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Part IV: Friday
Rickie quietly allowed herself to be held in her saviourís lap. It was a woman, she knew that much. The voice that had whispered to her, the breasts pressing against her back, the long agile hands that currently held her, arms pinned and mouth covered. Though, how the hell they had gotten into this tree so quickly was still a mystery to her. What? Is she freaking Superwoman or something?
Her green eyes wide, she watched as the killer below her picked something up from the ground and pocket it. Then he moved back to the third man who was rolling around on the ground and spoke to him, roughly helped him up. The two left the park strip, the smaller man helping the man who had looked so familiar to her.
A few moments passed and she thought she could hear the sound of car doors being closed, an engine starting up. The noise from the freeway interfered with it, however, so she wasnít sure.
The warrior held her package securely, not letting the girl have much movement. She didnít know how panicked the kid was going to be and didnít want to chance it. With her sharper hearing, she listened to the killer talk to the other man. Doblie? Where have I heard that name before? She waited as they moved away, got into their vehicle, and drove away. She held her place for another five minutes, just to be sure.
Positive that the men had left, she said in a low voice, "Okay. Hang on, weíre getting down now." The woman in her arms nodded slightly, flexing muscles in the slender neck, and Xena felt the beginnings of desire. No, she reminded herself. Itís not Gabrielle. She tamped her errant feelings down as she swung a leg over the branch she had been straddling, bringing the girlís leg with her. "You might wanna close your eyes," she chuckled.
The golden haired woman glanced down and swallowed reflexively. She chewed her lower lip, nodded quickly, and tightly squeezed her eyes shut. She felt the arms around her tighten and then the sudden vertigo of weightlessness as the woman holding her slid off the branch. Despite herself, Rickie shrieked, glad for the hand that was still held over her mouth. Breathless seconds later, she was back on terra firma and the arms that had been holding her pulled away.
The dark woman let her charge go and brushed past a shoulder to look her over. She studied the teenager, looking for any wounds. "Are you okay?"
"Um.... Yeah, I think," Rickie said softly. Curiously, she looked the older woman over. She seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldnít figure why. Tall, dark, and definitely beautiful. Where have you been all my life, gorgeous? her unruly thoughts piped up. She grinned mentally. Then her heart stopped as the womanís eyes finally reached her own. Eyes of ice, pale fire, lightning, her mind blithered.
The taller woman watched the redhead stare at her, mouth open, blood flushing her face. She saw recognition and confusion in the green eyes, golden brow furrowed. Here we go.... The eyes darted about. Looking for an exit. Xena reached forward to grab the girl before she bolted.
My dream! The dark one! Instinctively, Rickie glanced around the clearing, looking for the other woman in her dream, the bright one who had fallen in battle. Instead, her eyes fell to the body of the large man and reality knocked the breath out of her lungs. She felt warm hands on her shoulders.
Mouth dry, her eyes connected with this strange womanís once again, and she desperately tried to maintain the intense contact. Despite the sense of fear that was raging through her, she also felt.... Safe, her mind supplied. "Is he... dead?" Rickie asked in a small voice.
Xenaís eyes narrowed, not understanding. She looked over her shoulder and saw the body hidden in shadows. The three shots! She turned back to the streetkid and squeezed her shoulders. "Stay right here, okay? Donít move."
Rickie nodded quickly.
The dark woman released her and carefully made her way to the corpse. Xena checked for a pulse on the neck and found none. Frowning, she moved to heave the body to its side. Frank?! What the hell? Mental engines running at full speed, she gently put the manís body back down and stood up.
Despite the feelings of horror at witnessing the brutal demise of another human being, Rickie couldnít help but feel a sense of deja vu, as well. She watched the woman before her raise from a squatting position, positive that sheíd seen the same graceful action before from her. What....? Do I know her? She shook her head in confusion, the sudden movement drawing the other womanís attention. Blue eyes pierced her, held her still. She sees my very soul.
Xena returned to the redhead, who was shivering now. "Did you see the men who did this?" she asked softly.
The girl nodded and shuddered again, seeing green eyes smiling with no humor down the barrel of his pistol.
"Címon." The woman scanned the area they were in. "Letís get outta here before somebody else shows up." Xenaís long hand took the young woman by the arm, and escorted her away from the carnage and out of the park.
* * *
Safely ensconced in the seat of the Mustang, Rickie tried to watch the driver out of the corner of her eye. It had only taken a few minutes for the two to make it to the dark womanís car and pull away from the curb. It occurred to her that she was being very foolish - she didnít even know this womanís name, let alone where the hell they were going. She chewed her lower lip and came to a decision.
"Howíd you know what was going on?" The woman next to her glanced over and raised an eyebrow, and the redhead flushed and felt an urge to ramble. "I mean," she shrugged and glanced away in nervousness, "itís kinda weird that you should just be walking along and suddenly running to my rescue, ya know? Not that Iím complaining! Iím glad you were there. You saved my life and Iím grateful and all that. I just, you know, Iím just curious...." Rickie trailed off. She dragged her eyes back to the dark woman.
There was a slight smirk on the older womanís face. Damn! Acts like her, too. "I needed some fresh air. I get insomnia. It helps to get out of the house."
"Oh...." The redhead stared out the window, at a loss.
"The name is Xena, by the way," the woman offered. She reached into the vest and pulled out a business card, handing it to her passenger.
Rickie read the card out loud. 'Xena G. Amphipoulis," she stumbled over the last name. "Private Investigator." She glanced at the woman with a wry grin. "Your parents not like you?"
Xena smiled in return. "Itís an old family name. Greek."
"Whatís the G stand for?"
The dark womanís smile faded. "I wasnít given a middle name. I adopted it from a dear friend."
Sensing that she had touched on a sore topic, the girl dropped that line of questioning. "Private Investigator, huh? Like Magnum?"
"Yeah," Xena responded, happy for the subject change. "Though I donít think living in Hawaii is a good thing. The cost of living is outrageous." She delighted in the chuckle coming from the other side of the car. "And you are....?"
"Oh.... Um...." The redhead debated furiously. "Well, Iím Rickie." She tensed, waiting for the quizzing to start.
"Rickie. Nice name," was the only response.
Anxious, the younger woman did what came naturally. She began talking. "Well, I think my dad wanted a boy, ya know.... To carry on the family line and all that. He wasnít too pleased, to say the least. And mom couldnít have any more kids, so he kinda got stuck with me." She snuck a peek at Xena, who was smiling politely and listening to her blither. She mentally smacked herself in the forehead. Jeez, girlfriend! What else can you say to make this .... this.... goddess think youíre an idiot....? Not being able to stop herself, Rickie kept talking.
Xena basked in the sounds of the redheadís voice. She was amazed at how easy it was to revert to behaviors millenia old. The voice calmed her, the quality and timbre soothing, reaching to a part of herself that she hadnít realized was still there. Her mind kept tabs on the conversation as she drove, responding appropriately.
She cruised in the downtown traffic, heading for the northwest and home. After crossing Burnside on Sixth, she went a few more blocks before hanging a right. On the corner of Davis and Fifth was an apparently beat up old warehouse. As the vehicle neared the building, Xena reached to the dashboard and hit the garage door opener.
The younger woman, despite the wandering, fairly one-sided conversation, kept her eyes to the downtown scenery. Rickie was quite familiar with the neighborhood they were in. The homeless restaurant she usually ate at was only a couple of blocks away and there were several shelters and food places nearby. She saw a large door automatically open in an abandoned warehouse. Her voice trailed off as they pulled into the building.
The driver pulled the car to the far wall and parked it, shutting off the engine. Nearby were two other vehicles, covered in tarps. One appeared to be a van and the other was most definitely a motorcycle. The rest of the ground level was dusty and bare. In the resulting silence, the only noises that could be heard were the ticking of the cooling engine and the garage door behind them as it closed and locked with a resounding click.
Rickie gulped in the silence, her nervousness growing by leaps and bounds. Now what...? The older woman got out of the car and moved to the passenger side. Opening the door, she hunkered down to look at Rickie. Long moments later, the redhead turned her stiff neck to gaze sidelong at the woman.
Pale blue fire looked back, concern written on the womanís face. In a soft voice, Xena said, "Donít worry. Youíll be safe here."
And the young woman knew it to be true. Without understanding the whys and wherefores, she burst into tears. Rickie felt strong arms wrap around her and hold her close.
"Shhh... itís okay." Xena held the trembling girl, letting the tears and stress wash over her in release. "Iíve got you." Gods, this is hard. So much like her. She took a deep breathe and continued murmuring calming phrases in a low voice, a hand caressing the red gold hair.
Eventually, the tears lessened and Rickie chuckled in embarrassment, pulling away a bit. "Man, I feel stupid," she snuffled and wiped at her face.
Keeping one hand on the back of the younger womanís neck, the warrior reached into the glove box and retrieved a travel pack of kleenex. Handing it to the redhead, Xena tightened her grip on the girlís neck slightly. "Youíre not stupid. Just stressed out. Donít worry about it."
The girl took the package, nodding sheepishly, and used the tissues to wipe her face and nose. As Xena pulled her hand away, she felt a sense of loss. Stop it! she scolded herself. This lady doesnít know you from Adam! It ainít no big thing. She threw a watery smile at the woman kneeling by the car. Too bad, too.
* * *
Pre dawn. The crackle of long distance phone lines.
"Report." Deep, cultured.
"Seems our boy messed up."
"How big a mess?"
"Our girlís still walking around like she wasnít a dead woman. Council voted against, as expected, thanks to her interference."
Pause. "Letís hold off on the contract for now. Itís a moot point, with the vote already in. Maybe weíll reprise it later." Another pause. "Loose ends tightened?"
"For the most part. Still trying to locate his employee, though. There was a streetkid when I put our boy down...."
"I donít want any more complications, Telesco."
"Iíll see you at the airport tonight." Click.
* * *
Coming out of the beat up elevator onto the second floor was a revelation to Rickie. "Wow! Iíve been by this place hundreds of times. I had no idea..."
Before her was nothing more complicated than a small carpeted office, tastefully decorated and somewhat neat. A large desk with a computer, a couple of chairs, file cabinets, and the like. Her attention was drawn to the large entryway across the small room and the dark highlights of a wooden floor. As if on puppet strings, she moved forward and into the main living area, leaving Xena to witness her delight with a smile.
The room was cavernous, stretching the length of the building and up two stories. Overhead lights illuminated the room. Immediately before the redhead was an exercise area, complete with a universal weight machine. There was quite a bit of space here unused. In the right rear corner was a punching bag and the back wall looked.... chewed up. Like a dartboard. On her right between the windows, the walls were adorned with edged weapons. Flashing silver moonlight. Rickie shivered involuntarily and turned away to the rest of the room.
The remaining two thirds of the room was devoted to the living area and library. The back wall was lined from the exercise area to the left wall with eight foot shelves, books crammed everywhere. A vast entertainment center divided the room from the exercise area and an Oriental rug of burgundy held a comfortable looking couch, armchairs, and tables with assorted lamps. Further to the left was the dining area, with a large round oaken table and chairs, and an apparent wetbar. In the corner was another armchair with itís own lamp and footstool. A book was currently resting on the table.
Rickie turned and saw stairs, realizing that there was a sleeping loft above the kitchen and bathroom. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye and looked at the owner with a sparkle in her eye. "This place is.... great," she offered.
The darker woman, who had been leaning with arms crossed in the doorway of her office, grinned. "Thanks, glad you like it." Xena pushed off from the doorway and padded to the stairs. She took them two at a time and Rickie moved to the bottom of them to look up at her retreating figure.
"You live here long?" she asked.
"Yeah. About six years now," was the response called down. There was noise of drawers opening and closing, rummaging around.
Rickie turned back to the room and leaned against the stair railing. "Couldnít tell it from the outside," she said in wonder.
"Yeah, well, thatís the way I like it," the darker woman said, coming down the stairs with some clothing in her hand. "In case you hadnít noticed, this isnít exactly a decent neighborhood."
The redhead chuckled and turned back to the older woman. "Youíre right. But at least it ainít North Portland."
Xena grinned back. "Now, North Portland isnít all bad. Just parts of it."
Rickie shrugged, conceding the point, and looked curiously at the clothing.
"For you." The raven haired woman handed the clothes to the girl. "I figure you might want to take a shower and....." Get out of those clothes.... Gods! The images *that* brings up! "Get some sleep. Itís pretty late." She stopped suddenly and peered at the young woman. "You donít have any where else to go, do you?"
Chewing her lower lip, Rickie debated with herself. She had no where else to go, and she knew it. And this... woman - goddess, her mind rambled - wanted her to stay the night. And, truth be told, she didnít want to go any where else. This place felt like a haven right now, relaxing, comforting. No one, nothing, can hurt me here. She frowned at the irrationality of that thought. "I wouldnít want to put you out," she demurred, green eyes catching blue.
"No problem there. You can sleep upstairs. Iíll take the couch." The ribald thoughts of having this woman in her bed were squashed down in irritation. Rickie Gardner, Rickie Gardner, Rickie Gardner.... NOT my bard!
Brow furrowed, the young woman shook her head. "I donít want to kick you out of your bed."
"Youíre not. Donít worry about it." Seeing the look of disbelief, Xena continued softly, "I told you. Insomnia. Itíll be a while before I get back to sleep anyway, if at all."
"Wellll....." Rickie watched an eyebrow raise over twinkling blue ice. Hands raised in surrender. "Okay! Alright! Iím here for the night. Whatís left of it, anyway," she quipped.
"Good," pronounced the other woman. She took the redheadís elbow and guided her to the large, luxurous bathroom and handed her the clothes. "Theyíll be a bit big for you, but theyíll tide you over until we can find something else." She left Rickie, shutting the door quietly behind her.
Xena leaned her back against the bathroom door, eyes closed. She heard the water start up in the bathtub. Her mind couldnít help but wonder just how much alike was this girl to her Gabrielle. She swallowed with a suddenly dry throat, shook her head, and stood up. Itís gonna be a LONG night.......
* * *
Xena, for the most part, had done nothing more than drowse for a couple of hours all night long. Her mind kept puzzling over the several different problems that confronted her. First and foremost was why Rickie was snoozing away upstairs in her bed, despite witnessing the dark woman kill Ginsburg a few days earlier. At times, she was sure that the kid had recognized her. Yet, here Rickie was and nothing had been said about it.
Next on the list was Frank. What the hell had he been doing out there to get himself shot? And Doblie. Whyís that name familiar? She felt irritation that she hadnít paid enough attention to the other two men that had been in the clearing. Her eyes saw that Gabr- Rickie - was in trouble and she had responded accordingly. Having only her pistol, and that not silenced, she would have drawn all sorts of unwanted attention to the park if she had fired. She was glad that the two men had been otherwise engaged.
Once Rickie had gone in to take a shower, she had called the police anonymously to tip them off about the body. Wouldnít do for some kid to find it, and the close proximity to the City Nightclub made that liklihood highly probable. Then, Xena idled away her time trying to read until the redhead toddled sleepily out of the bathroom and up to bed. The darker womanís heart jumped at the sight of the girl in an oversized white t-shirt and baggy shorts, the shy smile and gentle, "Good night."
That had pretty well halted any further reading for the night. After trying unsuccessfully to continue for about half an hour, ribald thoughts interfering with the plot, Xema finally closed the book in frustration and went to her office. There, she spent a good portion of the dark early morning locating information on a man named Doblie. She wondered which hospital the other man had taken him to. There were several in the city, with Good Samís right in the downtown area. She tried to recall what contacts she had in the hospital industry.
The woman dozed for a bit, leaned back in her chair, feet on the desk. She awoke to the vague stirrings of morning outside. Ouch! She winced, feeling a knot under her hand. With a grunt, she brought her feet back down to the ground and sat up, rubbing at her neck. That's what ya get, warrior. Teach you to sleep at work. She snorted in amazement. She hadnít thought of herself as Ďwarriorí in a long time. Must be the company youíre keeping.
Xena moved to the exercise area and began warming up.
* * *
Rickie yawned and stretched sensuously, loving the feel of crisp clean sheets moving against her. Her green eyes cracked open sleepily as she tried to remember where she was and what woke her up.
The gray light of dawning filtered through the windows to her right. She was in a large, comfortable bed in a loft. There were no lights on that she could see. Recollection seeped into her awareness as she woke.
The park... Shots fired... Xena... Rickie remembered the trip to the warehouse, the flood of tears, the joy upon seeing the apartment, the long steamy shower that left her so relaxed she could barely stumble up the stairs to the bedroom. When she had come up, her saviour had been sitting in the corner chair of the living room, sock feet up on the stool, a book in hand and a drink on the table beside her.
The redhead took a deep breathe and yawned again. She sat up slowly, senses alert for the woman. Barely audible, she could hear noises from below - breathing, some muffled thumps, an occasional grunt. Curious, she climbed out bed and crept to the railing of the loft, peering through the rails. She caught her breath and stifled a gasp at the sight that met her.
The woman below her was dressed in shorts and a sports bra, her feet bare. Her body glistened in the gray early morning haze with a light sheen of sweat as she worked out. Muscles rippled beneath tan skin as she danced around the open area, a sword in her hand. Swinging, thrusting, whirling, leaping, the warriorís hair a dark cloud whipping about. The sword, her partner, whistled through the air with its own lethal grace, seemingly alive and moving of its own accord.
Rickie, kneeling on the floor above, watched, mesmerized until the warrior below slowed to a stop. She observed Xena catching her breath, chest slowing down. The woman padded to the wall and set her dance partner back in its place. She grabbed up a towel from a weight bench and dried off her face.
Draping the towel around her neck, Xena glanced up to the loft, hiding a smile. She knew she had an audience, but chose to let it pass as she saw the young woman ease back into the shadows of the room. Chuckling to herself, she went to take a shower.
Heart in throat, Rickie pulled slowly away from the railing. Not hearing anything, she hoped that she hadnít been seen. There was the quiet snick of the bathroom door closing, and she heaved a sigh of relief, blushing. She stole silently back into the warm bed, shivering a little as she wrapped the sheet around her. Dreams have nothing on reality, Rickie thought as sleep began to drift over her once again.
* * *
She heard the crash of steel against steel. Flashing silver moonlight, the somber sparkle of crimson glancing. The two protagonists whirled and danced before her, one dark, one bright. Mocking laughter, contralto remark, growling anger. Leather and denim reflections, swords and daggers. The smell of copper and lust. The dangerous game closed, bright falling forward. Dark crouched, heaving breath. Words spoken, head rolls, crash of thunder, ethereal maelstrom, silent scream. Dark turned, piercing her. Eyes of ice, pale fire, lightning flashed into her eyes.
Menacing contralto. "Looking for something....?"
Rickie sat up abruptly, heart pounding and body sweaty. What the hell was that? she asked herself with a shiver. She could almost recognize the voice. This definitely wasnít like the first dream. That one had been exciting and dangerous, not a threat, as if she had been the one being protected. This one, though..... She shuddered again.
"Are you okay?"
"What?!" The redhead started, looking to the top of the stairs. The older woman stood there, dressed in black jeans and a denim shirt. "Um.... Iím fine," she said, looking away from Xena sheepishly. "Just a nightmare, no biggie."
The darker woman nodded solemnly, not believing a word of it. She stepped into the room. "Here. Coffee." She handed a mug to the girl occupying her bed. When Rickie had taken it with a smile of thanks, she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Want to talk about it?"
Rickie looked up with a smile. "Naw. Like I said, itís no biggie." She was caught by the intense blue eyes. Eyes of ice, pale fire, lightning. Her brow furrowed slightly and she broke contact by taking a healthy drink of her coffee.
The warrior watched her with narrowed eyes, sipping from her own mug. Itís something about me, her mind insisted. Does she remember? Or not? Why would she come here, stay the night if she remembers? Better yet, why wouldnít she remember? Realizing there were no answers at this time, she stood and said, "Okay, then. Hope you like potatoes and eggs, because thatís whatís for breakfast."
"Breakfast?" The redheadís ears perked up and a smile lit her green eyes.
Xena smirked. So close. Her smile faded a bit. My bard, I miss you. "Yep. Breakfast."
Curiously, Rickie watched the play of emotions on her new friendís face. She had an intense, burning urge to question her, find out what caused the pain, what she could do to stop it. She let it drop, however. Time enough for that, she thought. And then wondered, whereíd that come from??
The dark woman rose and rummaged in her dresser, tossing a pair of socks to the girl on the bed. "Here ya go. Theseíll keep your feet warm. Meet you downstairs." She left the room.
* * *
Xena watched in amusement as Rickie tucked away her third helping. The girl, when she wasnít swallowing food or drinking coffee, rattled on about anything and everything. Again, the older woman found herself listening to the sounds of the voice, rather than the content. She had enough presence of mind to keep tabs on the conversation, however, and responded with a Ďyes,í Ďno,í or Ďreallyí at the appropriate places.
The redhead, finishing the last bite on her plate, finally sat back, sated. She patted her stomach and groaned. "This was really good! Thanks."
"Glad you enjoyed it," was the response. "You finished?"
Rickie grinned impishly and nodded. She knew her appetite was legendary in some circles and had gotten quite used to the amazement that people held when witnessing how much she could put away.
Xena took the girlís plate and brought it into the kitchen, putting it in the sink next to hers. She turned to see Rickie clearing the rest of their meal from the table. She grinned in thanks, and the two cleaned up and put things away. After refilling their coffee mugs, the warrior guided her charge into the living room and settled down on the couch. Rickie curled up on one end, stretching the t-shirt to cover her legs. She wrapped her arms around her legs and perched her chin on her knees. Xena sat sideways nearby, left leg curled up and ankle tucked neatly under her right thigh.
"We have to talk about last night," Xena said.
The redhead sighed, frowning, but nodded in agreement. "What do you want to know?"
"You said you saw who was shooting.... Could you recognize him if you saw him again?"
Green eyes grew distant as she saw another pair of eyes, smiling down the barrel of a gun at her. She shuddered, knowing how close she had come to dying. "Yeah, I think so," she said softly.
"Would you consider going to the police?"
"No! No cops," Rickie insisted. She watched the dark eyebrow raise. "Itís just that.... Iím not too good with cops, thatís all. Iíve crossed paths with Ďem before and it wasnít ... pleasant." A thought crossed her mind. "Why didnít you call the cops last night?"
"I did." The older woman waved the girl back down onto the couch. "I didnít tell them anything. I just made an anonymous tip about the body. Didnít want somebody else finding it." Her left hand left the back of the couch and brushed raven hair away from her forehead. "Besides, in this case, I donít trust them, either."
"Really? Why not?"
Xena sighed deeply. "Because thatís who got shot. A cop." She shook her head. "If he was involved in something for the police, there would have been officers all over that park as soon as the shots were fired."
"But there werenít...." Rickieís voice trailed off. "Meaning he was working for himself." Green eyes widened at the implications.
The dark woman nodded in agreement. "Thatís what I thought, too." She took a sip of her coffee. "Can you remember what they were talking about?"
Rickie shrugged. "Something about a job not being done. The dead guy..... The copís Ďboyí didnít do the job." She closed her eyes, listening for the words that had floated to her from the trio in the park. "Somebody else was going to be very unhappy. The Ďboyí hadnít returned to his hotel in a couple of days..... Ginsberg!" Her eyes shot open. "Thatís who was supposed to do a job for the cop!" She grinned at Xena and saw the cold icy blue gaze intensify. Her smile faded, replaced by a tiny trickle of fear. Those eyes are more like the ones in my dream this morning, she thought, gulping.
"Ginsberg," came the growl.
The redhead tightened her grip around her legs and dropped her chin back to her knees, making herself smaller.
Xena stood up and began pacing the room. So, Ginsberg hadnít been hunting.... Just stumbled in by accident and played Mr. Macho. Her mind raced, oblivious to the fearful stare she was getting from the young woman. He didnít do the job. I got to him first. And Frank didnít know that Ginsberg was dead...... At least they hadnít identified the body, then, she figured. It meant that there was a lesser liklihood of the killing being traced back to her. She looked at Rickie, and her gaze softened.
"Sorry," she apologized and ran her hands through her long raven hair. "Itís just.... Iíve had... dealings with Ginsberg recently. I ... didnít know that he was connected to this."
"Oh," was the quiet response.
Xena took a deep breath and returned to the couch, sitting close to the girl. She took Rickieís hand and smiled. "I have a temper. But, I donít take it out on people, okay?" Well, not the wrong people, anyway.
Swallowing, the redhead looked back into blue eyes that had thawed out somewhat. "Okay..." Remind me not to get on your bad side, lady.
"Do you remember anything else?"
Rickie thought for a few moments. "No. Not really. The other guy, the one without the gun..... He was familiar to me, but I donít know why."
"Does the name Doblie ring a bell?" Xena asked, hoping.
"Uh uh," the girl shook her head. "Should it?"
The dark woman shrugged. "Thatís the name that was used."
"Means nothing to me." Rickieís attention became diverted to the warm hand holding hers in a loose handshake, the thumb idly caressing the skin between her forefinger and thumb. She felt a flutter in her belly.
Xena followed her gaze and froze. Covering quickly, she squeezed the younger womanís hand and pulled away, reaching for her coffee. Hooo, boy! That was a close one! "Well, if itís okay by you, I think youíd better lay low for the next couple of days. Iíd rather you stayed here, though, if you donít mind."
Still flustered from the feelings this woman invoked in her, Rickie stuttered, "Uh... yeah... sure. If it wouldnít put you out or anything."
"Not a problem, Rick," the immortal grinned. "We can spend all day sitting around the house, eating bon bons and watching videos. Cooling our heels will help with whateverís going on out there, in the long run." Xena rose. "Though, I think I need to make a store trip. Our supplies arenít going to last another two meals like this morningís."
At least the redhead at the decency to blush as she grinned.
* * *
The sun had set not long before, violent reds and purples filling the western skyline. Despite the beginnings of a massive search, Telesco had been unable to find the girl. The boss is NOT going to be happy. On the up side, Ginsberg had been finally found - in the morgue and in two pieces. Now we know why the job wasnít done, the dark man chuckled to himself. Maybe we should have hired whoever offed him.
The small man stood by the limosine, watching the private jet taxi towards him. Within minutes, the transport had halted its progress and opened up, disgorging several burly men wearing headsets and suspicious bulges under their jackets. The men took up the perimeter of the plane, eyes seeing everything.
Someone somewhere gave the go ahead and several more occupants filtered out of the jet. Three went around to the rear of the plane and began unloading luggage into a waiting sedan. Telesco was only interested in one occupant, however.
The blond man approacing was dressed in an Armani, a scantily dressed brunette on his arm. He stood tall and regal, his face bringing back ancient memories of gods and heroes. His long hair was pulled severely back and tied into a tail and his grey eyes gave the impression of being very, very old.
"Mr. Dartmouth," Telesco stepped forward, bowing his head. He gestured to the limosine behind him. "After you, sir."
Without a word, the blond nodded slightly and helped his lady into the vehicle, following behind. Telesco closed the door and got in front with the driver. Another long night.
The goons that had surrounded the plane piled into four dark sedans that were also parked nearby. And the cavalcade moved into the city.
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