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.!

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