Miami vs. Chicago
Jigen looked around the apartment they had gotten him until he could travel back and sighed in defeat. It was nice, big, had a great view, and it was really quiet. The kids had gone back with Marcus and Goemon to Greece. Lupin had promised to send Xander to bother him as soon as they were out of Morocco. That left him all alone for at least another week and nothing to do. He yawned and headed for the couch. He could nap, that way he'd feel better by the time Xander got back. By then she'd be feeling nasty and he could comfort her. He looked at the array of remote controls on the table, frowning. "DVD, stereo, tv, VCR, and one I don't know," he said, picking it up and turning it on. It activated a security camera monitor. "Oh, hey. Cops already," he said, getting up to answer the door. "What?" The shocked cops frowned at him. "I was going to take a nap and you're not helping me feel better."
"We came to see why you're in our city," Horatio Cane said, looking him over.
"To rest. Sorry, my blood pressure rose. Lavelle's like that sometimes," he said with a small smirk. Then he nodded at the guy behind him. "You're one of the ones that Lavelle found worthy. You and the blonde. She get the yard sale stuff?"
"Yeah, and she loved it all," Eric noted as he walked in. "So, how long are you staying?"
"Few weeks, maybe a month. Until they say I can fly. Otherwise, I'd have to escort our little darlings back to France."
Eric gave him a look. "I'd never do it," he noted. "They'd drive me insane." Jigen snickered. "So, you're gonna behave, right? You know we're watching you, you don't need the speech?"
"No, I'm good. You're interrupting my nap."
"Fine. We'll leave, but we will be watching you," Cane said, giving him a dirty look. Eric followed him out. "What was that about?"
"Lavelle apparently finds some cops worthy of his support. Very few cops. He told Cali she was one of them, that's why he gave her the guns," Eric told him. "Also why he let his precious children talk to her. Apparently I'm another."
"Wonderful. Let's see if we can use that to our advantage."
"They don't have any warrants."
"Yes, but if they do something in this city I will get them."
"Fine, H," he agreed, getting into their hummer to drive back to the station.
Jigen laid down on the couch. "Ah, dissension, a beautiful art to have," he quipped to himself. He tipped his hat down further over his eyes and shut them, it was a very comfortable couch.
Lupin walked into their hotel room, noticing what Xander was reading. He gave her a smug look. "It was only dinner."
"I know, I'm casing this year's fashions. You said we were gonna hit Harry Winston as a graduation exercise." She smiled sweetly at him. "I can always go do it on my own."
"You could," he agreed, sitting near her. He took the catalog and tossed it aside, giving her a kiss. "My grandfather said that if we did anything else, it'd reactivate our warrants or get someone killed."
"Then I'll only sow my usual brand of chaos," she promised, giving him a real kiss. "But I still think that emerald necklace was very pretty." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, leaning backwards. "Visitors?"
"Not anytime soon," he promised, stroking her stomach. "You feeling okay?"
"Just fine," she said patiently. She changed the necklace's setting, sending her back to her male form for his pleasure. "There, much better," he announced. Lupin laughed and kissed his Xander gently, taking his time. "Was it worth it?"
"She was cute and needy. It was good enough, but not like what we have, Xan." Xander gave him a look. "I made sure she felt better afterwards and I got off, that's about all it was."
"Good. If you had told me I might have allowed it," she said, pinching him on the lip. "I don't like it, but I know that it happens sometimes."
Lupin pulled back to look at her. "You think I'm going to do it again with Lara."
"Yeah. It was kinda clear how you were watching her. Besides, Jigen told me what you told him. Something about quicksand in the middle of the desert?" He winced. Xander shrugged. "I know I'm not the first, Lupin, I'm realistic."
"You're full of shit," he said firmly. "It's not happening."
"Like I said, tell me first, not afterward, and definitely not by email." He groaned and held his head. Xander sat up and leaned against his arm. "I promise, I won't be mad. I do realize that you loved and left your way across Europe when I was still a little kid."
"I gave that up."
"I noticed. You don't even stare at Fujiko's tits more than every now and then," he agreed dryly.
He looked at her. "Those days you just decided to spend a few hours as female?" She nodded. He sighed. "You don't have to do that, Xan."
"I did. Goemon was going to kill you if I hadn't. I caught him clutching his sword more than once. Her former playing around bothers him a lot. I learned a lot from him on the subject of letting it all go." He shook his head. "Seriously, if you tell me first, and keep it very short and sweet, then I'm probably not going to say much. I'm nice that way."
"You're very nice, but I can commit."
"Of course you can," he agreed dryly. "That's why you were staring at Fujiko's ass in that bikini right after she came back when we caught her suntanning." He blanched. "Or why you've stared at her at least twice in the last month. One of those was one of the times that Goemon grabbed his sword by the way." He kissed him on the cheek and laid back down. "I'm not going to force you to change, Arsene. I'm not like that. I'll take what I can get from both of you. If Jigen finds someone for a short fling I'd expect him to tell me too."
"You'd kill whoever it was," Lupin noted bitterly.
"Have I yet?" He looked down at his lover. "Have I?" Lupin shook his head. "Then I probably won't be. Going off and sulking I might do. Some minor guilt tripping afterwards while I'm still sulking but nothing more than that."
"Xander, you're everything that we need."
"You are. You've got enough chameleon in you to keep us interested when we reach a small straying mood. You're damn good at what you do. You know what we're like."
He sat up and kissed him, then stood up and headed into their bedroom. "Which is why I won't try to change you two." He closed the bedroom door, going to lie down on the bed.
Lupin leaned back with a small groan of mental agony. "Why does he do this to me?" He called Jigen's apartment. "Xander just ordered me to tell her before we feel like cheating on her," he announced. He looked toward the bedroom as Jigen reminded him of early Xander's self-esteem issues. "You think?" Jigen got sarcastic. "Fine. It won't happen, but fine." He hung up and lay on the couch, getting comfortable. Xander would come out eventually and pounce him. The guy was as horny as he had ever been.
Jigen looked up as he walked on the beach. The nearest bar was down here and it was a nice early evening. The humidity had cut out earlier during a rainstorm and he wanted a drink. Fortunately this was a real bar, not one of those for the young and cute. He walked inside, tipping his hat back a little to look around. It was dirty, dank, and dark. His sort of place. He walked up to the bar. "Single malt with a single cube," he ordered, putting down a twenty. The bartender gave him a long look then went to do that. "Thanks." He took a seat at the end of the bar, out of the way of traffic and somewhere he could watch the other people.
An older man left his table and walked up to him, and Jigen thought he looked familiar but couldn't quite place him. "Jigen," the man said, nodding at him. "Retiring down here?" Jigen sipped his drink, shaking his head. "You sure?"
"Retired yes, down here no." He looked at the man and realized where he knew him from. He had worked with him back in Chicago. "You?"
"Yeah, it's nicer. There's no winter. May I?" He pointed at the chair and Jigen shrugged so he sat. "How have you done?"
"Good enough. Lupin and I got into some major stuff in our day. Now we're teaching the next generation." The man chuckled and shook his head. "The kids are nice. They've shoplifted at all the major resorts recently." He waved for another drink and the man paid for it. "How long have you been retired for?"
"Maybe five years. After the Don died it just wasn't the same so I took off. Some people wondered where you had dropped off the Earth at. The last we heard you had a student."
"Lavelle," Jigen agreed. "Great shooter. About fifteen years younger than me."
"Hmm. Interesting. He still working?"
"Nah, anymore he only does the irritants that keep popping up. Every once in a while he takes down someone to remind everyone who he is. That pedophile in Japan was him." The man looked impressed. "Lavelle hates them so he likes to have them hurt. We had one run into one of our kids and he shot him well enough to fully castrate him and only castrate him."
The man looked really impressed at that. "I'd heard that silver-lunatic was that good but that's high praise coming from you. Does he have that same 'I'm all right' viewpoint you used to have?"
"Definitely. He's a picky person about his own skills, but he's great at getting the kids to train. Even Goemon's kids like him." He smirked at his former coworker. "He's a great guy, but he's off with Lupin in Morocco."
"You let him work with your boss?"
"He stayed on after his training. He's always worked with us. Him and Marcus both. We mostly did Europe by then."
"I guess it kept you away from Chicago and that was all good," he agreed. "You ever think about going back?"
"With that price on my head?"
"The Don's dead."
"Yeah, but his family isn't and I hear it's still in effect so I don't go into Chicago unless there's a damn good reason." He sipped his new drink. "So, how are you finding retirement?"
"I'm bored. I guess your kids keep you in shape and make sure you have something to get up for in the morning."
Jigen snickered. "You have no idea. I've got a set of six-year-old twin daughters." The man looked stunned. "And a new one," he admitted with a grin. "I get every morning because I'm pounced."
"Wow. Lupin let you have kids that long ago?"
"He's got some around the same age. We kinda did it as a group. Goemon has two that are older but Lupin had to have one for the will and mine just kinda happened at the same time." He shrugged. "They're cute and one's going to follow in my footsteps."
"Wow. Got pictures?" Jigen pulled out his wallet and showed him an older picture of the girls. He wouldn't be able to identify them by that one. "They're cute. Who's the boy?"
"Goemon's oldest. The Fourteenth."
"Ah." He nodded, handing it back. "Good for you. Mind if I spread the news back? Not many of us are still alive but a few had wondered about you?"
"Sure, I'm in town for another week," Jigen offered. "I can easily escape before they come to shoot me." The other man let out a small snort and hit him on the arm. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Jigen. You did good work. Lavelle's one piece of nastiness from what I've heard. The kids will hopefully be the same."
"The other is going to go straight we think. She likes watching all the forensic shows on Discovery a bit too much." He nodded and looked resigned. "But we still love the little brat. She makes my life interesting and very full. Lavelle handles them all with kid gloves and teaches them neat stuff for us."
"Wow. He's more than a shooter?"
"Much more than a shooter," Jigen agreed. "If I had to pick another student I doubt I could find anyone to live up to the standards he set. He took lessons from all of us. Knows some sword, some fighting, lots of shooting, a bit of lock picking, some computer stuff, some languages, and then manages to have a mischievous nature on top of it."
The man roared with laughter. "Good for you, Jigen. You found the holy grail, a willing and worthwhile student that wasn't your kid. Good job, man." He gave him another pat. "Billy and I are in the corner, wanna join us?"
"Nah. I'm on doctor's orders to nap," he said with a tired sigh. "My blood pressure skyrocketed." He finished his drink. "Tell Billy I said hi."
"Sure. Come back anytime. We're here most nights." He hit him on the arm again and went to talk to his friend.
Jigen got up and headed back to the apartment. "I thought he was Billy. That means that was Jack. He's that old?" he muttered. He counted backwards. "Wow, that means I'm that old too." He shuddered. "I'm going to ignore that thought from now on. I'm Lavelle's age. Or Marcus' real age," he told himself. That was younger. Marcus was only thirty-five. He could be thirty-five with the way he felt. He could convince himself he was still thirty-five if he tried hard enough.
"Damn, Lupin, don't you make normal enemies? That's the second weird assassin this month. I thought I hung out with costumed freaks," he muttered as he walked away from the spot of the fight. "It's a good thing that I snuck out after him. He'd be dead by now." He shook his head, going back to his stroll of the market. His phone rang so he pulled it out of his pocket. "Yeah, baby?" he answered, knowing it was someone he knew. "Hey, Ray. What's up?" He stopped dead, listening with a frown. "You're kidding. Who'd do that?" He listened some more, his scowl getting deeper. He glanced around. "Well, I'm in Morocco right now. It'll take me a day to get anywhere near there. Can they hold out that long?" He winced. "Sure. Let me inform Lupin and I'll take off as soon as I can." He hung up and dialed Lupin as he headed for the hotel. It was just up the street. "Hey, me. Ray just sent a desperate plea my way. Apparently the big boys with toys in Chicago are onto his former partner and they've nearly killed half the city to get to him. Yeah, that was them. No, I'm going to help him. Because I'm not wanted, Ray's a damn good friend, and I wouldn't send him into this without backup. He's already headed there. No, I'll work behind the scenes. Sure. I'll be safe. You behave. I killed that dumbass assassin with the pink hair by the way." He hung up and headed up to pack, making his reservations while he checked his email and sent one to Jigen. "There. Chicago bound, someone needs help from me, see you soon," he read, then he sent. He headed out with his bag, heading to the airport.
Ray paced back and forth in the lounge, watching as Lavelle came off the ramp. "You came."
"I said I'd come." He yawned. "How bad?"
"It's bad," he said, dragging him aside. "Ray don't know I called you. The boss don't know I called you."
"Hey, working behind the scenes I can do," he agreed with a shrug. "You needed me, we're friends. I came." He patted him on the arm. "I'm heading for my room. I'll deal later tonight?" Ray looked relieved. "Send me a report somehow." He strolled off, going to get his second bag. He had made his hotel reservations on the plane so it was easy enough to check into once he finally got there. He set his alarm and laid down for a nap, ignoring the lurking Marcus in the next room. If Marcus wanted to lurk in Chicago, he wasn't going to say anything to the guy.
Lupin hung up and frowned at his phone, looking around. He spotted the dead assassin and shrugged. "Lavelle," he noted, heading to his meeting with Lara. "Lara," he called cheerfully as he walked in, smiling at her. "How are we this morning?"
"Worried sick!" she said, hitting him on the arm. "I heard a gunshot!"
"That was Lavelle. Apparently one of those cute assassins decided I was fair game and he was following me." He shrugged. "He shouldn't be an issue again." He sat down to help her look through the intelligence reports. There had to be something here that wouldn't start another inter-clan war.
Xander could handle himself. Working with Ray was odd, but he could handle nearly anything by himself and he knew he could call on them for help. Jigen was close enough and probably bored by now.
Jigen looked up from his reading as the pretty blonde waitress with the obviously good fake breasts handed him another drink. "Thanks." He watched her rear as she walked off, then went back to his book. It was interesting. This resort was pretty nice too. He was glad Jack had told him about it. Someone cleared their throat and he looked at him, nodding at the table behind him. The masseuse nodded, setting up there while Jigen finished that page. Then he got up to lie down on the table. His phone beeped so he looked at the email alert. "Lavelle." He hit the button to connect him to the account, reading the short message. "Chicago? Lavelle?" He frowned. "That's not a good idea." He switched to his phone book, calling Lavelle's phone. "Babe, me," he said to the voice mail. "Chicago's like New York, many crosspaths and agendas. Be safe. I'm still in Miami." He hung up, shaking his head. He could see him working with Ray but Chicago was just damn dangerous. Even for a smart guy like him there were always toes in the way. His masseuse hit a sore spot and he grunted. "Easy, kid, I've got toddlers." The man nodded and was a bit more gentle.
Xander woke up to Marcus holding a cup of coffee. "Thanks." He took a long drink and accepted the folder that had been delivered. "I take it you're helping?"
"Fujiko had a mood swing and wanted a very pretty diamond that's on show locally. I came to get it for her," he admitted. "Why are you in town?"
"Ray asked for help." He flipped through the folder. "An older family. A lot of animosity. Oh, shit. Ray put the guy in jail once after he blew up his own sister and Ray's girlfriend. Same person too." He grimaced and moved on, shaking his head at how complicated this thing was. "Do we know who the local liege lord Don is?"
"The local king is one Frankie Zucko. He's killed the others recently," Marcus admitted, sitting next to him. "Why?"
Xander handed over the folder. "Ray's worried sick about his former partner. His former partner's been getting death threats from Zucko. Zucko blew up Ray's partner's girlfriend, his own sister, instead of Ray's partner." Marcus winced. "Ray's partner then put him away."
"Ouch." He handed it back. "I wish you all the luck in the world. You have a meeting with him in two hours. He sent word."
"Yay. Can't I kill him?"
"In his own home? During an interview?"
"Okay, then I shouldn't go. I hate protocol," he decided. "It's always getting me into trouble. The Europeans are much different." He tossed the folder aside and went to take a shower and get dressed. He came out in his favorite suit and put on his weapons. "I may be back tonight. Or I may be staking him out to shoot him from a rooftop. I haven't decided yet," he quipped as he slid into his shoes. "Kiss whoever shows up for me." He left the room, heading down to catch a cab. He found a set of goons waiting on him against a car. "Yes?" he asked when they approached him.
"Lavelle?" one asked. He shrugged and nodded. "Don Zucko wants a word."
"I got his message. I've still got an hour."
"He said we should come pick you up," the second goon told him.
"Yeah, well, I haven't had breakfast yet," Xander said dryly. "That isn't how we do it in Europe. If you set up an appointment, you're expected then, not sooner or later." He walked past them. "Remind him I deal with their rules, not his." They tried to grab him so he beat their asses and looked down at them. "Well, that wasn't the breakfast I was wanting but I'm sure it'll do." He heaved them up and into the trunk, in full view of everyone in the lobby. Then he smiled at the doorman. "I'm going to return these two people to their boss. They apparently never learned manners. I'll be back later," he said with a fond smile. "Don't worry, they won't be coming back." He got in to drive, pulling through a small pasty place to get a danish and some more coffee on the way. He had missed good pastries. He pulled into the driveway a half-hour before his scheduled appointment, eating the last bite of danish as he got out of the car. The other goons gave him a shocked look and he gave them a confident smirk. "In Europe, we set appointments and keep them, we don't gather people before it's time." He tossed the keys to someone. "They're in the trunk. You might want to get them some aspirin and a few ice packs." He walked into the house and past the guards. "Your boss?"
"This way," a butler said, leading him into the study.
Xander glanced around, noticing how the books looked too perfect to have ever been read, the piano showed no signs of usage, and the desk had no paperwork on it. "Cleaned up for me?" he asked dryly, giving the older man a once-over. He wasn't very impressive. His eyes were hard and cold, no life in them, but prison did that from what he had seen. His body was slowly fading from prison hardness back into fat. His hands were callused but nothing a good moisturizer couldn't help. He stood in front of the desk. "You broke with the rules of appointments and sent goons after me. I should be insulted," he noted. "Obviously you're desperate enough to see me to have committed such a social gaffe. Why?"
"Lavelle," he said, wrapping up his own investigation. "You're very young for your looks."
"You don't know me, Zucko. Let's get past this pseudo-psychological bullshit."
"Actually, I think we can do each other a favor," he noted. Xander gave him a 'get real' look. "I've noticed you happen to have an attachment to certain cops."
"Actually, I find that some are worthy of my respect. You've got a few of them in this city and I hear that you're trying to kill them." Zucko looked horrified. "Yes, I do respect those who are very good and know their shit. I've noticed that Vecchio and the Mountie seem to be a pair of those. Now, are *we* gonna have a problem that I find some people worthy of respect for doing a good job?"
"You came to protect Vecchio?"
"It was asked of me."
"By that Interpol guy?"
"Then by who?"
"See, in Europe we'd find that to be a nosy question," Lavelle said dryly, giving him a long look. He planted his hands on the desk and leaned down. "Zucko, you're trying my patience. I'm not taking out Vecchio for you and if I have to take down your whole organization to protect him I will. I have no qualms about that. I firmly believe that only the people who are better than me should do this job. The fact that you blew up your sister and now you're getting revenge on the cop that caught you doesn't make me think you're one of those. You've done jack shit to make me think otherwise, including breaking the rules of polite parley we use where I'm from by sending goons to pick me up sooner. There is nothing you have that could make me do this job for you."
"Including your partner Marcus?" he asked smugly.
"You have Marcus," he snorted. "How?"
"Easy. We found him and knocked him out. He's drugged up upstairs."
Xander stood up again, smirking at him. "I sincerely doubt that since Marcus woke me up."
"Oooh, is he your boyfriend," Zucko sneered.
"No, he's my partner and he makes better coffee," Xander answered back, looking even more smug. "You have no idea what you're messing with, Zucko. If you try Marcus or me, you'll die. Probably in that chair. Or possibly when you go out for your daily jog, or out with your dog, or even to that small meeting next week. I'm sure there's people who are pissed at you over how you took over. I'm equally sure they'd love to see you gone. I'm willing to listen to their proposals since you pissed me off. Did you need anything else or can I go get a real breakfast now? I only got a danish on the way over."
"They fed you?"
"No, I kicked their asses, stuffed them in the trunk, and then drove through somewhere on the way here," Xander noted. The door opened behind him and he pulled his gun on the guy walking in. He shot him then turned and shot Zucko when he saw his gun. "Pity," he noted, "you're really not worthy of the position." He turned Zucko's chair around so it was facing out the big window before he walked out, waving. "You'll want an ambulance," he noted to the front door guard as he put the pilfered gun back. "His butler tried to shoot me. He's in the doorway." He took the keys back and took the car back with him, dumping it into the harbor on his way. He hoped they had gotten the goons out of there but it was of little matter to him at this point in time. He turned and found a cop sitting on his hood, badge on his belt. "Detective." He smirked. "I find that very few of you are worthy of matching wits with anyone. Those that are I find worthy of my respect and admiration."
"Stanley sent you?"
"No." Xander shrugged. "I have other sources that wanted you protected. I did talk to the Inspector," he said firmly. "He begged me not to come here to protect you because it would look bad to your people." He nodded in politeness. "I believe you'll find that Mr. Zucko broke the rules of official parley. I go by the Euro rules and he broke it horribly by sending people to try and take me before the appointment was due. I got a bit pissed at him," he admitted. "Then his butler drew on me. It was an unfortunate mistake on his part." He walked past him. "Live in peace, Detective. Cops like you are rare and getting rarer."
"Hold it," he said, drawing his own weapon. "You just admitted to shooting someone, I can't let you walk away."
Xander looked at him. "Why would I have admitted that? I can play back the tape I made if you want. Nothing was said about me shooting anyone. I think you'll find the guy who was guarding his doorway, the strawberry blonde guy, had the gun that shot the butler." He shrugged. "It wasn't me." He headed off to find a cab.
Xander turned back around. "You have nothing to charge me with except getting rid of an ugly wannabe Euro car, Detective. I'll gladly pay the five grand fine now if you want."
"Weren't there people in there?"
"I sincerely hope they got the people out of there when I handed it back to them, but Zucko's people didn't seem that smart. I can dive down and check if you want." Ray glared at him, raising his gun a little higher. "Detective, I will draw on cops who try to shoot me. I'll only injure you, but I will have to hurt you," he warned calmly. "No, Inspector Kowalski didn't turn bad. He didn't order me to come here. He didn't even ask me to come here." A small lie, technically he had begged. "He told me about you long before we met. What he said impressed me. That impression was good enough for me to not want to take the contract to kill you. Zucko tried to force the issue and I found a way around the impasse he presented. Nothing further." He moved his hands away from his body to show they were empty as he walked back. "Now, all you have is me dumping a car I thought was empty. I sincerely do hope that it was empty and I swear I think I saw one of them limping around the garden. If anything else happened, I'd say it was a guard who was also in the pay of another family. Not that I want to stir up trouble or anything. I'd rather see the city have peace. There's enough crime here without them." He grinned, making the detective grimace. "I'm not a mean guy. Ask the Inspector. He's seen me often enough to know that. He's even tried to shoot me once or twice in the past and nearly succeeded. That's why I got him out the window with a paintball gun."
Ray quirked up an eyebrow. "Paintball?" Was this guy a teenager playing games?
"I was practicing and wanted to be non-lethal. Though, they do hurt quite a bit I understand. I got him and Myron at the range of nearly four blocks, right behind my boss's back if you want to get technical about it. I'm told they both had some really pretty bruises afterwards." His grin went more goofy. "They yelled at me for years about that each time they saw me."
"I'm sure. You're still coming with me."
"If you want. Can we stop and pick up decent coffee? I've only had one and a half cups."
"No." He waved his gun at the car. "In the back."
"Of your personal car? Isn't that risky, detective?"
"Shut up, kid."
"Again, not as young as most people think. I'm nearly forty."
Xander pulled out his original ID, putting his thumb over his name. "See?"
Ray frowned at it. "You are." He looked at him. "You don't look like it."
"Clean living. I get a lot of fresh air in Europe." He beamed. "Now, can I please go? You don't have anything on me."
"I have you dumping a car. In. Handcuff yourself too."
"Do I have to?" Xander whined. "I hate picking handcuff locks."
"Now!" Ray handed over his set, watching as the nice young man did so. "Are you some sort of sociopath or something?"
"No, just very well trained with high standards for those doing my job and your job. You'll find that I'd rather give you guys more mental problems than anything else." He got into the car, nodding at the man in the back. "Hi. Ray told me about you too."
"I heard. Was that you a few years back?"
"No, that was me being the real Ray a few years back. He was rather tied up and we knew something was going to go wrong so I came to cover Zenigata's back for him."
"Why?" Ray asked as he climbed in.
"Because it was a nice thing to do and we like Gramps. Gramps is one of those cops who make us better by making us work harder and learn new skills. We see you two the same way, and we see our Ray the same way. We wouldn't have to be near as good if it wasn't for Zenigata, that Ray, or you two."
"Huh. Maybe we should retire then," Ray said bitterly, starting the car. "No people?"
"Not that I know of. I didn't check. I can if you want." He showed he had picked one of the handcuffs already as he got out, taking off his jacket and shoes. He dove into the harbor, going down to check the car. He came up and tossed back the keys. "Send my coat back to my room please," he said with a grin, then he disappeared again.
Vecchio started to swear, jumping up and down in frustration. He couldn't find the guy anywhere! He grabbed his stuff and put it into a bag, taking it back to tell his boss what had happened. By then, a report was waiting on them about Zucko's shooting. He looked at his boss, who nodded. "We have it from the horse's mouth that he didn't shoot him, sir. Do you have any idea what I should do?"
"Work with the officer coming in. It's Kowalski's wife."
"Yes, sir. Not him?"
"He's claiming he's sick."
"The kid said Kowalski didn't send him. He said someone else did but didn't name names."
"Of course not. He's been doing this dance for far too long. Any bodies in that car?"
"I doubt it since he didn't bring any up," the Mountie offered. "The people who pulled the car up didn't find any bodies in it, nor can CSU find fingerprints. I didn't see any gloves."
"There's supposed to be some that are the color of skin," Ray told him. "He was probably wearing those." He looked at his boss. "I have no idea, sir."
"Go stake out his hotel."
"Yes, sir. Can we prove he shot him? The report said the only gun that could have done it was on one of the guards."
"No, but he was there. That makes him a material witness. Go find him, get at least a statement, then bring him back here to sit him in a little room until we can figure out what to do about him."
Someone tapped and walked in. "If I know Lavelle, he's shopping right now," Emmajean offered, pushing some of her wheat colored hair behind her ear. "How did he get away this time?"
"He went to check the car for bodies," Ray admitted. "Before we could stop him he had a handcuff picked and headed out."
She nodded. "He's like that," she noted. "He doesn't believe in collateral damage unless there's a damn good reason or no choice."
Ray looked at her. "He's nearly forty?"
"He is?" she asked. She pulled out her folder and looked in it. "He is," she agreed, then handed it over. "Here. Jigen's in Florida recovering from a heart condition. Lupin's in Morocco helping someone Zenigata said was an ex girlfriend. Lavelle's apparently not jealous anymore though."
"Why would he be?" the Mountie asked.
She grinned at him. "You know Sylvia?"
"That's also Lavelle. Or actually Xander. Somehow he manages to keep the parts separate. I've seen them both at one convention." She grimaced a bit then her face cleared up again. "Anyway, she's married to both Jigen and Lupin. Lupin recently cheated on her with little Arsene Lupin the Fourth's mother. So she took the kids, Jigen and Lupin's credit cards, and went to Orlando. Eight kids, nine resorts." Ray and the Lieutenant both winced. "Yeah. Lupin came in begging and pleading and she said the next time he did it, she was taking the kids, her, Fujiko, and their financial manager to Rodeo Drive, starting at Harry Winston. They were nice enough to pay for anything the kids got caught shoplifting but I hear that they still made off with a good amount."
"The kids shoplift?" Ray asked.
"Their fathers are thieves, Ray," the Mountie pointed out.
"Good point," he agreed, shaking his head. "Are any going straight?"
"Actually, yes, there are. There's one who wants my Ray's job and one who thinks she wants to be CSI when she grows up. They're both fantastic shots, but they nag their sisters about shoplifting. That's why the CSI in Miami one of them talked to was handed a bag of stuff the girls had stolen off people on the plane. Including an illegal and new explosive compound's formula, someone's passport, and about half the diamond earrings on the plane." They gaped at her and she grinned. "They're six. They managed to not get any fake stones, only one credit card, and that passport. The explosives compound was very handy to catch a new underground cell for us though."
The Mountie shook his head. "They're six?"
"According to Zenigata's Lupin file, his grandfather was pulling jobs at seven, by himself. Lupin's father was a late bloomer and both him and Lupin admit that he was more a duffer than anything. One of those who liked pretty things and liked to collect them from others. Lupin the Third pulled his first job at eleven, was out doing it full time by seventeen, and was a darling of the European Syndicate by twenty-two. He was on his own by then as well as a freelance. Lupin's got one daughter who's straight and a white knight already. Then he's got a son he doesn't acknowledge, either because he doesn't know or doesn't like the mother. He's got the two girls he had as a function of his grandfather's will, the Fourth and Sierra, who will be a kick-ass cop in my job some day. Now he's got a baby son who may just be as good as his grandfather he thinks."
Ray winced. "They go on the run with the kids?"
"They used to with the Goemon children but they've been slowing down for the last three years or so. They're fully retired now. Lavelle apparently still takes down some annoyances, but they only work on other criminals. Lupin needs the challenge. Now he's got the biggest challenge of all, daughters." The Mountie snickered at that. "Seriously. His oldest is more than old enough to be married, but she doesn't really date. His youngest two will be teenagers in another seven years. He's already going insane about that thought. Fortunately, Lavelle steps in to do most of the work with the kids when Marcus doesn't. For it being Goemon, Lavelle, and Marcus raising them most of the time, the kids are pretty evenly balanced and think it's fun." She shrugged. "Little Melissa, the thief of Jigen's twins, is really good at planning. Her father forced Lupin to teach her how to play chess and he's teaching her using some old wargames he knew. The next generation is scarier. They're cross-trained like Lavelle and Marcus. Lavelle not only knows most firing weapons, he also knows the sword, some bastardized martial arts, and some other stuff. Marcus is the same way but he focuses on the martial arts and the sword. The next generation will have a mini-Lupin, a mini-Jigen, a mini-Goemon, possibly another mini- Jigen, and possibly a second mini-Goemon and a mini-Lavelle. We're not sure yet what the youngest are going to become or if Lotus Goemon will become a good guy or not."
"Wow," Ray said, looking at his boss. "I'm retiring when they come into their own." His boss laughed and nodded. "Seriously. Lavelle said that it's cops like Benny and me who make them work harder."
"He said the same thing of Zenigata," she agreed. "Should we go find where Lavelle's shopping? Or if he's shopping as Xander?"
"What's the difference?"
"Xander's a big geek. He's probably found a comic shop by now. Lavelle's his business side. He'd be heading for a new suit and probably a few new weapons."
"Fuck. We have his coat," Ray admitted, patting the bag. She squealed and dug into it, taking each weapon out to look at it. "Like guns?"
"Definitely. My uncle, Eugene Tackleberry, taught me all about them," she said happily. "Lavelle always carries something neat with him." She found a pendant and held it up. "I don't recognize...." She gasped. "His damn illusion choker!" She put that into a separate bag. "Sorry, Zenigata wanted to look at that one."
"Fine. How is he? He looked a bit pale at the wedding."
"He's recovering nicely from his chest wound, detective. I'll pass on a 'get well' from you." She pulled up something and looked at it. "What is that?" She palmed it and it opened, making Ray move quickly. "Sorry. I didn't know he still carried that old thing." She collapsed the rod back into itself and put it aside. She came to the last gun and looked it over. "Nice," she purred, stroking it lovingly. "Damn, Uncle Eugene would kill for one of these. I'll have to find out where he got it from."
The phone on the desk rang and the Mountie picked it up. "Twenty-seventh precinct...." He trailed off and listened, handing the phone to her. "He said it came from that German supplier that he got Ray his birthday present from."
She took the phone, looking inside the gun as she listened. "Hey, Lavelle. Which one?" She wrote down the name. "Thanks for that. Speaking of guns. You shoot him?" She smirked at the laughter. "Yeah, well, Ray said he wanted to kick your ass today too." She straightened up. "He did?" She sighed. "Thank you for telling me that. No, I'll yell at him once he's out of the hospital. Yeah, the chase is on. Oh, I have your illusion pendant." She snickered as he swore. "You know the rules. You have to get it from me, Xan." She hung up. "He's in some sort of open space, I'd say a mall. He'll be trying for the pendant. Ray just fell and sprained his ankle badly at the house while he was pacing." She shrugged and put down the gun. "Shall we?"
"We should," Ray agreed, following her out. "What does he like in suits?"
"He tends to have his tailored. Jigen taught him how to dress. That coat isn't normal. He tends toward blues, small stripes, tasteful things. If he's off duty and wearing a suit, it's usually cotton or something nice, but never silk and never wool unless it's non-itchy and the coldest part of winter around him. The guy went to Russia in the middle of winter and complained about the weather but refused to wear a wool sweater because it itched. He doesn't do silk for some reason, but no one's really sure why except Jigen I think." She got into the back seat of Ray's car, giving him an attentive look. "Since he's off duty, I'd say it was probably solid colored, with a t-shirt or other soft shirt underneath it, probably without a tie, and he'll need new shoes too."
"That sounds like a mall trip then," Ray agreed, starting his car. A little robot walked out of his glove box and held up a sign that said 'boom'. "Fucker!"
"Xander," she said, chuckling to pick it up and look at it. "Yup, him. Which mall is this?" she asked, holding the tag out so he could see it.
"Then he's already done that one. We should concentrate on his second target." She put it into the baggie then got out with them. "I did rent something but I hate city driving," she offered, digging out the keys. Ray smirked at her and looked at her sports car, then at her. "Uncle Mahoney taught me to drive."
"I met him," Ray said as he went to drive them to the nearest mall. They'd check the suit shops at Westwood anyway, just in case. "Does he really see this as a big game?"
"I really have no idea who Xander's mind works," she admitted. "He's a fandom geek and I think the only one who ever really understood him were Myron and my Ray. I can call and ask him if you want." She frowned. "I didn't see his cell."
"I didn't while you were searching either," the Mountie offered as he got into the small back seat. "Ray?" He started the car and they were off. "Would he need a new one?"
"Only if he didn't have it waterproofed somehow," she admitted. "Or he could have left it back at the hotel I suppose. Have we figured out where he's staying yet?"
"Yeah, the Radisson had a complaint drawn up. Apparently Zucko sent two goons to pick him up and he beat 'em pretty good before putting them into the trunk of the car he dumped in the harbor."
"Hmm. He really does take some protocol seriously then. The Europeans are very strict in their protocol. I thought Lupin kept him away from all that but apparently not."
"They're stricter?" Ray asked.
"Think old-line families in the twenties, Detective. The Europeans still hold dear to some of those traditions. Especially the protocol and niceties. If Zucko tried to get him there earlier by taking him there by force, he broke the first rule of parlay. You set an appointment and rules, you keep the appointment and rules, and it had better not be a trap."
"Shit," Ray said, looking stunned. "So Frankie really did bring this down on himself?" She nodded. "Did Stanley call him?"
She sighed. "I don't know. I didn't ask him. I know he was worried. I know he was pacing about it. I know he and Xander are friends, even though he still chases after Lavelle and probably could still shoot him. I don't know if he asked him to step into the middle of this mess. Frankly, I don't want to know. If Ray was that worried and upset that he broke his own laws and the law, then I really don't want to know."
"I understand," Ray agreed grimly. "I wouldn't want to ask either. I just wanted to make sure he was still a good guy."
"He is. He's working on a case far away from them right now. He tries very hard not to do anything Lavelle or Xander related unless it's a formal chase. Then he helps and he's sure he takes someone with him who can shoot them incase he wavers. The only time he really sees Xander is at conventions and comic shops. Then they do some sort of truce. Ray tries to get him to admit to something and tapes everything. Xander teases him and they both revel in the fandom experience. Then the chase is back on. Ray's very careful about his interactions and always hands over each and every tape he makes. He hands it over in the machine, without it being tampered with. He's very ...odd about Lavelle and this stuff. He's said often enough that he and Lavelle probably could have been the best of friends if Lavelle wasn't a bad guy. In return for that, Zenigata is very honest about this with Ray. He's got an obsession with Lupin, and everyone knows it. Seriously, the guy put off proposing to chase Lupin around Switzerland. His wife came and kicked his ass over it and yelled at Lupin. She was one of his trainees and Zenigata made her go straight. Those two sometimes switch off so Ray chases Lupin and Zenigata chases Lavelle. It helps." She shrugged, looking miserable. "I don't know what to do about this."
"Support him. Lavelle said that it wasn't Ray who sent him," the Mountie suggested.
"Yeah, but the doubt is there. I'm not sure I can stick up for him doing something like this. He had to have known the outcome."
"Not necessarily. Think about it, is Lavelle the sort to walk in with guns blazing? He said the butler drew on him. Frankie had a gun in his hand too."
"No, Lavelle likes to work behind the scenes. He's like a director directing their downfall. That pedophile ring in Japan he started the collapse of, he started it off by finding one and robbing him. He darted the bastard and his prostitute of the day. He left pictures in there. Then he somehow made the Madam supplying him fear for her life enough to turn on her clients, and one of her girls turned in the madam. When they raided her business, the kids were freed, lots and lots of pictures were found and it started the downfall. Lavelle likes working like that when he's alone. When he's with the group," she noted, grabbing the dashboard as they took a corner sharply at a higher speed than usual, "he plays second gunman and backup to them."
"So he plans, he's an excellent shot, and he's sneaky. Sounds like a good crook," Ray agreed, pulling into the mall, cutting off a minivan in the process.
"Ray," the Mountie chided.
"Ah, shut up, Benny." They got out and headed inside to the suit shop he would have gone to. "Hey," he said, smiling at a fitter and showing his badge. "Was Lavelle in here?"
"The gunman Lavelle?" he asked.
Emmajean stepped forward, pulling out pictures. "He could have looked like any of these." He looked then shook his head. "You're sure?" He nodded. "No one similar?"
"No, no one like that at all. We've only had one sale and he was small and older," he said, pointing at the man being fitted.
"Thanks. Call us if he does come in," Ray ordered, handing over a car. "Where to next?"
She looked at the fitter. "Have any women come in? Zenigata said he sometimes gets his women to shop for him."
"We had one browsing but she left with a wicked looking smirk," he admitted with a lecherous smile of his own. "She was quite high class."
"Thanks." She followed them out. "We're in so deep. He's gone female and he could be anyone."
"Anyone?" the Mountie asked.
She nodded. "Anyone. See, each of his personas he creates a background story for. As a guy he's basically got Xander, the fandom geek and guy he was before he was tortured, and Lavelle, the guy Jigen molded him into after he was tortured. As a female, he's got a whole binder full of personas. Different looks, different styles, different faces."
"How does he do that?" Ray asked.
She stopped him and glanced around. "That illusion choker does just that. It changes his outward appearance. My Ray says it's magical and so does Zenigata. Supposedly he's got something else that he has to wear that does the same thing. It changes him fully."
"I don't believe in that."
"Neither do I," she told him, "but I have to believe the evidence in front of me. I've seen Sylvia in a bikini. A very tiny, hides-nothing bikini, and she was all woman. Nothing fake, nothing altered, nothing like a man. Since that bathing suit was so small I could see her nether lips, I doubt she was hiding anything." He looked stunned.
"So he does use magic?"
"He does," she admitted. "That choker he wears is that thing. I don't know how to get it off him."
"I doubt you could," the Mountie said thoughtfully. "I'd heard rumors that Marcus Wyndam-Pryce could use it as well but I had discounted them."
Her eyes widened and she shook her head. "Never doubt that. Behind you."
They all turned and Marcus gave them a smug look. "Lavelle's already left the city," he told her, giving her a pat as he walked past her. "Your Ray did not ask him, Emmajean. You might call your boss." He looked back at her. "By the way, that illusion necklace, it's already gone. Xander snuck in there and got it when he mined the cars and stole some sort of cap off it." He strolled on, going into a tobacco shop. "Hello. I have a friend who's a heavy smoker, but he's recovering from a high blood pressure attack. He smokes cigarettes, but I'm not sure if we can find him something or not."
Ray called the station. "Sir, was he there yet?" He groaned. "Thank you, sir." He hung up. "He was there, he did get it, and your boss is there now."
"Wonderful." She looked around. "We may never catch him. Stake out his hotel?" They nodded, heading to drop Benny and her off while Ray went to report and grab Zenigata.
Xander strolled off the plane in Miami, smiling at the woman looking for him. "Hi, could you tell me how to get out of here? It's dreadfully noisy," she asked with a soft French accent.
Cali grabbed her by the arm and led her away. "I knew you couldn't resist." She glared at her. "What did you do to my city?"
"Sweetie, I've been in Chicago. Only Jigen's been here. What happened?"
"We've had six thefts, four hits, and a gas bomb attack of laughing gas in a mall," she said angrily.
She raised an eyebrow. Then she smiled. "You leave that to me. We do occasionally get groupies. I'll bring them to you one way or another." She kissed her then walked on, strolling confidently in the small knit tube dress that was just this side of one of Fujiko's old outfits. She grabbed her new bags and headed for Jigen's apartment. He wasn't there but he had left an appointment book in case they dropped in. She went to that club, strolling through the lobby. Someone tried to stop her so she smiled and licked her lips. "I was called for," she purred in a light British accent. "Mr. Daisuke called for me." He swallowed and got out of her way, so she continued her stroll out to the poolside cabanas. She found the one Jigen was in by following the moans, walking up behind the masseuse and nodding him away. She oiled up her hands and took his place, letting him go.
"Oh, yeah," Jigen moaned, shifting some. He looked up at her. "I don't remember calling for takeout."
She smiled at him. "I'm not. I'm here to solve some of your problems." She leaned down and kissed him.
"Sylvia," he said happily. "Welcome back."
"Hi. Chicago is once again at peace and the nice detective is safe. Who's the wannabe down here?"
"Some Asian chick, I don't know." He put his head back down. "Go back to what you were doing. It was nice." She went back to massaging his back and he looked over her outfit. "Pretending to be Fujiko?"
"Emmajean came to Chicago after me."
"Hmm. Interesting. What happened?"
"I was asked to go help Ray's former partner Ray. Zucko was after him."
"Zucko? He's out of the can?"
"And he blew up most of the families. He also broke the parley rules by trying to have me snatched. So I taught him an etiquette lesson. His butler drew on me so I fixed it. The other families have worked out a peaceful arrangement again and Vecchio is very impressive."
"Good job." He patted her stocking'ed thigh. "Very good job."
She smirked at him. "I told Cali I'd look into the person doing this. Wanna help or do you wanna go join Lupin, babe?"
"I'll stay. They won't clear me yet and it's been a long time since I've seen you work." She nodded and got back to his back, making him go limp under her hands. "How was the boss when you left him?"
"Having breakfast with Lara."
"You left him like that?"
"I told him that I wanted to know beforehand and he never called and said so I'm guessing he held off. Either that or he's gonna try and lie. If he does that, then I'll be really upset and kick his ass before going off in a pout."
"I don't think that'll work on me," Lupin said as he walked in. "No, I didn't sleep with her." He kissed the back of her neck. "I haven't seen you in anything that tiny in a few years, Xan."
"Thank you." She grinned at him. "Notice I said 'if'. Not 'when'." She went back to Jigen's back, making him puddle under her hands. "How did it go?"
"Not bad. The girl's fine."
Xander looked down at Jigen, then elbowed Lupin in the nose, making him fall down. She closed the curtains and delicately sat in the middle of her chest. "Not nice," she chided. "Now, who are you?" She pulled the mask off him, showing it to be Zenigata. "Morning."
"Did Ray send you?"
"The truth, Lavelle. On thieves' honor. I'm not going to fire him for it."
She leaned down, getting in his face. "Why would I lie to you, Gramps? He didn't send me. Someone asked me to go, but it was not Ray."
He stared into her eyes, then nodded. "You do lie very well," he said, pushing at her. "Move."
"No. You kissed me, I'm going to tell Lupin on you."
"Go right ahead. Did you shoot Zucko?"
"No." She got off him and stood up, hauling him up as well. "Why would I have done that? The gun was found on someone else." Zenigata snorted. "It was."
"It was, and it had your prints on the firing pin."
"I never touch firing pins," she reminded him dryly. "Why would I?"
"It has your marks from cleaning."
"I didn't clean it. It's not my gun."
"Really?" He pulled out the paperwork, handing it to her. "These aren't yours?"
She looked at it, then frowned and shook her head. "Nope, sorry." She showed him her fingerprints, which didn't change. "Do they look the same?"
He looked at it, then at the picture. "They're not," he said, grimacing.
"They're not because those are my *old* ones, Gramps." She handed it back and turned back to Jigen's body, pinching him on the ear. He grimaced and she grinned. "Just making sure." He swatted her and she squealed. "Fine, you're you. Gramps, you're upsetting him."
"No, he's fine," Jigen said, looking up at her. "Ray didn't send you?" She gave him a look. "Fine, I won't ask." He looked at Zenigata, who looked stunned. "What?"
"You're not Jigen."
Xander looked at the pale back, then traced a scar, making him shake. "You're right. That's not Jigen's scar." The body on the bed jumped up and she decked it, sending it to the ground, where she put her three-inch stiletto heel in its crotch. "Try." She gave it a smile. "Off with it, however you're doing it." The necklace came off. "Hey, I've got one of those," he said happily, taking it to look at. "I take it you're Miami's problem person?" The man nodded. "Why?"
"Because I wanted to meet you and Jigen. I want to join as your next student."
Xander leaned down. "Then the proper course of action would be to apply to talk to us. We're not mean and you can prove yourself in many interesting ways." She sighed and got off him, shaking her head. "Isn't Lupin still in Morocco, Gramps?"
"He is," he agreed. "Still helping that woman."
"Lara." He looked back at him, then shrugged. "He knows what'll happen if he cheats on me." He looked at the young guy again. "I tell you what. Can you travel internationally?" He nodded eagerly. "Then I want you to go to Paris. I want you to take a room at the Swieny motel. It's pretty decent and it's got good cable. You stay there, for not more than a month. Sometime during that time I'll send one of the group to you to talk to you about that." The boy nodded eagerly. "That's *if* you can make it out of Miami. You pissed off a cop who's helping my daughter with her desire to be one of them." The guy bowed and backed away. He looked at Zenigata. "Your turn. Why are you here?"
"You shot Zucko."
"I didn't shoot Zucko."
"You did, Lavelle, I know you did. I can't prove it but I know you did."
"So someone faked my fingerprints on a part of the gun I'd never touch and you made this leap of logic?"
"It had to be you." He stepped closer. "There's no one else it could have been."
She smirked at him. "You're wrong. The butler drew on me. He was wearing white gloves. Zucko had a gun in his hand too. There were sixteen armed guards in that house that day from the report. That puts enough reasonable doubt on my side to make it questionable to even try to arrest me."
"Oh, you'd be surprised. We found your hair in there."
"Of course you did, I did have that meeting. Where I turned him down and verbally bitchslapped him."
"I heard. He security tapes things," he said smugly.
"Really? I could have sworn I was out of the camera's view. They were pretty obvious. He's ten years behind the times."
"He did have a hidden one," he said, pulling out a picture. Xander as blatantly shooting, you could see the muzzle fire. "Now, did Ray order you to go? I'm not firing him, but I want this debt canceled."
"One, there is no debt. Two, Ray did not order me to go to Chicago." The curtains opened and the real Jigen walked in. "Hey." He looked at Zenigata again. "Third, with how many people know me, and how many masks there are in the world with my face on them, including six at the local comic store and one being bought two days earlier, that could have been anyone. That's not time stamped. You can't prove that was during the meeting or right afterward. Fourth, even if you did try to get me on it and nothing else worked, they pulled their guns first. That would be self defense. I'm very sure a paranoid person like Zucko would have had a camera on him and it would have shown him with a gun in his hand, along with the butler's."
"Even if I could arrest you, this was one of those things that saved a lot of people. I only want to know about Ray," he said angrily, yet very quietly.
"Then go ask Ray. I'm not Ray's keeper." She adjusted her dress then hugged Jigen. "I sent the wannabe to Paris, to the Swieny, if he makes it out of Miami. He was auditioning. I said I'd suggest one of you go to see him about that." Jigen nodded. "Was he already caught?"
"Yeah, the CSI people picked him up outside. He came out babbling and happy about how his plans had worked and now you knew what he looked like. That one broad is very good."
"She is," she agreed smugly. She looked at Zenigata. "Even if Ray had, I wouldn't tell on him, Gramps. We both know that. Ray didn't, and if you want to badger anyone about this then I'd go see Ray. This doubt is affecting his wife too." He pulled up his purse and pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. "For you. Get better." She kissed him gently, then smiled. "Nice to taste you again. That kid didn't taste like you at all." He growled and forced her back onto the table, kissing her hard. "Jigen," she moaned.
"Pops, trying to have sex here," Jigen said, glaring at him when he didn't leave automatically.
"Fine. I'll go wait on you two." He stomped out.
Jigen got back to what he had been doing. "Ray sent you to Chicago?" he whispered against her neck. She nodded. "Why?"
"Zucko was threatening his partner," she whispered back. He shuddered. "He's not a problem, he broke the rules of discussion."
"Glad it's not me," Jigen told her, kissing her again. "How can you tell?"
"Easy, you taste right. I know your taste as well as I know Lupin's." He licked up Jigen's nose. "And you taste right."
"Thanks." He pinched her on the breast. "Bratty little girl." She beamed at him. "Wanna go have some real fun? This table's too high."
She slid around and then bent over provocatively in front of him. "I did it just for you," she promised with a sultry look.
He lifted up the short skirt and moaned. She wasn't wearing panties and had shaved herself again. "Damn, woman," he complained as he released himself and slid inside her. "I'm not supposed to have this yet."
"It'll do your heart good," she purred, holding on. He was in for it today.
Cali walked up to where Xander, still in that form and another tight, short, hot dress, was sitting and hit him. "I'm not like that," she complained.
She grinned at the other woman. "Of course you're not, it was simply to stun you. Besides, I wanted to see." She blushed a bit. "It's not often I see smart *and* pretty women looking for me. Usually they're looking for Lupin to kill him."
She snorted. "Nice try." She sat next to her. "Thank you for helping us capture that one person today. Horatio said in return he'd give you a day before he came in to bother you again."
"Then he's got a big damn shock coming," Xander said as she sipped her drink. "There are no warrants, that's harassment." She looked at the stunned woman. "I'm not giving up my fun for him. I don't give it up for Gramps, why would I do something like that for someone I don't find worthy."
"He's very good at what he does," she defended.
"Which is run your unit. Managers are not those I choose to respect." The man on the other side of her coughed and she looked at him. "Ooh, did she bring backup to save her from my lust," she purred, running a finger down his cheek. His face went slack and she turned back to Cali, who was snickering. "Let me guess, he's a playboy?"
"He tries," she admitted.
"Gee, thanks," the younger male in her unit complained. "Can't we just arrest her. Isn't that pandering?"
"No. I never offered you money, sweetness," she grinned at him. He groaned so she turned back to Cali. "Personally, I've heard things about him. I respect you and Eric, you do the work, you solve the cases. He questions people and makes command decisions. I'm sure he was great in his day but his arrogance is usually seen as a sign that he's not all that." She leaned closer to the woman. "Did my daughter already write you?" She nodded. "Was it about the ballistics question? I didn't know how to answer that one. I can make my own but I'm not proficient in the 'why' part."
"Oh, yeah, easily answered," she agreed cheerfully. "She asks some really good questions. You're doing wonderfully with her." She patted her on the arm. "Try to lay low at least. We don't want Horatio to have a heart attack."
"Can I go tease him?"
Cali snickered. "I doubt he'd fall for it, Xan." She winked. "Now you behave and go jump your man."
She finished her drink. "He's recovering and told me to go clubbing. So I'm going to Pulse Point."
"I'll call and warn Eric not to go out tonight."
"Oh, please. I'd never get on with him. Besides, I am married," she said, showing her the ring. "Lupin *bought* it for me," she said happily.
"Wow. That's got to be special thing. Congrats." They hugged. "You behave. I've got another question waiting, this time about DNA. Have you answered any of that?"
"The little kid's version. The 'this is what makes you you' part."
She nodded. "Okay. I can probably fill in from there. I only looked at the header." She waved her fingers. "Have fun." She pulled him off and hauled him away. "Come on, lover boy. She's only teasing."
"She's teasing?" he complained.
"She's teasing. She's married."
"Fine," he complained, letting her lead him out. "What did she do to you?"
She frowned at him. "She kissed me in the airport while I was waiting on him to come back in."
"Liked it?" he teased. She shrieked and hit him on the arm. "Ow!"
"Meany." She got in to drive. "Just for that I should make you walk back to the station."
"Yes, Cali," he said as he obediently got in to let her drive. "So, did you?"
He laughed, it was so much fun picking on her.
Xander walked into the club she had chosen. It was a mixed club and some of the people there were worse dancers than her. She'd be fine. She walked up to the bar and smiled at the bartender, flashing her ID so he'd get her a drink. "Bud in a bottle?"
"No, I'm not weight conscious."
"Should you be doing that?" a deeper voice asked from behind her. She turned to look at him. "Cali called and warned me."
"Sorry. I came here to play. Jigen's resting so I came to learn how to dance." She shrugged. "The hotel recommended here. And yes, I have to quit after tonight."
"Going to rehab?" the bartender asked.
"No, pregnant," she said, taking it and paying him. "It's my last night for eight months." He shook his head. "I usually drink more. I'm cutting down right now." She shrugged and looked over the floor. "I heard I could learn how to dance here?"
"Yeah, Raul teaches," he said, nodding him over. "This nice young woman wants to learn how to dance."
"I'm sure." He smirked at her. "Know anything yet?"
"Nope. I'm a newbie, teach me," she purred, smirking back at him. He laughed and led her out to the floor, teaching her the basics. Once she had finished her last beer for the next eight months, and had tossed it away via a waiter, he got more in-depth with her, teaching her the harder moves. This was really fun! She could get to enjoy this!
Eric sat at the bar, watching her. "My free night is not supposed to be spent watching thieves," he complained to himself. He called his boss. "If I'm sitting here watching one of Lupin's people go dancing, do I get overtime?" He watched her get looser. "No, she's taking salsa dancing lessons at the club I'm at. No, she's really damn hot, but I'm still not getting a night off." He smirked. "Fine, H. Thank you, H." He hung up and went back to watching. Someone would be there to take his spot in a bit. He glanced at the door as it opened, hoping for his girlfriend. Instead he got her boyfriend and he was staring right at her and looking quite jealous. He walked over there, brushing past him on his way back to his table. "He's the instructor."
"Fricken' yay," Jigen said dryly, going out there to repossess his wife. "No flirting with strange Latin gay men," he ordered, taking her with him. This was one of those times he wished he was as strong as Goemon was. He'd like to have picked her up and carried her out over his shoulder. Jigen nodded at the blushing blonde outside the club. "Did you hit on her too?" he demanded.
"At the airport to distract her," Xander admitted sheepishly. "Just a kiss, Jigen."
"I'm going to break you of that flirting habit yet, Xander. You are not Lupin, nor are you Fujiko." He pulled her to the car and got in, taking her back to the apartment, where he would prove that she was *his* wife and no one else's, especially not pretty women's. No woman could give her what he did, especially not a cop.
Zenigata looked over as Ray walked into the office. They were alone, it was lunch time. "Lock it," he ordered. Ray nodded and locked it. "I'm taking you off anything Lavelle related," he started. Ray moaned, holding his head. "It's not that. I do understand that, though he didn't give you up. If you watch his eyes very closely you can tell when he's lying." He shrugged. "Like I said, I understand. That was a bad situation. No one else knows a thing. We're keeping it that way as well. I'm doing this to avoid the appearance of impropriety. IA is looking heavily again. I don't want you caught up in that mess. You're taking over for me when I leave. By then, the children should just about be reaching their start and you can deal with that." Ray looked relieved. "I'm also not saying anything to your wife. She's got doubts though, so I'd assuage them quickly. There's nothing that can ruin a marriage faster than that," he offered quietly.
Ray nodded. "Thanks, boss."
"You're welcome, Ray. I know you understand why I have to do this. You've been very good so far but I don't want you harmed for having a friend." He shrugged. "It happens to the best of us. We deal and we move on. From now on, you're not even on the chases. You're to not have anything to do with the official case against them if it reopens. Understood?"
Ray nodded. "Understood. Does Vecchio suspect?"
"Suspect, can't prove. Lavelle wouldn't name a source and said you didn't send him. He said it to him, to me, and to all of us." Ray nodded at that and looked relieved. "Until such a time as you take over, I want you to handle the other cases. Lord knows there's enough of them."
"Yes, sir, I do understand," he said, looking relieved. "Should I tell her...?"
Zenigata shrugged. "I'd make that dependant on your conscience. Can you stand to let that lie lay?"
"No," Ray admitted, shaking his head. "I can't."
"Then don't. It'll eat you otherwise. She may understand, she may not. She may see all this as proof that we're watching you too. She's a damn good cop, Ray."
"I know, sir, that's what's worrying me the most. I figured you'd either figure it out or ignore it. The others would ignore it. Dawn definitely would ignore it because she's thought about doing the same thing with some of her problems. She was my only sticking point."
"Then I'd be ready to confess as soon as she gets home," he suggested. "Do not let this fester between you. It will taint everything around you." Ray nodded. "By the way, we can't prove he did a thing either."
"Good," Ray admitted. "I had worried about that too. I think I'll go have an ulcer in peace now. Am I taking on the Branderson case as well?" Zenigata handed it over with a smirk. "Thanks, boss, you're all heart. When do we get five new people to fill in all the jobs around here?"
"We'll be lucky if we don't have a budget cut again this year," Zenigata said tiredly. "I hate it, but it's a factor in modern police work. Who knows, maybe we can capture Lupin and take all his money as ours somehow." His phone rang. "Zenigata," he answered tiredly. He grimaced. "We do not need it," he said, slamming the phone down. "Later today, find the bug in here."
"Yes, sir," Ray agreed with a grin. "Jigen or Lupin?"
"Goemon and Fujiko." He grimaced. "With a screaming child in the background."
"Wonderful for them," Ray sighed, shaking his head as he walked away.
"Ask her, she might want the same thing," he called after him.
"After all the problems we've seen with Xander and Fujiko, not a chance," Ray called back as he left the station. Expediency and desire had won over his intellect and now he was paying the price for it. He headed out to a payphone and leaned against it as he called a familiar number. "Hey, it's Ray. Is this line secure? I need advice. I did something really dumb, but necessary."
Mahoney looked at the phone, then shrugged. "My end is, yours?" He listened, leaning back in his comfy desk chair. "Good, then tell me what was so dumb, but necessary. Did you get her drunk and forget protection?" He sat up suddenly. "You did what?" He groaned and shook his head. "Ray, that was not only dumb, but wrong. You know that right?" He outlook brightened when he heard the reason. "Which is understandable, but you can't let others know." Ray admitted who knew and who didn't. "And he's not upset?" He shrugged, Zenigata was a nicer boss than he had seemed. "Okay, so you know it was dumb and wrong. You know it was something that you shouldn't have done. Why call?" He winced. "That I can't help you with. Give me a few hours to approach Eugene. Or hold on." He got up and opened a window, he had heard Eugene calling cadence for a jogging group. "Gene!" he yelled. Eugene looked up and waved. "I need you up here for a few. Now!" He put the window down. "You're in luck, Gene was out jogging with the newest cadets." Eugene walked in and looked at him, standing at parade rest. "Lock the door and sit down." He did so, looking confused as Mahoney put Ray on speaker phone. "Tell him."
Emmajean finally made it home and found the apartment dark, all but the chair in front of the window. "Ray?" He grunted in the dark and she headed for his reading chair, sitting next to him on the windowsill. "It was true?" she asked. He nodded and took another sip of his beer. "Are you okay with that?"
He looked at her, looking exhausted, like he had been wrestling with this all night. He finished his beer and put it aside. "I am, but I know you're not gonna be," he told her simply. "I did what I had ta so Ray would live."
"I agree, you did the expedient thing." She leaned down and kissed him, then grimaced. "How many have you had?"
"Enough to not care if your uncle comes over here and kicks my ass for you?"
"You told my uncle?"
"I wanted a wiser set of advice." He shrugged, then grimaced again. "I called Mahoney. He asked him. Your uncle said to pray that he couldn't afford a plane ticket this paycheck."
"Dear, Uncle Eugene lives with the family. He can afford round trip first class." She gave him another light kiss. "Are you okay with it?"
"I am," he assured her. "I don't like that I had to do it, but about doin' it I don't seem ta care. I didn't when I did it. It was the only way to stop Chicago from exploding. You heard what he did to try and capture Ray the last time."
"I did," she admitted. "Ray said thank you. He knew you sent Xander to watch over him. Xander is very good at lying, but Ray's Mountie has instincts." Her Ray let out a bitter sounding laugh. "Now what did you want to do, and does Zenigata know?"
"He knows. He took me off everything dealing with Lupin and Lavelle. I can't even go on the chases."
She grinned. "Good. The last time you tried to chase Xander, you ended up in that game of rock/paper/scissors over who got to save the drowning person." He snickered at that. "Did you win?"
"He jumped before I could throw. Arrogant prick."
"Yeah, but he's a good guy most of the time," she reminded him. "All except for when he's working and even then he's a pretty decent guy as long as you're not a bad guy." He nodded. "I'm sure Zenigata understood as well." He gave her a pitiful look and she smiled at him. "Do you feel better now that you've told me?" He nodded, reaching over to pull her closer to hug her stomach. "Ray, you shouldn't be doing that yet. I'm not."
"Your uncle threatened me if I did knock you up," he admitted, hugging her harder. "He said he would definitely come over here and kick my ass if I so much as thought about having little Ray's and Emmajeans with you."
She laughed. "He was traumatized by the sight of his son coming out. Compared it to a dog whelping something like a moose if I remember right. He thinks all women should go barren so we don't have to deal with that pain." She stroked through his damp, sticky hair. "You were sweating?"
"Yeah, I was. I was worried what you'd think of me."
"I think you did the best you could to save some people. The law may be black and white but there are a lot of people out there with blue blood." He snickered and gave her an extra squeeze. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up. Then we can snuggle and you can tell me all sorts of things that Mahoney called you."
"He called you?"
"He said I needed to talk to you, nothing further. From now on, call Callahan. She's much more used to such questions from the cadets."
"Okay, I will. I hope it never happens again but I will if it does."
"Good boy, Ray. Now come bathe with me so I can dirty you up again." He grinned sheepishly and followed her into the bathroom, letting her set everything. She didn't hate him, that was all he had wanted out of life.
Lupin let himself into Jigen's apartment, looking around. Apparently the old man hadn't done anything to it in the short time he'd been there. He noticed there was a woman in the kitchen, bending down as she tasted something from a pot. It had to be Xander, Jigen wouldn't cheat on her. He walked into the kitchen as silently as he could, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing the back of her neck. "What part of don't pull any jobs didn't you remember?" he whispered in her ear. She stiffened in his arms. "Xander?" He turned her around to look at him. "I'm going to trust my grandfather's warning that one of us could end up dead or we'd all end up on the run again. I don't want to do that to the kids, do you?"
She sniffled and walked out, heading out to her rental car. Apparently he wouldn't understand.
To Part 21
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