Title:  Doing the Dance of Love Slowly Closer.
Author/pseudonym:  Voracity
Email address: bookwrecker@yahoo.com
Pairings: Jigen/OFC, Lupin/Fujiko, Goemon/OFC, some Lupin/Jigen.
Fandom: Lupin the Third
Website: http://www.e-fic.com/~voracity/
Disclaimers: Needless to say, many people own them, but Kit and Helena are mine.  Please play nicely with them if you decide to and give me credit and show them proper deference.  Otherwise they'll get mad and sic the boys on you.
Summary: my usual lifetime story: long, some lovin', some angst, some joy.  Jigen and the gang find those that make it all worthwhile in the end. Or by the end.
Warnings: some het, some slash, some threesome; a long lifetime of slowly dancing closer until the end draws near.  Not always a happy one either.
Notes: This and Cat and Ray are the flipside world to Thieve's Paradise.  No Buffy, No Xander. Just their world in the alti-verse.


Year One.


Lupin the Third looked around the strip club.  It wasn't the most high class they'd ever been in, but it wasn't the nastiest either.  It was mostly clean.  The girls didn't look strung out.  Even Goemon wasn't complaining too much as he stared into his drink.

"Why are we here again?" Goemon asked, looking at him.

"Because our contact said to meet him here," Lupin said patiently.  The girls changed and this new one got his attention and he wasn't sure why.  "Hey, Jigen, buddy, what's off about her?" he asked, pointing at her.

Jigen stared at the dancer, shrugging.  "I'm not sure.  What are you picking up?"

"I don't know.  She's not too loose or too tight.  She's not too new."  He frowned.  "I don't like odd things like that in the middle of a job."

"You want to snuggle up to her breasts you mean," Goemon noted dryly, taking another drink.  "We were an hour early because of that."

"No, he's an hour late.  We were only ten minutes late," he admitted.  When that one got dancing he waved her over, shifting to make room in the bench.  "Hi."

She smiled and sat down, demurely crossing her legs at the knee.  "Now, what are three big rollers like you doing in my club?" she asked, smirking at Jigen.

"You know me?"

"Of you.  Fortunately this is a safe haven."

"You're a cop," Lupin blurted.

She gave him a long look.  "Very good."  She got comfortable.  "So, why are you guys in town?  And if you were here to get Eddy, he got thrown out about a half-hour before you guys got here for trying ta cop a feel."

"We were," Lupin sighed, shaking his head.  He smirked at her, turning on his charm.  "I don't suppose *you* could help us, my dear?"  He picked up her hand and kissed the back of it.

She wiped it off and snorted.  "I doubt you're part of my caseload so I guess that would depend on how bad you were gonna make it for me."  She stood up and grabbed a napkin and pen off a nearby waitress.  Then she sat back down and wrote out an address, sliding it to Jigen.  "Meet me there at midnight.  Go right to Mistress Keth's little hole in the back.  And go now, boys."  She stood up and headed for the back.  As soon as she had moved away, the doors burst open and cops rushed in.  She gathered up her few meager possessions as she changed and slipped out the back door before they got anywhere near the changing rooms.  She and one other girl made it past the barricade, and they split up to go their separate ways.  She strolled into her other club and accepted her usual soda from the bartender, heading into the back room.  She smiled at the men waiting on her.  "Not quite midnight."  She put down her pack and her soda, taking out a flask to add to her soda, then she handed it off.  "Can't sell liquor here," she told them.  She sat down and pulled out a few things from a small set of drawers.  "So, what can Mistress Keth do for you two?" she asked, smirking at them.

"Well, my friend is really uptight," Lupin teased.

"I think that can be cured.  Pull the curtains, sweetie."  He pulled them and she walked around where Jigen was standing, occasionally running a hand down his chest or arm.  "I think you've got what it takes to be worked with," she admitted, smirking at him.  "Now, what seems to be your main focus of aggravation these days?" she asked, leaning into him.  "Play along in case anyone comes in."

"Some missing love letters," he said, looking down at her.  She barely came up to his chin without her heels and with them came up to about his nose.  "Someone stole them from a very secure box and brought them here."

"Hmm.  I know something about those."  Lupin perked up.  "I also know that when you do such things, you tend to hide them."

"Hiding places we're good at," Jigen assured her, starting to like her.  She wasn't going to hurt him, he could tell it in her eyes.  She was way too straight to do that. "How long you been doing this?"

She stepped back and glanced around, then shook her head.  "Three months now.  I got six weeks of on-the-job training *their* way then got sent to that other lovely haven."  She noticed a red lightbulb flicker on and looked outside, frowning at the bartender, who nodded.  She pulled back and closed the door.  "Okay, guys, if that suddenly starts to flicker or go off, there is an exit behind the velvet curtain.  I can't guarantee it's safe or anything, but there is a fire escape next to it.  It goes into an alley.  Help me for a minute."  They helped her pack a gym bag with more things from the drawers.  "Thanks.  I don't like leaving these things behind.  They came out of my paycheck, not given to me."  She sat down, looking at them.  "Truth is, Dark Charlie has them.  They're split up.  Three or four that he really got off reading are in his desk.  The rest are in the safe behind the ugly painting. I know this because I get one of his guards in here and collared."  They gaped at her and she shrugged.  "It's the job, not a personal choice," she pointed out sarcastically.  The light flickered off and they all headed out, letting her split off from them.  They heard when she was captured by some over-eager rookie, but they managed to make it onto the rooftop and across before anything like the fire started inside happened.

"Was that weird to you?" Jigen asked as they trotted off.

"It was," Lupin agreed, handing over the silver flask.  "We'll find her so you can give her that back, buddy."  He gave him a smug look as they climbed down into an empty alley far enough away that they wouldn't draw attention.  "After we pull the job."

"Definitely.  I don't want to stay in this city any longer than I have to."

"Me either," Lupin agreed.


Helena walked into the station with her guard squeezing her arm too tight.  She tripped him and sat down, giving him a look as he stood up.  "You guys really should watch those loose tiles."

The shift commander came out, then blanched.  "Shit!  My office, with her, now!  You have no idea who she is!"

"What?  She's a whore!" the cop protested.

"Fuck you, kid.  I don't exchange my time for anything, especially not money.  Paddling someone does not get me off, nor do I ever have sex."  She got up and walked inside.  "Bright boy there burst into the second place so badly someone panicked and set it on fire," she reported.  "Sir, am I done?"

"No."  He looked over as the officer drug himself inside.  "Shut the door."  He shut the door.  "I was not informed you were busting two clubs."

"We followed her from the first one."

"You may have, you dim little boy, but I'm one of you," she snapped.  "You've now impinged on a three-month assignment."

"Oh, shit," he said, shaking his head.  "I didn't know."

"That's why you ask," the commander noted impatiently.  "Helena, are you okay?"

"Tired as hell of high heels.  I'd love to get back into my patrol sneakers."

"Tough.  You're too damn useful down there.  Take your stuff and go."

"The bright one there gave my bags to evidence.  If I'm missing anything I'm putting in for compensation.  Since some of my outfits are three and four hundred dollars, it won't be a pretty bill."

"I'll find them," the commander offered.  "What were they in?"

"A brown leather backpack and a blue gym bag."

"Fine."  He waved a hand.  "You're free to go.  You, boy, go find another girl to drag in here so it doesn't look odd."

"Get Stephani.  She's got enough shit on her customers to be useful and she does hook."  She slid out of the office, rubbing her wrists for show.  She had picked them in the car since the cop hadn't been that bright.  She grimaced at Stephani.  "They're hoping for stuff and they're making deals," she admitted.  "They couldn't charge me with anything since my guys were clothed."

"Congrats," she said weakly.  "They're dealing?"  She nodded.  "Good, I don't need another charge on my sheet."  She walked up to a cop coming out of the office.  "I know stuff," she offered.  "For a walk I can even tell some of it."

"Sit down," he ordered, pointing at his desk.  "If what you have is good, then we'll talk."

"Stephani," another girl said in outrage.  "They can't get you with nothing!"

"They can so!  I had my own stash," she hissed.

"Then you'd best come into the office," the cop said, taking her with him.  "Sir, this one wants to make a deal.  Said she knows stuff."


Helena walked into her apartment building and noticed the Super looking her way.  "Long night," she noted, heading up the stairs.  She found her cat in the hallway and one of her neighbors lounging in the hallway.  "What?" she asked impatiently.

"Who're you screwing ta get pets?" she asked brashly.

Helena gave her a long look.  "I pay extra, I don't have to screw anybody for anything."  The Super came up the stairs, giving her a dirty look.  "If you don't believe me, I can pull out my copy of my lease, signed by the building's owner personally."

"My copy doesn't have that."

Helena walked inside and put the cat onto the couch, digging into her filling cabinet until she found it.  Then she went and presented it to the Super.  "Page three, top third," she said snidely.  "That's why I pay you an extra hundred a month."

He looked at her.  "I don't remember no extra hundred," he sneered.

"Really?  Because I know I kept check stubs," she noted.  He blanched when he heard the door slam.  "Hey, Mickey," she called.  The other tenant on their floor jogged up to join their impromptu party.  "Didn't Danny tell you that you could have your dog?"

"Yeah, for an extra hundred more a month.  Oh, talked to Danny earlier about the roach problem.  He said he'd send someone over to talk to the Super tomorrow," he said, grinning at the Super, who was now paler than Helena's lease.  "What's wrong, did the little muffin get out again?"

"Yeah, she was in the hall and Bev was so *kindly* watching her for me.  Thanks for that by the way."  She smiled at Mickey and wiggled her fingers.  "The cops scared someone so bad they burnt down one of my jobs.  They already know they're in for it since Big Tom owned it."  She shrugged and plucked her lease from the shaking fingers.  "If you'll excuse me, I need a shower to wash off the sweat.   Have a nice night, all.  Mickey, don't forget, we've got dinner coming up soon."

He nodded and smiled, waiting until she had closed her door to turn on the Super, then his smile got very predatory.  "You have no idea what toes you've just stepped on.  Helena is one of my buddies.  Helena is looking like a good apprentice with how fast she is.  Helena is one woman who can get away with talking to internationally known thieves and giving them Dirty Charlie's address, without getting killed for it.  Remember such things in the future.  Danny would *love* to look at your books by the way."  The Super ran out, and kept going until he found the bus station.  Mickey nodded at Beverly.  "Have a nice night, dear.  Yell my way if you ever get anything pretty or decent in your stable."  He walked into his very fashionably decorated apartment and threw all five of the locks.

Beverly shuddered as she went to hide in her apartment.  That man wasn't right and he liked her so she must not be right either.  She'd have to pray for them with some of her working girls.


Helena watched around her as she picked out fruit from the market.  She knew those boys had stolen her flask and she knew they'd be giving it back soon or she'd hunt their asses down and take it from them.  From their reputations, an early 1900's silver flask was not a target of theirs or something they would usually mess with. She noticed a large Buick pull up outside and mentally groaned, moving back to the pasta section.  She needed to stock up a bit more and her tips had been good that week.  Two men walked in and up to her, standing directly behind her.  "Guys, is it penne or rigatone that I hate?"

"I always thought you hated elbows," one of them noted with a small chuckle of mirth.  She glanced at him.  "Helena, I've heard a few things and they are not making me happy," he chided.  "One of my girls giving me away to someone."  He put an arm around her shoulder and she shoved it off.  "Now, now, Helena."

"Charlie, forgive me, but I've never been your girl.  I won't even accept a drink from you if we happen to be in the same bar.  I have no idea where you're claiming ownership, but you're mistaken. As for those letters, everyone in the city knows that you took them.  It was rather obvious when you went around dancing in the streets for a few days."  The bodyguard snorted and she glared at him.  "If I remember right, weren't you one of his dancing partners?"

"Still, to turn me over to them," Charlie said sadly shaking his head.

She raised an eyebrow.  "Why wouldn't I?  You annoy the piss out of me. You make claims you don't have the right to.  You bug the shit out of me at work so I lose money and drink sales.  You send boys around to bother my cat, Bernadette.  You piss me off every which way from Sunday and yet you think I could care less about your supposedly naughty treasures?  Sorry, not really impressed here.  Not even if Don Inglia came down to tell me so am I gonna suddenly be impressed with you stealing naughty love letters.  Now, Lupin, he was impressive.  Jigen was sure as hell impressive, and a much better dresser I might add," she shared, tugging on his ancient and ugly tie.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to eat so I can work tonight and take out your boy bothering the club I'm working in."  She walked off, shaking her head.   "How dumb does he think I am?" she muttered as she headed for the meat section.  She noticed another browser glancing her way.  "Sorry, communing with the nature spirits so I don't commit a mortal sin," she noted.

He smirked and went back to his browsing.  "You think Jigen's cute?"

She gave him a nudge.  "You can tell him I said that too," she teased, picking up some pork chops.  "Thanks for not pinching."  She walked around him and grabbed some chicken as well, heading off to the ice cream section.   Her last stop was for some juice and some Tang, with a quick grab of a bag of chips on her way past them to the checkout.  She smiled at the man working the register.  "You're cute," she said with a grin.  The man in the hat blushed.  "Wanna have dinner?"

He coughed.  "We'll see."

"Sure.  Look me up, babe."  She handed over the cash and took her bags out to her car, getting in and heading away.  He was definitely cute that way.  It was like no one had ever asked him out before.

Lupin walked up to him a few minutes later.  "I'm pretty sure she meant Jigen," he shared.

He nodded.  "I would hope so.  She is very... tough."  Goemon checked him out, undercharging him for their necessary supplies and giving him too much change back.  Then he headed out with the contents of his drawer.  It was petty but the owners had pissed Lupin off last night.


Helena looked up as her door opened and someone poked their head in.  "Come on in, I'm just doing my nails."  She smiled at him as he put the flask down in front of her.  "I was hoping I'd get that back."  She went back to painting her nails.  "So, want to have dinner?"

"Sure.  Where?" he asked, sitting across from her.

"You pick.  We have real Italian, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican, plus a few of those new pizzerias's that keep opening.  The first two will take me getting really dressed.  The Chinese place will take you in a tie, and the Mexican place won't let me in if I'm wearing jeans but anything else is fine."

"Wear whatever you want and we'll go somewhere appropriate," he offered.

She grinned and capped her polish, then went up to change.  She came down in a fashionable outfit in baby blue, which went pretty well with her redish-brown hair, and low heeled shoes.  "How's this?"

"You decided to dress up," he said appreciatively, standing up.  "You didn't have to."

"I haven't had the chance to go out and do something fun in a long time, Jigen.  Come on, we'll have Italian.  I've got a new stain treatment and it's calling out for tomato sauce."  He chuckled and led her out of the apartment, letting her lock the door.  "Did you see my cat?"

"She was in the kitchen."


"He?  Bernadette?"

"He sings soprano.  At first I thought he was a she too," she shared, taking his arm as they walked down the stairs.  "Then I went to have her fixed and the doc pointed out the small balls.  He'd already been fixed apparently.  I got him out of the alley.  He came up and ate my plants for the longest time."  He snorted as she opened her car's door for him.  "Here you go.  Women's lib is good for this much."  She got around to drive, letting him get settled in.  "Probably not as nice as you're used to, but the Nova is a good car most of the time."

"So I hear," he agreed, watching as she drove.  "What was Charlie's tiff this afternoon?"

"He wants me and I won't fuck 'im."  He looked at her.  "Seriously.  Not even for the job.  I saw his last girlfriend after they broke up.  I discovered her one morning."  He winced.  "Yeah.  So not going there.  Sorry, but I was assured I had the right to say no by my mother and she could kick his ass."

He patted her on the hand.  "It's all right, I wouldn't touch him either.  He's a ugly, sweaty man who doesn't know the meaning of the word bathing.  I've had to go without before but even after a week I smelled better."

"I'll take your word for it," she offered as she pulled into a back parking lot.  "Specially reserved for the people they like," she shared with a grin, getting out to let him out.  She slammed it really hard then jiggled the handle until it stuck.  "I said most of the time," she pointed out when he gave her a look.  She took his arm and walked him inside, smiling at the waiter.  "The nasty car is hidden out back so someone thinks it's trash," she told him, making him laugh.  "Can you just set up a trough and let us pig out?"

"No, but I can set you in a quiet corner so your slurping and gulping doesn't disturb people," he offered, leading them to a quiet corner table as promised.  He handed over two menus.  "Our specials tonight are the grand platter and the pasta bolignese," he said happily.  "The house wine is chilled yet again and ready for copious use."

She handed back her menu.  "I haven't eaten today.  Get me the grand platter and whatever he wants."  Jigen gave her a funny look.  "Aren't we going dutch?' she asked with a small grin.  "I thought we were."

"No, I can get yours."

She patted him on the hand.  "I believe I'm the respectfully employed one here, I'll get dinner.  Get him whatever he wants," she told him.  He nodded and went to get them some salads.  She settled back to wait.  "They do serve a lot of food," she offered. "That's why this is one of my favorite places.  I'll take home half the dinner for breakfast or dinner before work."

He nodded.  "Most Italian places in Italy do the same," he agreed.

"You've been?" she asked, looking awed.  "I wanted to travel by my father disagreed and said I was going to college or the academy immediately so I wouldn't lose the mindset of education."

"He like you?"

She snorted.  "Oh, hell, no.  Former Navy guy.  Cook on his battleship."  Jigen looked impressed.  "Needless to say, mother did all the cooking around the house," she admitted.  He snickered, shaking his head.  She grinned.  "My mother, were she alive, would tell me to tie you up and to drag you home to bed," she said conversationally, sipping the water the waiter had given them.  He gave her a funny look.  "Mom used to run health clinics for hippies.  She was a firm supporter of not only women's lib, but all the other liberation movements.  She used to say everyone should just be colored, because no one was ever clear."

He nodded.  "I can see that point.  It would make things simpler in some ways."

She nodded.  "It would, but then you'd get those people who'd feel like they lost their heritage and have to reaffirm it.  I'm a firm believer in 'you are what you are, and if it makes you happy then I'm good with that'.  You?"

"I'm pretty much like that.  Most of our marks are bad or evil bastards so it makes it hurt less when we make them cry."  He pulled out a cigarette and offered her one but she winced and shook her head.  "You mind if I do?"

"No, go ahead.  I sneeze when I try.  It hurts and then my nose bleeds and I'll look like hell tonight at work."

"You're going in?"

"Yup, because it's a paying job," she sighed, taking the glass of wine the waiter carried over and gulped it, then handed it back.  "I hate my job."

"We hate your job too, caro," he promised, patting her on the head. "We wish you would find a nice boy and settle down."

"No nice boy would date me," she noted.  "This one's sweet, but no one's ever accused him of playing nicely."

"Not since I was four or so anyway," Jigen agreed.  The waiter snorted and went to get her more wine, bringing it back with their salads.  "Thanks."  He looked it over.  "This really is authentic looking."

"The cook has only been here for five years.  His mother's just come over and she's now running the kitchen for the most part.  His wife was from Sicily and scares Charlie spitless."  Jigen looked impressed as he dug in.  He found a piece of paper and handed it over. "Thanks."  She read it, then handed it back. "I'm pretty sure that one's for you."

Jigen read it, then crumpled it up and put it into his pocket.  "I'll deal with him later."

"He's like a big kid," she teased, grinning at him.  "If you don't let him have his fun, does he pout and stomp his feet?"

"You have no idea," Jigen admitted with a grin.  "I really can get dinner."

"Why?  I got paid yesterday. I actually had a good week in tips too.  I can afford this and next month's rent two weeks early."

"Wonderful."  He held himself back from reaching over to touch her, but she smiled at him so she must have realized what he wanted to do.  He licked his lips to clean off the dressing and kissed her gently.  "There, now I feel better.  Payment for dinner."

"We'll call it in next time you're in town," she offered.  He nodded, liking that idea.  "It's nice to talk to people I don't have to worry about saying the wrong thing in front of."

He smirked.  "That's what you get for being so straight."

"Who said I'm straight?  My mother showed me all sorts of neat things at that hippie camp.  I'm more ...enjoying the world as it stands.  No matter what the flavor."  He gave her a long look.  "If I had my choice, which I don't most of the time."

He nodded.  "I can see how that would get in the way of your life."

"Yeah," she sighed. "It sucks badly.  Maybe my next job will be in a club where we're more inclusive."

"We almost walked into one of those in England but the doorman stopped us," Jigen admitted.  "Lupin wanted to put on a dress and go in but he couldn't handle the pantyhose."

She laughed, punching him on the arm.  "I can't imagine him in pantyhose either."  Jigen cracked at that.  "Tell me about those places that are other than here?"

"They're about the same.  Some are less or more dirty.  Some are a bit more smelly than others.  That's about the only difference.  That and you've got to learn a whole new language."

"Yeah, but I wanted to travel so much," she sighed wistfully.  "Spend six months here, just long enough to explore the cultural and landmark stuff, then move on to look at the same things elsewhere.  I get so bored sitting in the same place."

"It's so much better than traveling all the time," Jigen assured her.  He patted her on the hand.  "Traveling all the time is tiring.  You've got to adapt your body to their times and their food.  You've got to get used to a whole new way of talking about things.  You've got to get past unlimited officials, all of whom are nosy."

"Yeah, but they're different," she told him.

"You like foreign men?" he asked.

"No," she snorted.  "I could care less about the men or their accents, I want to be in different places.  I want to see the world some day."

"You should have joined the ICPO then," he noted, digging into his salad again.  She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.  "What was that for?"

"For not looking at me like I'm some little kid," she shared, starting to eat.  She found her own note and snorted, letting him see it as well.  "Tell him you can't bring me home, I don't share that way.  Not matter how hard my mother tried."

Jigen coughed.  "I'm going to beat him later for that. He needs a hobby."

"Can't that other one spend some attention on him?"

Jigen choked, leaning down to catch his breath.  "Don't do that to me," he gasped.  "Please.  I didn't need that nightmare."

She kissed him gently, patting him on the arm.  "It's all right.  I'm sure they'd never make you *watch*."  He whimpered and she grinned.  "What?" she asked innocently.  "Sit up and eat.  You'll need it.  You probably can't rely on getting a decent meal each day."

"No, we don't usually have sit-down meals every day," he said, calming himself down.  God, what a woman!  She and Lupin would get along great.  "You and Lupin should go out tomorrow night," he offered.

"Why?"  She grimaced.  "Thanks, but not really.  I know his reputation and I didn't think he was that cute."  He gaped at her.  "I like my men thinking.  I only like smart men who don't have to brag.  If you have to brag it usually means you're compensating for things.  Like the Nova, I'm not compensating for anything by driving it."

"You mean you don't explode that way?" he taunted with a slight smirk.

She blushed.  "I wish it were true, but no.  Sorry.  Never have.  May never from what my father said once while he was drunk when I was fourteen."

Jigen groaned.  "You're pure?"

"Well, technically, yeah.  I decided I didn't want to have to bathe off the stench of incense afterwards.  I haven't had much chance since the end of school.  The next step of my training wasn't exactly a congenial place to do things like that.  Later on, it would nearly ruin my rep if I admitted such.  It'll happen when it does."

He nodded.  "I can understand that.  How did they talk you into this?"

She gave him a long look, then sipped some of her wine.  "What makes you think they gave me a choice?" she asked finally.  He looked stunned.  "This isn't me, dear.  This is nowhere near who I really am.  I grew up in Broughton Hills.  It's so small of a town that I knew everyone there by name."  He swallowed.  "Recognized the name?"

"Helena's not your first name?" he asked quietly.  She shook her head.  "Then you're Don Shop's daughter?"  She shook her head, grinning at him.  "No?"

"No, cousin.  That daughter is in the twenty-first."

"Oh."  He sighed.  "I know which one you are now."

"Stunning, huh?" she asked dryly.  "My mother would be throwing a fit if she were alive."

He nodded.  "I know why.  If you're at all like your cousin sneered about, then not even they would recognize you."

"Every once in a while I send a video home.  It keeps me sane," she said honestly.  "Tomorrow begins week sixteen.  Four months is officially in another five days."

He took her hand to squeeze.  "You'll make it, kid."

"I know I will.  Speaking of which, I'm the older one."

"You're Ronnie's daughter," the waiter suggested as he walked over with their trays.

She smirked at him.  "Yes, and I don't believe we need a chaperone."

He snorted.  "You might not but your date needs one constantly."  He set down their plates and the check.  She pulled out her wallet and checked it, then winced and sighed, putting down the extra.  "Not what you expected?"

"It's never been that high before."

"His mother raised the cost because of the gas lines," the waiter said with a small shrug.  "Apparently the delivery people raised their prices."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "Fine.  Keep the rest as a tip."  He nodded and hurried off.  She looked at her dinner companion.  "It's obvious he likes you a lot.  Does he follow you into the bathroom too?  Hold stuff for you?"

Jigen burst out in giggles, shocking the nearest diners.  He swatted at her and she grinned.  "That is so bad.  I'm gonna have to tell him you said that."

"I have no doubt he already knows," she said sweetly, saluting him with her glass of wine. "To a peaceful dinner."

"Peaceful is nice," he agreed, clinking their glasses together.


Lupin looked up as their escape route slimmed to an alley and there was no chance of getting the armored car down it.  He looked at Jigen, who nodded behind him.  "We're dumping," he said firmly, stopping the car.  Jigen got out to gas the police cars that found them while he and Goemon grabbed as much of the money as possible.  The thing they were really after was already inside Lupin's shirt.  They headed down the alley, blending into the shadows as they stripped out of their fake uniforms.  On the other side of the alley was Embassy Row.  They glanced at each other.  "Split up?" Lupin suggested.

"Let us go intrude on that woman," Goemon suggested.  Jigen gave him a stunned look. "She would not help?"

"I'm sure she would," Jigen agreed, leading the way.  He broke into a car and got them moving down the street.  "Are you sure you wanna do this?  She is working for the other side."

"She cares for you, she won't turn us in," Goemon said firmly.  He undid his hair and shook it out.  "There should be no problems."

"We can even use her as a distraction," Lupin agreed.  Jigen stiffened and he saw it.  "Sorry, Jigen.  I'm sure she'll understand."

"If she hits you, I'm not getting in her way."  He turned onto the correct street and parked the car, letting them get out and head up to her apartment.  Jigen nodded at a nosy neighbor. "She up yet?  I forgot to give her something the other night."

"Go on in," Beverly said dryly.  "The bitch could use loosening up."

Jigen growled and she disappeared.  "Whore," he spat.  He tapped on the door then let Lupin break them in.  She greeted them in the doorway with her service revolver in one hand and her pajamas skewed and rumpled.  "Hey."  He got around the cat and walked up to her.  "We can leave if you want," he said quietly.

"Why? You lend me credibility," she sighed.  "Make yourself at home.  There's a couch and this one bedroom, or one of you can hog the big tub."  She went back to bed, laying her revolver under her pillow.  She felt the bed dip and looked at Lupin.  "I don't like you that much and mornings are not my favorite time of the day."

"Sorry," he said with a small grin.  "They nearly caught us."

She waved a hand.  "Go home team," she said dryly.  He laughed.  "Now get off my bed and go do something useful, like clean the tub so one of you can sleep in it."  She turned her head and closed her eyes, one hand on her pistol as always.  He slid off her bed and left her alone, closing the door most of the way.  "Don't bother Bernadette," she called.  "He scratches."

"Fine," Jigen said from the doorway.  "You sure it's okay?"  She nodded and pulled a pillow over her head. "We'll stay out here.  Come out whenever you're ready."  He closed the door and walked out, looking at the others.  "She's not a morning person."

"I noticed," Lupin admitted, grinning at him.  "At least we got most of it."

"Enough to leave?"

"More than," Lupin agreed.  He looked over as a fuzzy thing hopped up onto the table.  "Shoo, I doubt you're allowed to do that."

"She probably is," Goemon suggested.  The other two looked at him.  "Unlike the rest of the apartment, the table is spotless.  I doubt she eats here."

"Good point," Lupin agreed, stroking down the cat's back.  It batted at him and sat down to clean itself. "Sorry, kitty.  Shoo."  He waved a hand and the cat scratched it, making him howl.

The bedroom door opened and Helena walked out to pick up her cat and carry him back inside.  "I warned you," she said before closing the door.

Jigen snorted.  "That little boy is quite something, huh?"

"It's a male cat?" Goemon asked.  Jigen nodded. "With a female name?"

"She thought he was a girl.  He sung soprano for the longest time."

"Ah."  Goemon nodded.  "I can understand that then."  He heard a pitiful scratching and groaned.  "Should we rescue the beast?"

"It's her cat," Lupin pointed out.  "I doubt she needs rescued from it."  Helena yelled and the cat was allowed out of the bedroom.  "See?"  He looked at the bags of money.  "Let's divvy them up.  They'll pack easier that way."  The others nodded and Jigen went back to their hotel to get their things.  Lupin looked around the sparse apartment.  "We need to do something in return for hosting us."

"I doubt she needs much of our services," Goemon pointed out.

"No, but there's got to be something," he noted, looking around.  He noticed the cat rubbing against the coffeemaker and went to turn it on, and feed the beast since he found the catfood beside it.  "That what you wanted, Bernadette?"  He let him sniff his fingers then scratched him and this time wasn't scratched back.

Jigen came back with their bags, handing everything to Goemon.  He looked at his watch, then at the bedroom door.  "Don't you have to work today?" he called.

She came out of the bedroom in a robe.  "I have to audition today," she corrected.  "I won't have to work until tomorrow."  She blew a kiss toward him and took the coffee with her to the bathroom.  "Next time clean the tub," she called before the water started.

Jigen sat down to repack his bag with his share of the money, watching the windows while they waited for their hostess to reappear.  She came out of the bathroom and headed into the bedroom, coming out in a pair of tight jeans and a tighter t-shirt.  He swallowed and blinked at her as she put on her heels.  "Where are you heading?"

"The Blue Angel."  She sighed.  "It's not great, but it's a job and I was told to go there.  Maybe if I'm lucky I can be the waitress or something.  I hate dancing."  She walked out, slamming the door behind her.  Then she screamed a moment later.  The three men ran out to find her sprawled at the bottom of the stairs.  "Ow."  She held her head as she sat up, looking at her ankle.  "Stupid stairs.  Needed fixed for months now."

Lupin came down, taking off her pump to look at her foot and ankle.  "I'm pretty sure it's broken," he offered.  "Want us to call someone to pick you up?"

She stood up, shaking her head.  "No, just upstairs.  I can wrap it and call them, rearrange for a day tomorrow or the next day."

"With a broken ankle?" Jigen asked.

"As long as I can kill the pain and ice it on and off, it'll be fine," she pointed out, heading up to her apartment with some help from Goemon.  "Why can't my brother be like you guys?"

"Because he's a putz," Jigen reminded her.

"You forgot to add self righteous," she said with a faint smile.  "Bernadette, if that's money you're chewing on, I'm going to have to spank you."  The cat quit chewing on the cash and came over for a nuzzle to make sure he was still adored and cherished.  "Thank you, Bernadette."  He flopped down next to her ankle, sniffing it delicately.

"Shoo," Lupin ordered as he put an ice pack onto it.  Goemon closed the door, having went to retrieve her shoe.  "Maybe it's only sprained," he offered.

"Dislocated."  She leaned her head back.  "Can I have the phone?"  It was handed to her and she dialed the number she had called earlier, it belonged to a girl she used to know.  "Melly, it's Helena.  I just fell down my stairs in my heels.  No, it's dislocated.  Give me two days?"  She waited while the other woman talked to her manager.  "No, I wanna come in and audition, but I can't stand right now, much less dance.  If you can give me two days then I'll gladly give him the best show I can, or become the bartender," she admitted. She smiled as the male voice came on.  "I'm so sorry," she said softly, sounding like she was in a lot more pain than she had been.  "My building's stairs nearly collapsed underneath me.  I'm lucky I only dislocated it and bumped my head.  I *promise* I'll be in two days from now to show you how good I can be," she pleaded.

She rolled her eyes.  "No, I'll live. It's just a dislocated joint.  I had one when I was younger from cheerleading.  Oh, yeah," she agreed, smirking at Jigen.  "No, I'm good on that.  One of my neighbors is a sweetie and he rescued me before I died at the bottom of the stairs.  No, nearly two whole flights."  She smiled. "Sure.  Should I wear a real outfit or what I was gonna wear tonight?"  She smirked.  "Hey, that's fine.  I can do a long dress and go for showy and flashy.  I know just the thing.  Of course, the offer still stands for me to take over as a bartender if you still need one."  She shrugged.  "Can't say I didn't try," she admitted.  He laughed so she did.  "Two days," she promised.  She hung up and handed the phone back.  "Thank you."  She looked down at her cat, who was nudging the ice pack so he wasn't cold.  "Then move your furry ass, Bern.  I need that."  The cat humphed and walked off to lay on the windowsill.  She shook her head.  "Cats really are drag queens in disguise."

Lupin patted her on the head, making her wince.  "Where's your stash?"

"The for-show vial of coke is in the bathroom cabinet under the sink.  The good painkillers are in the medicine cabinet.  The better painkillers are in the medicine cabinet as well.  The two half-joints someone gave me are in the freezer I think.  I think the percocets are in there too for some reason."  She shrugged at their stunned look.  "Sometimes you have to look like you belong."  She looked at the phone, then nodded at it.  Goemon cut it open and she gave him a look.  "Thanks, really helpful.  Fortunately I've bought a new one, I just never got around to hooking it up.  It's in the kitchen, where you'd expect me to put food."

Lupin found it and came over to hook it up, then added on the answering machine.  He went to join Jigen in the bathroom, looking at the medicine bottles.  He let out a low whistle.  "Someone knows their stuff."

"Someone probably had to," he said bitterly. He pulled down one but Lupin put it back and pulled down something lighter.  "She'll need it."

"If she's got any normal reactions it'll knock her out."  He walked out and let Goemon hand her a glass of juice.  "This one good?"

She looked at the label, then nodded.  "Good choice.  You do good with wines too?"  She took two with the juice and got comfortable.  "Mickey next door gave me them to hold," she told Jigen.  "His boss minds him having them."

"I know Mickey," he noted, sitting beside her injured foot.  He slowly slid closer, putting her foot up on his thigh as she hissed.  "Sorry, but elevation should help some."

"Oh, it will," she promised.  She gave him a gentle smile.  "Mickey and I have an understanding.  For right now, we're not at odds.  He knows that I have the will and the right to retaliate if his job suddenly tries to interfere with my living and he knows I'm pretty damn good in my own right."  She smirked at Jigen.  "Bet that's something Uncle Dan didn't brag on, huh?  That I made marksman?"

He shook his head.  "Not in the least.  We only met him that once though."  He stroked up her calf.  "You should try to rest."

"I am.  I'm not in heels dancing on a high stage with hot lights pointed on my breasts.  It's a nice, relaxing vacation for me. Really.  You should try it sometime.  I could jog five miles in regulation time, but I found out I was woefully out of shape for my current job when I started. I nearly had to cut off my shoes that first night."  He winced.  "Yeah.  And those were only three inch.  I wear four now.  Oooh, I need help picking out what to wear.  I don't want to blow my best one on the audition, but I don't think his idea of stunning and mine are the same.  I do high-class so much better."

Lupin patted her on the back as he walked past her.  "I can help you with that.  What sort was he wanting you in?"

"Long dress.  Most everything is hanging beside the corresponding outfit.  I really want to wear my stars outfit but that's one of my best and I don't want to leave him wanting more and not able to deliver nightly."

"Let me look, Helena," Lupin promised, heading in to snoop legitimately.  Women always hid things in their closets.  He found her badge and put it back.  He found her shoes and frowned, pulling up the brown pair.  He opened the other closet and found the outfit that went with them.  "Brown, with her hair?"

"They were on sale," she called.  "That wall is really thin.  Put the silver thing back."

"Yes, dear."  He smirked at her for being so obvious and looked through her outfits.  He found one dress that he could imagine her in, but not the one she mentioned.  He found a small bag and upended it onto the bed, pawing through the work supplies and outfits.  He came out.  "Where would that one be?"

"Um...second closet?" she suggested.  He shook his head.  She stood up with a look of annoyance and opened her door, walking across the hall to bang on Beverly's door.  "Did that thieving bitch raid my closet again?" she demanded.  The woman paled and backed away.  "I'll get everything back now, or else, Beverly.  I do have a cousin in the twenty- first.  I will call her and turn you and your girls in.  You have ten minutes or I'm going to call her.  I'm sure she'll be thrilled since this is her first vacation."  The woman nodded and started to sweat.  "They'd better be clean, nicely hung, and able to be worn, just like they were before things got borrowed."  She went into her apartment and slammed the door.  "Damn Madam.  Always letting her girls into my apartment and through my closet.  I really need to buy all new underwear, just in case," she complained, heading into the bedroom.  She frowned at the bag and repacked it carefully. "Don't do that.  I bring that to work with me."  She looked at her closet and sighed.  "This is fucking ridiculous.  Over half my clothes are missing."  Jigen and Goemon came in with a young woman, all of them loaded down with clothes and things not readily identifiable.  "Those had better not be torn."

"They shouldn't be," the young woman offered, giving her a faint smile.  "We're sorry.  We were teaching some of the girls how to dress better."

"Then have them do the rounds of the strip clubs or your Madam can let you purchase some of my older stuff off me," she said firmly.  "I need these to make my own money, dear.  Much more than you do."  The young woman nodded and headed out, coming over with a few pairs of shoes and another few dresses.  They were put onto the bed as well.  "Thank you.  If I go through stuff and find things that I don't want, I'll come tell you."  She nodded and smiled, going back across the hall.  The cat was tossed back inside before the door was closed.

Jigen sat her down on the bed, helping her sort through the outfits.  She was examining and folding each set together.  He saw the star outfit's bottoms and held them up.  She nodded.  So he put them aside for her.  He didn't really want to fold panties. He wasn't quite that liberal yet.

Lupin waded in and helped her search and fold, finding a few that he put aside.  "Why do you wear so much brown?"

"Because they hang beautifully on me," she defended.  "They're older.  Besides, I look okay in some of them.  Some are too light.  Some are really too dark."  She shrugged.  "They were some of the first I picked up off some leaving girls."  She held up one dress, grimacing at the stain on it.  "Eww."  She tossed it aside, pawing through the rest.  "I need to spend some time with my wardrobe."

"You need to wash all these," Goemon noted, holding up a pair of panties that had a hair sticking to them.  She shuddered.  "Are these special?"

"They were," she groaned.  "I can't bleach them either."

"There are ways around that," Lupin promised.  The guys looked at him.  "Who do you think Fujiko makes help her when she's in a laundry mood?"

"Good point," Jigen agreed, nodding and patting him on the back.  "You do very well with women's clothes."

"Ever think of wearing them part of the time?" Helena finished with a bright grin.

Lupin looked stunned, then he cracked and shook his head with a groan.  "No, I don't like women's clothes that way.  I like to see women in their clothes if they're the right sort."  He snapped his fingers.  "Fujiko's about her size."

"Fujiko's at least a size bigger than she is," Jigen argued.  Lupin gave him a long look.  "She is.  I've seen enough discarded tags after she steals our jobs to go shopping."

"Guys, half of these are tight anyway," she told them.  "Don't argue about my clothes."  She pulled up one dress and looked it over, then tossed it aside as well.  "Oh, well."

Lupin gave her a gentle pat.  "Let me try some stuff, okay?"  She nodded and let them settle her into the bed while they took the laundry with them.  Lupin had it dropped off while he drug Jigen with him.  "Since you're so conscious of her size, we can fix some of that."  Jigen grunted in annoyance, but followed him to the nearest store that might have something she could use.  He smiled at the salesgirl.  "His girlfriend is going to work as a stripper.  She's about a size ten?"

"The old tags said eight and she said they were a little too tight," Jigen agreed.

"So you'll need a ten or a twelve depending on the style," the salesgirl noted, heading into the back of the store.  "We don't really do that many strippers."

"No, but I heard you do a lot of clubbers," Lupin told her.  She blushed and nodded, leading him to that collection.

Jigen took half the money Lupin had taken out of their cut and went to a store he *knew* dressed strippers.  He walked in and nodded at the woman, whose eyes went very wide.  "I've found a friend," he admitted, glancing around.  "Named Helena."

"That light redhead?" she asked.  He nodded.  "Hmm.  We've done some of her outfits.  We have one on hold I think.  She was supposed to come in today."  She led him around the store.  "How is she?"

"She fell down her stairs and dislocated her ankle," he admitted.  "She's auditioning at the Blue Angel in two days."

"Really?"  She smirked at him.  "I have something that'll make whatever club she wants to go to stand up and get hard."  She led him into the special collection area, letting him pick out what he wanted.  At the end, she pulled him to the undergarments section and let him pick out matching or coordinating bra and pantie combinations.  Then they were joined with the leopard print dress, shoes, and bra and panties set that she had on hold.

He came out with two large bags, and met Lupin, who had one.   They headed back to the apartment to surprise her.  Goemon shook his head.  "Sleeping?" Lupin asked.  Goemon nodded and kept the cat from leaving.  "Good, then we'll have time to hang these up."  He looked at the two big bags.  "Where is that place?"

"About three blocks past where you were," he said smugly.  "It's the local stripper shop.  Did you remember to get her things to go underneath?"

"I got things to go with the ones she already has," he said, walking in there to start hanging up the new stuff.  He had to admit Jigen had decent enough taste.  Until he came to the leopard print outfit.  He carried the dress out, giving him a 'huh' look.

"Hers," Jigen told him.  "She had it on hold."

"Oh."  He nodded.  "Okay."  He went to hang it up too, keeping to her system.  He noticed the things that had been on the floor were gone and walked across the hall, taking the dresses back from Beverly's girl when she opened the door.  "The stained ones are beyond repair."

"I know, we're keepin' those.  Tell her we'll pay her this payday," the girl told him.  "That does take care of everything but the two pairs of panties that one girl found that were stretched out anyway."  She grinned and closed the door in his face.

Lupin went down to the laundry on the corner and handed them over too.  "Add them to the order we just brought in please.  I don't know what the person who stole them from her had but I don't want to either."  The person checking things in nodded wisely.  "When can we pick them up?"

"Tomorrow afternoon," she said quietly, not looking him in the eyes.

"Thanks."  He tipped her a twenty and went back to Helena's apartment.  He noticed the cop car and frowned, casually strolling over.  "Is there a problem, officer?" he asked smugly.  The guy didn't even look at him as he shook his head.  "You do know that there's a madam working out of her apartment up there?"

"My partner's investigating it," he said gruffly.  "Go away."

"Fine.  Hopefully he doesn't run into my girlfriend.  Tell him to watch the stairs too, she fell earlier."  He headed back inside, closing and locking the door.  "The cops like the madam," he announced.

Jigen snorted.  "Wonderful.  She gave one of your outfits a squeal.  She thought it was very pretty, though she did say the fabric was swirling very prettily."

"I'm sure she did," Lupin said patiently.  "Since we're stuck here, should I make dinner?"  The other two grunted and he looked through the cabinets, coming up with the basics of food.  Inside the freezer were more things, and he could make do.  He found a bottle of Cuervo Gold and held it up.  "Well.  Still sealed."

"That's probably for something special," Jigen said.  "Put it back."

"Sure."  He put it back in the refrigerator and pulled down more things.  "There, that should do her for at least a few hours."

"I was thinking," Goemon offered.  "Should we be paying her a percentage for using her house and food?"

"We probably should," Lupin agreed.  "We'll work that out later between us."  He started to chop and mince, intending to make something filling, yet pretty soothing and non-gas producing.  He hated it when pretty women farted.


Helena came back from her interview and all the men looked at her.  She shook her head and headed for the refrigerator.  "I didn't get it, but one of the guy's other clubs could use me.  I'll be high ho there."  She pulled out the Cuervo.  "Interestingly enough, I got this for another reason but it seems to fit even more now.  Uncle Dan used to say I couldn't have tequila until my twenty-second birthday."

"Happy birthday," Lupin said, giving her a hug.  "You do look great in that dress."

"Thanks."  She sat down between them and kicked off her shoes.  "Deal me into the poker game and I'll share my birthday treat to myself."

"Okay," Jigen agreed, ending that hand quickly by flipping his over.  Lupin sighed and handed over his bet, then he dealt them all in.  He took the bottle.  "Are we drinking out of it?  Wild Jacks."

"I don't even own a shot glass," she told him, giving him a look.  "Been kissing lepers or people with herpes?"

"One never knows about Fujiko but I think she'd probably try to kill herself if she ever caught something."  He got up to get some lime juice from one of those plastic squeeze lime bottles and some salt.  "Unless I'm incorrect it's lick, drink, suck," he noted, putting everything in the center of the table.   They all watched as the birthday girl wet her thumb and put some salt onto it, then licked it and unscrewed the bottle and took a slug, wincing as she grabbed the plastic lime to suck on it.  Lupin patted her on the back and took his own shot.  Then he handed it on.  He looked at his cards, sending Jigen a dirty look.  "No bottom dealing."

"He wouldn't do that," Helena said loyally.  "He'd never cheat you, Lupin."  She batted her lashes at him, making him go gushy.  She kissed him on the cheek.  "Thanks for sticking around for this part of the celebration."

"We were gonna leave but Zenigata showed up," Jigen admitted, giving her a look.  "Tequila getting to you?"

"No."  She smirked and picked up her cards.  She pulled out her wallet and looked at the wad.  "How much is ante?"

"Hundred."  She put down five twenties.  "You can have some of mine," he offered.

"No, that's okay," she admitted with a grin.  The bottle came back to her and she took another round, then put down four cards.  "Four please."  Jigen looked surprised but dealt them to her, raising an eyebrow when she looked smug.  "Thank you, Jigen," she purred.

"I'm out," Goemon announced.

Lupin looked at her hand, then at her.  He shook his head and put his down.  "I want to know where you hid it."

Jigen gave her a long look, then smirked.  "Need anything?"

"Someone to eat.  Otherwise I'll be miserable in the morning with the workmen coming to fix the stairs.  The owner was not impressed when I told him."  She tapped the back of her cards and took the bottle to take another swig.  "Otherwise, only if you want to sleep on the big bed tonight with me and Bern."

He hummed and shook his head.  "Not when you're drunk, girl.  It'll never be right."  He flipped his over.  "Flush."

She flipped hers over.  "I do believe that I have four of a kind with that little Jack of clubs."  She smirked at him.  "Pay up or I get to give birthday spankings."

"I think I'll get her something to eat," Goemon offered, heading into the fragile shelter of the kitchen.  The cat joined him.  "Are you hungry too, beast?"

"No, he'll get fed when I get up," she told him, still smirking at Jigen.  He handed over the pot with a nod.  "Thank you.  Offer stands; I won't molest you.  I have no doubt I'll be passed out."

He nodded, giving her a smug look.  "Most likely.  Your uncle took an unexpected vacation when he did his first few shots of tequila."

"Yeah, I heard all about the horrible treatment for whatever it was that he picked up.  Something about hot pokers?  Or was that just to scare me?"

"Hopefully just to scare you.  That was after penicillin came out," Jigen offered.

"Hot pokers was the old method," Goemon said from the kitchen.  He came back with a few sandwiches.  Helena gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek, making him blush bright red.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Let's go again," she offered.

"That would be the liquor talking," Lupin said smugly.  She leaned over and said something in his ear, making him flinch.  "Never mind.  I'll sit out until she passes out."

Jigen shrugged and dealt them out for him and her.   She folded that one but the third one she bet it all.  He whimpered when she turned over a straight flush and he only had two of a kind.  "How are you doing that?"

She leaned across the table, as far as she could.  "I was taken to Vegas for my eighteenth by Uncle Dan," she shared.  "Uncle Dan spent the time winning a dowry for my cousin and he taught me how to play, and all the signs of how people stack decks."  Jigen burst out laughing, shaking his head.  "He taught me everything I know.  That was also when we had our tequila discussion."  She took another shot and handed it on.  "Can we play some more?"

"No, you're gonna eat a sandwich and then go lay down before you pass out," Jigen ordered gently.  He gave her a long look until she ate the peanut butter sandwich and stood up, limping into the bedroom.  The dress came flying out of the room and he sighed.  "Sorry.  I didn't realize."

"That's okay.  That's one of those important things to celebrate," Lupin told him.  "So, is she still pure?" he teased.

"Unless she's had some from Goemon or you, she hasn't touched me," he noted bitterly.  "I won't touch a drunk woman.  That's not permission."

"Should we leave like we had planned?" Goemon asked.  "It does seem rather sudden with this new revelation."

"She'll understand, we'll leave her a letter," Lupin said.  He pushed over her cards.  "Deal, Jigen, and no more giving her favorite odds."

Jigen gave him a look.  "You heard the woman.  I don't deal from the bottom of the deck."  Instead, he shuffled it so it he always got the best cards.


Helena woke up the next morning and looked around in confusion.  "Oh, yeah, birthday liquor," she noted, getting up and heading into the living room.  She found a note propped in the middle of the table with her name on it.  "Boys," she complained. She glared at it as her eyes adjusted to the blue ink.  "Hmm.  Had to go while the going was good.  See you soon.  Left you a cake in the fridge and a present on the couch," she read, going to look in the fridge.  She smiled at the cake inside it.  Then she went to look on the couch.  She sniffled.  "Thanks, guys," she called, figuring they must have left something to assure themselves she had woken up.  She removed the cat from the pile of nibbled on bills, taking him to help her clean up.  "Remind me that tequila tastes funny, Bern."  He cat gave her a dirty look when she took him into the shower, struggling to get away.  "I told you not to chew on the money.  Next time, listen."  She let him go and he walked off shaking various body parts to fling off water.

As soon as she was done, she nearly emptied the money bag into her safe hiding spot and took the bag and few dollars left to the nearest police station.  After dressing in her most geeky and school-girl outfit.  She gave the desk sergeant a sniffle and a hurt look.  "Those horrible men took my whole building's basement hostage and only left me this," she complained, handing it over.  "They were mean to my cat, called him scrawny and not even good enough to eat.  Then they said they were going to Philly."  She pouted at him.  "They were mean to my poor kitty and wouldn't even let me do laundry.  Do something about them!" she pouted, stomping her foot.

"You said they headed for Philly?" the sergeant soothed.  She nodded and started to let a tear drip.  He handed over a tissue.  "There, there, miss.  It's all right.  They'd never hurt your cat.  I promise they won't hurt your cat."  He smiled at her, prompting her to smile a bit.  "How did you know they were going to Philly?"

"I had to do wash," she said, leaning closer.  "I didn't have any unmentionables to wear today.  As is, I only got to put a load in before the prostitutes next door got in there.  They take all day!" she said desperately.  "It's rather breezy in here without knickers."

He swallowed.  "I understand," he agreed, smiling at her again.  "Were there three of them?"

"No, only two.  Two mean, mean men who wanted me to go without any unmentionables and *dance* for them."   She looked properly horrified.  "They should have asked those loose women next door to do that if they wanted to see such things.  I'm a good girl.  I don't like being without my drawers or my bras.  I don't want to dance lewdly for people."

"I assure you, we'll capture them and they'll never suggest such things again," he soothed, patting her on the head.  "Why don't you go back home."  She nodded and turned, limping out.  "Ma'am, why are you limping?" he called, momentarily forgetting the images in his mind that she had created.

"I fell down our stairs.  They should have gotten onto our Super.  He never fixes anything and one collapsed underneath my shoes, the ones they had me put on."  She burst out in tears and walked off, heading out to catch a cab.  She dried up once she was inside.  "Hey.  Lexington Station," she said, handing over a twenty.  He smiled and nodded, taking her to the stripper shop.  She strolled in.  "You didn't show him the black number?"

"I didn't want the poor man to have a heart attack, Helena.  He was wearing a tie and an old guy hat," she said in consternation.  She handed it over and took the money for it.  "Thank you.  Need anything else?"

"Some panties soon, but I think I can go without."  She waved.  "They're off for Cali."  She walked out, heading for the house.  The cat would guard her stash, it was under his food dishes and no one got near his food dishes.


She got back to her apartment and found it empty.  She looked around, frowning at the neat and clean floors.  "Okay, there is a God and he's a moving man," she announced.  Someone laughed from the hallway.  "Mickey, what in hell is going on?"

"Some guys came and packed you up, said you were moving to a better place.  Your cat struggled for a bit but he went too."  He waved a hand.  "They took everything."

"Uh-huh.  Let me be the judge of that, not them."  She walked around the house, letting him wait in the living room.  She found her various stashes around the house, including her badge hidden under her closet floor.  She put that into her pocket and took everything from it, then headed into the kitchen, gathering the money out of the hidden area.  "Shit, we have rats," she complained, having to reach around for more of the cash that had slipped.  "Got a crowbar?"  He nodded and went to get one, coming back to help her pry up the floor.  "Saved tips," she noted, digging the rest out and stuffing it into a purse she had found.  It also had some of her stashed drugs and other things.  He looked impressed at the amount.  "To make up for letting me win at poker?" she suggested with a grin.  Something scuttled and she decided she had enough.  That was the greater majority of it.  She let him get the rest if he wanted it.  He reached in and handed it to her as he walked her down to his car.  "They took my car too?"

He nodded.  "They did," he agreed.  He got her inside and took off, heading for a more uptown address.  "So, how did you meet Jigen?"

"On the job.  He was looking for Eddy and Eddy got bounced for being too touchy with Margaret.  That was the night of the bust."  She fluffed out her hair. "Who had me moved, Mickey?  You know all the usual players."

"Not Charlie.  Don't worry about that.  I almost think they were cops."  He grimaced as he turned into an alleyway.  "This is the back way up.  Your car's already in the garage.  I followed them over.  If I see that bastard, I'll give him the address and a chance to run."  He turned off the car.  "You should know that Jigen's got a damn big price on his head.  Some have even thought it was worth hunting him down in Europe for it."  She nodded, giving him a patient look.  "You knew?"

"I do my great Mistress act for two of Charlie's men," she pointed out gently, kissing him on the cheek.  "Keys?"

"The Super has them."  He gave her a real kiss.  "I'll be over for dinner on Sunday.  You can afford real food so you don't have to burn anything."  He winked and let her out, leading her to the doorway.  The Super swallowed when he saw him.  "This is Mistress Keth, also known as Helena."

The Super shook her hand.  "You only have the one cat?"  She nodded.  "We had one left, would you mind taking that one in?"

"Not at all, I'm a very nurturing person," she promised.  She read over the lease and signed it, then Mickey left them.  "Who had me moved?"

He leaned closer.  "My brother-in-law is out of the twenty-seventh," he shared.  "They told me they left you a note.  They also left all your clothes alone and the cat was gently tossed into the loft.  This one is not only bigger, but has a nicer view."  He led her up to it and gave her the keys.  "The rent's due the tenth since that's when you moved in.  It's five hundred a month, rent controlled.  It's got all utilities paid but cable and phone.  Are you noisy when you come in?"

"I try very hard not to be.  I don't have a problem coming in drunk.  Are they switching my life?"

"I don't know.  They said you were left a letter."

He let her inside and she gasped.  It was already set up and everything was where she would want it.  She saw a cream colored blur run past and smiled. "We'll be fine.  Was that a store on the corner?"

"There is, and most of the good restaurants I've seen you at in the past are closer too."  He left her the keys and went back to his apartment to call his brother-in-law to tell him it was all done.

She checked the hall before she closed the door, leaning against it.  This one had a lot more room.  The living area was bigger.  The loft was over it and it was bigger too.  Plus she had another few doors.  She opened one and it was a bathroom, big enough for her and the cats.  The other was a closet with all her working clothes arranged like how she had them back at the old place.  She found a lock box with the key in it and opened it, finding her service revolver, already unloaded.  She loaded it and went to put it back under her pillow.  She finally got a look at the cream blur, smiling down at it. "Hey.  How are you?"  She patted it on the head as it zipped past. "I'm not mean, ask the other one.  You are damn tiny though so we'll have to take you to the vet's soon, little one."  She looked in the closet up here and found her normal clothes.  Plus a few new things.  On her bed was the promised letter.

In it was the explanation that she was going to be keeping the same job, but now she had new parameters and she was going to have some contact with other operatives, both local and Federal.  The new apartment was because the old one was about to be raided and they couldn't risk her being caught in that.  She was ordered to rest her ankle and work her way up to the guy's other place, the one just a bit less classy than the Blue Angel.  It was deeper in Family country and they always went there.  She groaned in disgust and sat down, looking over as a tentative sniff brushed her wrist.  "Hey."  She let the cat sniff her, then gently extended fingers to brush her back.  "What's your name?"  She smiled when the cat purred and moved closer.  "Yeah, you're a pretty one.  Bernadette, are you in here?" she called.  Her cat growled and pounced the bed, making the littler one take off again.  "Bernadette! That was not nice!  Leave Fozzy alone!  Where did that name come from?" she mused, shaking her head.  "A white Fozzy Bear?"

To Next Chapter