, North took off his mudded jacked and set it aside. His shirt was relatively clean except for the front where he fell face first into carnival grounds. Knowing Diana, he didn’t really wait for her to tell him before he made his way to the bathroom as well. “I’ll … just be right back.” He muttered and picked up a towel off the ground before stepping into the bathroom. Unlike Diana, though, North just ran some warm water onto the towel and gave whatever skin was exposed a good scrub. “There…”

Satisfied, the detective strolled from the bathroom and returned over to Diana. Only, he didn’t look all that much better from before. He didn’t even get his whole face. “By the way,” He said, getting ready to sit back down. “I take it you don’t expect to go back to my apartment tonight.”

“Don’t sit!” She ordered and motioned a pointed finger at his pants. Diana had already made a fuss of dusting off the sheets from when he had a seat before. “We’ll stay here and wait to see if Cathy or her beau show up again, but I don’t they’ll be back tonight.. Er,” she paused remembering why she had halting his sitting in the first place, “What I mean is, if we’re staying here tonight, you’re not getting the sheets all muddy.“ The idea of staying the night probably wasn’t the best one – if the pair came back to their room finding a couple of strangers it likely wouldn’t go over well. At the same time, the pack of crazy clowns weren’t likely to return to the motel and Diana had the feeling neither were the couple. For the moment though, going somewhere just wasn’t a pleasant sounding option.

“Just take off the pants, it won’t kill you.” She suspected he might complain that it could, and the thought of such an argument brought a brief whimsical smile to her face. It was a ridiculous and silly thought, certainly there were more important things to consider than pointless arguing with her current partner.

North, who was still uncomfortable with having any piece of clothing removed with company, just had an obvious look of annoyance when Diana kept him from sitting down. He knew it had to be something, every night it was something she disapproved of! “Well, it’s not going to do me any good, either.” North said, disobeying the agent’s orders. “There’s other places to sleep anyway.” A lie, of course. There wasn’t a single place besides the bed that wasn’t a mess, and North knew it.

Then he remembered the wicker chair that was still thrown about. “There, see?” He said and turned it upright and sat down. The first thing he noticed, however, was how unbelievably uncomfortable it was. It felt like it was jabbing and poking him every time he moved, but North liked it better than having no pants on around a nude Diana Jones. That just wasn’t exactly professional! Then again, almost everything they’ve done together hadn’t been. Her little smile didn’t put North at any sort of rest, either.

“Anyway, you’re right.” North said, settling down where he thought he was going to spend the night. If Cathy or David shows up anywhere we now of, it’ll be here.” He too suspected neither of them would appreciate finding strangers in their room, and there would be a lot of explaining. But North was sure they could work things out before it got out of hand. Though, the thought of the clowns doing the same wasn’t a comforting, but all the same, it was a risk they were going to have to take. Not like they had the money on them for different room on them anyway.

Plucking a thin sheet off the floor, North threw it over himself and continued. “We can pick up in the morning where we left off. Maybe we can stop by David’s movie set or something, see if anyone knows anything about this there.”

Diana raised an eyebrow. No one could sleep in a wicker chair. Hell, a person could hardly sit in one comfortably! Instead of calling it out right, she hopped in to bed, giving the mattress a bounce test. It wasn’t a cloud of comfort, but it would do – better than a chair! “Whatever you say, Detective.” she finally replied with a bit of sarcasm. “If you can manage any sleep, that is. I suppose you have a super hero persona that rules out the need for sleep?”

North almost wanted to groan at Diana. Mainly for ignoring anything about the case in favoring of sending him sarcastic comments and keeping the frustration high. It was almost as if she enjoyed and wanted the much unnecessary tension! “Well,” North began. “It doesn’t take a super-hero intellect to… keep his pants on around you…” his voice sort of trailing off at the end. He didn’t exactly mean for the comment to come out as mean as it did, he just wanted a retort.

“Look, I didn’t mean it like that – I meant that … Well I mean…” He didn’t know how to follow that one up now. North just wasn’t any good at this whole bickering thing, and wondered just how the agent brought out in him.

Diana wrinkled up her nose, unsure if she was insulted or just amused. North McCoy certainly had a way with words, it just wasn’t a very good way! “I was just pointing out, you’re not going to get any sleep in that chair, but if you want to be all stubborn, that’s fine with me!” Grabbing the blanket that remained at the foot of the bed, she pulled it up to make herself as comfortable as she could get on the lumpy mattress.

“Heaven forbid we get in to another scuffle tomorrow and you’re to exhausted to put up a good fight…” she muttered under her breath just loud enough for North to hear across the room.

She just had to make a point about being tired if anything happened the next day. He really wasn’t going to get any sleep on that chair, and he wasn’t even going to consider the floor. It was more shades of filth than he cared to count. Other than that, the only other spot was the bed, but that wasn’t an option he cared to take! Or – one he didn’t think he wanted to.

It was just his pants, and it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen that before. Of course that time got him into a strange position at the time. It wouldn’t be so bad if Diana didn’t take so much pleasure in putting him in uncomfortable situations. It was just something about her.

“Ok, fine.” North said, surrendering finally. “You made your point. But – you’re staying on your side this time.”

“I’ll keep my cooties to myself, detective.” Diana replied with amusement. Though, where she was supposed to keep to her own side, she wasn’t sure. Deeming it best to keep her eyes to herself as well, less he suddenly changed his mind, Diana moved over to the far side to give him room. She sighed thinking about putting that dress back on when they left in the morning – if they lived until morning! The whole week was one rotten thing after another – the ceiling could fall in just to top it off.

“I should be more prepared…” she mumbled under her breath. If it weren’t just for the weird week, she had been in enough random cases to think ahead for these sorts of things! Diana Jones was a seasoned FBI agent, there was a method to her madness! Of course, that was on her own or with an assigned and pre-briefed partner. Perhaps she took their preparation against her habits for granted. North was throwing everything off track.

With a soft sigh, North stood up and relocated him to the side of the bed. He took one quick look over at Diana to see her amused in the situation, but instead caught her staring off at nothing with a thoughtful look on her face, almost upset looking. ‘What now?’ the detective thought to himself, becoming even more confused with his partner. One moment she was all too happy to make him squirm, now she was off in her own world somewhere.

North just brushed it off for the time being and focused more at the task at hand. Quickly and still unhappily undoing his lower attire, the detective slid out of the mudded slacks and under the covers before Diana could poke fun at anything like last time. “Well…” he said, breaking the sudden silence. “You got your way now so let’s just – get some sleep.” That was followed by the him pulling the sheet up to his shoulders and settling in – Facing away from Diana.

“Goodnight, North…” she mumbled, now paying him little attention while she thought. Granted, she always managed to get involved in the most unusual things, but this time she couldn’t deny that she didn’t exactly plan before jumping in to action. Detective business was a little different from the FBI; after all, one is assigned their cases with a neat little folder including all the information names and dates. There was no reason why she couldn’t have tapped in to that system to verify the location or info of Cathy Young before dragging North out to a strange clown infested hotel that had strangely hypnotic orange wallpaper! They both nearly ended up killed and there was nothing to show for it but a bunch of mud and a fancy show dress!

Diana pulled the pillow over her head and groaned. It was no better than North running off to challenge Mandell. She messed up – possibly even botched the case before they even got started. And what for? Because she needed something to do? North was messing up her trail of thought? Because she couldn’t think reasonably when being revisited by a psycho from the past? Maybe her boss was right, she was going to get someone killed at this rate.

Now North knew there was something wrong. If the sudden silence and disinterest from his partner didn’t alert him to a problem, it was the muffled groan from the other side of the bed. When he rolled over to see what was causing it, he found Diana; head buried deep under the pillow. And she was holding it down like a hit man would to his victim.

“You, uh, ok Diana?” North asked quietly, but not getting a response. Either she ignored him or she couldn’t hear through the pillow. Wondering if he should try again or just let her be, the detective sort of laid there and looked at her for a moment. Sure, she acted high and mighty most of the time and dragged him into situations where North wasn’t sure they’d make it out alive – but damned if he didn’t care about her! She was his partner, and more than that she was a friend.

So with that, North lifted the edge of the pillow to catch a glimpse of a single, distressed eye. And with the most caring and sensitive tone he could muster, the detective looked sympathetically into that eye and said with all his heart, “Hey…”

“I’m not a wounded puppy so stop looking at me like that.” she replied sharply. Diana pulled the pillow away as she sighed and stared up at the ceiling. He was being nice again and she was never quite sure what to do about that. “I’m tired, I hurt,… and I really don’t have the energy to give you a good fight.” Eyeing him for a moment she amended the statement just a tad, “Well.. I could say you look like a train wreck, but that’s not important.”

“Just… sleep or something. Stop staring at me.”

“I’m not looking for a battle.” North said, perhaps a little unhappy his care was repaid with stingy comments. “I’m just wondering what’s wrong. I mean, you got me to take my pants off – again. Normally you would be overjoyed about that!” He tried to make light of the situation, but how she would take that, he didn’t know. Not only did he not know why she was suddenly upset, but he didn’t know what brought it on either. It was a mood swing for the books! “Look, what I meant to say is … what’s wrong? And yes, I do care. One moment you’re more than happy to give me hell, now you’re … upset.”

Now that he was awake for the most part again, North slid the blanket down to is waist and sat up, propping himself against the wall behind him. He wasn’t going to just let the agent sulk all night for whatever reason she had and the least she could to is tell him why. “So come on, Diana.” His tone gave the impression he was determined. “What’s wrong?”

Clasping her hands together and resting them on her waist, she didn’t bother to look over at him. He probably had that no nonsense stubborn look he got when he was being a pain in the rear. Diana debated whether or not to share her thoughts. Really, he was probably thinking the same things about her! Did she want to fluff his ego and admit she was wrong? Not likely!

“There’s nothing wrong with me, and if there were it really wouldn’t be any of your business, detective!”

Unsurprisingly, North wasn’t convinced. And he wouldn’t be until she was insulting and treating him as dirt, like things should be! Besides, he wasn’t going to get any sleep with her muttering about everything, especially when he couldn’t fiugure out what it was. Then again, thier past scuffels showed the detective was no good at deciphering Miss Diana Jones. Either he wasn’t good with women, or she was one of the most confusing people on Earth. Or maybe it was just a little of both. But either way, North had a strange compulsion to find out what was bothing the agent. And he was going to have to be delicate in doing so.

“What do you mean none of my business?” North turned his head towards the agent beside him. “We’re partners, remember? Or at least until they call you back to Washington…” His voice drifted off at the end there as he reminded himself she wouldn’t be there forever.

“But if you don’t tell me, I’m-” He paused. North didn’t know what he was really going to do. But he remembered what bothered her the most! “I’m going to start guessing.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” she questioned. Was that supposed to be a threat? If he thought that was going to be intimidating, he would be sorely dispointed!

“Goodnight, McCoy.” Blatantly ignoring his questioning, she rolled to her side to give him the cold and in this case, bare shoulder.

North raised an eyebrown when Diana rolled away from, she might not be able to see him, but she could still hear him. With a deep and overexagerated infail, North began his relentless onslaught of nosey question. “Is it because you got captured?” He asked. “It’s nothing to be embarassed about. Or maybe it’s the cut. Ok, so it might leave a scar and I’m sorry I didn’t get there in time. Or maybe…”

And he continued like this for nearly five minutes, digging deeper and deeping into the agent with every question. And while he ran the risk of being smothered by Diana at any moment, there didn’t seem to be any end to his continous attack of questions.

She tried desperatly to surpress the twitch at the corner of her eye that was slowly beginning to drive her insane. Actually, it was North that was driving her insane! Finally she had enough and slowly, with deliberate motion Diana took her pillow and gave him a good whap!

“Can it! The only reason you’re being so damned nosey is so you can throw out all the I-told-you-sos, because I screwed up! Really, how the hell does a person get captured by psychotic clowns? In a drag club! An agent of the F.B.I.! I shouldn’t be playing dressup, getting tied to… to.. weirdass contraptions and nearly getting us both killed! It’s… unprofessional!” Finishing her tyraid, Diana snatched his blanket and angrily tossed it over her own head as she layed back down. “…and we definetly shouldn’t be in a sleezy motel room owned by a client we haven’t even met. There’s absolutly no sense and it’s all my fault.”

Well, North seemed to have struck a chord somewhere in his string of questions, but he wasn’t quite prepaired for her to feel guilty over the ordeal! The detective was for the most part caught off guard by that and took a moment before responding. Though his suddenly delay probably wasn’t making her feel any better about the whole situation.

“Hey, look I…” North did his normal trailing out when he couldn’t think of something to say. Now he was pretty much lost with her once more. “I – I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t care about I-told-yous or anything. I just care about … well, about you.”

It was such a touching comment. A caring one. An awkward one. “And, uh, besides. Not even the FBI could predict clowns, right?”

Diana blinked at the fabric of the blanket with a confused expression. He cared about her? How… awkward! Muttering under her breath, she still refused to come out from under the blanket. Despite what he said, there were things she was trained for and even though one wouldn’t expect psychotic clowns, she was savvy enough to avoid situations like that!

“Maybe,” she finally replied. “I still screwed up and I should have minded my own business.”

“Go to sleep.”

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 007

Diana awoke slowly and much to her chagrin her first thought was of North and how he must have felt similar waking up in that room of Charles Mandell. Her head ached and opening her eyes took some effort, but she was greatful the room simmed to be dimly lit aside from a few low lights. She tried to move, but the agent found herself lying on a painfully hard table and her wrists tightly clamped near her head. Above her, attached to the ceiling, looked like a terribly rusty old axe or some sort of antique blade that looked like it belonged in a wax theatre.

“Well that’s original…” she muttered with sarcasm towards the whole scene. It probably wasn’t even real.

“Thank you. I do believe it’s a nice touch to use real bodies in the haunted house.” Startled by the voice Diana tilted her head with much effort towards the sound. The gypsy stood nearby dressed in full costume and wore the most horribly self-satisfied smirk. “And yes, it is real. I am so glad you made sure to be in costume for your final performance!” Giving a wicked chuckle she flipped a switch near the door and the blade at the ceiling slowly began moving back and forth as it lowered.

Diana blinked at the woman and then back at the swing blade with surprise. Was she serious?! People said carnival workers were eccentric, but this was just insane! Where the devil was North when he could be useful… and why was she always stuck in a dress! “You can’t just kill someone like this! Someone is bound to realize I am not just a display!”

Her pleading was only met with another laugh! “Oh, but you see, the haunted house is shut down for repairs. No one is going to find you in here for weeks. Enjoy your last moments!” Snickering with self important glee, the gypsy flipped off the lights and exited through the door. Diana could hear the bolt of a lock being shut behind it as she muttered to the darkness.

“This is going to suck…”

“So, uh, what happened to you?” A driver asked, turning to the passenger seat of his truck where a wet, muddy, beaten and bruised North sat. He managed to flag down a moving van and hitched a ride to the fair, though he wasn’t in the talking mood at the moment. Finding Diana was the only thing on his mind and he didn’t ever hear the driver. “Hey, you ok?”

“What? Oh, yeah … uh, fine.” North didn’t even sound like he was listening. The driver just shrugged and continued down the road, heading closer to the fairgrounds. North continued looking out the window, unable to thing of anything but the missing agent. Where was she? What were they doing to her? How was he going to find her and would he find her alive?

On the horizon, the familiar shape of a Ferris wheel began to show up through the light fog that was settling in. They were only a few hundred feet away when North told the driver to stop, telling him he would walk the rest of the way; a habit of North’s when he was an uninvited guest. The driver complied, pulling over to the curb and letting North out. With a quick wave the van disappeared over a hill and the detective was left alone.

“Ok, now to get inside.” North said to himself. He was alone on the sidewalk; another large field occupied the area across the street – A good of place of any to get in. Or it would have been if it weren’t for the tall, temporary fence they put up, or the barbed wire topping it off. Great. North rubbed his chin, hoping to think of a way to get in.

Maybe he was over complicating things. After all, it was just a carnival; it’s not like there are security clowns on patrol or anything like that. It’s just a fair – a fair filled with murderous clowns, but a fair none the less. With a nod, North decided he might as well try the simple way. Not like they were going to refuse him or anything.

“Sorry, sir, we can’t let you in.” The ticket vendor told North. North himself couldn’t understand why, all he did was come up to the stand and he was instantly turned down. Did they have his picture up? Were they watching him now? “We can’t admit the homeless.”

Homeless?! Sure, North was a little dirty and his coat was tattered and ripped, but he didn’t look like a bum! Well, ok, so he didn’t exactly look upper class either. “Look, here’s five dollars. I need to get in.”

“That’s the fare for children. It’s ten for adults.” The ticket boy said, resting his head on his hand.

“I – don’t have ten. Look, I really need to get in. There’s someone in trouble and I have to find her.”

“If you give us her name, we’ll announce it on the loud speaker, ok? But you’re not getting in!” North couldn’t let them call her name out, then they’d know he was there.

“Fine, I’m leaving, ok?” He said with a huff and walked off. The next person walked up the register and was about to shell out money when all of a sudden North bolted by and took a flying leap over the turn isle. The result was him taking a face plant into the mud again, but he didn’t stop to think about that before jumping up and dashing into the park.

Should have taken the fence, North! He thought as he ran past the crowd and ducked behind a tent. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he peeked back around to see if anyone was following. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone there, just a few confused bystanders wondering what he was doing. And that’s when he saw her, the woman that was pointing the gun at Diana! She was coming out of the maintenance door of one of the attractions and North hoped to god the agent was in there, too.

Wasting no time, he made a run through the crowd again for the door, only to find it locked. The woman had the keys no doubt, and getting them from her was just going to waste time. He was going to have to get in on his own. Taking a step back, the detective took a deep breath and swung his foot at the door; only for it to turn out less sturdy than he believed. As soon as he kicked the door, the hinges gave out and the entire thing collapsed, once again causing North to topple to the ground in a most unpleasant position.

With a groan, the battered detective rose up and limped down the hall to the second door, which luckily was locked from his side. Opening the door, North could only hear what sounded like something swinging through the air followed by a metallic click.

Diana grit her everytime she felt the breeze left by the swinging blade. How did she always fall in to the most bizzare situations? As tempting as it weas, she couldn’t really blame North for this one, it her idea to take on a case suggested by some crazy woman in a bakery shop. Now she was clamped to a table in the dark about to be chopped in half by antique torture equipment! What the devil kind of people lug around this kind of stuff anyhow?!

“Where’s a light switch?” North said out loud, his voice echoing in the room.

North!” The agent was flooded with relief at the sound of her partner, but that quickly with another frantic jolt. Heaven forbid he flips the wrong switch and she meets her end sooner than expected! “It’s by the door, but for the love of god, don’t flip the wrong one!”

As soon as North heard Diana’s voice he quickly entered the room and looked next to the door. The light switch was easy enough to find since it was the closest to the opening. Flipping it, several dim lights flickered on around them, illuminating the room to some degree.

“Don’t worry, Diana.” North said, still facing away from her. “It’s going to be all … right?!” When he turned around, he finally saw the massive blade swinging through the air, inching its way down towards the agent, and it only had little over a foot to go. Now he knew what she meant by not throwing the wrong switch! He quickly went back to the board to find which one shut off the mechanism only to discover dozens upon dozens of switches. The whole attraction must have been run from this thing!

Since they were either unlabeled or had two letter descriptions, North was unable to locate the pendulum’s shut off. “Damn!” And gave up on that. He was going to have to get her out himself! Quickly dashing over to the tied down Diana, North found her hands tied by her hands with leather straps. “Don’t worry, Diana.” He said. “I’m going to get you out of this!” The binds around the agent’s hands were tight and the axe was inches closer now, time was running short. The detective wasted no time in undoing the straps, though it seemed they were prepared for someone to come for her as all five loops where wrapped around her wrists tightly, but in seconds North was already through three of them.

“Do you have to be so dramatic?!” she shouted up at him, keeping a frantic eye at the swinging blade. Now really wasn’t the time for him to recite cheesy lines from every comic known to man! Muttering for him to hurry, she twisted her hands as North loosened the binds attempting to get herself free just that wee bit faster. She sucked in a breath when the pendulum swung only a few inches from her waist.

As it swung closer still, her hands were finally free and she rolled off the table with a yelp just as mental sliced in to the ancient wood. Diana stood on shaky feet as she winced and brushed her hand across her side, retrieving it to see a streak of blood. “Oh hell…” Granted it was only a small scratch, but if there was anything worse than seeing blood it ws her own blood! Paling she reached out to lean against the table but she did something stupid like faint.

“You’re late…”

“Late?” North said with a painful sigh. “Excuse me if I didn’t arrive in the nick of time, but I didn’t exactly get a direct ride here like you.” He leaned up against the table as well, the effects of all the crashes and falls finally showing their stuff; he was hurting. That’s when he noticed the red streak on Diana’s hand and the cut on her waist. He really didn’t get there on time.

“Hey, are you ok?” He asked and stood up again to check on her. He knew she wouldn’t like him examining her like he wanted, but could tell from his position it wasn’t too serious, yet Diana didn’t seem too happy about it. She even looked a bit pale after seeing it! “You don’t look too good, Agent.” The detective felt a bit guilty now for not getting there sooner.

If the room would stop spinning she’d be just fine! “I was nearly mincemeat,” she muttered, “I think I look pretty good under the circumstances.” Diana cast him an examining glance. North didn’t look much better… infact he looked like he got into a fight with a mudpuddle and lost. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing he wasn’t pracing around at his leisure.

Now that she had a better view of the place, the agent decided the quicker they got out of there the better! Aside from her new friend, the swinging axe of doom, there were other old looking sets straight out of a dungeon torture chamber. If the one was real, she really didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out about the rest.

But, she wasn’t about to leave without her gun. …And maybe information for the case too. If she could stop staring crosseyed at the blood on her hand.

A distraction was need, and nothing was a better distraction than picking on North. “I’m going to take a wild guess and say you completly botched being undercover…”

“Well, they’re not going to be too happy if they see me again.” North said admittingly. “But I’m not the only one who’s going to get some bad attention walking around.” He threw in, making sure Diana remembered she was the one captured by clowns. They wouldn’t be in this mess if she didn’t have to play dress up back at the bar.

“And we’re going to stick out if we walk around the park. They’re probably already keeping an eye out for me and it’s not exactly hard to spot you in – that.” Nodding to her getup. They were going to have to avoid being seen if they wanted to get around the park, and neither of them wanted to stay in that room. There had to be another way out of there besides the door that led back outside into the crowd, or at least took them to another exit.

Diana looked down at the dress again and sighed. It was a brilliant idea at the time! It’s not like she counted on getting kidnapped or anything. “Still, while we’re here we might as well do some investigating.” He was right, though. They couldn’t walk around looking like a hobo and a bloody prom queen.

“We’ll wait until the carnival closes and look around. But not in here.” She was feeling better, and she would like to keep it that way. Risking anyone coming back and finding her still in one peice didn’t seem like a good idea.

“Good idea.” North said. “But – we shouldn’t go back out that way.” Motioning towards the door he came through. “It leads back into the park and there’s nothing to hide behind.” Looking around, North hoped another exit would be obvious, after all, they were in the back room where the attraction was run, there had to be another way out.

North stepped down from the platform where the table was located and began examining the walls only to find out that there were obvious doors, just eerily decorated backdrops. “I’m not finding anything, you agent?” He called out, continuing across the room into the dimly lit area in back. It was getting harder to see now thanks to the bad lighting, but the detective continued to search for that door.

Finally, he came across some hinges attached to an unmarked door, only there was no knob. North pushed slightly but it did not give way. “Hey, Diana?” He shouted over to her from across the room. But as the detective was not paying attention, the door slowly opened towards him and bumped into his boot. North slowly turned his head back to the opening only to see a tall man standing there covered in mud.

With a startle and without thinking, North raised his fist to knock out whoever it was when he saw the man do the same thing. That’s when he realized what he was looking at had been his own reflection in a mirror. When he opened the door, he found there to be a mirror on that as well and that he’d discovered their way into the scare house. The hall of mirrors to be exact.

“Agent! I, uh, found a way…”

“Only a bunch of freaky junk.” Diana muttered to his first question, finding herself distracted by another torture contraption. Hanging upside down for hours might’ve been worse than being chopped in half! Pay little mind to North in the back, a small box tucked away in a corner behind some ropes and levers caught her attention. Stepping over some strategically placed plastic dummies, she leaned over and reached. The blasted thing seemed to be stuck in the corner, but once she gave it a good tug it slipped catching her off balance and tummbled backwards in to one of the levers. Much to her surprise the whole wall tilted open, and she was sent sprawling in to the floor! Before she could hop up or call for North, it swung itself closed again.

“Well, damn… ” the agent looked around and much to her changrin she found herself staring at her own reflection in a tall mirror. Lots of mirrors for that matter. And she looked like hell! “Ugh… great. Diana Jones and the House of Mirrors…” Diana at least tried to straighten her hair before casting her glance towards the box again. It looked like a jewely box or maybe something to save your change in, but it was locked shut. Maybe it wasn’t anything useful, but people don’t tend to hide tiny boxes in haunted houses ran by psycho clowns and homicidal gypsies.

Now to rescue North before he got himself in any more trouble!

“Agent?” North called out again when he didn’t get a response. Looking back, he discovered Diana was nowhere to be seen and there was no trace of her! He was about to go investigate when he heard someone outside through the door, apparently they had seen his handiwork and they weren’t happy about. Quickly ducking through his newly discovered door, North entered the mirrored halls as well, only he ended up all the way on the other side from Diana; and the mirrors were freshly polished it seemed.

North wandered in a bit when he heard a click behind him – The door! He quickly pushed on it again, but there was no opening it from this side at all. It was almost like the door disappeared all together! Damn. North thought as he decided to wander about. Or at least tried to before walking into what he thought was the hallway, only to see a smudge in the mirror. He turned to walk down the real hall when he slammed into a glass panel blocking the way. This wasn’t fun – this was sadistic!

The agent had a better way of navigating the mirror maze instead of running in to everything in sight. Holding a hand out in front of her, she easily avoiding colliding with her reflection and made sure to put as many smudges on the mirrors as she could. That way she’d know exactly where she had been and where she needed to try next.

Now if the place wasn’t drafty as hell and giving her the creeps. Her gun was missing, so was her partner, and she was stuck in a flimsy dress and a pair of heeled boots. Why didn’t she think these bright ideas of hers through just a little farther? She could have at least been kidnapped in a decent pair of jeans!

Diana gave a startled gasp as she rounded a corner and came face to face with the clown kidnapper! As she staggared backwards and hit the glass mirror she was relieved to see it was only his reflection bouncing off the walls… but where the devil was he? Worse yet, if she could see him he could see her…

“Jesus christ…” she growled at the mirrors before pushing off to look for the exit a little bit faster!

“This is ridiculous.” North mumbled, now holding his hands out in front of him to avoid anymore painful meetings with glass. “Who could enjoy a thing like this, anyway?” He slowly made his way through the maze, not knowing where he’d end up or where Diana was. For all he knew, she was back in the prop room, wondering where he was as well. He traveled all over town, broke into a carnival and nearly killed himself in the meantime for Diana and he loses her to a secret door. And he didn’t even have the energy to kick it down, much less wanted to pull broken glass out of his rear end for the rest of his life if it ended up like the last door he tried to play super hero on.

Making his way further into the reflective hell, North heard what sounded like a thump echo through the maze. He wanted to call out, but at the same time, didn’t want to alert anyone if it wasn’t Diana. So instead, North picked up the pace a little but, bringing his collision with a mirror down to a minimum and hot footed it towards the noise.

“HEY! I founds them!” The clown shouted out after seeing Diana. “One of them’s in the house of mirrors!” Some one else shouted back, but Diana couldn’t make out his voice through the maze – And the Gypsy was not accounted for, either. “Gotcha, girly.” The clown smiled from his unknown whereabouts and moved out of sight.

North had heard all the commotion and was already rushing though the maze, now able to make his way faster thanks to the smudges Diana left on the mirrors. It didn’t take him long too finally catch sigh of the agent’s reflection, and he knew he would find her just around one of the corners.

That was just completly unfair! They knew where all the special little doors were! Diana hated mirror houses and if anything made it worse, it was crazy clowns and secret doors. It was like a fun house but without all the the fun

Rounding a corner Diana spotted another strange reflection, this time startling her enough to crack her fist against the glass. “Ow, Jesus!” Stummbling backwards to nurse her knuckles she ran in to the real figure, and almost gave gave him a good elbow to the ribs until she realized it was North!

“Where do you get off scaring the hell out of me!”

When North found Diana, he wanted to make sure she was safe, she was all right and un-injured – until she made her comment. Then he wanted to know what her problem was. “I was lost – I mean, I was…” He was never good with witty retorts. “Look, we have to get out of here.” And before the agent could protest or get a word in, North grabbed her arm and dragged her back the way he came.

They quickly passed through the maze without much trouble; easily avoiding mirrors now that North was calmer. “I think I wasn’t too far from the exit when I came in.” he said, finding the mirror with his face-print on it, though, trying to keep Diana’s attention away from it. “Only a bit more and we’ll be out of this mess.”

After only a few more feet of the twisting maze, the duo found themselves in a new room. A large, tall room filled with – darkness. North could barely see in front of him as he walked slowly towards anything. Suddenly the mirror room wasn’t so bad. Should have flipped on the lights back there. “I don’t think they followed us, Diana.” And just as he finished he heard a click and the cold barrel of a gun press up against the back of his head.

“You’re right.” The voice of the gypsy sounded from behind him. “We were waiting this whole time. Did you really think you could escape us in our own ‘House of Horrors’?” Suddenly the lights began to glow above them, almost as if on cue, and a layer of fake mist covered the floor.

North, with his arms up, turned his head a little. “Well, I was hoping we cou-”

“Shut up, it was a hypothetical question! Idiot!” The gypsy woman said. “You can never escape Madame Thorn in the vines of her garden of mystery!” The cheesy line made the two detectives cringe.

“But, you have a gun, that’s not re-”

“SHUT UP!” Thorn shouted, giving North a good whack with the butt of the gun. “I was being dramatic. I was meant for the silver screen! But instead I get stuck doing side shows for morons who don’t appreciate the fine arts!” For good measure, and out of frustration, she beat the gun into the back of North’s head again.

“The others will be here soon, so don’t either of you try anything.”

Diana stared at the mist filled room with some contempt. A former actress in a house of horrors and a posse of clowns. The agent tried to remember if she had ever landed herself in a situation as rediculous as this one. Glancing over her shoulder at the gypsy she growled! “That’s my gun, you crazy bi-”

“We’ve got the rope!” The clown kidnapper followed by a couple others in full costume entered carrying rounds of rope and dragging behind them a rather heavy looking stage light. “It will be our best scene yet. Drama, murder, and lots of electricity.”

The agent couldn’t help but watch with some curiosity as the clowns strung the light up from the ceiling with the rope. She was going to open her mouth to quest when on snatched her by the arm and drug her to a spot just under the light. For a moment she thought they were just going to do something silly like drop the thing on her head but the clown gave her a hard shove and she tummbled backwards giving a shriek through a hole in the floor! Diana landed with a splash and a good loud curse in icy cold water at the bottom in a shallow pool of water.

“What the hell kind of stupid idea is this?” She shouted back up, finding no way to climb out on her own. The walls were smooth and too high for her to get a good jump in.

At the top there was some snickering, as one end of the rope attached to the hanging light was wrapped and tied aroudn North’s waist. “Allow me to explain.” Madam Thorn’s brother and college boasted as he flurished a hand towards the contraption. “One of my newest stunt designs, Only… in this stunt the subject will not escape!”

“Note how the light dangles preciously over the pool of water! What is left to do is switch on the power,” he did so by plugging the light’s cord in to the wall, “and unwrap the safty rope.” Hovering his hand over a bit of rope that seemed to be holding the light up, he gave a nasty grin. “Subject A will valiantly try to holding the light from falling in to the pool of water containing Subject B. For if he fails…. BZZZT! No more Subject B.”

North didn’t know what to make of the situation. Their captures had caught them escaping from one dramatic stunt only to but them in another. This one not exactly is the most impressive yet. It was more the equivalent of throwing a giant toaster into a bigger bathtub. North was quickly figuring out why they both were working in this two-bit carnival rather than some big-budget film. While they were seemingly clever, the two were getting lost in some kind of fantasy as they toyed with the detectives.

The clown from before, whose makeup was now crudely smeared off his face, handed North the cord to the light above, giving him a smirk. The battered detective took the long rope, only to find out it was heavier than he though, almost letting it slip out of his hands right there!

“Oh, that was a close one!” The chubby man commented with a crude chuckle.

This is insane. North couldn’t help thinking. There he was with Diana’s life literally in his hands. Not that this wasn’t all her fault in the first place. “Have you two ever stopped to thing this is, I don’t know, a little insane?” He asked honestly. “I mean, even if I did let the light slip, then what?”

“Then I kill you.” Madame Thourn pressed Diana’s .45 into the back of North’s skull. It wasn’t exactly as dramatic as his partner’s possible demise.

“Makes … sense.” North’s reply lacking any sort of wit. He glanced down at the pool of water where Diana treaded and just didn’t know how they were going to get out of this one.

“How long are we supposed to wait until he drops the damn thing?” Diana called up impatiently from the pool. North almost letting it slip gave her a good startle, but she wasn’t about to let any of them know that! Still, they could all be standing for hours waiting for it to go and the water was uncomfortably cold!

“Quiet!” the cleaned up clown barked before looking confused. “Uh, hey… How long is this supposed to take?”

Madam Thorn was unamused until her scowl turned in to a terrible smile. “You’re right. Speed it up a bit.”

On cue, the burly man sauntered up to North and gave him a rather harsh punch to the gut! As the detective doubled over the rope slide to his hands and the light fell from the ceiling!

Diana gave shout and covered her head as the light tummbled but as it crashed, she didn’t feel biting shock… or much of anything but the cold of the water! As she looked up, the light had crashed inches away from the opening of the fit. The precarious death trap failing miserably.

“Oh, that was brilliant…”

He may have been a short and not all that healthy looking man, but the clown could hit. And hit hard! On the floor, North watched in horror as the fixture fell towards the pool of water, helpless to do anything about it! He was filled with fear, sadness, anger – until the light crashed down several inches from it’s mark, only a few shards of glass made their way to the pool of water.

North couldn’t help sigh and let his head fall back in relief. Diana was safe for the time being and the two were alive for a while longer. Suddenly, the sound of arguing erupted in the room.

“You FOOL!” Madame Thourn shouted to the clown. “Can you do nothing right, Nicolas?”

“Don’t you yell at me, it looked right from where I’m standing!” He scolded back. “And it’s Garbonzo here!”

Madame Thourn threw her hands up in anger. “I should have known better than to trust a cross-eyes idiot like you!”

As the siblings continued to bicker, North watched them and couldn’t help but feel a little familiarity with the arguing. The stout, little man, Nicolas, was waving his arms around violently now as he shouted at his sister, causing his shirt to lift up past his waistline. Not the prettiest sight, but North caught something black and metallic sticking out of the back of his pants. A gun!

Probably his only chance to make a move, the detective scrambled to his feet and relieved Nicolas of his pistol before grabbing him and putting the clown in a police hold. Either he was quick, or the other two were slow, but North managed to pull off the stunt without getting shot or having it backfire! North quickly pointed the gun at the clown’s head and threatened the woman across the room.

“Ok, put the gun down!” North barked, trying his best to sound – demanding.

Well that was a change of pace! The detective was acting like a detective! That was fairly interesting! Not that she could really see what was going on above aside from flittering shadows. However, she could hear and from what she heard North was doing an excellent job!

“Damn straight! Put the gun down and get me out of here!” It’s not like she could do more than sound mad!

Madam Thourn simply laughed casting North and her captured brother a rather sardonic smile. “You think I care? Shoot him! He’s no good to me anyway! Meanwhile I’m going to finish what the idiot couldn’t do and kill you both!” To prove her point, she inched closer to the pool with Diana’s gun still aimed.

Diana scoffed! “How about giving me back my gun you bloody cow!”

Madame Thourn’s reply wasn’t quite the one North was hoping for, seeing as he was quickly running out of ideas. Not only that, but Diana’s constant taunting wasn’t buying him any time. “Diana?” North said softly, hoping to get her attention. But the wading agent didn’t seem to hear him and instead, continued to make remarks about the situation.

When the gun-toting woman began to move towards the small pool, it was more than obvious that’s the detective’s plan wasn’t working out all that well. Maybe he shouldn’t be patting himself on the back after all. But when Diana began to insult Madame Thourn, that’s when North knew he had to do something or they’d have a dead agent to fish out.

“Diana! Would you just – shut up for a moment! You’re not helping!” He sounded so surprisingly convincing, one might think he was actually angry. They might not be too far from the truth, either.

“Why don’t you-… what?!” started Diana with a bit of shock! Despite that urge to tell him to stuff it, she shut her mouth mouth quickly at the warning and backed against the far end of the pool to see if she could catch a glimpse of the struggle over the edge. As her back hit the glass of the tank she could see the barrel of her gun peering back at her.

The Madame Thourn had stepped to the edge of the pool with Diana’s .45 aimed down at the agent as she kept a wary eye on North and her good for nothing brother. “Nicolas, do something useful and take the stupid gun!” Not caring whether or not her orders were carried at she aimed at the agent below and fired the gun!

Diana shrieked as she ducked only to find herself swept by the water as the bullet shattered the tank’s glass, sending both water, glass and agent splashing to the floor. Above the petite madame found herself sent backwards by the kickback of the gun!

As the gun went off, North didn’t know what to do first. On one hand, he wanted to quickly jump down to the tank below and make sure Diana was ok, but with her gun still in the clasp of Madame Thourn, she could still get a shot off before he made his way down. He was going to have to do something to keep her from firing at him! And then an idea came to North.

“How much do you weigh?” He asked Nicolas without thinking about the situation they were in.

The clown man could only muster a “What?” in reply to North’s odd question.

“Uhh – nevermind.” North said, not wanting to waist anymore time. He released Nicolas quickly before giving him a stiff shove towards the fallen woman, sending the stocky man crashing down on top of her! This gave the detective the window of oppertunity he needed to get over to the tank and jump down inside to find the agent in the dark underpaths. The wireing and other electronics littering the area probably meant this was some sort of matinence tunnel under the attraction. The path beyond them was pitch blck, but the sounds of struggle coming from above told them they didn’t have much time to worry about anything in there.

“Arg!” Madame Thourn shouted, obviously in some distress. “Get off me you fat, little man!”

Rats!” Diana shouted as she managed to shuffle to her feet and she didn’t just mean it as a curse! Skittering across the floor around corners were several of the nasty little things forraging for whatever carnival scraps they could find. “Jesus Christ… I’ve fallen in to hell!”

She back up, fully intended to return the way she came, more willing to face a crazy woman with a pistol than a mob of hungry rats when she turned and ran in to North!

“I’m not going that way! I’m going back for my gun!”

Diana would have turned back right then and there, except there was the bulkier North McCoy blocking her path, and there was no room for her to squeeze around him. No amount of pushing or shoving was going to move the detective as, once in a rare while, he wasn’t going to concede to Diana’s wishes. Not when she was going to risk her life because of some silly fear.

“No, Diana!” North grunted, pushing against her. “You’re not – going back!” Grabbing the arm she was using for support, he managed to force her a few more inches into the tunnle. But she definitly didn’t want to go anywhere near the hairy creatures. The dectective was begining to get fed up with her protest when he could hear the two siblings quarreling behind them.

“Here!” The Madame’s voice echoed down the tunnel. “Take the gun! You can shoot right, can’t you?” Nicolas was already after them! North looked around frantically when he saw the outline of a hatch, and sunlight behind it! And – a clutter of rats infront of it. He was going to have to get Diana to make her way through it or they weren’t going to come out that tunnel alive, or at all for that matter.

“Look, Diana just-” The detective paused for a moment to thing. “Just close your eyes and think you’re crawling over a rug or … something.”

“Son of a bitch!” Generally she thought cursing was a little over the top but for this occassion she was making an exception. Several, loud, very unladylike exceptions. North wasn’t going to let her go back, and hell… he was right! The circus freaks were well on their way to following. Grin and bare was what she’d have to do… or in this case close her eyes and curse like a sailor!

Keeping a death grip on North’s arm she walked very reluctantly through the tunnel stummbled here and there, as well as giving a very noticable cringe as something unknown and furry scurried over her foot. “This is horrible… horrible!”

Nicolas had finally charged his way in to the tunnel, aiming the gun at the fleeing pair. “Stop!” A call from above shouted ‘Just shoot them, stupid!!’ Growling at his bossy sibling he fired a shot down the tunnel just barely missing the agent and detective!

“Duck!” North souted, which was a confusing comment since they were already crawling through the last few feet of the passage way. Luckly for them, Nicolas couldn’t shoot properly, the shot he fired struck the wooden boards that roofed the tunnel. The bullet must have struck a sandbag or something that was being stored above because a steam of sand began pouring down, blocking the path behind then. A stroke of luck for the two! The muffeled sounds of obsenities could be heard behind them.

With a final push, the two detectives manages to force their way through the hatch and out of the tunnle into broad daylight – as well as right in the middle of the fairgrounds where many stopped to look at the two piled on top of one another. Realizing the situation, North quickly scmpered off the agent and got to his feet, offering her a hand to hers.

“C’mon.” North said, knowing the side-show siblings wouldn’t be far behind. “We shold get out of here.” Normally he would be more caring about just pulling her through a pit of rats, but getting out of there before they were captured, again, was just more important at the moment.

Allowing North to pull her up, she was more than glad to be out of the tunnel of rats and had very little argument about leaving the carnival as soon as possible. She just would have preffered to leave with her gun.

Muttering about getting some well deserved revenge later, the disasterous looking agent and the not much better off detective tried to sneak their way through the fair grounds as inconspiciously as possible. Looking like a mauled showgirl and a scuzzy hobo, however made it rather hard to go unnoticed! By the time they reached the back gate, the posted watch seemed to be no where in sight and they could slip out without any argument or added scuffles.

“That went brilliantly well…” she growled, pulling off the heeled shoes she should have thought to lose hours ago. Was there some sort of automatic shutoff button for women to forget to remove impossible shoes during dangerous situations?

By the time they were able to lose themselves in a maze of plazas, motels and stripmalls, North and Diana were obviously hurting. The detective was covered in mud, grime and blood, not to mention he was now walking with a limp. And for the first time in he didn’t know how long, he wanted to take a bath. And he doubted Diana was any differnt.

It was now getting late, the time of day where the streetlights come on but there was still a sliver of sun in the west and the two were a long way from home. Not that North was too set on getting back there now, not with a pair of crazies like the Thourn siblings still out and about, but going back to the carneval was suicide and it was against his better judement, but calling the cops wasn’t an option. They still needed to do something though, Cathy Young and was now missing along with her boyfriend now, and they were running out of ideas.

Or at least they were until the throught struck North. “The motel room…” He mumbled. Diana gave his a glance, her look questioning what he said well enough. “What about the motel room? We might find something there that’ll give us – something.” It was a good enough lead, at least. The clown and gypsy had left in such a hurry, there’s a chance they would have left behind any clues as to what they were up to.

“God, I could kiss you…” she was so exasperted with, well, everything, she hadn’t thought about going back to the motel room. Granted that could have been done later but it would have required them returning to North’s apartment. If Diana had to walk another mile covered in blood, dirt, and wearing that impossible dress, she was going to scream. It was just bonus they could do some clue snooping as well! Cathy Young wasn’t there for the Madam, she could likely come back. Maybe. Hopefully.

“Oh… oh! Muaha ha!” her outburst was so random, it would have been easy to assume that she had completly lost her mind! Instead Diana dug in the front of her dress until she pulled out a tiny rather simple looking box. If the dress was good for anything, it had at least just enough extra room to stash something without looking bizzare. “I found this in a really strange spot. Not really something you’d think to see stashed away in a dark dungeon corner…”

Diana’s first comment didn’t quite catch North as offguard as it probably should have. Without all the excitement of being chased and shot at, it finally dawned on him just how worn out he really was. All he could muster up was a soft “Hmm…” in reply. Normally, he’d love to give some clever reply, but tonight was going to have to wait.

At least, that’s what he thought when the agent began giggling like mad out of no where all of a sudden. North thought maybe the stress was getting to her until she produced a small container, only slightly larger than one of those cheap ring boxes you’d find at a jewelry store, complete with a little key hole as well.

“Here.” North said, holding out his hand after Diana finished looking it over. “Let’s take a look at your box.” It was simple enough, he thought, in fact it looked like it would pop upen with a paperclip or a screwdriver. The lock was more of a novelty than a security device.

“So, you just took this, huh?” North said, slightly dissaproving at his partner’s ease of being a theif. Even if it was from a bunch of crazy clowns. “Well, just hang on to this until we get back to the motel. We can figure out what to do from there.” He reached over to hand Diana back the trinket when he remembered she was hiding it in her dress. She didn’t exactly have many storage places on her at the moment. Slowly retracting his hand, the detective slid the box into his own pocked with an awkward grin.

“I’ll – just hang onto it.”

Raising an eyebrow at his comment she tried not to look overly insulted. “After nearly being chopped in half by a couple of nuts, when finding randomly hidden objects you don’t generally think ‘I’ll come back for this later!'” It’s not like she lifted things from people all the time… often. Under the circumstances it was a good idea!

A few minutes of walking brought them back to the hotel. No freaky clown cars were in sight and the door to Cathy Young’s room was unlock, and the room empty but ranshacked. It seemed the earlier guests had shaken the place up trying to find whatever it was they were looking for.

Diana wanted to immediatly fall in to bed at the sight of it, but duty came first. Even if the place was a mess, a trained professional find something useful. Just… blessed sleep! But the case… but sleep!

“Why did I think think was a good idea…” she muttered under her breath.

The Thourn siblings certainly didn’t care if anyone knew they were there; the place was a mess! There was practically nothing right side-up in the room. Papers were strewn all over the floor, lamps knocked over, bed sheet balled in a corner, and even the wicker chair was on its side. The large mess gave good indication that they never found what they were looking for before North and Diana showed up. At least that’s what the detective was hoping for before they began snooping around for anything.

Before anything, though, North wanted to take a load off his feet. The first thing he did was sit down on the bed with a heavy plop – which wasn’t as comfortable as he hoped; more along the lines of a soft cinder block. But for now it would have to do. “So…” North’s voice raised softly as he glanced around at the mess. He had no idea where to start and more he looked, the less he really wanted to jump into it. “Where should we begin?”

When he looked back as his partner, he noticed something that had completely slipped his mind – the slit on the dress! And not the one the designer meant to have there. “On second though.” North stood up. “Why don’t you do look at that cut of yours. I’ll start out here.”

“Cut?” Diana looked down at her side and immediatly wished she hadn’t. The bleeding had stopped, though it still looked a mess. Still blood was never something she wanted to see, especially her own. “It’s not that bad,” she muttered, while sweeping up a phone book from the floor. The sudden motion made her head spin and she layed a hand on the desk to balance herself.

“Guess it wouldn’t hur-… The hell am I suppose to wear?!” she gave North a arduous look. The dress was on it’s last legs, not that it was the most.. appropriate thing to be wearing at the time. The thought of borrowing another woman’s clothes also didn’t seem appealing, not that she could see anything reasonable thrown about the room. “Nevermind.” snatching up a rummpled sheet from the bed, Diana marched towards the bathroom.

“Try to get that box open…”

“Just go…” North said as he was already shuffeling through some of the papers strewn across the floor. There wasn’t anything of much intrest, just some odd files and the like. Nothing relating to clowns or circuses or anything! When Diana mentioned the box again, the detective took it from his pocket and gave it another quick lookover. Still nothing very interesting and he still didn’t get why she felt the need to swipe it. So it was out of place? He was going to have to make sure everying in his apartment matched if she was going to stick around then.

Setting that aside, North continued to look through some of the papers on the lamp table, a little more closly now. He was beginning to catch a reaccuring name in a lot of them; Jimmy Stine. Who, according to these papers he was some sort of director, but North had never heard of him personally. Then again, he hadn’t seen a movie in years, so what did he know? Putting those aside where he could find them later, the detective noticed a strangly neat section of the room, perhaps where they intterupted the sibling’s search. It was worth a look at least, as if they didn’t find anything anywhere else, mayby it was there.

“Might even find a way to get into that box.” North mused to himself. Sure, it was inlikely, but there had to be something of interest in this room if the clowns were searching so violently through it. Thus, the detective begane opening drawers one by one, much neater than the previous inspectors, however.

Closing the door behind her, Diana hung the sheet up with the towels so it wouldn’t be a mess on the floor before she turned her sights to her reflection in the mirror. Grimacing at her less than attractive appearance she immediantly removed the dress with elation!

It took longer than she would have liked to get herself free from the dirt and blood, but she had finally cleaned and patched herself up before wrapping the sheet around her. She could have put the dress back on, but the sheet seemed more pleasant for the time being. North would have to understand!

Stepping out of the bathroom, North was no where to be seen, however. “Better not have abandoned me…”

When Diana walked back out of the bathroom, North was well on his wat to the front office of the motel. He thought he might as well had figured out who to room was registered to. If it was Cathy Young, maybe she left a message at the desk as to where she went. Afterall, all her stuff was still there.

After a short discussion with the manager, and a long argument over whether North was really a detective, he got his answers. Jimmy Stine was the name. So apparently these clowns were after him and Cathy just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luck North and Diana often shared. With that little tibit, North gave a quick ‘thank you’ and headed back to the room.

“Stine, huh?” North said to himself, unable to really think quietly. “So who would want to kill a movie director?” He was deep in thought. So deep he didn’t even think to knock before bursting back into the room where Diana was messing about in a bed sheet!

When North looked up and caught a glimpse at Diana, he remained quiet for a second, raised an eyebrow – and wasn’t as surprised as he thought he would be. Shrugging it off for the time being, North picked up the papers with Stine’s name on them and handed one to Diana.

“You wouldn’t happen to recognize that name, would you?” He asked, still rather quiet about Diana’s attire. “Apparently he’s the one the room’s rented to. Whatever the clowns were looking for was his, not Cathy’s.”

Diana was startled as North burst in to the room! Damn, he was lucky she didn’t have her gun on her or he’d have a bullet through his brain! He also made no mention of her current attire, which for a brief miniscul second wounded her feminine pride. She didn’t look nice dressed up in a bed sheet? Bah!

Jimmy Stine, though did ring a bell. “Sounds familiar, I guess. At least I’ve heard it somewhere before.” She caught the TV out of the corner of her eye before it finally came to her! “Oh jeeze… that guy is a cheesy romance flick director! I er… have seen a movie or two.” Actually she rather enjoyed renting those b-movie flicks, but North McCoy didn’t need to know about that!

“While you were galavanting around I did manage to find something useful myself!” she held up a very tiny key hooked on to a bracelet chain. “Dropped behind the dresser. Probably Miss Cathy’s and probably opens that box.”

“Movie directer, huh?” North said, not bothering to mention the more embaressed tone near the end of the sentence. He seemed more focused on the case than anything else at the moment, even a sheet clad agent! Plopping down on the hard bed again, North got a little more settled this time; the doors were locked as were the windows. If anyone did come, they’d have to try a bit harder than before.

“Anyway, let me see that key.” He questioned and took it from Diana. It did look like a perfect match for the little case and finding it here made more sense than a lot of other things they’ve been through. While not too eager to get it open as Diana, but he still wondered what was inside it. A little big for a ring, too small for money, what could it have that was so important?

“Well…” North said and picked up the box. “Shall we?” Sliding the key into place, the detective gave of good turn until the little mechanics inside clicked and the lid popped opened a little. With one more glance at eachother, North opened the lid to reveal – another key.

Of course, this key was much larger and nicer key. Shapd like one of those old time ones with the rather nicely designed ivory tip. “This isn’t helpful at all.” North sounded almost dissapointed. “But it does seem to go alone with the rest of tonights events. Just one more question after another. Any clue, Agent?” He handed her the larger key, this time actually taking notice of her now that we was ettled down a bit more.

Maybe it was just taking longer instead…

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 006

Morning was never her favorite time of day and that was probably why she worked nights. But, the sun was up and chose that morning to shine directly in her eyes for the soul purpose or ruining any ideas of staying curled up in bed with a very comfortable detective. Diana tried moving but to no avail, if it wasn’t the sun it was the fact she really couldn’t spend the day wrapped in the arms of her partner. Her partner. If that wasn’t a weird enough idea on it’s own having willingly aligned herself with a private investigator, she was staying at his apartment and sleeping with him. And it was just sleeping!

With a strange combination of regret and irritation at herself, Diana slipped from bed being careful not to wake the sleeping detective. As much as she would have liked to stay there were things she needed to take care of, all of which were much more easily done without North McCoy underfoot. Terrible girly things that’d be sure to make a guy like that blush. It was enough to keep her snickering silently for most of the morning.

Once the agent was showered, dressed, and complete with a whole new list of things her partner was lacking in that disaster of an apartment, Diana pulled out her handy sticky notes and scribbled ‘Getting Breakfast’. She blinked around the office thinking of the best place to put it, and figured if it weren’t somewhere obvious, the detective was going to wake up in a panic when she was missing. Another smirk splashed across her face as she slipped back in to his room and leaned over the bed, attaching the sticky note conveniantly over his eyes. He wouldn’t be able to miss that if he woke up before she returned.

The sun could never wake North before, and this time was no different. As the light crept unto his eyes, he simply rolled over to face the wall, not wanting to rise from his sleep. And what a sleep it was, laying there, snoozing soundly with his arms around Diana.

Diana!

It suddenly dawned on North that she was no longer in his bed when he spun over. Quickly rising from bed, he bolted out the room before even realizing he had a bright yellow piece of paper stuck to his head. “Getting Breakfast?” he mumbled, suddenly feeling a bit silly for getting so worked up. At least it would give him a chance to clean himself up a little; he hadn’t shaved in over a week! Dropping the note on the floor, North turned to the bathroom and entered for a relaxing shower. At least that’s what he thought before turning the faucet only to get a stream of freezing cold water.

With a shriek, North nearly toppled from the shower, trying to avoid the icy blast. “Diana!” he cursed, knowing only she could have used up all the hot water. What did she need another shower for anyway? After his less than enjoyable shower, North moved to the mirror where he began removing the scruffy hairs from his chin. Finishing that, and with a dash of cheap after shave, the detective got dressed in some reasonably clean clothes and was ready for the new day.

Almost.

“Coffee…” North muttered as he stepped over to the sink where his one and only expense sat. The coffee maker. Quickly setting that up to brew, North sat down at his desk and put his feet up. He wasn’t going anywhere until Diana got back; after all, she was bringing back breakfast.

“You do realize you’re absolutely insane, right?” Diana said with a raised eyebrow as she leaned against a diner counter flipping a straw between her fingers. The place was small sitting inbetween several more popular establishments and easily missable. It barely fit more than three or four tables comfortably along with the counter that might’ve been able to sit a few stools had it not been covered half a dozen different kinds of baked goods and random eccentric objects.

“You smell like a man, I tell you! And not that pudgey one either with all that fake hair, it’s a different one. Besides, a woman doesn’t ask for breakfast for two unless there’s a man or they’re pregnant.” An older woman with dark silver hair that almost looked like she very deliberatly tinted it blue replied with an indignant snort. Around her neck was a guady strand of orange and red beads which stood out light a lightning beam over the canary yellow apron that seemed to swallow the woman whole. She leaned over the counter casting Diana a suspicious glance. “Did some man get you pregnant? You best tell me his name, girl, and I’ll have Bennie go out and gut him!”

Diana groaned as she rolled her eyes and pointed the straw threateningly at the woman. “I am not pregnant, and if you really must know I have a new partner. Not that it’s any of your business, I just come here for the food!” It was the plain and simple truth, really. She and Fredricks had picked the place for their usual outings because it was so small and unheard of. It wouldn’t be likely they would run in to anyone they were trying to get close to and made it alot easier to talk business. Diana wouldn’t dare step inside his place, let alone invite anyone to hers.

Well, until she met a certain detective. But it seemed she was doing alot of things she didn’t normally do where North McCoy was involved.

“Martha, can you just go tell Bennie to hurry it up? I’ve got work to do today.” There was still that list of hers to take care of and finding a nice and easy case to work on. Then again, organizing North’s office might be an all week affair.

The woman just pulled out a ragged looking feather duster and idly fussed with one of her trinkets. “Did you mean a new case? Well, Miss Cathy’s young boyfriend is missing, but I don’t suggest you go running around the city while that man is following you!”

A shocked agent blinked at the older woman, before it slowly faded away to a more dubious expression. Another reason the little cafe was generally empty might’ve been because Martha was complety nuts. She fancied herself some sort of psychic and seemed to enjoy spouting out random bits of information to unnerve her patrons. Diana on the other hand wasn’t nearly as impressed as she was pretty sure all Martha was picking up on was the obvious. She was just damn good at making observations and putting things together. That man had to be reffering to North. There was no way Martha would’ve known about anything else.

“Whatever. If you write this… Cathy’s name and address down maybe I’ll see about that, but I’m not going to be able to do anything without food so could you tell your husband to step on it?”

Finally getting his cup of morning coffee, North sat back down at his desk in wait for Diana to return. It had already been around fifteen minutes without any word of her. It would have been nice if she wrote down when she left, so he knew if he should worry or not. North just hope she didn’t take any shortcut down a dark ally. Or shared a cab with anyone. Or took up a ride with a stranger. Or-

He was getting to worked up about this. North knew Diana could take care of her self out there. She was a FBI agent after all and was more than capable of handling anything on her own. Unfortunately this wasn’t helping North to ease any. Maybe another cup of coffee will help.

As North poured his second cup of coffee of the morning there was a knock at his door. Quickly putting down the pot and his cup, North made his way to the door. “Finally!” He said as he turned the knob. “The least you could have done was wake – me … up?” Instead of the agent standing there, a well-dressed man stood outside North’s door, an expressionless look on his face.

“Is this the office of North McCoy? Or … “Durocha?” The man asked, a hint of Russian in his voice. North carefully eyed his visitor over before speaking. “Yeah, but, uh, I’m not taking any cases this week. Sorry.”

Closing the door quickly, North hoped to have nothing to do with the man. He’s had enough to do with strange Russians to last him a lifetime. Suddenly the door stopped abruptly as the man outside stuck his foot in the door, keeping it from closing! “Oh shit!” was the only thing North could think of at the moment.

“I am not here for any case, Mr. McCoy.” The man pushed the door open, forcing North off of it. “In fact, you will be taking no more cases ever again.”

North didn’t know what to do, his gun was locked up and this guy looked like he could take down a bull. He just backed up to a corner as the stranger continues walking towards him. “I represent Don Vlachka D’nro. He has sent me to take care of something for him. To take care of you.” He said and reached into his coat.

This was it, North couldn’t escape from this one and there was no Diana Jones to bail him out. He was finished, offed, whacked, and everything else that meant dead! The man began to draw whatever kind of weapon he might have had under that coat of his and North just hoped it would be quick.

“Here’s to an early retirement, Mr. McCoy.” And the man finally pulled his hand from his coat and revealed – an envelope. No gun, just a package.

“Wait, what’s this? I though you were to … take care of me. To make sure I didn’t take anymore cases, to put me in an early retirement!” North said, as confused as possible. What was Vlach up to now? “Yes sir, I am.” The courier said. “There’s two-million dollars in this envelope. Don D’nro would like to repay you for your services and for rescuing his daughter. As well as putting Mr. Mandell behind bars.”

Did North just hear him right? Two-million dollars?! That would set him for life! He could buy a new apartment or even a house! He could but a nice car! He could buy anything he wanted!

He also couldn’t take it…

Taking that money would go against everything North worked for. Sure, it would set him for life, and maybe beyond. But he wasn’t the kind who takes large sums of money from crime bosses, and he was still North McCoy, man of the people. At least, that what he liked to think. Taking that money just wouldn’t be – right.

“I’m sorry.” North said. “I can’t take this.”

“But Vlachka insists!” The man pressed.

“And I insist you take it back. Or – donate it or something.” North said and pushed the envelope away. “I just can’t take this.” With a sigh, the man shrugged and placed the envelope back in his pocket.

“Mr. D’nro will be very upset.” The man said as he turned to go.

“I’m sure he’ll understand.” North smiled and opened to door for the man. “Say hi to Lisa for me.” As the man walked out, North felt a sense of pride of him self that he was able to do the right thing. Even if it did cause him to stay in his rundown apartment with rented car.

And then the thought struck him! Suddenly, North bolted out the door after the man. “Hey! Wait up!” He shouted. Luckily, the courier hadn’t ever reached the stairs yet before North caught up.

“Having second thoughts, Mr. McCoy?” He smiled.

“No, but give me that envelope anyway.” And North snatched it before the man could even get it half way out. “I might not take pay-offs, but Vlach owes me anyway. He blew up my car…” Quickly fingering through the bills, North took out a good amount of money.

“This will take care of the car. And this will take care of some other things.” Pocketing the cash, North handed the envelope back to the man, still wall over a million in it. “There. Now you can tell your boss we’re even.”

The mobster gave North an odd look before shaking his head and walking off. North walked back to his room and placed the money in the safe, along side his gun. At least that way it was safe until he could get it into the bank, which would be nice to have money in there for once.

North, content with the repay and the business between him and Vlach done, He sat down once more and finished that cup of coffee he poured earlier. And all he could think was, wait until Diana hears about this.

Diana was never one that took lectures well and once Martha was through Bennie had a few things to say as well which promptly sent the younger woman skittering out of the place as quickly as possible. She never understood why people felt the need to dictate to her what she should and should not be doing. Helpless damsel vibes wasn’t what she thought she projected to the world.

Blinking at the paper in one hand while gently swinging the brown bag in the other, she mused over the information that was jotted down for her. It was amazing North didn’t have regular work, when all it took was talking to a few people. He probably thought cases were supposed to fall in to his lap or some desperate woman was suppose to walk through his door and beg for his help. Someone that wasn’t already a fed.

Still, it wasn’t like the movies, stuff didn’t just happen. If he wanted work he had to look for it. Now that she was unofficially on vacation for the moment she had plenty of time to make sure one shoddy detective learned how to take care of his business.

Suspicious was her first thought as she passed the man on the sidewalk in front of North’s building. There was a small brief worry that her new partner just met with an unclimatic end but the man didn’t seem like he did a job well done, infact he looked somewhat confused. Besides, all of North’s enemies seemed to lean towards the dramatic. Killing him n his office while no one was around didn’t seem good enough.

She walked a little faster anyway.

Just like the first time, Diana didn’t bother knocking as she entered the office of Durocha PI. But instead of giving a less than lady-like comment on his looks, she warily blinked at the detective at the desk giving him a concealed once over to make sure he wasn’t shot up, stabbed in the back, or something else equally as unpleasant. He looked fine, please with himself infact. That was always trouble.

“Why are you looking so smug, McCoy? I don’t suppose you managed to find work while I was gone?”

“Not quite.” North said, leaning back a bit. “But I did manage to get paid!” There was a tone of pride in his voice, like getting paid was an amazing thing to him. Nodding to the safe where the money was held, North continued his bragging. “Vlachka wanted to thank me so he sent over one of his thu- er, guys with two million dollars!”

Just as North sounded like he was getting overexcited and on the edge of his chair, he plopped back into his lazy position and continued some more. “Of course – I, uh, couldn’t take that. After all, it’s probably dirty money. But-” Standing up, North walked over to where his safe was located and bent over to work the combination. “Nine-teen … thirty-six … two. But! I did take a bit of change. After all, Vlach does owe me a new car. “After hearing all this, Diana certainly would have no choice but to pat him on the back for doing the right thing. It’s what anybody would have done!

Two million dollars. Two million dollars! The man had just passed up two million dollars! He was insane! Crazy! He was terribly honest and it was rediculous. The initial shock faded from her face to a less surprised and mildly annoyed expression. Granted he did a good thing, but did he have to brag about it?

“Well don’t bother taking it out. I don’t need to see it.” she snapped, moving to his desk and setting the paper bag neatly on top. Diana eyed his cup of coffee wearily before snatching it up without any care of asking permission and took a cautious sip. She stuck out her tongue for a moment, but apparently deemed it drinkable because she confiscated the mug for herself as she took a seat on the corner of the desk.

“Meanwhile, as you were turning down enough money to get yourself a real office, I have found something for us to do.” Taking another drink, she dropped the paper scribbled with the notes of the plight of one Catherine Young. “Could’ve paid a secretary with that money.” she muttered in to the cup.

Work was the last thing on North’s mind. Didn’t she remember they were still in trouble? Well, of course she did but a little something like the law could never stopped her. North was separating the bills as the agent sat down at his desk and drank his coffee, not that he had noticed.

“That’s great. Except I’m permanently off-duty until next week – And I’m not going to flash your badge, ok?” North said, finally putting apart the amount of money he wanted. “The last thing I need is to get in trouble impersonating an FBI agent. I mean, your name, your picture’s ON the badge! Did you even think that out?”

Closing the safe again, North returned to his desk with a somewhat large wad of cash, but not before pausing as he found Diana with his only cup of coffee. Not bothering to even reprimand her, he just shook his head. “Anyway, I didn’t get this out to show off. I got you a cut of the money, too. Maybe you could, show just little appreciation. You can at least get your apartment fixed and cleaned and … eradicated or something.”

Diana nearly choked! “My share of the money? What the devil made you think I need any of that!” Her nose wrinked up with a certain amount of insult. It’s not like she picked that apartment because she enjoyed the furry companions! “Besides, your place is the one that needs a good fixin’ up. The least you could have is decent chairs.” She hoped he hadn’t forgot all the subtle rennovation plans she had. The least of which fixing the broken windows so there wouldn’t be a draft while they were in bed.

She blinked at the miswording of her thoughts and quickly spoke again to forget them. “Speaking of clients though, I don’t recall you being on the chief’s payroll. He doesn’t have any legal rights to tell you to stop doing your job. You’re a private detective, remember?” Diana suppose his brother was the one that had all the backbone of the pair! The detective was rather lucky she walked through his door, she was good at being in charge.

“Hmm…” suddenly looking thoughtful, she snagged the paper bag with a finger, pulling it closer to look inside. “It’s a rather nice setup, actually. A private detective. Maybe I should consider a permanet career change…” Seizing something that looked much like an overstuffed apple turnover, she motioned the coffee cup towards the paper again. “At least look at it. It’s just some girls missing boyfriend. How much trouble could that possibly get us in to?”

She wouldn’t take the money. Of course she wouldn’t, she’s Agent Diana Jones, terror of the FBI. Not even a thank you escaped her mouth. “Fine, don’t take it. Maybe I will hire a secretary! A cute, little redhead who wears short skirts!” North just blurted out. “Not that it would matter anyway.”

“And my place isn’t that bad…” North said. Sure, it was a bit dusty and old. And there wasn’t really anything in there, but it was homely. And not flooded and full of rats. But this wasn’t the time to talk about that. “Never mind. What’s this about a missing boyfriend now?” He picked up the paper and looked it over.

With a soft sigh, North looked back up at Diana. “Yeah, we can – take care of this.” He really didn’t want to get into anymore trouble, but a person in need always got to him. After all, he was a detective. At least this one doesn’t sound like it’s going to attract too much attract any attention to them. “We can start by meeting this Cathy Young. How did you get this case, anyway?” North asked, wagging the paper before Diana to take the paper back. “Did you ask everyone on the street?”

“Red-head?” she scoffed as he read over the note. Diana could imagine the woman now, blowing bubbles with her gum and batting her eyelashes at every eligable male in sight. It would be something to take offence at if she didn’t already know him well enough to realize he wasn’t serious.

“If you must know,” she said flippantly, “a gypsy told me!” Okay, so she didn’t really believe Martha was a gypsy, a psychic, or anything of the sort but North didn’t need to know that. “It really doesn’t matter how. The fact is I found one in a simple morning instead of sitting around here all day.”

North didn’t quite know if the agent was sarcastic or not about the gypsy comment. She could be that crazy. Never the less, he now had a case to do, against the local police force’s wishes, but a case. “It is important, Diana. If you haven’t recalled, I’m a detective, I actually would like to know these things.”

Knowing they were probably going to leave soon, North got prepared for the case, grabbing what was left of his normal accesories. But without his keys or his badge, those numbered very few. “And don’t get me about sticking around here again. Besides, if I left, you would have been locked out. As much as I like the thought now…” He said, muttering the last part, not wanting to get the agent too angry. Not while she held his hot cup of coffee. And that – donut thing. North didn’t realize how hungry he was, but he also wasn’t about to beg Diana for some.

“So, off to this Young’s place, then?”

Diana blinked, caught off guard from the reprimanding. He was thorough if anything. Still, she didn’t know how much of a help it would be knowing the tip came from a wannabe psychic. It was strange to feel chided, she almost even felt slightly guilty! How the devil did he always do that?!

She motioned to the bag, but refused to relinquish her captivity of the coffee mug. “Eat first, then we investigate. Can’t have you passing out from hunger at inopportune moments.”

Picking up the bag Diana brought back, North picked out the pastry from inside it. “Thanks for the … uh, donut…” He said, not exactly sure what it was. He took a couple bites and decided it wasn’t as bad as it looked. North simply wasn’t a man of fancy taste. “And if you’re not going to tell me who got this info for you, can you at least promise me you didn’t get it from a – psychic.” It sounded silly, but North was honestly concerned she would go to those lengths.

Finishing the breakfast pastry, North wiped his mouth on his sleeve and was ready to leave. Minus his gun, he wasn’t even suppose to have it and carrying it around was just asking for trouble. Not that having the Agent by his side wasn’t asking enough, but he could at least leave the gun behind.

Biting back a smirk she dusted off her hands and drank the rest of the coffee quickly. Why that was so amusing, she wasn’t quite sure. “As a matter of fact, she believes she’s a psychic. I think she’s just damn good at being observant.”

Setting the mug back down, she stuffed her hands easily in to the pockets of her jeans. There wasn’t anything extra she needed that she didn’t already carry with her. It was almost second nature to stash her gun and her badge someone just in case. Diana almost questioned why he wasn’t bringing his gun along, but decided it was enough he even agreed to go out on a case. The man needed to learn when to bend the rules a little, especially when there weren’t any rules to begin with.

“I hope you knew this woman before hand.” North said with a sigh. This day started off odd and it was only getting worse. “Well, we might as well go. No reason to waste any more time on this dependible information.” Unlocking the door, North opened it for the agent to leave.

“By the way…” North rubbed his chin as he waited for Diana. “I was thinking. Maybe I’ll hire a blond, instead. Or a dark-haired secretary! What do you think?” He said with a smirk.

Rolling her eyes, she brushed past him making sure to give him a soft elbow to the gut. “I think you have your hands full enough with me, detective, before you go saddling yourself with real trouble.” It might’ve been her idea to get him a secretary in the first place, but that could all certaintly wait until she was good and gone.

~~

They should have gotton him a new car. Infact, why on earth wasn’t that the first thing on her list? Tomorrow, that is what they would do tomorrow, but for now they had arrived to Catherine Young’s home… which turned out to be a rented room in a seedy looking motel. Diana wondered why she even bothered to expect anything else, she really didn’t have that kind of luck!

“Hmm…” There were very few cars in the lot as they strode down past the faded green painted doors towards room 209. Most look completely usual except for one she regretted catching her attention. It was a large colorful van, painted with faces of all kinds of clowns and the bright scripted logo of Bastian’s Carnival. She never had anything against clowns themselves, but the artwork always tended to lean towards the disturbing. Much to her chagrin the van was park straight in front of the very room they were looking for.

“This is going to be interesting…” she muttered under her breath, before casting North a bemused grin. “Runaway boyfriends are a piece of cake. No gunfire, no mobsters, so you really don’t have to look so bent out of shape about it.” Not giving him the chance to make a sharp retort, she raised her hand and gave a quick knock to the door.

The door swung open almost immedialty and to her surprise the occupant was fully dressed in carnival costume. Crying clown to be exact! Yes, definetly interesting…

North had noticed the van as well but failed to mention it. He didn’t mind the artwork on the van but clowns themselves didn’t exactly sit well with him. He wasn’t afraid of them, but there was something about them that irked North, though, he didn’t really know why that was, but they did.

Before they reached the door, North straightened his shirt a bit as he spoke up. “Hopefully we can handle this case better than the last one.” He said, finally arriving at the door with Diana. “No more I’ll-handle-this or I’ll-do-the-talking or anything. We’re going to work as a team.” When the door swung open after he agent knocked, North took one look at their host before cocking an eyebrow.

“You do the talking…”

Diana shot North a glare before blinking at the clown again. “Um…” The woman wasn’t speechless often, but for some reason forming a coherant thought was proving difficult when faced with a clown. She quickly regained her voice! “I’m… We’re lookng for Cathy Young. Martha sent us here…?” The older woman wouldn’t have mentioned someone she didn’t know… at least, that is what Diana hoped.

“She ain’t here.” replied the man, the deep timber of his voice the only give away to gender underneath the bulk of the costume and the makeup plastered to his face. Diana could smell the very strong scent of cigars and when she tried to peer around the man in to the room, scowled and stepped in to the way.

She pursed her lips with some annoyance, not quite sure if she believed him or not. “Then could you tell us where we could find her?”

“Not here.” he grunted, before slamming the door forcefully in their faces!

“That didn’t quite go as planned.” Blinking at teh door she surmised there might’ve been a little bit more going on than just a missing boyfriend. Or maybe she was just jumping to conclusions. Who said clowns were cheery all the time? “Alright partner. It’s your turn. What next?”

Before it even begun, the case felt like more than just a missing persons problem. The man in the clown getup wasn’t going to be any help and North couldn’t exactly flash his badge if he wanted to. Using force was just going to get the police involved and that would guarantee Diana and him being taken off the case they weren’t even suppose to be on in the first place. They weren’t exactly off to a good start.

“Well, if he’s not going to tell us, we’re going to have to figure it out ourselves.” North said as he thought to himself. “There was a window in the back. Maybe we can take peek and at least make sure our client really isn’t here.” It wasn’t the most scientific way of doing things and it bordered on trespassing but a quick look wouldn’t hurt. Maybe the window would be open.

“Any idea what this Cathy might look like?” North asked as they circled around back. Even if they did find a woman in the room, it wouldn’t exactly mean it was she. But they needed to make sure, anyway.

Reaching the wall behind the room, North and Diana were distressed to find the window nearly eight feet off the ground. The motel just happened to be built on a hill and the ground had dipped drastically. “Great.” huffed North as he glanced over to Diana. “Well – you’re the smaller one.” He gave her a look to let her know what he was thinking.

Diana rolled her eyes grateful at least this time she wasn’t wearing a skirt. “Fine.” she growled out curtly. “Just for heaven’s sake, don’t drop me.” There was plenty of room to walk, but it was a whole nother story when you’re balancing someone and there’s a incline behind you. Last thing she wanted to do was take a tummble down the hill, and from the looks of it she’d be landing in a muddy ditch.

She’d be sure to take him with her if she fell.

After some manuervering and a good boost, she was disapointed to find the curtains closed and blocking her few. “I can’t… oh wait, there’s voices.” Mutterng softly so she couldn’t be overheard, she leaned closer to the window to try and catch what the two voices were saying. One was the pleasant entertainer they met at the door, and the other was very distinctly the sound of a woman.

“Neither of them are here. I bet she took off just like he did.” the female voice complained. At least that let her conclude that miss Cathy Young definetly wasn’t there anymore.

“Good riddence,” snarled out the clown. He was harder to hear thanks to his tone, and Diana had to strain to listen. “As long as she didn’t take off with the box. I left it back at the carnival.”

The woman scoffed loudly and it sounded like she was pacing across the room. “We just have to find those damned keys!”

That piqued the agent’s interest. So they were supposed to be doing a simple easy case. But, once a mysterious box and missing people come in to play it made things delightfully complicated. Complicated made things more entertaining. For her anyway. North wasn’t going to be too pleased. “There’s a woman, but it’s not Cathy,” she whispered down to North, “and they’re looking for keys to something.”

“Wonder what for.” North muttered as he arranged his grip around the agent’s legs. Unable to hear anything but a muted conversation, the detective couldn’t help but think what was going on in the room. If Cathy wasn’t there, where could she have taken off to? North stared off as he tried to put things together in his head.

Suddenly there was a soft crack of a branch and the sound of footsteps coming from around the side of the motel. North suddenly snapped out of his daze and his grip around Diana loosened as the noise came closer. Acting quickly, North managed to catch his partner in his arms before they both ended up in the creek below.

“Sorry about that.” North murmured as he held Diana up. Luckily for them, the source of the footsteps was just one of the managers taking out several bags of garbage to the dumpster. But as he lifter the first bag, the man caught sight of North and Diana in an awkward position and they acted like deer in headlights.

“Uh…” North tried to think of something to say. “Do you mind?!” He shouted, trying to pass them off as a couple. It was the first thing that came into his head and he glanced back at Diana with an apologetic look. After all, they couldn’t be caught peeking into motel rooms, police business or not. Though, he was probably going to end up giving North a good slap either way.

“Jeez.” The young man said. “You’re, like, behind a motel. Get a room…” And threw the last bag away before walking off.

“That was close.” North said, setting Diana back down on hard ground. “I guess we better try something else.” But before they could even start thinking of another tactic, a loud, gruff voice shouted at them from above.

“HEY!” Above them, the man in the clown make up was sticking his head out the window. He must have heard the earlier commotion and now he’s had caught the two detectives red handed. “You just wait right there!” He shouted again and pulled his head back in. “It’s those two who were at the door! They’re snoopin’ ’round back! Where’s my bat?”

Yelling would have to be reserved for later. They needed to go and they needed to go fast! What a terrible day to be caught without a car! Diana grabbed North by the collar of his jacket and tugged him around the building, where the clown and the mystery woman had still not yet come out of the room. There wasn’t going to be time to hail a taxi, and Diana had no desire to find out what they planned to do with that bat!

The woman dragged North down the street until she decided they were reasonably far enough from the crazy clown and his female companion. Stopping in front of a shop window she let out a light an easy laugh, as if the whole ordeal was nothing more than a schoolyard chase! “What do you suppose he was going to do with that bat, detective?” Her chesire grin was quickly replaced by a blink of shock as the sound of squeeling tires well up the street turned a corner and headed their way. The van so cheerfully painted with it’s clown montage was speeding down the street. On the front grill was the disturbing image of a wickedly grinning clown, that seemed to match the face of it’s driver.

“D-Diana! Wait-stop!” North tried to call out as she dragged him along. She was certainly fast and had quite the grip when needed. Having trouble keeping up, the detective stumbled behind Diana until they stopped in front of a shady building, thinking they had lost the crazed clown. Taking a breather, North fixed up his now untidy shirt and looked around.

“What do I think he would have done?” A hint of sarcasm in his voice. He didn’t have time to finish his comment when he saw the look on Diana’s face. Quickly looking back the way they came, North caught sight of something that looked like it came out of a nightmare.

“Oh … Damn.”

With the van from before speeding down on them with a horrific front end, North and Diana had little time to act. As soon as it veered onto the sidewalk, causing a few pedestrians to dive out of the way, the two detectives quickly charged into the nearest door and out of harms way. Though, into what, they weren’t quite sure.

Taking a look at their new surroundings, North and Diana discovered they hadn’t ducked into any corner shop or some restaurant. The room was so dark, the two couldn’t see a thing, but they could certainly hear a small crowd.

“Diana?” North called out, hoping to find the Agent in the dark. Suddenly, a spotlight beamed down on what looked like a stage and a loud voice boomed over the speakers.

“Now presenting the body you’ve been waiting for! Sam Marra!” It was a strip bar! Out of all the doors they could have entered, they had to choose this one. North looked around and managed to find Diana in the dim light of the stage and quickly made his way over to her.

“Diana? Diana!” He shouted over the cheering crowd of drooling men.

Diana decided it was simply useless to be shocked. They had that strange ability to walk in to the most bizzare situations, and it seemed this time was no different. Her head was tilted as she watched the stage, expecting some topless blonde to come trouncing out, but instead it was the most extraordinarily dressed man she had ever seen. With bright pink hair, gold sequin dress and six inch heels, it was a miracle he didn’t go flying off the platform in to the whistling masses below. If that weren’t enough he had a microphone and started to sing with a most surprisingly fantastic voice. She was impressed, and that didn’t happen often!

North found her, not that she was aware that she had lost him in the darkness of the club. The sound was so loud she had to lean as close as possible just to make sure she was heard! “He is better than he looks, don’t you think?” She shook her head dismissing the comment, afterall they weren’t there to critique the local talent, they were trying to escape crazed clowns on wheels. “I don’t think they’ll look in here, they’re as good as… nevermind.” Always she spoke too soon, Diana could see the faint outline of their chases coming in through the doors. One can’t mistake a clown, in any light!

“We’ll go out the back!” Diana took North’s hand meaning to guide him through the dim light but as she turned she nearly rammed in to the chest of an unusally busty man!

“No patrons backstage. Wait… are you too the new staff?” Tapping his stubbly chin with a pair of glittery orange nails he scrutinized the two detectives for a moment, until he finally shrugged. “Not the best looking pair, but we can fix your right up! Come along then!”

“No, wait…” Diana started to protest but as she glanced over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of a red nose and a bat, nothing could be any worse! “Lead the way, boss!”

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Agent.” North said as he followed. The bouncer, however, raised an eyebrow to the name ‘agent’. Catching his reaction, North turned to him to straighten things out. “That’s her – act name.” He said, thinking it up on the spot. “I’m her back … back up.” North was beginning thing he was digging himself a hole.

They followed the large doorman down a poorly lit and decaying hallway, past several doors before he stopped at a set. “You, you’re in here.” He pointed North to the left. “You, here.” The same to Diana, only in the other direction.

“Uh, thanks.” North said and opened the door a sliver. He was going to wait for the bouncer to leave and duck out the back – only; the muscle bound wall wasn’t moving. “We, uh, know where to go. Thank you.”

“I’m suppose to stay.” He said, much to North’s dismay. “I gotta tell you when you’re up.” And crossed his arms, showing he wasn’t going anywhere soon. North and Diana’s escape wasn’t going to be as easy as planned, and there was still a mean clown out there looking for them, they couldn’t waste any time.

“Thanks…” Looking over to Diana. “I’ll see you … later.” North said, not sounding too happy about what they’ve gotten themselves into.

“Oh my god.” Diana annouced to the empty room as she slammed the door behind her and leaned against it. She wasn’t sure what was more upsetting, the idea of performing on stage, or the fact the guy most like mistook her as a female impersonator. A women’s pride could be cut deep! If the goon was going to be standing out there guarding the doors, there was no way she and North were going to be able to just walk out. Getting on stage in some frilly costume didn’t seem much better.

Although, perhaps that would be a good disguise to trick the clown so they could take off. But doing a show? Chirping karaoke tunes didn’t make one a great singer, just a brave one! Diana suspected North wouldn’t be much better.

A window was in the room, and Diana opened it up to lean out and see how clear the escape might be. It wouldn’t take any acrobatic climbing and would be a perfect escape… but there was still North stuck in the other room to consider. Damn, why did she have to go and think having a partner was a good idea? For a brief wicked moment she considered leaving North behind to make a brilliant stage debute, and her sneaking out to distract the clown.

Closing the window with an irritated snarl,she moved back to the door and listened. Perhaps she was growing fond of the detective. Tossing him under teh bus just didn’t seem right. Besides, no man should be left in a bar like that unprotected!

While Diana’s room may have been empty, the detective wasn’t as lucky. Joining him in the small, cramped dressing were three other rather fit men. All of which were giving North a rather odd look, the detective quick to return the confused stare. He wasn’t exactly expecting anyone to be in there, thought, why he wouldn’t was beyond him. North just hoped Diana found a way out already.

“So…” One of the entertainers spoke up. “Who are you suppose to be?”

“Detective … McCoy.” North said awkwardly, looking for a way out of the dressing room. The windows were high, but far to thin for someone like him to squeeze through, though, he hoped that maybe Diana got the same idea.

“A cop act? Kinda overdone, don’t you think?” The frilly man asked while applying some powder to his face while North searched for an escape route.

“I’m not in an act. I’m a real detective.” North wasn’t too keen on the man’s tone. “Look, I’m being chased by some nutjob in a clown suit.”

“Well, if you’re a cop, why don’t you show some authority, hmm?” The sharp tone still in the entertainer’s voice.

“Because I – don’t have my badge. Or my … gun. Look I’m not even suppose to be on duty, I just got … dragged into something.” North said with a sigh.

“Uh-huh. Look, pal, if you wanted an autograph or something, you can wait until the end of the show like everyone else.” The man stood up. “Until then – SECURITY!”

“Wait, no!” North tried to explain, but before he could, the rather large man from before burst into the room and looked down at North.

“This fan couldn’t wait. Show him the door, would you?” With one swift motion, the giant took North by the collar and dragged him out and towards the end of the hall, opposite of the door they came in.

“Wait, look! This is just a – hey!” Before North could finish, he found himself on the ground with a face-full of leaves and mud. Behind him, the door slammed and clicked. Locked.

“Just great, North.” The detective sat up. “Well, at least you got out of there. Now for-” Suddenly, his eyes widened and North scrambled to his feet. “Diana!” The big guy inside was sure to put two and two together and realize she wasn’t exactly an entertainer either. Or if she was going to get the same treatment as him.

Wasting to time, North hurried to the side of the building, adjacent to the men’s changing room, hoping to find a matching window. And for once, luck was on his side as he quickly slid down to the narrow opening. Unfortunately, the glass was so heavily tinted, there was no chance of him seeing in. Quickly, North began banging on the glass and shouting the agent’s name in hopes that it would catch her attention. If the bouncer hadn’t already caught her – or even worse, the clown found his way backstage.

All Diana could hear was the shuffling in the hallway as she listened against the door. A loud knock followed by the door being pushed open startled her backwards and she quickly made herself look busy.

“Number is in five minutes! Hey, why the hell aren’t you dressed?” The burley goon looked her over with suspicion.

Diana blinked and reacting quickly gave a flip of her hair and a sassy look to her nails. “A woman can’t be rushed! I’m almost done!” Rolling his eyes and muttering ‘real women’ under his breath he slammed the door again, leaving Diana behind to shake her fist at the door and grummble curses. That was just great. Well, North had better look peachy in a dress, cause they didn’t have any talent to back it up!

Snatching the only garment that looked close to her size from the costume rack, she quickly pulled off her clothes and stashed them in a conveniant man-sized purse. After throwing on the dress, and pulling her boots back on, Diana gave herself a critical look in the mirror. It was a slinky shimmery black number only held up by a thin chain around the neck, with a slit at the side that came up dangerously high on the floor length skirt. And a man was supposed to wear that dress?

The door was knocked on again as Diana snapped up the bag and rested it on her shoulder. Swinging it open she gave the bouncer a brilliant smile and blinked at the otherwise empty hall. “See, finished with time to spare. Where is my, ah,… partner?”

“He was a just some fan trying to sneak in and see Duchess. Tossed him out in the street witht he rats. You’re going solo tonight, lady.” he replied, leading her down the hall.

What?! I mean…” Diana didn’t bother to finish the phrase, she was simply livid! Leave her to put on a show for a bunch of cross dressing me, would he?! North McCoy was going to get a good sock in the jaw when she managed to slip out. A famliar face at the end of the hall cause her to suck in a breath a hide her face quickly. The clown passed without recognition, giving the bouncer a nod, a he head towards the two dressing rooms. Well, at least she wasn’t stuck in that room! That brought another question however…

The bouncer stopped with Diana near the stage behind the curtains as they waited for the last act to finish. Diana casually cleared her throat. “You know that guy, eh? In the clown getup?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “comes in here all the time with his sister. Wants to be a stage singer, but frankly a moose could sing better.”

Diana asked who the sister was and he kindly pointed out the gypsy woman from around the curtains. She grimanced. Getting on stage on stage was a sure fire way of getting spotted… not to mention being mortally embarassed. “Oh! You know, I completly forgot something for the act! Mind if I run and get it real quick?” Giving her a shrug, Diana jumped on the chance and quickly escaped down the hall towards the back exit!

“Open up already, Diana!” North said out loud after another fit of pounding on the glass. He was begging to fear the worst. Either they had found her out and were interrogating her in another room, or the clown’s bat had found its target! Shaking his head, North dismissed the thoughts. Diana was just being slow about, that’s all. Again, North started pounding on the glass.

Inside, however, the now weaponless clown was wondering down the hall hoping to find the two detectives. That’s when he happened to pass the room Diana had previous used – and where North was still pounding away. The man instantly recognized the voice and with a wicked grin, entered the room.

“Where are you?” North complained. “I’m freezing my – Finally!” His face lit up as he heard the window unlocking. “Diana, come on, we have to g-” “Gotcha’ now!” shouted a very frightening clown man’s head as the glass swung upward. It was so quick and North wasn’t expecting it and needless to say, he was startled out of his mind. With a loud and quick scream, the detective took the window and slammed it back down, right into the man’s face. Being struck with a surprisingly thick piece of glass, the colorful being stumbled back out the door – right into the escaping Diana Jones.

It took him a moment to adjust his shiny, red nose before he glanced up at the woman. “Hey! And … YOU!”

“Er…” Getting ran in to by a clown was never very pleasant, especially when it had murder on the mind. “…damn!” Not sparing him another glance Diana tried to shoot past him to get towards the back door, but she hadn’t got far before he latched on to her leg. Tummbling ungracefully to the floor, the bag dropped from her arm, and worse yet her gun decided falling out and sliding across the cold tile floor was going to be a great idea.

Looking back, she could see the recognition cross the clown’s face as he too spotted the gun. “Cops! Why I oughta..!” Pulling the agent closer by the ankle he was met with a heeled boot to the nose, which unfortunetly didn’t have quite the affect Diana would have hoped for thanks to the cushioning! He growled snatching her by the arms with gloved hands and dragged her to her feet. “You know what I do to snoopin’ cops?!” He gave her a hard shake, and Diana could only guess it wasn’t going to be good!

She recognized her gun as a click sounded behind her, followed by a low laugh. “That’s right brother, tell her how we make cops disapear!” The gypsy had her gun and screaming was out of the question. After all if the cops were called, North was going to be in a world’s worth of trouble with the Chief. Besides, they wouldn’t dare shoot her in a crowded club!

North sat in the mud a while longer, trying to get over the scare. Again, he wasn’t afraid of clowns, but anyone would have one the same thing if a head popped up from the ground like that! “Get it together, North!” The detective said out loud. Diana was still in there and now the guy after them was too. North couldn’t waste time on petty frights; he had to warn Diana before it was too late.

With the back door locked and the front out of the question, North was going to have to find that third entrance. That’s when he looked back down at the window and realized it was unlocked now! He’d at least be able to see in and maybe even make his way through at the angle he was at. Slowly, he lifted the dark glass just a sliver to make sure the clown wasn’t still there.

All clear.

Opening it the rest of the way, North laid down flat on his stomach in the mud and peered in only to see what he didn’t want to see. Diana was on the ground, struggling with the man in the clown get-up! Though, she was strangely dressed at the moment. Not stopping to think about the size of the opening, North began what would be his failed attempt at crawling through the window. No more than half-way through, North was stopped cold, his jacket snared in several places, and it would be hopeless to try and get it undone. Unable to move, North looked up only to see another woman pointing a gun at the agent’s head.

“Diana!” North shouted, only managing to get the attention of all three of them.

“C’mon! Do it now!” The clown barked, shaking Diana with every word. He sounded more anxious now that North appeared to be coming.

“No.” The gypsy woman said sharply. “Not here. Let’s take her back to the carnival. We can dispose of her more – quietly.”

“Yeah, good idea, sis.” And the man took Diana and brought her to her feet. But before he could drag her off, the gypsy decided it would be best to render the agent unconscious before they did anything. So with a swift motion, she swung the firearm through the air right into the back of Diana’s skull. She was out cold.

“Let’s go!” The gypsy woman motioned and picked up Diana’s feet and quickly made for the back door. North, on the other hand, was helpless to stop any of this, stupidly believing he could fit in such a small passage. All he could do was watch as they hauled Diana off to some unknown destination. There was nothing he could do.

Once the were out of sight, the detecting struggled to back out of the hole and hopefully intercept them on the way to their van. Attempting to pull himself free, North suddenly heard the sound of fake leather ripping – his jacket! Before he could do anything to save himself, he found himself falling towards the ground, landing with a hard thump. He was back in the club again, only too late to help.

Outside, the gypsy and clown were loading Diana into the back of the van, not exactly worried if anyone would see them. After all, they were both in makeup and the van most likely didn’t belong to them anyway. When they were done tossing around the agent, the two kidnappers quickly hopped into the van themselves and sped off, nearly clipping another car in the process.

Back inside, North heard the sound of the van peeling out and jumped up, only to see it speeding down the street. He knew she had to be in the back of it – and he hand only one idea as to where they were headed. Where there were clowns, there was a fair. Not wasting any time, North once again escaped through the back door and outside, bent on finding the Agent Diana Jones.

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 005

“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! WERE YOU THINKING AT ALL?!” Shouted a very red-faced police chief to a pair of very uncomfortable detectives. The balding man before them had been chewing Diana and North out since they stepped into his office. “Do you have ANY idea how much wrong you two have done in so little time?!”

North had been here before, Chief Merra’s face in his, yelling, shouting, the whole nine yards. He was as angry as ever, and North knew he wasn’t going to get out of this one easily, not after what they had done. “Merra, I was-”

“I don’t want to hear it!” The Chief intterupted. “And it’s Police Chief Merra to you two, got it?”

In a very small voice, North replied, “Yes sir…”

The police chief wasn’t all that surprising to the agent, though when his voice hit certain unimaginably high pitches she couldn’t help but wince. It wasn’t too unsimilar to the meetings she had with her own superior, the only difference being this man enjoyed bellowing while Emanuel was silent with stone cold glares that seemed to stare right through you.

Diana simply smiled with hands clasped in front of her. Chief Merra wasn’t her boss, nor was she at fault for any of North’s bad ideas. She was perfectly innocent. “Chief Merra, I’d like to apologise for my partner’s behavior he was completly-”

“Save it! Geoffrey Emanuel told me all about you, Agent Jones.” Merra practically snarled as he turned his glare over to the woman.

“Oh.” There went her being innocent. She sunk lower in her chair. Stupid Emanuel! She should have known he was going to be keeping tabs!

“You’re damned lucky I don’t have you escorted out of here with armned guards! Run away agents, released convicts, then getting involved with this guy…” he motioned a pen at North as he scowled down at the many reports in front of him. “As of now you are both exiled from this case until you are called in to court. Ms. Jones I’ve been instructed to tell you that your are suspended from all future cases as well until you are otherwise notified.”

“Yes sir.” Was all North could mutter again. The chief was mad. Real mad. Not only were their jobs on the line, but Merra had to deal with the FBI as well, and if there’s anything worse than dealing with those under you, it’s dealing with those above you. And unfortunately for North and Diana, they were on the receiving end of Merra’s bad mood.

“But if it means anything.” North said, not quite looking the chief in the eyes. “This is mostly … my fault. I mean, I dragged her to the manor.” North’s act of selfishness would surly win the chief over, after all, that’s what he liked in his cops.

“I don’t give a flying crap!” Merra said, North’s chivalry failing. “Last time I checked, there was a working radio in that car, and unless he had a gun to your head, you should have damn well used it!” His attention again, going back and forth between the detectives, making sure he beat both of them to the ground. He was good at that.

“And another thing, McCoy.” His attention returning to North. “Sorry to do this, but hand over your badge and gun. You’ll get them back when I thing you’re ready to use them again.” And with a rather sad sigh, North reached into his jacket and plucked his badge. He didn’t want to hand it over – really didn’t want to hand it over! But with a heavy heart, he handed the chief his badge.

With his arm still stretched out, Merra cocked an eyebrow. “And your gun?”

“I, uh, left it at my apartment.” North said, feeling worse than ever.

“Jesus, North. You’re a goddamn mess. Not that it mattered, god knows you forget to load the damn thing.” Merra said, throwing the badge in a drawer. He took a small rag and mopped his forehead, the argument really getting him heated. “And you, Agent. I can’t take your badge, but if I hear about you flashing that thing around, you better believe I’ll do something about it. You got me? Good. You’re both excused.”

It wasn’t until the door slammed behind them she finally muttered. “Well, that’s great. I get to sit and do a bunch of nothing for an undetermined amount of time.” Undetermined was probably an understatement. The bureau was probably looking for a good excuse to send her on vacation for awhile! What exactly was she supposed to do without a case to work on? There were too many hours in a day!

This was all North’s fault. She might’ve eventually gotton in trouble for one reason or another, but at least she could have dragged it longer than a few measly days! Diana just didn’t do too well with too much idle time! At least working she didn’t have to wander around wondering if Stephan Burch was lurking around the corner.

Damn. She still needed to change those locks.

“I hope you’re happy! This whole mess could have been avoided you know.”

North was feeling just as bad as Diana was, but at least she didn’t have to listen to any heart-warming comments from him. He had been in trouble before, but nothing this bad, and to top it off, his so-called “Partner” was placing all the blame on him! Sure he made a few more mistakes than normal, but to say this was completely his fault really got to him.

“Yeah, by the way, thanks for sticking up for me, in there. Maybe you can impress the meter maids with the little “FBI” next to your name, but don’t try to bullshit someone whose torn apart bigger fish.” North was angry all right. Diana had really crossed the line with him this time.

“I mean…” He started again. “Where the hell do you get off trying to stick the whole thing on me? And with me right there! You know, maybe people don’t tell you this enough, but you can really be a-” North stopped himself.

“An unpleasant person.” Even with the sarcastic tone, he really didn’t sound as mean as he thought he should have. Never the less, he was rather unpleased with Diana. How could she?! The thought that kept running through his head. Maybe she was afraid of being reprimanded, or maybe she was hoping for the minute chance of a pat on the back and medal. But that doesn’t excuse the way she just tried to pass everything off on him. No, North had a right to be mad time, and she wasn’t about to receive anything from him anymore.

“I’ll see you at the trial next week.” His voice was short and sharp as he turned, walking away.

“North, I…” Wait. What was she about to apologise for? It was all his fault! Sure, she didn’t have to go along with him, but she wasn’t going to let him go and get killed either. “Fine.” she muttered at his back as he walked away. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what he really wanted to call her. People had called her worse things, so why did it have to sting so bad?

Making a scene at the police station wasn’t going to help, so Diana headed straight for home. There was no more cases, no more idiot partners, and by the time she reached her apartment she realized there was no more of anything. It was just her. Alone. Again. Having time to herself was exactly what she wanted, but under the circumstances it didn’t seem as pleasing as she thought it would be. Thoughts about Mandell lead to thinking about Burch turned in to wondering about death morphed itself to even more annoying thoughts of a certain irritating detective. She couldn’t win.

Immediatly she decided what she needed was a hot bath and plenty of sleep. Lots of sleep. After a long well deserved shower, she changed in to an oversized shirt and crawled in to bed. The plan was to sleep for the next week. No more thinking about convicts, cases, and most definetly not about North McCoy.

North gripped the steering wheel of his rented car tightly as it traveled down the empty streets of the city. Having time to vent and let off some steam, he was still angry, but wasn’t feeling as well about storming off. Then again, he wasn’t about to turn around and beg for forgiveness, either. He was still pretty angry about how she carried herself back there.

Stopping at a red light, North shook his head stiffly in attempt to clear his mind. “I have to stop thinking about it.” He muttered to himself. Why was he thinking about it? He’d meet plenty of unbearable people in his life and she was no different. Sure, maybe they had a couple not-so-bad moments. The bench after the fire, the bar, Lou’s and her apartment. But those were just short-lived moments. The rare timed where her ego didn’t get in the way. But, rare as they were, North actually enjoyed looking back on them.

Suddenly, the light turned to green, and North gave himself a small slap. “You’re still thinking about her!” He said to himself, louder this time. He stepped down on the gas and pulled away, only a few blocks from home. It was when he was thinking about the good times the thought struck him, Diana hadn’t fixed the door to her apartment yet, and she wouldn’t even had the time to do so anyway. And knowing her, she’d be too proud to stay at a motel or something.

“No, no.” North said. “She’s – she’s fine! She’s probably sitting at the door or … sleeping with the gun under her pillow or something.” Trying to convince himself. “And I said I wouldn’t!”

See you at the trial…” He kept reminding himself. Sure, maybe he worried a little bit, but she can take care of herself. She should take care of herself! “Yeah!” North said, nodding agreeably. “I shouldn’t have to baby-sit her or anything! She’ll be just – fine…” His words trailed off as he glanced to his left at the small hardware store – still open. “Oh … bloody, son of…” And with that, he turned on the blinker and pulled up to a parking spot.

As quietly as he could, North crept down the hallway of the apartment building, not wanting to make a sound. Holding a small, plastic bag, he passed room after room before arriving at his destination – Diana’s apartment. He gave the door a weak push and even that caused it to swing wide open, not even the handle was intact.

Glancing inside, North found a couple lamps on, but the agent no where to be found, most likely asleep. Or so he hoped. He snuck in and closed the door, opening the small bag. From it, he pulled out a screwdriver and a brand new lock for the door. Not wanting to waste any time, or give Diana a chance to catch him, North quickly got to work unscrewing the old, broken lock from the door.

“Ten down, two more to go.” Whispered the determined McCoy as he removed the last of the screws. Finally, he was seconds away from removing the old lock and installing the new. The last screw spun slowly from the door. “Almost there. Almost there.” He said. Then it happened, the screw just stopped. It wouldn’t move! He tried to turn it while keeping as quiet as possible, but the thing wouldn’t budge. Finally, he took the screwdriver by bother hands and gave it a good twist.

CHINK!

The screw snapped in two. Not only that, North hands slipped and before he could do anything about it, the old, bronze lock went flying through the air and slammed into Diana’s bedroom door with a loud bang. North, not knowing what to do, just froze. Should he run, and let her think it was that Burch guy again? Or stay and take the wrath? Or maybe he wouldn’t get the chance to decide.

WHAM!

Diana sat up startled with North’s name just barely under her breath. It was like that explosion all over again. She would have to run outside and get to North before… Only, she wasn’t asleep in North’s bed. She was home. Home. A entirely different sense of dread filled her. Reaching for her gun, she was shocked once again to find it not there. Where did she leave it?! As soon as she got home she head to the shower, all of her things were tossed around the apartment. She hadn’t even locked the door…

There wasn’t a lock on the door!

“Oh my god…” How dumb could she be! She was so ticked off about everything she hadn’t even considered the door. Why didn’t she think about a motel or a different place? Had Burch snuck in while she was sleeping? Diana couldn’t seem to bring herself to move. The man could be lurking and possibly had her gun. He wasn’t like Mandell, he wouldn’t talk and taunt he’d go straight for the kill, she needed to escape! But there weren’t any windows, there was just the door! She was going to get shot or stabbed or strangled… in her own bed!

Diana waited with baited breath but there wasn’t another sound. Did she imagine it? Was he taunting her? He should have been kicking down the bedroom door by now! And why was she just sitting there waiting to get murdered?!

With a renewed bravery she slipped silently from the bed, retrieving a small hammer from the dresser. It wasn’t going to do much good against a gun, but she had good aim and could make a break for the door if need be. Taking in a deep breath she clutched the hammer tightly as she swung open the door preparing to swing!

“North?!” There was the detective kneeling next to her front door looking much like a deer caught in a truck’s headlights. “What the hell…” She was going to cry! No, she was going to scream! No… maybe ramming the hammer right between his eyes would be better. Instead she let the breath she was holding escape as she wilted against the doorframe. Had she not been so stunned she might’ve felt more self conscious standing there in just a shirt that concealed all but a long pair of legs. The idiot was fixing her lock. He had just scared the ever loving daylights out of her. Now why was she grinning like a chesire cat?

“You could have just knocked.”

Now he had done it, there stood Diana in the bedroom doorway wielding a hammer. Several scenarios began racing through North’s head. She was going to smash his skull in! She was going to crush his hands, one finger at a time! She was – smiling? He wasn’t quite expecting that at all, she wasn’t even yelling at him.

“Well – I didn’t want to bother you.” He said, responding to her sarcastic question. “And I was just going to drop this off for you, but I, uh, well…” His excuse beginning to lose momentum, or maybe he was just distracted by his former partner’s attire. North couldn’t help bit give her a quick look over; she certainly was a leggy woman. And the big shirt was pretty nice in it’s own way.

There was a few second of silence from him, maybe too long. North needed to say something before she could catch him staring at her. “Er, but I though I’d put it up myself. I mean, I’ll be done in a little bit, it’s just a chain lock. I’ll just screw it in and be out of here in no time.”

Picking up he screwdriver again, North went back to installing the lock, but not before taking another glance back of Diana.

Diana wasn’t sure if she was planning to yell at him or not. He certaintly deserved it after insulting her, and didn’t he say he wasn’t going to talk to her until the trial? Yet here he was doing something thoughtful. If he wasn’t careful she was actually going to start to like him, and that was just unacceptable.

As long as she had him there, she might as well be polite. He was doing her a favor after all. “Thanks. I wasn’t thinking about the door…” she confessed, though maybe she shouldn’t have. Now he was going to think she actually needed someone to drop by and keep an eye on her. She was perfectly capable of handling things. Glancing down at the hammer in her hand she gave a grimace. Well, maybe sometimes she slipped up.

“North… I’m sorry.” Diana wasn’t about to explain why she was sorry, and if he couldn’t figure it out he could just deal. She wasn’t going to say it twice either, but she felt like she had to say it. Just this once.

Sorry. North took a cool and calm glance at Diana and nodded knowingly before looking back at the door. When she could no longer see his face, North’s eyes widened in disbelief. Sorry! She was sorry! Maybe he didn’t completely know what about, but he wasn’t going to press his luck. At least she wasn’t pounding his head in with that hammer. Though, he did wish she would put it down already.

“I’m sorry too.” North said as he worked away. “Not about everything, But I am sorry about what I … didn’t call you back there, that was uncalled for.”

A few moments later and the final screws were in place. North stood up and brushed off his hands and smiled at a job well done. “There.” He said. “At least that’ll keep the door shut.” He closed the door and tested out the lock, putting the chain in place. It managed to hold up pretty well at least.

Now with no reason to be there, North took a look at the door and then Diana. “Well, that’s … that…”

What the devil was he staring at? She looked down at the hammer and set it aside then at her clothes. Okay so he was used to seeing her in a suit or fancy skirt. What was wrong with a night shirt? Her undies weren’t showing at least and her hair might have still been a little damp, but she didn’t think that required staring. Maybe he had a thing against sheep. There were a few sheep jumping a fence printed on the front. It was juvenille but she never saw the point of wearing silky lingerie when you lived alone. Besides, you’d go sliding off the bed when you took a running leap.

“Yeah.” The door was fixed and locked behind him. Their case was over and there was no other reason for him to stay. Only she wanted him to stay. Diana decided she must have been a glutton for torture. He was a bother, shouldn’t she just let him walk out?

“The sink in the ah… kitchen is kind of broken too. If you have time to fix anything else…” At least it was the truth. The sink did need fixing. Later she was going to have to have a good chat with herself on how to act like an adult. “If you fix it, I might share my candy.”

North was just unlocking the door again to leave when Diana brought up the sink. Was she serious? He had driven out in the middle of the night, bought a brand new lock and fixed her door, all from the kindness of his heart – and maybe a little separation anxiety. And now she was going to take advantage of that and have him fix up the entire apartment?! Well, the candy didn’t sound too bad, though the way she said it…

“Uh, ok?” North said, getting the thought out of his head. He really didn’t know what he was doing, the door was easy enough, just a few screws, but the sink was another story. He didn’t know a thing about plumbing. But he also wasn’t about to let Diana know that, last thing he could use is her laughing at him. After all, every guy knew how to fix a sink, right? Well, at least it gave him a reason to stick around a little longer.

“So what’s ‘kind of broken,’ anyway?” He said, kneeling in front of the sink and opened the cabinets. It looked like she never even looked in here, much less tried anything herself. Not only that, but there were a few things in there already, most likely items left from the previous owners.

“Hey.” North said, reaching in and grabbed one of the objects. “Are one of these yours?” And pulled out a large mousetrap from the dank cabinet.

“I think there’s something stuck in the drain.” she leaned against the counter and gave the mouse trap a dubious expression. The landlord didn’t say anything about mice. If he did, she would of found a place quicker than she could have said ‘Hell No!’ Mice and her just didn’t get along and the only thing worse than mice were big giant rats.

Maybe it was just a precaution. Yeah, that had to be right. Otherwise, wouldn’t it already have something clamped in there? Infact, it look too big for any normal size mouse or rat. They were probably trying to trap a stray gopher or something!

“Um, no… Not mine.” She shrugged and blinked. But something large and moving under the cabinet caught her eye. It shot out from under the sink scurrying it’s way past her feet, causing the agent to give a startled yelp! Diana hopped on to the counter, sitting precariously on the edge, ready to protect her foot if the little buggar decided to attack. Forget little, it was huge! Almost as big as a cat. Gophers didn’t grow that big! It was like a mutant ninja rat!

“Jesus Christ!”

“Woah!” North said as he stepped back a little, surprised by the rat himself. He certainly wasn’t expecting that, though, he probably should have after finding the mousetrap. He wasn’t really afraid of the thing, it was just a rat, after all, and it’s not like it’s going to attack either of them. Diana was probably laughing at him for being so surprised while she stood strong.

At least, that what was he was most expecting when he turned to her, only to find the agent practically climbing up the wall. North had to really work to not start laughing out loud, managing to keep it down to a wide grin. Sure, maybe a stifled chuckle escaped, but nothing Diana heard – he hoped.

“Hey, hey! It’s just a rat!” North said, trying to calm her down. The rodent was still scurrying around his feet, sniffing around for scraps of food. Not really paying attention to it, North gave it a push to the side with his boot. “See? It’s not going to do anything! It’s harmless!” But before she could respond, North could tell Diana wasn’t going to get over this so easily.

“Just a rat? Just a rat?! The thing is the size of a bleaming… pit bull!” Alright, so maybe it wasn’t quite that big. But it was fearless! It was scurrying around on the floor daring for her to step down!

Diana gave him a nasty scowl. She didn’t miss his snickering! He was amused with her plight! No one saw her laughing when they were tied to chairs being terrorized! This was exactly the same, only Mandell wouldn’t bite someone’s toes off. “Oh, wipe that smirk off your face! Look at it! He’s probably starving, and starving animals start going for flesh when they can’t find food!”

“Kill him!” The woman blinked, pursing her lips as she peered down at the furry crtter again. “No wait, put him out the window!” She might’ve hated rats, but she didn’t feel right just killing it. Even if it was a toe-biting rabies spreading creature of the devil. Until it was gone, she wasn’t moving from the counter.

North was already preparing to put the critter outside the window before Diana even mentioned that. It’s not like he was going to kill the poor thing, no matter how much she would have begged. And he wouldn’t have minded seeing Diana beg. But for now, he had a squeaking, squirming and irritating creature to deal with – and the rat, too!

“Don’t worry, I’ll – get rid of it.” He said, glancing around the room. “Somehow…” Not about the pick the thing up with his bare hands, North looked for anything to use while the rat sniffed around. It began getting brave as it inched towards Diana’s feet.

“Here we go!” North darted towards a roll of plastic bags, leaving the rodent with his colleague. He began to pull off one of the bags while getting ready to capture the large rat, but he still couldn’t help chortle as Diana fidgeted as it sniffed around, just under her feet.

Finally, North decided to remove the creature before Diana started to go crazy. “Just – keep it distracted for a second.” He said as he crept up behind it. And just as he was only a couple feet away, the detective lunged at the rat and wrapped the bag around it.

“Got it!” North announced proudly as he lifted the bag for Diana to see. The rat was thrashing about wildly inside, screeching and doing everything in its power to escape. “Glad you get the good bags.” North said with a smirk. With that, he carried the rodent over to her window and opened it.

“And out you go.” North said, dumped the bag. The rat took off, running away from the complex and disappeared under another building. “Well, it’s gone.” North closed the window and came back to Diana, who was still sitting on the counter. “You can… come down now.”

“Forget it. As soon as I hop down from here, another one is going to come charging out.” Diana crossed her arms making no move to leave the counter. Where there was one rat, there was probably dozens more. They came in families and that first one looked like it could have spawned legions. The kitchen counter wasn’t the best place in the world to plant herself for protection from a rat army, but she didn’t want to risk running herself to the sofa. Couldn’t rats climb sofas?

She eyed North taking on the expression of complete nonchalance, like she didn’t just have a squeeling fit over a scampering furball. “If you’re too afraid to fix it, that’s alright. I don’t imagine anyone is going to want to stick their head under there after that.”

While Diana didn’t have room to talk about being afraid, North decided he wouldn’t point out the fact she was the one on the counter. Plus, he didn’t need to provoke her since he really had no intention of fixing the sink at all, but at least he could check to make sure there weren’t any rats left. Then again, one that big didn’t get that way by sharing.

“I don’t think you have to worry about another one, agent.” North said, leaning over to look inside. Sure, he wasn’t afraid of the things, but he wasn’t about to willfully stick his head in there again. “And I’ll … get to your sink some other time. Uh, maybe, I mean.” The collection of odd pipes confusing him already.

After a quick inspection, North was unable to see or hear anything rodent-wise under Diana’s sink. “There, see?” He said. “There aren’t any more down there. Now will you get off there, or do I have to carry you?”

“Hmm.” Though grateful there weren’t any more creatures of the damned having a party in her cabinets she had no more reason to keep the detective there. Especially if he wasn’t going to fix her sink. It either really didn’t need fixin’ or he wasn’t exactly the plumbing type. Normally she might not have minded trying to fix it herself, but after discovering her unwanted house guest, there was no way in hell she was poking anywhere like that.

“I’d like to see you try.” she muttered under her breath. It wasn’t a serious challenge, but it certaintly gave her a few interesting thoughts.

None of which were appropriate and she needed to stop that right now!

“I um, guess that’s it then. Until the next week at the trial…” She flicked her hair from her face hoping she didn’t sound too disapointed. Afterall, she didn’t even want to work with him in the first place, why would she have second thoughts about it now? He was a fairly decent partner, and it would kind of be a pain to get associated with someone new. Especially someone from the bureau that’d think they were some kind of hot shot.

“Actually, I was thinking…” she was so going to regret this later, “You really aren’t that bad and I just don’t have the time to get used to someone new. So maybe… I could hire you as my unofficial partner and then I won’t get stuck with a complete moron and you would have yourself a job.”

Closing the cabinets, North leaned against the counter since his former partner wasn’t going anywhere soon. Or was that to-be partner? “Wait, what?” North said in a confused tone. Did he hear her right? Was she actually asking him to be her partner? As in, working together willingly? He would have thought by now she was sick of him, at least that’s what he picked up from how she acted around him. Always trying to get him to stick around to do something for her or get something out of him.

Not that he minded too much, after all, he somewhat enjoyed being in her presence. Though, he wasn’t about to let her know that. There were still too many hard objects in arms reach she could crack over his head. He knew this was all strictly professional for her – even if she was half dressed and sitting on the counter.

And there was still the matter of the offer. North didn’t know how long he stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face. Too long for him, anyway. “Well, I, uh – I, uh…” What should he say? What could he say? On one hand, he really wanted to accept her offer. After all, he had been through more with her in that past few days than some people their whole lives. And even in the worst of times, she wasn’t all that bad. Not to mention, she was pretty easy on the eyes.

But on the other hand – and then it struck North, there wasn’t another hand! Sure, why shouldn’t he take her up on her offer? It was the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do! He had never been so sure about something in a long time! And with that, he would accept her offer! With a loud, clear and resounding yes!

“Uhh, well, um … yeah, sure. That sounds – all right.”

“Jeeze, don’t sound so excited, I might think you liked me or something.” The way he stuttered he didn’t seem so keen on the idea. Was she really that much of a pain to work with? Okay, so she was! He didn’t have to look like it though!

Diana painted her classic haughty look on her face as she reached over to seize her box of candy. She did promise to share after all, and disposing of a rat deserved a reward even if he didn’t fix the sink. Dropping the box next to the detective she finally slid off the counter. Getting dragged off still sounded fairly interesting, but she wasn’t about to mention that thought out loud.

“Now, I know we were told to sit pretty for the time being. But, I can’t stand being idle for too long.” That devious smile crossed her face again. “Technically your chief said I couldn’t flash my badge around. But he didn’t say you couldn’t flash my badge around. He only said you were called off of Mandell’s case. Never specifically said you couldn’t work on any others.” Maybe it was a good thing she was in the FBI and not a Lawyer. She sure as hell paid attention to the details.

“Well, no. That came out wrong. I just – wasn’t expecting it.” He didn’t want to seem like he didn’t appreciate the gesture. After all, it was the last thing he expected. Maybe she didn’t dislike him as much as he had though. After all, she did still offer him some of that candy, which he gladly took. It certainly was better than the generic bagged stuff he’s had to deal with.

When the agent slip off the counter, North was almost disappointed he didn’t get to carry through with carrying her, but he couldn’t let that show. Wouldn’t have been the first time, anyway, though, she would never know that. And it seemed like Diana was getting back to business now, anyway.

North listened to her little ideas and loopholes and was having difficulty believing a woman of her position would suggest something like that. “Wait, wait, so you’re saying that I -should impersonate an FBI agent?! Do you have any idea how much – the consequences!” North wasn’t one who thought outside the box. “Look, I’m not going to try to get into any more trouble until I get my badge back.” It would take some unbelievable persuading or something awfully tempting to change his mind.

Diana blinked with disbelief. Was he really such a clean-cut super hero guy? He was in the P.I. business! Surely he had to step around the cops a few times! “Don’t tell me you’ve never bent the rules, detective. He never said you couldn’t work on another case, and you’re not one of his boys. And how does he expect you to make a living if you’re not working?”

Shrugging, she poked him lightly in the side so he’d move out of the way for her to fetch a mug from the cabinet. If they were going to stay up all night and chit chat, she needed some tea to keep her awake. For some reason falling asleep with North McCoy around always ended up with her waking up startled.

“We won’t do anything fantastic. A small case! Like, a bugulary… Nothing mob related, that’s for sure.” Pulling a cup from the shelf she set it aside and moved to the sink to turn on the tap. She turned the hot water and ran fine but when the knob snapped off in to her hand she gave a scowl. A small groan in the pipes sounded, which couldn’t have heralded anything good, right before the entire faucet errupted in a giant fountain covering the entire kitchen with water!

“I told you the damn thing was broken!” Sopping wet and irritated she looked about half ready to kill. “Probably a damned rat ate through the pipes!”

“Well, yeah, I might have gone outside the law a couple times. You – you got to see that first hand…” North said as he stepped out of the way for Diana. “But I don’t go looking for trouble. I mean, normally. And besides, I am a P.I., that means people come to me when they want something, or I don’t get paid. That means if you want a case, you can come over to my place.” And almost on cue, the sink he had refused to fix before began to make an angry noise.

Before North could do anything, he found himself completely drenched from a sudden explosion from the sink. It took him a moment to recollect himself as he wiped the water from his face. “Which, all of a sudden, doesn’t sound like a bad idea.” He said, taking off his soaking jacket. “Are you sure there wasn’t another rat down there?! But, uh, are you o … k?”

North paused when he looked up at Diana. Her once baggy shirt was now sticking to her figure quite nicely, catching him completely off guard. “You – uh, are you ok … Jones? He was finally able to spit it out.

“Ugh… Not only do they stick me in the one with the weird guy next door, there’s dog-sized rats and the sink explodes at random!” The woman was ticked off, at the moment a clingy shirt was the least of her worries! “And the locks weren’t worth crap! I’m not going to forget to mention that when I go down here and ram the faucet down his-” the rest of her comments were muttered under her breath as she snatched up the knob.

“He’s going to get it, oh man is he going to get it.” She was a woman with a mission it seemed, as she stomped across the room towards the front door. It was simply the last straw! The week had been terrible with one mishap after another, and it sure didn’t help that her apartment was trying to kill her on it’s own without any outside help. “If I’m not back in ten minutes, the cops were probably called and you’ll have to bail me out of jail.”

“Hey! Woah, woah!” North dropped his jacket to give chase. Luckily the new lock on the door had kept Diana from storming out as quickly as she had hoped and he was able to keep her from leaving. “Going after someone like that hasn’t worked out for us so far.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, hoping to at least calm her down a bit.

“C’mon, why don’t we just – sit down for a moment.” Giving Diana a weak tug away from the door, North hoped to get her to just sit-down for a moment before she went off killing anyone. “It’s not so … bad…” He said, taking a look at the busted sink and the kitchen pool. “Ok, so it’s pretty bad. But if worse comes to worse, you could always – pack a couple of bags and – stay at my place for a while. But like I said, if things get worse around here. But – I have plenty of room.” Giving her a friendly smile, North tried to rid her of some of her dismay.

She groaned and rolled her eyes, choosing to lean against the door instead of moving to the sofa just yet, very plainly contemplating whether or not she wanted to go commit murder. “Oh it’s going to get worse. It always gets worse, and now that you just said if that pretty much cinches the deal.”

Diana crossed her arms, casting the kitchen a dirty look before turning her attention to North. He was half soaked, which was enough to make the corner of her mouth twitch up in an almost smile. “Your place has enough room for a gerbal maybe. Or did you plan to keep me in the closet?” She did like the idea of taking one of his cases, though. If she was supposed to stay out of trouble but still needed something to keep her busy a few small time cases would do the trick. Maybe she could show the P.I. how to find work instead of sitting around hoping someone would show up. How much trouble could that be?

There was that devious smile again. “Maybe I will go to your place. For now, take off those clothes. You’re not sitting on my couch all wet.”

“Excuse me?” Suddenly, all the professionalism just drained from his image of Diana. Sure, maybe she didn’t want her sofa wet, but she could ask him not to sit down, or sit on something. Then again, he could have taken that the wrong way; it wouldn’t be the first time. And besides, he was uncomfortably wet, and she wasn’t asking his to strip down to nothing. Maybe just the shirt.

“Nevermind.” He said and began unbuttoning. “And hey, it’s bigger than it looks. My – my apartment.” Slipping from his shirt, North folded it sloppily and set it aside. He was still wearing his cheap, white undershirt that was relatively dry. Maybe a bit moist in the front but nothing she should get upset about, but that’s never stopped her before.

“There. Is that better?” He said, arms outstretched, waiting for her judgement.

She pursed her lips and held out a hand. “Unless you’re going to be sitting on your back, the pants come off too.” The agent was taking way more enjoyment out of the situation than she should have. But, it was about time the detective was caught off guard! Unless he wasn’t wearing anything under those pants. That would be interesting.

“Still, I need somewhere to sleep and I’m not exactly a cat that can sleep at the foot of your bed.” Diana figured with as tall as he was there likely wasn’t room anyway. She suspected his feet must’ve hung off from the edge. “Off with them. I’ll have them up so they can dry.”

He was afraid of that, but he also was half expecting it, too. The small grin on Diana’s face gave North the impression she was enjoying this, or just doing it to torture him. Either way, she meant what she said; she – wanted his pants off.

This was going to be a long night.

“You’re serious, then?” Like he needed to ask, of course she was serious, when wasn’t she serious? “Just – ok, fine.” He said. Slowly and awkwardly, North began to undo his belt. How did this happen? All he wanted to do was come over, fix a lock, leave and maybe get on Diana’s good side. Not that that mattered to him, of course, he was just trying to be nice. But now Diana had him stripping down while she stood around in a wet tee shirt. It felt like something out of a bad movie.

Finished with the belt and all, North paused for a moment. “Just, uh, don’t laugh or anything, all right?” He said, taking a deep breath and stepped out of his lower attire. There he stood, in nothing but his undershirt and boxer shorts, which were fashionably designed with a variety of birds on a green background. North uncomfortably stood there with his hands slightly covering himself and nodded towards the couch.

“Can I please sit down now?”

It was terribly hard not to laugh! So much so she had to clamp her mouth shut. If he didn’t make such a big fuss about it, it wouldn’t have been nearly as amusing. She wasn’t asking him to do a strip tease. The birds, though were kind of cute. For some reason she wouldn’t have expected anyting different.

“Be my guest. I’ll be back in a minute.” Diana managed to refrain from laughing but she had a horribly wide smile that betrayed her amusements. She snatched up his pants and shirt then made sure to retrieve his dropped jacket from the kitchen before disapearing in to her room.

By the time she returned she was minus the wet tshirt and wearing a rather skimpy black tank top with thin straps. It showed alot more skin, but this time she was wearing a pair of old jeans with a rip at one of the knees. Unlike her partner she wasn’t as uncomfortable walking around hafl dressed, but she was liking the leverage she had over him for the moment. Enough to even be pleasant about it!

“There. When those are dry I guess maybe I’ll consider staying with you. Maybe.” Snatching up a blanket she unfolded it and tossed it over him, nearly covering his head in the process.

While it wasn’t out loud, Diana’s stifled laughs weren’t helping the situation at all. He asked her not to laugh! But he decided not to press the matter and just take his seat, at least that way he didn’t feel so revealed. Sitting down, North sort of positioned himself strangely, fidgeting to find a comfortable one. He felt incredibly ill at ease.

At least until Diana brought out the blanket. It was a relief to have and North wasted no time getting covered. Though, on the other hand, he was slightly disappointed to find his former and again partner dressed more so than before, just as he was getting used to the sheep. But the new attire wasn’t so bad.

“Thanks…” He said in a somewhat sarcastic tone. To both the blanket and Diana’s unenthusiastic ‘maybe’. “So, now that I can’t leave your apartment for – a while. What, uh, is there to do?” He looked about, not really looking for anything, just looking.

Diana laughed out right this time as she plopped on the sofa next to him. Sure there was plenty of room and she didn’t have to sit so close, but she had deviousness on the mind. He was acting so coy for a grown man, hiding under that blanket like that! It’s not like she hadn’t seen a naked man before, and he wasn’t even nude!

“Goodness, I don’t know! We could sit and stare. Or tug-a-war…” She snagged the edge of the blanket and gave it a light tug. “You’re not that shy are you, detective? They really aren’t that bad… I rather like the birds.” Her grin was priceless. Like a stalking cat! Sure it was juvenille. Of course she was too old to do such things. But it was high time she had a little fun. They had done nothing but working on that case and getting in to serious trouble since she showed up in his office. Well, minus hearing amusing stories at Lou’s and getting smashed at a bar. Those didn’t count, though, they still had more important things to worry about.

“Ok…” North rolled his eyes slightly at Diana’s teasing, knowing full well she knew how he felt. “Ok, OK!” He said, more frantic this time as he pulled the covers back from her, covering himself again. She could act so childish when she wanted to, even if it did have a tiny amount of charm to it. Even though she was being immature and bothering him, North still couldn’t help but crack a smile – no matter how much he tried not to.

“And I’m not shy!” He said, finally taking the blanket from her grasp. “It’s just not everyday I … end up like this in someone elses place.” Oh great, now she’s going to think he’s never been with a girl before. He was really digging himself a hole here. “Well, I don’t mean it that way! I mean, I…” A blank, North couldn’t think of anything. He was shy, he just didn’t like to admit it. He wasn’t going to get out of this one – unless he went on the offensive.

“Well, what about you?” He said, weakly at first. “You’re awfully forward for someone of your profession.” By now, he was getting the urge to see Diana squirm at her own game.

“I mean, a guy could really get the wrong impression from something like that.” North said, putting on the most urbane smile he could, as fake as it was. Leaning towards Diana, North took his arm and wrapped it over her shoulders. “A guy – like me.” Half of him was ready to break out with a laugh and let her off, the other half hoped he remembered how to fix a broken nose.

Diana blinked mildly surprised. She was about to swat his arm away but instead she narrowed her eyes and watched him with cool reguard. So he was challenging her, was he? Two could play that game! If he wanted to play a battle of wills he just met his match.

“Just because you’re bashfull is no reason to go accusing me of things.” She examined her nails with an air of unconcerned nonchalance. What’d make North McCoy crack.. or better yet, go scampering off in just his shorts?

“Besides,” she pulled off his arm and stood up again, straightening the edge of her shirt, “if I were trying to be forward I’d do something more along the lines of this.” Diana jumped unceremoniously in his lap with a wickedly cavalier smirk. Pointing a straight finger she gave an indignant poke to his forhead. “But a guy like you generally can’t tell the difference.”

North let out a soft oomph as Diana landed on him unexpectedly. Ok, so this wasn’t quite how he expected that to end up, but he wasn’t about to let Diana see him panic. Not in that position! He was going to have to out do her now, she wasn’t going to one-up him this time!

“W-well!” North said, still recovering from Diana’s retaliation. “Maybe a guy like me could get used to something like this real quick.” His voice low and ridiculously suave. North was having a hard time not ruining it with a huge smile, but he pressed on!

“In fact.” He said. “A guy like me could go a little further.” His arms rose to Diana’s sides as North took hold of her, pulling the woman a little closer. She couldn’t have been expecting him to continue, let’s see her beat that! And just to make sure, the detective wrapped his arms around her waist and made sure to hold her tightly. She wasn’t going anywhere.

Trapped. In more than one sense! But she wasn’t about to go cowering off and calling it quits. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Besides, it was rather nice like this, comfortable even. North McCoy wasn’t exactly intimidating, not that she thought he was that much of a wimp either. There was nothing to really worry about, he would bow out in moment and she would be victorious!

“You can’t be serious…” she muttered. Hell, maybe he was and that was more than a little curious. Diana slowly slid her arms over his shoulders making sure to brush the back of his neck with her fingers. “You are painfully predictable. I bet you don’t have a daring thought in that brain of yours.” There, that was bound to have him scrammbling for the door.

Still going? Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as North thought. It was going fine until Diana brushed his neck and caused North to shiver slightly, giving him an odd sensation. He thought about giving up right there, and letting her have her victory. Or he did until she called him predictable, he wasn’t predictable and he’d show her that!

“Oh no?” North said, cocking an eyebrow. “I might just have a few ideas.” And slowly, North pushed his hands up to the small of Diana’s back, bringing her head only inches from his. Now this was going pretty far and she couldn’t hold out much longer, she was going to jump off him at any moment and he would have his victory. But then, a part of him, deep down almost hoped she wouldn’t give up. That maybe, she would keep going.

“Just – a couple ideas.”

Now was the time to make some smartass comment, call him an idiot and promptly kick him the hell out of her apartment. Only, she very much wanted to stay right there, to lean that much closer and it was scaring the ever loving daylights out of her. Since when did it turn from a game to an actual want?!

“Damn.” She really should have moved. Instead she brushed a kiss across his cheek with half veiled eyes and an almost sad smile. “You almost had me fooled, North McCoy. Very good bluff, but I can see you twitching right about here…” She traced her thumb along his jaw over the spot. “You’ve got nothing on me.”

Now things were getting out of hand, what began as a small joke was erupting into the real thing! North’s heart began racing like crazy when Diana softly planted her lips on his cheek. She should be making some smartass comment, calling him an idiot and giving him a swift kick out of her apartment, but instead, there they were, holding each other! North didn’t know what to think, he was confused, scared and even a little enticed by the situation. What was it about this woman?!

“I, uh, guess you got me.” He replied, his mind too scattered to carry the suave act any longer. The gig was up, Diana has beat him and the game was over – so why couldn’t he let go of her? North sat there, looking up at Diana for a moment; he just didn’t want to let her go, the moment just felt – right! Not awkward, not embarrassing – just right.

North tried to sit up more, finding it difficult with the agent on his lap. “I guess I should … I-” He paused when he leaned forward to have his lips just barely touching Diana’s. “I…”

“I win…” she muttered just barely above a whisper. It was a sweet victory for the agent, and now she could claim her prize and he’d think twice trying to play smooth with her. One small kiss wouldn’t hurt anyone, she thought, as she held her breath.

BRIIIIING!

The sudden ringing of the phone shattered the moment as she jumped back in surpise. What was she doing?! A few days stuck with the guy and she’s pouncing him on her sofa! She didn’t even have alcohol as an excuse for such behavior. Still, regrettably Diana disentangled herself from the agent not trusting herself to say a word beyond a grummbled curse.

Moving to the phone and casting it sour glare, she snatched it up. What jackass called someone’s place in the middle of the night? “What.”

“I see you’ve made a friend.”

Diana almost dropped the phone. With wide eyes she turned her back to North, keeping her voice perfectly even. “Perhaps I have.” He was calling her house now, was he watching? The thought gave her a nasty chill.

“I hope he doesn’t get in the way. We have unfinished business, you and I.”

“You’re the only one that feels that way.” Being obscure was difficult. What she really wanted to say invovled a hell of alot of cursing followed by name calling and a few less than subtle threats. However, she didn’t want North to worry and she definetly didn’t want him to think she needed his help.

“I learned some new tricks from the buddy of that friend of yours. Your fancy little detective skills aren’t going to help this time. And if your new friend gets in the way I’ll make sure he ends up like Jenny. You do remember Jenny don’t you, kid?”

“We’ll see who gets who first.” Her teeth were clenched together so tightly as she hung up the phone, she could almost her her jaw crack. There were just certain things she couldn’t stand and be threatened by someone she couldn’t immediatly shoot was almost more than she could bare.

North closed his eyes with a sigh as the phone went off, breaking up the moment. It was probably for the better, anyway. Who knows where that could have gone, and they had a professional relationship, nothing more! It was just a joke after all. A little fun after a long week.

As Diana stood back up, North slid back from his lazy looking position, keeping sure to stay under the blanket. Who would call now is what he wanted to know. Someone from the building complaining about the water, maybe? At least, that’s what he thought until he heard the tone of Diana’s voice. It was cold and harsh, hateful even, but North didn’t say anything until she was through.

When Diana slammed the phone down, North was quick to her side. The way she stood there, he could tell she was more than upset, and whoever it was had really struck something. “Diana?” He asked softly. “Are you okay? Uh, who was that?”

“It was the ice cream man.” Sarcasm was always her best mechenism. She really hated being threatened, and worse yet he pointed out North. There really wasn’t any need to be protective of the detective, but he seemed to walk himself in to trouble. She was almost in danger of becoming attached to him.

“I think I will stay with you – just for a little while. We can start on something early then.” Diana was flat out avoiding the rest of the question. She certaintly wasn’t okay and he didn’t need to know it was it was one Stephen Burch giving a ring to make sure she’s nice and unsettled. Unsettled was definetly an understatement!

“I’ll get your clothes…”

Diana’s snappy remark didn’t really phase North, he knew something was upsetting her and she obviously didn’t want to talk about it. And trying to pry it out of her would have been a fruitless endeavor. And that really tore him up inside, as well. North would like nothing more than to help the agent, but he couldn’t do anything unless she told him what was bothering her. Until then, all he could to was stand by and watch.

“Yeah, ok.” North sighed as she retrieved his pants from one of the rooms. At least she wasn’t going to spend the night alone with whatever was bothering her, or in this place. Not that his apartment was much better, but it was a few floors up, so there weren’t any rats at least. And that way, maybe he could at least try to get what’s troubling out of her. Until then, he just wanted to get Diana out of that place.

“And don’t worry.” North said as he threw on his jeans. “My room is bigger than it seems.”

“Alright.” While getting his clothes, she had grabbed a few things for herself and stuffed them in a bag. The sooner they left, the sooner she could pick up something to work on. All that previous sleepyness or even that devious mood had vanished. How was someone supposed to sleep knowing some creep was playing the peeping tom waiting for the perfect moment to sneak up on your and slit your throat? Or something worse! There were quite a few bloody scenarios running through her head. She had seem plenty working for the bureau by the had a whole new wave of scary when you were the potential victim.

Handing him his shirt and jacket she moved to unlock the door and paused. It was thoughtful for him to fix it for her, and she couldn’t remember if she thanked him or not. Maybe she would write him a sticky note while he was sleeping. “Are you ready, detective?”

“Whenever you want to go, Agent.” He said and threw on his jacket, still holding his shirt. No point in throwing on two wet things. “Here, let me get that for you!” North stepped over to the door opening it for Diana. “And I can, uh, carry that for you.” Motioning towards the bag. Though, he wasn’t taking no for an answer anyway, North promptly stole the bag from Diana before she could reply.

Outside, the detective lead Diana to his newly acquired, rented car which he didn’t care for much, but it was better than walking. But it did unlock with a little button on the key chain which amused him, this being the second car he’s ever had. North opened the passenger’s door and placed Diana’s bag in the back before letting her sit down and getting in himself.

The ride was short to North’s, only a couple minutes from her place, and they didn’t really speak. Much in part to the happenings earlier that evening. “I’ve – got to admit. I’m kind of glad you did come.” North made with the small talk. “I mean, we’ve spent every night we’ve known each other – together, why break … the habit now…” He trailed off a little at the end, feeling what he said probably wasn’t all that amusing to Diana at the moment.

He was a dolt, but he was an endearing dolt and it was enough to at least get her to crack a small smile instead of reaching over and swatting him. His bemusement with the carlock and insistance on opening doors was also rather entertaining. When they reached his place, she let him steal her bag again, deciding she really wasn’t up for another game of tug-a-war.

Diana decided his apartment wasn’t so bad, it just needed straightening up. Lots of straightening up. If she were going to work with him, she was going to have to be able to find things without discovering random creatures and misplaced snacks. She moved to his desk and took a seat in his chair. The top was already all nice and neat, she could spend the rest of the night organizing his case files.

North was right behind Diana as they entered his place, the apartment just the way they he had left it. His partner was strangely quiet, the detective half expecting another comment about his living space. But he wasn’t going to press his luck either. Making his way over to his desk, North was about to have a seat when Diana swooped in and took it before he could get even close. Shrugging it off, North opened the closet door and pulled out a small, folding chair normally used for clients.

“Well, just make yourself at home, agent.” He said, unfolding the chair and sitting down. “Sorry I don’t have – anything.” The room was somewhat lacking compared to Diana’s apartment. No TV, computer or even furniture outside the desks and chair. But it was home for the detective; besides, he had to run a business out of the place.

“But can I get you anything?” North asked, nodding towards his “kitchen” in the corner, which mainly consisted of a tiny fridge, a sink and an old stove. A microwave sat on that, though, as it didn’t work very well at all.

“Let’s see.” Getting up, North stepped over to the fridge and looked inside. “I have … nothing…” It was empty, he hadn’t went out to get anything in weeks, mainly living off of Lou’s cooking. “Uhh, well, nevermind…”

Diana leaned on the desk dropping her chin in to the palm of her hand. Hopeless was a good word to describe North McCoy. He probably didn’t know how to cook either or do his own laundry. “I’ll take care of that tomorrow… How on earth do you survive on your own anyway?”

At this rate she was going to have to write a list of all the things she would have to take care of. In fact that sounded like a great idea as she snagged a notepad from the desk and a pen. There was files to organize, groceries to take care of, and of course finding a new case to work on. All perfect distractions to keep her mind off the fact she had not only been ran out of her own city but her new apartment as well.

She scribbled a few things on her list, along with a distracted doodle of North in his shorts while she thought of something else to add. “You need a better chair for your clients…”

“That – that’s really not necessary.” North said, giving the list a worried look. Thanks to his recession in work, he only had enough to pay the bills and get a good meal every now and then. This was going to break him unless she chipped in, and he wasn’t about to ask his partner for grocery money. After all, after her place gets fixed up, she wouldn’t want to stay in this dump. Her apartment was a palace compared to his dusty room.

“Just a couple things, maybe.” He said, hoping she would limit her list, but it already looked like she had written a lot down. At least, it appeared like she was writing; North wasn’t in a good position to tell. He took a few steps in her direction, trying to get a good look at her list from over he shoulder. “Food, chair, duster? and – what is that?” He was whispering to himself until he saw the little sketch.

With a quick hand, North managed to pluck the notepad from under Diana for a better view. He had a good idea what it was, and spotting the little bird only made it certain. Glancing up at her, North gave Diana a smile and a soft chuckle. “You’re pretty good at that.” He said and handed her back her list knowing she wasn’t going to be peaceful about him snatching it like that.

When he glanced down, North caught sight of his clock and the hour. When did it get so late? He thought, then again, he spent most of the night at Diana’s place, which was only suppose to be a few minutes. “Say, it’s getting pretty late.” He said, not sounding as chippy. “Did you want the chair or the bed?” Pointing to each as he said them.

“I mean – go ahead and take the bed. I’m fine in the chair.”

The woman looked almost chided as he snatched away her list and spotted her little doodle. She really couldn’t help that she tended to get distracted and sketch silly things while she was thinking, he didn’t have to look so amused! “I forgot to add the devil horns and a tail.” When the notebook was back in her grasp she made a big show off adding them to the drawing.

“I’m not tired. I am going to stay up awhile and fix your mess of a filing system.” On cue, she leaned over to pull a few of the files from the cabinet in the desk. She briefly wondered if he even had a system or if he just stuffed them where ever there was room! “You can go sleep.”

As tired as North was, he wasn’t about to let Diana stay up alone, much less to clean his messy files. “No, no. I’m fine.” and on cue, a small yawn crept its way out, North attempting to hide it. “I’ll, uh, give you a hand.” And walked around, kneeing between his desk and the filing cabinet in the corner. After all, if she wanted to mess up his system he might as well had been there to see where everything went.

North began pulling files from the steel cabinet beside him, the ones stacked on top first. There were quite an impressive number of them for a PI, but most dated back before he had lost his brother which brought a certain sadness to his eyes. But he quickly covered that up with a quick yawn and continues pulling out files and stacking them to one side.

“So.” He said, glancing around at the new mess they’ve made. “How would you suggest filling these?” He asked, just wanting to hear her advice.

“I suggest you sleep and just let me do this.” Diana hadn’t meant to sound so harsh, but she was tired and irritated, and she just wanted to be alone! Well, no, she’d take that back. She really didn’t want to be alone, but it might’ve been a little less nerve racking if he would go to bed and let her brood in silence. They had been together for days with one problem after another. There was just the constant pressure of seeming unaffected, of keeping everything from falling apart and holding up the world. It was all becoming overwhelmingly sufforcating.

She ran her hand angrily through her hair. The whole thing was going to send her in to a rediculous panic attack if she didn’t keep herself focused on something and occupied. “I’m sorry, it’s just easier when you’re not moving things. I’ll take detailed notes so you won’t loose anything.” Pulling a stack of folders closer she flicked open one of the files.

“No. No, you’re right.” North said, suddenly feeling rather stupid for sitting down like he did. “I mean, getting in the way is what I’m – I’m good at…” A half-hearted smile crossed his lips, but not a sincere one. He stood up and stepped around a few odd file here and there and made his way towards the bedroom. There was something bothering the agent, North knew that much, but there was nothing he could do. Leaving Diana to herself was the best he could do for her at the moment.

Then why did it feel so wrong?

That wasn’t what he should have done. He should be at her side and doing everything in his power to find out what was wrong and fix it. North could solve any case that came his way, so why was this so hard to do? Glancing back, Diana had her nose in a file and was reading it pretty intently. He knew he should at least say something to let her know how he felt.

“Diana, I…” Suddenly, all the words he wanted to say disappeared as soon as he opened his mouth. “…I just wanted to tell you. You can come kick me out when you’re … done.” That was a disaster. With a sigh, North stepped into his room and closed the door until only a sliver of light shone through. North sat down on his bed before removing his boots and pants and throwing them on the floor. When he laid back, the bed felt more uncomfortable than normal and he spent most of the time twisting and turning, trying to find a comfortable position.

With a heavy sigh now, North got up to open what he was forced to call a window. The repair job from the explosion forced the building owners to fix them in their own, special way. Sliding the hack-job of glass and duct tape open to get a cool breeze through, North returned under the thin covers of his bed in hopes of getting some shut eye. And once again, all he could do was thrash about from one side to another. This wasn’t going to work. Finally, North just sat up and stared at the crack of light from the door.

“Damnit, Diana, what’s wrong with you…”

Sighing, Diana scripted in capital letters ‘APOLIGISE TO NORTH’ on the top of her list and underlined it twice. Had it been any other person she wouldn’t have given a damn. Hell, she wouldn’t even be there, instead she’d be at her own place pacing the floors. But this was North, and North was a nice guy and she was finding more difficult by the hour to callously brush him off.

That was becoming a problem in it’s own right. She didn’t want to like him, to be his friend, or anything else that might’ve popped in to her mind. There wasn’t any room in her life for people like that. People get killed or die leaving her alone and feeling worse off than she did in the first place. And with Stephen Burch making ample threats, it was only a matter of time before North found himself in another showdown with an arch nemesis. Only this time it wouldn’t even be his problem. It was hers, and he was going to get stuck in the middle and it would be all her fault.

Diana dropped the file on the desk and rubbed her eyes, grummbling to herself for her lack of self control. Maybe she should leave. There was bound to be a decent hotel nearby, or she could find a new city altogether. The idea of running to a new city everytime she was found didn’t sit well with her, however. Finding the guy and killing him would be more appropiate, only she was starting to think she couldn’t face him at all. Maybe Charles Mandell was right. She was afraid.

She rested her head on her arms, tapping her fingers on the desk to a slow and steady pace. This was a bad idea. It was all a bad idea. She was going to have to tell North she was sorry, and leave in the morning. Once the trial was over maybe she’d go back to Seattle. She just needed to leave before things got worse.

This was unbearable. Just outside that door was a woman who was upset, angry and distraught; and he had no idea what to do about it! And for all he knew, she could be out there, crying, sobbing, BAWLING! “NO! No, no…” North shook his head to rid the thoughts. She wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. She was probably just out there, reading away, cool, calm and calculated as always. But then why was she so upset?

“Ok, I’m going out there.” North said and stood up. He was going to go out there and find out what was wrong! Making his way to the door, North began to have second thoughts. “But she said she just needed some alone time…” Ok, ok, so maybe she was fine, just a little agitated. After all, they’ve spent every day together since they’d met. Maybe he should just lie down, she’ll get over it. That was her way! North nodded and sat back down, his decision final.

“No! She needs tell someone!” He jumped back up. Dana can’t keep things bottled up inside, that wasn’t good for someone like her. She needed to just tell someone, hear a few kind words and maybe whack him later for making her talk, but at least she talked! This is what she needed and that is what he was going to do.

But…

She did get over all her other problems by herself, why change that now? It was only going to make her awkward and uncomfortable. And she asked him to leave. Not suggested, not hinted. Asked. And North didn’t want to upset her further by sticking around when she didn’t want him around. She has asked him to leave and that’s what he did, leave. North sat down once more and got ready to slide under the covers again.

“But that’s what they always say!” Again jumping to his feet. Diana was just pushing away like she did everyone else. And now he was going to have to be the one to say, “No! I want to help!” For her sake. He needed to do this, she needed HIM to do this, and they just needed this!

“Ok…” North muttered. He wasn’t backing down this time. Walking towards the door, each step felt heavier as he got closer and closer. But nothing was going to stop him, nothing! Finally, he reached down and grabbed the door handle – and just froze. He simply couldn’t open the door. He didn’t know if he was opening it to open arms, a nasty look or anything at all! She could be sleeping for all he knew. Why couldn’t he open the door then?

Why did Diana have to be so complicated?!

The detective was spacing and mummbling. She tilted her head so she could peek over her arm at the partially cracked door. It was too soft for her to tell what he was saying, but he was very obviously shuffling around. For a moment she thought maybe she had hurt his feelings more than she had intended. North was too nice of a guy for his own good. But, she had been plenty meaner before then and he came out alright. He could have had nightmare about Mandell. Hell, she’d be having nightmares if she let herself fall asleep. The guy was going to shoot her out of that stupid game. She would have be dead if Lisa D’rno didn’t shoot down the door.

Might’ve been better off that way. It was morbid thinking and not quite her usual style. Infact more she thought about it, she wouldn’t have wanted to leave North with a dead partner. He would have gone all nuts and gotton himself killed to without anyone there to bail him out of trouble. No, if the infamous Diana Jones was anything it was a survivor. Even if surviving kind of sucked.

Diana hooked the notepad with a finger and dragged it back over, only leaning up far enough to rest her chin on her arm as she wrote. ‘North, I’m sorry. You’re not an idiot. You’re actually icredibly nice. Too nice. Thanks for doing the impossible and caring enough to worry about me, but I have to leave.’ She tapped the pen on the paper a few moments before adding a post script.

‘P.S. You might actually get more clients if you had better chairs.’

So it was a little impersonal. For some reason she thought she might not be able to leave if she had to say goodbye to his face. As soon as he stopped creeping around, she get her stuff and sneak out! Goodbye detective, goodbye extra worries.

“Ok, ok. I can do this. Just walk out there and – talk to her…” This was going to be harder than he thought. And why was it so hard? He was a great private investigator! Well, he was an ok PI, but still, this should be nothing to him. Just walk out there and ask her what’s wrong.

Taking a deep breath, North prepared for the worst. He probably wouldn’t walk out of this alive, but that was a risk worth taking. With a pull, he swung the door open and stormed out into the office with determination on his face. His determination, though, quickly disappeared when he looked down at the woman at his desk. She was going to kill him.

“D – Diana? I know you wanted to be alone, but you need to tell me what’s wrong.” He said, doing his best to sound assertive. It wasn’t coming out like he had hoped. It was best just to say what he wanted to say. “Look, I’m just a little worried about you, that’s all. And I want to help! That’s what partners do … and we are partners, aren’t we?”

“No. No we’re not.” Diana sighed. Drats. He would have to come out right before she made her escape. Now came the tough part of leaving without being too terrible. Why did he have to go and be likable?

“I can’t do this. I think it’s best if I just leave.” There, pure and simple. He didn’t need to know the nitty gritty details. “Besides, it’s not your job to worry about me. It’s my problem and I should take care of it.” Wait, that wasn’t something she should have mentioned, now he’s really going to want to know!

“I mean, it’s not one of your cases and I’m not your client. It’s… it’s none of business, that’s what!” Well, there goes being nice about it. “I’ve just got to go. I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I need to leave.” Before you get involved in another bizzare situation.

“No, it’s not another one of my cases, and … it shouldn’t have to be.” North said, the old familiar, caring tone back in his voice. “Diana, I…” Pausing a moment to collect himself before he finished what he was going to say.

“Diana, I care about you.” Now he didn’t know what to expect next. North didn’t even know if anything he could say would keep her there, but he had to let her know how he felt before she did. At least that way she knew someone there cared for her, it was hard to come across that feeling in a place like Chicago.

“I’m not going to stop you if you want to go.” And stepped aside. North stood there, wondering if he could even bare to see her leave, even if he really could let her go. She shouldn’t be alone, after all, any other night he would just have done what she asked and not even thought about it. But tonight was different, She needed someone, whether she realized it or not, and he wasn’t going to stand idly by and watch her sulk and torment herself.

“But I just want to know what’s wrong.”

Jesus Christ. He said the C word. Why was it he always had to go do the nice guy routine at the worst possible moments? She tried to hide that pained expression and simply look uninterested, but he wasn’t making it any easier. And it was doing it in his shorts. Diana wondered if he realized.

“Well,” she lamented. Telling he wasn’t the best idea, but if he wasn’t going to quit bothering her until she told him, she might as well. “It’s really not that important, but…” Telling seem harder than it seemed. When thinking about it, she wouldn’t have mentioned the tidbit to her boss either. Last thing she wanted was some goon followng her around and telling her stuff was ‘too dangerous’. “The phonecall was from Stephen Burch. I just have to find somewhere new to stay is all.”

“Somewhere that’s not here” she added. Diana knew exactly what he was going to offer and it was the last thing she wanted. Helpful or not, he would be in danger and she didn’t want to have to worry about keeping an eye on him too. At least, that’s what she told herself.

Diana tucked the notepad under one of the files and rose from the chair. She needed to leave now before he tried to talk her out of it. “I’ll be around for the trial so you don’t have to worry about me.”

“Wait, that was Burch?” Damnit, what hadn’t he realized that sooner, it was so obvious now. Only he could have shaken her up like that. No wonder Diana was so snippy with him all of a sudden. If he was getting brave enough to call Diana on her own phone, who knows what he could do next.

“Diana, if he’s staring to harass you like that, the last thing you should do is be alone. Especially in some place you’re not familiar with!” He said, sounding like some after school special now. How could she possibly think going out on her own would be safe? That’s just asking him to sneak up behind her and – well, North didn’t want to think about that. But still, that was the wrong idea no matter how much she didn’t want his help.

“I know I said I wouldn’t stop you but I – I can’t let you go get yourself killed, Diana.” North said, taking a couple steps into her path to the doorway. She wasn’t going to be too pleased, but this time she wouldn’t have a say in the matter. He just hoped he was going to get out of this alive and in one piece.

“What?!” she exclaimed loudly. Damnable man, she should have known he was going to flip out! “Don’t be an idiot! I’ve lived this long, I can take care of myself just fine.” Diana hoped she wasn’t going to have to shoot him to get him out of the way. Wait, she didn’t bring her gun along! Damn! That was exactly why she needed to leave! For some reason she just didn’t think with North McCoy around!

Eyeing him carefully, she guessed she could knock him down alright. He wouldn’t want to hurt her, so she had the advantage! Still, wrestling her way out the front door wasn’t at all amusing. “Get out of the way, North. I really don’t want to have to beat you senseless.”

Beat me senseless?! Was she serious? North didn’t think Diana was that fanatical about leaving. These had to be empty threats, no one’s ever beaten someone for caring – then again, she wasn’t exactly like everyone else. But North still wasn’t about to let the agent step out and get herself killed, he knew how proud she was and how she wouldn’t let one threat get to her. Or at least, let it show it’s gotten to her. If she really was going to take a swing at him, he was just going to have to take it. Afterall, He wasn’t about to harm her in any way.

“I’m just trying to help. I just don’t think being alone is the best thing for you right now!” If she was serious about giving him a good beating, North had probably doubled the punishment by now. He simply wasn’t going to let her leave … for her sake.

Boy, he was a dolt! Or he was calling her bluff. Either way, he wasn’t moving willingly and she was going to have to run for it. “It’s not your problem to worry about! I am a grown woman, and you are not my keeper!” It was a really rediculous situation, not to mention childish. It’s not like she couldn’t stay for the night and leave in the morning, but… it was the principal of the thing! She was trying to be nice and spare him from any problems, and he was just being difficult!

Diana crossed her arms and thought for a moment. She didn’t really want to beat him senseless; he didn’t deserve it. But she needed to get him out of the way. Her things could always be picked up later, so it was just her.

“Oh my god, it’s that rat!!” She pointed towards the far corner looking as shocked as possible and when he fell for the bait, she darted for the door!

“What? Where?!” North’s head spun around when he caught the look on Diana’s face. But as soon as he did so, he couldn’t believe what he had just done. And with the sudden sound of Diana’s feet flying past him, North was going to have to act fast if he wanted to stop her.

How could he fall for that?!

“Hey! Diana, WAIT!” North shouted, nearly falling over to give chase. It felt incredibly childish, chasing after the girl who just made him fall for the oldest trick in the book, but he just couldn’t let her go! She’d either be hunted down by Burch or worse, she’d go looking for him! North was right behind Diana when she reached the door.

Damn! Why hadn’t he locked that when he came inside? He always did! Either he was just tired, or Diana had his head in more of a bind than he thought. Luckily, the door slowed her down enough for him to get an arm around her. “Gotcha!” He shouted, mostly out of reaction. If they looked like children before, that would have definitely topped off the image.

With a strong pull, North pulled Diana off the ground and back into the room. “Diana I can’t – let you – leave!” He told the kicking and thrashing Agent. Did she really need to make such a big deal out of this? Did he? Either way, he was going to make her stay – or die trying. Putting Diana back in the office would just cause her to make another mad-dash for the door, so instead, North dragged her into his bedroom and kicked the door shut.

“Now just sit down for a second!” North said and dropped the still kicking woman onto his bed. “Now look, you’re staying whether you like it or not!” His voice unusually firm now. North wiped the hair out of his face and took a deep breath.

“Look, I’m sorry.” There was the apology again. “I just think being here, with someone, is much better for you.” He paced back and forth a little bit before stopping again. “And if it makes you feel any better, I’ll sit here and stay awake all night.” And the detective sat down at the foot of the bed. He was obviously tired, but a promise was a promise and he’d make sure to stay up all night until Diana awoke.

He hoped.

The scene was definetly comical, she might have even laughed if it weren’t her getting dragged in the back room! He was stronger she would have suspected and as he dropped her on the bed she was ready to spat out a whole stream of insults, but there he went apologising again. It just wasn’t right that all he had to do was say sorry and it’d take all the wind out of her sails.

Diana crossed her arms and glowered at him first. She wasn’t really stuck there, after all if it came to worst scenarios she could knock him out and walk out with ease. Or even better, the waiting game. He had to sleep eventually. Still, it wouldn’t hurt for just one night, would it? That would get his chivalry out of hs system, and maybe, just maybe it’d be a little easier for her to sleep knowing someone else was there.

“Fine.” Diana finally muttered as she uncrossed her arms and kicked off her shoes. “If that’s the way you want to do it. But don’t come crying to me if you get shot in the middle of the night because you just happened to be in a murderers way.”

“Or stabbed.” she added, pulling back the covers so she could make herself comfortable. “With an ice pick. Or a butter knife. A garden rake… Who even needs stabbing these days, there’s good old fashioned smothering too!” There! Let him wonder about all the ways they could get murdered!

A quick, “Uh-huh” was all the satisfaction North gave Diana for trying to scare him. It wasn’t that he dealt with that all the time, and sure, the threat was a little higher tonight. But it wasn’t anything new to him. North’s ticked off a few people in his lifetime, and his address was right in the phone book, but he had a pretty good lock on the door at least.

Which he forgot to close. Again.

“Er, I’ll be right back, though.” He said, standing up. “I just forgot … something.” And slipped out the door. He wasn’t sure about leaving Diana alone, for all he knew he could find her gone and his screen kicked out, but she said she would stay – which didn’t help any. But he wasn’t going to ask her to close the door, or was he going to drag her along; she did look awfully comfy.

North closed the door to his home and locked the deadbolt, and as a special precaution, he released an iron rod that went from the door into the floor. It had been a while since he used that, but he thought they could use the extra protection. And maybe what Diana said did get to him, just a little.

With that finished, he turned to return to his bedroom where the agent lay – he hoped. Out of habit, North knocked a couple times before entering. It was the polite thing to do, after all. “Diana?” He called, making sure he could enter.

That was a perfect moment to sneak out, but she said she’d stay and she didn’t want to make a liar out of herself. Small fibs she could do, if it were for his own good. But flat out lying wasn’t very polite. Rolling her eyes at the knocking, she muttered a quick ‘come in’ while sitting cross-legged on the bed. Sleep still didn’t seem like the best idea, North looked like he was going to pass out any minute and someone needed to stay awake incase another incident happened.

“Don’t forget acid.” she chimed in again, now for the simple sake of being difficult. “Acid poured over you while you sleep. Or scorpions in the bed.” Granted, she figured none of that would be Stephen Burch’s style… he was more of the cut you open and watch you bleed type. As she thought more about that she quickly silenced her taunts with a thoughtful scowl.

Poking his head in before entering, North smirked at Diana’s continuos onslaught of disturbing ideas. “Ok, that – that’s enough.” He said, to tired to battle with the images. They sunk further in than he thought and staying awake all night didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore. But at least neither of them would be alone, that worried North more than being killed by things you hear about in movies.

“Don’t try to change my mind, it’s made – made up.” North said sitting down, as soon as he did so, his eyes became extremely heavy. There goes being wide-awake; maybe he could just rest his eyes for a while, until Diana fell asleep. Then he would brew some coffee and maybe fill out some of the paper work they needed to get done. North luckily had the proper forms sitting around, he just had to do them by hand now. Which he wasn’t looking forward to.

“Just get some sleep.” North said, “We’ll get this mess sorted out in the morning.

“Forget it.” she muttered. “I’m never sleeping again.” Now she was just being rediculous and she knew it. It was all just uncomfortable and strange for a multitude of reasons, none of which she wanted to really delve in to with serious thought. She did know sleep was not an option.

But she was incredibly tired. It was all North’s fault.

Thus she tossed his pillow at him resulting in a satisfying whomph when it hit him. She felt a little better, enough to even smile! “Besides, if I do fall asleep you’re going to go lurking off and leaving me without a decoy.” Her smile was decidedly cheeky, the same one she used while teasing him when they had first met. “I’d rather you stay in bed with me and get pinned first.” Hmm, that didn’t sound right at all. “Get stabbed first.” she amended quickly! Of course, she didn’t really mean it, but she wasn’t going to admit she didn’t want to stay alone!

“P-pinned?” North’s eyes opened. “By the bad guys, right?” He said in a tone not unlike sarcasm. “But don’t worry, I’ll stay right here if you really want me to. But.” Sliding his waist out so he was slouching comfortably now. “Keep your feet to yourself then.” He smiled and put his arms behind his head. If he was stuck there all night, the least he could do is get comfortable.

Again, his eyes began their normal attempt to shut themselves, but since North was stuck there, he had to at least try to keep them open. A promise was a promise after all, and no mater how much she tried to hide it, Diana was obviously a bit uneasy, but he wasn’t going to bring that up. He might have had a slight upper hand for once, but North wasn’t one to flaunt it. Especially when the person was in the same room he was sleeping in.

Diana was sorely tempted to give him a good shove off the bed with her foot, but resisted. Barely. She watched him a few minutes with a thoughtful expression. He was going to fall asleep, no doubt about that, but he was there and that was a small monetary comfort. It wasn’t too bad knowing she wouldn’t be alone.

Snatching up the pillow again, she fluffed it before finally laying down and settling. His bed wasn’t too terrible, infact it was almost comfortable! Still sleeping wasn’t high on her list of thoughts. Flicking a few strands of hair from her face she reached over to poke North in the side. “I get a story for going to bed, don’t I?” A silly suggestion, but it would prove entertaining!

“Yeah, yeah a … story?” North raised his head a little bit to make sure he heard right. Just when he thought he had Diana figured out, she’s throws him another curve ball. This one was just as unexpected as the last. And once again, she was actually serious which only confused him more.

North was a guy who usually did what people asked, no matter how silly – except right now he was tired as hell and couldn’t bring himself to tell her a story. Even if he did have a few tall tales left from his grandpa which Diana would probably find rather amusing. And the more he thought about it, the more he felt like sharing them. But he was still tired, and North didn’t think he would get very far before dozing off. He also decided he was putting way more thought into it than necessary, which happened a lot when he was near sleeping.

“Actually, Diana…” He closed one eye, still watching her with the other. “Grow up.”

Diana laughed easily, which might’ve been unexpected considering she was just told to grow up. She scooted up to lean on her elbows, casting a chesire grin. “Let’s get this straight. You order me to bed, complete with the dragging, and now I have to grow up? Double standards, detective.” She was being a deliberate bother but they were going to eventually need the rest.

“I can’t sleep.” she admitted softly. It might’ve been easier to sleep if she would have been still and stop making excuses, but making excuses was something she was good at. “You aren’t going to play decoy forever. I can’t get used to this…”

North wasn’t going to get any sleep soon, that was for sure, not until Diana was satisfied. Sitting up again, the detective hunched over and rested his elbows on his knees, crossing his arms. “Maybe not forever.” He said. “But as long as it takes.”

Burch couldn’t hide forever, sooner or later one of them was going to make a move, and this time, North would be ready. But for the time being, all he could do was make sure he didn’t sneak up on her. North was going to have to the one thing Diana hated most – protect her. Possibly from herself as well. At least she finally saw it his way for once, even if he did drag her back, kicking and screaming. Not to mention she was keeping him from relaxing for the night.

“And would you like me to hold you all night, too? Just so you can finally get some sleep?”

Diana raised an eyebrow and scoffed! What a terrible idea! Did he think she was three years old? It was perposterous to think she needed the arms of some guy wrapped around her while she was comforted in to a deep and blissful sleep.

Well. No one could say she didn’t know how to take advantage of an interesting situation.

“That’s a terrific idea! Burch will have no choice but to go through you then.” There was hint of sarcasm, but she was serious! Afterall, what better protection was there than a human sheild? And maybe a small tiny part of her like the idea for much different reasons. “You made the suggestion, now you have to make good on it! Hold me then, but you better not have cold hands.” she added with amusement.

Why didn’t he see that coming? Of course Diana would have taken that offer up, no matter if he were serious or not. “You know I was… I mean, it was just…” North’s voice faded. He really couldn’t tell if she was serious or not, after all, she did seem less ‘up tight’ about things since the event in her apartment. And maybe he didn’t mind the thought of it either, but appearing to enjoy anything might turn Diana away.

“Ok, fine. If it will get you to go to sleep then – fine. I will … hold you.” It felt almost cheesy saying it like that, but luckily no one was listening in on them. But if he was going to do this, the least Diana could do was not go on about it later. Not that he felt ashamed or embarrassed, she was just a lady and an agent. Maybe a rather quirky agent and attractive woman, but that didn’t change anything.

“So, um, did you want to come over here or should I … lay down?”

Smooth.

Diana blinked and before she could simulate any sort of reply she errupted in to a fit of laughter much akin to the average schoolgirl. It was terrible she could imagine him saying the exact same thing as a younger man and the poor girl smacking her forhead with frustration. He was hopeless in more ways than one!

Barely containing her laughter she snagged his arm. “I have to do everything myself. Here!” Pulling him backwards, she had him lay down and with a bit of poking situated him just the way she wanted him. Tucking herself under his arm, she rest her head on his shoulder and flicked his chin with her fingers.

“You over complicate things. You don’t ask a girl if you can kiss her first, do you? That’d make a mess of the whole moment.”

She really didn’t have to laugh at him, North was feeling inept as it was. But it wasn’t really as bad as he made it out to be, and he was more comfortable than he thought he would be. And just maybe having the quirky agent in his arms was something he was looking forward to again after leaving her apartment. At least no one called his phone – ever.

“Well, what’s so bad about that?” North responded to Diana’s question. “You wouldn’t just – do that without warning. Well, maybe you would, but, uh … well, I don’t know.” Another slick answer. For someone who was suppose to have good people relations, North wasn’t helping his image. Then again, he wasn’t dealing with a normal person at the moment.

He didn’t know what he was dealing with at all.

“I mean … would you? I mean, you just don’t seem like the – type.”

“I wasn’t aware that I had a type.” she muttered coolly. What was her type? She didn’t consider herself normal by any means, but she wasn’t exactly bizzare either. Of course being in bed with her partner discussing the finer arts of when to kiss someone wasn’t something she expected to be doing either.

It was a strange realization that dawned on her then. She trusted him, apparently enough to where she didn’t even think about keeping up that pretense that she was inhuman. When she decided North McCoy was a safe enough specimen to be so casual with she couldn’t exactly remember but it was nice. One less thing she had to worry about… at least for the time being.

Diana flicked his chin again in an offhand way to show she was insulted. “I certaintly wouldn’t warn someone first. Imagine a sunset and a passionate moment shattered by the choice phrase ‘Can I kiss you?’ because there was too much thought put in to the whole scene… It’s like asking the green light if you can go yet.”

“Well, how many times does that happen?” North said, doing a good job at ruining any mood there might be. “But in the rare event that you’re with someone you might love, after some traumatic event that might have happened and standing outside during the perfect sunset – Ok, maybe.” He definitely wasn’t quite the romantic Diana seemed to be, at least, he didn’t show it. ‘Getting the girl’ wasn’t exactly part of the job – he was lucky if they even bothered to pay him.

“But I guess I’m not the ‘hopeless romantic’ like you.” North said with a smile, pulling Diana a little closer without realizing it. “And I guess that – kinds shows, doesn’t it?” A somewhat shameful, but humorous tone to his voice.

She wrinkled her nose up with indignation. “I am not a hopeless romantic.” If anyone was hopeless it was him, with all his chilvarly and polite manners! Her ideas were merely from a practical point of view. He pulled her closer, which she didn’t at all considering he was rather warm and there was a cool breeze from the window.

“Besides,” she continued, “Why does it have to be so dramatic? It could be a date at the park or sitting outside after dinner. The most traumatic thing would be a late taxi or a brood of angry ducks.” Diana pulled up the blanket over them both, tucking it just under his chin. “What you need is someone who can say, ‘Shutup and kiss me.’ ”

“Yeah…” North said with a hint of thoughtfulness. At least he knew what he liked when he heard it. “But, uh, th-thanks.” He wiggled under the blanket a little, settling in. A second later, it dawned on North he was now in bed, under a blanket with a woman in his arms. If he really didn’t know any better, he could have taken the situation for something more amorous. But he wasn’t quite that brave – or clever enough to take advantage of the situation. After all, he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

“Well, you’re right. It wouldn’t have to be. I guess I watched a few too many movies. Certainly had the time recently. I can’t say I’ve had much luck with that whole romance thing, anyway.” North said, “I guess I don’t have a grasp of it like you seem to.”

“Not everyone is as brilliant as me.” she muttered softly. Now contently warm with an easy conversation that didn’t require much thought she had relaxed enough to feel that slow pull of exhaustion. When was the last time she had a full night’s sleep? Possibly when they both fell asleep on her sofa. At least this time she wasn’t going to wake up startled.

She swatted a few strands of hair from her face. “You spend too much time thinking and not enough time acting. Luckily you have me around now to tell you what to do…” She was drifting far too quickly to sleep, the conversation was too interesting to doze off now! Perhaps if she closed her eyes for just a few minutes it wouldn’t be so bad.

“I guess I can’t help it.” North said. “It comes with the job. Where would I be without you.” He gave her a soft, appreciative squeeze, more intentional this time. It was next best thing to brushing the hair from her face and leaning in to long embrace.

“Wha?” North’s eyes shot open. He hadn’t even realized he closed them, and his mind liked to wander while he was in limbo. Diana was oddly quiet as well. “Diana?” He looked to her to find the agent’s eyes shut and sleeping soundly now. A soft smile crept over North’s mouth as he watched her for a moment. She was rather attractive, and this might be his only chance to stare without getting a nasty look from her. But, slowly and surely, North’s eyes began to close once more. Gently, he pushed her head towards his chest and nuzzled her head as he drifted away.

Vanilla was a rather nice scent to fall asleep to.

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 004

In a shady apartment building, North rounded a corner and peeked into a room. Sure enough, there were his targets, a group of mobsters, all decked out in fancy suits and carrying all sorts of weapons. One man handed another a large suitcase, full of money no doubt. It was time for the detective to make his move. “FREEZE!” North shouted and jumped into the room.

The group of mobsters all threw their hands into the air at the sound of North’s voice. “A’ight, a’ight coppa, you got us. But, eh, before’s ya do anythin’ let be just say somethin’.” The apparent leader said.

“Ok, what is it?” North said, lowering his gun a little.

The man smiled slightly, evil in his eyes. “Well, what I wanted to say is – SCREEEEEEEEEECH!!!

North suddenly jumped up his sleep, his dream somewhat fresh in his mind. He looked out to see some one who was probably late for work peel out of their parking spot. The noise in his dream.

“Bloody…” He said and looked at his watch. “10:45, I still have a couple hours.” He sat back down in hopes of getting a little more sleep, but it was pointless. With a huff, he stood up and stretched while yawning. He decided he might as well get started early then, a first in a long time.

When he went to check on Diana, he found her still sleeping peacefully in his bed. Not having the heart to wake her, North decided he would just run down to the police station and pick up that warrant himself, picking Diana up on the way back. Hopefully she would appreciate the gesture, and besides, it would give her time to do all those lady things she probably did in the morning.

North washed up a little in the bathroom and changed his shirt and pants for something a little less showy. A quick gargle of mouthwash and he was out the door, locking it behind him. He wasn’t feeling all that great though, his head was killing him. He barely remembered the night before and why his face hurt like it did. “Just how much did I have to drink?!” He said as he walked down the stairs to the front door.

Once outside and in the sun for the first time since he could remember, North walked to the street, ready to hail a cab. That’s when he noticed it; his car was parked in his normal spot, just behind the alleyway. “When did I…?: North muttered. He didn’t remember bringing it home, but then again, he didn’t remember a lot of things from last night. Scratching his head, North shrugged, passing it off as his stroke of luck for the day. Maybe he even managed to put gas in it.

He stepped around and got in, everything seemed in check. But hell if he could remember getting it there. He tried starting the engine, and with a few tried, it actually ignited! With a smile and a nod, North was ready to get going when he felt in his jacket for something. “Damnit … my badge.” Getting a warrant without that was going to be pretty hard. He kicked open the door and stepped out of the ally way.

Only a few steps from his car, he noticed the sound of it starting to die out. He turned to see what might have been wrong when it happened. A sudden explosion ripped through the car, sending parts of it and North through the air in a smoking wreck. All the windows in the area shattered as the ball of flame raised high into the air, people in every direction were either cowering or running to see what happened.

North, on the other hand, had hit the ground hard, barely able to move now. He looked up only to see a black limo speeding away – It had to be Vlachka. Trying to get up, the impact finally got to him and he fell back down in pain. The explosion was so powerful, he wasn’t even able to cry out in pain All he could do was lie there, gripping his sides.

Diana jolted awake by the startling sound of something shaking the foundation and panes of glass shattering. Rewarded with a splitting headache, she pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead trying to clear the fog and get a decent baring on where exactly she was. The room being a disaster, she immediatly recognized it as North’s, then took several surprised moments hoping she didn’t do anything completly insane that she couldn’t remember! Her clothes were still on, as well as her gun holster it seemed, as her side ached in complaint for sleeping on the damn thing all night.

“North!” She called out as she slid slowly from the bed wincing at her swimming headache and her stiff limbs. When he didn’t answer she was mildly concerned, and then horribly worried! Something damn loud had woken her up, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t just an alarm clock!

Not wasting any more time and despite heavy protests from her head, Diana left North’s apartment quickly. She didn’t fail to notice the windows on her way down the stairs, and as she got outside there was a large billowing cloud of smoke from around the corner in the alley. Rounding the corner she could see the charred remains of what could barely be recognized as the private eye’s car, and the man sprawled out of the pavement.

“Jesus Christ, North!” she ran and knealed next to him, checking for a pulse to at least ensure he was still alive. “Damnit, if you’re hurt, I’m going to kill you!”

The world was a blur to North, he tried to focus but it just seemed to make things worse, his head throbbed like crazy. When he heard his name called, he raised his head a bit to see who it was but could only make out a dark blob coming his way. Suddenly, he felt someone rolling him onto his back and saw Diana hovering over him. Whatever she said sounded muffled to North, his ears still ringing from the explosion.

“J-Jones…” North said, trying to sit up, but couldn’t move. “It – it was Vlachka. I saw his limo. We – we need to go!” North’s words came out in short bursts and his eyes were half shut as he spoke. All of a sudden, his breaths became shorter and shorter until it almost sounded like he was gasping for air and North’s eyes began to roll back into his head.

He was going into shock.

“North,.. Sonofa-!” Damnable man couldn’t go a croak on her now! She was actually starting to like him! She glanced around quickly at the gathering spectaters. “Stop standing around like a bunch of idiots, and call a freaking ambulance!” If anyone was dumb enough not to follow her orders, they might’ve gotton themselves shot had she not been more concerned with North.

Diana checked his pulse again, finding his heart to be beating strong enough but he had stop breathing! Muttering a curse, she loosened his tie and tilted his head back. CPR was just one of those things she had been trained to do in emergencies, and this was definetly an emergency. She was going to keep him alive so could yell at him for nearly getting himself killed!

North’s chest rose as Diana filled it with air; she pushed on it afterwards, hoping to get him breathing again. She repeated this again, but still, no result as North’s life slowly began to leave him. This went on for nearly five minutes as the more and more people surrounded them.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, North’s head jerked from Diana’s mouth as he gasped for air – he was alive. He laid there for a moment, trying to collect himself as he fully regained consciousness. After a moment, he gave his hand to Diana and she helped him to his feet just as several squad cars and a couple ambulances pulled up.

North wasn’t looking for a trip to the hospital, though, even if it was the best thing for him at that moment. He was mad, at Vlach, at Lisa and at himself for trusting her so much. This wasn’t his finest hour. “C’mon” He said, walking past Diana. “We need to get to Vlachka’s place.”

The world was still spinning; he could barely walk straight as he looked around for a vehicle. He needed something, anything and right now. Then he saw one of the police cars pull up and a young cop step out, looking around almost nervously – a rookie. North new this was probably going to be his best shot.

“Detective North McCoy.” He said, walking up to the officer. “I need your car.” And he pushed past him.

“But I – you…” The cop said confused. North didn’t pay any attention to him and sat down in the driver’s seat. When he looked out the window, all he could see was a blurry mush of colors, unable to make out a thing. He was still suffering from shellshock and was in no condition to drive, let alone at high speeds. Looking to Diana, North scooted over to the passenger side and rubbed his head.

“You’re going to have to drive, Agent.”

“First of all, I think you’re an idiot.” Diana said as she dropped in to the driver’s seat and slammed the door. The man belong in an ambulance on his way to the hospital. How did they know that he didn’t have some sort of internal bleeding or broken bones? She had to give him CPR and now he wanted to charge down to Vlachka’s!

“You should on your way to the bloody hospital, not scaring the local cops out of the squad cars.” Despite her lecturing, she looked behind her as she backed out trying to avoid hitting anyone and thing. The woman was ticked off herself, but she could have taken care of it without having to worry if he were going to pass out from a concussion.

Weaving out of the way of the passing firetruck, she made full use of the police car’s lights to speed their way to Vlachka’s. “Second, I’m going to have to shoot someone, and I really hate having to shoot people wearing a skirt. A blown up partner and a skirt for a gun fight is completly unaccetpable!”

After Diana finished scolding him, North turned to her, his face showing nothing but irritation. “Diana…” He said, finally calling her by her first name. Pausing for a moment, he just looked at her. “Thanks…” His voice low, North turned back to the road. He was finally able to see straight, but his head was killing him still. His body wasn’t much better.

A ways down the road, North just remembered something. He quickly searched his jacket and his pants but came up empty handed. “Damnit, my gun.” He muttered in dismay. He had left it, as well as his badge in his dress coat back in the apartment. He wasn’t going to be much help if things got ugly, and given the circumstances, that was inevitable. North leaned his head back, not happy about that, when it dawned on him – he was in a squad car.

“Wait!” He said, looking to between the seats. “I know they normally … a-ha!” He had found what he was looking for. Rising back up, North was now holding on to long, sleek shotgun. It was a simple pump-action weapon, but it was better than going in empty handed. North made sure it was loaded and then picked up the few extra shells lying between the seats, placing them in his pockets.

Diana sighed. “Just returning the favor, I guess.” She cast a quick glance at him as he rummaged around, finally producing the shot gun. It was terrible! Like a cliche cop film, they were going to storm the house armed with a shotgun and no warrant. Any other day she might’ve enjoyed the idea, but North didn’t look fit enough to aim straight!

“This is a terrible idea.” she muttered. “Can you even shoot that thing? You know what, I’m going to make you stay in the car, while I go inside. When I’m done shooting people, I’m taking you to the hospital where you belong.” The woman had a straight face, and she looked serious too! Infact, there was problably a good set of handcuffs in that squad car and she could have him cuffed to the steering wheel if he had any designs of not doing what she asked.

“You just try and stop me. I’m not letting you going there alone. They may not be expecting us, but that doesn’t change anything.” He said, resting the weapon on his lap. “And besides, I’m fine. It was just an – explosion.” Did he really just try and pass that of as nothing? He couldn’t believe what he just said either but North wasn’t going to let Vlachka get away with nearly killing Diana and himself twice.

In the distance, there was a small black dot on the road ahead. As they sped closer, North could finally make it out, and to their surprise, it was the limo! But how did they catch up so soon? It had left nearly a half an hour before they took off and should have been back at the mansion by then. What was it doing still on the road?

“Floor it.” North said, getting his gun ready.

“Is there any fries left?” A Russian man inside the limo asked, grabbing a paper bag with a large, gold-colored M on it.

“No, fatass. You ate them all!” Another man said, munching down on a burger. There were four men seated alone in the back of the limousine and they had apparently stopped for fast food before returning to the mansion. As one laughed, he peered behind them, catching sight of the squad car quickly gaining on them.

“Hey, uh guys?” He said, the car still gaining. No one paid any attention to him. “HEY! GUYS!” This finally caught their attention.

“What is it?” One said, putting down his meal.

“You know that cop we killed?” The man looking out the back said, catching sight of the passenger in the squad car.

“Yeah? What about him?”

The man in back turned around to face his companions and pointed out the back with his thumb. “He’s right behind us…”

What?!” She exclaimed loudly as he readied his gun. Diana gathered that he probably meaned to drive by and shoot the bastards. That was just the last straw! Someone was going to have to be the responsible one, and if he was going to take her position of randomly shooting people, she would have to be the voice of reason. Still, she sped up the squad car until they gained on the limousine. The passengers isnide must have caught wind of their chasers, because when she tried to pass, the limo would weave dangerously infront of her nearly ramming it’s tail end in to the front bumper of the car.

This is exactly why she never drove!

“Bloody…” she muttered a few silent curses as she avoided getting rammed and finally pulled up along the side the sleek black machine. “Just don’t kill anyone! I’d hate to get suspended again!”

“I’m not going to shoot anyone.” North said, rolling down the window. “I’m just going to ask them to stop.” As he leaned out the window, the detective tried to see into the back of the limo, but the windows were tinted beyond necessary. Giving that up, he peered into the driver’s seat and pointed the shotgun in its direction, hoping this would be enough incentive to pull over. But this only caused the driver to speed up.

Left without a choice, North decided he would have to take out a tire, but it was dangerous at these speeds – but so was installing a bomb in his car. He took careful aim at the back tire and was about to pull the trigger when the sunroof popped open. Rising from the roof of the limo was one of the thugs wielding an AK-47. Worse yet, North recognized him as the man they brought into the hospital three days ago.

He smiled a cocky grin at North and waved his gun around amused. “Hey!” He shouted over the noise. “FUCK YOU, COP! HA!” And he open fired. Luckily, at those speeds, he wasn’t able to handle the recoil and bullets struck everything but the squad car. North quickly pulled himself back in before the assailant could regain his balance.

“Looks like they’re armed.” North said. “Good news is it’s the same group of guys who tried to kill us before. Turns out they’re not very good at that.”

Casting him a quick incredulous look, she blinked. “Simply looks like?” The limo was obviously not going to stop without some force, and she wasn’t looking forward to getting shot at by bullet crazy Russians. Worse yet, what exactly did one do with a limo of armed Russians, anyway? If they pulled them over there’d just be a gun fight in the street, or they could try and beat them to Vlachka’s and have the gun fight there!

“I’ve got to do everything myself…” she muttered as she took her foot off the gas and let the squad car fall back to the end of the limo. Vlachka was the one they needed, but she couldn’t risk these idiots getting in the way! Using some very basic police tactics, she ‘tapped’ the rear bumper of the limousine with the squad car. The driver balked, but seemed to right the limo again before swerving off the road. Giving a scowl, she rammed the side rear of the limo again with more force, this time getting a more satisfying reaction. The limo’s driver lost control of the wheels and ran off the road, taking up residence in a steep ditch. The only way they were getting out of there was being dragged out by a tow truck!

With a self satisfied grin she sped right past them.

Glancing back at the crash, North seemed impressed with Diana’s driving skills. The groups in the limo stepped out onto the street and were obviously pissed, but were too far away by now to do anything. “Nice driving, Agent.” He said and settled back in his seat.

The D’nro Estate was only a couple miles away now, and knocking out that limo might have worked in their favor. Vlachka probably wouldn’t expect them, before any word from his hired guns yet, at least. For all they knew, things have gone to plan, even if it was setting off a bomb in the middle of the city. North thought it was a little obvious to use a car bomb, almost as if Vlachka was inviting the publicity.

They finally rounded the last corner before the mansion. “Stop here.” North said, still a bit away from the gates. “The cameras will see us if we get any closer in this.”

Diana stopped the car along the street, cutting off the engine and pulling the key from the ignition. There was a strange sense of forboding, lke her instincts were screaming that this was a terrible idea. Maybe North really did have a concussion and going in to the don’s home was going to be a terrible idea. It just wasn’t her style to considering calling for help, but maybe it was about time to call in some backup.

“North… Maybe we should call the SWAT or something. It couldn’t take them too long to get here and I…” she paused, then continued with a sigh. “I don’t think you should go inside. You do realize your head is bleeding, and just a few minutes ago you were sprawled out on the pavement half dead!”

Normally North would listen to the voice of reason, being someone who wouldn’t charge head on into a firefight. Any other day he would have thought this through and probably let someone else, someone more qualified, handle the rest of the case. But it was too late for that now, they were so far past the point of no return, North couldn’t remember when they had crossed it.

Feeling his head, the detective looked down at his blooded hand. He hadn’t realized he was bleeding until now and this brought a feeling of discomfort to him. “I’m fine…” He said, wiping his hand on his pants. There was a worried tone in his voice, but he wasn’t about to stop for a small wound, not now.

“Besides, we can’t call for back up. These guys probably have more scanners than they can count. If we wait around now, that’ll just give them time to disappear. If you don’t want to go in, that’s fine, I’m not about to let them get away with this.”

North certainly wasn’t being himself lately.

She cast him a disaproving stare, but if he were determined, she wasn’t going to go let him go get himself killed. Besides, she were probably the only one that could see straight enough to fire off a shot. “Alright…” Swinging open the car door, she climbed out and slammed it behind her with more force than was really necessery. “But if you drop dead I’m going to be pretty damn pissed.”

Diana pulled her clip from her jacket pocket and clipped her hair back from her face. They were going to have to pull some espionage, as storming up to the front door with a shot gun wasn’t going to be well met by a bunch of Russian mobsters. They were lucky Vlachka probably assumed they were dead, or at the least not dumb to waltz in there alone.

Oh, why did they have to go and be dumb enough?

“You’re not going to the front door with that.” She pointed at his shot gun. “We can go through the back.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t plan on getting killed.” North said, getting out of the car. As he looked around, the place seemed pretty much unchanged since their last visit, including the all too familiar feeling of being watched. But North passed that off as the feeling of the calm before the storm.

“Good idea.” North said at the mention of going around. The two doubled back around the tall, stone wall until they were behind the manor. But unfortunately for them, the wall continued around the entire property. There was a small, wooden door, but as expected, it was locked. North looked up at the wall; it couldn’t have been more than ten feet tall, just short enough to make it over.

“Think you can, uh, make it over the wall, Agent?” He said, rubbing his chin. She looked light enough for him to give her a boost up to the top. “You can unlock the door from the other side that way.”

She gave an incredulous look at the wall and then back at him. Of course she could scale the wall without problem. There were plenty of grooves for her feet, and with the added bonus of his help there would be little effort at all, but damned it all if this weren’t exactly why she hated wearing a skirt. Flashing the man with designer silk panties was not her idea of keeping a professional relationship.

Pushing at the locked wooden door a few good times to see how strong it was, she grimaced. It was too heavy to kick in and the lock was too rusted to simply pick open. She was just going to have to cave in to climbing the wall.

“Fine, hold out your hands and keep your eyes closed until I open the door! And if you peek, I promise my rear end is the last thing you’re ever going to see!” Moving him close enough to the wall so she didn’t have to pull any olympic style jumps, she waved her hands infront of his eyes a few good times to make sure he wasn’t looking. Then, with a small boost Diana hopped up over the wall, landing with an unceremonious thump when she lost her footing a toppled over. Not quite the cat-like landing she was going for, but it did the job!

“You can open your eyes now.” Diana called, as she returned to her feet and dusted herself off. She moved to the door to to get it unlocked.

Her behind? Looking up Diana’s skirt was the last thing on North’s mind – or at least it was before she said something about it. But he decide it was better just to do what she asked, rather than taking a beating for something as childish as that.

“I’m not going to look.” he said and resisted rolling his eyes. Quickly shutting his eyes, he cupped his hand before him, ready to hoist Diana to the top of the wall. When she leapt into his hands, North stumbled a bit, trying to keep his balance, after all, he couldn’t see anything. Out of reaction, the detective looked up to make sure she had scaled the wall, but all he caught were the end of her legs.

After hearing a grunt from over the wall, North walked back to the door and waited for her to unlock it. “You ok?” He shouted, just to make sure.

“I’m not the one to be concerned with.” she muttered, making tough work of the lock. Darn thing was rusted worse than she had thought, and it took using her jacket sleeve and alot of force to get it to move. Finally swinging open the door she allowed him to step inside.

Casting a look towards the manor she chewed on her lip with consideration. “There are too many cameras to really sneak past them. Especially in broad daylight.” The gardens were at least empty and it seemed the don didn’t have any sort of affection for roaming dogs. If he did, they were put away and not sniffing around looking for some fresh meat to gnaw on, in any case. The estate was also surprisingly clear of guards, which struck her as somewhat odd considering the last time they paid a visit there were at least a few scattered around the grounds.

The place looked deserted and for some reason that made her more uneasy than facing a bunch of armed goons. Diana pulled her gun, giving North a questioning look. “Ready?”

North stepped through the doorway, feeling uneasy as ever. What was it about this place that gave him the creeps. It was just the average big house, nothing special. There weren’t any stories about this place or anything. There had to be something, because whatever it was telling him not to go in there. But his anger and thirst for vengeance got the better of him.

Reading his shotgun, North crept a ways down a path. They were in a small grove, surrounded by bushes. If there were any cameras, they had to be well hidden. There was a small door on the side of the house; it looked like their best choice for entering the manor.

“Hey, Agent Jones, over there.” He said, pointing to the door. “Looks like a cellar door or something. Maybe we can get in through the basement.” He quickly hurried over to it and pulled it open, peering in with his weapon. I was dark, but empty as well. He waved for Diana to follow and stepped down the stairs, each making all sorts of squeaks and groans, normal old stairs sounds.

In another room of the house, a small, blinking red light went off near a security console – a silent alarm. Apparently Diana and North hadn’t gone as unnoticed as they thought. In the soft glow of the monitors, a pale, bony hand reached over and switched off the alarm. It then reached back and pulled a cigarette out of its owner’s mouth.

“Welcome back, North.”

“I hate basements…” Diana muttered, as they walked carefully through the cellar, the only light was from the opening at the door and casting everything in to large abnormal looking shadows. It was a terrible time to realize she still hadn’t quite gotten over her closterphobia, but was greatful the door was still open to ease any panicing thoughts.

Well, until the cellar door slammed closed, startling both detectives.

‘Damn!’ They both paused, listening for any guards or sign to who closed the cellar door, but there was no sound beyond their breathing. “It wasn’t propped up very sturdy… Just the wind.” She hoped it was just the wind, because now she was trapped in a pitch black cellar belonging to a bunch of murdering with just her gun, a bleemin’ skirt, and damned if hell beats and ghosts didn’t like creepy cellars and pretty girls and strange situations and-

Diana took a deep shakey breath and gave a silent curse as she quickly took ahold of the tail end of North’s jacket. It wasn’t that she was afraid or anything, but it was impossibly dark and she didn’t want the man to get lost. “Let’s get the hell out of here, please.”

Inside the security room, the smoking man reclined in his chair, waiting for his two guests to exit the cellar room. He couldn’t see them while they were in there, but the motion sensors would pick them up the instant they exited. He hadn’t sent anyone after them, not yet, and instead waited for North and Diana to make the first move.

As the smoking man waited patiently, there was a sudden knock at the door and Lisa D’nro stepped into the room. “What’s going on? I saw the alarm and – YOU!” She was surprised to find the normal guard gone and the strange man in his place.

“You, what are you doing?” She demanded to know.

“Oh, I gave the guard the night off.” The man said, his cigarette flopping around as he spoke. “He complained of a stabbing pain.” There was a wicked undertone in his voice.

“What is going on here?!” Lisa shouted. “Why have the alarms gone off?! Is it…” She paused. “It’s them, isn’t it! Those two cops!” She stomped right up behind the man, shouting right at him. “You led them right to us! Why haven’t you told us anything?!”

“My dear Lisa.” The smoking man stood up. “You ask far too many questions, you know that?” Suddenly, he grabbed her arm in the same way he had Diana’s and quickly dragged her from the room, kicking and screaming. The smoking man put his hand over he mouth to muffle the screaming, but it didn’t help much, but luckily for him, there were no body guards close by.

Taking her into a nearby room, the man tossed Lisa inside, throwing her to the floor. He pulled out a key and before she could get up, closed and locked the door. And to make sure it would stay that way, the smoking man took a step back, raised his foot into the air, and kicked the key, breaking it off inside the door.

“Do try to settle down, Lisa. The angry look just does not work for you.”

Back in the cellar, North nearly fell over when the door slammed shut. He wasn’t particularly afraid of the dark – just what he couldn’t see. And this was the worst place to be blind.

“Don’t worry.” He said, sounding nervous. “There has to be a light switch somewhere.” He fumbled around in the dark for a bit, not knowing what direction he was heading in anymore. Suddenly he felt something grab his jacket and was prepared to start swinging until he realized it was Diana. It was bad enough he could walk right into the barrel of a gun and not know it, but did she have to cling onto him like that? Then again, It was nice to know where she was – and had something to hang on to as well.

“Say, uh, here.” He said, reaching back and taking her hand. This was better than her clinging on to his tattered jacket at least. Plus, it wasn’t just for her; her fear must have been rubbing off on him or something.

They continued through the basement, kicking and tripping on random objects all the way though. The room was huge, it felt like it was going on forever. Not to mention, neither of them knew exactly where they were anymore.

“We’re almost there – I think…”

Diana had opened her mouth to ask exactly how he planned to aim a shot gun while he was holding her hand, but thought twice about it and remained silent instead. As long as he held her hand neither of them was going to get lost and it was absolutly not because she thought it was rather pleasant. That’d just be absurb.

Stummbling around in the dark for who knew how many minutes had just about snapped her last thread of sanity, until the pair caught site of light through the cracks of a door. They had reached the bottom of some steps, and with some regret she let go of North’s hand to quickly climb to the top and try the door handle.

“It’s unlocked.” she whispered quietly, then leaned close to the door to listen for any movement on the other side. Satisfied the coast was clear, she readied her gun and slowly cracked open the door. Afterall, North was going to need both hands for that rediculous thing he decided to lug around. The room turned out to be a magnificently huge and well lit kitchen, which looked like sheer heaven for a woman just stepping out of a dark cellar. Once again there wasn’t a single person in sight, adding to her confusion.

“I don’t get it…” Diana replied softly as she stepped in to the kitchen. “We should have ran in to someone by now.”

North followed her and relaxed his pose when he stepped into the room. She was right, there was nobody there. No bodyguards, maids or cooks; nothing. Had Vlachka taken off already? It would have made sense, after all. But it was the idea North dreaded most, that it was all for naught and the Mafia boss had made a clean getaway.

Pushing those thoughts out of his head, North still continued into the manor, hoping to find something, anything on the Don. And if he was gone, this would be the perfect opportunity to snoop around, after all, there’s always something interesting locked away in these big houses.

“Well, either they’re gone, having a meeting or…” He paused for a moment before finishing his sentence. “…Expecting us.”

He didn’t care much for the thought of that, but it would explain the feeling of being watched. He readied his weapon again, just to be sure. Not about to be caught off guard, North peeked in every room they passed, every nook and cranny. The place was empty though, but there had to be someone there. After all, the group of hitmen from earlier were heading this way.

Back in the security room, the smoking man sat back and watched his guests wander aimlessly through the halls. But there was a look of distraught on his face as he rolled his fingers on the desk. Leaning forward, he picked up a small two-way radio.

“On second thought, I want them both alive.” He said, and leaned back, taking another breath of smoke.

If anything screamed setup it was an empty mansion belonging to a notorious mafia boss. As they looked through rooms and wandered down halls, this was the only reason Diana could conclude for the place being as empty as a tomb. With that in mind, she quickly decided they were going to have to leave before they ended up springing whatever trap could have been laid out. But, before she could alert North of her sudden decision a shot rang out behind them!

There was going to be a whole lot of ‘I knew its’ and ‘I told you sos’ later, but for the time being the woman snagged North by the collar of his jacket and jerked him sideways through and open door. Perhaps it would have been better to take their chances in the hallway, for she ended up walking in eye to eye with a barrel of a gun and surrounded by a bunch of smirking guards.

“So. We have intruders? It is nice of you to join us.” The guard said smugly.

It was one of those moments she really wished she wasn’t right all of the time!

At the sound of the shot, North spun around, shotgun and all and pointed down the hallway. He was about to shoot whoever it was firing on them when Diana chose to yank him into a side room.

“Jones?! What are you doing? I had a-” He regained his balance only to find a gun pointed right at his face. “Oh, uh – hi.” He said, glancing at the man’s face. Apparently, they had been expecting them, or were just quick to mobilize. They were caught, surrounded by a dozen or so armed bodyguards, and with more just outside the room, they were left with little choice. Reluctantly, North handed over his shotgun to a close-by guard who yanked it from his hand, saying something to another guard in Russian; something in a mocking tone.

They had to fight with Diana to part her from her gun, but managed to pry it from her in the end. Giving her an evil smirk as they eyed her up and down, the guards seemed rather amused by her attire. One was even bold enough to approach her with a nasty grin on his face.

“Hey there, cutie” He said, the other guards did not seem amused by his actions, some sighing out annoyance. “When all over, why not you come to my room, hmm? And with that, he brought his hand up, swung it through the air, and firmly slapped Diana’s behind.

It wasn’t a second, before he or Diana could really react, before North’s fist flew through the air. It landed on the guard’s face, sending him to the floor in one punch and leaving him sprawling on the floor, grasping his jaw. A few guards quickly raised their guns, pointing them at North incase he tried to pull anything else, even if they were laughing at the downed goon.

Now, North hadn’t laid him out like that because he was ‘defending Diana’s honor’; because he didn’t like seeing someone he cared for treated like that or anything. He just thought that wasn’t proper behavior and a right jab to the face was the best way to express his feelings. Or, at least that’s what he tried to tell himself. Finally noticing every gun in the room pointed at him, he brought his hands back into the air.

“Oh come on.” North said. “Like none of you wold have done the same thing.” A few of the guards shrugged and nodded agreeably.

“Stupid cop!” The man on the ground shouted, getting back up “I kill you now!” He reached into his coat and produced a small pistol and pointed it at North’s head, ready to blow it off.

“I believe I said I wanted them alive.” A voice rang out from the doorway. North’s eyes suddenly opened wide when he heard it. He had recognized the voice, a wispy, smoky voice he heard a long time ago and never forgot. Slowly turning towards the source, North found himself face to face with the smoking man.

North just stood there with his mouth gaping open. There was a look of shock, almost horror on his face as he looked into those black sunglasses. The Smoking man, on the other hand, simply removed his cigarette from his mouth and blew smoke from his nose.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, North? A long, long time…”

There was no way in hell she was just going to hand over her gun willing, so it took a good amount of wrestling before they managed to get it from her an shove her away. The more sleezy guard caused her to give a nasty scowl more from the fact she could feel her cheeks turn a flushing red than irritation at anything else. Stupid attention grabbing skirt. The man had to audacity to touch her, and she was ready to spring on him like a cat before North’s fist shot out and sent him flying to the floor. Diana blinked somewhat surprised for a moment.

Until there was that voice. She turned, recognizing the same man that had dragged her unceremoniously from the Don’s hallways and ordered her to take her partner and leave. The look on North’s faced showed he recognized the man from somewhere too, and that look of shock didn’t bode well at all.

“I suggest you have your men sent away and let us speak with Vlachka D’rno. We have several teams of men on their way here, and it’d be terrible unfortunete of you to get involved in a gun fight for holding a pair of cops hostage.” So it was a bald faced lie. A little bluffing never hurt, especially considering they were being held at gun point by a miniature mafia army and a creepy guy. Of course, if it didn’t work they were going to be in a hell of alot of trouble.

“Oh Miss Jones.” The smoking man said. “Please don’t try and bullshit me. Considering you’re with Mr. McCoy here, and he’s not exactly what I would call…” Pausing for a moment, the man pulled another smoke from his coat pocket. “…Unpredictable. When he gets angry, he gets stupid. And when he gets stupid, bad things tend to happen, don’t they, North? Terrible … bad things.”

At the end of that last comment, North snapped. He lunged for the smoking man but was quickly restrained by a couple guards, who were having a bit of trouble at that. He just wanted to kill that man.

“Right.” The smoking man said. “Well, I was expecting you to come here alone. But having you both here brings up a small – predicament. But more on that later. Right now…” He stopped to think for a moment. “Take them to the room.” And the smoking man turned to leave.

“Hey! HEY!” North shouted, trying to break free. “Get back here, you son of a bitch!”

The smoking man looked back for a moment. “Shut him up, will you?” And with that, one of the guards lifted his rifle and slammed the butt end against the back of North’s head, knocking the detective unconscious. They then dragged Diana and North’s body to another room.

It was a bare room, next to nothing inside except for a few chairs. They placed Diana in one and North in another, a bit of distance away from each other. Next, they tied both of them down, binding them tightly to the seats.

“Well then.” The smoking man said. “I must collect some things. But – I’ll be back. Very – very soon.” Nodding, the man left the room, but not before switching off the lights, leaving Diana and North in the dark.

It was some time before the unconscious detective finally began to move again. His head was killing him before, not it felt like he got hit by a train or something. Lifting his bruised head slightly, he found he couldn’t see a thing. Then he remembered where he was.

“Diana? D-Diana?!” He shouted out. He attempted to move, but the ropes managed to keep him in place pretty well.

Why did it have to be the dark. She hated the dark, small rooms with locked doors and being tied to chairs. Why on earth did they always decide to turn off the lights? There had to be some sort of underground bad guy filing system with her name on it that said, ‘turn off the lights!’. It was taking such a severe amount of self control not to fall in to a million pieces. At least she wasn’t alone, and that tiny thought that someone was going to have to rescue her bummbling partner was enough to keep her mind focused on the important stuff. Not the suffering lack of light.

North finally came too, and out of spite she let him call her name for a bit before replying. It was his fault they were there in the first place! “I’m fine.” As fine as one could be tied to a chair in the dark. “Just don’t go in to a frenzy lest ye awaken the beast…” Sarcasm was a handy way to reduce the situation to something less trying.

Diana squirmed, testing the ropes and frowned with disastisfaction. It would take hours to worm her way out of the things and by then their captors would have returned. She really should start thinking about carrying a knife for these sort of situations. Frustrated she blew a few stray strands of hair from her face. “You wouldn’t happen to have a knife in a reachable location, would you?”

“Knife?” North didn’t even have his wallet. As much as he hated to admit it, the smoking man was right, when he got angry, North didn’t think straight or rationally. He wasn’t at all pleased with his predicament, and hated even more putting someone else in danger because of his actions.

“No, but – uh, Diana. I’m … I’m sorry for this. I … didn’t mean for this to happen.” His voice was different, seeing that man seemed to change something in him. There was a sad, dreadful tone in his words. If it weren’t so dark, Diana could see him staring at the floor, his face looking as if it were burst out crying. Old memories North tried to repress flooding back into his mind.

The whole situation was far too familiar, almost too much for him to bear, and seeing that old man just brought the last piece into place. What disturbed North even more was why he was alive still. What was he planning next…

Rolling her eyes would have been futile in the dark, so she simply sighed. He had cracked his head one too many times, and forgetting now wasn’t the best time for apologising. He could do that later when she was lecturing him in the safty of a well lit room!

“There’s really no need to worry about that right now.” She mummbled, still trying to twist her hands free from the ropes. Things were going to have to be done the hard way, and if worst came to worse she’d make North play nursemaid as revenge. If he didn’t go and get himself killed in the process.

Diana gave a worried blink to the darkness. He did get clonked in the head one too many times. “Maybe you should talk to me for a bit, while I try to get us out of here.” There were still some things she didn’t know, and now was a good a time as any. “Tell me who creepy guy is.”

North was reluctant to say anything at first, he really didn’t want to think about it. It was hard to imagine he would meet him again, much less working with Vlachka. But given the circumstances, he had little else to do while he was away.

“That man was … he was…” The very name brought North dismay. “That man is Charles Mandell. Or Syko Mandell or whatever they called him. He’s the guy Dr. Armacu worked for before he disappeared. He’s … he’s… ” North gritted his teeth, trying to hold back his emotions.

“He’s also the man who killed West.” It was hard for him to say that. He didn’t want to remember it, he didn’t even want to think about it, but now that he had, the images were as fresh as if it happened just the day before.

“Oh.” A simple breathless statement. It explained quite a bit. Diana had a small regret she didn’t shoot the guy the first time she met him. Might’ve saved them all some trouble. It was something else they had common ground on, loosing someone important. Maybe later she could be a better friend and discuss it all with him, but for now thinking about the guy that killed his brother wasn’t the best idea. I was time to change the subject, and quickly!

Choosing a subject wasn’t exactly easy though. She went for something random. “Think about bunnies.” Yeah, that was random enough. “Fuzzy white bunnies with long ears. Not the floppy eared ones, though.” Wriggling her hands free from the ropes was slow going but at least she was making some process. Whatever bozo that tied them might’ve about cut off her circulation, but they couldn’t tie a knot worth crap. A light crack caused her to wince and suck in a quick breath of air. Well, maybe it was better than she thought.

“If that doesn’t work… ah,” she winced again. If she sprained her wrist, that was going to cause some problems! “Think of fuzzy yellow chicks.”

“Fuzzy … bunnies?” North stopped to think for a moment. What the hell did she just say?! If it weren’t so dark, he would have cast her a most confused look. He wiggleed around a bit, trying out the ropes, which were quite tight. Stopping for a moment, he listened to Diana struggling on the knots herself.

“Are you ok, Agent?” He said, hearing her sounds of pain. North was beginning to get tired of the dark and would do anything to see – unfortunately, he got his wish. The door swung open to reveal the thin, bony figure of Charles Mandell. In his hand some files and papers.

“I apologize for the wait. I really do. Like I said, having you both here has brought up a small complication, but nothing I can’t deal with.” Stopping in, Mandell flipped on the lights, wincing a bit at their brightness. “Now then, I’m sure North has told you enough about me already. Our history and what not, hmm?” Looking back and forth at their faces, Mandell got the feeling North really hadn’t said a thing.

“No? Well, I’m surprised, I would thing by now McCoy here would be a blubbering mess. We have quite a history together, you see. But … you know, that’s not too important right now.” He lifted the files up and fingered through them.

“Now, for that predicament. Lisa was misinformed that you, Miss Jones, had left, gone back to wherever it was you came from. I, for god knows why, believed her. Now, I have more than enough information on North here, but it took me a bit to read up of you, my dear.” He pulled a paper from the file. “Here we are. Ah yes, your history is very interesting indeed. And this brings me to my next point.”

Mandell pulled over a chair and sat down, tenting his fingers. “You see, I was prepared for North, and North alone. But luckily, I’ve been watching you two, carefully. And I’ve come to some rather interesting conclusions. But – I’m getting besides the point.”

“Just what the hell do you want?!” North shouted, becoming impatient. Mandell was almost rambling now, which was driving him crazy.

“I’m getting there!” Mandell replied bluntly, not liking the interruption. “Now, as I said, I was simply expecting McCoy. And simply planning to kill him. But with Miss Jones, I’ve changed my mind, well, not so much as not made up my mind.” Mandell reached into his coat and pulled out an old looking revolver. This caused North to once again look on in a state of shock.

“Ah, so you do recognize it. Good.” Mandell said, looking over the gun. “Yes, West’s firearm. A nine millimeter revolver. A swell weapon, if I say so myself. Now then, as you might recall, all those months ago, you and West were caught in a bit of a firefight between a certain mafia group. You, North, fired three shots, and West fired five.”

What … does this have to do with anything?” North said, more confused than anything.

“Again, I’m getting there.” Mandell said with a huff. “Now then, five shots, yes. Since I removed West of his weapon, I have kept it as it was since that day, one bullet remaining in its chamber. Originally, this was meant for you, McCoy. And this is where the complication comes in. Thanks to the efforts of your friend here, Miss Jones. You see, there’s two of you, and only one bullet.”

It took some time for her eyes to adjust to the sudden bright light filling the room. Enough time for Charles Mandell to go in to a long rather annoying speech, and her to make sure he hadn’t noticed just how much she had managed to pull her hands from the ropes. He seemed too busy with talking to notice her, though that file of his made her uneasy. Exactly how much information was in there? The last thing she needed was some psycho attempting to mess with her head as easily as it seemed he could with North.

The relevation and sudden uncovering of the gun made things all the more difficult. The man gave the impression he assumed that there was something between the two detectives. Perposterous really, but if he shot North first, she would kill him point blank. Diana had never killed anyone out of cold blood before, and the thought she would be very willing to kill Charles Mandell if he killed her partner was possibly more annoying than the dramatic speech.

Her hand slipped free from the ropes, and she concealed all hints of elation. “Your speech was very eloquent, but your methods are something left to be desired.” she mummbled. Diana needed him to leave, and it wasn’t going to server her purpose if he stayed there and decided to fire off a shot before both of them were free. “Aren’t you supposed to leave much more time for suspense and dread? It ruins the whole dramatic affect, otherwise.”

“PLEASE! I am NOT finished.” Mandell seemed agitated. “I am not doing this for effect, or any other silly reason you got from movies. Now then, this is where I’ve come to some sort of predicament. Which one of you – will watch other die, hmm? I know a lot about both of you, but just who will go through the most trauma is the bigger question.”

North didn’t like this, he knew Mandell was a sick freak, he had seen that first hand. But to do something like this was beyond comprehension. He was going to kill one and leave the other alive? And worse yet, it was with Diana.

And it was in that instant, that he realized he wanted that bullet. He wanted Diana to live more than anything, and above anything else, he was prepared to die for her. North turned and looked at Diana, who was still focused on Mandell. And he knew he could not lose her the same way he had lost his brother.

Mandell stood up again and began to pace back and forth in the room. Suddenly stopping in front of North, he raised the gun to his head. “North McCoy. We met on the night of September seventh, nine months ago. On that day, I took your brother’s gun and promptly shot him in the head at point blank range. Unable to fully register the situation, you froze, allowing me time to escape on my 11:00 flight.”

Still holding the gun to his head, Charles took another breath of smoke and returned to his speech. “For the next three months, you searched for me, torturing yourself for being the reason for your brother’s demise. In the following weeks, you had a mental break down, and sought psychiatric help. You recovered soonly afterwards and returned to your detective business, of course, one man down now.”

“The following months, your life returned to what you could best describe as “normal.” But I never left your thoughts. Night after night you would lie awake and think about me. Where had I gone? What was I doing? Why had I done what I had done? And now you see me again. And once again your partner is in danger. And once again it’s your fault. And once again, there is nothing you can do to help them.” Pulling the gun away from North, he slowly aimed it at Diana.

“If I were to kill her now and leave you here, there is no doubt that you would fall back into that hole you dug all those months ago, only this time it would be deeper than you could ever imagine. You would fall apart at the seems; insanity, North McCoy, insanity!”

He released North from his grip and backed away, he had read him like a book. North didn’t know how, but Mandell was right, he had never really forgotten that day, and dwelled on it ever since. Looking up at the smoking figure, North didn’t say a work, the expression on his face said enough for him.

“And then there’s Agent Diana Jones of the Federal Bural of Investigation” Mandell said and stepped over to her. “A woman who has seen crime and corruption since her teenage years. You happily and gleefully solved petty crime after petty crimes along side your friend; a Jennifer Smith was it? At least, until she wound up dead. And that was he beginning of your spiral into a life of solitude and loneliness. You began pushing away everyone, friends, family – everyone. You thought this would help, with no one close, you couldn’t get hurt, right? Oh, but instead it hurt you so very deeply. You wanted companionship, you wanted someone to help you, but you simply couldn’t admit it.”

Mandell paced somewhat, studying Diana and her reactions. The expression on his face stayed the same, no sign of him enjoying this or anything. He then returned to her and knelt before Diana.

“It wasn’t until you joined the FBI that you got another chance at a partner, someone to stand by your side when you needed them. But something was off; it all felt so hollow, somehow not what you were hoping for. He was transferred to another division and you were partnered up with another man, but this one ended much differently. This time your partner met a most unfortunate fate. Being gunned down is such a terrible way to end a career.”

“And this is when you moved away from Seattle, not just because of the case, oh no, because of what you would leave behind you. Deaths, sadness, everything. You simply couldn’t deal with it. And I believe it was then, that you met North McCoy, wasn’t it? At first, you pushed him away like all the others. You put up that very wall you couldn’t stand to hide behind. But, things here were different, North – didn’t simply back away like the others. He was kind, compassionate and caring. He treated you with respect and benevolence. The very things you have been looking for. They made you feel complete, warm and concordant. Over time, you opened up to him; you tore down that wall, little by little, until you began to care about him. You started to like him…” Mandell leaned in, just close enough so only Diana could hear him. “You began to fall for him.”

Mandell stood back up and returned to speaking normally. “And now.” And just like he had done before, Mandell raised West’s pistol and pointed it at North. “Should I kill him. Should I leave you here with his corpse, you would be absolutely destroyed. There’s no telling how secluded you would become, how much you would push away – anyone! It could get so out of hand that you would avoid contact at all cost. You would lose it all, Diana Jones. Your world would come crashing down around you, and your mind would leave you.”

She was the untouchable, the unphaseable, that rock hard pillar of ice that would never collapse. But damned if that man didn’t hit a very raw nerve. He made his speech for North, something that gave her insight and a steel-like reserve to be that rock solid figure. She would be the strong one, and no amount of rediculous preaching and mind-bending was going to twist her thoughts or knock her off balance.

So he stepped to her pointing his gun, reciting the peices he had learned and the conclusions he had made, while she simply sat, giving him that stoic blue eyed stare. Analyzing her with an alarming amount of accuracy and an irritating amount of assumptions. Her jaw tightly clenched so that she wouldn’t tell him exactly where he could shove his rantings, she listened, silently screaming and pointing out every single error in his speech. Perhaps she did push people away, but she didn’t need them nor did she crave them. Companionship was heartbreak waiting to happen, an unessecery weakness.

Then to whisper such statements in her ear… She caught her breath with a sudden look of dumbfoundedness. You began to fall for him. That was rediculous. It was stupid. Impossible! It was only a few days, no one could be such a fool. Quickly she masked her confusion with a belligerent air. It was simply not true. She was fond of her partner and she considered him a friend. She absolutely refused to believe anything else.

Charles Mandell was the most wrong about his last statement. She would not loose her mind, but to the contrary. She would hunt him down and remove every bone from his body in the most delightfully painful ways possible. Diana suddenly understood just how consumed one could be with the thoughts of revenge. If he shot North, he had better shoot her too because she was going to kill him point blank. But, what if he shot her? She cast a quick glance at North. Mandell had been setting up this moment for months, she had no doubt North would torture himself right in to insanity with guilt. There was such a terrible price to pay for being a nice guy.

She was just going to have to make sure neither of them ended up dead.

“Well,” she finally replied with a voice more steady than she expected, “I could never imagine someone so cold would be such a romantic.” She wished she had some sort of fancy mind powers, she’d make that blackend heart of his explode in his chest. “Now are you going to leave us alone with ours thoughts, frantically wondering which is to die while you revel in your perfectly executed plans?” ‘For the love of god, be predictable and leave us alone!’

“Oh please. I’m not doing this for the melodrama. For any effect. I am honestly unsure as to whom I want to kill! It’s rather embarrassing. Really, you weren’t suppose to stick around after you contacted North, Miss Jones.” Mandell said as he pondered what to do.

“Wait.” North finally spoke up. “You had her come to me? You set that – that whole thing up?”

“Well yes!” Mandell smiled. “After all, I wanted you, North. But just killing you outright wasn’t what I really had in mind.”

North couldn’t help but cock an eyebrow. He couldn’t believe this was the whole reason Charles had plotted this whole thing. To get rid of him in the most dramatic way possible. “This – this is the whole reason you’ve dragged all this out for the last three days? So you could get back at me?!”

Mandell stepped away from Diana, now rather intrigued with North’s reaction. “Close, detective. But not quite. But you’re catching on, I see. You see, I wish to return to my former profession. A high classed surgeon. And of course, large payoffs from people who didn’t want my patients to survive. It was a cushy job. And, well, to do that, I needed-”

“To get rid of everyone who ever knew you…” North’s voice trailed off. “That explains why Dr. Armacu was killed. The hitmen were late so … you killed him yourself! But, what about those diamonds he was so closely related to?”

“Glad you asked!” Mandell lit another smoke. “You see, I needed you to be put on the case. Had I simply killed my former student without those diamond connections, the case would have been left for the cops. Maybe you could have seen it on the news, but I wasn’t willing to take that chance. So, I contacted Terrence and had him make a quick stop for the diamonds. Who were previously owned by an associate of Vlachka’s.”

“But why?” North asked. “If you weren’t after the diamonds then what?”

“Still don’t see it? Very well.” Smoke lifted from Mandell’s mouth as he spoke. “The Diamonds were my way of paying the Good Don for his services, as well as my insurance to get you here. You see, if this was a simple murder, he cops would handle it. But with the diamonds gone missing, it now became an international dilemma. This is, of course, where the FBI came in. They would send an agent and he or she would seek as much info as possible.”

“Me…” North said, thoughtfully.

“Exactly!” Mandell enthusiastically threw his finger into the air. “And Miss Jones brought you out into the open, where I simply needed to manipulate you further so you would come to me. Though, I did not expect her and you to actually create a partnership. I suspected you would hunt me down on your own. You’re not quite as predictable as I thought.”

“So the auction house fire and the car bombing were … just to point me in Vlachka’s direction…” Everything Mandell said racing through North’s head.

“Very good, North. That’s quite the partner you have there, Miss Jones.” Mandell said, glancing in her direction. “Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ve had events you would like explained as well, Agent. Particularly the one dealing with your apartment the first night you met North.”

Diana was not sure what she was more annoyed with; being tied to a chair with a gun pointed at her and having to listen to a long speech, or finding out she’s been the puppet of a madman! At least he didn’t have have grandeur plots of romance and intruige… he was just freaking nuts!

His lengthy confession was the only good part of having to sit and listen. Though, she wondered why criminals were so intent on creating complicated plots to lure their victims in. Perhaps it was just a game to the man, but his speech was just going to give him a one way ticket to prison.

“I don’t care to hear… what?” She exclaimed suddenly, giving a wide eyed look of shock as she forgot to mask her thoughts. Diana had thought her apartment was trashed by Stephan Burch. The man was out of jail, surely he should be tracking her down by now. “You don’t mean to tell me you had anything to do with that.” she replied, with another dubious expression.

Giving a slight smile at her reaction, Charles once again moved towards the Agent. “Ah, so, finally some reaction! Good. And yes, you don’t think your old friend Burch found your new residence on his own, especially since the FBI themselves assisted your relocation. After I learned of your newfound partnership with North, I was hoping this would be enough to scare you off. Afterall, he did manage to get you out of Seattle, didn’t he?”

Mandell seemed pleased in his own knowledge. He was certainly digging into a part of Diana’s past she didn’t want brought up. “Hmm, being run out ones own home by a simple murderer. That’s not what you would expect some who seems so hardened, so un-phasable now is it?”

Charles Mandell walked around Diana, circling her somewhat. “But its not because he’s angry with you, now, is it? It’s not because he wants vengeance because you put him in jail, is it? No, those aren’t the reasons you left, why you didn’t stay in Washington.”

Suddenly stopping in front of Diana, Mandell quickly grabbed her by the shoulders and brought his face to hers. “It is because you simply cannot face the man who ended the life of your best friend! For every moment he is in your mind, it is like a searing memory of that tragic event!” His voice sounded as if he was scolding her.

North had overheard everything. He wanted to stop Mandell from digging into Diana like that, but nothing he could have done would have stopped anything. But the last comment he made struck something in North, something he didn’t realize about Diana.

Had it been Stephan Burch who had captured them like this, who was doing the same thing to them as Mandell was now. It was possible Diana would be in the same spot he was, being tortured by memories by the man who caused them. But would she have been effected by them as he had? Afterall, she was Diana Jones of the FBI. She wouldn’t give in to it, and neither should he. North decided it was time for him to do something about it, as Diana certainly already was.

Diana visibly cringed as Mandell grabbed her shoulders bring his face uncomfortably close to hers. She never thought herself easily intimidated, but she twisted in the chair trying to remove herself from his grasp. It was futile, and she could only listen, her face terrible pale!

“No…” she muttered meekly. It was such a strange subdued sound coming from the woman that seemed like she would stare lion in the eye and call it names. She was the infallible agent, never lost never beaten. And yet some crazy psychopathic stranger could pull strings without her knowledge. Have her play in to his sick little schemes, spouting nonsense of her fears and her weaknesses all of which struck too closely to a truth she never wanted to realize. She had no control, there was nothing she could do and they would die…

No…!” Diana annouced with a little more force, sending Mandell a bitter stare. “Don’t waste your breath! I’m not going to cow to your stupid mind games, and when I get out of here I’m going to merrily send you back hell where you belong!” Ha! She might be about to die for it, but she’s giving everyone last one of them grief! He was just a man, and it was just a gun, and if she could just make North see that too, maybe they’d escaped with their heads still attached.

Mandell stepped back and once again stood before the two tied detectives. “Well, you’re resilient, I’ll give you that. Never the less, we still need to decide whom of you will live – and who will die, and to be quite honest, this is taking way too long.”

North, who had been building the strength to speak this whole time, had heard enough. “Do you really think you’re going to get away with this, Mandell? Killing one of us is only going to get you in more trouble than you’re already in.” North hated looking at him, and speaking to him was even worse, but if he was going to die, he wasn’t going to let Mandell see him sobbing.

“And if you think you’re making me angry, or sad or whatever it is you’re trying to do, I’m past that. So, if you’re going to kill anyone, it had better be me, or I will track you down for the rest of your life.” North was trying anything to take Mandell’s attention away from Diana. At least if he met his end, he knew Diana would take this psycho down.

“Ah!” Charles said. “So the detective has finally joined this conversation. And with such chivalry, too! But sadly, and once again, you are woefully mistaken, North. I very much doubt either of you will ever come close to finding me. Of course, I’m not about to tell you any more about that.”

“Then what’s stopping you from doing me in right now?” North’s voice turned towards demanding. “I mean, if you’re going to get off scott-free, then why haven’t you just put a bullet in my head already?”

Mandell fell silent for a moment, pondering and thinking about what to do. “Actually.” He said, raising the gun to North’s face. “I’d rather watch you suffer…” And with that, Mandell’s arm swung over to point the gun in Diana’s direction.

“NO!” North yelled, dropping the tough guy act as the barrel of the pistol pointed towards his partner. But before he could do anything, a gunshot went off. Unable to stop it, the detective cringed as the shot echoed through the house. He had just ended Diana’s life, he failed to save her. He-

Then he suddenly realized, the shot did echo through the house, and they were in a closed room. North looked up only to find Mandell and Diana looking towards the source of the noise. She was still alive! Letting out a sigh of relief, North now wondered who was blasting away inside the house.

“Hmmm…” Mandell muttered. “Shouldn’t have locked her in the hunting room…” Suddenly, the door to the room they were in was nearly blown to pieces, splinters of wood flying through the air. The smoke finally cleared to reveal Lisa D’nro standing there – wielding a double-barrel hunting shotgun.

“Bloody hell!” North said, shaking the wood from his hair. “Never thought I’d be happy to see her.”

The agent shot North an exasperated scowl when he goaded Mandell. Did he want himself to get killed? Granted, she was grateful he had washed away that woebegotton expression, still she wanted to escape, not watch him die! But Mandell didn’t fire the gun at North, he had swerved in her direction! She had to move or, dodge or something, but she froze as all coherant thought seemed to escape her and waited for that piercing sensation of pain as the gun was fired.

Only it never came and instead of finding herself dead, there was Lisa D’rno aiming a huge shotgun at Mandell.

Diana decided she might rather have been shot.

Oh, god… why’d it have to be her!’ Despite not exactly being pleased at a rescue by the mafia princess, it was an opportunty they needed. With Mandell’s eyes on Lisa, she slipped her free hand from the ropes and quickly worked on the other. If she were lucky, Lisa would blast a hole through Mandell’s gut and save her the trouble. Of course this meant they’d owe the woman the favor, and Diana didn’t like that idea one bit.

Mandell quickly pulled the gun away from Diana and hid it behind his back. He hadn’t counted on Lisa getting herself free, but he would quickly think of something. “Lisa, my dear, how nice it is to se-”

“Shut up!” She shouted. “Shut up you mad man! I don’t know who you think you are, but no one locks me away!” Lifting the weapon, Lisa took aim at Mandell. North didn’t exactly see this as a good thing, from that range Lisa was about to blow them all away! “I’m going to kill you for everything you’ve done!” The maniacal woman shouted and finally pulled the trigger.

Click! The gun didn’t fire. Lisa tried again only for the sound of an empty barrel to ring out again. ‘Oh yeah, only two shots in those.’ North thought to himself. It was a relief for him, but now Lisa was in as much trouble as Diana and him.

Standing there, dumbfounded, Lisa finally realized what was wrong. She quickly snapped the shotgun open but it was too late, Mandell raised West’s pistol and gave a slight smirk. “Lisa, my darling, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” With all his attention on the woman, Mandell had failed to notice Diana freeing herself from her ropes.

She could have rolled her eyes if she weren’t busy keeping an eye on Mandell. As long as he was concerned with Lisa D’rno, Diana could slip herself out of the ropes. The trick would be getting him unarmed. There weren’t any weapons stashed away on her person, and apparently for all her glory Lisa wasn’t bright enough to plan ahead!

Only one bullet was in that pistol, unless the man lied. With three of them there, he wasn’t going to be able to shoot them all. Infact, if she got the ropes off and jumped him, he’d misfire if she were lucky.

With some elation Diana slipped her second hand free, leaving only the ropes that had her stuck to the chair to remove. She could bend her arms easier now and untie those without any problems, but as soon as she moved them, Mandell would know. He needed to turn his attention away from her… then she could smash him with her chair!

As Mandell was focused on Lisa, she tried to catch North’s attention. She mouthed the words distract him! and hoped to god the man would figure it out!

North sighed softly; their so-called rescue was over as quickly as it begun. And now Mandell had three hostages, though North didn’t know if he had changed his mind about who he was going to shoot. Glancing over at Diana, North was surprised to find her hands were now untied.

When she looked over to over to him and told him to distract Mandell, North couldn’t help but mouth back me? But of course she meant him, though, he wasn’t sure what he could do while being tied to a chair. He wasn’t about to tick Mandell off, which would only cause him to start shooting. Looking around, North hoped to find something, anything – and then he saw his chance. The light switch!

He was only a couple of feet away from it, and he would be able to reach it with his head at least. The only problem was getting over there. Mandell was still busy with Lisa, so that gave him a little more freedom as to what to do. He was going to have to hop over there. North leaned back slightly and shifted his weight, causing the chair to slide a little bit closer. The rug did nicely to muffle the sound of the chair and Mandell hadn’t heard a thing.

North continued this for a few seconds until there were only a few inches left. When he leaned back this time, he could just barely reach the switch. Inching his toes a little further, he could now FEEL the switch! ‘Just a little – further.’ North said to himself. Suddenly, he felt his feet leave the floor and his head fly towards the ground.

“SHIT!” North shouted as he tumbled backwards to the floor, landing with a loud thunk. It certainly wasn’t his finest plan. Squirming, North tried to see if maybe something loosened, but it was no use, the knots tight as ever.

Just then, North looked up passed his legs to see Mandell hovering over him now. “I’m sorry, North. Are our accommodations not to your liking or something? Or did you just need to lie down?” He said in his dry, sarcastic tone. North didn’t reply, he was just hoping he gave Diana the distraction she needed. After all, Mandell was at the other side of the room now.

“Uhhh, lie down?”

Diana couldn’t help but stare with an incredulous raise of her eyebrow as North started hopping away. Had he simply gone mad?! She narrowed her eyes as he moved closer to the light switch, thinking maybe, just maybe for once the man had a good idea, and quickly fussed with the last of her ropes. As her graceful partner failed in his attempt to kill the lights and toppled over she gave a silent sigh. He was one hundred percent hopeless.

But at least she had her distraction.

Mandell moved across the room with his back to her, clearly amused with North’s seeminly obvious attempt to escape. Diana moved stiffly, trying to move the last of the ropes and rise from the chair without making a sound. As she stood, she let the ropes fall silently to the ground and picked up the back of her chair. Her right wrist gave a jolt of pain, so she passed the brunt of the weight to her other hand, giving Lisa a quick nod of her head to move out of the way.

With as much force as she could muster she swung the chair as swiftly as possible and crashed it against the back of Mandell’s head!

Mandell was looming over North, almost gloating when there was a loud crack, pieces of chair showering North. Diana had made good on her side of the plan and Mandell was now nothing more than a limp body slumped over North’s legs. North, himself, was as relieved as he could possibly be, the man who had him captive, tortured and hurting was no threat to them anymore.

Lisa finally stepped over to see what had become of the man and was satisfied to find him unconscious. Turning to Diana she smiled a wide, gleeful smile of appreciation towards her, likely to her dismay. “Thank you, Miss, um, Johns was it? You have saved my family and me! That – that man was planning to kill us all, I know it! He was insane! He was mad! He-”

“HEY!” North shouted. “Could someone get him off and untie me already?!” Trying to kick Mandell off of him, the detective struggled to see over the seat at Diana or Lisa. He was glad it was over, but he would rather celebrate untied and standing up.

“It’s Jones.” she muttered, tempted to tell Lisa D’rno exactly what she thought of the woman’s damsel in distress story. Diana cast an amused look at North, dragging Mandell out of the way. Her wrist was killing her, and she grimly suspected she might’ve actually gotton herself hurt, but decided no one really needed for now.

Besides, North was the one that got himself blown up and clonked in the head twice in one day. He needed to see a doctor as soon as they left. “What did you think you were, a jack rabbit?” she grummbled, untying his hands and pulling him free of the ropes. “And I don’t suppose you thought I could see in the dark if you did manage to get that light out.”

“It was a good idea, I guess. Might wanna try it a little sooner next time.” She was rammbling by now as she helped him from the floor. There was still getting out of the mansion to worry about, along with what to do with the mafia princess and the out cold madman. Perhaps she was just a smidge bit relieved he didn’t break his neck.

“Yeah, you’re welcome.” North said as he got up. The least she could have said was a thank you or something other than harass him. But he was somewhat used to it by now, at least this time he halfway expected it and wasn’t as distressed as he normally would have been. Besides, she was most likely masking whatever pain or fear she might had felt during the ordeal, but he was nice enough just to let it go.

Once he was back on his feet, North stretched his arms and legs; it was nice to be able to move again. His head was still throbbing though, but at least it wasn’t bleeding anymore. When he felt he was good and ready – or as good and ready as he was going to get, North decided it was best to get Mandell locked away as soon as possible, as having the man he despised most lying there wasn’t the best thing for either of them.

At least he wanted to until Lisa needed to have her say.

“Oh North!” She said, hurrying over to him. “I was so worried!” As she was about to wrap her arms around him, North managed to block her before she could.

“Uhh, thanks Miss D’rno but-” He glanced over at Diana discreetly. “But I have a – a job which I am loyal and dedicated to … but I – appreciate the gesture!” There was a short, awkward silence in the room before North managed to speak up again. “But I want to know, where is your father?”

“He’s at a dinner party, Mandell arranged it. He’ll be home in an hour.” She explained, North nodded.

Peeking out the shattered door, North saw the halls were empty. “Sounds like he needed Vlachka out of the house for a while. What about his body guards?”

Lisa crossed her arms, feeling somewhat rejected yet. “They’re gone as well.”

Nodding, North let out a deep breath. “Well, Mandell really wanted the house to himself after he caught us.” He said. Turning to Lisa, North placed his hands in his pockets. “Lisa, I’m going to need you to call the police, get them out here. Agent Jones and I well, uh, clean up in here.”

The woman nodded slightly in acceptance and turned to walk away. As she passed by Diana, Lisa looked up her face. “You are a very lucky woman.” She said softly and quickly left the room.

Lucky for what Diana wasn’t exactly sure. Maybe she was lucky she resisted clobbering the other woman with the other chair. Knocking out alleged innocent people never looked good. Infact North was the lucky one for remembering he had a job to do instead of having a rediculous mushy moment with Lisa. Diana might’ve used that last bullet to spare herself the annoyance. Not that she cared if he had a relationship with Lisa, but they had to do something about Mandell.

Frowning, she glanced down at Charles Mandell. He was a twisted bastard; maybe they should shoot him. Then again there would be too many explanations to make and paperwork to do. She liked her job too much to ruin it by shooting someone in cold blood. Diana hadn’t realized her hands were shaking, and stuffed them quickly in her pockets to still them. It was just her wrist, she told herlself. The small insignifigant things always seemed to hurt the most.

With that thought she quickly opened her mouth to speak before she had any other disturbing ideas. “After the cops pick him up, we’ll go to the hospital. We really should’ve gone there in the first place.” She was almost itching to check on him herself, but after a quick once over with her eyes he looked well enough. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, and he didn’t look like he was going to pass out.

“Are you okay?” It was out of her mouth before she could thnk twice about asking it. Of course he was okay. He was still alive, his brother’s killer was caught and there was a drop dead gorgeous woman waiting to throw herself at his feet! Everything was peachy keen! “Nevermind… I suppose we should do something about him before he wakes up.” she inclined her heads towards Mandell with a frown. Everything was okay. There was no reason for her to feel so terrible.

North stepped over and plucked his brother’s gun off the floor, looking at it in his hand. Mandell was out cold and West was avenged, but North still didn’t feel right, maybe because Mandell was still breathing, or maybe because he was right about what he said earlier; North was to blame.

Before North could drift too far into memory, he was snapped out of it by Diana’s comment. “Hospital?” He replied, feeling the back of his head, It stung and hurt like hell, and the hospital was the best thing for him at the moment. “I don’t need to go to any hospital. Just a couple of aspirin will be fine. And – I’m fine, thanks.” He said and flashed her a quick smile, but he quickly noticed the look of distress on her face, though she covered it well. She just didn’t seem her normal self at the moment, as if she needed empathy and caring. For someone to tend to her wounds.

North set the weapon down and stepped over to his partner, knowing full well he was going to do what he needed to do. Standing before her, he glanced down ad Diana, noticing her pain clearly now; she was definitely hurting and North knew what he had to do.

“Agent Jon- No, Diana?” He said, his voice soft and caring. “I know this has been a difficult ordeal for the both of us, and we’ve been through a lot together, even if it has been just a few days. But these last few hours have been the hardest, I know. And there’s something I need to ask you, that I need to know.” North reached out and grabbed Diana by the shoulders softly, and drew his head close her hers, eyes and lips only inches away.

“I – I just have to know.” He was now almost caressing her, her body in his hands.

“They didn’t bang you around or anything, did they?” Suddenly, he turned her body and inspected her head for any kind of bruise or scratch or anything.

She blushed furiously, having half a mind to sock him in the nose if it weren’t for the fact her swinging arm was out of commission. What was he thinking? What was she thinking? For a moment she almost thought – well, it was crazy. Mandell must have messed with her head more than she thought. Diana moved a hand from her pocket, motioning to push him back a few steps but only holding him at bay with a hand at his chest to keep him from fussing over her instead. She sighed, simply too weary to put up much more of an argument. Last thing she wanted was him being all galant and trying to carry her off. She felt dumb enough as it was!

“You forget who the Fed is around here. It’s nothing I haven’t done before.” Not that being held hostage and playing a makeshift game of Russian roullete was a normal daily routine. Maybe just a little gunfire and some bad attitudes. It reminded her that though they had Mandell she still had another to worry about. Stephan Burch wasn’t a part of their case and that had nothing to do wth her current partner, but thanks to Mandell he was in Chicago a lot sooner than she would have expected.

Diana shook her head somberly. “Any case, I’m not a damsel. Infact I distinctly recall doing the rescuing here.” She gave a half-hearted grin, at the classic role reversal. “All I need now is a white horse and you swooning at my feet.” That was an interesting thought.

“Uhh, right – right.” North said, letting go of Diana when she pushed him away. She seemed well enough, albeit acting somewhat strange at that moment. “Just making sure, that’s all. Anyway, I guess we should do something with Mandell while we wait for the police. You know, make she he doesn’t – get free.”

If North could have his way, he would make sure Mandell would never wake up. But as much as he wanted to, and as much as he believed he might get away with it, North was one to uphold the law – no matter how much Mandell deserved it. As he walked over to the unconscious madman, North noticed he was in a rather uncomfortable position. He was reluctant to move him but he had to do something.

North pushed Mandell off the chair, letting his body slump to the floor before taking the used to tie him up to bind the man’s hands. At least he found some satisfaction in that. Finished with the knot, North stood up, brushed his hands off and stuck them in his pockets. As he stood around a bit, he realized nearly ten minutes had gone by and Lisa D’nro was no where to be seen, not that her disappearing was new, but this time he needed her there, afterall she was a part of this as much as they were.

“Hey, what happened to Lisa, anyway?” he said, glancing out the doorway, again finding the halls empty. “Damnit, there better not be anyone left in the house. We don’t need anymore hostage situations.” He wanted to take off and look for her, but at the same time he didn’t feel like leaving Diana alone with Mandell. Not that he didn’t think she couldn’t take care of herself, but he didn’t want to leave anyone alone with him. He had a knack of manipulating people, but he needed to find Lisa and make sure nothing has happened to her.

“Where the hell has she gone?” He mumbled to himself.

“Surprise surprise…” Diana muttered under her breath. Lisa D’rno was about as reliable as a stray cat. The woman probably took off to warn daddy if she weren’t deciding to knock off the two detectives on her own. While they spoke, she could’ve been off gathering her goons instead of calling the cops.

Still, that didn’t bode well in either case. They needed to find the woman, and Diana didn’t like the idea of leaving North behind to watch Mandell, nor having him go off to find Lisa on his own. For some reason she figured he’d get himself in trouble.

“It’s her house, I doubt she got lost.” She paused for a moment glancing down at Mandell. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere soon and having Lisa running around was more of a liability than a help. “We should probably find her just in case. I can stay here in the hall, and you can look on the next floor. She’s probably doing something stupid like powdering her nose or something…”

He really didn’t like it, but North didn’t have any other choice, he was going to have to find out what happened to Lisa.

“I’ll be real quick.” He said and took off. He searched the house high and low but found no trace of the Don’s daughter, in fact, every room in the house was empty. There wasn’t a person to be found. North called out for Lisa a couple times but didn’t get any response, just empty halls. He wandered around for a bit longer, expecting to see someone less and less now.

It wasn’t until he came by the security room that he thought he’d have some luck. Why waste time wandering when you could have eyes all over the house! Stepping inside, North began messing with some of the keys, monitors cycling through different cameras. Finally he came to one that gave a little insight to where Lisa might be – drive way. Diana was right, she was gone. Her car was no where to be seen and the streets were empty.

North gave a frustrated sigh, that was one witness gone, and now Vlachka was probably tipped off by now as well. There goes their chance of getting him pinned down with Mandell. And now that North had the answer he was looking for, he didn’t want to leave Diana with the madman another moment. He might be tied up, but North was worried enough with just having him alive.

Turning to go, North’s first step towards the door hit the ground with a wet splat. As he looked down, he found himself standing in a puddle of blood. “The hell?” He muttered. Reaching for his brother’s gun, he realized he had left it with Diana. “Damn…” He muttered.

The blood streaked across the floor to some old, large lockers in the corner. North, who was without something to defend himself but his own two hands, slowly inched towards them. He didn’t know what to expect, but knew what he didn’t want to see.

“Don’t be Lisa. Don’t be Lisa. Don’t be Lisa…” He said over and over in his head as he came closer. Finally close enough North slowly reached out and turned the locker handle. Suddenly, the door swung open under the weight of its contents and a body fell out and to the ground.

“GOD DAMNIT, SON OF A BITCH!” North shouted, obviously spooked by the event. He didn’t like surprises – like dead people falling out of things. Once he had settled down, he checked the body. It was obvious from first glance it wasn’t Lisa, but a rather large man; one of Vlach’s thugs no doubt. Inspecting the body further, North found several stab wounds on his backside, no different than the ones Diana and he found on Dr. Armacu before. Another one of Mandell’s victims.

With Lisa gone and nothing left for them there, North decided he should return to the room Diana and Mandell occupied. He felt he was gone too long as it was. Stepping over the dead body, North quickly hurried back.

“You were right, Lisa’s gone.” North said, finding Diana outside the room still. “Which means she probably hasn’t phoned the police. Seen a phone around here?”

“I did, and I made a phone call. Your rookie friend wasn’t pleased about you taking his car.” She smirked. That wasn’t the only the the local cops weren’t pleased about. The two were in for quite an earful when they showed up. Diana had managed to snoop around the floor a bit, not straying to far from their captive. It seemed the whole place was cleared out. She’d have thought Mandell would have kept a few men around in case of an emergency, but perhaps he wasn’t as clever as he thought himself to be.

“Oh, I managed to find my gun… but nothing else useful. D’rno cleanup up his business pretty quick.” Having her gun back with her where it belonged gave her a better sense of control. She wasn’t taking kindly to someone else pulling all the strings.

Shrugging a shoulder she leaned against the doorframe to wait. “I guess it’s case over…”

“Yeah.” North said, unethusastically. “I guess it is. By the way, I found another one of Mandell’s victims upstairs. I guess it was someone more loyal to Vlach than he expected. Either way, with that and Mandells guilt-free confession, he’s going to need a lot more than a miracle lawyer to get himself out of this one.”

The night may have not ended the way he had wanted, but at least it was over. They had Mandell, and he wasn’t taking any chances with him. Yet, North still felt like it was incomplete, like West’s ghost was still hanting him. Or maybe he was just feeing guilty over the whole thing again – At leaset, that’s what he was telling himself. Besides, they had a whole new problem to deal with. A very angry police chief.

“By the way. Don’t worry about the police too much. “North said, acting somewhat embarassed. “Might be hard to believe, but this isn’t the first time I’ve managed to tick them off. Just let me do the talking, the Chief is a pretty reasonable guy…”

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 003

North slept surprisingly well given his position. Maybe he felt more relaxed around the agent now. Maybe her couch was just so much more comfortable. Or maybe it was he had slid over in his sleep and was now resting his head on her hips, his arm draped over her legs. Even while asleep, he seemed pleased with his current situation.

The two slept peacefully until the annoying buzz of Diana’s alarm filled the apartment. Out of habit, North swung his arm over the couch in hopes of silencing it. Instead, his hand struck with the wall in a painful meeting. “…Mmm, bloody … where…?” He muttered, still mostly asleep. He squirmed a bit, hoping he could just ignore the sound.

At the sound of the alarm, her first reaction was the typical one. Roll over and sleep for an extra hour. Horever, finding it difficult to move, she sleepily figured she must’ve gotton tangled in the blankets again! She reached down to toss the out of the way so she could turn of the noisy clock, but she didn’t find blankets, just something kind of shaggy… like hair, and she didn’t have any pets! She quickly tried reaching for her gun, but it seemed she wasn’t in bed! Suddenly wide awake but still too confused to register what had happened last night, Diana rolled off the sofa with a loud yelp and hopped to her feet preparing to knock the daylights out of the intruder!

Blinking owlishly at North, who was by now startled awake by her screaming, she quickly hid the handy screwdriver she found behind her back and out of site. As the recollections of the previous night’s event decided to finally come to her, she gave the mussed looking man a sheepish look. She really should have slept in bed.

“Morning, McCoy. I trust you enjoyed my sofa?” She was being snippety again, but more so out of embarassment of having a screaming fit so early in the morning. Diana stalked to the shelf and turned off the alarm, making sure to stash her screwdriver weapon out of sight.

“Wha?! Wh-what?” he said, suddenly waking up to a sharp shriek. At least he thought that’s what it was, or was he dreaming? “Oh, uh … yeah. I must have fallen asleep. Sorry…” He said, rubbing his eyes. He starched and stood up from the sofa, still groggy. “What time is it anyway?” He asked.

For some reason, he remembered his sleep being more enjoyable than normal. Sure, he had company, but she was in her bed – wasn’t she? After all, she’s not the kind of person to just lay next to someone she just met the day before. Regardless of how much she looked up on him. North just figured her couch was really nice.

He fixed his shirt and grabbed his tie from the end table, putting it back on. Brushing off his pants, North followed his normal waking routine – doing as little as possible to look anywhere near acceptable. He ran his hand through his hair, trying to straighten it. Yawning once moor, North took a look outside. The sky was a dark orange now, the sun just ducking under the horizon.

Diana had to admit, he looked rather interesting being all scruffy. She on the other handy probably looked terrible and she was still in last night’s clothes. Glancing at the clock, she frowned. “We’re going to late. We have to get that warrant so I don’t have to climb in through Vlacho’s windows again.” She handed him a pair of coffee mugs she pulled from one of her many boxes.”You make tea. The stuff in the red box, not the green. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Of course she didn’t quite explain where the red box was before she disapeared through the bedroom door.

When she said a few minutes, she wasn’t lying! It wasn’t more than ten minutes before she returned, dressed to the nines even. She wore a dressy teal satin shirt and swishy amber skirt that fell to about her knees and those same black boots. The woman certaintly didn’t look like she was about to search mobster’s mansion… more like have dinner there! It could give a person the suspicious that she had another bizzare plan in mind.

“Did you find the tea?”

North took the glasses, one in each hand, and just nodded. Well, the old, demanding Diana was back at least. “O – ok, sure.” He said and entered the kitchen area. When Diana left, he realized he had no idea where anything was, let alone a box of tea. Looks like he was going to have to use his detective skills in a whole different manor.

“Tea … tea … oh, who the hell drinks tea anymore?!” A frustrated huff passed his lips. By now, every cabinet and box within reach was open. But still no red box. Or was it green? This is what happens when he doesn’t get his coffee in the evening. He pulled open another box and found a little something for himself. “Hmmm, candy.” He said, plucking it from the box. It looked like that fancy kind, too.

Then a box inside caught his attention. A box sat across from the rest and the word “tea” was printed on it. Good enough for him. He popped the candy into his mouth and took the box back to the kitchen.

“OK.” He said, getting out a pot. “How do you make this … stuff?” He knew he was suppose to boil water – but that’s about it. Looking on the box, he found some directions at least. He did what was needed and had some tea ready before Diana waltzed out of her bedroom. “There. I think…”

When Diana finally emerged from the back room, North was busy chewing away on that candy. He turned to see her and was surprised at just how – sexy she looked. Sure, he guessed she was cute before, but now she looked great. Of course, he wasn’t about to say anything like that, but the look on his face probably said otherwise.

“Yeah, sure. It’s ready now.” He said, snapping out of it. “By the way, you look – nice. I didn’t know we were going to some fancy restaurant though.”

“We’re not.” she replied, oblivious to her own charms. She blinked at the open box candy that seemed to find it’s way on the counter and quickly rescued it with an accusing frown at it’s previous captor. Picking up one of the mugs she sipped the tea giving another curious blinked. “You got the green… Ah, well if you insist.” Shrugging a shoulder while sipping her tea, she took the box of candy and stashed it in a drawer before setting the mug down again to put on her gun holster.

“Since we are a bit off schedule our warrant will have to wait until after the party.” Diana digged through another box until she found a long suede jacket that matched her skirt, and grinned approvingly! “It’s a nice little charity event, and there’s a few rumors that tie-ins with our Russians will be there. If we can get associated with them we can get some inside information…” She pulled on her jacket as she spoke, then reguarded him with an examining eye.

“You will have to change clothes. Maybe something snazzy in grey. Or we could grab a uniform and else you could moonlight as one of the waiters.”

Grab a uniform? He thought. He was a two-bit detective, not James Bond. And just how many six-foot plus waiters are there? But, he did happen to have something for the occasion. “Well, I do have a nice suit. but it’s back at my place. Hope you don’t mind stopping on the way there.” He said, taking a cup of the tea he made. Not the biggest drinker of tea, North didn’t want to be rude and decided to just take the bullet. Besides, it wasn’t all that bad, he’d have to admit.

Walking over towards the door, North grabbed his coat from the rack, slipping it on. As he did so, he couldn’t help but feel like he had forgotten something. He checked his pockets and noticed something was absent, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Shrugging, he opened the door for Diana.

“So, what’s wrong with the green box anyway?” He asked the now glamorous Diana.

“Fantastic!” If there were wheels in people’s heads to make them work, the woman’s wheels were turning full force. She had plotting up her sleeve, and if North could dress the part they could meet some very important peoples, and possibly have their first contact by the end of the party.

“Oh, the tea? It’s a special herbal mix. Kind of has the affect of a few shots of expresso. You’ll be fine, I think.” Diana had an awfully brilliant smile for someone who just informed their partner they just drank super-caffeinated hyper tea. As they left the apartment, she made a stopped to lock the door, and gave a slight frown at the mess the locks were in. She shrugged and led the way down the hall again.

“Remind me to get some new locks.”

North shrugged at the description, thinking it didn’t sound so bad. After all, he was pretty used to caffeine by then. He followed Diana down the hall to the stairs and began to descend the building. But he still had the feeling he was missing something. Forgotten something important.

As they exited the building, everything seemed in order. The car where he put it, untouched. He knew no one was going to touch that piece of junk. Getting in, he realized what he had forgotten. His Keys. But they weren’t in the apartment or his pockets either. He looked around a bit before he found them. In the ignition. In the on position.

“Ohhhh … son of a-” He said as he planted his head on the steering wheel. He had left the car running all afternoon and it was long dead by now. Getting back out, North glanced about, slightly embarrassed.

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have a car, would you?”

Diana wrinkled up her nose, her hands placed firmly on her hips. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Who leaves their keys in the car, in the ignition no less, in the middle of downtown Chicago!” The man was absolutly hopeless! It was going to be a miracle to even get to the charity on time, and she was expecting him to pull off an undercover alias? If his suit was filled with moth holes, she was going to scream.

“No, I don’t have a car.” She sighed. “We’ll walk to your place, and then we can take a cab. It probably wasn’t the best idea to show up there in that death trap, anyway.” Diana cast the car a disapproving glance. “I guess we’ll just be fashionably late.”

“Yeah…” North said awkwardly. He certainly wasn’t helping this case at all. Leaving his car like that was pretty clumsy, even for him. He just sighed and took his keys from the ignition and placed them in his pocket. The walk back to his place was in near silence, North not wanting to say much of anything.

As they arrived his complex, North lead Diana back up to his apartment and unlocked the door, letting her it. “I’ll just be a couple minutes. Have to find the thing first.” He said and opened a closet. Rummaging through several boxes, he finally found what he was looking for and left Diana alone in the office.

After a short while, maybe five minutes tops, North returned from his room. “Now, I know it’s – not the traditional suit, but it’s all I have.” Standing there, North was decked out in an all white suit. White shirt, white pants even a white tie to go along with it.

“It also came with this.” North said, holding up a white fedora. “But this is a bit tacky.” He said and threw it on his desk.

Standing there, North awaited Diana’s endless string of comments. “All right, so let’s hear it.”

Blinking for a moment moments, Diana simply stared, dumbfounded. She suddenly began laughing a soft cheerful sound partially covering her mouth with her hand. “That is the most rediculous thing I have ever seen,” she said between laughs, “and yet somehow you look fantastic.” She really wouldn’t have been surprised if that were his father’s suit. Or his grandfathers! But it did look strikingly good, and he was bond to make a fashion statement if nothing else.

“I like the hat, though.” she commented with amusement. “We’re going to stand out terribly. It’s going to stretch my creativity.” Diana plucked the white fedora from his desk and dropped it on her own head sith a snazzy tilt. If he weren’t going to wear it, she’d enjoy the pleasure! Perhaps she had a small infatuation for classic hats.

North smirked at the fedora on Diana’s head and shook his own. “Now who looks ridiculous?” He said and snatched his hat back. He might as well wear it; after all, it did complete the look – even if it was the 30’s gangster look.

“Anyway.” He said, grabbing his things. “By creativity, you wouldn’t mean find out how to snoop where you don’t belong, would you? As well as that went last time, I hope you have a better plan. I don’t think ticking off the Don twice in two nights is going to put us on his good side.” North took a couple bullets from his desk and replaced the two shots he fired the night before.

“And this time, let me bloody know what you’re going to do before you do it?” He said and slapped his revolver shut with a spin. “I don’t want to have to use this at a charity event.”

Diana was almost disapointed! She figured she looked pretty damn good wearing that hat, and wouldn’t have minded to wear it for the night. Putting on a completly innocent look, she leaned against his desk. “Sometimes being conventional gets you no where. All you got was the run around and a good view of Miz Lisa.”

“Besides,” she lamented, “D’rno shouldn’t be there tonight. At the most one or two of his associates. We wouldn’t be able to play incognito if he were there.” Giving a cheeky grin she push off the desk to head towards the door.

Tapping her chin she glanced at him again. “You can be the fancy lawyer looking for new clients to represent. Mobsters are the perfect cliental for an up and coming lawyer. Hmm, I’ll be your secretary that’s really doing all of the work.”

“It will be a perfectly uneventful evening.”

“At least when I hit a snag in my method, I won’t get shot at.” North mumbled. “Well, I hope you know what you’re doing, Agent. If we screw this one up, we’re in a world of shit – so to speak.” North was a little more than nervous about this sort of thing. It always seemed to be more trouble that it’s worth.

Luckily, he knew enough about the law to pull off the image of a lawyer. At least for a time being. Hopefully no one there would question him about anything too complicated. North decided he was going to have to try to avoid most people as much as possible, long enough to allow Diana to do whatever it was she cooked up.

“Well, we’d better get going then. No sense in letting the night go by peacefully.” North said in his normal, antagonist tone.

The infuriating woman was grinning like a chesire cat. “No need to be nervous. I’ll protect you, McCoy.”

Leaving North’s apartment and catching a cab was simplicity itself. Diana knew exactly where they were going and gave impecable directions for one who had just moved to Chicago. She was apparently well-informed. By the time they reached the private residence where the special charity event was being held the part was well on it’s way, and she somehow had managed to retrieve his hat once again. Though how she did it without being spotted under his watchful eye was a mystery.

At the door, Diana flashed two perfect invitations to the door man. He regurded them both carefully, giving North a second wondering look over. “Julius Connor and Mia Foster?”

Diana simply smiled. “It’s what it says on the card doesn’t it?”

Shrugging the doorman nodded and let them slip by. Diana took North’s hand as a precation incase he decided to get lost in a sea of strange people, and weaved them through the crowed until she found a suitably secluded spot.

“See? Simple. You heard the man. You are Julius, and I am Mia. Ms. Foster, if you please. All we really have to do is mingle and see what interesting conversations we can be privvy to.”

As Diana dragged North through the crowd, he began to wonder about her. She was strangely prepared for this, she knew about the event, she had the fake tickets. She even knew enough to have an Irish name for him. North was beginning to believe she knew more than she was letting on, but now wasn’t the time to press the issue.

“Right, Conner.” North said. “Well, Ms. Foster, we’ll meet back here in…” He glanced at his watch. “In two hours? We can’t stick around too long, someone might recognize us. They probably got enough pictures of us back at the mansion. I’ll see if I can get any info as to who might have put that hit out. Oh, any maybe something about those diamonds, too.” Glancing around, North caught sight of men who looked rather wealthy. “Looks like the place to get info on those, too.”

As they turned to go, a thought came through North’s mind as he watched Diana. Could he trust her? Completely? He didn’t think she was going to stab him in the back or anything, and she didn’t seem to have any agendas. In fact, she was actually kind of nice to be around, but she was so – reclusive. She didn’t like to talk about herself at all. And she seemed to know more than her share. Was the FBI just using him to get close to Vlachka maybe? Or was there more to this than he thought?

North shook his head, clearing those thoughts away. Maybe he was just being paranoid, Diana wasn’t like that. Hell, she let him stay in her apartment over night; no one with big, government secrets would do that. Besides, he had a job to do, conspiracy or not. He grabbed a glass of wine from one of the waiters and took a sip. If he was going to be a pricey lawyer, he might as well complete the look.

“All right.” North said to himself. “Time to find a mob boss with a big mouth.”

Diana scanned the room casually before walking with some purpose to her chosen target, even smiling and nodding at a few people as if familiar with them when she passed them by. Across the room was a tall younger gentlemen short stylish cut blonde hair, sporting rakish looking goatee. On his arm was an elderly woman who seemed to be wearing every piece of sparkling jewelry she own. She looked much like a walking jeweler.

Stepping in to their small circle, Diana gave a pleasant smile and mumbled apologies for interrupting. “So sorry I’m late, Beau.”

“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle Foster! I did not expect to see you here this evening!” The man replied genuinely looking surprised. He had a smooth french accent, but his english was spoken beautifully. “Allow me to offer you some champagne? I have only brought the finest for my guests this evening.” Motioning to a passing waiter he offered her a glass.

She cast an small smile and gratefully accepted the champagne. “Truthfully, I was afraid I would not make it. I have found myself a new employer since the last had such a terrible accident.” Smiling at the older woman, she motioned a hand referring to her jewels. “You look wonderful tonight Madame Lace! Those wouldn’t happen to be new would they?”

The older woman beamed with pride at having her precious jewels complimented. Madame Lace seemed to puff up a few inches larger than her actual size. “Oh, it is so unfortunate about dear Fredricks. I do hope he does not spend too long in the hospital; it is such a dreadful place. But my yes! I had the pleasure of doing business with a most fantastique man! You have heard of Jacques Chappelle?”

Diana opened her eyes wide after taking a few sips of champagne. “You are indeed lucky, Madame Lace!” She leaned closer to the woman and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, though quite deliberately loud enough for the others in their circle to hear. “Would you believe, I have heard that Jacques Chappelle has acquired the Pendragon Diamonds? Purely rumor, I suspect, but wouldn’t be the most grand thing if he sold them?”

“Dearest yes!” Lace exclaimed. “The Pendragon Diamonds are the most beautiful stones! They have been missing for ages, do you really suspects it’s true?” she inquired with a sparkle to her eyes. Obviously jewels were the woman’s most favorite topic.

Nodding seriously, Diana sipped from her glace, curiously watching the older woman’s young counterpart. Beau Arnoux was an avid collector of priceless jewels and yet he didn’t even seem the slight bit interested. “What do you think, Beau? If Jacques Chappelle has the Pendragon Diamonds, surely you would know?”

Beau shook his head, and strange enigmatic smile crossing his face. “Mademoiselle Foster, you gossip far too much and ask too many questions. You’ll create too much drama for my dear mother.” He gestured with his glass behind her shoulder towards North. “Is that not your escort? He does not look pleased.”

Diana glanced towards North. With her luck he probably downed too much wine, and she was going to have to drag him out before there was a brawl. “I must be you farewell, Madame Lace. It was a pleasure to see you again.” Leaning to kiss the older woman’s cheek she gave another low whisper. “Please do tell me if you hear more about Jacques! I would love to see those diamonds!” With that she nodded he goodbyes to seek out North.

While Diana was having her conversation, North was having little luck in the way of hearing anything interesting… at least until a certain rumor started floating about. It seemed everyone suddenly had something to say about priceless jewels, particularly diamonds.

North took another sip and stepped into the crowd. Glancing about, he caught a small group of men standing around smoking cigars. It might have been generalization, but he thought they would be his best start. Taking a deep breath, he stepped over to them.

“Evening gentle – men?” North’s voice trailed off as he spoke. A couple of the men standing there just scoffed at him and returned to their conversation. North decided not to pursue them any further after that. “I hate rich people.” He mumbled and walked away, not feeling any better about the situation.

He bumped into a few other people but still wasn’t getting anywhere. Finally, he decided to take a break for a moment, standing alone next to a small group. He wasn’t paying attention to them until he heard the name Foster. It took a moment for him to realize they were talking about Diana, but once that clicked he made sure to listen.

“Mia Foster is on the prowl again, and I hear she has a new boss too.” A stout man said, with some cheer to his voice.

“More like a new sap to clean up her mess. Did you hear poor Fredricks ended up in the hospital? Shot twice in the back by some sort of ‘accident’. I tell you, lawyers just don’t end up shot in the back by accident. Someone has to be there to pull the trigger.”

The first man simply chuckled. You’ve got a bias against women since your old lady took you for half your company in the divorce! Old Fredricks got himself in that mess, dealing with mobsters and whatnot. I say, never represent men that can toss you in the river with cement shoes if you fail to win a case.”

“Well all I see is Ms. Foster doing all the dirty work. Now she’s got everyone in the place talking about those missing Pendragon diamonds. Who cares about a bunch of missing royal jewels from some obscure country? I say secretaries belong at their desks, not stirring up trouble.”

Blinking the stout man stared. “Got your mistress asking for new gift, eh.”

“Exactly.”

The two men drifted off towards the bar leaving North with more questions than he came there with!

“Fredrick?” North thought to himself. “Who’s this guy?” He listened to the rest of the conversation, almost getting upset with what he learned. This certainly wasn’t the first time Diana had used the name, or the first time she’s met these people. Just what was she up to, and why hadn’t she told him?

Deciding that standing around wasn’t going to answer his question, North took off in search for the agent. Case or not, he wasn’t going to work with her until he got the truth on her little operation here. He set his glass on the bar and stormed through the hall with a look of determination, he was going to give her a piece of his mind. At least, he thought he would.

“North?” Came a voice from behind him. “North McCoy?” He paused. Who did he know had the money and connections to come to a place like this? He slowly spun around to face the person who called him.

“Well, I certainly didn’t expect to see you here.” It was Lisa D’nro, daughter of the Don. She was dressed in a beautiful gown, which looked oriental as far as he could tell. North began to sweat a little, he was hoping he’d get past the night unnoticed. Diana said Vlachka wasn’t going to be there, but they didn’t count on his daughter.

“Lisa?! I … we – I was…” North fumbles with some sort of an excuse.

“I didn’t think you were interested in the fine arts, McCoy. I’m impressed.” She smiled.

“Oh, well, of course! I appreciate all the … fine arts. They’re very – fine!” he said with a feeling of relief. Letting out a deep breath, he made sure no one else was around to hear them. “But what are you doing here?”

“I’m hosting tonight’s auction. Father is selling two of his paintings and he thought it was best I be here.” Lisa said. She rested he hands behind her back and glanced around the room. “Are you here with anyone? Maybe that Dana woman?”

“Who, Diana?” North said and caught her out of the corner of his eye. She was probably keeping low better than he was and decided to keep it that way. “No, that – she was only here that night, I guess.” He said as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh, I see. Well then, the auction begins in ten minutes and I must get ready.” As Lisa turned to go, she stopped after a few steps and glanced back at North. “Maybe you could … come meet me after the auction? Father booked me a room just upstairs and would be nice to have some company.” She smiled, a hint of seductiveness in her eyes.

“Well I-” North was about to refuse her offer when he thought that this might be the best way to get some info on the Don. “Well, actually, that sounds nice.” He said, smiling.

“I’m glad! My room is 319, I’ll leave it unlocked.” She smiled again and disappeared behind a side door. North stood there a moment longer before he returned to the task at hand. He needed to find Diana and get some information out of her. Cutting through the crown, he finally caught sight of her again.

“Ms. Foster!” He said just loud enough for her to hear. “If I may have a word with you.” His voice didn’t sound very happy.

Oh dear. He sounded angry. Perhaps he was a bit miffed that she hadn’t had time to warn him about her operations beforehand? Well damn him anyway, they only met yesterday and one day isn’t near enough time to explain the specific details of investigations that had been going on for months! He should be glad even has a job in the first place!

She growled through gritted teeth when she made her way to him. “Are you trying to draw attention to us. You’re loud enough with that suit, you don’t have to yell too.”

Grabbing his arm, she dragged him back to a quiet area, out of site of the party guests. “I saw Lisa D’rno. You didn’t blow our cover did you? I haven’t finished here yet!”

“First thing’s first.” North said abruptly. “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but I’m tired of being in the dark. Just tell me what you’re doing here. You’re not someone who was just thrown on the case; I’ve put that much together. What’s going on here?”

As they spoke, a waiter strolled up to them. Before he could asked them if they wanted anything, North gave him a glance that would tell anyone he wasn’t happy at the moment. The waiter quickly trotted off before North could get a word off and his attention quickly returned to Diana.

“So?”

Poor waiter. The man was being unreasonable! “I didn’t exactly have time to brief you between getting shot at, talking to Vlachka and having my place broken in two. I mean, damn! Did you think I was just jumped in to this mess without a bloody clue what I was getting at?” She rested her hands on her hips, desperatly wanting to smack him over the head with the nearest bottle of wine.

“I’ve spent months working on this case, only to have some partner I never wanted or even needed thrown at me when I’m this close to finding out what I need. I’ll be damned if I let some half-assed detective that hasn’t even had a real case in months screw it up!” Harsh. Diana regretted saying it the second it came out of her mouth, but she absolutely refused to apologise. She had been working hard on that case. If it weren’t for a creep from the past getting parole, her boss would have never insisted she needed a new partner, and she could have been free of any added hassle. Partners got shot and ended up half-dead in a hospital bed. She didn’t need a partner.

“If you don’t like it, you can quit. I am more than capable of handling this case on my own.”

“Quit?” Something Diana said struck a nerve in North. “Look, I don’t know where you get off telling me how to do my job. This case had a lot more to do with me before you even got started on it. You wanna know why I haven’t had a case in eight months? I have been searching high and low for something – anything that would give me a lead concerning this case and this is as close as I’ve gotten.” While he sounded angry, there was a touch of sadness in his voice. His anger seemed distant, like it wasn’t directed at Diana.

“My brother – he … Th-that’s not important” North said and glanced away. his eyes looked glassy. His voice was calmer now, not sounding as upset. “What’s important is, I’m sticking to the case. With, or without your help.”

North took a deep breath, he didn’t like getting angry, especially with someone who’s just doing their job. Diana hadn’t done anything wrong and he knew it, she was just doing what she thought was right.

“But.” He looked back at her. “I – want your help. You’ve done a lot for the case and it would be – a bad move to separate now. Mainly for me. And I just want to say I’m … sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did. This is all just as important for you as it is for me.”

Diana blinked, dumbfounded in to silence once again. Why did he always have to do that! He would get her all riled up, and then he’d apologise and flash that sad puppy look. It damn hard to stay mad at a man like North McCoy, and she so desperatly wanted to stay mad. He was supposed to stomp off and let her do her job without… complications.

Letting out an exasperated sigh, she rubbed her temple. “You are so much trouble, North McCoy…” She let it go, but refused to apologise. Even if this time it was just itching to come out.

“Listen, I had a partner before when we first started this case, and he ended up shot down. I was doing fine on my own, then there was that busisess with Burch and all of a sudden the bossman said I had to have a partner.” Biting her bottom lip she crossed her arms. “You’re… you’re too nice of guy, and I’d rather not see you shot full of holes. We’ve already been shot at once and next time it probably won’t be an accident.”

North was surprised by Diana’s sudden change of character. He wasn’t expecting her to be so caring, but rather for her tear him to pieces. Relieved, he fixed his shirt a little and placed his hands in his pocket.

“Well, we’ll just have to make sure there isn’t a next time. And I’m sorry about your partner, uh, Mrs. Foster.” He said, remembering they were still incognito and didn’t feel like alarming anymore people. “But, uh, yeah. Lisa’s here hosting the auction tonight. Apparently her father is selling a couple paintings.”

With Diana’s sudden turn of attitude, North was a little hesitant to tell her the rest of the conversation he had with Lisa. “She’s, uh .. also invited me up to her room tonight. I’m hoping I can get a little information off of her. Alone, at least.”

Just then, the lights in the room dimmed slightly and the stage at one end lit up. The auction was beginning and several people gathered around, pulling little flags from their coats.

Diana wrinkled up her nose with distaste. A woman like that only invited men to their private rooms for two things, none of which involved talking. North was either walking in to getting himself seduced or murdered, and neither sounded very pleasing to her. Not that she would be jealous if he had a romp with the raven-haired beauty. He was after all completly rediculous and that irish lit really wasn’t that attractive. But, he was likely to get stabbed afterward and no man should have to die without his pants.

“I see…” she lamented, keeping her thoughts on that particular idea to herself. “If you’re going to be getting friendly with Ms. D’rno, I can take a look at the auction room before things get shipped off to their new owners. There might be something stashed in the items.”

“Just a few questions, that’s all.” North said, suddenly confused by why he felt the need to say that. “But yeah, you do that. Hopefully one of us will come up with something tonight.”

The auction was underway and a lot of zeros were being thrown around. North watched for a bit, a tad confused as to why people would pay so much for this stuff. “Who the bloody hell would pay for that thing?” He said quietly. A man standing in front of him turned around and gave him a snotty look.

“Uhh.” North tried to cover himself. “Pay so little for that. A beautiful piece if I say so myself.” The man smiled, satisfied with his answer.

The auction continued until every piece was bought and everyone got, or didn’t get what they wanted. With the lights returning to their normal brightness, North and Diana decided to make their moves.

“Well, I’ll go meet Lisa at her room, you go snoop around in the backrooms a little.” North turned to go out the door he saw Lisa leave through earlier. “I won’t take long. In and out.” He shouted to Diana.

She rolled her eyes. In and out her foot! ha woman was going to have him rolling around in teh floor one way or another. When she was finished searching the storage rooms she was going to have to rescue him from Lisa D’rno. Maybe she’d get to shoot the woman.

Diana casually walked down the halls, giving a shy grin to anyone she happened to pass by until she reached the rooms that kept the auctioned items. Giving a wary glance down each end of the hallway, she slipped in the room unoticed. She fummbled for the light switch on the wall and in finding it she had the pleasant surprise if the lights not working.

“That’s just great.” she muttered to herself as she left the room door open just a crack so there could be enough light to see as she rummaged around. Most of the peices in the room were paintings, none looking counterfeit, at least to her reckoning, and none baring any seceret messages. The few boxes in the room contained statues and other such things. She picked a random crate and began her search!

North quickly made his way down the hall towards the elevators. Pressing the button for the third floor, he stood and waited for a moment. I wasn’t until he was standing there for over a minute that he realized something was wrong. He took another look at the button pad and caught the note below it.

“Out of order – great.” he said and backtracked towards the stairs. “You’re terribly observant, North.” He said to himself. As he reached the stairs and opened the door, we almost ran into a trio of men. “Oh, excuse me.” He said and stepped aside. He had a feeling he’d seen one of them before, but couldn’t put his finger on it. He also noticed he was carrying a leaking can of gasoline, but passed him off as a janitor.

As he made his way up the stairs, the smell of gas was almost overwhelming. But he managed to make it to the third floor anyway. Finding room 319 was easy enough; it was just around the corner. North knocked a couple times, but got no answer. He tried the door but it was locked. “Well great.” North said and leaned up against the wall.

As he stood there, he noticed the smell of gasoline hadn’t faded yet. He looked down to find a dotted trail of it down the hallway. “What were they doing up here?” North mumbled. He followed the trail until he reached the room it originated from. Surprisingly, he found the door unlocked and entered.

Inside, the room seemed to be normal, except for the rag on the floor. The smell of gas from it was overpowering and north covered his mouth with his shirt. He poked around; making sure everything was in order, after all, gasoline usually doesn’t find it’s way into hotel rooms.

Unable to find anything wrong, North turned to go, and happily at that. That’s when found a small piece of paper lying just behind the door. Bending over to pick it up, North unfolded it and read what was written. “Burn the art. All of it. P.S. Don’t remove the rag. Leaky can. Sorry.”

“Oh shit, DIANA!” And North darted out the room.

Downstairs, the thugs were already at work. Two of them stood watch while the third slowly crept into the dark room and closed the door behind him. Finding out the lights didn’t work didn’t bother him, after all, it was only going to be a quick job. He began to pour gasoline over several pieces of art, keeping as quiet as he could.

As the door opened, she spotted the shadow in the doorway and quickly darted behind a large oriental style screen. She pulled her gun as the door opened, though alot of good it was going to do her in the dark. Someone was still there, as she could hear them shuffling around, and even grunting as they cracked a shin on one of the open gates. It seemed they couldn’t see either, and apparently didn’t know she was there. Curiously she waited to see what they were up to.

When the smell of gasoline hit her nose she muttered a startled oath and darted out from behind the screen aiming her pistol in the darkness. Hearing her, the man cursed himself, tossing a lighted match down on to some gasoline soaked artwork and running out the door as it errupted in fire. Diana skidded to a stop to avoid the flames and ran around them but was only met with the sound of a lock as she reached the door. She was trapped!

“God damn, son of a..!” Aiming her gun at the lock she fire fired a few rounds, but it was immovable! “What the hell are these things made of?!” Coughing from the smoke, she looked back at the fire… She was going to have a hot date with death!

Down those stairs, North ran faster than he had ever run in his life. He hoped he would get there in time to warn Diana. If she wasn’t ok – He didn’t want to think about that. Hopping the last railing, North swung open the door, only to meet face to face with the gas can-carrying thug from before.

“Hey!” he shouted and pulled out his pistol, aiming it at his face. The man threw his hands up into the air without hesitation. “What are you doing here?!” North demanded. The thug kept quiet, not saying a word. “Damnit, tell me what you-” Just then, the fire alarm went off in the building, and the crowds began to panic as they rushed out the door. North wasn’t letting this guy go, not yet.

“I’m not going to ask again, what were you doing?” North shoved his gun a little closer to the man’s face. Deciding it was better to tell him, the man nudged his head towards a door behind him. When North looked past him, he caught flames licking up from under the door. “Diana…” He said out loud.

He didn’t know if she was in there or not, but he couldn’t risk it. And the goon knew that. He smirked at North as he glanced back at him. Without hesitation, North shoved his way past the man and towards the door. “Diana!” He shouted and went to open it. “AH! Damn!” He cried as he pulled his hand away. The knob was almost glowing with heat. “Diana! Hold on!”

North looked around for a second and spotted a crowbar nearby used for the boxes. He quickly grabbed this and began slamming it between the metal door and wall. When he put a big enough ding into the door, he shoved the bar as hard as he could into it and began to pull it, slowly bending the door near the knob.

Finally, the handle popped out of the door and swung open. Without a second thought, North rushed into the fire in search for his partner. “Diana? Diana!” He called out. Then he heard the sound of coughing and made his way in that direction.

That’s when he found her, lying on the floor. He quickly wrapped her arm around his neck and pulled the agent from the room. “Oh god – please be alright.” North said as he exited the room.

The fire was growng increasingly nasty and Diana lost all hope of getting the door open. Having to back away from the the door to avoid the fire, she leaned against the side wall glancing arond quickly for some sort of escape. The were too air up, alone too small for her to crawl through and there was only one blasted door! Sliding down the wall to avoid the masses of dark black smoke, she never heard North calling her name, and didn’t believe it was him until he had dragged her out of the room!

Diana was coughing so hard her chest was beginning to hurt, and she still hadn’t stopped by the time they reach saftey outside. The cool night air was a blessing but the sudden change in temperature made her so dizzy she was afraid she would faint. Last thing she wanted to do was pass out and loose that perfect untouchable image she had created for herself.

“I’m (cough!) perfectly fine..!” muttering her unbelievable complaint, she tried pushing him away and putting her weight on her own feet only to reward herself with buckling knees and being forced to lean on the detective. “Damn…” was the only word she could mutter!

Diana’s heartless, thankless and utterly hard-hearted comment brought some relieve to the detective. At least he knew her pride was ok. “Yeah, tough as nails, I know.” He said as he helped her to a bench. The gas-carrying thug was no where to be seen, but that didn’t matter to North at the moment.

Glancing over at Diana, he really felt like throwing his arm over her and at least comforting her in some way. She seemed to need it, as much as she said otherwise. But then he feared she’d get upset with that, she was probably hurting enough without someone babying her. But – he needed to do something other than sit there. “Say, uh, here.” he said, slipping off his jacket, which was covered in ash now. “Why don’t you take this.” And threw it over her shoulders.

The sounds of sirens echoed closer and closer now, fire and police speeding down the city streets. North didn’t know why any of this had happened, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He was just relieved Diana was all right.

Diana had close calls before, be it gun fights, random explosions or crazy stalkers, but she had always manage to fight her way out of it with her own hands, her own gun, and her own two feet. A little fire and a lock door and she was trapped. Helpless. She absolutely one hundred percent detested the feeling to the point of having a hard time breathing as she leaned forward on the bench trying to catch her breath. It was what an anxiety attack felt like, she supposed, and damned if it wasn’t made by worse by the fact she wanted comfort.

As North draped his jacket around her shoulders her steely resolve broke and she felt moist tears slide down her face. She quickly brushed them away, hoping not to get caught in such an odd moment, resulting in smearing ash from the smoke across her cheek. “Thanks,” she mumbled softly, barely audible with the sirens of approaching firetrucks.

North barely made out Diana’s thanks, but it was enough to put a bit of a smile on his face. he looked down the street to see the CFD turning around the corner now, the fire inside still roaring. But it all seemed somewhat muted to him at the moment. Distant in a way.

Then he glanced down at Diana, who was looking away from him. And maybe it was the way she sat there, or maybe the way she didn’t look at him that he really began feel that maybe she needed just a little more. After all, it wasn’t just for her. The moment he went though those doors and pulled her out, North was afraid, damned afraid he might had lost her then. And it was a feeling that still ran through him now.

North, who took a deep breath, slowly raised his arm and sat it over Diana’s back and gently squeezed her shoulder.

Diana squeezed her eyes shut. He was being so nice and she hated him for it! Why couldn’t he be a huge jerk so she could yell at him and pitch a fit so she could be angry instead of so… terrible!? He was forcing her to take advantage of him, and at the moment she had little qualms about doing so. Finally giving in to the temptation, she leaned over resting her face in the crook of his neck and wrapped her arms around his waist. He smelled delightfully nice and she took guilty pleasure in every moment.

“Mademoiselle Foster?” The voice of the blonde frenchman interupted, with a clearing of his throat. Diana jumped, quickly disentangling herself from North, mentally cursing herself for forgetting exactly where they were. Beau smiled an all too knowing smile and flourish a small envelope. “Mademoiselle Foster, Mother wished to give you this before the fire caused so a scene. I do hope you are all right.” He cast North a suspicious look.

The agent nodded and took the letter. “Yes, I am fine. There was just a bit of chaos. Goodnight, then.” She dismissed him quickly, giving him a pointed look to leave. He hesitated before bidding his goodbyes and returning back to his mother.

Sighing, she blinked down regretfully at the letter before casting North the first glance since they sat down. “It’s probably about the diamonds…”

North was enjoying the moment on the bench before Diana jumped up, nearly sending him to the ground. Standing up as well, he turned to face the blond man he saw with Diana earlier. When he noticed the look on his face, North rubbed the back of his neck with an awkward feeling. “We were – I … we … I’ll just – be over here for a second.” North said and walked away for a moment.

“Well, that’s proper for a lawyer and his-” North paused. He didn’t even remember what Diana was supposed to be. “You’re a real top-notch detective, North.” He said with a sigh. Watching Diana and the French men talk for a moment, he saw the letter being passed over to the agent. When they parted, North returned to Diana’s side, taking a quick look at the envelope.

She didn’t seem very pleased at the moment and when she looked up at him, he knew something was up. “What’s it about?” He said, referring to the letter in her hands.

Regretfully having to return to all business mode, she open up the letter to have a look. “I told Madame to let me know if she’s heard any news on Jacques Chappelle. He’s a very prominent jeweler, and I have suspicions he has the diamonds in his posession.”

Most of the letter was simply the older woman’s rammblings of inconsequensial invites to future affairs, but it did seem sometime during the night after Diana had left her company she managed to have a nice conversation with a young lady who seemed to have it on good authority that she would be the owner of the Pendragon Diamonds in the very near future. One Lisa D’rno.

Diana handed the letter to North for him to read, and gave a confused blink back at the burning building where the CFD were working hard to put out. She slid her arms through the sleeves of North’s jacket and mused over a few thoughts. “I’m going to take a wild guess and say someone either wanted to collect insurance money on the auctioned items, or they were trying to knock off a bunch of important people. Maybe both. What do you think?”

North looked over the letter a couple times, making sure to get every detail. He knew Lisa wasn’t as innocent as she made her self out to be, but to endanger dozens of people to cash in on a few pieces of art was insane. Handing back the letter to Diana, and crossed his arms, thinking.

“Well.” He said. “Don’t start accusing her just yet. I mean, all signs point to her, but I still have a date with our friend Lisa.” North glanced around. “Where ever she is. But the more we leave her to believe we think she’s the innocent Mafia princess, the better.” North said, hoping Diana would cater to his more patient method.

Somewhere, in the back of a limousine, Lisa sat under the overhead light and fixed her makeup. Only half the cab was lit, her light being the only one on while the rest sat in darkness. One she was done with her face, Lisa sat there quietly. “So. Was he there?” a voice came from the dark end.

“Yes.” Lisa said. “Just like you said he would.” She was looking out the side window.

“And still well, I take it.” The voice came again; a small puff of smoke hovered from the shadows.

Lisa coughed lightly and cracked window open. “Yes, those idiots stared too soon, I needed to get out of there before anyone saw me.” Just then, the limo passed under a streetlight, the pale, withered face of the smoking man flashed in the light.

“Well, doesn’t matter. Hey, why do today what you can pull off in the morning?” Another puff of smoke. Lisa didn’t seemed too pleased with the situation, she hadn’t all night. Staring out the window watching the countryside go by, the young D’rno looked rather distraught. “Don’t worry, my dear Lisa. This whole thing will blow over in no time. And you and your father can go back to your normal lives. But until I get what I want, you two are mine.”

“What do you want?!” Lisa said, frustrated with her companion. “Those Pendragon Diamonds?! You’ll get those soon enough! Just – shut up!”

“Oh Lisa, Lisa, Lisa…” The man leaned just into the light. “Those jewels, to me, mean absolutely dick. When I get what I want. You will know it. And you’ll never see me again. Oh, I promise you.” He put his cigarette out in the ashtray and lit up another, taking in a deep breath. When he returned to his seat in the darkness, it was almost as he disappeared, not making a single sound. The only trace of him was the occasional plume of smoke. Lisa hated him.

Diana took his arm and looked at his watch. The event had ended early, but it was just past midnight. They had plenty of work hours left to continue the exciting barage of random life threatening events. “It’s still early. Maybe now’s a good time to get that warrant and pay another visit to Vlachka.”

The brunette gave him an all too examining look, then glanced over his clothes. “Or if you want to take Lisa out on that date instead. You’d have to change, that’s not good for a date with a mafia princess.” She tried straightening his tie. Nope, he’d definetly need to change. “Unless you get shot down, figurativly speaking, of course.” Her grin was cheeky, and any previous signs of distress had vanished save for the dark smudges still on her face.

North cocked an eyebrow at Diana. Was she serious? After all, she was almost killed back there and she wanted to jump back on the case all ready? Even he was still a little shaken up after that event. He suspected she was trying to bury what happened as quickly as possible. Besides, neither of them looked decent enough to go anywhere, nevermind the don’s mansion.

“Well, are you sure?” He said. “I mean, there’s not much we can down in the time we have left tonight, and I have no idea where Lisa went.” he looked down and examined Diana himself, smiling a bit as he noticed all the dark blotches on her face and arms. “Besides, you don’t look all that great yourself. Tell you what. this time, we’ll actually leave at noon today. No excuses.”

Brushing himself off a bit, North tried to think up something to do. Something to at least help them unwind for the night. He was all about the case, but for some reason, he didn’t feel like putting Diana in any more danger that night. Maybe he felt guilty about what happened or maybe he just thought they could use the time off. Or maybe it was something else, he didn’t know. All he knew was he was done seeing fires and guns and mafia goons for the night.

“I suspect she went home.” Diana gave him a suspicious look. Was he weaseling out of his date with D’rno’s daughter? Or maybe he thought she had been through a terrible traumatic expirience, and like any prissy girl she needed time to rest. Rest was for the weak!

Well, perhaps she was tired and the thought of having to watch Lisa D’rno wrap North around her fingers wasn’t all that pleasing. Neither was storming in to the don’s home, or all that paperwork they were going to have to do afterwards. Maybe a few hours off wouldn’t be so bad.

“Wait.. did you just say I looked terrible?!” She blinked wide eyed, finally catching that little statement. Okay, so that’s not exactly what he said and she knew he didn’t mean it that way. But those were fighting words!

Diana gave him a wickedly devious grin. “Well, I guess you’re right. There aren’t enough hours for anything too involved. We could go out for a drink.”

North smiled approvingly. It had been a while since he had been out for a drink, at least, out with someone. Most of the time, what little money he made he would drown his own problems alone, it would be nice to have company for a change.

“That sounds – nice.” He said jauntily. “I know a place if you didn’t have anything in mind.” He glanced about. “It’s not too far from here. And – I have a tab there.” He shrugged. North was starting to look forward to a nice drink now, as strange at it seemed. His last couple of weeks were under less than pleasant circumstances.

She fell in to step next to North as they walked down the street this mysterious place he planned to take them. At least she knew it wouldn’t be anywhere too classy. That didn’t seem like the detective’s sort of thing, and if she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror she’d probably not be all that pleased to be seen out in public.

Diana ran her fingers through her hair trying to get at least some gegree of acceptability back. Finally giving up on it, she pulled a clip from her pocket and simply clipped it all up out of her face. “I guess since you’re willing to date Lisa D’rno, that means you’re unattached?” It was a simple question, really. It’s not that she was interested, but she figured any girlfriend would have a tantrum to know their guy was having meetings with a mafia princess.

North shook his head slightly. “You know, I was kidding about that whole dating th- Uh, yes. Or no. I’m not seeing anyone.” He was a little confused by the question. “After all, it’s not the kind of business you’d just want to bring anyone into. Much rather see a girl like-” He stopped himself before he could finish his sentence. “I mean, I – That I’d … Uh, how about you?” He quickly changed the focus of the conversation.

As they continued talking, the two came upon a small corner bar that went by the name Webster’s Irish Pub. Not a surprising choice for the detective. The place seemed quaint, the picture perfect old bar. A dozen or so pictures from several time periods covered the walls. A couple other gentlemen littered the place, minding their own business as the pair entered.

The place was nice, and she rather liked it, but that was an opinion she didn’t plan to voice. Diana chose the bar to site at, simply for the fascination she had with the stools. North’s reversal of her question didn’t seem to bother her, infact she suddenly found herself very interested in what kind of girl he did date!

“No one ever catches my fancy enough to want to date them.” It was the pure and simple truth. It wasn’t that she had high standard, but most men either tended to be complete jerks or lovesick puppys she could kill with a simple glare. She was admitedly impossible to deal with. “What about Lisa D’rno? She’s already involved in the ‘business’, though dating a cop might tick off her father.” Grining as she teased, she continued. “What kind of girl do you date?”

North joined Diana at the bar and sat down next to her. He didn’t come in there much so he wasn’t a regular like he was over at Lou’s, so they were pretty much left alone, much to North’s appreciation. As he listened to Diana’s questions and taunts, he smiled awkwardly. She certainly was getting personal all of a sudden.

“Well, I’ve decided dating wasn’t the best thing to do at the moment.” He said. “But, if I were going to see someone. I’d prefer it to be someone who understood what I was doing and why. Someone who was prepared for anything that might happen. Someone like…” He hesitated. “Well, someone like – you. But that’s just a – comparison that’s all.”

As he sat there, feeling somewhat ungainly, the Bartender finally came over to ask them what they wanted. North was quick to answer. “Just a beer for me.” He said, a far from exciting choice.

She smiled at the bartender. “Same, please.” As well perfectly put together as she seemed to be and how easily she could breeze her way through social circles, she was a delightfully uncomplicated girl.

Tilting her head with that terribly devious look, she grinned again. “A girl like me, huh? I think you’d be the first to say so. A girl like me has often been called a general pain in the ass on more than one occasion.”

“What do you do when you’re not being a super hero?” she question, with some curiosity. With him doing business right out of his own apartment, Diana suspected work was about all he did. Not that she any any room to talk. Work seemed to be the only thing she was concerned with these days.

“I don’t know.” North said, easing up a little. “You’re not so bad sometimes.” A grin crept over his face. “But, uh, this is the first time I’ve taken a break in a while.” Stopping to think for a moment. “I can’t remember the last time I took a night off. Though, I don’t really do much outside the job anyway.”

North was normally uncomfortable being around people he didn’t know all that well, but this seemed different. Even after just a couple days, he felt at ease with the agent. It might have been the fact that they hadn’t parted since they met, but North didn’t care. He enjoyed her company, even if it hasn’t been under the greatest circumstances.

As he talked with her, the bartender returned with a couple bottles and set them down for North and Diana. Taking his, North popped the cap off and took a quick drink and set it back down. “So, what about you, Agent Jones? Done anything outside the case since you’ve come to Chicago?”

She shrugged, pushing the cap off the bottle with both thumbs, then amusing herself by twisting it on the bar counter. “There hasn’t been much time outside the case, between making appearances and gidding up info. Unless you count reading a book or two.” It sounded pathetic, but she was never exactly the social butterfly type in the first place.

Taking a drink from the bottle she laughed suddenly. “Oh, but I can sing some fantastic karaoke but no one has been arsed enough to convince me to do beyond the saftey of my bathroom walls.”

North chuckled softly. “Now that would be something I’d like to see.” Unfortunately for him, the bar was a small place, not the lively type either. There wasn’t any sort of entertainment outside the small TV that was playing some sports channel. North was slightly disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to hear Diana’s voice in song.

Finishing his bottle, North flagged the bartender who brought another couple for him and Diana. “Well, I never got out much. Heck, I used to have a TV and computer in my apartment. But, uh, bills got the best of them. So, I usually ended up helping the local guys with a few obscure cases every now and then to help get by. And I still need to replace that sign outside to…” He cleared his throat. “Durocha P.I.”

Diana childishly stuck her tongue out at him. “Dream on, mister. Only way you’re gonna get me to sing is with a gun pointed at me.” She glanced at the new bottle of beer. “Hmm, and maybe with a few more of these.”

“You know,” she said teasingly once again, “If you’re going to pick the worst paying feild you could at least put yourself out there a little more and find the better paying clients.” Pausing for a moment she looked confused. “You know, I don’t know if you’re even getting paid for this job! I wasn’t told anything about the details…”

“What on earth does durocha mean anyway?”

“Durocha?” North said, looking up from his drink. “Well, it’s a – strange thing to use, I guess. The actual Dorocha is one of those mythical things, actually. A giant who lives on some island, I don’t really know much about that, though.” He took another swig.

“The real reason I used the name is because of my grandfather. He was the original Durocha P.I., I guess you could say. At least that was the name he used. He was the whole reason I became a detective in the first place, the stories he told me as a kid were, well, amazing. Stuff that sounded like it was from a movie.” North stared off into nothing as he remembered.

“He dealt with everything from mobsters to what almost sounded supernatural. Like the eight-foot man who carried a ten-barreled Tommy gun. He called him “Swiss Cheese Sammy” North paused when he realized just how corny that sounded. “This was the thirties, by the way. But I know now he just touched those stories up to make them seem more fantastic than they really were, he was kinda – weird like that. But I still wanted to become a private eye, and here I am. I used Durocha P.I. after I went solo, it seemed like a good idea at the time, what can I say? Though, I can’t say I’ve run into any odd characters yet.” Another chuckle escaped from his mouth.

By the time North finished, he was through another bottle. Again he flagged the bartender and again, he and Diana were given another set of drinks.

“Oh, there are plenty of weird characters around,” she replied, I wouldn’t doubt if half of those stories of his were true. I mean, there’s a few divisions of the FBI that investigate that sort of thing.” Diana always had mix feelings about the truely bizzare cases. On the one hand she would have adored tackling such a grand mystery, on the other that sort of stuff simply gave her the creeps. She rather liked her uncomplicated world.

A couple hours and a few too many beers later, Diana was blissfully detached. She took great pride in the fact that she wasn’t an angry drunk – pitching tantrums or causing fights. Nor was she a depressed drunk that rolled around sopping in self pity. In fact the worst affect she had was being slightly rediculous and not giving a damn about it. At the moment she was laughing loudly at an absolutely horrible dirty limerick by the bartender who for once was enjoying a laugh out of a customer instead of an angry bellow for more beer.

In the back of the pub there were a few racuous fellows, none of which were regulars to the bar, but that night had decided stop in for a few drinks, and maybe a bit of trouble. Sadly, for most of the night it was rather empty in the place and the fights they tried to start ended quickly and without incident as the majority of the patrons were docile old men. As the lady at the bar began to laugh, they decided trying to pick her up would be the perfect thing to incite an angry reaction for the gentlemen sitting next to her.

“Heeey, sugah. How’s about a dance and leaving this chump behind?” One said as he slid up to the stool behind Diana.

She simply shrugged and gave a perfectly innocent and unconcerned smile. “Sorry, I don’t dance, and if you touch me, I’m going to break your nose.”

That brought a loud round of laughter from the scruffy men. She was a small woman in a skirt no less and very obviously had been drinking a wee bit too much. “Yeah whatever, sweethart! We’re gonna dance!” Sure enough the second he reached an arm out she shot out the palm of her hand and popped him in the nose. He doubled over with a cry of pain! “Argh…!! She did it! She bloomin’ broke my nose!”

Diana blinked with a look of dumbfoundedness. “I told you I would.”

North didn’t usually drink so much, but with Diana with him, he couldn’t help it. She drank like a fish. With the bar space covered in bottles, the detective was enjoying a good laugh with his companion. Bad jokes and boring stories made all the better after downing all that booze. He was having a genuine good time, or at least, he was.

When the group of men entered, North didn’t even give it a thought. Why should he? After all, it was just a small bar; somewhere anyone would just want to sit down. It wasn’t until they came over to them in the hopes of causing trouble that he became concerned. But before North could do anything, Diana had already sent one of the men to the ground with a bloody nose.

Not wanting anymore violence, North stood up and tried to reason with the remaining men. “Hey – hey look guys.” He said, a slur in his voice. “We don’t want any trouble. We’re jus-” Suddenly he felt his head rock back and a sting on his face. It took North a moment to register that he had just been punched, too much drinking did that to him.

“You son of a…” North said and with a couple quick strikes to the man’s stomach and face, he sent him to the floor. With his fists raised in the old English boxing style, he turned to the remaining troublemakers. It seemed North wasn’t a stranger to fighting and wasn’t afraid to take down a few more late night thugs. Or at least in his current state, he didn’t. After all, he was Irish.

“Oh, that was nice, North. But, I don’t suppose you had to hit him that many times.” Diana leaned over in her stool to peer at the man in the floor. She had not even bothered to move from her seat, she hadn’t felt the need! The other thugs stood there looking a bit surprised for a few moments… but there weren’t about to let some girl and her drunk boyfriend knock out their two of their boys!

The two left tried to rush North, but Diana was surprisingly accurate in swinging beer bottles for someone who didn’t look like they could hardly see straight. She clocked him over the head with the bottle, leaving the guy sprawling on the floor unconcious!

The last man seemed to lose momentum as his friend went down, apparently not looking to take on someone alone. North was able to grab him by the collar before he could make his move and raise his fist into the air. “‘Ey man!” The would be attacker said “Don’t hurt me!” And cowered before North.

Sighing, North dropped the man and pushed him back. He was relieved, actually, as he really didn’t care much for hurting people, no matter how much they deserved it. “F-fine.” North stuttered. “But if you cause any more trouble around here, we’ll know!” He said, trying to spook the man. It seemed to work for the most part, as the small man nodded weakly. “Now, get out of here.”

Turning around, North brushed himself off with a feeling of gratification. “Eh, sorry about that.” He said to the bartender. He just shrugged it off, this probably wasn’t the first fight he had in there, and the only thing broken was a nose. “Nice throw, by the way.” North said, looking at Diana with a smile.

“I have impecable aim.” she replied, looking down at the people on the floor. Pursing her lips with thought, she slid from the stool to stand swayingly on her feet. “I do suppose we should leave though! I don’t gather it would be all that nice if they woke up with us still here…”

Diana stepped carefully over the first two forms before missing a step and tummbling un ceremoniously in to North. It was a miracle either of them managed to stay on foot as she righted herself again and straighted her shirt with a rather infallible look.

“Y-yeah I guess so.” North said and followed Diana. After two nights of being shot at, kicked out of a mansion and then running into a fire, it felt good to finnally let something out. Of course, all of North’s drinking might have contributed to the outburst as well.

Making their way to the door, North almost toppeled backwards as Diana fell into him, but managed to keep his balance reguadless. He brought Diana back to her feet and did his best to keep on his as they left the bar and stepped onto the street. North glanced down both directions and stood there for a moment as he tried to think straight.

“So where do – where do you want to go now?” He asked as he turned to the agent. The bruise on his face was beginning to swell up a little by now, but North hadn’t really noticed it.

“Your place.” she replied, without seeming to really think about the answer. Diana took his hand and led him down the street, considering the cool night air and a walk would do them both some good. At least, she was feeling entirly too warm and a taxi cab would be unbearable. “We have to fix your face, or Lisa is never going to take you out in public!”

She led him through the streets back to his apartment, maybe only taking one small wrong turn here or there. At his building, she dug his keys out of his pockets for him, and did all of the unlocking, at least letting North have his gentlemenly pride of opening the doors for her.

North tried to keep in step with Diana, as being dragged down the streets was somewhat humiliating. Unfortunetly for him, she was pretty quick on her feet and continued to pull the detective behind her. She certaintly was forceful when drunk and North decided it was best not to fight it.

Once they got to his apartment, Diana was in his pockets before he had a chance to even think about it. With a few clicks the door was unlocked. Opening it, North let Diana in and followed behind her. “I don’t have much here.” He said, looking around the bare room. “B-but make yourself at home!”

The walk seemed to help a little, but he was still far from sober, but getting coherent at least. He stumbled across the room and sat down at his desk chair and leaned back slightly.

Diana blinked at him for a few moments as he plopped in to his chair. “Well, if you really don’t mind me snooping around your place, stay put then.” Men were rather lazy, but she’d forgive him just this once considering he took a punch to the face! It was amazing how easy it was to find some ointment and the ice with him being so scattered, but she supposed he actually kept the important stuff where he could find it. A detective often finds their way in to a good fight.

Sitting on his desk across from him so she wouldn’t have to hover, she poked his cheek lightly, giving him a chiding look. “You should have ducked. It’s never a good idea to just stand there and get punched.”

“I was, ow, just trying to, ow, resolve things peace-ow-fully.” North said, flinching as Diana dabbed his cheek. The guy hit harder than it felt and the stuff she used stung like crazy. “Besides, you – you try fighting after a night on the bottle. They jus’ wanted to dance with you-OWWW!” North shouted when Diana pushed the rag onto his bruise. “Ok, sorry. You did your share.” He rubbed his face after she quit dabbing it.

North felt a bit silly having someone mother him like that, but Diana didn’t seem to mind. In fact he was going to just treat it like any other wound he recieved; ignore it and hope it went away on its own. But if she was going to treat it who was he to argue? Besides, it wasn’t so bad. It was almost – pleasent.

Leaning back, she admired her handy work. Not bad for a few minutes of poking. If he were lucky it would simply be a dull ache by morning! “I can’t figure how you can get socked in the jaw and not feel a thing, then cry at a little ointment!”

She tugged his arm until she got him to stand and handed him the things to put away. Then, she swiftly stole his seat, scooting the chair up to the desk. The desk was rather nice, at least after she had cleaned it up. Diana folded her arms on the desk and rested her chin on them, giving a contemplative look around the office. “Hmm, maybe you need a secretary to keep things in order here…” she muttered, more to herself than to him. A yawn was trying to sneak it’s way past, but she bravely fought it. Sleepyness was terribly in conveniant!

North got up, thinking she wanted to check one last thing. When she took his seat, he realized what she was after and sighed a loud, frustrated sigh. Just when he was geeting comfortable, too. He thought it would be rude to sit down on the desk in front of her head – so it was hard to resist. Instead, he decided to take a spot up against the wall next to Diana and rest the best he could there.

“Hmm?” North looked down at the agent as she mumbled. He could only make out secretary and a few other words, but enough to see what she was getting at. “Hey, I just make enough to pay off bills, I don’t need some secretary to pay off every week. Besides, I’d probably end up with someone like you.” He said with soft chortle.

Diana scoffed! “Then you would have the best! I keep everything in perfect order.” She was a filing machine. All of her reports, papers, and important documents were neatly put away. At least until her apartment was declared a disaster area. It was going to take forever to return everything to it’s previous order. She blew a pesky strand of hair from her face.

“I’ll clean things up later and leave sticky notes for you. It’s a bloody miracle to find anything in here.” she me muttered, casting an amused grin. “And your socks too, I bet you don’t even know where your socks are…” Socks were always escaping in her own room, surly his socks were unfindable. It was such an entertaining thought that she dwelled on it for several quiet moments before she drifting to sleep at the desk and missing any reply North may have said.

Well, she had him there. He really didn’t know where they would be at the moment. Though, he didn’t care much for her proposal of leaving those annoying sticky notes all over the place. Besides, what was wrong with the office? He could find whatever he needed – after a short search maybe bit it was all there. Besides, it was his home, who was she to tell him it was a mess, even though it was a mess…

“Well, I’ll tell you something, Agent Jo-” He stopped and looked down at her. “Agent Jones? …Diana?” She was asleep. “Oh, uh … sorry.” He said out of reaction and crept away, not wanting to disturb her. Reaching the light switch, North was about to turn it off when he glanced into his room and at his bed. Diana couldn’t have been all that comfortable in that position, hunched over in a wooden chair.

“Oh fine, you win.” He muttered to himself, trying to make it seem as if he had a decision in the matter. He came back over to Diana and slowly wheeled the chair out, catching her before she toppled over. Throwing her arm over his shoulder, North reached down and lifted the sleeping agent up. He felt asinine, and would probably got a good beating if she woke up, but he wasn’t one to let a guest in his house fall asleep at a desk. You wake up with a rather nasty backache when you do, he would know.

He entered his room with the sleeping Diana and kicked a few items off his bed for room. Now, his bed wasn’t the greatest thing, an old spring mattress and little else. But at least it was better than a chair. He laid Diana down and pulled the covers over her, placing the pillow under her head as well. North nodded approvingly, managing not to wake her up and doing his kind deed for the day. “Goodnight then…” He said and left the room.

Back in his chair, North returned to his normal position of leaning back and resting on the window sill. He was just sitting for a bit, thinking about various things that had happened the last couple night, but nothing unparticular. A few moments later, before he knew it, the detective was asleep, snoring softly as always.

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 002

At the hospital the duo lingered outside in the waiting room, while their only lead lay bleeding profusely on an operating table. Diana had the air of slight indignation, as she leaned against one of the plaster pillars with her arms crossed, waiting for news. Really, she hadn’t been aiming for the guy’s gut… maybe an arm or a leg, but it was awfully dark in the warehouse. Then again, the jerk was shooting and trying to kill them both, and despite the need for information, Diana would rather be the one doing the shooting than getting shot at.

Her partner on the other hand gave her some serious doubts. He was shooting blindly! The man probably preferred sword fighting or something else equally ridiculous. Granted, she didn’t like the idea of killing people either, but they were being shot at!

Ahem!” The surgeon cleared his throat to catch their attention as he entered the waiting room. “He’s a lucky man. He’ll live and you can see him now, but he’s under heavy medication and you shouldn’t stay long.”

Diana nodded, tilting her head for North to follow.

Unlike Diana, North sat at one of the chairs littering the room hunched over and his fingers tented. He was deep in thought, pondering the events that just occurred. Staring into space, he tried to solve another mystery; why didn’t he take that shot?

He had been in that situation before at a small, privately owned airport. In fact, the circumstances were nearly identical, except he had a different partner back then. But still, why didn’t he take the shot? Was it too similar maybe? But if that was the case, he shouldn’t have had a problem. They were trying to kill Diana and him, after all. Why…

Before North could dig any further, the doctor caring for the Russian entered, telling them the news. North stood up and hurried next to Diana, following him. As the entered, the Russian lay in bed, bandaged up and tubes running from his nose. He glanced over at them and took a deep breath.

“Ah, good to see you’re awake, Mr. uhh…” North looked at his charts, but found no name.

“We couldn’t find anything about him.” The Doctor said, noticing North’s confused look. “No identification, teeth altered and his fingerprints have been burned off. This guy might as well not exist.”

North nodded and returned his attention to the Russian. “So, you’re a hit man, I take it? All right then, that gives a little insight. So, who hired you?” The man in bed kept silent, trying to keep his face expressionless except for the occasional wince of pain.

“Well?” North said. “Do you have anything to say?”

“Da.” The Russian finally spoke up. “Fuck you, cop.”

Diana raised an eyebrow. “That is very rude, darling. Perhaps you need incentive.” Pulling her gun from her jacket she waved it slightly with a grin that could only be described as devious. Both the Doctor and the man in the bed suddenly looked very worried. “If you don’t spill your guts, you’re going to be spilling in a whole different manner of speaking!”

“You vould do no such thing!” The Russian bravely replied, sitting up at little more stiffly and eyeing the gun warily. “I know nothing!”

The brunette shrugged, taking aim. “If you say so.”

“нет! нет! Crazy woman! I will speak!”

Diana smiled a perfectly innocent grin, putting the gun away and clasping her hands in front of her. “What an excellent idea!”

North was surprised by the Russian’s sudden lack of a spine. His strength apparently came in his numbers, hence the multiple gunmen. They would hopefully get the answers they wanted.

When Diana finished persuading the hit man, North spun around in his seat and looked at her, one of his eyebrows cocked. “Darling?” He shook his head and returned to the Russian. “Well, I’m glad you finally decided to get chatty with us. First off, who hired you?”

“I do not know. I am honest.” He said, North could tell he was telling the truth. It wasn’t that far fetched, anyway.

“Ok then, who were you sent to kill?” North asked.

“I do not know either.” He said. North was about to call on this one but the Russian had more to say. “We were given instruction. It said to go to warehouse on dock. We were told to kill man inside.”

North nodded and reached into his pocket and pulled out the paper he had taken from Terrence’s coat before. “Did it look like this?”

“Da. Da.” The Russian nodded. “Exactly.” North folded the paper back up and returned it to his pocket.

“But it says here to go there at nine. How come you were there close to midnight?” North asked, leaning back slightly.

“Our – our boat break down in middle of lake. Very cheap boat.” He responded, sounding embarrassed.

“Well.” North turned to Diana again. “Looks like our friend the late doctor wasn’t going to use that train ticket either way. But I don’t think the Russians did him in. And I think we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Tapping his mouth, North was trying to put this all together. “Well, still nothing on the killer him or herself, but I think we might find some answers from the people who hired this guy.” North spun back to the hit man.

“So, you didn’t know anything about your client or your target?” North asked, the Russian simply shook his head. “How about the person who contacted you?”

The Russian’s head lifted slightly, a smile nearly crept onto his lips. “Daaaa.” He said in a different tone. “She v’as – beautiful woman. Very good looking, you know? Body – like angel. Her hair long and black. And her legs – wonderful. Every curve v’as perfect. Hip, chest – ass. Like art, no?” North fell strangely quiet as the Russian described his contact. It wasn’t until he caught Diana most unpleased look that he changed the subject.

“Er, uhh … r-right then. Thank you. Where did you meet this – contact?” He asked awkwardly.

“We meet – mmm, south of lake. At private harbor. We didn’t know who owned it, but very nice, very rich looking. Big boats.” The Russian answered. North nodded, he got all the answers he wanted then.

“Well, you’ve been a lot of help, sir. Best of health to you.” North said, standing up. He turned to Diana and led her away from the Russian and the Doctor. “Well, this is based on a hunch, but I think I know who might of hired those guys. In fact, I’m almost positive. But the thing is – It sounds like the guys Terrence used to work for, the Russian mob. They have a place to the south of Chicago, big mansion, really nice looking too. I think we better hit there next.”

As they turned to leave, North tapped the doctor on the shoulder, thanking him and then left the room.

For some reason the thought of speaking with a beautiful woman as one of their suspects just rubbed her the wrong way. Diana was by far not a jealous woman, but men had a way of turning to putty when women like that started to purr, and it was terribly inconvenient.

She kept her concerns to herself. “It’s a lovely triangle we have here. The Russian mob and a still yet unknown murderer. All we need now are some dirty cops and international spies.”

As they exited the hospital she ran her fingers through her auburn tresses and sighed. “Well, we’re not gonna be able to walk that’s for sure.”

North smirked at Diana’s remark. “Well, I could go without anymore surprises tonight. I’d really like to find this contact the guy in there was talking about.” North paused for a moment. “For professional reasons, I mean – of course.”

North walked out to the curb, looking down the streets for any sort of life. “Well, if we need to drive, I have a set of wheels. We can take a taxi from here.” North said, flagging one down. As it pulled up, he looked at his watch and the down the street. “But, it’s nearly two o’clock.” He smiled and turned to Diana. “How about some, uh, lunch?” He smiled jauntily. “Just something to eat, that’s all.”

The taxi pulled to a stop in front of them, it’s breaks squealing slightly. North opened the door, once again gesturing Diana to enter before him. Before she could say anything, North made sure to set it straight. “Don’t worry, I know. Just partners.”

Diana rolled her eyes as she climbed in to the cab. “I wasn’t suggesting otherwise, McCoy.” Her stomach was empty, and food sounded like a brilliant idea… but the images of the deceased Doctor made her twitch up her nose and rethink the whole thing. “Maybe just some tea…” she muttered, settling in to the seat.

As North gave directions, she pulled out a small notepad from her jacket. It had a cute kitten print on the front, something one wouldn’t expect a hardnosed detective to be carrying. As the taxi moved, she scribbled down a few of the leads along with random commentary and notes.

“Diamonds, Russians, Mystery Killer, Raven haired lady…” she muttered each of the notes as she wrote them down. “Ah.. and train ticket. Maybe after we visit the mansion of miscellany we can see about where Doc was going.”

“That’s 31st and main. Yeah.” North plopped back into his seat after giving the driver his instructions. He was a bit tall for the small cab, so his head bent to the side as he sat. Of course, he had to choose to lean it over in Diana’s direction, which gave him a great view – of what she was writing.

“Cute cat.” He said, unable to help himself. She glanced up at his and North took the hint. “Right, right.” He said and rolled his head around to the other side.

The drive only took a short while before they arrived at the small corner restaurant. The neon lights flickered “Lou’s Place 24 hours” but it seemed to be empty except for the single man behind the bar. North stepped out of the taxi and paid the fare.

“Well, this is it.” North said. “The best place to go after midnight.” He walked up to the door, and in his normal, polite ways, opened it for Diana. There was a short jingle as they entered and the man behind the counter turned to his customers.

“Well, Well. North McCoy.” He said with a happy tone. “Thought maybe I wouldn’t see you tonight. Gettin’ late, even for you.” He was an older, black man, somewhere in his 60’s maybe. He was bald with a short, gray beard growing below his chin and sort of hunched over as he stood. “Oh, and you brought yourself a lady friend. Very nice looking, North. Very nice.” He said as he noticed Diana.

“Morning, Lou. And, uh – no. This is strictly business.” North said as they sat up at the bar.

“Oh? So that means you finally got a case? Looks like ol’ Charlie wins that bet then.” Lou said as he rested on the bar.

“Bet?” North cocked an eyebrow. “What bet?”

“Oh, we and some of the guys were just guessin’ how long it would be until you got another case. That’s all.” Lou said with a chuckle.

“Really. So – how long did you guess, Lou?” North asked, taking interest in this bet.

“Oh, uh…” Lou hesitated to answer. “R-right away, North. Yeah, right away.”

“Thanks Lou.” North said, his voice and expression showing disbelief. “Just get me a cup of coffee and some hash already.”

“Course, course. And for you, young lady?” Lou asked Diana.

The woman was suddenly all smiles and all charm, like someone flipped a switch and turned on the sun! Diana gave the old man behind the bar a brilliant smile. “Just hot tea. Hmm.” She rested and elbow on the counter and her chin in her hands regarding a few treats under glass. “And if that’s chocolate cake, I wouldn’t dare leave without a piece of that.”

From shooting people with lethal weapons to kitty notebooks and charming old people, she was definitely a walking contradiction.

Casting North a side-glance, she gave him a cheeky grin. “Great place, McCoy.”

“Tea!” Lou said with surprise. “I haven’t made tea in years. Nobody ever drinks tea anymore. Just lookin’ for some coffee, like North here. Just coffee.” Lou stepped back and filled a cup with hot water, throwing in a store bought tea packet. “It ain’t the good stuff. But tell you what, you ever come in here again, an’ I’ll make you a fine cup of tea. Fine cup.”

He slid her the cup with a spoon, followed by her piece of cake. “My coffee?” North said, as Lou seemed to be taking his time with Diana.

“Just you hold on, North. It’s coming, it’s coming.” Lou said, turning around and filling another cup with steaming coffee. “Here’s your coffee, North. Should try somethin’ else sometime. Been drinking coffee since he first came into my little place here.” He said as he stepped over to the oven to heat up some hash browns.

That’s when he said the words North most feared from Lou’s mouth, “First came in.” Lou never forgot a thing, not even in his old age. And not only did he not forget, he liked to share his stories. With everyone. And to say he had a few stories about North would be a grave understatement. “Yeah, that’s great, Lou.” North said abruptly, hoping to change the subject. “So, how about those b-“

“Yeah, I remember when North first stepped into my bar.” Lou interrupted, dashing North’s hopes. “Walked right in, trying to act like it was a normal thing. But I knew better. I could see it in his eyes. The boy was scared out of his mind. Couldn’t have been more than a week he lived in the city. No, not more than a week. Even behind his flashy badge and nice uniform, North here was a-shakin’.”

Oh no…” North said as his head fell into his hand. Once Lou started, there was no stopping him, and North knew that. Anyone who had been in the bar with him got to hear the stories. Lou liked to weed out the ones that make North seem competent though. Lou didn’t think they were interesting enough.

“Yeah, back in those days, North here couldn’t even find his way around the block. Couldn’t find a thing.” Lou said, beginning another story. “Like the time he got called for some sort of robbery, nothing big, course. Saw North’s car drive past four times before he finally figured it out.” Lou finished with a chuckle. North was now shaking his head in his hands. But that wouldn’t be the end of it.

“And let me tell you what, lady. North was just too trusting in his old days. Left his keys on the counter here one day while he freshin’d in the washroom. Some young kids took his police car out for a joyride. Just for a joyride. Found it a few hours later in a ditch, course. But nobody ever let North forget that one.” Lou said, barely containing his laughter now.

“No, no you guys didn’t, that’s for sure.” North said with a sigh. The stories continued for what felt like years to the detective. Lou seemed to have a million of them, each more embarrassing than the next.

“Then there was the time North thought he could swoon some little miss with his Irish charm.” Lou began another tale. “Jus’ walked right over and said, “Can I sit here, lass?” Course, she didn’t know he was Irish, didn’t hear the ‘l’ in the last word he said, thought he made a comment about her behind. I tell you, never did see a woman throw her drink in someone’s face so fast. No, never so fast. Don’t think North ever used that word again”

By this time, North’s head was firmly planted on the bar top. Most likely tired from pounding it for so long. In just a half-hour, Lou was able to tell Diana just about everything North did in the past, at least, everything stupid he had done.

“Aww, but don’t get me wrong, young lady. He’s a fine detective. Fine detective. You ain’t going to fine a better one around here, that’s for sure. No one who’s seen the streets like North has.” Lou said, laughing.

With their meals done, North finally collected the nerve to move again. “Just – put it on my tab, Lou.” he said weakly. And began to move towards the door.

“Lou, who was still chuckling, waved to the pair. “It’s been nice talkin’ to you, young lady. Real nice. See you too, North, tomorrow.” North just waved and stepped out the door.

Diana was still grinning with a bemused look by the time they waltzed out in to the streets. All of Lou’s stories were incredibly funny and gave a person plenty of ammunition to drive a man in to the ground, but maybe she had a spot for less than perfect down home super hero kind of guys.

She chuckled softly. “If it makes you feel any better, I have my own embarrassing stories. I’m just lucky enough not to have any one around to tell them.”

Truthfully she hadn’t intended to tell him a single one of them, but the poor guy looked so bedraggled maybe just one wouldn’t be so harmless. “Well…” she started, almost reluctantly, “Senior year in high school there was this big deal about someone stealing things out of the teacher’s lounge. So I talked the Video Club in to lending their equipment and we set it up in the lounge.”

She sighed, glancing upwards towards the cloudy night sky. “Only, we never did film the thief. But, we did catch the vice principal having an affair with the history teacher. I earned a week’s suspension for that one…”

North continued a bit, still saying nothing after Diana finished her story. It was about when she thought he was really hurt when North looked up to her.

“You know what, Agent Jones.” He said in a serious tone, looking her in the eyes. “You just are not Lou when it comes to telling demeaning stories.” With that, North perked up and smiled. “Don’t worry about me, Lou’s just one of the reason’s I’m glad I became what I am. Sure, he will tell stories. And a LOT of stories, but be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The strolled a bit further until they reached the street North lived on. Passing a line of run down, but suitable cars, they finally reached the worst of the lot; North’s car. It looked like it was right out of the 50’s, and unfortunately, looked as if it hadn’t aged very well since then.

“So.” North hopped in, hopping to start the ignition, finally doing so after several tries. Whatever happened to that teacher of yours?” He leaned over and popped the door open for Diana. This wasn’t as much courtesy, as much as the door didn’t work from the outside.

Oh, why did she even fool herself in to thinking the man might actually have a nice car. It was just as she suspected… hell, worse than she suspected! It was going to be a miracle if they survived the drive. Maybe she should have a sudden phobia of cars.

Diana slid in the seat, painfully aware that the door only opened from the inside, giving her all sorts of horrible ideas of car crashes and the firefighters not being able to drag her charred body out of the vehicle. It even took him several times to start the damnable thing!

“Eh, turns out later he was the leader of a crime ring and was running it right out of the school. I don’t believe he was too fond of me after that.” She had a faint detached smile as she buckled her seatbelt. “There’s a lot that aren’t too keen about me.”

“Any case..!” Diana suddenly announced, her voice to a more cheery tone. Obviously, she didn’t like talking about her past. “This next stop should be pretty routine. I doubt anyone is going to want to shoot at us on private property.”

North revved the engine a few times while in neutral, warming it up a bit. Now, he wasn’t the most superstitious man in the world, but when Diana made that last comment he just got a bad feeling about the whole ordeal.

“Yeah.” He said. “Knock on wood, huh?” And drove off from his parking spot. The car seemed to run relatively smooth down the road. Sure, it was noisy, and it didn’t give off any sort of pleasant odor, but those seemed to be the least of Diana’s worries. “Oh, by the way.” North spoke up again. “The breaks don’t work to well, so when we need to stop, could you grab on to something?”

He watched for her reaction before chuckling slightly. “I’m kidding. I’m kidding. They’re fine.” He knew she wasn’t exactly pleased with his mode of transportation, but he couldn’t help it.

They drove along for a while, in somewhat silence. The radio wasn’t working all that well and was barely picking up some of the AM stations. They were just leaving the city limits when North decided he needed to think of something to say to break the silence.

“So, Agent Jones.” He said, slowly at first. “What made you come all the way out here from Seattle?” He asked. North still hadn’t fully picked up on the idea she didn’t like talking about her past. “I mean, You really don’t see many feds out here at all.”

Boy, she would have clobbered him for that wicked joke if he weren’t driving. Instead that sat in a relatively pleasant quiet – well, except for the rattling of the car, and she could have sworn the side door looked a little loose.

As North asked her about leaving Seattle, she cast him a look crossed between irritation sadness before staring out the windshield again. “I didn’t have much of choice. I needed to go.”

Work was always a safe topic and she swiftly changed the subject again! “This is the head honchos of the Russian mob, eh? Do you supposed we’ll find the raven-haired beauty there?”

North was about to open his mouth to ask something else when Diana stopped him with a question of her own. “Well.” He said. “He’s not really the head. In fact, he’s pretty low on the ladder. But he’s the closest connection we have, unless you want to drive to New York City.”

North stopped at a red light and took a turn onto some of the older country roads. “His name is Vlachko D’rno and he’s pretty wealthy from what I heard. Owns a few restaurants too, but – I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting down in one.” The roads were still dark at that time of night, North’s car only lighting one side of them. “If we’re going to meet this mystery woman anywhere, this is a good of place of any.”

There was a silence between them again as they traveled down the unpaved road. North glanced over to Diana who stared out the windshield. Still not getting the fact she didn’t enjoy the subject of her life in Seattle, North tried to spark up conversation.

“So how come Chicago?” He asked her. “I mean, it’s a nice city and all, but what brought you here?”

Diana gritted her teeth. A P.I. was bound to naturally ask a lot of questions, but couldn’t he find a better topic to get nosey about? She sighed, rubbing her temple with a finger while she though about it for a moment.

“The east coast seemed a little extreme, and Vegas isn’t my kind of place. So I picked somewhere in between.” It was a good enough reason as any! The last she wanted to do was explain the very long excruciating details on why she was stuck in Chicago.

The dark empty country roads were pretty creepy, especially for a girl who spent her whole life with bright city lights. There should be road lights, or a house… or anything! Diana crossed her arms for another round of musical topics. “Have you always lived in Chicago?” she asked, hoping to once again turn the topic from herself.

North took another look at Diana, this one more confused. He would have thought the accent would be a dead giveaway, it was for most people at least. Or maybe he just wasn’t all that good at taking a hint.

“No, not all my life.” He focused back on the road. “I grew up in a small town in Ireland – Lucan, Ireland. Or, it was small when I was a kid. But, uh, I’ve lived here only eight years now. West and I came here after dad passed away.”

Down the road, what looked like house lights twinkled in the distance. But these were still several miles yet. Still enough time for the pair to get to know each better – whether they liked it or not. There was another short pause between them; North took this opportunity to dig more into Diana personality. “So what was it like in Seattle? Seems like a nice city and all.”

She inwardly groaned. Either he was horribly clueless, or really persistent. This time she completely ignored the question all together.

“This machine of yours is terrible. Do you have some kind of strange attraction to it?” The edges of her jacket sleeve become suddenly interesting as she plucked at a stray string while speaking. It was only fair to ask him some questions to make him uneasy… maybe then he’d stop with his!

“You and your brother were close, I take it. You speak about him pretty fondly…”

North fell quiet for a moment after Diana asked her question. “Yeah…” he muttered after some time. Diana had gotten her wish as North kept quiet the rest of the ride there. The car rattled loudly in the silence.

Finally, after a little over an hour, they reached the D’rno Estate. The place seems strangely active for so late at night. Nearly every light was on in the mansion. North pulled up into what looked like a parking lot and shut off the car. “Well, this is it. “He said, looking around. “Looks like we wont be waking him up, though.”

Stepping out of his car, he got the feeling they were being watched. Which wasn’t all that far-fetched. Cameras probably littered the place. North walked over to a rather charming stone walkway that cut through some brush and waited for Diana.

After fussing with her seatbelt, which obviously had intentions of keeping her trapped in the car, Diana finally escaped and followed North to the stone path. Glancing around the property she could see one of two of the hidden cameras, tucked under bushes or attached to dark corners of the house. All of the lights being on struck her as a bit odd, especially considering it was the middle of the night. Then again, shady business tended to be best conducted in the dark.

“Nice place…” she muttered as they walked up the stone pathway towards the front of the house. The building was gorgeous even in the dark, she could imagine house nice it looked during the day. There was no doubt about the money the owners probably possessed to keep everything looking so sparkling neat.

The two followed the long, twisting path for what felt longer than necessary. It led them in every direction like a tour of the gardens. North wanted to take a short cut or something, but the plants between them and the mansion looked rather barbed and thorn filled. Not something he felt like dealing with.

Finally, they reached the front door of the manor. Brushing himself off and straightening his coat, North knocked on the door. A hatch near the top slid open and two beady eyes glared through at Diana and him.

North cleared his throat and began to speak, “Hi, uh, We’re lo-“

“No visitors.” The man behind the door said and shut the hatch. North and Diana looked at each other for a moment and tried again, this time North retrieved his badge.

Once again, he greeted the doorman. “Hi again. Detective McCoy and Ag-“

“No cops.” Again the man interrupted and shut the small hatch.

“Well bloody…” North muttered. “What was that all about.” He huffed and looked around. While they stood there, confused, the sound of arguing boomed from behind the door. Someone inside was unhappy with something, that’s for sure. Suddenly, before either could guess what was going on, the door swung open and the beady-eyed man stood there, looking unpleased.

“Come in.” He said and stepped to the side. Again, North glanced over to Diana with a bad feeling about this. Regardless, they walked in and were instantly welcomed by a short, plump man.

“V’elcome, v’elcome officers.” He said happily. “Please, excuse my door man. You see, things have been – hectic lately. Oh, but v’ere are my manners. I am Vlachko D’rno, but please, call me Vlach.” He offered his hand.

“I’m Detective North McCoy.” He shook his hand. Vlach shook back and turned his attention to Diana.

“And who is your lovely partner?” He asked, grinning.

Diana gave a charming smile that made her look strangely more young and innocent. “Diana Jones, Mister Vlach.” It was amazing what a silly smile could do. She clasped her hands behind her back and peered around the lobby of the large mansion.

The room was fantastic with marble tiled floors and a grand crystal chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. On the walls were well known antique paintings that could have very well been originals.

“This place is absolutely amazing!” she said with an air of amazement. “I would love a tour, but… Ah. I’m sorry,” a bright smile crossed her face, “we’re actually here to ask a few questions, but I can never seem to risk taking a peek at beautiful homes.”

Vlach looked at Diana, raising an eyebrow. “V’ell … I suppose you could have a look around.” He said hesitantly. “Mr. McCoy and I v’ill be in the dining room should you need us. Detective?” Vlach gestured for him to follow.

North was just standing there, rather dumbfounded by Diana’s act. She had to be one of the oddest federal agents, or even people he’s met. And why couldn’t she act like that around him? “Huh, what?” North said as Vlachko said his name. “Oh, right. Uh … behave yourself, Diana.” And turned to go.

Just before Vlach left the room, he whispered something to one of the bodyguards standing around. “Keep an eye on her. I do not trust this one.” And entered the dining room. Vlach and North had a seat at the large table and got to business. “So then, Detective.” Vlach began. “V’hat can I do for you?”

“Well.” North cleared his throat. “I just need to ask you a few questions concerning an event earlier this evening.”

“Of course.” Vlachko said as he got comfortable in his chair.

“Well, we were told that a harbor that was described as yours is might have been used in some – illegal activities. And I would like to know if you might have knowledge of that.” North asked.

“Hmmmm – no, I am sorry detective.” Vlach said. “In fact, my harbor has been closed for some time, you see. I have had many concerns with my restaurants and have been unable to get much boating done. Something I miss dearly.”

“All right then.” North said and reached into his coat pocket. Pulling out a small photograph, he handed it to Vlach. “Do you know this man? His name is Dr. Terrence Armacu.”

Again, the Russian man shook his head. “No, no. I have never seen this man before. I v’ish I could help you, detective, but I know nothing of anything that has happened lately.” North huffed in frustration. “Ah, but you will figure it out, I’m sure. But, how about some drinks, yes?”

“N-no, that’s qui-” North attempted to stop Vlach, but he was already ordering them through an intercom.

“V’es, darling. Bring some drinks for our guest and myself.” Vlach sat back up. “Only the finest vodka for my guests. Tradition, my good detective!”

Men always fell for a pretty smile, even if they sent their goons to tale her. Diana walked down one of the halls, taking her time looking at trinkets that dotted tables and the paintings along the walls. She had her suspicions that one or more of the paintings might have been stolen, but stored that piece of information neatly away for another time. Tonight’s agenda was to snoop out the circumstances behind Doctor Armacu’s death. The woman made careful note which rooms were which, from random bedrooms to the library and study.

Stopping at one door she discovered a large ornate washroom with a few of the back gardens. “Do you mind?” she asked the trailing man, give him a pointed look. He grunted a reply and took a seat in a chair across the hall. Smiling sweetly, Diana closed the door behind her and made sure the bolt was locked.

Had the P.I. had the chance to look up a little information about his new partner he might have known the woman’s tactics were peculiar and often skirting the line on what might be legal for a federal agent. For all her unusual ideas, she had even earned suspension once or twice. Didn’t stop her from being the absolute best… and possibly the most bonkers agent in her field.

Diana moved across the washroom to the windows and pushed open the pains of glass. She leaned out, and with a satisfied grin she twisted up her hair and clipped it up in a loose bun to keep it out of her face. Swinging a leg over the sill, she climb out on to the ledge and inched her way across. Their scenic walk to the house gave her the perfect chance to see which way the cameras were facing, and her tour of the house allowed her to count each window as she passed them until she found the one to Vlachko’s private office.

Pulling a pin from her pocket, it took a little picking to open up the office window, but easily enough she had them open and was tip toeing her way to the desk. With everyone awake in the mansion it seemed they didn’t feel the need for an armed alarm system. She gave a smirk as she looked through the papers on top the desk and searched through the date book.

‘Man likes golf… Ah! Terrence Armacu!’ In the date book scribbled for the previous evening was an appointment with the Doctor Terrence Armacu. It seemed a little odd, however, that the Doc ended up dead several hours later!

Hearing voices outside in the hall, Diana soundlessly moved back to the window, climbed out and closed it securely behind her.

While Diana was as quick and silent as possible, her little ‘investigation’ hadn’t gone unnoticed. In the room she just left, a soft glow appeared in the corner. It grew and then dimmed, smoke appearing a second later. A cigarette. The person behind it stood up and exited the room.

In the hallway, the smoking man appeared to be a thin, gangly man. His face was bony and his hair long, but thinning. His eyes were hidden behind a small pair of round sunglasses. He wore something of a suit, but it was left open and undone, rather untidy appearing.

Making his way, he found the lone bodyguard outside the washroom, who was getting impatient. The smoking man tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“Go on, I’ll take it from here.” The man said, his voice wispy. The bodyguard gave him an odd look, but the smoking man just pushed him along. “Don’t worry about me.” He said. “I’ll take care of the young lady.”

Back in the dining room, North and Vlach chatted for a while, either about the case or just in general. Though, all North was hoping to get was information while the Don preferred to change the subject. North wasn’t getting his way.

Just when he thought he wasn’t going to get anything in the way of clues, the drinks arrived. North glanced up at the person delivering them and was almost taken back. There stood one of the most gorgeous women he had ever seen. Tall, thin and with long hair, black as black could be.

And then it hit him. Was it her? I mean, she fit the part all right. She had to be her. She was the contact the hit man spoke of at the hospital. North stood up to greet her, but decided it was better to keep his mouth shut about any shady business – for now.

“Ah, excellent.” Vlach said as she set down the drinks. “Detective, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Lisa.” She smiled and raised her hand for North to kiss it like any gentleman would. He took it and shook it awkwardly like any half-wit would.

“It’s – it’s nice to meet you, ma’am-miss … Lisa.” North said, the words not coming as easily as usual.

“The same to you, Mr…?” Lisa asked, resting her hands behind her back.

“McCoy – North, just call me … North. Lisa, that’s not a very Russian name.” He said as they both sat down at the table.

“Yes.” Lisa poured some Vodka into a shot glass. “Father thinks I would get along better here if I had a more common name.” She passed the glass to North, who reluctantly took it.

She poured two more, for her father and herself. “To company.” Vlach said and tipped his glass. He and Lisa quickly drank theirs while North slowly followed. He wasn’t much of a drinker himself, but wasn’t about to upset anyone. At least he knew better.

Diana held her breath until she was safe and sound back in the washroom with the window closed. Granted she rushed across the ledge a little too quickly and nearly tumbled backwards in to the rose bushes below, but she made it back without being spotted and found out a handy bit of information as well. North was probably down in the dining room getting drunk off strong Russian vodka.

Smiling at her reflection in the mirror, she removed her clip and ran her fingers through her hair to straighten it out. She inspected her clothing to make sure everything was right and proper before unlocking the bathroom door and stepping out in to the hall.

She blinked in surprise as the man in the chair wasn’t the huge goon she left but a smoking stranger. He didn’t appear to be much of a threat, so she simply smiled and looked coy. “I didn’t realize I was taking so long that it required shifts.”

Standing up, the smoking man put out his cigarette in a nearby plant. He pulled another from a pack and put it in his mouth, lighting it. With a blow of smoke in Diana’s general direction the man grabbed her arm. His grip felt weak, but it still hurt slightly, like a pressure point.

“Oh, yeah. Snooping around where you don’t belong really gives me the shits too.” He said as he began dragging Diana back to the lobby. He certainly wasn’t Russian, or at least his voice did have any of the accent in it. Maybe this guy wasn’t just another goon. Before Diana could say a word, the man spoke up again, “Now, first, don’t ask who I am, what I’m doing here or – anything concerning me. You’ll get none of that. And second, keep quiet and do what you’re told and maybe I won’t spoil your friend’s drink. You know, with a bullet or something.”

They were just outside the lobby now; the smoking man stopped just before entering it. “Now then, I think you two have worn out your welcome in the good Don’s home.” He said, still keeping out of sight of the dining room’s wide doors. “I think it’s best if you leave now.” He said and shoved Diana into the lobby. The smoking man quickly crept back into the hallway and disappeared around a corner.

Inside the dining room, North was offered another glass of vodka, but declined. After all, he was still on duty. The conversation continued, again, the subject being thrown around the place. North was persistent until he felt something on his thigh, looking down; he found Lisa’s hand there.

She smiled at him, and it wasn’t just a friendly smile. North, who was getting more uneasy by the second, weakly smiled back and squirmed in his seat, inching away from the Don’s daughter. Just then, he caught Diana in the corner of his eye and quickly stood up.

“Diana?” He said, not expecting her back so quickly. And just as he stood up, a red light blinked on the Vlach’s intercom. When he saw this, his face turned from friendly to angry.

“Detective McCoy, I think it is time you and your friend should be leaving.” Vlach said bluntly, turning to go.

“Hey, wait! We’re not done here.” North said in a demanding voice. But before he could follow, every bodyguard in the room pulled out a gun. North just stopped where he was.

“Oh, I think we are done, Detective. Men, escort these two to their car.” Vlach said and walked away from the table.

The woman had ticked off written all over her face as the bodyguards led North from the dining room in to the lobby. She rubbed her arm, giving the guns a slight scowl, and didn’t fail to catch a glimpse the young black haired beauty that left through the back of the dining room with the Vlach. It seemed the place was just filled with interesting people!

Diana didn’t speak as she and the detective were led out of the mansion, and down the stone path back towards his car. It seemed they didn’t trust the pair to even leave the guards unescorted, though, she surmised, she probably would have looked for a back door to sneak in to had the bodyguards not been keeping watch.

Making sure they were sufficiently off the property, the armed guards slammed and locked the gate behind them with a loud clank.

An annoyed huff escaped her lips and she was tempted to kick the tires of North’s car if she didn’t expect the things to roll right off afterwards. “Well, I hope you had fun boozing it up with Vlach while I met up with the shadow man!”

“Excuse me if I chose to extract information in a way where I wouldn’t get in trouble.” North walked to his car. “And couldn’t you have held off screwing up for a little while longer?” North sounded upset.

Taking a deep breath, he ran his hand over his head in frustration. “Look, I’m sorry.” He said and got in, opening the door for Diana. “This just hasn’t been an easy case so far. And Vlachko has been lying through his teeth the whole time. I think his daughter was the contact, too.”

North started his car, which took only a couple tries this time and pulled back onto the road. By this time, the sky had turned a light blue color; the sun on it’s way up. “So, who was that – shadow man you were talking about?”

Diana gritted her teeth, aiming to throw out some nasty insults, but the dolt apologised before she could even get started. She had the perfect excuse to pitch a fit until dawn, and he ruined the whole thing! But, perhaps it was best she didn’t kill her own partner… Or get him mad enough to leave her in the middle of no where.

Sighing, she leaned back in the seat to stare at the aging ceiling of the car. “The stereotypical weird guy in the shadows. Cigarette and everything. I think he figured out I was snooping because he was waiting for me outside the washroom in place of the guard.”

She tilted her head to look at him, giving a mischevious grin. “I did manage to take a tour of Mr. D’rno’s office. It seems he had an appointment with the Doc the other day. I’m guessing he denied ever knowing Armacu?”

“Of course.” North said. “And he denied his dock being used recently. Between what you’ve told me, Lisa D’rno and the description by the hitman, I think we might have enough to get a warrant.” North said, taking the turn back onto the country road. “At least that way, if they kill us for coming back, they’ll still be in trouble.”

After driving a bit, North pen his mouth wide and yawned. It was getting late, at least in his case, and they still had a bit of a drive ahead of them. “But that can be taken care of tomorrow. After being shot at and threatened by the Mafia, I think I’m ready to sleep it off.”

“Lisa is the name of our mysterious beauty, I gather.” Diana commented. He had the luck, she susposed. Maybe tomorrow she’d let him do the dirty work, and she’d kick back and drink with the suspects. Well, if they didn’t get shot at again. ‘Or tossed out by the shadow man. Don’t think I want to meet that one again without a gun in hand.’

With the sun slowly rising it was turning the skies lovely shades of orange pink and blue. The rattling of the car didn’t seem so terrible now, infact was sort of soothing and she was finding it difficult to keep her eyes open. Who knew a day of gunfire, ledge climbing and suspicious could tire one out so quickly?

“Tomorrow we’ll try something a little different. Undercover maybe.” Her eyes were closed as she leaned against the window, and yet she had that look of devious plotting. After that night’s incident of getting thrown of out the Don’s mansion, it seemed her ideas were very likely al going to be completly dangerous.

North was thinking about what to do tomorrow as well. The don hadn’t cooperated at all and the only lead he had were Lisa and Diana’s info. Would a warrant be helpful at all? Hell, Vlachka probably started burning papers as soon as they left the manor. But if he wanted to keep his license, he was going to have to stick to regulation.

North glanced over at Diana and smiled slightly as she leaned there with her eyes shut. As much as he didn’t want to bother her, North decided he needed to ask her one last thing before she had a chance to doze off. “Say, which part of town do you live in? I’ll drop you off.” He asked.

That snapped her awake! She frowned, shifting uncomfortably in the seat and returned to an awake upright position. The last she wanted was for the guy to find out where she lived. It wasn’t a particularly terrible place, just a cramped apartment in downtown chicago, but she hadn’t quite decided if she trusted him or not. Yeah, that was it. First it’d be her address and then it’d be how she liked her eggs!

It was rediculous, really, but she had her reasons for not letting too much out about herself. Even if it did spare her the extra fifteen minutes of walking. “You know,” she replied, “we can return to your place and I’ll just walk from there. It’s really not that far.”

“Well.” North began. “I really don’t mind. I mean-” He paused when he saw the look on Diana’s face. She didn’t seem to want to tell him for whatever reason. She certainly liked to keep to herself. North just sighed and left it alone for the remainder of the drive. After all, he wouldn’t want to dig into someone’s personal life if they didn’t want to talk about it – or he was just too tired to pester her at the moment.

They finally entered the city limits again, stores and other places just opening. The sun was now above the horizon and gleaming off some of the taller buildings, making the city seem like a bright and welcoming place – masking it’s darker side. North pulled up in front of his apartment complex and turned to Diana, not letting her leave just yet.

“Are you sure I can’t give you a ride?” North asked. “At least half-way. No sense walking across town.”

Diana blinked at him. Then blinked again. Finally she gave a deep sigh resting her head against the headrest in a motion of defeat. “Fiiiine.” Obviously she wasn’t too keen of the idea, but the man was annoyingly persistant. Maybe just a ride there and a quick drop off wouldn’t hurt.

“I live on South Clyde. You can drop me off outside.” Yes, that would do. he’d know the building, but at least he wouldn’t know which apartment!

“Well, ok then!” North said, pleased and pulled back out into the road. The drive only took a couple minutes from his apartment building, but the scenery sure did change. Diana’s are wasn’t as run down as his own, but it wasn’t the rich area yet. Pulling in front of the development, North pulled a piece of paper and a pen from overhead.

“Here, before you go.” He said as he wrote something down. “Here’s my number.” Before Diana could give him the look he knew she would give her, he spoke up. “Just give me a call around noon tomorrow. We’ll get the warrant and head back.”

Rolling her eyes, she snatched the paper and stuffed it in her pocket. “Noon tomorrow, then.” Escaping the car as gracefully as one can when the seatbelt and the door liked to fight back, she rushed across the sidewalk and in to the building before North McCoy had something else he wanted to bring up.

All she wanted to do now was crash in to bed and sleep the day away. Halfway to her apartment she realized she left her notebook in that disaster called a car, and hesitated for a few minutes before she decided it’d be fine where it was for the time being. Reaching her door, her eyes narrowed… the door was slightly open! She distinctly rememered locking the darn thing. The doors were always locked! Pulling her gun, Diana snuck queitly in to the apartment and peered around. It was only a small studio apartment. Most of her boxes from unpacking were still lying around, and it looked like some one ransacked the place pretty thoroughly. With a muttered curse she lowered her gun and ran her fingers through her hair.

“Well this just bloody sucks.” she muttered, along with a few choice unlady like curses.

North was already halfway home when he noticed Diana’s kitty printed notepad in the seat next to him. He was about to ignore it when the thought of her accusing him of reading it popped into his head. Not something he wanted to listen to. With a sigh, he drove around the block and back towards her apartment.

He pulled up and parked the car, leaving it running. After all, who would steal that? He grabbed her notepad and walked inside and up to the desk.

“Hi, I’m looking for a Diana Jones?” He asked the man. Once North got the room number he headed for the stairs. On his way up, he got curious. She was probably going to accuse him anyway, and what was the harm? Flipping open her notebook, North noticed notes, dates and such. He also saw doodles, a shopping list amongst other silly things.

Once reaching her floor, he quickly tucked it away in his jacket and entered the hall. He noticed a door open further down, he didn’t think it would be Diana’s, but he was proven wrong as he went to inspect. “Di-er, Agent Jones?” He glanced in and saw the mess.

“No wonder she didn’t want me coming up here…” He thought to himself.

She could have cried! Well, no. She could have shot him, and actually she almost did before she realized who it was peeking around the corner. Diana visibly cringed at the site of him. What a damned nosey, pesky, persistant, and oh, a dozen more not as polite names kind of man!

“It seems the locks aren’t as strong as one would expect.” she sighed and pointed at the door frame. There were three deadbolt locks and every last one of them had been cracked open. “Nothing was stolen at least!” she continued with a false tone of nonchalance. If nothing was stolen, the woman didn’t have very much belongings. Beyond furnature some scatter books and brocken objects, and and mess of clothing it looked like the place was cleaned out!

Diana plopped on the small sofa with an exasperated huff, picking up a magazine she inadvertantly sat on and tossing it to the floor. She finally cast him a suspicious look and scowled. If she were going to get mad and beat the daylights out of something, he made himself awfully conveniant.

“What the devil are you doing back here, anyway? I obviously don’t have time for guest!” Diana tried to give him a nasty glare, but she just didn’t have the fire to pick a fight. Her place was trashed, and she knew darn well it wasn’t random theivery or angry russians. Falling over on the sofa she sighed and waved a hand to dismiss him. “Go away…”

“Hey, I’m no guest.” He said and stepped over to Diana. “I’m your partner!” He said, a quirky chirp in voice. “Besides, you left this in the car. Thought it might have some stuff in it you might want.” He said and tossed Diana her notepad. “I, uh, didn’t read it or anything…” His voice trailed off, like it usually does when he lies.

He turned his head and looked around a bit at the place. It was an all right apartment. Better than his, at least. If it weren’t for the boxes and other items strewn about, it could be a pretty nice place. So, uh…” He was about to strike up a conversation, but Diana seemed real agitated. “I – I’ll just … be going.”

But before he stepped out the door, he looked back at her. Se seemed – distressed. He knew she would be too proud to admit otherwise, but he just wanted to make sure.

“Say.” He said, almost nervously. “Are you going to be all right here tonight? I mean, alone?

A small sofa cushion went flying through the air beaning him smack dab in the face! Damn, she had good aim!  She rolled over, giving the back of the sofa a piteous frown. “I am the top of my field, I have a brilliant weapon, and I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.” She paused for a few moments before quickly sitting back up.

“You know what, I’m not alright! I mean, look at this place! It’s completly obvious that it’s a ploy to send me in to a neurotic fit, and I am one hundred percert aware of such scare tactics, but it’s damn bloody creepy!”

She was rammbling, and Diana realized North didn’t have a single idea of what she was talking about, and she was probably going to have to tell him. “Eh, it’s a long story and I don’t think you’d want to hear it. And… give me my cushion back!” Actually admitting she was far from okay felt like the neighbor running over her dog, and she probably looked the same too!

North gave Diana a look. It wasn’t one of anger, annoyance or conferment. It was one of concern. For her to admit anything outside of being the best of the best was cause enough for worry, but it was also the way it came out. She had been holding it inside of her for some time. North stood there for a moment, trying to decide what he should do.

Finally, he made his choice. “Well, that’s not true.” He said, slowly closing the door. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind the slightest bit.” North picked the cushion up off the floor and walked over to Diana on the couch. He motioned to the open end of the sofa and nodded.

“May I?” He asked, wondering if he could sit down.

Diana considered telling him he could tap dance his way out the window for all she cared, but instead somewhat reluctantly she nodded and scooted over so he could sit.

Then she snatched her cushion back.

For a few moments she remained silent chewing her bottom lip in contemplation on just exactly how and what she planned to tell him. if he was going to pop in and catch her at vulnerable moments, it was probably best to tell him teh whole truth. Perhaps then he’d think twice about asking so many questions!

“I was always trying to be crime-fighting super detective,” she started. ” In high school, I had my best friend, Jennifer. She wanted to be a district attorny and I was going to be a cop, we were the dynamic duo of mystery solving.” Tossing the cushion behind her on the sofa she rested her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, finding a spot some where on the floor to stare at. “And one day she turned up dead in the school’s front lawn. It was so completly random without a shred of clues or evidence even leading up to it… she was just dead.”

It was terribly painful to think about, but she had started so now she had to finish. “I suppose that’s when I really got serious about being a detective. The police weren’t accomplishing anything so I did my own investigation. And I was damn good too because I found him, with the evidence, and the confession, and he was locked up.” Diana leaned back against the sofa, skirting the finer details of how he caught him. So she wasn’t quite ready to speak about everything.

“But, it seems the system sucks, he is out on parole, and he is damn ticked off with me.” she shrugged a shoulder. “So I came to Chicago. End of story.”

When Diana finished her story, North now better understood why she kept so distant from people. Why she is so reluctant to partner, or even open up to someone. And her reasons hit a little close to home. To lose someone so close to you, and without justice, would do the same to almost anyone. North was well aware of that.

“I’m – I’m sorry.” North said quietly. “I didn’t mean to bring up such a … touchy subject.” he brought his hands together in his lap. “But I know how that feels. To just – lose someone like that. And then to have nothing done about it…” He sighed and was quiet for a few seconds before straightening back up.

“But … I didn’t mean to open up old wounds, Agent Jones. I was-” North paused, hesitant for a moment. “Well, I was just concerned about you, that’s all. And I know you don’t need anyone to look after you or anything. But that’s … just how I am.” He said, smiling a bit now.

North was feeling a bit awkward, He knew this all must have been unpleasant for the agent, and he was a little upset with himself for dragging it out as he had. “Well.” He said. “I guess I’ve – bothered you enough. I’ll leave if … you would like me to, then.” He prepared to get up.

Fwap! She swatted him with the cushion again. How did she get so fast with the darn thing?!

“Don’t think you’re going to up and escape after I told you all of that! You’re going to stay and you’re just going to… sit there.” Diana blinked with some confusion. She actually wanted him to stay, which was peculiar all by itself, but she really had no idea what to do with him if he did. She certaintly wasn’t going to sit there all day staring at him.

Standing she pointed to the sofa. “You sit, and I’ll clean up. Feel feel to snoop through my other notebooks. I have a journal around here somewhere.” She gave a pointed look that implied she knew he was lying about not looking at her notes!

After she nailed him in the face and told him to stay, North being confused was an understatement. Diana “I don’t need you” Jones actually wanting someone around? Confused or not, North complied, but not before tossing the pillow behind the couch. His face was beginning to hurt.

When she commented oh her notes, North glanced away, a little ashamed. “Well I wouldn’t – I mean I’m not…” The he realized she knew. “All right, you got me. But at least let me give you a hand.” He said as he bent over, picking up a few items. “Where do these go?” he said, peeking into a box.

North was actually glad she requested him to stay. It had been a while since he had spent time with anyone outside the bar. Being alone for so long really got to him after a while. And Diana, well, Diana was better than nothing. Even if being alone with her could be more dangerous to his health than the warehouse or mansion combined. But to say he didn’t enjoy the company would be lying.

Having North McCoy help her pick up her things was actually more pleasant than she expected. She didn’t have much in the apartment, and the look on North’s face when he discovered her box of unmentionables was priceless. By the time the place was straightened up and the floor had been swept it was nearly Noon and neither of them had any sleep.

Diana fell on to the sofa with a sigh, her jacket and her gun were removed long ago, so she was left in her dark red sweater and jeans. Minus the weapon, she strangly looked normal, and very unlike the nononsense federal agent. She looked like a girl! “We’re supposed to get that warrant…” Diana mummbled. “Around Noon, or tomorrow…?”

North had just shoved the last box onto the highest shelf of the closet and brushed off his hands when Diana sat down. Quickly joining her on the couch, he yawned and stretched, tired as ever. His coat was long since hung up with Diana’s and his collar was unbuttoned under his loosened tie. He took a look at his watch and groaned at the time. He was really looking forward to that bed.

He leaned his head back and rested his eyes, listening to Diana. As he did so, he began to feel more and more relaxed on the soft couch. Everything she said strangely began to last forever in his mind. Every word stretched for what felt like hours. When she asked him her question, Diana got no response. If she were to glance over, she would find North dozed off on her couch, snoring softly.

“McCoy. What ti-… North?” She blinked at him, snoozing away on her sofa, and couldn’t help a smile. “Guess that means midnight instead…” she murmured. Moving from the couch she riffled through a box and dug out one of the throw blankets to cover the private eye. Diana tucked the blanket around him, and as an after thought removed his tie, thinking it was best to avoid any possible strangulations in his sleep.

Prodding to the shelf she snatched up a small alarm clock and set it for her ususual hours. Diana kicked off her shoes, then dropped on to the end of the sofa and curled up with the cushion she rescued. There was a decent bed in the other room, but who was going to keep the P.I from tummbling of the sofa and gettng a concussion? Truthfully she was being a coward, but she’d be damned if anyone ever heard it out of her.With in no time she had  drifted to sleep,  her feet resting on the blanketed P.I.!

Categories
Durocha PI

Durocha P.I. 001

The sun was setting over the city of Chicago and a chill blew through the streets, the skyline lit up with buildings, signs and all sorts of things as it did every night. The streets were just emptying out as people made their way home for the evening. But as everyone was making their way home to sleep, there was someone to make sure they could do so soundly. And just as they would lie to rest, he would rise from his – just unwillingly.

In the room made office of an old, rundown apartment building, outside a flickering sign reading “North & West Detective Agency”, an alarm clock began to buzz. Filling the room with an annoying tone. A second later a hand flew up, flailing aimlessly in an attempt to silence the clock. Finally doing so, a figure rose from bed, stretching and muttering something profane. As he got up from bed, the man, who was no shorter than 6’4″, made his way to the washroom.

Once there, the groggy man stepped up to the mirror. He was not a pretty sight, at least, at the moment. His face was unshaven and rugged and his hair a mess.

“Jesus North, you look like shit.” He said in a thick, Irish accent. North reached for a razor, picking it up. He stopped for a moment, glancing at his face and then the razor.

“Eh, why bother?” He said, putting the blade back. “Not like anyone’s going to come in anyway.” North splashed his face a couple times and gargled mouthwash. As he passed a closet, he took a pair of pants and a shirt and threw them on and walked from the bedroom.

North made his way across the hardwood floor to the door and unlocked it, flipping over a sign reading “Durocha P.I. is Open” in a pretty font. The room had been turned from a living space into an office; a cluttered desk sat by the window. Diplomas, pictures and newspaper cutouts covered the wall around it.

As he pulled out his chair, North sat down at his desk and threw his feet up. He straightened a tag on his desk reading “North McCoy, P.I.” and leaned back and waited for another dull day to go by.

Thunder crashed across the sky as an unexpected autumn storm decided to grace the city. Flashes of lighting streaked across the sky every few moments lighting up the empty streets, casting plays of shadows on wary stray cats stalking their prey. Giving the cloudy night sky a slight scowl of disapproval she continued her way down the street, her heeled boots giving a soft click with every step. Often she heard comment about how impractical they were on the field… how could a woman run in heels? She always easily explained a good pair of boots had better ankle support than a pair of sneakers, but just maybe she had the same affinity as the stray cat to walk on the toes of her feet.

Besides, they were damn sexy and hurt like a mother when you kicked people just right.

As expected, escaping the rain wasn’t possible. By the time she reached the trashed looking old building and the flashing neon sign of North & West Detective Agency her auburn hair was damp and the black fabric of her jacket was no longer sufficient cover from the chill. Muttering a curse she twisted the knob of the agency door, having to push with a bit of force to get it open. Walking in with that inborn air that she owned the place, as though of her field always seemed to have, she gave a curious raise of the eyebrow at the scruffy man sitting behind the desk.

“You look like shit.” She remarked, regarding him with a blink and a slight curve of her lips in an obviously contemplative look. He had that distinct look as if he had just crawled out of bed and plopped himself in the office chair. “Never mind,” she continued before he had the chance to reply, “You are North McCoy, I assume. I have a special assignment direct from the bureau.” Pulling a brown envelope from her jacket then grimacing at it’s slightly dampened appearance, she dropped it on the desk in front of him. “I don’t suspect you’ve been involved in many murder investigations but this might just catch your fancy…”

North was close to dozing off again when the door swung open to reveal a “charming” woman in red. At first, he was rather taken by her splendor, but then she opened her mouth. North would have been insulted if he didn’t agree with her so much.

“Y-yeah, I’m North.” he said, glancing at the envelope on his desk with a confused look. He ran his hand through his red hair as he picked up the papers, but didn’t open them.

“Murder case, huh? Well…” North glanced past the woman at an empty desk in the back of the room. “I’ve had my share of ’em.” He sighed and stood up.

“But just one thing.” North said, putting the papers back down, still without reading anything. “What does the FBI want with me? I mean…” He looked around a bit. “I’m pretty sure they could find someone a lot more qualified than me. Or at least someone who’s had a case in the last … seven months.”

He stepped from his desk and walked around to the other side with the mysterious woman. “And another thing.” He leaned up against the desk, crossing his arms. “Just who are you?”

Jesus, the man was tall. She was not petite at 5’8″ but generally she’d be staring a man in the eyes, not looking skywards a good half a foot. He moved around the desk and leaned against it with his arms crossed, giving her the distinct impression he was one of those carefree types. Just what she needed. One of those.

“Diana Jones.” she replied, stuffing her hands in her still sodden jacket. “I’d have to agree… I don’t see how two-bit P.I. is going to be any sort of help on a murder case, but those are the orders.” Diana tilted her head giving him another once over… Yeah, he didn’t look like he knew about investigating a lolly pop thief, let alone a murder.

“If you would just look at the file,” she pointed at the envelope on his desk, “you’ll see why the bureau thought you should have a look. The one murdered was from an old case of yours.”

North was getting the feeling that this Diana woman didn’t care much for her surroundings. Primarily himself. While he thought of himself as a pretty patient person, his guest wasn’t getting on his good side anytime soon.

“Flattery will get you everywhere…” North muttered softly as he turned around to pick up the papers. “All right, let’s see what we have here, miss – er, Agent Jones?” North slid the reports from the envelope and clicked on a lamp overhead.

Murmuring as he read, North began pacing slightly, a habit he had whenever there was a case for him. “Victim … stabbed twice … slit throat – Terrence Armacu…” He paused for a moment. “Terrence, Terrence. Where have I heard that name before?”

North stepped behind his desk again and began shuffling through his drawers. Looking at old files and reports. He moved on to another drawer when he found nothing.

“Say, could you look in that cabinet over there?” He asked Diana. “It’d be filed under – well, I … don’t have anything filed, really. He was a doctor, just look for something like that.” North glanced up and saw her standing there, still in her wet coat and everything.

“Oh, and, uh, feel free to take off your coat – or anything.” He said, and went back to digging.

She blinked at his back, raising an eyebrow with an incredulous stare. Did she look like a secretary? “No thanks. My guns might be too intimidating for you.” With a slight smirk she moved to the cabinet he pointed out, and at least made the effort to keep her more snippety comments to herself.

“Gee. It looks like you had bagel filed correctly, at least.” Maybe not. Diana plucked out an old crusty bagel from the files and gave it a distasteful stare before giving it a toss to a near overflowing trash can. What ever her boss was thinking, it couldn’t have been the right idea. Sure, the private eye had past connections to the case, but he couldn’t possibly be of help in a real investigation. To think she had to work with this hack!

“Nothing in this one. Might I recommend you store your documents and your groceries separately?” She brushed a few strands of hair behind her ear and thought twice about leaning against the cabinet. Or sitting. Or touching anything in the office for that matter.

North popped his head up over his desk a little, narrowing his eyes at Diana. He shook his head and went back to his desk, but found nothing. Huffing, he returned to his feet and stepped back in the open.

“Where did that file go? I know I remember that name for a reason…” He said to himself. He watched the FBI agent finger through the cabinet and then the bagel. “I wouldn’t have touched that if I were you. I mean, I haven’t been in there in years.” He said, slightly smirking.

Then he noticed the waist basket that sat next to that empty desk. A thoughtful, sad look came over North’s face as he stepped over to it. It wasn’t something he enjoyed doing, but this was a special case. “Excuse me, bro.” He said softly and opened a drawer. Inside, papers were filed, sorted and organized beautifully, almost like art. A drastic change from North’s desk.

“I think I got it.” North said to Diana as he pulled out a file. He tucked the other files back neatly and closed the drawer, returning to his own desk. Opening the folder, North read through some of the reports. The file was dated a few years back, but it was what he was looking for.

“Here it is, Dr. Terrence Armacu. He was a surgeon with Russian mob tie-ins. He also worked with a one, Charles Mandell, or “Syco” Mandell as the media called him. The guy was a nut to begin with.” North flipped a few pages.

“You probably know this one already, I mean, this is you we’re talking about. Terrence was arrested for conspiring against a government official. Mandell was slated too be as well, being the man who made the bribe to the Russians. But after Terrence went down, the good doctor disappeared.” North sat down, putting his feet up.

“But Terrence was found not guilty for lack or evidence. No Mandell, no guilty party. It was a dark day for the justice system. But with what you brought me, looks like someone got the out-of-court settlement they wanted.” North put the file on the desk for Diana to read if she wanted.

“I’m guessing your FBI sent you hear because…” He paused. “Because West and I were the only people to actually ever confront Mandell after the court hearing. Completely by accident, but that was still the case.” North leaned back in his chair, hoping that he might have proved he wasn’t a total crock to the stingy FBI agent.

She should have tossed the bagel at him.

The immaculate contents of the second desk didn’t escape her notice as North searched through the drawer and found the file he was looking for. She suspected it belonged to West McCoy, and was curious to know more, but knew when to leave it alone. Diana was no stranger to odd circumstance.

“Perhaps…” she replied, picking up the file from the desk and flipping through it. “It seems the Doc saved a little something from his escapades, though. Perfect Russian diamonds.”

Diana gave the lounged back man a sour look as she replaced the file back on his desk. Her fingers were itching to straight it up a bit… or maybe tilt is chair back so he’d go flying backwards. It was a devilish thought. “You do realize we will have to work together, and this case will require finesse if not a bit of under cover work. Those diamonds are missing, and if we can track them down we might who we’re looking for.”

North straightened up as Diana spoke, her last comments striking a cord. “Work together now? I just thought you were here to give me the bad news and be on your way!” North’s voice was beginning to show frustration now. He scratched his head and leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand. Sighing softly, the detective regained himself.

“I mean, I appreciate the gesture and all, you’ve been nothing less that a perfect … guest. But this is really something that’s better done on my own.” Standing up once more, North walked over to a closet and took out his firearm and holster, dusting them off. It had been a while since he had to use them, and North was a little hesitant to put them on once more.

“Besides.” He said, carrying the equipment back with him. “What does any of this have to do with you?”

Twitch! He lets his fire arms get dusty?! Blasphemy! “Look, buddy. You don’t have much of a choice. I don’t have much of a choice! The bureau says this is the way it’s gotta be, therefore you’ve just gained yourself highly skilled and lethal partner.”

Diana leaned over and plucked his gun from its holster, giving and obviously dissatisfied blue-eyed scowl during her scrutiny. It wasn’t even loaded. “You, P.I., are hopelessly inept in a tricky situation. At least, that’s the impression your gun gives me.” Her smile was lazy, and perhaps a might bit conceited as she handed back his gun and pulled her own beneath her jacket. Black, sleek, and perfectly tailored. The woman took choosing her gun seriously.

“You get to use your investigating talents, and I will do the rest. Someone has to keep your rear out of trouble.” She flashed a smirk. “I’d have everything under control before you even get that fossil dusted off.”

At this point North figured arguing wasn’t going to do any good. Sucking up his pride, he threw his arms up in submission and just accepted the situation. North took his revolver back as Diana handed it over and watched her take out her own weapon.

The way she looked at and held it, North wouldn’t be surprised if she slept with it under her pillow. But he resisted the urge to make a comment on that. After all, one of them had to show some sort of restraint.

“Well, excuse me if I don’t carry around a hand cannon with me wherever I go.” North said, picking some bullets from his desk. “After all, you know the use of deadly force is for a last resort. Right?”

He finished loading his gun and placed it in its holster on the desk. “Oh, and thanks for your … support. All that paperwork and other desk jobs you guys do down at the bureau will really help.” North said, a sarcastic tone in his voice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me for a moment.” He stepped away, back towards the washroom. “I need to “freshen up.” and disappeared into the room, just leaving the agent alone for a moment in the office. A short while later, North stepped back out, shaven, combed and surprisingly acceptable looking.

When North returned he found the woman sitting at his desk straightening out the chaos.

Pens where they belonged, papers in perfect searchable order and stray bullets in a straight row. Slightly neurotic maybe, but the desk was neater. Blinking up, she supposed now that he was clean he didn’t look too shabby. Almost handsome even, if a girl liked that sort of thing.

“About time…” she muttered, rising from the chair and smoothing her hands of her jeans. “We can check out the crime scene first for clues. I made sure to keep forensics from mucking up the place too bad.”

She stuffed her hands in her pockets and cast a glanced out the window. “The rain has stopped at least. The docks are close by, we could walk from here.”

“Yeah, we can probably make it there in-” He paused when he saw his desk. Not so much as it was clean, but he actually saw his desktop for the first time in a while. “…a few minutes. You cleaned off my desk?” He said, slightly confused. Sure, he suspected she might snoop around, read a few things. Probably stuff she wasn’t suppose to. But clean his desk?

“Umm, thanks…” Shrugging it off, North grabbed his coat from a hanger and threw it on. He then glanced up at a bowler cap that hung from the hat rack. North picked it up and studied it for a second.

“What the bloody hell was I thinking when I bought this?” He said and put it back on the rack. Snatching his gun and holster, North placed them on the inside of his jacked and turned to Diana.

“Well, Agent Jones, is there anything else before we go?” He said to the lady behind his desk.

She cast his hat a peculiar look, but refrained from jesting. Every kid that wanted to be a detective had something odd, and she had her own collection of silly goodies. Not that she’d ever admit to such.

“I figure it’d save us trouble later.” Chewing on her bottom lip and giving the room a good once-over to be sure, she finally shook her head. “That’s enough for now.” Diana moved from behind the desk and crossed the room, magically seeming to beat him to the door. She opened it and waved a hand for him to follow. The woman was a control freak!

“Ok then, we’d better get going. Here, let me get the – door?”

Before he could even turn around, the woman was out the door and moving fast. Now, any other man wouldn’t have minded, but North was raised to be a polite man. Not holding the door irked him, especially for a lady.

North darted out only to find Diana rounding another corner ahead of him. “Di-, er, Jones! Wait up!” He called out while locking the door to his apartment. Again, he hurried to catch up to the nimble agent as she headed towards the front of the complex.

Just as she reached the front door and began to open it, North’s hand flew past her and slammed the door. With a quick glance, North made a quick smile. “Here, let me get that for you.” He said and opened the door. “After you, Agent Jones.” And he gestured her to pass. The man was obsessive!

She jumped! Well, how could she help it? He darted out of nowhere and slammed the door before she could open it! Diana raised a curious yet amused eyebrow. A stickler for manners was he? “Don’t feel like you have to open any doors for me, McCoy! I’m your partner, not your girlfriend.”

Outside the air was crisp with the chill of autumn and the ground was still wet from the previous rain. The streets were devoid of life beyond the two, gutter critters and ragged looking hobo curled up under a blanket of newspaper. Barely peeking from behind the clouds, the moon was casting a shimmering glow on the world below.

Diana remained silent for the walk, her hands stuff in her jacket pockets for lack of a better place to put them. She surmised they could probably talk about business… but then there was only so much to be said about a cut up body and his pack of missing diamonds. This was exactly why she hated meeting new people. She was not a conversationalist!

Casting him another sidelong glance and pursing her lips, she guessed anything was better than nothing. “So… it’s been seven months since your last case? Do you never advertise?”

North wasn’t feeling much different than Diana. The sudden silence between them was getting to him as well. He tried to ponder up something to ask, but nothing came to him. ‘So what’s your – no. Where are you – No. Do you have – NO!’ Ideas raced through his mind as he tried to ponder something.

When Diana asked her question, North was thinking so hard he almost missed it. He snapped out of it as she glanced at him. “Hmm? Oh, well, uh, yeah. Of course. But that hasn’t done any good.” He said and stuck his hands in his coat pockets. “Heck, the name of the place isn’t even ‘North & West’ anymore. But I just don’t have the money to replace that sign.”

The pair passed another block as they made their way closer to the docks. A few 24-hour shops were still open, but except for the cashier, they were deserted. The streets felt empty, more than normal, but it could have just been the because of the circumstances.

“So…” North began. “What about you? You’re not from around here, are you?” He asked his companion.

“Nope.” Diana replied, then went silent for a few moments. When seemed like she wasn’t going to elaborate until she finally spoke again. “Not really, anyway. I moved here from Seattle.” A strange look crossed her face, like the memories were uncomfortable or simply confusing. She brushed them away quickly enough, casting him another glance. “I’ve been here a couple weeks. This is my first in town assignment.”

“Why did you pick the P.I. business over everything?” she inquired casually, that same supercilious tone returning just as quickly as it disappeared. Hopping in front of him she turned to walk backwards, giving a cheeky grin. “It has to be on the lowest end of the field.”

Her answers felt quick, like she didn’t care to talk about the reason. This caught North’s attention, but he wasn’t someone to peruse questions that didn’t want to be answered. And Diana was already back on the attack with another query and North wasn’t one to disappoint.

“Well, it’s not the best job, I’ll be honest.” He said, watching Diana hop in front of him. “But being a cop, I felt, well, alienated from everyone else. Especially here in the city. Nothing like it was back in Ireland.” North removed his hands from his pockets, stretching his fingers. He then continued.

“So, my brother and I decided to start out own little agency. And to tell you the truth, it was everything we were hoping for. People called us by out names, not “officer.” We were actually pretty successful at first, but I guess that’s because we were a little gimmicky. Brother private eyes. Like something you’d hear in a bad story.” He smiled a bit at the thought.

North was surprised at just how chatty he suddenly got. He had just met this Diana woman, not even under pleasant circumstances, and was already telling her his life story.

‘North, you need to get out more.’ He thought to himself. ‘This is what happens when you spend all your time alone.’

She laughed softly, and surprisingly it was more genuine than it was sarcastic. “Ah, I see. The down home super hero. A noble fate.” Diana turned to fall back in to step next to him again as they grew nearer to the docks. “I enjoyed the intrigue. I was trying to solve mysteries by the time I could ride a bike and chase down by suspects. I chose F.B.I. for the tougher cases…”

As they reached the pier an eerie fog had started to form around the docks making the place look spooky, much less inhabitable. It was empty save for a few birds perched on a roust for the night. The agent took a turn on the wood planks heading towards the warehouses. “The place is locked up tight, but I managed to score a key.”

North smiled at Diana’s reaction; it was nice to hear a laugh every once in a while. Maybe she wasn’t all that bad after all, but they still had a case to solve, bigger things to think about.

As they entered the dock area, North got an uneasy feeling. “Yeah, someone was defiantly killed here,” He said quietly. The two made their way to a warehouse taped off with the standard police line. Diana unlocked a side door and entered, North following behind her.

The building was dark and empty; a musty smell filled the air. It probably hadn’t been used in some time. They found the body a moment later, just as it had been explained. There were three, bloody wounds in the back and a dried pool of blood from the slit in his throat.

North was the first to examine the body, careful not to disturb it too much. “This is Terrence alright, but what is he doing all the way out here.” He said, confused. “He worked out of New York. At least, that’s where his Mafia ties were.” North snooped around the scene, hoping to find something, a clue even, but found nothing.

“Well.” North turned to Diana. “My guess he was waiting for someone here. Hence the location. Now, he was either killed by the people he was waiting for, or there’s a third party at work.”

North knelt beside the body, inspecting it further. “The stabs in the back indicate he probably didn’t know they were there. There’s also no sign of any struggle, and the cut throat was probably just to make sure.” Standing back up, North scratched head, thinking.

“But as to who killed him…” His voiced trailed off. “Anyway.” He looked to Diana. “Do you have anything?”

Diana did an ample job of looking at everything but the body and large pool of blood, only casting a brief glance in that direction to acknowledge North as he spoke. She wasn’t exactly squeamish about dead bodies, she had seen her fair share of those, but the blood was an entirely different matter. The woman hoped it was too dark to tell if she visibly paled. There were a dozen reasons why she didn’t like the medical side of forensics, and that blood was number one on the list!

She focused her gaze at a few scattered boxers simply for the sake of having something else to look at. “If I did, I wouldn’t have you here. I don’t believe he had the diamonds with him here, though. The body never moved after it hit the ground.”

“Well, we can worry about a bunch of rocks later. Right now we have a dead body and nothing to go on.” North said, huffing in frustration. “There has to be someth-” he stopped when he took a step and heard a crinkling noise beneath his foot.

Looking down, he saw he was standing on the dead man’s coat. The noise sounded like paper, something inside a pocket maybe. Bending down to inspect, North plucked a note from the inside of Terrence’s coat. “Hey, Agent Jones.” He called out.

Unfolding the note, North read “Warehouse 3, dock 5, 9:00.” Unfortunately for them, it was nearly eleven at night. “Say.” North scratched his chin. “Did the report mention a time of death at all?”

“Eight or nine-ish this morning.” She moved from her spot and peered around his shoulder at the crumpled piece of paper. “Don’t muss it up too bad, we might be able to get some prints.”

Hating every second, Diana sucked up her aversion to the crimson pool and leaned down to search the pockets. “Hmm, keys… House, car… Ah. This one might be good.” She held up the key attached to the chain and jangled it until he retrieved it. Rifling through the other pockets she managed to scavenge up a train pass dated for that evening and some pretty normal wallet contents. “Doc was going somewhere tonight. Probably didn’t count on getting wh–!!”

Before the brunette could finish her sentence a booming gun shot rang out in the warehouse, a bullet zipping itself dangerous close past her head!

“Damn!”

North was just leaning over to see what Diana had found when the bullet whizzed between them. Letting out a startled grunt, he stumbled backwards a bit before ducking behind a crate, watching Diana do the same, only with more … finesse. Once he was out of view of the assailant, North retrieved his pistol from his coat and peeked around the corner and then to Diana.

“Are you ok?” He asked her, just loud enough so she could hear. Looking back where the shot came from, North wasn’t able to see anyone thanks to the darkness. “This is Detective North McCoy.” He shouted out. “Lay down you weapon and c-“ Before he could finish another bullet ripped through the crate he was hidden behind, splintering a corner.

“JESUS!” North cried out and ducked back. “I don’t think he’s going to give up.” He said and brandished his weapon. He didn’t like having to use it, but he wasn’t completely against it in extreme cases.

“Just fine under the circumstances!” she replied, lifting up a lock of hair and examining it. Those jerks barely missed her! Diana cast him a side-glance and nearly grimaced at his out dated little pistol. Grabbing his arm, she tugged him out of the way and peered around the corner, aiming her own gun and took aim with what seemed like very precise calculations. She fired, and was resorted with a pained yell from across the warehouse… along with a whole barrage of more bullets!

Ducking behind the crate again she cringed. “I guess that means there’s more then one. Why they hell are they shooting at us now, anyway! We barely even started the damn investigation!”

“I don’t know.” North said as he glanced over the crate. “Did you happen to mouth off at anyone else while in town?” He mocked while another shot fly overhead. Inching his way down the line of boxes, North peeked around the far corner, making sure no one was coming up that way.

That’s when he caught eye of one of the goons. He hadn’t seen North yet and was right in his sights. The detective took careful aim at the unaware thug – and hesitated. North couldn’t take the shot. He just couldn’t kill the man, even though he was trying to kill them. A second later, he disappeared behind some shelves.

“Damnit.” North said quietly, angry with himself. At least Diana didn’t see it, or he would never hear the end of it. He slid back over to his colleague and ducked next to her.

“Another one just rounded the corner. I – couldn’t get a shot off, he was gone before I could.” He lied. In an effort to make up, he glanced over the box and fired where he thought the shots might have come from, but hit nothing.

It was around that time that sirens could be heard in the distance, the firing stopped as they drew closer.

“C’mon, v’ets get out of here!” One of them shouted in what sounded like a Russian accent. The gunmen quickly fled the warehouse, leaving the downed man behind. North and Diana rushed to see where they went, but they were gone by the time the two made it outside.

“Great.” North said, sighing. He turned around just as a couple squad cars pulled up to the scene. He flashed his badge as officers piled out of the vehicles.

“What do you make of all of this, Agent Jones?”

“Ugh. I don’t know, but it must be pretty damn good if it’s only been fifteen minutes and they’re already shooting at us.”

Diana wasn’t happy to see the cop cars, and briefly wondered what peeping tom was lurking around the docks to call the cops that fast. It was bad enough she had to work with a partner, but cops always had a habit of trying to nose their way in to an investigation and seek a little piece of the credit for themselves. In this case they were scaring away her suspects.

Well, except one.

She rubbed her chin with some thought. “I didn’t kill that one. We could pay him a little visit in the hospital and see what he has to say.”

“Looks like that’s our only lead at the moment.” North said, peering back. Paramedics were already putting the Russian on a stretcher and loading him into an ambulance. They hurried to cover the gunshot wound and provide medical aid the best they could.

“Jeez, this guy’s a train wreck…” one of them said as she injected something into the Russian’s arm.

“If – he survives.” said North, with a bit of disapproval in his voice. Diana’s shot seemed to have left a larger than necessary hole in the assailant’s stomach and his chances of survival were slim. This is one of the reasons his choice in weaponry was such a small caliber. “Well, if we’re going to get anything out of him, we’ve better do it fast.”

North flagged down a paramedic as he was entering the ambulance. “Hey, where are you guys taking this one?” He asked him.

“Northwestern Memorial Hospital, detective.” He responded and shut the back of the truck. Its sirens began to blare as it sped off.

North returned to Diana and crossed his arms. “Well, that’s a bit of a drive yet. Let’s hope that hole you put in him isn’t as bad as it looked.”