A True Thieves' Paradise.
Xander looked at the woman across from him. "Now, you understand fully what this job entails, correct?" She nodded, staring him down. "You understand why you're going, why you're being paid all of that?" She nodded again. "You understand that you will be going for an exam today, which does include bloodwork, and that you'll be getting another one on board the ship? That you'll have to stay clean and sober, and that from this point on there's no working until we land, right?" She nodded again. "Any questions?"
"An exam on the ship?"
"To make sure you're still clean, another blood test to make sure you haven't gotten any STD's and another pelvic to make sure of the same thing."
"Fine. I can agree to that. I understand why. What about the guys?"
"Are all snipped and clipped," he told her. "Including the ones coming to join your merry crew."
She smirked at that. "Fine. I can understand that. I've heard rumors about what you're like. What about accommodations?"
"Once they're finished being built, there's going to be a small high-rise apartment complex. Six apartments per floor, that's a two-room for everyone. Your choice with whoever you're with where you do whatever you do. There, the jungle, the main house, all that is free- roam unless the four actual children are present."
"That's fine. When are they due to be finished?"
"By the time we land. If they're not, I've got a mini-motel area set up for the kids to have space to themselves to work. Melissa needed a new lab anyway," he said dryly. "They'll be renovating those afterward."
"That's fine. We can live in a motel for a few days. The main house?"
"Already built. I was there just a few weeks ago, everything looks quite nice and clean. There are storm and tsunami protections in place already. I'll be going over that, the map of the island, and all that on the shipride over. We'll do an orientation the day or so before we land. That way you know where the clothing optional versus the clothing mandatory beach is. That one'll be a safe beach for the four kids to be on."
"Agreed, I don't like kids."
Xander smirked. "They may like you. Fred's thirteen, Kenji's twelve, Alex and Yu are both eleven. They may want but you are to resist. Especially Fred, who likes to pick up working girls to nuzzle now and then already. He's a Lupin," he sighed. She laughed at that. "If we're agreed, sign on the line and you're mine for a year."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll get me too," she said dryly, signing on the line. "You know, there's a few girls I could recommend, especially some of the newer ones who haven't become jaded and things yet."
"That might be nice," he admitted. "We've got room for about another fourteen or fifteen, but that'll leave a few apartments open in case someone like Ishi finds someone he wants to bring."
"That's fine. I'll have 'em talk to your lawyer guy. He seemed pretty sweet."
"Oh, he is, but alas, you have none of the equipment he likes."
"Ah." She winked and nodded. "Gotcha. Okay, I go today?"
He handed over a card. "Call that number, make an appointment as soon as possible. They know you're going to work overseas. Since you are female, you'll be talking to them about birth control as well, though anyone who's not snipped, like Ishi or Goemon, must use a condom. Got it?" She nodded. "Good girl." He gathered up the papers, putting them in his briefcase. "Once you've passed the test, the cashier's check will arrive at your door via a courier. That should be about a week after your test. Any other questions?"
"No, honey. You're good."
Xander smirked. "I have to be. This is the only way I can keep my mate from needing to stray." He stood up. "Finish lunch, I already paid for it." He winked and walked off, heading out to his car and back to his hotel room. This plan had been brewing for a while and it was nearly finished. Murami had thrown a fit about it, but he had made her see why he was doing it. She still hated it, but she wasn't in charge of anything over it. He had a special lawyer that he was blackmailing over it. The man loved his horses too much and had been captured on film. So Lavelle was going to use him for this interesting project. Once everything was set up, he'd be released from service and handed the blackmail material. Though he knew he wasn't going to forget. Only a few more months and everything would be fine and set up fully. Then they could start a year-long vacation getting the kids ready for the Academy. Even if Lupin and Jigen didn't know it yet.
Xander looked at his new harem, smiling at the girls who were giving the guys sideways looks. "I know, but some of us do like both and there are younger adult daughters," he pointed out. They all looked at him. "Hi, I'm Lavelle." Some of them waved and the rest smiled. "I hired most of you directly. Some went through my attorney. Did anyone have any questions before we start?"
"The guys, are they tested?" one of the girls asked.
"They are, and they've all been snipped," he assured her. "You can play with them if you want, but remember what you're there for." She nodded at that, looking pleased. "As of this moment, you're on my cruise ship, one of three ways to get onto and off the island. There will be monthly cruises back for anyone who changes their mind or has to opt out early due to family problems or something. Each of you, within about two weeks according to the contracting crew, will have your own apartment. Until then, there's a small motel- like area that the kids are going to be renovating into labs and play areas for themselves. Sorry, but the workers got a bit behind on me due to a storm." That got some nods.
"Those who need to can stay on the ship for a few days. The other ways off the island are the other cruise ship, which belongs to Lupin the Fourth, again it will be running out about once a month. There's also a helicopter. Now, in each of your apartments is a tv hooked up to a satellite. There's a computer hooked into the same satellite, and there's a phone hooked into our special communications satellite. They will be furnished, painted, some carpeted and some wooden floored. There will be a full kitchen, a full bath with a very nice tub, and at least a bedroom. Some of them do have two in case you wanted to share, and the triplets have one of the bottom apartments since they needed the room. The first four floors have only four apartments per floor, the uppers have six apartments per floor. The bottom ones are for speccialists, the triplets, and people like the masseuse and the trainer." The girls nodded at that, and the guys looked impressed. "I've put a lot of thought into this plan. I provided everything I could want and I think you could want. Now, let's move to the building map?" They got up and moved over to the mockup of the buildings.
"Okay, this is the one being constructed," he noted, pointing at the glass sides. "As you can see, little tiny apartments in there, and in the center of the bottom floor is a cafeteria. You can eat in or take out or take up to your apartments. There's a small store and grocery store the next level up. Again, take what you need, it's there for you guys. It's not like a super walmart but it's got most everything I think you'll need. There's an older woman here. Delores?" She raised her hand. "She's like the dorm mother. She's in charge of menus in the caf, the cleaning staff that comes in once a week to do the apartments, and the store. You let her know." Everyone looked at her. "Delores, you get left, front apartment. The masseuse is behind you. The trainer is on the other side in the front and the other one's empty. Next floor up is the triplets, they're right front. Got it?" Everyone nodded. "The cleaning crew has their own house a bit away. There's no predators bigger than a bunny rabbit and some squirrel sized things. Lots of birds, some fish in the ponds and in the river and the lake. The whole island is ours, guys. You can roam, it's safe." That got more nods and some smiles. "This is the main building," he said, pointing at that building. "As you can see, standard living spaces. Family room with big screen tv, offices - mine, Lupin the Third's, Lupin the Fourth's, and a spare one for Melissa, Ishi, or Lupin the Second if he ends up joining us. No worries, he's ninety-six and a half." That got some light laughter.
"Bedrooms are in suites. Goemon's," he said, flipping the switch to light them up. "He's in blue. The kids', the young kids', is in black. Mine's in green, and mine is mine, Lupin the Third's, and Jigen's, Arsene's is in blue. Melissa's is in pink, and she'd hate me for saying that. Ishi's is in yellow and Lotus's is in white. Marcus, when and if he shows up again, will be in the brown room, Lupin the Second in the red room, and the others are spare and guest rooms. It's modeled on the one in France, but has bigger windows that let in breezes. Remember, if there are any guests, you do not have to touch them. We won't encourage it, we won't force it, we're not going to guilt trip you into it. That's all up to you. I wouldn't mind if someone took Ray into hand and made him a happy guy when and if he shows up, but I'm not going to *make* anyone do it. Understood?" They all nodded at that. "Good. Let's move onto the general map." They moved over and he lit it up. "The black beach is the clothing mandatory. The blue one is the clothing optional. The paths are outlined and cut into the jungles, and one of the cleaning crew will be a gardener who'll maintain them and any grass or grottos we might have.
"Notice the red bumps. Those are the access ports once the storm shield is up. The shield is basically a metal snail shell that can be flipped up and used to cover everything that's in red oval. The red bumps are access ports in case you get stuck outside. Basically, a concrete door, two steps down, two steps across, two steps up and into another concrete door." Everyone nodded at that. "It has been tested, in miniature, up to a thousand psi of wind and six feet of water against the sides. It held, in miniature. They assure me it will hold in case of a storm. If not, there's a hermetically sealed storm shelter in the basement of each building. It will keep the water out. The apartment building's is meant to hold two people for every apartment and there's cots and freeze dried food down there. There's an alarm siren that we'll show you when we run a drill as soon as everyone's moved in. Okay?" They all nodded. "Good. Any questions?"
"The children?" Delores asked.
"Have a nanny but I'm expecting them to peak and at least Fred to try. He's thirteen, he's hired pros a few times to nuzzle their breasts. The others are twelve and eleven. So I'm thinking looking might very well be an option. If you catch them, report them. Report them to Delores, any adult, or any staff member. There's a special phone up to the main house in each apartment and outside each building in case you need us. By the way, your phones will have two hundred minutes free and clear for overseas calls. Anything other than that, I'm assuming most of you bought phone cards?" Everyone nodded. "That way you can call more if you want and there's a counter on the phones to tell you how long you talked. It's even got a memory feature if you forget." That got some smiles. "Cable's free, radio's spotty now and then, but there's ten music channels on the tv in addition to the Music Choice system, which can play crappy songs now and then." That got some chuckles. "They do." He shrugged. "Did I forget anything?"
"Will we get maps?"
"Maps are going to be on the door of each apartment. They are removable in case you wanted to go for a hike or something. The island's not really tiny but it's about a day and a half to walk across from what I'm told. All the paths lead back to one of the two main buildings or the beaches and as I said, no predators in the jungles. Maybe some monkeys, I'm not sure. We had a few but I think one of the workers got pissed when it kept stealing screws, nuts, and bolts on him. Oh, there will be small watercraft, jet skis, paddle boats, things like that at the marina, which is where we'll be landing. There'll also be a few at the lake. If we find out we need more at the lake, I'll gladly move them there. The first food shipment is coming with us, it's in the hold, and so are the cooks. The rest of it will be with the rest of the family when they show up in a few weeks on Lupin the Fourth's ship. Remember, you guys were picked for more than being pretty and nice. Ishi likes to talk to people. Don't be embarrassed if Fred asks you questions about where you're from. He likes to travel and thinks it'll help him later on during jobs. Let me or Delores know if you need anything at all. Oh, and ladies, if you're having a..." He coughed. "Womanly moment, there's a green switch on your wall. Kindly flip it. That way Delores knows to increase your hot water allotment and to ensure that there's something with chocolate or ice cream. I know some of you know Sylvia or have seen Sylvia, she's the same way and has the same demands." That got some titters and some hurt looks.
"Not everyone needs it, but this way we know who does and can take steps. The water allotment isn't that bad. It's enough to take about seven showers or fill the bathtub twice a day." They stared at him. "The tubs are really nice," he offered with a grin. "I know Sylvia likes to soak when she's having hers, that way you won't throw off the water system and we can keep track of it and even it out after a few months. Please?" They nodded at that. "Thank you. By the way, yes, the store will have supplies for those who need them, in a few different brands and by a few different means. Remember, we're still starting up so we're going to over-budget and over-plan until we're sure exactly where normal limits lie. That's why we're doing the average water allotment. We have our own treatment system to desalinate from the ocean, but we don't want to run it all day if we don't have to. So we'll use these first two months to gauge where we need to be for production and how many hours a day that is. We also have our own electric plant based on hydroelectric power from one of the rivers that has a waterfall. All the lines are underground. Again, if we don't have to run it all day every day, then we'd like not to, but if we have to, we have to. We just need to know for sure." They all nodded at that. "Any other questions?"
"Dress code?" one of the guys asked.
"Please wear something to at least cover your genitals, and for ladies breasts as well, enough to not shock or horrify the kids if you run into them on the paths. Except for on the clothing optional beach. So, speedos, bikinis if you're that sure of your body. Thongs if you must but please wear a wrap off the beach. Also, we do have sunscreen available by the drum. Please use it so we don't have to tend to too many burned sensitive areas. There will be a doc and a nurse on duty in case something happens. Plus, the helicopter can get you to a major medical center within forty minutes." That got smiles. "We have hopes that no one gets hurt, but we're realistic among other things." He smiled. "If there's nothing else, let's go eat. The new cook is trying to please us with his creations today. The dining hall is still downstairs and off toward the front." They trooped out, talking about the island and the benefits. It was nice. Sixty grand for the first year, ten grand if they stayed on for each additional year. Health club, beaches, libraries, tv, apartments, free food and laundry, cleaning services, everything they could want. It was a sweet deal just to sleep with a bunch of people.
Xander beamed at himself in a mirror. "I think this is going to work out just great," he said happily, heading back to his room to grab a book and go down to lunch. He liked to read while eating.
Arsene cleared her throat, making the family look at her. "Guys, announcement time." Everyone quit chatting and put down their glasses and forks. "As you all know, Mom's new plan has been hatched, is in full swing, and we're heading there to look it over. What you don't know is that this is our newest home. Possibly our permanent home. Dad, Uncle Jigen. Melissa, Ishi." She smiled at them. "Tomorrow, we'll be docking on Xander's new island. His harem if you will." They all gaped en masse. She nodded, smirking at them. "Indeed. He managed to make it happen. I looked over the plans myself. The women, and men, 'Lis, have signed up for a year's contract knowing what they were going to be getting into. They've all been tested, are clean and clear, and the guys have been snipped. The ladies are on birth control. Daddies, I hear you've been snipped as well." She smiled at them. "Thank you for that. I don't need more siblings. Fred's more than enough, really. We have our house, they have an apartment complex. The whole island is ours to run on. There's no predators in the woods, Uncle Goemon, but there is fishing and a lake and some hiking trails and rivers and things like that. I have the map here. By the way, there is a clothing *mandatory* beach, which is the only one the kids are allowed on. Yes, Fred, you are included. There is a clothing optional beach, which Mom said you will be beaten if you're found near before you're sixteen." Fred quit drooling.
"The rest of the island is pretty muchly wear something covering enough and wear sunscreen. 'Lis, your chain bikini is permissible here off the clothing optional beach." She got up and walked over to a wall, opening the cabinet to show the tv and turning on both it and the VCR to show the plans. "This is the main house. Notice it looks awfully familiar, dad." They got up to come look. She paused the tape. "Color coded, key's at the bottom. A bit smaller than the house in France."
"We have a masseuse?" Lotus asked.
"He's part of the paid staff," Arsene told her. "Him, the cleaning crew, the dorm mother at the apartments." She looked at them. "We ready to go on?" Ishi nodded so she started the tape again. "Anything black on any map is coded safe for the kids. Here's the apartment complex. Notice there's not a black spot on it, guys. Here it is level-by-level. And here's the library, which is very nice and close to the lake and all three other buildings. There's a small former motel that was moved there for us to renovate, Melissa. That way we could have workrooms outside the house to escape to." The final image, the map of the island popped up. "Here you go, the map. Uncle Goemon, notice there's a green area out in the woods. That is your hut. And it is a hut according to mom. That way you can escape, take the boys for training, all that stuff. That river holds the hydroelectric module to give us power. The desalinization plant is on the western shore, near the clothing optional beach."
"What're the red spots?" Jigen asked.
"Those are entrances if the storm shield comes up. It's like a snail's shell over most of the important bits. Uncle G, your hut isn't covered, but there's a good cave system behind the waterfalls holding the generators." He nodded at that. "Mom said a miniature was tested and did hold, but in case there's a bunker underneath each building that is sealed. Well, the library seals itself really. Inside the bunkers are clothes, food, bunk beds, the usual stuff for storm shelters. They are tightly sealed with submarine technology. Each building has enough room for double the amount of occupants each building should hold. By the way, we're bringing the library and the rest of the food with us. The ladies and men went with Mom a few weeks back on his ship. Mom called the night before we left and said to come ahead since the apartments were all finished. Everything's done. I will tell you that they're there for our pleasure but if someone nosy shows up, like say Uncle Stan, then they do not have to touch them. They are not to touch Yu, Kenji, Fred, or Alex. The only alcohol on the island is some light wines, mostly used at the dinner table or in cooking. Sorry, Uncle Jigen."
"I can live without it," he promised.
"Good. We've also got a small tobacco farm set up in the middle of the jungle. There's little grottos here and there, plus the apartments, the main house, and all that good stuff. The lake and the marina both have jet skis and paddle boats for pleasure and Mom said if there's not enough at the lake he'd move some. Marcus does have a room if and when he shows up. Grandfather has a room if and when he shows up." Lupin smiled at that. "Did I leave out any of the important things?"
"Are we running a drill when we get there?" Lotus asked.
"The others have already run one. We may get one next month. There may be one a month I'm not sure yet. Basically we can do anything that doesn't require snow here. And Mom's thinking about an indoor ski ramp anyway," she offered with a grin. "We'll be landing tomorrow morning. Dad, Mom was being entirely practical when he said he didn't expect to see you for the first month. Uncle G, Dad did say that he found a very nice, polite young woman who was very sweet and was a Buddhist who would probably love to just sit and talk with you now and then. No pressure, he said." Goemon nodded at that. "He did say that he didn't expect to see me, daddy, and possibly Ishi for the first few weeks but that there were spare rooms in case we found someone we wanted to bring along as long as they followed the rules and did all the testing." She clapped her hands. "Let's finish dinner, people. I'll need my strength. There's fifteen guys there who haven't met me yet."
Lupin the Third wiped his drool off as he looked at Jigen. "Should we praise or punish for being this naughty?"
"He said he was going to make sure that we would not be leaving him ever again," he noted dryly. "Not even you'll want to leave the island. This'll give us a year to get the kids ready for the Academy."
"Yeah, that too," he agreed happily, sounding dazed. "Wow. My very own harem."
"No, Xander's very own harem," Goemon said dryly, smirking at him. "And he can punish you by not allowing you near them now."
"I'll let him tie me up and paddle me black-and-blue for this," Lupin assured him happily. "Hot damn, I knew you were right to take in Xander, Jigen."
"Thanks, man, really." He sat down at his place at the table, considering it. It might not be so bad. The girls would be clean. Lupin and Xander could whore all they wanted. Lupin the Fourth could whore around all she wanted without them having to worry about a Lupin the Fifth. So could the other older kids. He noticed Fred pouting. "Three more years, kid. Then you can join the fun."
"Fine, spoil my natural libido," he complained, pushing his plate back.
"As long as you pout like that, you can't have sex," Lupin the Fourth reminded him. "We had to wait until we were sixteen, even Ishi. So do you."
"No, son. Sixteen is the limit the adults agreed upon long ago. We're sticking to it," Lupin the Third said firmly. "Deal with it and move on. You can still look now and then. There's a whole beach you can lounge on when you're not in lessons."
"Thank you, son." He grinned at him. "When you're sixteen, the day after, we'll let you run down there and not come back up for a few weeks."
"Sure. If it's still ongoing at that time."
"It will be. Xander tends to plan for the future," Jigen reminded him. "He doesn't often do short-term plans."
"Especially not setting up his own little country here," Goemon agreed. "He has everything but immigration and prisons."
"He won't need it," Ishi pointed out. "Will we have individual maps?"
"Yup, and they'll be downloaded into our phones once we get there," Arsene promised. "We'll be met at the marina by Mom and possibly a welcoming committee, he wasn't sure. Then we're here until we leave for our next job."
"Why do I have the feeling that we're taking a year off?" Jigen asked Goemon.
"I had the same feeling but it would help the children train."
"Point," he agreed. "Range, Arsene?"
"Will be behind the house. It's not fully completed yet. You'll have an indoor and an outdoor. Plus we'll have a golf setup at the same time."
"Interesting," Lupin noted. "How did he find this island?"
"Someone died. He bought it off some sheik's estate. He had it with almost nothing on it but mom's really improved it tastefully from the aerial photos I've seen during construction. Everything looks very natural, like it's been there for a few years."
"This beats retiring to Miami," Jigen joked.
"It so very muchly does," Lupin agreed, starting to grin. "I love you all but I'm going to explore for the first few days."
"We know, daddy," Fred assured him. "We'll see you when you've got through all the women."
"Okay, I'm wondering here. Whose birthday present was this?" Ishi asked.
"Xander's," everyone else said mostly together.
The ship was met at the marina by Xander and most of the lovers on the island, earning big smiles.
"Oh, my God, it's Thomas!" Arsene shouted, hurrying down to hug him. "Why are you here?"
"Lavelle saved me from a boring existence, Arsene." He smiled and winked at her. "Shall we wander off?"
"Sure. Give me ten to get my bags. 'Lis, Lotus, Ishi, this is Thomas. *That* Thomas."
"The one who broke her in?" Melissa asked, shaking his hand. "A pleasure to meet you. I hear quite a lot of the results of your work each and every night." He laughed at that, giving her a hug. "Oooh, you do smell good." She sniffed again. "Very nice." She let him go. "Perhaps after Arsene's had her moment with you, you'll spare some for me?"
"I'd be delighted. I like women with senses of humor." He noticed Lotus blushing. "We're here just to talk to if you wanted," he promised. He took Arsene's hand when she came back, walking her off. "Where would you like to see?"
"Wherever you want to get horizontal, man. I want cuddles."
"My apartment it is then, at least for now." He walked her on, taking her the short way. She was nearly vibrating, she needed him bad.
Lupin the Third rushed down, pausing to let his tongue hang out when he saw all the pretty women. Two of them were twins though and he made his way to them, noticing how much they looked like a young Fujiko. "Wow," he said, staring at them. "I know someone who looks just like you."
"So Lavelle said," one of them offered, the other giggling. "There's a third but she's sweet and gentle, not like us."
"Oh, damn, I may die," he whispered, walking them off. "Take me to your leather. I mean, leader. Or just the bed." They giggled again and led him off.
Goemon came down and shielded both younger son's eyes. "Sorry, they are quite young."
"This is appropriate clothing. We're going to desensitize them, Goemon. Let 'em go." He stole the boys and watched them stare. "Get used to it, boys. You're going to see it every day until you do not drool, you can control your hormones around them, and you will not react when you see a nipple." They hugged him and bowed at his feet before heading off with Lotus. "You too, Fred and Alex." They bowed at his feet too, Fred even kissing them, before following the other two. "Geomon, I want you to meet someone. Yasmin?" She stepped forward and Goemon was struck dumb. "She answered my ad," he said quietly. "I know you see what I did. She's one of a set of triplets, but she's the sweet and innocent one Arsene was suppose to tell you about. She's pure, she's sweet, she's happy, and she agreed to come here just to meet you." He gave him a light shove when he didn't move, and Goemon walked over to her, picking her up and carrying her off. He winked at the one nearest him. "She looks just like his former wife."
"Ah. The other one took the other two."
"Yeah, Fujiko used to be Lupin's girl but she ended up marrying Goemon and giving him all the kids. They'll be talking for hours." He looked at Jigen, who was just standing there, staring. "Hi, Jigen," he said with a little smirk. "Hey, Ishi?" Ishi came out with his things, stopping beside Jigen to stare too. "Guys and girls, these two are Jigen and Ishi. That should be everybody unless Lupin the Second showed up?" Ishi mutely shook his head. "I promise, they only bite when you ask."
"So this is what heaven's like," Ishi said in a dazed voice. A few of the girls giggled and came up to walk him off. Jigen got a few others walking him off.
Xander waved a hand at the workers. "Go for it, guys." They got to work unloading the ship. "Thanks, guys. Let me know if I forgot anything for you and your families."
"Yes, sir," one of them agreed. "So far so good. Library and food?"
"Mostly. Maybe the medical bay as well." He shrugged. "The captain has the list." He walked off, taking his cutie of the house back for some fun and games at the lake. He deserved it, he had done good.
Inspector Zenigata looked at his men, and women, and frowned. "Something's going on. No one's seen one single Lupin hair for the last three months. Not his, not the kids', not Lavelle's, no one in that group. They must be planning something."
Stanley Kowalski, one of his inspectors and one of Xander's closest friends, coughed. "Um, nope," he offered. He shifted when everyone looked at him. "Xander's been working on the retirement plan, sir. Um, how to put this delicately." He looked up, then at his wife, who could only giggle, so he looked at his boss again. "Xan's bought an island off the estate of a sheik and set up a playground and harem. They're all there getting the kids ready for their first year of school in Italy."
"Excuse me?" Dawn asked. "Repeat that please, this time in English?"
"He did what?" Ray Vecchio demanded, staring him down. "Where did you hear this?"
"Xander," he said simply. "I've got the map on my computer. Of course, I'm not goin'. I'm a married guy, I can't go to the place that's got sixty women and fifteen guys just waitin' ta play with the family, and only the family. If we show up, Xander said that we're not to be touched unless they wanted to."
"So, let me get this straight," Zenigata said sarcastically. "He *bought* people?"
"No, he's got some people on yearly contract," he told him. "Just like employees. He's converted the island into his own little playground of sex and lust. It's their retirement place so Lupin and Jigen won't get bored."
"Xander said in Chicago that he needed to build a harem to keep Lupin and Jigen from leaving him some day," Ray said bitterly. "So they're on contract?" He nodded. "Like hired them for the whole year?" Stan nodded. "Who would do that?"
"Sixty grand the first year, ten each additional year," he said dryly. "Free health care, free food, free rent, free sex with the option of telling someone no, free tv, free lake, free jungle, free beaches. Free library." Dawn gaped and let out a small whimper. "Training areas, wild areas for Goemon to go hide in. Sixty girls and fifteen guys there for pleasure and fun. It's like one'a those tapes only interactive and better because it's more'n tit shots."
"Can they come home when they want?" Emmajean asked.
"Yeah, there's a monthly ship out for supplies and there's a 'copter there too," Stan assured her. "Everyone got the first month to decide and if they have to back out due to family stuff, they're allowed to go and he'll only prorate the sixty grand a bit. They got at least forty as long as they stayed for at least a month. They get so many minutes a month free ta call anyone they want too. It's a sweet deal. If I needed cash and liked guys that way, I'd be there in a heartbeat."
"My cousin would kill you," Bix said firmly, making him grin. He knew Goemon would destroy him and turn him into mulch if he disrespected her.
"Of course only if I were single. He had everyone tested for drugs and diseases. There's almost no liquor on the island. He had everyone given a full physical and the guys all got snipped and the girls all got put on birth control before they went. He planned it out very carefully. Technically, the island is private property in a group of islands that's really unclaimed territory because most of them are too small to live on. There's no immigration to it unless you're on contract or you're hired for some of the staff, like the trainer or the masseuse, who had to be replaced last month. She got hurt and hated the idea of the island anyway. She's the one who brought me the map. Xan told her to."
"Okay, so they're not planning anything?" Zenigata demanded.
"Pleasure, some retirement time to work with the kids. More pleasure. I hear Lupin actually came home to Xan after two weeks instead of the month everyone thought. Melissa's got her own workstation there. Arsene's got one. Lupin the older's got one. I was invited out to look around and make sure it's all legit, but I'm married."
Zenigata looked at Ray. "You're not."
"No, sir, I'm not," he agreed. "It's not my sort of scene either."
"So? That means you won't get sucked in and stay. Go there, see what's going on, get Xander to tell you what he's planning next."
"Yes, sir. Should I call first, Stan?"
"Unless you plan on swimming, yeah," he said dryly. "Only ways in are 'copter and ship."
"Fine. Write him an email for me telling him I'm coming."
"Sure, but I won't word it that way so you don't get picked on," he promised, turning his laptop around to write that note out. He found a pop-up message from Jigen. "They know. Meet 'em at the private plane airport in Hong Kong in four days. They're flying in a new cook to add to the staff."
"Sure," Ray agreed. He headed home to pack. He decided on shorts, some light pants and a few shirts. Nothing too informal. Nothing that'd make it seem like he was on vacation too. Because he definitely didn't want to be on vacation somewhere like that. No, not him.
Ray stepped off the helicopter, ducking under the rotors and out of the way of the cook. Jigen nodded at him and pulled the cook aside, saying something to her and pointing at the jeep. She smiled, shook his hand, and headed that way. Jigen turned to look at him. "Sorry, lunch time."
"Not a problem," Ray agreed, following him to another jeep. "She heading to a different spot?"
"She'll be working in the caf and the little stand by the lake," he explained. "I figured you wanted to go up to the house."
"Yeah, please. Zenigata nearly freaked when he heard what your boy had done."
"He did it out of love," Jigen said fondly. "He wanted to make sure we wouldn't stray without permission. This is his idea of permission."
"It's many men's idea of permission," he joked weakly, looking around. "Any wild animals?"
"A few monkeys, a few birds, some fish in the lake and the rivers. Nothing bigger than a squirrel and some deer he recently imported." He turned onto another small track. "This is one of two roads on the island. Everything else is walking or bike trails. The other road's from the marina for supplies and stuff."
"I got the map off Stan." He looked at the apartment building. "That's tasteful."
"It is. Some of them will let you into their apartments, some won't and they'll use the empty ones. Some'll only do you up at the house in your room. Some like outdoors. It's nice. In a perverted and odd way."
"Yeah, it's definitely perverted. "You beat your boy yet for this stunt?"
"Hell no," Jigen snorted. "Lupin's happy. We're working with the kids. No snow aches this year. We can head off for a job if we want to. This is Paradise, Lupin style."
"Yeah, well, you better hope no country claims this little Thieve's Paradise of yours, Jigen. Or else you'll be in trouble. This much prostitution? Taxes? Doesn't this bother him?"
"Xander?" he asked dryly. "Probably not. It's unclaimed. We checked. No one really wants us. They'd have to take care of the other islands and some of them show pollution damage. The closest we get to outsiders is some fishers off the other coast." He pulled up in front of the house. "Here we are. Last time I knew, Xander was working on the food order in his study."
"Thanks." He got out and headed that way until a woman stopped him. "Don't. I'm a cop."
She smiled and played with the buttons on his shirt and then his belt. "Lavelle forbid us from touching any guests unless we absolutely wanted to. I don't get paid for you, dear, I just think you're cute." She kissed him again, stunning him so she could move down to suck him. She groaned as the fingers latched into her hair and did her best ever on him. He came with a growl and she gave him little kitten licks to clean him up. "There, much better," she offered, standing up to kiss him again. "I feel much better now and you look happier, sexy. I love a slightly older man." She kissed him again, and he grabbed on, giving it all he had. She pulled back with a smile, winking at him. "Call me. I'm Melusia." She walked past Jigen, pinching him on the butt. "Cutie."
Jigen stared after her, then looked at Ray. "She really is forbidden to touch you unless she wants. Lupin had her once or twice but then ended up with the twins who look a lot like Fujiko when she was twenty. She won't touch Ishi and she likes me but I'm wary of her exhibitionist nature."
"Wow," Ray said, looking pleased. "I still got it." He hit himself on the forehead. "Ma will be so pissed."
"No she won't. She'll want you to use this as a distraction but find a good girl to bring home to her," Xander said from behind him, giving Ray a hug. "Hi. Welcome to our retirement village." He walked him off, taking him up to his room. "This is yours. I didn't figure I could get Stan to come. Goemon would probably try to cut him open with a can opener." He gave him another hug. "It's all right. You don't have to give in unless you want to, Ray." He pinched him on the cheek. "Come down to the office once you've unpacked." He walked off, only walking a bit funny.
Ray shook his head, closing the door so he could unpack. "Talk about fantasy islands."
"So, Uncle Ray, did you come to join the staff?" Arsene teased, handing him the corn.
"One, I'm not that good looking. Two, I'm still a cop. Becoming paid for this stuff while being a cop means I'd be fired and then sent to jail."
"I think you're adorable," Melissa assured him, leaning closer to kiss him on the cheek. "You could definitely be on the staff here, if only as the masseuse if you wanted. You or Uncle Stan." Goemon growled at that. "I'm sure he wouldn't stray."
"He'd better not," he assured her.
"Stan wouldn't come so he wouldn't be tempted," Ray assured him. "That's why I got to come."
"How many times now?" Arsene teased. "We ask to keep careful records."
"Daughter!" Lupin the Third said, looking shocked.
"'Scuse her, Ray," Jigen apologized. "She's on the rag and the lack of sex is making her funny."
"I'm told they make drugs for that," he said firmly, staring the young woman down. She only grinned at him. "If we were home, I'd have Zenny spank you for that."
"But his wife might get mad if he took up with a younger woman," Ishi teased.
Lotus coughed into her napkin. "Excuse him, too much sex does apparently rot the brain," she apologized.
"Not a problem," Ray assured her. "I've heard worse from Xander."
"No fair! Just because he's a boy he shouldn't get away with the bad sex jokes," Arsene complained.
"He didn't. His wasn't a bad sex joke, just lame," Lotus told her.
"I resent that," Ishi complained.
"Hush, both of you," Melissa snapped. They both grinned at her. "And yes, I did have some today, thank you muchly. You two try the patience of saints."
"Yeah, well, some days we're just mini Xander's," Arsene offered smugly.
"Just like you should be, oh great daughter of Sylvia," Ishi teased.
"I can be but I don't do it with company presently. Who do you think it was helping you put up those vibrators in your dad's room?" Goemon sighed. "Sorry, Uncle."
"It's not a problem, children. I had no idea they came in such sizes and colors. It simply stunned me for a few moments."
Ray snorted. "It'd stun me to wake up with more dicks in my room too," he agreed.
"You know, we always thought that you and Uncle Stanley would make a cute couple, or trio with Auntie Bix," Arsene offered with a sweet smile.
"There was even betting on it there for a while among the bulletin boards," Melissa agreed.
Jigen reached down to swat the back of her head. "Shut up."
"You mean they thought me and Stan....." he trailed off. "Really?"
"The majority of opinions had you giving and him receiving and begging for it," Lotus told him. "Then they saw you with mom and heard the rumors you had put out for that cover and decided you were so straight you're the one who made Uncle Stan's hair stand up every morning. His was unrequited lust."
"Then he got married so now they think he's bi," Ishi finished.
"So, had any midnight visitors?" Lupin the Third teased with a bright grin.
"Hell no," Ray said shortly. "Bix would kill him. Besides, he's a tough little guy."
"Who's a lover," Lupin the Third reminded him. "He'd probably be one to beg for it."
"Only from his exwife while they were married," Ray said dryly.
"We heard about chilly and frosty woman from Turnbull the last time we ran into him," Lotus agreed. "Apparently she had to depose him or something and he was quite scared of the fiercest demon in training. I hope she didn't ruin Uncle Stan for a real woman's touch. He needs someone who's soft and gentle on him after her. Fortunately Bix is very good at reading him and giving him what he needs."
"Should we send her the strapons then?" Arsene joked.
"Stan is not gay," Ray assured them, telling himself not to blush. "Bix is already one scary woman when she wants to be," he offered. "She's already spanked him once that I heard." He sipped some of his wine. "Ah, I tested this vintage."
"You did and it turned out excellent," Xander praised, grinning at him. "Kids, enough. If Stan was gay, he would have hit on me. He hasn't yet so I'm guessing he's not."
"Switch topics to something more inclusive," Goemon ordered.
"Fine," Melissa agreed. "Uncle Ray, would you like to join me at the lake tomorrow? It's got one of the prettiest views on the island."
"Sure, Melissa. I'd like that. You can show me around while Xander figures out how to dance around the fact that this is going to get him into trouble."
"It is not," Xander said firmly. "No one else knows about this place but you guys."
"And the lawyer," Lupin the Third reminded him.
"He crashed his car into his house and stables," Xander told him. "Someone else found out about his thing for his horses."
"Do I want to know?" Ray asked. Xander shook his head. "Blackmail?"
"Limited only to having him working on the contract and helping me decide who was going to come."
"Fine," Ray agreed. "He's dead, we can't get him anyway." He stared at Xander. "You know I'll have to report that."
"It was more friendly teasing, Ray. I gave him the pictures back." He grinned at him. "Who said you're going to remember when you step off the island? Marcus is around somewhere and you know how much he likes going into heads to play."
"Yay, won't happen, Xander," he said firmly.
"Fine. Try to spoil my fun," he said patiently. "There's nothing Interpol can do while I'm here."
"Maybe," Ray corrected. "Maybe not."
"No, we checked, there's no maybe about it," Melissa told him. "While we're here, we can declare this to be sovereign territory. Our rules, our country, our policies." Ray gaped at her. "We've already filed a petition with the UN as such. We don't want a seat or anything, just recognition as a sovereign territory."
"That'll get you publicity."
"No it won't. No one knows the person who filed," Melissa said dryly, smirking at him. "We're not quite that dumb, Uncle Ray. Now behave or else I'll let Melusia sneak in tonight." Ray blushed at that. "It's okay. We understand. You're lonely. You have to listen to noisy little Stan now and then too. It sucks. We feel the same way about Lupin the Fourth sometimes." She hugged his arm. "It'll be okay. Just enjoy yourself while you snoop around, Uncle Ray. It'll be just fine." He nodded, digging into his dinner to hide his blush. "Sorry," she whispered. He nodded, continuing to eat.
"So, Ray, how do you like our cook?"
"She's good. It's not my Ma, right?"
"Nope, not your mother. Though she does know. Arsene told her and she blushed and cackled a bit, said it was probably the only way I'd keep my boys here too. She said it was interesting but I'd better be good to those I hired. I pointed out I was always good to them. How's Frannie?"
"Fine. She said to thank you for fixing her loan for her since she wasn't able to refinance and it suddenly went through anyway. She said that was very nice of you but she wasn't going to date you or sleep with you, even though you were cute. Welsh would get onto her if she did, but she did appreciate it."
"Not a problem," Xander said with a wave of his hand. "It's part of my good deed for the year. That and fixing up Turnbull."
"I saw him," Ray admitted. "And Born. How tall is he?"
"Six and a half," Melissa told him. "Plus very skilled in many areas. Including why Constable Turnbull couldn't sit I'm supposing."
"Well, he liked guard duty that day I suppose," Xander said dryly. He winked at Ray. "Relax. Enjoy yourself. You can file as many reports as you like from your room each night. Your door does lock."
"Sure. Thanks." He finished up and got seconds, digging in again. Traveling always made him hungry. The rest of the meal was teasing of Lupin, both of them, about how many times they disappeared into the brush with someone. Later that night, he settled into his room to send back notes to the office, stopping when he heard a knock. He saved everything down and put his laptop aside, getting up to answer the door. What he found was not what he expected. He let Melissa in, frowning at her until she kissed him. "What are you doing?" he hissed.
"What I want to," she replied, doing it again, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"I'm old enough to be your father," he muttered when he pulled back.
"Younger than that with all the youthening stuff," she reminded him. "Shut up, Ray." She kissed him again, making him moan and grab on. She was definitely her mother's daughter. She walked them backwards, landing on the bed. He put his laptop onto the floor and dove back in, unable to resist. "Oooh," she squealed when he bit her on the neck. "That's why I came in here." He looked up at her. "I've always thought you were handsome and sexy, Ray. I'm just built that way. I like strong, smart, active men." She kissed him again, drawing him back to her. "Please?"
"Your father will kill me."
"I doubt it," she muttered. "He's conked out on top of mom." She kissed him again and he was lost, she could feel him giving in. His hands were starting to explore and she let them. She really did want this and him. He moaned as he pulled back, moving back to her neck. "Please, Ray," she breathed.
"Nothing should take that short of time."
"I'm like mom, Ray. I have mini ones."
"Ah." He nodded, smirking at her. "Not enough playthings?"
"Not that I favor. They're decent enough but I need someone special, someone who understands a woman's body. You understand them very well from what I've heard around." She felt one hand drifting over her stomach. "I need a man, Ray, not a toy."
"Fine. This once, and I'm not going to be killed."
"Eh, what's he going to say? He was out there sleeping with the Fujiko look-alike last night. I'm grown and an adult. Deal with it and please, move on," she finished with a cute grin. "Please? I do know how to beg. I usually do too much of that to no end."
He kissed her again. "You also babble." He kissed her again, making sure she kept quiet for a bit or else he'd think this was more than a hallucination brought on by dinner. It had to be one. Girls like her didn't go for guys like him, not at his age. They went for guys like Stan, who was ten years younger than him, but not guys like him. He found himself on his back, staring up at her.
"Quit thinking. Yes, some of us do like guys like you. You're past that 'playing with fire' stage and moved on to being good lovers and steady men to be with." She worked his shirt off him, then hers, leaning down to explore the moderately hairy chest. She had always preferred older men for her fantasies. Now she remembered why. They *knew* women's bodies very well. She was fully into it before they got any farther than just removing shirts, and he was proving his worth shortly afterward by making it all better and her less needy.
Down the hall, Ishi and Arsene were sharing a look. "I'm not telling her father," Arsene said abruptly, heading to her room.
"Me either," he agreed, heading for his and the nice young woman waiting in there for him.
Lotus pulled the pillow over her head when Melissa got loud, groaning into it. "Why is she like her Mom?" she complained.
Ray was grabbed off the beach and drug a few feet away into the foliage by Ishi, who only stared at him. "I'm not telling Jigen. Arsene and I agreed we're not telling Jigen. That's Melissa's thing and we agree, she could do worse. You apparently do it for her so we're fine with that, for now. If it becomes permanent we might have to say something, but for now, we're good with it. Have fun, Ray." He walked off, heading down to the water to play with the ladies.
Melissa stepped out of the brush. "Sorry, didn't realize I was that loud last night." She smiled at him when he flinched. "It's all right," she soothed, pushing him into a nearby tree to kiss him stupid. "They all agreed apparently."
"What are you doing? Just playing with fire?" he panted, looking down at her.
"Fire is two young lovers going at it in the back of a car; passion is two older lovers going at it anywhere they choose. I'm past the playing with fire stage and so are you, Ray."
"You're still too young."
"My other two lovers, outside of the first one from school, were both older. I prefer older, more experienced men who know what they're doing. You're just a cute one." She leaned in to nip at his neck and moaned, licking the spot to get all that warm, heated skin taste. "You taste good."
Ray was trying to pull her off, that's why his hands were on her hips. He was sure that's why his hands were on her hips. That's why he didn't panic when Lupin the Third came out of the brush.
Lupin looked at them, then shook his head and walked off. "Fine with us, Ray. She's not exactly the little kid of the group anyway."
"Oh, shit," he muttered but she giggled, kissing him. He momentarily forgot what he was doing and let her. He pulled back, looking at her. "Why me and why now?"
"I tried in the past but you weren't ready to see me," she told him. "I tried in Cairo last year. I tried in Paris earlier this year." He moaned and shook his head. "Let's face some facts, Ray. I'm young, but I think at least five or ten years ahead of my age. Guys my age don't have a lot of skills, skills which make things go much better and more pleasurably. Even the most trained here have to be taught how to play my body like the fine instrument it is. You didn't." He groaned. "Daddy, go away," she said firmly, noticing he was looking over her shoulder. "And I mean it."
Jigen stomped on the cigarette that had fallen out of his mouth, looking at the odd couple. "If he does it for you," he decided, "I can't complain unless you turn straight. He's cute in his own way." He walked off shaking his head, but one of the girls jumped him so he quickly forgot about having daughters. That's two that had went after cops, was there something wrong in him as a father?
Ray looked at her. "He looked heartbroken."
"He hopes I'm not going to do what my sister did or Dawn did."
She shook her head. "Nope. Not even if I retire. Then I'll just sit around and design gadgets and things." She kissed him again. "Besides, you wouldn't like me if I weren't the smartass I am," she reminded him when she pulled back, right before diving in again.
He pulled off. "Probably true, but you're still under age."
"Not by European standards. I'm of age. I'm above age in some countries and in this country the age is sixteen. So therefore, I'm old enough." She kissed him again. "And this is what I want." He moaned and she went back to playing with the spot on his neck she had found last night, making him groan and arch into her mouth. "Just give in, Ray," she whispered into the tan skin. "Please?"
"You're like a drug."
"I try," she offered with an impish grin. She kissed him again. He flipped them around, pushing her against the tree to have her. This was better than a fantasy, he was doing just what she wanted. She hopped up and put her legs around his waist, giving him total access to whatever he wanted of hers. He chuckled and moved down to tease her nipples, making her moan. She went to work on his belt and pants, getting them undone just enough and moved her bathing suit out of the way to impale herself on him. He moaned and clutched her tighter, but went to work as she commanded. Finally he couldn't take this gentle playing and pulled out, letting her onto her feet so he could turn her around and have her rest against the tree, taking her again, doing it harder and faster than she thought she needed, but like she really wanted. She was mewling into his arm around her, kissing and biting it in turns. She groaned as he worked her, getting off, he could feel it and it was good, so he finished himself off that way, leaning against her back.
"I'm in so much trouble," he muttered.
"No you're not." She wiggled free and turned around to kiss him again. "You're really not." She kissed him again and got his pants redone enough so he could walk, leading him to a little napping grotto not far away. It had a nice mossy spot and a few waterproof pillows out here to rest on. He flopped down and she curled up beside him, head on his shoulder. "You're not in trouble."
"I doubt Zenigata will see it that way."
"He didn't do more than look at Stan funny when someone told him Stan and Mom were having it off."
Ray snorted. "That's because he couldn't see him as gay."
"Bet me," she said dryly. "Everyone else can when he's in one of his cranky moods." Ray chuckled at that. "Even Bix."
"Yeah, she asked him that the last time, asked him if he was pregnant too with the way he was having mood swings." He stroked over her back. "This can't work out and I'm too old for a casual sex thing."
"You're not that old, Ray. You're really not. And we can do whatever you want."
"Yeah, well, I can't really date you since you're a crook and I'm a cop," he said patiently. "No plans for that?"
"Said who?" She looked up at him with a smug look. "You chase after me, I spend a hell of a lot of time teasing you, including at dinner and dancing." She smirked and lay her head back down. "This may sound selfish but I can do whatever in the hell I want about this thing between us. Including break in some nights. After all, you will need someone to help like mom does now and then, right?"
"Yeah," he agreed, smirking a bit. "Gonna break in too?"
"If it's been too long, hell yeah," she agreed. "So consider yourself being reassigned, Ray. You're mine and some of those stupider crooks had better watch out."
Arsene walked in and flopped down on his other side, giving him a cuddle. "If and when you need her, just ask, Ray. I'll let her go off for a bit if I'm not doing something that needs her. We've decided that you're what she needed in the first place and if you hurt her, we'll be killing you. Jigen said so." She gave him a squeeze. "With that I'll release you from any fantasies I might have had." She gave them each a kiss then wandered off again.
"Her timing's getting better," Melissa said tolerantly. He groaned so she kissed him stupid, earning herself another turn on her back under him. "Why, detective, what strong arms you have," she teased, grinning up at him.
"Some day I'll have to arrest you," he reminded her.
She smirked. "Only if you catch me doing something wrong and as of last night, none of us have Interpol files - again. Besides, it's much too new to play with handcuffs. That's for when you're trying to spice things up after a few years." She pulled him down to kiss him again. "I'm much too active to tie down yet. Unless you think I need that sort of close, torturous, intense contact with your tongue and hands?"
"We'll see," he offered, diving back in. Since everyone had agreed and she was offering. Man, he felt like a teenager again. He pulled back. "That youth stuff that screwed up Xander, you didn't feed it to me, right?"
"Not that I'm aware of. Unless someone dosed your dinner." She shrugged. "A good lover is suppose to make you feel younger. You should feel like you're Fred's age." She kissed him again. "But if you wanted, I'll talk to Ethan for you. He's got a lot left and so does the office in Beverly Hills." She kissed him again, flipping him onto his back so she could grin down at him. "What have I captured?" she mused, leaning down to taste him, pushing her hair back to one side so she could play. Overhead, a siren went off. "Fucking storm drill," she moaned, looking around. "We're inside the barrier. See the green line painted on the trees? That's where the shield comes down behind. We're in here so we're safe." She went back to what she had been doing as the metal shield was raised and put into place. It got really dark there and he was wiggling under her, so she took advantage of it, making him howl and writhe under her merciless and talented fingers and tongue. By the time the light came back, he was begging and she was on him, getting what she wanted the most.
Ray knocked on Zenigata's door, raising an eyebrow at the noise inside. "Come get a drink with me," he ordered.
"Let me get my shoes and jacket," he offered, grabbing them and having a quiet word with Dawn before leaving. He joined Ray in the car. "Reporting in?"
"That too." He drove them to the nearest dark, dirty, no-one-paying-attention-to-them bar and got them a corner table with drinks and a bottle. He looked at his boss and pulled out the report, handing it over. "For the records, what little are left."
"I noticed that they disappeared. Every mention of them in every file was wiped clean and computer crimes doesn't know how." He looked at him. "Or why."
"Um, well," he started, then took a drink. "She thinks she loves me, sir."
"Fine, sorry, Zenny. Melissa thinks that she loves me."
"Do I need to arrange a sudden wedding?" he teased lightly.
"It'd thrill her to no end," he noted. Zenigata stared and he nodded. "Last year in Cairo, remember when I told you she was acting oddly?" He nodded, taking his own drink. "She was flirting, I was right. Again in Paris earlier this year." He took another drink. "I slept with her, Zenny. It was right. It felt good."
"I had that same feeling with Dawn, while kicking myself badly."
"Ya think?" Ray asked dryly. "She's younger than Dawn was when you two got together."
"Not by much and you're younger than I was." He took another drink and refilled their glasses. "Are you okay? Did she hurt you?"
"No, she just fit so well," he moaned, rubbing his eyes. He looked at him. "I need advice, sir. Otherwise I'm in so much trouble."
"Not as much as you think. The virus that wiped them out came through Dawn's computer, not yours. No one suspects anything between you two, and if her file doesn't come back, then no one can really say anything, just give you funny looks."
Ray looked at him. "I'll know."
"Yeah, I have that same feeling about Dawn now and then," he agreed with a small sigh, tossing back that drink. "I can't really tell you what to do about feelings, Ray. I'm not that good at them or I would have escaped Dawn by now. She had to plan everything and make all the moves. I was just swept along like a leaf in a stream."
Ray nodded. "I have that same feeling," he sighed. "I don't know what to do!" he moaned, holding his head. "She's just barely about to turn eighteen, she's legal for the area she's in and here, but she's so young."
"Yes, but she's older mentally than you think," Zenigata pointed out dryly. "With the way those kids have traveled and what they've done, there's no way they're as young as their physical age. Being on the run changes a soul, and it makes them age alarmingly. She's seen and done things that no one knows. I can't tell you more than that. You might be meant to be together now and then, but if you quit to become her house husband, I want warning. I'm sure she'd set you up in one of her mother's more legitimate enterprises, probably more of what you're doing now, and you'd be able to make a living off that. Does her father know?"
"He just told me not to hurt her or he'd be killing me horribly."
"I'm sure he will, if Xander doesn't first," Zenigata said dryly. He finished his drink. "I wish I could help you more. I was trapped and caught by Dawn."
"Yeah, maybe. Oh, that's not got pictures or anything, but it is the legal basis. Xander and Melissa handed that over, and then the paperwork for sovereign territory they filed." Zenigata groaned. "Well, it is in unclaimed territory. It's fairly well done. They're not slaves. They're well taken care of. I asked a few if they knew this was illegal and if they wanted to leave and they laughed and walked off." Zenigata let out a small moan. "He's made it fun for them too. It's also desensitizing the boys to girls and helping little Alex, who's apparently going to have the choker when she's older. For some reason that no one will explain to me." He looked at him. "We can't bust him for it. Legally speaking, he's got a few good legs to stand on. Which he is. Oh, he found a set of triplets that look almost exactly like Fujiko at twenty. Two of them are slutty and adore Lupin and one's sweet and gentle and blushes whenever Goemon looks at her. I almost lost my lunch over those two. Then again, like Stan said. If I were single, lonely, liked cash, fun, and sex, I'd be there too, sir. It's a nice place. He just imported some baby deer."
"Fine," he complained, glancing through the report. He handed over a picture of Melissa. "Seems she helped more than typed." He looked at it, then at his man. "She's cute."
"She is, but I'm too old to date cute. She said she needs an older man, one who understands women. I didn't know I did."
Zenigata smirked at him. "Go home for a few days and talk to your mother about her."
Ray snorted. "My mother would throw a party and invite her over. She's hot on getting more grandkids."
"Well, that's one way to make sure she doesn't work that often."
"She said she'll retire to inventing when she's ready," Ray repeated dryly. He shook his head. "Maybe I'll head back to Chicago. There's some people there who might help."
"Sure, take a few days. Come back when Turnbull does for the French trip to Canada." He shrugged. "You'll be working that anyway." He grinned. "You look like you could use a vacation, Ray. You look tired."
"That's because she's worse than any battery ever invented," he said dryly. "I didn't know I had stamina like that," he said sarcastically, getting up and paying their tab, then heading home. Zenny could read the report and swear in private this way, then take a cab home once he was really drunk. Dawn wouldn't appreciate it but it beat her soaping his mouth for swearing since his mother was there.
Ray walked into the twenty-seventh, dragging his feet. He hated jet lag. He headed up the stairs, into the detective's area, and right into the office. "Are you moving, sir?" he asked, closing the door behind him.
"No, it's that dreaded warrant day. We're pulling all the old ones and filing them." He stood up to look over a box. "New case?"
"Need advice, but it could be a case," he offered.
"Move stuff and have a seat."
"Why bother?" he asked dryly, walking around a few stacks to sit next to his desk, back against the small bookcase. He wiggled out of his trench coat and sighed. He was handed a cup of coffee. "Got liquor?"
"No, not any more. I got yelled at for it. Will I need some?" Ray nodded and tossed over the flask he had bought last night. "Last time I knew you didn't drink."
"It's my decade-annual binge," he said dryly. He poured some into his coffee then handed it back. "Keep it so I don't have to drink it." He took a sip and winced. "That's stronger than I thought."
"What's wrong and which case?"
"Lupin. Or more precisely Jigen."
"Jigen? There's a few of them. One of the kids?"
"Her," he said grimly, handing over the photo that had been in his report. "That one."
"I see." He looked at the photo, noticing the bruises on her collarbone and her neck, the post-sex smirk on her face. He looked at his former detective. "That would complicate that case, yes."
"If she had a file in the system," he said dryly. "She don't, not any more. They were all eliminated again." He picked up his coffee to take a sip. "You ever have anything that feels really right, yet makes you shudder in horror when you think about it afterward?"
"Most of my married life," he admitted. "You?"
"About thirty times in the last week," he admitted bitterly. "She's like a drug, I want more. A lot more. But she's just barely eighteen now and I'm not, and she's a crook and I'm not."
"Her father threaten you yet?"
"He said I'd better not hurt her, but otherwise left it there." He took another drink. "I don't know what to do."
"Well, first, it could've been worse. It could have been Lupin the Fourth."
Ray smirked. "She's a card, but she's also her daddy's girl. She needs someone with more energy than I've ever had or ever will have." He finished his coffee, what he wanted of it, and put the cup aside. "I'm confused. I'm nearly forty. She's eighteen. This is worse than Zenigata getting captured by Dawn when she was twenty and he was nearly fifty. This is worse than Stan and his child bride, who's only about seventeen at the moment, but she's also over three hundred thanks to being the nanny for the kitsune."
"I did not know that," he offered, blinking a few times. "Really?" Ray nodded. "Interesting. Now I'll have something new to pick on Kowalski about, besides his hair."
Ray snickered. "She now does it for him every morning so it stands up and looks cute. Their daughter will be a horrible menace to society if she's not turned good immediately." He shook his head. "The same as mine was once. God, Welsh, she's like a fantasy come to life. She adores me, she loves my cooking, loves my mother, loves to help protect my mother. She's given me hints to help with a crook I've been trying to capture after three years. But she's still eighteen."
"The first thing you do is tell your boss. Did you?"
"Yes, and he said he couldn't advise me because he was unfamiliar with dealing with emotional situations. Dawn basically corralled him and roped him good. He woke up one evening trapped in the noose." He grimaced. "Hence me being here. At least until Turnbull has to go to France to escort the French ambassador's niece to her first day of college, then I'll be heading back with him and being part of that detail. I'm pretty sure I'm off anything Lupin related now."
"Good idea. Will she go straight for you?" He shook his head. "She won't?"
"She said she won't. The same as she won't ever ask me to retire or change. She's satisfied doing what she does. The challenges and all that are what drew her, she said she'd probably be in it even if it weren't her family business. I want, so much," he moaned, putting his head down.
The door opened and Frannie walked in. "Sir, is my brother hiding in here?" she demanded. "Huey said he was."
"I'm over here, Frannie," he complained. She walked around and squealed a bit, giving him a hug. "Thanks."
"You smell like liquor," she said, pulling back. "Bad case?"
"No, it's the one binge I allow myself each decade when things go really wrong." He looked up at her. "No telling Ma, Frannie. At all."
"Sure. What's wrong?" She trotted back and slammed the door, coming back around. "What happened?" Ray handed over the picture he had handed Welsh. "Well, she's cute, but is she legal?"
"Barely by US standards, has been for the last few years by the rest of the world's," he admitted dryly. "Just turned eighteen."
"Do I know her? She looks kinda familiar somehow."
"That's Jigen the Second," Welsh told her. "Now you see the reason for the liquor."
She handed it back to Ray. "I won't tell Ma. She'll want you to invite her to dinner to formally introduce her." Welsh laughed at that. "Even if we had known her forever, Ma would have demanded that the formality of a dinner be done, sir. That's how Ma is. She even got onto one of the nephews who brought home a girl constantly and made him formally introduce her and state his intentions. His mother burst out in tears and Tony just told him he was too young, but Ma asked about their plans for college and work and all that stuff." She looked at Ray. "She going straight for you?"
"No. She said she wouldn't. She said she'd help now and then like her mom does. She said she'd keep it down around me. She also said she's not going to push me to retire or change sides. She likes me how I am and only wanted me to accept her for who she was. Then again, her mother has a bunch of legit stuff that Stan and I are already tangled up in. Like the wine stuff where he nudged me into being a paid taster of the vintages." Welsh nodded, he had heard about that. "You got any advice?"
"Go very slowly. Because she knows you and you know her, but you don't know all about her and how she thinks. She doesn't know that about you. You know her like you knew Stan before you moved in together. Remember how many times you said you didn't know him after that?" He nodded at that wisdom. "Besides, you don't wanna be left like I was," she said with a touch of bitterness.
"You ever find the putz?"
"Hell no," she snorted. "He's long gone. Arizona I think. Fortunately there weren't any kids and the Church is behind me on dissolving since he ran. I still don't know what I did to upset him."
"Most likely he figured out what sort of chore marriage is and got scared," Welsh told her. "Many men do that. That's why so many couples divorce within the first year." He looked at Ray. "It sounds like you're trying to keep the contagion to the job down. You've told your boss. You've done everything you can. So either you give in and enjoy the hell outta it. Or you walk away and leave her crying, possibly get hit by one of the many shooters in the family, and be miserable for what little is left of your life."
"You think I should go to her?"
"I think you should start slowly, and date," he told him. "If she makes you miserable this way, there's something there. It's when she makes you emotionally miserable that you gotta watch out for. Then again, the limited times I've met her, she seemed very nice and polite. Just a bit cold and 'the job's more important than lives' at time."
"That job wasn't the bank job," Ray said grimly. "It was what was in the safe deposit box. That got a whole family of people she knew from the Academy out of a blackmail thing and their kids their own lives and paths. She told me about it when I asked." He picked up the rest of his coffee and drained it. "You think I should?"
"Ray, think about life without her," Frannie offered. "Can you imagine it now?" He groaned and shook his head, looking down at his knees. "Then don't. Be a man and fall in love for once. Like you did with Ange. It's more than time. You're getting old." She pinched him on the cheeks. "A hot young woman like her'll keep you young."
"She's way too young for me."
Frannie snorted. "Yeah, because she's so much a child, Ray. That kid was never a child and will never be a child."
"Actually, she did run and play all the time," he corrected. "We got to watch them be kids many times. Even when they were pulling jobs they still played. Lupin and Xander made sure of it. She used to be the most atrocious book nerd," he said fondly, smirking at them. "Used to read all the time. When their fathers used to go on trips to steal crap and bring 'em, she always had a few books. Her and Lotus. They'd be lookouts or something but they'd still get to play. They were always playing tricks, but everyone always underestimated Melissa. Even when she announced herself as a planning genius, the only ones who give her credit for it are her mother's people and even half of them don't give her the due she's due." He shook his head. "Everyone always thought Lotus was the pretty one, big chested, nice, sweet, take your head off if you touched her, but sweet. Melissa was more like warm honey. If she liked you, she was all over you, even as a kid. She'd snuggle up to us and steal our wallets for sodas at conventions, but she was always smiles and hugs and laughter before and after. She never just took and ran off. It was always about the cuddle afterward. I'm in such deep crap here."
"Nah, it's love," Frannie said with a grin. "I won't even brag about it. Though, if you're gonna marry the girl, I've got to meet her officially too."
"Sure. She's on an island full of pros in the middle of the Pacific at the moment," he said dryly. "Xander built his harem."
"You're not throwing a fit about it?" Welsh asked.
"I almost did, but I don't have that right."
Something out in the main room banged and they all jumped up, going to see why smoke was pouring under the door. "What is going on here!" Welsh called. "Someone open a window! This isn't from a trash fire!" He felt something brush his arm and glanced over but he couldn't see Ray move. He guessed it was him. "Someone turn on a fan or two too!" he ordered. Within minutes, the smoke had fled and he looked around. "Where's Vecchio?"
Frannie looked at his other side, then at him. "I think he was stolen, sir."
"Funny," he said dryly. "Did anyone see or feel Vecchio leave?"
"I heard someone yelp on the stairs," Huey offered.
"I heard someone running down them," Dewey told him. "I thought it was someone going to open the downstairs door. Why?"
"Because Inspector Vecchio was just here," Welsh said patiently. "And now he's not."
"Maybe she stole him," Frannie said dryly, smirking at him. "She's like that sometimes."
"Maybe," he agreed, turning around. "Who opened my office window?" He walked over to shut it, finding a new picture on his desk. That one was of Ray and Melissa cuddling on a beach, his arm around her back, looking very content. He tucked that one into his locking drawer and left the door open in case he came back. Surely she hadn't been that bold.... Never mind, she was that bold. Well, Ray was probably having fun then.
"You just kidnaped me from a police station," he said hotly.
She glanced at him as she drove them in squares. "Yes, I did. You're not on duty and ...."
"And nothing! I'm still a cop!"
"Oh, shut up!" she yelled back. "If I hadn't, you'd be dead. That freak, as Uncle Stan calls him, followed you to Hong Kong, back to Paris, and then to here. He's tracking you and there would have been more loss of life if I hadn't." He gaped and she slowed down, glancing at him again. "This way, you have the chance to ride in and be the hero we both know you are and prevent some cops from losing their lives before we know if they're going to be good cops or not." He groaned and shook his head. "I mean it."
"I know you do, that's the scary part, Melissa. You kidnaped me from a police station. What would have happened if someone had tried to shoot you?"
"No one would have," she snorted. "Besides, I'm a planning genius, Ray. I do know how to pull off a simple kidnaping, even from under the eyes of the cops. I am second to Lupin the Fourth and did learn at my mother's knee, who ran a massive empire under Lupin the Third's nose for nearly a decade before he blurted out about it and outed the entire operation. Well, not the *entire* operation. Dad and Uncle Lupin have no clue about all that Mom does. I don't and I'm his heir." She pulled up in front of the station and pointed. "You're needed there and I don't have a weapon and you don't have a weapon. You didn't bring one to the island because you knew it was pointless with as many shooters as we have around. You went straight from the airport to Uncle Zenny's, then straight to the airport here."
"Actually, we stopped in a bar."
"Yay," she said dryly. She kissed him. "Apparently it's still clinging. You smell like dad after a bad day." She pulled something out of her pocket and sprayed his mouth, smiling at him before kissing him again. "There, better." She tucked it back into her pocket. "Now, do you have a gun?" He silently shook his head. "I've got my usual revolver but it's dirty. I've used it recently even." He arched an eyebrow up. "What can I say? The guy deserved it for picking on his chick and his chick's kids. I only blew his ankle out from across the airport when he was screaming at her about visiting her family and how they were going to taint her against him and tell her he's evil and things, and she was too stupid not to listen and to like them. I figured he was stupid and evil and probably shouldn't breed." She smiled sweetly. "Then again, this is the local car and Ishi used it while you guys were in town, so let's check, maybe there's something cleaner." They checked under the seats, the glove box, where she found her old derringer. "Sorry, bra carry for formal events." She tossed it over her shoulder. "Unless you wanna use my titty piece?"
He groaned and shook his head. "No thanks. I might have flashbacks."
She beamed. "That's so sweet. You've been thinking about me." She got out and he followed her back to the trunk. "Okay, sniper rifle. Ishi must have wanted to do my aunt for me. What's under it. Ah-ha! The hidden panel in this car." She opened it and grimaced. "Bad news. Ishi's two carries. The black one is his one for jobs, the silver's his backup. I can't be sure they weren't used either. So, up to you. Known dirty carry, slightly dirty carry that shot you once or twice, his possibly dirty backup, or my titty gun?"
"That just sounds so dirty," he complained. She kissed him again, making him moan and clutch at her. "Quit doing that," he ordered once he pulled back. "Now is not the time for this, Melissa," he said patiently when she pouted at him. "Give me his backup. It's better this way and if I have to hand it over, they'll be able to figure out whose it was." He took it and checked the clip. "Empty."
She pulled her revolver. "The second most clean then," she decided. "I can always use his if you need me."
He nodded, taking it and sticking it into his waistband. He looked over at the station, noticing the cops were all gathering around the door. "Good timing."
"I followed him, and went in while he was gathering courage. That's why we only went around the block a few times. Now shoo, go be the hero stud we all know you are."
"I'm not wearing leather pants," he complained as he walked across the street. He could hear shouting long before he made it through the parking lot.
"I want Vecchio!" he shouted, pressing his gun against his hostage's head. "I know he's here! I saw him walk in! I know he's here and he's mine! Get him now!" Ray tapped a few people and they looked, then got out of the way, the ones in the rear heading outside to clear the doorway. He ducked when the guy started to frantically look around. "I know he's here! I saw him! Come on, people! I know you don't want this young woman to die! It'd be a pretty sight when I turn her inside out and then turn her bright pink before I make her whiter than the driven snow. If we don't want that, give me Vecchio!"
Ray waited until the guy's back was to him then walked up behind him, placing his revolver against the guy's skull. "This is a revolver," he said quietly. "I will shoot you. Let the patrolwoman go."
"No!" he sneered. "You're mine."
Ray cocked the hammer back. "Keeping in mind that this is still a revolver, all I have to do is let the hammer go and it will go off. The owner of the gun won't be that pissed, she's got a few more at home. Now, don't make me repeat myself. Put the gun down. Let the cop go," he ordered coldly. "The only way you're getting me is in handcuffs and across a room. You're a sick, perverted guy who likes to eviscerate people for fun. Let the girl go or you're getting it in the head. I could care less. Paperwork's easier in Interpol for this stuff. Especially for me. No one here's gonna say a thing about how I had ta cap you."
"If I let her go, will you be mine?"
"As long as you're wearing handcuffs and across the room. Sure, why not." He let the woman go and dropped his gun. "Good. Now, hands behind your head," he ordered, taking a half-step back. The guy twisted and he fired. He sighed and looked down at the very dead body. "I warned you," he said, kicking him in the side to flip him over. The knife he had been reaching for fell out of his hands. "Who remembers this from the Academy?" he asked.
"If a perp's got more than one weapon and isn't facing you, but he moves to only turn part way, then he's going to use it on you," one of the guys said.
"Very good. Give the man a smoke break, Sergeant. Someone call someone about this body? Before he starts to stink more?" He walked off, shaking his head. He found Melissa against the side of her car and handed back the gun. "Thank you."
"Welcome," she said with a grin. "I'd have offered but it'd make you look bad and less manly." She winked and smirked at him. "Can I kidnap you for dinner later?"
"Nope. I've got to head back and so do you."
"Why? The pros on the island are cute and a few play chess with me, but it's not what I want and we both know it." He broke out in a fine sweat. "Fine, I'll see you later, Ray. You be a good boy and do the paperwork and I *might* even give you a hand massage. I've been learning recently." She got into the car and sped off after a blown kiss.
He let out a moan and walked back inside, walking around the people checking the body. "He's dead, people. A bullet directly into the back of the brain does that to one." He headed up the stairs and went to find his flask. Welsh gave him an amused look. "She took me out the window so I could deal with him."
"Him who?" Frannie asked.
"The new dead guy down on the floor," he said, grabbing his flask and taking a drink. "Are you sure I can't just...arrest her?" he asked dryly.
"If there's no warrants, it'd be illegal," Welsh sighed, shaking his head. "Go easy on that stuff. European liquor is stronger."
"No, this was sent to me as a Solstice present from Lavelle," he said. "It's his version of medicinal." He took another drink then handed the flask off again. "I'm told I'm going to be kidnaped for dinner, but if you'd like I'll resist and you can save me from another night of torture and lust."
Frannie snickered but the two other detectives stared at him. "Who is this case of yours?" Dewey demanded. "Do you need help with her?"
"Jigen the second? Well...." He sighed. "She likes me."
"Ah." Huey smirked. "Helps you now and then?"
"I just used her personal carry since I'm not. It was hers or Ishi's and he's used that one on me in the past. So, should I give in to the little crook?"
"Is she pretty?" Huey asked. Welsh went to get the picture while Ray pulled out his wallet. "You carry her pictures with you?"
"I carry the whole group's graduation picture as a help when we're chasing her. The official ones don't do her justice," he said dryly. "It also makes Arsene, Lupin the Fourth, look younger." He showed it to him. "The brunette next to her father."
Dewey looked. "She's beautiful. She legal?"
"Barely. She's also a genius, a marksman, can build electronic stuff to drive everyone insane, her mother's heir to the non-legit stuff, and on and on. And now she likes me."
Welsh handed over the picture from his desk. "A more recent one."
Huey whistled and shook his head. "Looks like she likes it a bit rough. Better watch out for her."
Frannie snickered. "Actually, she's a sweet girl. Loves Ma like her own. That whole group checks on Ma and Maria for him and reports back to him. Lavelle started it and they keep it going. Ma said that Melissa defended her against someone who thought she was an immigrant, Ray. After Ishi had to have a talk with him about sex and his sword."
"That'd hurt with as sharp as that thing is," he said dryly, shaking his head as someone came up the stairs. "What? You can't move the body alone?"
"Sir. Inspector," he said, smiling briefly at him. "What gun did you use?"
"Jigen the Second saw him following me so she kidnaped me from up here and brought me out a window, giving me her gun so I could go after him."
"Melissa. Second to Lupin the Fourth? Bane of my existence?" he prompted. The others laughed. "You guys try chasing an eight-year-old who's smarter than you! Lavelle trained them! They did the Tower of London when they were ten and made it through there with time to try on the tiaras a few times before leaving with carefully chosen pieces." They all gaped. "They did this without their parents knowing, without their parent's help, and it's all Melissa's fault." The phone rang. "If that's her, hang up on her."
Huey answered it. "Twenty-seventh...." He shook his head. "Okay. Thanks." He hung up. "That was Lupin the Fourth. She adores you, but you made Melissa sniffle so therefore you're in for it now?"
"I bet," he said bitterly. "She's eighteen, does no one else see a problem with this?"
"I think it's cute," Frannie offered with a grin. "She suits you too. You'll get to catch her all the time. She'll probably just tie you to the bed before she leaves." He glared at her and she beamed. "Besides, you said yourself, there's nothing Lupin related in any computer system left in the world. Not the First, the Second, the Third, or the Fourth, or Fred. Who was here a few days back," she told him. "He kissed my hand and everything. It took me almost ten minutes to figure out who he was."
"I'll send new pictures this way," he offered. "The younger kids are getting ready to hit the Assassin's Academy so Fred's off getting into trouble before he goes. Since he's not allowed near the pros Lavelle hired for his island harem."
"Harem?" Dewey asked. "You can do that?"
"He bought an island that's not claimed by any country, hired a bunch of pros, male and female, and set up a retirement home for the family. The pros have their own apartments and are on yearly contract. Sweet deal if you're into it."
"Can you introduce me?" Dewey asked.
"To the pros? Sure, a few of them flirted shamelessly with me before Melissa jumped me. Or did you mean Goemon's daughter Lotus or Lupin the Fourth?" Something in his head clicked and he looked at his sister, grabbing her and yanking on her nose until the mask came off. "Where is she?" he demanded.
"She left to see your mother today, Mom made sure she could go," Lupin the Fourth complained, rubbing her nose. "Meany." She kicked him on the leg. "Bastard and a meany at that. By the way, I'll still be getting you. Making Melissa unhappy makes me pissed and then I get to be my most creative." She smirked at him and wiggled her fingers at the others. "Hi, guys."
"But...we...you," Huey said.
Welsh sighed. "I thought something was wrong with her, the coffee was very good this morning."
Arsene smirked at him. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Mom was right, you're a very nice guy." She looked at Ray. "I'm only here because of the freak too. I figured he'd be storming up here. I never counted on Melissa kidnaping you. Oh, you didn't bring a bag, right?" He sighed and shook his head. "That's fine. You can fix that later," she said with a sweet smile. "Trust me." She kissed him on the cheek and wiggled out of the shirt and sweater, ending up in the dress pants and a tight black t-shirt. "Guys, my tits aren't the ones to stare at. That's Lotus'," she offered. "She actually had to have hers reduced." She beamed at them. "So, is he dead?" Ray grimaced but nodded. "Good! Saves me or Melissa from having to do it. Very good. Now, I'm off to visit Grandfather. He's here somewhere in the park. It was nice meeting you guys. Have a pleasant day and I had *good* donuts and pastries sent for instead of the stale crap on that cart." She wiggled her fingers again and skipped down the stairs.
Ray turned around and hit his head on the wall. "Why me, God?" he moaned.
"Because we like you, Uncle Ray," she called back. "Some more than others, but I still think you're a neat uncle. By the way, I've got your wallet. I'll stop at the ATM for you."
He hurried after her, tackling her in the parking lot to get his wallet back, then dragging her back up the stairs while she complained. "Shut up!" he shouted halfway up. Everyone stared at him. "This is Lupin the Fourth," he introduced. She smirked and waved. "She's my personal torment." He walked her back upstairs and into an interrogation room, frisking her carefully before handcuffing her to the table and then frisking her again before leaving with his wallet. "There, someone have her and make sure you always frisk her. She's a good lockpick."
Huey looked at him. "You can do that?"
"Hell yes," he said dryly. "I'm Interpol, I can torture the brat if I want to," he said bitterly. "She did try to pickpocket me."
Huey went in there to try to get her to brag. Crooks like her loved to brag and they could get her on anything she admitted to. He found her about halfway out the window and hauled her back with an arm around her waist. She turned and kissed him, making him moan and pull back. She smiled. "You're not bad for an older guy. Maybe Melissa has something with her thing about older guys. I'll have to try that out before heading home." She smirked. "Plus, you smell nice. I like your cologne. It suits you."
"I'm not wearing any."
She growled and kissed him again, pulling him over by his tie. "Then I definitely like you."
"Get off him!" Welsh said from the door.
"Fine, spoil my fun. He smells good! I'm horny. Give a girl a break," she complained, flipping out the window and onto the fire escape before jogging down and off, disappearing into the street.
Welsh looked at Huey. "You okay?" He nodded. "Check yourself, do you have everything?" He patted himself down and nodded. "Interesting."
Ray stuck his head in. "Check your wallet. She's gotten me before for about ten bucks and left everything else."
Huey pulled out his wallet, finding a new picture in there and a twenty missing. "I'm short twenty but she left a naked picture of herself in return."
Welsh backed away from it. "Keep it, detective. I don't need to see that." He went back to his office to hide behind all the expired warrants. No wonder those two were so tired. If the Lupin gangs were their main cases with others piled on top, they'd have to be tired. He was tired just being in the same building as her.
Lupin the Fourth walked up to the consulate and smiled at the woman coming out. "Inspector, can I take you for coffee for a bit? I have something important and work- related to talk to you about," she offered gently.
Inspector Thatcher flinched but did look at her. "Lupin the Fourth? Why are you here?" She finished locking the door. "A job in Canada?"
She snorted. "No thanks. Most of the stupid criminals in Canada vacation in Brazil, where there's bikinis." The Inspector found herself smiling at that for some reason. "No, I have something else of worth that you'll need and want and I wanted to have a quiet chat with you about that subject. Completely for Canada's benefit. Where can I meet you?"
"My place, one hour."
"Agreed. Bring the tape recorder," she offered gaily, skipping off back to her car.
The Inspector unlocked the door and headed back inside to get the tape recorder she kept in her desk. She passed Turnbull, who looked a bit confused. "Lupin the Fourth just approached me about something," she admitted.
"Do you need backup, sir?" he asked gently. "I know she wouldn't hurt you or you'd already be harmed."
"Please. Just in case. I'm not sure what she wants, but she said it's to benefit Canada and it's not about a job." She grabbed a clean tape and the recorder's electrical cord, then for some reason the handcuffs she kept in her desk. Maybe she could capture the young woman. She headed back out, Turnbull following to lock the door behind her. He heard a whine and looked at her. "Fine, bring Diefenbaker. I'm sure she knows him quite well. Probably stopped stealing things once or twice to pet him." The wolf joined them and the consulate was locked up tightly, allowing them to be driven to her apartment. She got out and headed inside, Turnbull properly behind her. Once up there, she opened her door and paused at the two women sitting in her living room. "Who is that?"
"Fujiko Mine," Turnbull told her. "Wanted thief and assassin. Former associate of Lupin the Third's gang and mother to the Goemon children."
"Very good," Arsene agreed smugly. "Go ahead and put in the tape and stuff. I can wait." Inspector Thatcher did that, taking the time to take off her jacket and put down her purse as well. Then she sat across from them. She blatantly turned on the tape. "Inspector. Nice to finally meet you," she said with a small grin and a wink. "As you know, our files have been removed from every system in the world. Should I state my name for the record?"
"As you like."
"I'm Lupin the Fourth." She smirked at Turnbull. "Good afternoon, Constable."
"Good afternoon, Miss Lupin." He sat down in the spare chair, looking at her. Diefenbaker walked over to sniff her, then curled up at his feet. "Very well, Diefenbaker." He looked at her. "I had noticed that your files went missing. I checked our system when I got a message from Inspector Kowalski over at Interpol."
"All ours in every computerized system, and most of hers unfortunately," she offered. "But then again, Canada still has a great many outposts who still use paper files." Thatcher gasped and she smirked at her. "Miss Mine here is...problematic for the Lupin gang. She was my father's desired bed partner for quite a while, until she married Goemon. Then she gave birth to my associates. Unfortunately it was due to her attitude then that we outcast her. You see, Miss Mine here has a problem being a mother," she said delicately. "We didn't like her problems, so therefore we dealt with it firmly. Then someone found her and brought her back unfortunately. This now creates a new problem for us. You see, we don't want her back. All she can do is cause emotional harm to our group."
Thatcher stopped the tape. "What did she do?"
"Little things like letting Kenji cry for eight hours straight when he was a baby. Little things like trying to turn me, Lotus, and 'Lis into whores like her. If you've ever seen an eight-year-old dressed up in a butt-cheek-short miniskirt and a halter top, with small heels, it's because she dressed them." She shuddered. "Exactly. I nearly got taken once because she dressed me. I did get propositioned and asked if was really that young because she dressed me. She's constantly hurt her own family." Fujiko groaned and she punched her again, keeping her down. "Uncle Goemon doesn't believe in divorce, but he's ready to move on. Mom found the most amazing person on our island. Pure, sweet, kind, gentle, innocent, looks just like the whore here, and loves Uncle G to death. She'd walk through hell for him. Doesn't touch anyone but him. Adores how he touches her. She's even said sappy things like she'd live in a cave if he was living there." Thatcher nodded at that and Turnbull sniffled a bit.
"She's got two twin sisters, part of a set of triplets, and those two fascinate daddy because they're slutty. But Uncle G is ready to move on. In some of your more outback outposts, you've got paper files still. Files that list capitol and heinous charges against this woman." She reached over to flip the tape back on. "Therefore we're giving her to you. You still want her captured. We want her gone. We think this is a good deal and a good deal for Canada in the way of publicity. For all I care, she was breaking into your consulate and you stopped her. So therefore I'm turning over this very dangerous prisoner to you and your Constable and Diefenbaker," she said with a smile for him. "No return favor needed. The scales are even between us. Besides, we like Turnbull and it can only do his reputation good. And yours as well, Inspector."
"Thank you, Lupin. What about your files?"
She chuckled. "Someone removed those a few weeks back," she offered sweetly, grinning at her. "We're good when we want to be and sometimes we do good deeds for the betterment of society. Never letting her near another child to ruin is a good deed for society." She waved a hand. "All yours, Inspector. She should be waking within the hour. The gas is already starting to wear off and I've kept her down physically by taking out my anger issues on her chin. I do know that she's got something in her special holding pocket, which is inside her bra. I patted her down for weapons and felt it but did not look at it. There's another one, a skin colored patch, on her lower back, left side, right above her hip. You might want to cavity search her as well. Remember, she is a thief, though a weak one, and can pick locks. She prefers to rely on her feminine wiles. It's a waste of skill in our books. That's why we don't rely on it for more than a distraction." She looked at Turnbull. "By the way, the girl, she's got a boyfriend. You'll want to ask careful questions about him," she said with a wink for him. She stood up. "I'm leaving now." She petted Diefenbaker. "You're still a very good puppy, Diefenbaker. We wished we could have kept you in Paris. The Rays could have used you." She smiled at Turnbull. "He's in town. He'll see you in a few days." She winked again and left them there.
Thatcher stopped the tape. "Get me my camera, it's in the closet," she ordered. He nodded, getting up to do that. She looked at the wolf. "They wanted you to stay and you didn't? You wanted to stay with Fraser?" She shook her head. "Why am I talking to you?"
"He's very easy to talk to. I find myself doing it now and then as well," Turnbull admitted as he came back with the camera. "It's saying you only have seven pictures left, Inspector."
"Thank you." She moved over, tipping Fujiko's face up to take pictures of the existing damage. She took a few from a few different angles, then backed up and took two full body ones. "Okay. Handcuff her before she can wake up. I'll call Ottawa and see if they can find those files immediately. We'll take her back to the holding cell at the consulate or borrow one from Welsh."
"Yes, sir." He pulled out the cuffs he was carrying these days and did her wrists behind her back, waking her slightly. "She's starting to come around."
"That's fine." She found the number she was looking for and dialed. "Stand in plain sight, Turnbull. I'm sure her swearing will be most educational." She smiled at the voice on the other end. "Marc, it's me. Yes, me. No, a bit of a sticky thing. Lupin the Fourth just handed me and my constable Fujiko Mine and said that any files left on her would have to be in the upper posts, where they've still got paper files. We'll need them to finish arresting her." She smiled. "Please. The consulate is fine. We do have a holding cell in there. Either that or we can borrow one if we need to. Of course. That would be fine. Thank you kindly, Marc. Have a good night." She snorted. "No, a bit beaten up. Stringy hair, looks stressed and worn out. No, Lupin the Fourth called her inconvenient basically. Said she hurt a few of the family a few too many times. Yes, thank you. Great. I miss you too. Maybe you can come get her and we can catch up. Have a good night." She hung up. "Someone had sent notice that her files had been laying on their desk, but that all the other Lupin related files were missing. Someone in Ottawa had a vision of them being needed so he had them faxed in. They're being faxed to the consulate."
"Inspector, our holding cell is missing a door."
"It is?" He nodded. "Why?"
"We couldn't find the key so the Fire Marshall had the Inspector before you, Moffett, remove the door instead so no one could get trapped."
"He couldn't just replace the lock?"
"That option was given but more expensive," Turnbull offered. "I've been meaning to clean up that level and note that discrepancy to you." Fujiko groaned and he stood a bit more proudly. "Good evening, Miss Mine. Welcome to Canada."
She opened her eyes, staring up at him, then groaned. "Shit. That little fucking bitch," she complained, trying to sit up. "She turned me in?"
"She could have killed you I suppose," Thatcher said grimly. "I'm sure she had it in her but she said she didn't want to upset your former husband." She stood up, dialing the station from memory. "Is Lieutenant Welsh still in? I need to speak to him. Yes, this is Inspector Thatcher. Please do so. We do have a...delicate situation on our hands." She waited while someone went running after him, bringing him back at a run. "Lieutenant, it's Thatcher. We have in our possession one Fujiko Mine. Yes, her. No, Lupin the Fourth handed her over. No, apparently Inspector Moffett took the door off our holding cell and you know what sort of thief she is. I doubt even Fraser could withstand her charms." She smirked. "I understand. May we borrow a holding cell? Please. No, she's a bit beaten up but otherwise nothing too tragic at the moment." She nodded. "Very well then. I thank you." She hung up. "He'll personally come to collect her in a few moments. Get the file from the Consulate on the way."
Turnbull nodded and headed out, using his new, boyfriend given, cellphone to call the consulate. Fraser was still living there. "Constable, it is I. There was a file faxed over on Fujiko Mine. We'll need it, we're transporting her to the twenty-seventh in just a few moments. Please. I'll pick it up on my way past. Thank you kindly." He hung up and hurried off. He could hear the sirens coming up the street.
Lieutenant Welsh walked into the lobby. "Thatcher's place?" he asked the guard.
"Fifth floor, Lieutenant, she said she was expecting you and a few officers." He nodded, heading that way.
Welsh came off the elevator and headed for the open door, tapping gently. "You yelled for backup?" he joked. He looked at the woman struggling on the couch. "She's the former international beauty that used it to steal from half of everyone, including her partners?" He looked her over. "She looks like a junkie."
"I'd say a good bath would solve most of that," Thatcher told him. "That and age have lessened her allure a bit. Lupin the Fourth did say she had recently been released from someone else's custody." She waved a hand. "She did say she had patted her down for weapons but there was a hidden pocket within her bra somewhere that held something and that she had a skin-colored patch on her left back hip. She also suggested you do a thorough body cavity search. I've sent Turnbull for the information being faxed down on her. Fortunately some of our outposts do still use paper. Even if Lupin's files were taken."
"I'm sure Constable Fraser could add to whatever."
"I'm sure as well," she agreed. "As could Vecchio or Kowalski." They shared a smirk. "So she's all yours. We've handcuffed her without doing anything else. I did take pictures of her face for the official records. Lupin said she had been gassed but she had also let out some of her anger issues on her chin."
"I can see that. That's fine with me. We've got that special new plastic suicide cell. She can stay in there. We might even give her a bath if she's polite and doesn't try to harm others." Fujiko glared at him. "Boys, be gentle with her. She's an international prisoner and you know the rules are different."
"Inspector Vecchio said he's allowed to use any methods allowed in any Interpol Country, that includes torture in some of them," one officer told him.
"Yes, but she's going to Canada, kids, and we do things a bit more gently," Thatcher told him smugly. "If in doubt, ask Constable Turnbull. He seems to have memorized that book as well."
"He's a lot more handy than I thought," Welsh agreed.
"He was playing dumb," she said dryly. "They sent him here to get him out of the way and it's an easy assignment. I'm just glad he comes back from those little guarding missions happy and content. Otherwise we'd never have dust around the consulate."
They shared a smile and Welsh walked out behind the thief and his men, heading back to the station. Turnbull was waiting on them, not looking winded at all for having run about thirteen blocks to get them that file. He took it with a nod and a wink. "Good work, Constable. Will she allow you to help us as well?"
"I'm sure not, sir," he offered, following him. "I'll just watch the processing to make sure you've done it. That way I can note it in my report. One less thing for our people to have to do, unless they want to."
"Remember what Vecchio said about Lupin the Fourth and follow it with this one too," Welsh ordered his people. "You frisk her when you walk into her cell and when you put her back." They all nodded, taking her to be processed, and to have a shower. She stunk.
Turnbull accepted the bra with a mild blush, finding the hidden pocket easily. He pulled out the plans and blinked a few times. "Oh, my." He slid them into a bag and walked them up the stairs, tapping gently on the door. "Leftenant," he said in greeting. "This was found on her person. I do believe this leads back to your city instead of Canada." He presented the map to him. Right under the World Bank and how to get into the vault.
"Interesting," he said with a fond smirk. "I'll have to let them know about this. Just in case." He smiled at him. "Everything else go all right?"
"I didn't watch the body cavity search but she was screaming obscenities during it so I'm supposing it was done correctly. The last page of that fax was the notice that a special team would be down tomorrow night to get her. They had to prepare a special cell for her. Did you want Constable Fraser and I to take turns sitting guard on her? I have nothing to do tonight so I can for a few hours."
"If you want," he agreed. "The more the merrier." That got a grin and a salute, then the young constable was out of his office, leaving him with the map. He took it out to make a photocopy of it, then handed the original to the evidence people so they could put it with her things. This looked good on everyone's part.
Ray woke up from his nap in a different hotel room than he had started in. "I paid for that."
"You also got a refund when we found a rat in your room," Melissa said from the chair next to the window. She smiled at him. "My aunt's out for my head so we're not technically within Chicago at the moment, but fairly close to it. Lieutenant Welsh said to drive by before you leave with Turnbull so he can make sure you're all right and I didn't bruise you too much this time." She got up and he looked at her clothes. "You don't like?"
"I do like, but it's fairly indecent."
"It's a nightie, Ray, it's not meant for comfort." She laid down beside him, getting comfortable. "You're very good to nap on."
"Thanks, I think."
"Compared to the men in my life, you are. Daddy and Uncle Lupin are too skinny, all bones. Mom and Uncle Goemon are all muscle, and Ishi's got a pad of muscle that's usually too hard there too. You're just the right mix of soft and muscle. Perfect for cuddling on."
He sighed and put an arm around her. "We can't do this, Melissa."
"We can so."
"We can't. You're still a crook. I know you're a crook. I knew you were a crook when Zenigata introduced us to your profile. I've known you way too long to not know that you're a crook and an assassin."
She looked up at him. "And you're still a cop. I get that," she agreed. "Even if you quit, you'd still be a cop. Even if you ended up having to go to Mom for a job because Interpol wants to cut your unit out again, you'd still be a cop."
"Budget's tight. They're looking to trim. Even though you're on grant as an ex-officio unit at the moment, you're still pretty expensive. Even for the results you get. They want to cut about three-quarters of a million out of the budget but need to cut about one and a half to not have a deficit."
"Crap, and that's about our operating budget."
"Just under, yeah," she agreed sadly. "Then again, Mom's made a donation to the ICPO in the name of his new country. Lupin the Third's also found a few secret projects that are just wasting money as well and brought them to light. If they cut those project, it'll save about three mil this year. Which should get them over this financial hump."
"An AI mainframe project to keep the computers without having half as many tech guys. That's one of Mark's things even though he hates it and he knows it's futile. There's a robocop project with an android cop. There's another one with a robotic canine. There's some pretty crappy surveillance projects for new gear. It's not working at all. That's the commissioner's pet project however." She shrugged. "So we're not sure. Uncle Zenny could retire. The same as you and Uncle Stan could retire or come back here. Or you could go live with your mother while he gets on as Xander's librarian for the comics." Ray smirked at that. "We're not sure yet, but they just started on it earlier. One of the local syndicate people there, Bryon's father, called to tell Daddy about it. Daddy brought it to Uncle Lupin, and Uncle Lupin started to expose the secret projects within an hour and why they wouldn't work. We're hoping but we can't be sure." She stole a quick kiss. "Any idea what you want for dinner tonight?"
"I don't care. Just not Chinese. Being back in Chicago, it..."
"Brings back memories of Fraser when he was right in the head?" she suggested gently. He nodded. "I understand. There's a chain Japanese place, a Hibachi place, and a few iffy looking pizza places or we can head back into the city and eat there. I had originally made reservations with Arnaud."
"That's a nice place," he agreed quietly. "I still can't see us dating, Melissa."
"Shut up, Ray. We're dating or I'm going to go crying to Lotus. Who, by the way, thinks that Huey and Dewey make a very cute couple. And if they're not she wanted to know if she could date one of them."
"Her father would shit if she dated a black man," he said dryly, smirking a bit.
"Only if she married him," Melissa reminded him. "Speaking of marriage, Arsene saw Fujiko earlier. She's escaped her last prison."
"Wonderful. Where is she?"
"At the consulate. Surprisingly enough, her file was still found in their system. They've got too many outposts with paper trails. Ours were gone last week," she admitted with a small smirk into his chest while she played with a button. "But hers never disappeared."
"So she's fully under arrest?"
"I'm expecting so by now." She looked up at him. "See, you can date me. I'm fun, intelligent, and I get you off." She kissed him again. "Arnaud's and the chance of my aunt shooting at us?"
"That's one way to arrest her."
"True," she agreed happily. "Up to you, but you'll need new clothes and we've only got two hours before my first reservation. I made two just in case we got sidetracked."
"You are, but you're also messy and sweaty. Therefore you need to take a shower. I'll call and make sure of our reservations and we'll be off."
She kissed him again, straddling his body to do it. "Ray, quit complaining. Everyone, including my father, likes us together. I'm not going to get you dirty or make you be looked at funny."
"What're you going to do when I'm sixty and starting to fail in health? Or when I'm older and I'm adult diapers?"
"Ray, you'll be dead long before you come to that humiliating end," she said gently. "Not that I'd care. I love your mind as much as I love your body. I'll be there when you start to forget where your keys are and where you parked. Now, go take a shower so I can change and do my hair."
"We don't have to go somewhere that fancy. People do know you."
"Yay," she agreed. "Not here. Warfield's gone, his people have mostly retired. My aunt's people know me somewhat and about half of them know me as Lady Melissa. Lupin put the announcement in the paper locally to piss her off," she said with a grin. "So, go shower, I'll arrange for clothes for you. Now hurry up before I forget our plans and take you here and now." He shifted under her. "See? I've already forgotten to get off you." She slid off his side and watched him head into the bathroom, getting up to change out of the nightie and put on a real dress. A bit slinky and borrowed from Sylvia's closet, but the black knit dress was classic and with the blue sweater and modest heels, she looked very grown up. She put her hair up this time, adding some light jewelry to the outfit. He came out in a towel and she smiled, pointing at the bag in the corner. "Arsene had to guess about your sizes. I wouldn't let her check any tags."
"Thanks for that." He looked at her. "You look very respectable."
"I am a Lady, Ray. I should be." She smiled at him and sat down on the dresser to do her makeup in the mirror. "Get dressed before I forget myself and jump you."
"Yes, Melissa." He picked up the suitbag and looked inside, then at her. "Armani?"
"Hell yes. You look good in him. Change, Ray. I'm starting to get wet panties with you being moist and dripping and only wearing that easily removed towel."
He blushed and went into the bathroom to change. She didn't need any more ideas. He came out adjusting his tie and she fixed it perfectly for him, stealing a kiss. Her makeup was a bit dark but it highlighted her good points. Even the darker red lipstick. "That doesn't go with the sweater."
"The only one I brought," she said with a small shrug. "While you're getting real clothes, I'll find another one and change it out." She grabbed her purse, checking it then sighing. "Lupin, you took my wallet," she complained. "Little coffee freak. Fine, we'll just have to stop somewhere on the way in." She walked him out, locking the door behind them, and led him down to his car. He gaped at it, then at her. She smirked. "You had it in storage. Of course I got it out for you." She walked around and he opened the door for her, getting in to drive. She buckled up and looked at him. "I need to stop at the zombie bar to raid the emergency stash."
"We could stop at the consulate."
"I don't want to see Fujiko."
"Fine. Am I going to get into trouble for seeing this stash?"
"Nope. Mom's legit and comic stuff." She smiled at him and rubbed a hand on his thigh. "Drive, Ray, before we're really late." He nodded, starting his baby up. It purred and he smiled. "Someone took very good care of her."
"Frannie started her every few weeks for me," he said happily, pulling out of the parking lot.
Melissa came out of the zombie club and tucked her purse under her arm, getting into the Riv and buckling up. "Okay, all set."
"What did you do?"
"Well, long ago, Mom told me about this thing she did, and still does. She *buys* gems for backup money sources. So do I. That way no one can say anything about them not being legit, but if you need money you can usually find somewhere to cash them in. This bar is one mom owns and we have a stash down in the basement. She used to keep her costumes here but they're somewhere else now. Drive, Ray." He nodded. "In our stash, I keep legit stones with the papers needed just in case. I've got a few of these around the world."
"Interesting and legitimate, even though the funds they were bought with weren't. Advanced money laundering techniques."
"Point, but not totally. You see, I'm entitled to a share of mom's legit profits as well. Ray? Clothing row? Must I drive?" He started the car and backed out. "Pick a shop. I don't care where. Just get something that makes you look yummy and hot." He smirked at her. "What?" she asked innocently. "I even changed lipsticks to something more demure."
"I saw. I can also smell. Cherry?"
"Yeah. I nibbled on one while I waited for the guy to change it for me."
"A mostly legit fence. He runs a pawn shop." She shrugged and they turned onto another street. "Go wherever you want."
"I'm sure. Just no ugly boxers, okay?" She kissed him on the cheek and wiped off the bit of lipstick. "Sorry."
"Not a problem." He found his favorite spot and parked, walking her inside. He looked at the salesman, then at her. "She said so."
She smiled and shook the man's hand. "Lady Melissa Harris. This is my stud, Ray. Dress him appropriately. We have dinner in an hour and I'll need him fully outfitted for the next three weeks for an assignment bodyguarding someone French."
"Lady Melissa. From which estate?" he asked as he led them back to the suits.
"Heartstone. My father rather...won it," she said with a smug smirk.
"Your father slept his way into it," Ray snorted, smirking at her.
"Yes, but he was the only one to get her off."
"I heard about that," the salesman admitted. "So you're the heir?" She nodded, smiling at him. "Well. You're quite young."
"Eighteen just recently." She smiled at Ray, then at the salesman. "He was quite good in helping me celebrate. Do you think green? He likes green."
"Green is nice for him, but how about basics tonight?" he offered. She shrugged and sat down, crossing her legs demurely while she watched, her purse beside her. He looked at Ray. "This way, sir." He nodded, following him. "I must say, she's quite young."
"I'm still trying ta tell her no," Ray admitted.
"Ah. You know, that jacket looks good but it needs fitting."
"She had to guess at my size earlier. Sent in a friend while I napped. I had a bit of jet lag."
"Ah, that's usually horrible," he agreed, pulling down a few suits and holding them up. "No, not that color," he said, putting one back. "Can you wear gray usually?"
"One of my favorite suits was until it was ruined by a certain Mountie."
"Turnbull? You know him?"
"Fraser, but yes, I do know Turnbull. I'm going to be on assignment with him in Canada for a few weeks."
"Enough chat, Ray, let's see you look yummy now," Melissa called.
"She's demanding," the salesman offered, handing him the gray suit. "Try that on. It should fit you perfectly, but be a bit loose in the seat."
"They usually are," he agreed, taking it to try on.
The salesman went back to her side. "Will this be cash or charge?" he asked. "So we can start a running tab."
She pulled out the wad of cash, pulling off ten thousand dollars and handing it over. "Outfit him for three weeks," she ordered, stuffing the rest of the substantial roll into her purse. He nodded, going to do that. Ray came out and she purred. "I like you in that one. Get it. You can have one fitted for tonight and pick up the rest tomorrow sometime."
He nodded, going back there. "How much did she give you?"
"Ten large," he said softly, glancing around. "She really is a Lady?" He nodded. "Well. Well educated I'd say."
"Very. Boarding school in Italy. Loves my mother and her cooking." He went to try on the others. He started to check tags and winced a few times, and she must have seen because things started to come back without tags. The salesman added a complimentary suitcase for his new suits and had the one fitted for him tonight, promising the rest would be done by dinner time the next night, then they headed out to the car and to the restaurant. "Are we late yet?"
"Our second one is in an hour," she admitted, checking her watch. "Our first was about ten minutes ago but I did tell him that it was most likely we'd be making the second since we were running a bit behind."
"Oh, good. So, we've got an hour to kill, huh?" She smiled and nodded. "Go for a drive?"
"If you want. I never get a chance to appreciate the cities I pass through." He nodded, driving them off. "You didn't tell him who else I was?"
"No, I thought you'd want to leave it there." He checked behind them then merged lanes, heading for the prettiest of the parks. "We're being tailed," he announced.
She pulled out a small gun from her purse, then put her purse beside her. She rolled down the window and stuck her head out, with an arm, shooting out a tire. She pulled back in without the gun and rolled up the window, patting her hair to make sure it was still perfect. "No we're not."
He had to stop at a red light so he looked at her. "What did you do?"
"Their passenger side front tire. It was my aunt's top two bodyguards. They're swearing at me no doubt." She smiled sweetly. "Green. Well, yellow actually." He sped off through the yellow. "They weren't hurt, there wasn't a wreck. I didn't feel like being shot at tonight and messing up my pretty borrowed dress."
"Borrowed from which one?"
"Mom's closet. She's got the better stuff in there." She smiled and leaned over to kiss him. "It's not like they're going to report me, Ray, and the others are probably just swearing at them."
"We'll see. People do know this car."
"You've been gone a while and there wasn't a cop within four blocks that I could see." She kissed him on the cheek again. "Ooh, that's pretty."
"It's one of the parks we used to walk Diefenbaker in. It's a very pretty park to have lunch in too."
"If you want, Ray," she promised, stroking his thigh again. "But only if you want." He nodded, driving her around the park slowly, letting her look around it and see the view of the lake. He finally headed back to the restaurant, smiling at the cops there. She snorted and waited until he had parked and gotten out, coming around to get her. She accepted his hand out with a smile and took his arm, heading that way. "Trouble, gentlemen?" she asked.
"No, ma'am, sir. Just here guarding the mayor," one offered, opening the door for them. "Have a nice evening."
"You as well. Hopefully he at least brings you a snack or a doggie bag." She smiled at the maitre'd, nodding politely. "Lady Harris?"
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you for making two reservations."
"I thought it prudent, we had to do a bit of shopping earlier," she offered. "This one forgot anything appropriate for tonight." The maitre'd looked at Ray's new outfit, then nodded, leading them to a private little table against one wall. "Thank you," she offered quietly. He handed over the menus and left them alone. Ray helped her sit and she smiled at him, winking a bit. "I need food. I missed lunch."
"Yeah, I seem to have slept through it, but I had a burger for breakfast in the airport," he admitted, looking in the menu. "There's no prices."
She smiled. "Don't worry about it, Ray. I've got tonight. You can pay for a picnic lunch tomorrow." She went back to her looking. "I should be good and eat a good meal, but that beef looks very tempting."
"It does," he agreed, smiling behind his menu. "You're on a diet?"
"I should try to stick to a reasonable one. I don't need to lose weight but I am still actively working on my muscles and my training. I should eat well enough for that. Not like Uncle Zenny, who can live on Ramen."
"I've noticed. Stan's picked that up too."
"Poor Stan," she said sadly, shaking her head. "Bix is such a good cook too."
"Oh, she is. She refuses to let me in the kitchen." He looked over the top of his menu. "You could go for the chicken salad."
"I hate lettuce," she assured him. "Way too many salads at the Academy." She put down her menu. "Will you protest if I order a glass of wine?" He nodded. "Stupid laws."
"Tough. There's different standards over here than in Europe, where you're used to," he reminded her. "Here it's twenty-one."
The waiter came over. "We don't card unless it's clear they're very young," he offered.
"She's still not allowed," Ray told him.
"Do you brew your tea or is it a mix?" Melissa asked.
"We brew ours," the waiter said proudly.
"Then I'll take some ice water. I hate brewed tea." He smiled at that. "Sorry, the butler at the manor house does the same thing. I can't stand the taste of brewed tea." She shrugged. "Mom ruined me for mixes." She smiled at him. "I'll take the beef and potatoes casserole with a side of asparagus."
"Not unless he wants one. I'll ruin my dinner."
Ray snorted. "I've seen you eat more than your mother at a buffet, I'm not so sure of that. Give me the same dish, rice on the side. And a salad for an appetizer."
"Of course. To drink?"
"Pick something," he decided, handing back their menus.
"Very well, sir." He walked off, going to hand in their orders. The waiter came back a few minutes later with their drink orders, giving Ray a wink before moving on.
"I think he thinks I just hit the motherload. Rich, young, and pretty."
"With a fierce desire for some of you later," she added with a naughty grin, making him blush and take a sip of his cocktail. "Sorry, couldn't resist."
"I'm sure. You and your mother both."
"Yes, but I like you for whole different reasons than she does. She likes to tease. I have no intention of doing more than momentary teasing." She looked over as someone came to their table, smiling at the Lieutenant. "I see you did survive Lupin today."
"I did. She made some of the best coffee I've ever had."
"Yeah, she's a bit of a freak for good coffee," she agreed. "Did you want to join us?"
"No, I'm okay without watching you coo at him, Melissa. Just remember, if you hurt him, I'm going to harm you in ways your father would be proud of."
She smiled at him. "Good. I'd expect you and his mother to do that. His sisters would stand there and cheer of course."
"Yeah, probably true," he agreed dryly. "Ray, you look nice." He pointed at Melissa. "Ah, so she's spoiling you?"
"Very much. I'm weak in that area and I figure he'll tell me if I'm getting too pushy."
"You're too pushy anyway. Most smart women are," Ray pointed out. "That's how you tell smart women from the rest." She smiled at that. "I'm still going to have nightmares."
"Yay. I have them too. We can soothe each other's." She smiled up at the lieutenant. "Are you sure you won't join us?"
"No, the mayor's going over the incident earlier. By the way, did you mean to drop the gun?" She nodded. "Fine. I'm sure someone will put it to good use."
"It only has three more bullets and it's an odd size. You can't find them locally."
"Interesting. Thank you." He walked off, going back to his table.
"It is?" Ray asked.
"Yeah, that was that nasty little odd one I bought by accident." She shrugged. "Worth it really. I hated that thing." He nodded at that, taking his salad when the waiter came back. He glanced at her. "Eat, Ray. You're clearly trying to maintain your figure."
"Chasing after you guys is hard work," he agreed. "Your crew alone causes more gray hairs."
"My crew and I are on vacation again," she reminded him.
"Please don't remind me. I don't need flashbacks to that island." He ate a bite of his salad, doing it justice since it was perfectly fresh. By the time he was done, he was watching her watch the others. "Why did you let her come near me?"
"I didn't stop her in time," she admitted. "Made me horribly jealous. That's when I planned out how to jump you later that night."
"You did a good job. All but calling me Uncle Ray at dinner."
"Yeah, well, old habits and all that," she said with a flick of her hand. She heard a scream and someone got up and stomped out, leaving her boyfriend there. "Huh. We're just running into all sorts of people today. Wasn't that Stan's ex?"
"It was," he agreed, watching it with interest. "I'm not sure he's making her very happy. I'll have to tell Stan that so he can gloat."
"Sure. Or I can. Or Mom can since he's in the corner focused on...." She followed where he was watching. "Huh. The same guy. So I'm sure Stan'll hear about it." She looked at him. "You told Mom?"
"No. You?" She shook her head. "Interesting. You sure?" She discreetly pointed him out. "Yeah, that's Xander," he agreed dryly. "Am I that fascinating and need watched?"
"No. I'm sure he's not here for me." She glanced around then got up, bringing her purse with her. "Oh, my," she said in a honeyed southern accent. "You're Lord Harris, aren't you?" she asked with a small smirk. Xander flinched and looked up at her. "So, daddy, why are you interrupting my date?"
"I'm not here for you, dear. I thought you'd have left town by now. I'm here to meet with Lupin the Second and make plans for him to join us."
"Ah. Well, we're having dinner so keep Arsene and him away please." She kissed him on the cheek and went back to her table, smiling at Ray. "She's talking to the Second about going to the island."
"So where's the youngest Lupin?"
"Probably in the kitchen or she's off having fun with someone. So if she's not a waitress tonight, she's off clubbing."
Ray nodded. "Good deal. We're not. Right?"
She shook her head. "All up to you, Ray." She smiled sweetly. "We could go for another drive or whatever."
"I'm not ready for long drives in the country," he told her.
She nodded. "As you like. We can go back to the hotel and watch some tv if you wanted."
"Sure. That's nice and safe."
She smiled. "Maybe."
"It had better be."
"All up to you," she reminded him a bit smugly, looking at his salad. "I never could understand why people like those things."
"It's good for me. I have to force myself to eat at least one a week."
"I think you're in very good shape. You've got a bit of padding that speaks of years of good cooking, but otherwise you're in wonderful shape."
"Padding?" he snorted.
"Just enough to make you comfy. I can't even call it pudgy, just enough to cover the muscles so you're not one of those tight, wiry men."
"Thanks, I think."
"It was a compliment."
"Fine." He accepted his plate from the waiter and his new drink. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir. Can I get you anything else?"
"We'll see later," Melissa offered with a small grin. He nodded and left them alone. She broke the crust on her casserole and sniffed. "Hmm, good cheese." She ate a bite and moaned. "Excellently done."
Ray dug in, marveling at her appreciation of the necessities. Good food was a must in his book. That's why he could cook. Though the casserole did meet up to his expectations. He glanced at Melissa, catching her looking at Lupin the Second and glanced back. "He's really old."
"He' so sad. He gave it up for love and then she died about five years ago," she said, looking at him. "He was such a player in his youth too."
"Love can make you do things you'd never expect," Ray offered.
"Yes, it can," she agreed softly, blushing a bit as she ate another bite of dinner. She could feel him staring at her but she left it there.
Ray woke up in the morning, warm, comfortable, naked, and not alone. It was a nice feeling he had missed over the years. He looked at his bed partner, who was smiling in her sleep on his shoulder, then around the room, catching sight of Arsene in the bathroom. "What are you doing?" he hissed.
"Making you coffee because you're a grumpy bastard first thing in the morning and I want to spare her that," she said dryly, coming out with the filled pot of water to start the coffee off. "Besides, I think we should have a more extensive talk." She flipped on the coffeepot once she had the water poured in, and pulled something out of her pocket, gassing Melissa with it. "Oops, breath stuff." She got the other stuff out and gassed her, smiling as she mumbled but stayed asleep. Arsene sat on the foot of the bed. "Don't worry about clothing or anything, I had to cover you guys earlier. You looked cold." He blushed at that. "Not that I care." She looked at Melissa, then at him. "She made me a promise when we were younger, that a guy was never going to make her part from my side, Ray. She tends to keep her promises. Unless I die, she'll be with me."
"I figured it was something like that."
"It is, but I kinda feel sorry for you here because you won't get to fully know her for years yet." Ray opened his mouth. "Ah! You dump her I'm siccing your mother on you." He grimaced. "Yes, Ishi was there and he did tell her. She was most impressed that Melissa managed to get through to you without a screaming match first. She said you were too stubborn to accept that love could come from one so young and beautiful." She shrugged. "She's your mother, I'm not going to comment on sappy, romantic stuff like that. Dad's the romantic Lupin of the family. I'm more like Grandfather there. I like my harem of studs." She shifted a bit. "So the problem becomes what to do to help her balance out your life together and our jobs. Because I make sucky plans without her. I can't work if I can't plan and that's one thing I never learned how to do well, probably because Melissa does. So, I'm torn here, Ray." He nodded, staying silent. "I can't release her from that promise. I like working and I know she likes the challenge of it. She'd never be happy just designing, she needs an activity that physically and mentally challenges her naughty side to be happy. You need her to be more discreet. That's why the files were removed." He nodded at that and swallowed. "I figured it'd be easier on you if she didn't have a file and couldn't *prove* anything, even if they still knew who she was."
"Thank you but you're still going to get into trouble for that."
"Yay. Trouble is my life," she offered with a wicked grin. "Then again, it's hers too." She stared at him. "So I'll make you this compromise. We're going to hate losing you on our asses all the time. You and Uncle Stan were a lot of what made the on-the-run portion of the game fun. You take yourself off anything Lupin related. You find a replacement as good as you for the chase. I'll take longer breaks between jobs and try to do things a bit more quietly. Let's face it, my Interpol file only had about seven or eight things in it and we all know I had that many by the time I was ten."
He nodded slowly. "I'll still have to arrest her some day."
"That's some day, Ray, not right now. Live in the present, it's the only way to achieve happiness. If you worry too much, you'll start to worry about Stan's daughter coming to chase us some year. Or worse, dating Fred." He shivered at that, it was like a bad omen. "Mom would have to train her and I doubt it, man." She shifted again. "Can we make this bargain? Ishi and Lotus have already agreed. Fred'll have to prove himself to the field at large but not until he's formally out of school. Neither will Kenji or Yu."
He considered it. "Define quieter."
"Quieter. Or more quietly for those who are grammar obsessed. Say, notes left at the scene instead of before? Or notes quietly placed before instead of the media fanfare I can make some of them. It won't change my MO really and Dad said it was permissible to do it that way. He also said that he didn't like the idea of me taking this year fully off, that I'd lose some of my respect by doing so. That's why we're out looking at stupid criminals again. There's someone with a sacred statue that talks to them and has them running an odd cult. We're dealing with that right now. Dad's put around that we're doing some socially conscious work for a time due to Mom's influence. Mom put out that we're doing it because she showed us what poverty was and how bad it can be and gave us the desire to do good works every few years. I'm just taking a year to do good works," she offered smugly. "If you can agree to that, I might even let Melissa start slipping Stan stuff about the crooks we're going to be hitting, after we're done. Make it a double tragedy in some cases for the worst of the worst."
He considered it, then slowly nodded. "Fine."
"Thank you. Now, you'll have her all to yourself but for an hour this afternoon. I'll need her to help me look up someone in the database. I can't find the putz and he's an irritant to the eyeball of the world. So you get some coffee, get some morning sex, because Melissa deserves to be loved properly time and again. Go have lunch. I'll come steal her after lunch while you go to pick up your suits or go visit Turnbull and Fujiko." She smirked at him. "Then you can have her back for dinner, and I made you a special reservation tonight so no running late. That way I know you won't be running into anyone you know. Oh, her aunt's no longer much of a problem. I got tired of the old wench last night and went to talk to that nice Lieutenant of yours about her at home. It's nice to find a guy who appreciates good coffee." She got up and moved closer, kissing him on the cheek. "Welcome to the family, Ray. Treat her well and come to me if the work starts getting in the way. Remember, no babies yet. Our dad's would freak if you did and you'd end up on the cruise ship being married very quickly as well." He smiled and nodded at that. "Good man." She winked and walked out, closing the door quietly behind her.
"She gone yet?" Melissa mumbled.
"Just now." He kissed the top of her head. "She'll need you for an hour today."
"Yay." She looked up at him and yawned. "Sorry, morning breath." He kissed her anyway, making her smile. "Thank you. I think that's the highest compliment yet." She kissed him again, making him moan and shift to be able to hold her better.
Vecchio walked into the twenty-seventh, weathering the smug looks for his attire. "What? It's new. I got spoiled." He walked up the stairs, finding Welsh being surrounded by a bunch of Mounties. "Are we being invaded?" he asked blandly. "Because if we are, you still won't win the Stanley Cup this year."
A few smirked at him. One smiled. "Inspector Vecchio," she said, shaking his hand. "Bess Fraser."
"I heard about you."
"I heard about you as well." They looked at Welsh, then at each other. "One Fujiko Mine was given over to our local Inspector. We're here to pick her up."
"Ah. I heard about that. How thick is her file?"
"Not nearly thick enough," she admitted. She handed it over and he looked it over, then snorted and sat down to write out a list of things he knew, handing it back with it. "Thank you kindly, Inspector."
"I want that bitch to go away for a very long time. She ignored and hurt her children. She nearly killed the baby a few times. She tried to get the older girls to become whores and use only their feminine wiles on the men. She dressed them like it repeatedly. She's a backstabbing bitch of the old school, turned allegiances like we change underwear. She'd kill her own kids if she thought it'd help with a plan."
"Even better to know," she agreed. "Why did they not kill her?"
"Goemon couldn't kill his wife and he kept promising to reform her," he said dryly. He heard a familiar footstep and groaned. "Hold on." He walked out, grabbing Xander. "No. You can't go near Fujiko. Let Canada have her."
"I just wanna stab her a few times, they can save her life," he said hotly.
"No, Xander. No." He walked him into the squad room by force. "Question him about her. He can tell you all sorts of shit that won't endanger the group."
"I can?" he asked, looking at his buddy. "Can't I just stab her?"
"No. Your daughter would get pissed. Get creative once she's in prison begging for her life."
"Fine," he muttered, pulling out an envelope. "From Lupin the Third, Inspector. He wishes you to have this once he found out why his daughter was in this city. By the way, her happy horsemen of digging that tunnel? They're digging that tunnel right now. They've been going now for two days. They'll probably be breaking through in another five or six."
Welsh looked at him. "Thank you, Lavelle."
"Welcome, Lieutenant. My daughters?"
"Here somewhere. Maybe Lupin left last night, but I know Melissa's somewhere."
"Hmm. Did you enjoy her aunt last night?"
"She's waiting in your closet. At your house."
"I didn't go home last night. I should probably do that," he agreed, going to take a few people to his place to retrieve the next guest of the city.
"Melissa's aunt?" Ray asked.
"Pissed Arsene off on Melissa's behalf," he said smugly. "Pity about that. Remember the lesson, Ray." He looked at the inspectors, who were all staring at him, and smirked. "He chases after me all the time, I get to call him by his given name. Use that information well, Inspectors. I have a lot of respect for the lot of you." He turned and stomped out, going to plan a sniper shot. He got grabbed by Welsh on his way out the door and sighed, following him. "Why do I have to come?"
"In case there's others trying to get her and so you can't stab her or shoot her or do anything else to her."
"Bet me," Xander said bitterly. "She deserves to be tortured, for a very long time."
"I'm sure she does, but you can't do that here in America, as you know since you were born here. Get to her jailers or the people in her prison, Lavelle, it'll be much more satisfying because she won't be able to get away from them and she'll be trapped day after day until they put her to death."
"Maybe," he said grimly. He grimaced and shook his head. "I hate that bitch."
"I'm sure you do," he soothed, getting him into his car. "Now, let's go get your sister-in- law from my closet. When did she do this?"
"Last night after the shooting thing. Then I'm taking Lupin the Second to the island so I'm expecting her to come back with us for a few weeks at least."
"That's fine." He got in to drive, taking him to his house. He was sure the guy knew where it was anyway. They found a few people trying to break in and Xander stopped them before the cops could get out of their cars, then he headed inside to bitch out his sister-in-law and drag her outside by the hair. He smiled as he accepted her. "Thank you, Lavelle. Now disappear. Right now." He nodded, and suddenly wasn't there. "How did he do that?" He called the station while the officers checked his house, bringing out a few others. "How did he disappear that way?" He listened to the short explanation. "Never mind." He hung up and stuffed her into the back of a patrol car, smiling brightly at her. "Breaking into my house was very stupid," he told her. "It really was."
"Yes, you did. How else did you get in my closet? And playing with my handcuffs was even more dumb. You got caught due to playing with things you shouldn't touch while breaking into my house. Thank you for saving Organized Crime some work." He shut the door and walked off, going to look at the others. He tapped one. "That's the kid's boyfriend." The guy looked horrified. "Or not. Bring him anyway. If he is, I'll gladly scare the hell outta him so he knows to treat her right."
Xander walked off the helicopter and nodded Goemon to come with him since he was there. He walked him off to the side, taking him down the road to talk with him in private. Lupin, his father, and his daughter all went past in a jeep and they waved. "Goemon, while they were in Chicago, they ran into Fujiko," he said quietly. Goemon nodded curtly. "Arsene ran into Fujiko," he told him.
"I heard she had been arrested by the Canadians."
"Yes, and no," he admitted. "Yes, she was arrested by the Canadians, but handed over may be more appropriate." He stopped walking when his buddy did, looking at him. "You know how Arsene feels about her, Goemon. She hated her, fully hated her. Not only for how she hurt you and your kids, but for what she did to the rest of the family and her." He paused, looking at the ground, then at him. "I'm the one who told Lupin. That was the night he was locked in his office."
"He asked me if I'd ever take her back," he said quietly.
"He gave me information to hand to the Mounties picking her up. Ray filled in a few other things about her solo career." He nodded, looking miserable. "Where we go from here is up to you, Goemon. If you want her back, I'll stand behind you, even if I do guard your kids from her. You're my buddy and my friend."
"I know, Xander. I thank you, but I could never want her back. Not after the last time."
Xander nodded. "Then it's up to you whether she survives her sentence or not, Goemon." He looked startled. "It can and does happen. She's fairly protected but not that much. They didn't offer her a chance to turn evidence. Zenigata's not stepping in to offer her that reprieve. Two of the things Ray wrote are, were, capitol offenses. If Canada has the death penalty, she can get it." He sighed and nodded, moving to lean against a tree. "That's up to you however. Lupin has no idea that I'm offering you this option. If you want it to be a merciful death for giving you the kids, then I'm for that."
"You'd help?" he asked, looking at him.
"Yeah, I would. Either in person or through some contacts."
"Up to you, Goemon. All I'm doing is offering my services and my network."
He nodded. "Let me think on this, Xander."
"That's fine, Goemon." He hugged him gently. "It'll be okay," he said quietly. "She's safe from herself and from hurting others, like Lotus." He pulled back and gave him a weak smile. "It could have been much worse. Arsene could have just presented her dead body and demanded the reward."
"True," he agreed, walking on. Xander walked beside him. "You know I do not believe in divorce."
"I do. Another reason why I'm offering. I know Jigen did in the past." He nodded at that and Xander looked at him, then really looked at him. "Marcus!"
He snorted and took off the illusion. "I've already offered my master the same thing," he assured him. "Lupin told him that he had sent you with information. He got quietly drunk that night and cried on his new woman's shoulder the next morning. You'll find he opted for the more gentle option. She got sent a vial of poison for whenever she's ready." He grinned at him. "Zenigata's not pumping her for information on Lupin?"
"Nope. Ray told him, he sent Thatcher a message saying 'good job, hope you keep her, don't offer her a deal, she's not to be trusted' and left it there."
"Excellent news. On even better news, Interpol only cut half of Zenigata's unit." Xander moaned and held his head. "Which is why I'm out here. They're keeping him, they're keeping either Ray or Stan. And they're keeping Emmajean and two others. The rest are being reassigned but he's allowed to keep all the rookies he's got working under him since they're free labor. Those were the official orders laid down."
"If whichever one doesn't go back to Chicago, I've got legit jobs lined up for them," he promised. "Not a problem."
"I thought you might. I did write Ray an email and reminded him of that fact. Melissa did as well I believe." He nodded at that. "We're allowing them?"
"She makes him happy and he makes her dance," Xander said dryly, smiling at him. "I can't break into that."
"Fine. I won't say anything to her when she comes back."
"He came to check out the legalities here and she jumped him that first night," Xander told him, smirking a bit. "One of the girls had walked up to Ray, kissed him, then blew him there in the entry of the house. It got her so jealous. She was red and splotchy. She was fuming and ready to scream and attack her. Mel apparently knew she had a crush on him and prompted her to action. Besides, my baby's like me and she deserves someone who can understand what multiple orgasms are for. Which he apparently can because she's loud."
Marcus laughed at that. "Then I'm happy for her. What about Lupin?"
"Arsene said that she'll be quieter so as to not interfere with his job that much. Lupin the older? Well...." He shrugged. "He considers it odd but she's happy so he's happy as long as she doesn't rat the family out. Jigen was wondering why both his daughters fell for cops. He thinks it's something we did wrong."
Marcus rolled his eyes. "He would. She just found someone who sparks that spot inside her."
"Quite often from what I saw," Xander agreed dryly. "She took him shopping as Lady Melissa their first night in Chicago. Dropped about twelve grand at Armani on him. Dropped about three hundred at dinner. The next day, he got a two grand watch. The day after that, Welsh got a crystal decanter of the really good scotch from the house. She let him treat her to a picnic and a walk in the park, gentle things like that."
"Very interesting," Marcus agreed. "So she's spoiling him but not allowing him to spoil her?"
"No, she realizes he makes a lot less than she does so she's letting him do what he can and she's taking on the brunt of the financial stuff. She's good at that."
"She is," he agreed quietly. "Well, I suppose she's truly happy then. The child always did need someone to take care of. When can we expect grandchildren?"
"Not for at least five years. Ray promised me that when we had a short talk while Melissa was in the shower yesterday morning. He doesn't want kids yet and only wants maybe one or two at the most. Did Ishi really tell his mother?" Marcus nodded. "Well, I'm sure he'll be getting visited soon."
"Probably," Marcus agreed, smiling as they came to the lake. "Well, I'm off to have some fun. Behave."
"I'm off to find Jigen and jump him." He winked and wandered off, heading for the house. He found Jigen in the entryway and grinned, sneaking up behind him to jump him for a cuddle. "I'm back."
"I can tell." He pulled him around and kissed him. "Melissa?"
"Decided to escort him and Turnbull back to Paris. That way she could get another day and talk to someone about her newest invention."
"Because it's not useful in the field but it'd make a great nanny cam," he told him. "Inside a few different toys, but meant to be camouflaged."
"She really likes him?"
"If it were just the sex, she'd be over it by now," he reminded him.
"Fine. What about kids?"
"Ray said, baring accidents, five years at the earliest. He promised me that. He also said he only wanted a couple of them anyway. He even tried to remind her he'd be an old man within thirty years. She said she didn't care, she wanted his mind and personality as much as his body."
"Fine. I guess." He stole another kiss and walked Xander off, taking him up to their suite. "Lupin's waiting on us."
"Really?" Xander asked, smirking at him. "Something...special?"
"Something kinky," he said dryly, walking her into their room and locking the door behind them. On the bed lay a woman, tied lightly by the arms to the bedpost, wearing only a very familiar choker and a set of pink panties. "Geez, Lupin!"
"I wanted to find out," he offered with a little purr. "Please, Xander? Please, Jigen?"
"Oh, yeah," Xander agreed, coming over to pounce her and have his wicked way with the virginal woman. Jigen set up the videocamera to tape it, then got out of the way to watch. He'd get his. He had always thought Lupin wanted him, and now he knew how he wanted him. Xander let out a wicked chuckle when his new lady howled in pleasure, going back to what he was doing. "Remember, she can only pass out, not die from it, babe," he warned.
"I'm being good, so far. I'll be wicked later," Xander said smugly, smirking at him and the camera.
Zenigata looked at his people. He noticed Ray walking in. "You too," he ordered. He saw that he was alone. "No little woman?"
"Do I pick on you about yours?" he asked dryly. He sat on his desk, looking around. "I heard the budget was getting cut. How bad?"
"Orders from the Commissioner," he said bitterly, waving the printed form. "He's said, and I quote. I'm allowed to keep Emmajean and two others. I'm allowed to keep the rookies because they're cheap labor." He took a deep breath and looked at his two best. "I'm only allowed to keep one of you."
Stan and Ray both looked at each other. Then they groaned and shook their heads. "At least we have jobs we can go to," Stan offered.
Zenigata nodded. "I'm thinking that's what he was thinking. That and you two do the most work so you're the most expensive." He shrugged and leaned against the desk he was in front of. "I don't want to do this, men, and ladies. I fought long and hard about this. Even with them cutting all but the robotic dog project, I still fought long and hard over there. I even offered to retire since I'm the highest paid here. They said if I did that then either Ray or Stan could stay in my place." He shrugged. "I don't know why he hates you two, but he said only one of you can stay."
"I can go back to Chicago," Ray offered. "Frannie's still there. I know I'm needed."
"I could," Stan pointed out. "My family's never really met Bix."
"You've got the kid to think about," Ray pointed out.
"Yay, you'll have some soon." They stared at each other, then groaned and shook their heads. "We'll work this out between us, Zenny."
"Thank you, guys. I don't want to."
"Then don't," Melissa said as she walked in. She smiled at him. "By the way, the present commissioner is presently begging his Mistress for his life for crippling Interpol this way. She's an inspector as well and got quite pissed at him for how he cut the budget this time." She handed over an envelope. "You can keep it on a grant basis," she offered. "That would drastically cut the budget, but not as much. You'd be moved back to being advisors and helpers, but not the actual people arresting. Just as it was planned the last time this happened and then the budget crunch in other departments made you go back. You'd still have to cut about six positions and most of the travel budget. Then again, you do more work than most of Interpol and they were trying to do the same thing to that poor group who dealt with white slavery."
"Melissa," Stan started.
She held up a hand. "You guys do good work getting the worst and the most dangerous off the street. You also train my sister to be just as good and careful. I'd rather not have her out doing traffic and getting caught by a stray bullet some day." She looked at Zenigata. "That would mean a pay cut for you as well probably. You're that sort of boss, but it would give you more options, including private funding, like from the FBI."
"They do?" Ray asked. She nodded, smiling at him, then at her sister. "Why?"
"Because they can't be everywhere and they say the same things about Interpol that you guys say about them. Besides, I'd rather not see dead people this week. The way the budget was cut for the masses of officers, the general corps of you guys, it'd leave them without backup at times, it'd leave some partnerless, and it'd leave a number hanging out in the cold and ready to commit suicide since they couldn't do what they had always dreamed of. He only had to cut three-quarters of a million at the least and he cut five." Zenigata winced at that. "So, yes, I'm giving you other options so Daddy doesn't have to watch Savannah coo at her husband back at the island. He said it was fine, but he didn't want to have to watch her coo at her cop."
"And yours?" Savannah asked bitterly.
"He doesn't to watch me coo at my man either," she said dryly, smirking at her, "but I never turned my back on the family and fucked up by ignoring rules." She looked at Zenigata again. "It's up to you. His mistress made him compromise. Not family related at all." He took it and looked it over, then at her. She smirked. "It'll give you a year. Make all the plans you can, figure out how and who to cut. For all I care, start an academy for future cops." He looked startled at that. "There's not one."
"You mean like the Assassin's Academy, only for good guys?" Sierra asked. Melissa nodded. "Interesting idea. Daddy would shit though."
"Speaking of fathers. Did you not check your email yet?" She shook her head. "Then we gotta talk, dear. You've got another relative and he's a bit old."
Ray looked at her. "When Ishi and Xander were in Chicago helping with that rogue case, Ishi saw someone. Lupin the Second. He's alive."
"He quit due to love," Melissa told her. "He's about ninety-five or so. He's on the island, and you're allowed there to *visit*, but you can't bring the men."
"Fine. I doubt I want my husband on an island full of family anyway."
"Or pros," Stan agreed.
"Excuse me?" Sierra asked. "Prostitutes?"
"Mom said he created a harem so that daddy and your dad would not and could not ever leave him. They're on salary. They've got a nice apartment building. There's a lake. We get our own house. We've got work spaces. It's pretty nice. And your father disappears every few weeks and comes back sated and Mom doesn't have to worry about taking his credit cards to Rodeo Drive with us and Aunty Murami."
Sierra blinked a few times. "What?" she demanded loudly.
Melissa nodded, so did Stan and Ray. "Xander's retirement village," Ray told her. He smirked at her. "I went to check out the legalities. It's very pretty there. Even Goemon's there. So are the kids but they're not allowed near anyone."
"My mother is a fucking lunatic," Savannah complained, holding her head. "Fine, we'll be in for a visit in a few days and I'll bring drugs for Mom's poor mental condition."
"Sure. I'm sure she'd love it," Melissa agreed dryly. She looked at Zenigata, then handed him something. "For the nursery. I heard screaming when I was walking past there. It's a small camera, it broadcasts on a set frequency so no one else can pick it up. You've got the tester. I was told it was too generic and too done already." She shrugged. "I'm off to do some shopping. Laters." She walked out, leaving them there.
Savannah looked at Ray. "We will be talking about that island."
"Sure," he agreed. "My report had a map." He looked at Zenigata. "So, what do we do, boss?"
He looked at the letter again, then at them, then at the check inside. He groaned. "Fine. We'll start back at the consulting level for now. It'll mean less cuts, but there'll still have to be a few. I'm sure you'll be reassigned within the day." They all nodded. "Give me a few days to work this out. Unfortunately it looks like without pay." They all sighed and nodded. "I'm sorry, guys. Let me work this out." He walked off, going to his office to read the note thoroughly. It would mean he'd have at least part of the unit for another two years, they couldn't cut it out from under him, but he'd still have to make cuts. Dawn walked in and kissed him on the head, making him smile up at her. "Thank you." She handed him a check and walked off. "What's this?"
"Mine." She kept going. Apparently she needed to check on the kids.
Ray walked into the restaurant the note on his bed had told him to come to, and was shown right to his girlfriend's table. He smiled at her. "Hi."
"Hi. We're not alone for dinner tonight."
"I figured as much by the note. Stan's behind me."
"That's fine," she agreed. "Mom's on his way."
Ray sat down, putting his napkin into his lap. "What's good here?"
"I've never eaten here but Mom seems to like it." She shrugged. "I have not a clue. Mom said he's going to divulge some information to us tonight." She smiled at Stan as he came in, dressed very nicely. "Hi, Uncle Stan." She kissed him on the cheek. "You look good."
"Thank you." He sat down, looking at the empty seat. "Late for a reason?"
"Application of disguise."
"Ah." He nodded, looking at her. "I liked your hair the other color better. You look odd as a redhead."
"Yes, well, it is a wig," she offered dryly. "I like my hair its natural color too." She smiled as a tall, dark man walked up to their table, nodding politely at him. "Patrick. Here for me?"
"Here at Lavelle's request. He couldn't get free. Something came up. Something about Arsene and crying horrendously locked in the bathroom."
"She's on the patch," Melissa said worriedly.
"Not that. I asked and he said it wasn't that. Just a broken heart he thinks." He shrugged. He looked at the two detectives. "I know you don't know me. I'm Xander's solicitor for his medium level projects on the legit side." They nodded at that. "That means I oversee the winery, his comic collection and the house it's in, the cheese making farm and plant, the restaurant, anything at that level." That got another nod. "As you probably have guessed, Xander does have positions open for you when and if you need them. They will be reasonably well paid, fairly easy to do, and totally under my area. He'd offer you a job in the security company or the anime company but he didn't think you'd like it as much." Stan smirked at that. "Or you'd play with every issue when it came out," he offered. Melissa let out a little chuckle.
"One of the things he wanted disclosed is how vast this empire is, and that it was all started with that meager settlement from his insurance and the state. The only things bought with money from Murami's side was the anime company and the security company, mostly because he needed to use it at that time and he did a complicated dance to exchange the same amount of money back, like his legit side bought it from his non-legal side." Ray looked confused. "Not totally effective but putting distance between the two." He looked at Melissa then opened his briefcase, pulling out a thick folder. "These are things that are under my area." She gaped at it and he smiled. "He thought you might have settled for not knowing since you don't do much with me." He looked at Ray, then back at her. "Your mother did say that if you wanted to switch, you could, but only for the right reasons and only fully. No tainting the other side allowed."
"We've wondered a few times how massive his empire is," Stan admitted.
"How did Lupin not see this?" Melissa asked.
"Willful blindness. He never asked. He accepted the fact that there's only a few things and not everything." He handed her the folder. "You can look through it." She flipped through the info sheets on each company slowly, finally handing it to Ray and Stan. "He did say he was going to be taking a year and a half to run his empire for a bit, and Lupin agreed. Jigen did as well. With the kids needing this year before they start school and that new island project, which I thankfully wasn't a part of, he's got all he can handle without being...who he is for a few months."
"I'm sensing a but coming," Ray said dryly, taking the folder to look through. He stared, then looked at his very bright girl. "You didn't know?"
"I wasn't going to deal too often with that side of things so I just left it there," she offered. "If something happened to him before he had a grandchild suitably trained in it, then it went to Homer and them. If he died before things were put into final place, like an heir to that side, I got the estate and a few things. Homer got a few things and possibly Lotus. Bastian got a few other things, and then I got to run the other side."
"Homer and Lotus?" Patrick asked.
"He's a perfectly nice man," she defended a bit loudly. "He deserves someone like her and she deserves someone like him."
"Dear, quietly," Patrick suggested.
"Sorry." She shook her head. "I don't know what's gotten into me." She kissed Ray. "I'm not usually like this."
"You were drinking earlier perhaps?" he suggested.
"Only a glass of wine while waiting on you guys...." She sniffed her wine then put it aside. "Truth serum. It makes me giggly and loud." She opened her purse and pulled out a small container, searching through the bottles until she found one. Then she took it. She put everything back into her purse and waved the waiter over, handing him the glass. "Was it just my glass or the whole bottle that got dosed with the truth serum?"
"Your glass, ma'am, your sister said so. She's in the kitchen listening," he said, pointing at the wire.
"Thank you." She plucked it from the centerpiece and plopped it into the glass. "Please deliver that to my sister. And if you could, tell her I'll be killing her later." He smiled and nodded, walking off. "Men like that get good tips," she noted, looking at Patrick. "It'll take about fifteen for the antidote to work."
"That's fine, Melissa. Xander wanted me to disclose this to you for a few reasons tonight. One, to give you the chance to switch sides if you wanted. Two, to make you see that either a grandchild or a new sister would have to come into being some day." He looked at Ray. "Three because he thinks you need to know as well. I'm here to offer Mr. Kowalski a job for the most part, and to disclose to you two otherwise. I don't even know the full spectrum of Xander's empire, especially not the side that his Lavelle personality runs. I do know that he's tied together most of the syndicates in Europe and they don't realize it."
"Mom could twitch a few unrelated strings and bring down most of Europe and Asia," she agreed, again getting a bit loud. Stan coughed and she quieted herself. "Sorry, this stuff makes me act oddly.
"Does Xander run Europe Dark Syndicate?" Stanley asked.
She snorted, flicking a hand around. "They're down on numbers and things, but even at full strength they have nothing on mom. Uncle Lupin created a network of people he can work with and helpful people like fences around the world. At their height it numbered around a thousand." Both cops nodded at that. "Mom's totally surrounded his, absorbed the edges to make it hers, and built on some more." They gaped. "Mom literally could twitch a few strings, like someone in London's syndicate and one in the local one here, and bring down Russia, Italy, and Spain in a row." Ray opened his mouth. "And no one would ever realize it was him," she said quietly. She was back to normal now. "That's how he built it, like a giant spiderweb. He's got a hidden fortress of evil on the island but the doorway down is guarded by fingerprint, retinal print, and voice print. Daddy Lupin hasn't wanted to go down there yet to bother him. He's content thinking it's things like the dairy farm and the cheese factory. The wineries in Europe and the US. The security company. The anime company. The ship and the restaurant, which are under the same umbrella company. He thinks Xander's influence is only related to those cells of helpful people that he's got and he's way wrong there. He didn't want to look and Xander is an evil overlord right under his nose."
"Wow," Stan said in awe. "We had no idea."
"I don't deal with that side, but what she mentioned on the legal side of the field is about one tenth of what we've actually got," Patrick offered. He patted Melissa's hand. "On the other hand, I only deal with some of it. I don't deal with the security company at all. He found the most pure and legal person he could for them and stays out of their way."
"We're not allowed to go near them either, even if we retire and change identities," Melissa agreed. "Bastian was getting that. So, I've got to have a really smart kid?"
"You'll have to have a child that thinks like you and your mother do," he corrected. "Smart would be of help as well. Just seeing the connections sometimes is very difficult."
"Sure. I get that," she agreed. "I can't see all of them." She looked at the folder in Ray's hands. "May I have that back for a minute?" He handed it back and she read more carefully this time, making it most of the way through before yawning. "Man! Well, no wonder we were told to never go near those few places." She handed it back to Ray with a headshake. "What about you guys, Patrick?"
"Didn't get that far?" he teased. "We're the last one. We're actually a multi-national law firm. We do both criminal, in case one of you needs us, and other matters. Speaking of, I've got to see Murami tonight. She's been missing a few things, like payments she usually makes."
Melissa laid a hand on his wrist. "I'll go with you. She's family to us." He nodded and smiled at her. "I'm taking it you're getting dinner?"
"I can write it off on my taxes," he agreed dryly. He looked at Ray. "It was suggested if you needed a job, you could work for one of the wineries, or for the new farm he just bought in lower Italy recently."
"He did?" Melissa asked.
"Just about ten days ago. You know how sometimes he buys companies that just need an heir to be found, someone to love it?" She nodded. "This is one of those. The older couple who owned it don't have any remaining children. They're spending the next year or so teaching the new people how to run it and Xander may still give them their house back. It's on the edge of the farm and they're getting along in age."
"The one thing you don't want to lose is the family home, even when you've lost the lands," Ray agreed sadly. "That poor family."
"It's only the couple left, Ray, and Xander's the sort to give them the home while they run the farm around them."
"At least until he finds someone who'll love it properly and then hands it over," Melissa agreed. "He did that with a family owned bookstore too." He and Stan both nodded at that. "What if he doesn't want to work with food?"
"He can go work for the part of the law firm in Chicago, where we do have an office. We could use a consultant and someone to liaison with the police department there. He said Stanley could but we felt it might create more conflict between him and his former spouse." Stan snorted at that, shaking his head. "Then that is an option. Though, if you both worked over here, you'd be closer and it'd be easier to keep in touch."
"What else is there?" Ray asked, going back to his flipping through the file. It was a diverse list. Fashion, jewelry, a museum, an orphanage, a bookstore, a gun making company, the security company, the anime and comic company in Japan. The umbrella company that housed a lot more than the restaurant and the ship. He pulled out one. "What about this one?" he asked, handing it over.
Patrick read it over. "It's another that I don't usually deal with. It's an information clearinghouse and research center. Unless you're into the research, you'd be in an office all day dealing with budgets and the like. He does have a branch of that here in Paris. Melissa has an office there." She nodded and sipped her water. "Our local man here has an office at the top of their building. We don't have a real main office, we have people who work for us here and there around the globe with a few higher offices in Chicago, London, Istanbul, and Yokohama." He looked at Ray and smiled. "If you wanted to go temper irrational geniuses all day and deal with budgets, I'm sure an opening can be made."
"Working in the office is fun," Melissa offered. "We've got one guy working on plant cross-breeding that runs around naked all day in his artificially sunlit lab. We've got the person working on sonic weapons who walks around listening to Black Sabbath all day on her headset so she doesn't have to hear the destruction happening, said it creeps her out. We've got the robotics people who play D&D while they think up new ideas. We've got the fuel cell people who sit around with them to play and think up new ideas."
"Xander's gift has always been finding someone who was better than him at something and hiring them," Patrick agreed. "I do a lot of contract law. He got me in my second year of law school after a very good semester. He gave me a wonderful scholarship that allowed me to eat regularly without having to wait tables and it came with a job afterwards apprenticing under his last person. That way I got everything I needed to know about the ins and outs of business law. That's when he brought me to the company and settled me in a big office, handed me the stack of businesses and their data files, and said, you handle this now. Don't expect many vacations but the pay's excellent," he said with a small grin. "He was right. The pay's excellent and I find I work on my vacations." Both cops snickered at that. "But if I didn't, something would start to go wrong and the machinery around me would start to grind. The system works because it's all fitted like a puzzle. Everything works well together and we all get along. It's pretty rare that we find someone we can't be at least decent and polite to in the workplace. Then again, we get some fights carried in from couples and they make things more interesting. We love a good challenge."
"I'm a crisis person myself," Melissa offered. "I've even started a few so I could solve them." Ray smirked at her. "Even if it was only in theory for a class project," she said sweetly.
"Oh, I don't know, gassing a whole precinct with a smokebomb to steal me so I could head back in after the bad guy was a miniature crisis."
Stanley snickered. "She did?" Ray nodded. "You're so bad," he told her, smirking at her. She beamed and nodded. "So, why do I get archival stuff?"
"Because Xander thought you'd like it more," he admitted. "He also said it'd allow you to go to all the conventions and be a daddy to the baby coming without having to work too hard. Between that and your wife's trust fund, he didn't think you'd mind taking a lesser job for more time to be a father."
"Nah, not really," he agreed.
"Besides, it's a low impact project for the empire, but a very personally watched one by the overlord," Melissa reminded him a bit cheerfully. "He pays close attention to his collections."
"That's why he's got an officially licensed librarian in that archival house," Patrick agreed. "She makes shameful money too. Fifty grand a year for filing and keeping up the files on what he's got."
"Fifty grand?" Ray asked, looking shocked. "Just for cataloging and filing?" Patrick nodded. "Why?"
"Because Mom said the collections weren't worth anything less," Melissa reminded him. "I'm figuring Mom's going to be turning it into a museum and semi-research center one day." Ray nodded at that and Stan beamed. "So you'd get to be the assistant librarian and Bix would get to play with the kimonos. You could probably do the anime and manga collection all by yourself."
"Wow," Stan agreed. "How much are we talkin' a year?"
"To start, forty."
"Not bad," Stan admitted. "We own the house we live in. Utilities aren't that high." He looked at Ray. "What about his?"
"If he wanted to stay in the city, there's ten options, including the research center if he felt like it." Ray shuddered and shook his head. "Then there's a general consulting that can be done between the legal team and the wineries and the food producing places. There's a consulting position between us and the police and Interpol, which would mean you'd mostly sit in your office and play with a Gameboy until something happened. There's a position open in the legal team to work with the security company. You are more than legal enough for that, even with your choice of girlfriends. There's a position that you already sort of hold with the wineries and the food producing farms and the like as a tester. There's the horse farm if you like horses. They need someone to oversee operations." Ray shook his head no at that. "There's a menial head of security position within one of the crossover companies. I know that there's a position open in one of the fashion houses, but I don't suppose you're trained for that?" He shook his head, grimacing. "Pity, we need a new designer. There's a few others available. None of them are heavy work areas, but most of them pay about as well as the archival position does. The head of security position pays sixty if I remember right."
Ray looked at Melissa. "Why do I get more?"
"So you'll have something to do while I'm traveling. Besides, Mom's playing to Stan's weaknesses. You don't have one of those really. Nothing that turns you on that way."
"What's a crossover company?"
"It's one that does things on both sides," he admitted. "That one is part of the research center but it's doing weapons research. It can be used on either side of the law, but you'd be over security for it. A lot of impractical projects but some do work out and our generous overlord does make thirty percent of the profit of the sale through the company."
"Some of those things sell for millions," Stan said in awe.
"Which is how he funded other things," Patrick agreed.
"We had wondered and now we know," Stan said, shaking his head quickly. "That sounds dangerous."
"It can be. There've been two break-ins this year. I'm not going to lie, it's a job that's another paperwork one mostly but not always. If you're there during an assault attempt, you'd be expected to help." He looked at Ray. "It is up to you, if you do need a new job. Personally I like overseeing the food stuff. It's a calm and sedate job that takes about twenty of my hours a week. You taste, you do a bit of traveling now and then to the farms and places to check on them and their quality. You manage the stores and how much gets sold. You can do it from anywhere with a bit of traveling. That would allow you time to travel with Melissa if she's not working or go see your mother. That one pays about forty- five and it's mostly set up. You follow the models and the charts. In the bad years when production is low, you make the prices higher and the quality the best." Ray nodded at that. "Once a month I go on a trip to them. I basically eat wine and cheese for six meals, eat in the three restaurants for dinner, and then head to the food production farms for the others and have fresh salads. I'm on one of those now."
"This is Mom's?" Melissa asked. Patrick nodded. "Under the umbrella?" He nodded again. "Wow."
"Very," Ray agreed. "It's a nice place."
"It is," Stan agreed. "I'm wondering if the girls knew."
"They have passes to eat here free whenever they need to," Patrick told him, pulling out an envelope and handing them one each. "For future use." He looked at Ray. "Whatever your passion, outside of the fair one with us, we can pretty well find you a spot using it. Even if you only like sports. We have a group that does donations to various sports teams and little leagues and things. The guy who does that goes to a lot of games, sees potential, hands over money."
"This is the quietest kingdom ever seen," Ray complained. "No one knows about this?"
"The links are tenuous at best. Some don't have links together really. They're run separately by people that Xander trusts and then they report back to him for major decisions and hand him his earnings."
"Of which thirty percent goes back into the three charity funds he works with immediately," Melissa noted. "The rest is saved, moved to a company that needs it, or used to further build the empire."
"He's mostly stopped building," Patrick told her. "He feels it's massive enough at the moment and getting a bit hard to handle daily. That's why he's taking the time to find a new overseer for how he's merging the food production facilities into one company."
"We are?" she asked. He nodded. "Why?"
"Because there's sixteen vineyards in Europe, one of those holds the satellite ones that he uses to mix specific wines from. There's the cheese farm, the two vineyards outside the US, the beef ranches in three countries, the two pork farms, the sixteen vegetable and herbal producing farms, and a co-op he works with now and then to help support and buy from for the sixteen restaurants around the world." They stared. "That's not to mention the coffee bean plantation, which was where Arsene learned to adore good coffee last summer, and the two cocoa bean plantations."
"I feel like I should add something about a partridge in a pear tree," Stan muttered.
"No, a few of the vegetable and herb farms also grow orchards of oranges, apples, tropical fruits, and berries," Patrick said dryly. "That's why they're all being merged under the same sort of umbrella and their overseers will have to work together. Which they mostly do but for the pork farm in Australia. He's a bit cranky about this."
"He can buy his way out then," Melissa noted calmly. "Plus, on the island, we do have a vegetable and meat producing farm for local needs. That way we only have to import about half the food necessary." She rubbed the back of her neck. "How are you merging them?"
"They've each got their overseers for Xander, and they're going to have a new boss to report to, who keeps track of all that and then reports to Xander. That's the only area he might expand somewhat. About half of what's grown is sold at cost to the restaurants and things he owns. The rest is mostly sold to other restaurants at a good price."
"I wondered why mom was going 'eieio' as he walked the other day," Melissa offered as she took a sip of her water.
"Old McHaris had a farm?" Stan teased her.
"Apparently a big farm. Can he not just buy a state and use it?"
"That would be very unsubtle, Melissa, you know how he works behind the scenes." He looked at Ray. "You'd basically be doing the tasting, the testing for quality trips, looking things over, and then making notes about reserves and how much to put onto market, which is mostly in chart form anymore."
"So he'd get to go look at the smelly cows to make sure they were happy?" Stan teased.
"That too, I usually make that my final part of my trip so I'm glad to get back to my house and the city. I'm a city boy, I have no understanding of animals other than a dog."
"The sad thing is, Mom wouldn't let us have horses," Melissa said dryly.
"He only bought the horse farm about three years ago," Patrick told her. "They're some racing, some breeding, some cart stuff. I don't understand that. The overseer tells me they're doing good, they made this sort of profit, they had this many foals legitimately and this many out of bounds from accidents, and this much of the profit goes to Xander. I deposit in his bank account," he explained. "I do that a lot." She smiled at that and nodded. "I take it you do the same?"
"Now and then," she agreed. "About half the time mine's more 'cards, don't get us noticed, ooh, that's pretty and let's research that' from the others offering suggestions and handling the incoming information from the groups."
"Does he own a bank too?" Stan asked. "I've always wondered about all the gift cards."
"Gift cards are untraceable," Melissa told him. "You can pick them up beside any register, put money onto them, and they're good forever. There's prepaid Visa and Master Cards too. Those you have to give a name but you can use a fake name and they're refillable. It's like a debit card."
"Is there a bank?" Ray asked.
Patrick sighed. "He owns some things outright, he has interest in some things, he has majority stock in others. He does have interest in one of the smaller Swiss banks that was having problems a few years back. One of his financial managers oversees that project."
"They're all projects to him, aren't they?" Melissa asked dryly. Patrick nodded. "Wonderful. I should nark to Uncle Lupin."
"He'd be hurt if you did," Ray said quietly. "You know he likes to think of Xander like the door. Always there and open for him to use."
"He was getting complacent again until Mom pulled off this retirement island without him hearing a word of it. I should at least point at the door and tell him that's where Xander goes to work on non-family projects. Then maybe he'd go look and discover."
"He'd have a heart attack," Stan said sarcastically. "Him and your daddy both."
"Just think, either you get a new sibling soon or you'll have to watch your daughter learn how to run these things," Patrick said gently. She shivered. "He said there's no rush but that you and Ray should both know and realize this."
"What about Savannah?" Ray asked.
"She's nice and sweet, but I don't think she could wrap her mind around the empire," Patrick told him. "That's what Xander told me when I asked. He did say he'd be watching the kids in case one of them came out brilliant and odd enough to do it, and then he'd talk the parents into letting him train them for this part of the job. The same thing applies if they have a thief. He didn't think Alex would have children who'd want to do this stuff. He didn't think Fred would have children and he's pretty sure Sarah won't either."
"So it's my line that'll get it because I'm the one who can run it now," Melissa said. Patrick nodded. "Great. Are we planning on more siblings? Because I'm not ready for kids yet."
"He's considering it," he admitted. "That would mean the choker and your father, who would probably throw fits at him again."
"Ya know, I never really thought about it, but I'm Mom's heir. We were told there'd be a high priest to Janus, the true heir Xander, the true heir of Lavelle, and a few others."
"Arsene, Alex, and you," Ray agreed. "Lotus is the heir to whatever Willow was and is. Fred's a mini-Lupin some days."
"That's probably why Sierra and Savannah are so jealous," Stan noted. "Because you have all this and they don't. They got a measly two mil for Savannah and a mere one for Sierra and their dads have this much?"
"She got two mil? Mom only gave her one. Equal shares to each child," Melissa said dryly. "I wonder how she guilted mom into it. The thought has occurred to me that the only child capable of handling this totally would be a kid with me and Ishi, and all the parents, including mom, hate that idea."
"It'd spread it among the family and expose him more," Patrick told her.
"Besides, that could be one handful of a kid," Stan noted dryly.
"Goemon would freak," Ray assured her. "It couldn't be the fifteenth, it'd be a gunman instead of a samurai. Plus, your brains, your looks, and his skills? Think about the future cops that would have ulcers from just hear their name."
Melissa smiled at him. "Not his looks?"
"Thanks." She winked at him and finished her ice water. "We should order, I'm starved."
"Did you miss lunch again?" Ray asked.
"Yeah, I went parts shopping and went back to the lab." She picked up her menu, looking it over. "They have that cheese and broccoli thing that your mother makes, Ray."
He looked in his, noticing how many of these things looked familiar. "Well, Ma did say she was teaching someone to cook properly," he said dryly. He looked toward the kitchen, then shook his head and picked his favorites, waving the waiter over. "We're gonna order now."
"Of course, sir."
"I want the...." Stan stopped when someone in the back screamed, his hand drifting toward his weapon. "That's not a good sound."
"That's the cook screaming at someone," the waiter offered. "She does it now and then. Must have messed something up." He looked at Stan. "You were saying?"
"Uh, pasta florentine, no carrots if possible, and the side of the cheesey pan bread stuff?"
"Of course. Wine?"
He shook his head. "My wife'd kill me. Water's fine."
"Thank you. And for you, sir?" he asked Patrick.
"I'll have the usual, Juan, and a new glass of red wine with it." He smiled and wrote that down, looking at Melissa.
"I'll have the Familia special. Easy on the cheese on the salad. Plus that broccoli and cheese casserole on the side."
"No thank you, my sister might try to poison me next time to get information."
"She's been sent away, ma'am. I had no idea you were the owner's daughter."
"Ah." He smiled at her. "You hadn't been here to Mi Familia's before. We had wondered about you." He smiled at Ray. "For you, sir?"
"Well, since I'm a Vecchio...." The man gaped and he smirked. "My Ma taught the chef?"
"Si. She did quite good with her, sir. She is as good as your mother could make her and she does come up now and then to check on her."
"I wondered why your mother was in town the last time," Stan offered.
"Give me the Vecchio Saturday family dinner," he said, handing it over. "Pick a wine and get me a glass and Melissa one too."
"Si. Thank you, sir." He hurried off and the chef quit shouting and let out a squeal of delight, and something went 'bang' and the kitchen was filled with laughter and everything was good.
Melissa looked at him. "I'll stand behind you in whatever you want to do, Ray."
"Thanks. That tasting position don't sound *too* bad. A week a month to travel. Some good food. Light paperwork. Not too bad after being a cop for so long."
She smiled at him. "You could have retired soon anyway."
"I know." He sighed and leaned back a bit. "I wasn't going to think about my age again for a while."
"Your age is nothing," she offered, pulling something out of her top and putting it in front of his plate. "Ethan had to charge it. All you need to do is drop in two drops of blood." He blinked at her. "If you want. No strings, no pressure. You know I don't care but you seem to be very hung up on it."
He put it into his pocket. "I'll think about it."
"What's that?" Stan asked.
"The same stuff that they sell in LA," Melissa told him, smiling a bit. "What you got slipped on your wedding night without you knowing it. Ar said she thought it was fitting since Bix was so young. That way you'd have time to enjoy it."
"Awww, thanks," he said, sniffling a bit. "That's so sweet'a you guys." Their appetizers came out and they dug in. "This is good," he offered.
"It is. It's just like Ma's, only less salt," Ray said, adding some to his. "I guess you have to for the greater good and all."
"Probably true," Melissa agreed. She smiled at him. "Love you."
"Mushy brat," he teased.
She beamed. "Of course I am. I have been now for a few years. Ever since Ar started to write sappy romances in her spare time."
"She does what?" Stan asked, dropping his fork. "Arsene? Lupin the Fourth?"
"She'd kill you if you spread that around," she said dryly. "She got bored, wanted to read something with a plot and smut. So she ended up writing it."
Ray shook his head. "Some days I don't understand that girl at all." He dug in again, nodding at his next bite. "Perfect. Just like Ma's." There was another squeal from the kitchen. "That sounded like Frannie."
"No, that's the assistant chef," Patrick told him. "I've dated her occasionally." He winked at him. "She's very cute, but not your family."
Ray shook his head. At least Xander was trying to be nice to him and keep his family happy and sane, more or less, no matter what happened. Though he did wonder how he had talked Ma into teaching someone how to cook. The future was definitely a bit lighter for him and Stan.
Lupin the Third turned off the bug he had been using, frowning a bit at the floor and the offices down there. He looked at Jigen. "He did it to us again."
"Did what?" Jigen asked from behind his book.
"His empire's massive and we know nothing about it."
"Really?" He turned the page. "I know he's got a thing about food. Farms, restaurants, wineries."
"Oh, he's got more than that. He's got a multi-national law firm with multiple offices and agents. He's got sixteen restaurants, he's got a horse farm."
"Maybe the kids'll quit whining about having a pony then," he offered dryly. Lupin snatched his book and slammed it down. "Sorry, boss. What's the problem?"
"According to Melissa, he can twitch a few unrelated wires in his web and bring down all of Europe."
"When did he take over the Dark Syndicate?" Jigen asked, looking a bit confused.
"He didn't. His own network is *bigger* and more pervasive. He did it without us knowing too. Now he's either got to have another kid who can run the empire or Melissa's got to have the next evil overlord."
"Arsene will be hurt, she wanted that job," Jigen joked.
Lupin growled and got up, dragging him down the stairs, with a stop off to get the fake hand with Xander's fingerprints on it and the fake eyeball on the back. He found the reader and stepped up to it, using the device, then mimicking Xander's voice to get in. The door slid open soundlessly and he looked at Jigen, who looked impressed. They headed down the wide stairs, going down to a very nice cavern that looked like the ones from Batman, only with better furnishings and nicer computers. He looked at the screens. One was working on the problem of an heir, genetics and IQ possibilities running across it. One had a stock ticker at the bottom with only six stocks on it, and the rest of the screen was a financial report that showed one hell of a balance at the bottom. The third screen showed rotating pictures from around the island. He and Jigen shared a look. "Alexander Lavelle Harris!" he snapped, making Xander flinch and jump up to stare at them. Lupin stared him down. "Your empire, overlord?"
"Um, part of it," he offered weakly, moving away from the chair.
"Freeze, Xander. You're not disappearing," Jigen ordered, stepping over the symbols carved into the floor to prevent magic around the desk area. He walked closer, looking at the screens. "Figuring out how to have the next kid?"
"If I should or if she and Ray should," he admitted weakly. He started to move again but Lupin was there and grabbed him. "I was being good!"
"You need to sleep more often," Lupin complained. He sat down in the chair, sticking Xander in his lap. "Full disclosure, Xander. All of it. No more hiding shit, even on the legit side. You had Melissa told. You can tell me."
"You were spying on Melissa?"
"Hell yes," Jigen snorted. "Ray still probably doesn't realize his mother owns half of that restaurant." He looked at the screens. "All of it, Xander. We want to be impressed by you and get fitted for trusted lieutenant uniforms for your empire."
"I never picked a uniform pattern. I couldn't find one that looked good on Bastian, Homer, and Melissa."
"Please tell me you're joking," Lupin asked. Xander shook his head slowly. Lupin just hugged him. "I love you even though you're slightly insane, Xander. Remember that."
"You're sure? I kinda, um, took over your empire a few years back," he offered sheepishly. "They work for both of us now."
"Xander, I want a full disclosure of what you have," Lupin said firmly but gently. He sounded almost patient to his ears. "I want to help you run it."
"But then I'll get shot."
"I'd never shoot you," Lupin assured him impatiently. Xander nodded. "No I won't."
"Uh-huh. Lotus saw it."
"You haven't betrayed me," Lupin told him. "I wouldn't shoot you. Even if you took Jigen away from me, it'd hurt more to shoot you than to shoot myself, okay?"
Xander shook his head. "Just do it," Jigen ordered. "It's not like you're working for Interpol, right?" He shook his head. "You're not really a Mountie?" He frowned and shook his head. "Then we'll only be happy for you, Xander. Visions beside the point."
Xander turned and started to input orders into the computer, bringing things up on the screens. His hand paused. Doing all this either exposed him totally or he could wipe the main system and go back to his laptop. Or he could go to his secondary hideout. His hand hesitated and he finally pushed the button then got up and moved out of their way, heading to the ring of magic-allowed space. He disappeared.
"He wiped it!" Lupin said angrily. He got up and glared around. "And he snuck off. How typical is that!"
Lotus came down the stairs, turning off her phone. "Sorry, instant message saying that the system here was wiped and he's moving to a backup. Sent automatically when a system fails." She looked at them. "I did have a vision. You got upset at him, decided that him doing this behind your back was a betrayal, and you did shoot him, Uncle Lupin."
"I'm not going to shoot him!" he said angrily. "The thought to kill him is crossing my mind, but I'd rather strangle him!"
Lotus walked over and looked at the computer. "Well, he hit the wipeout emergency code, but he hasn't given the code to fully erase the system." She sat down in the desk chair and pulled up a single file, the emergency file. She looked at her uncles, then at that. "It'll be gone within ten minutes."
A head appeared on the left screen, Bastian. "What the hell is going on!" he demanded.
"Remember my vision of them shooting him?" Lotus asked. He nodded, looking very impatient. "They started off the same way."
"I see. Planning on doing him in for ruling the world?"
Jigen slowly shook his head. "He does?"
"Pretty muchly, yeah," he admitted dryly. "Just slowly here and there adding a new person to his web. He said he's stopped growing it because it was getting too complicated with all the food stuffs. He's combining them under an umbrella person."
Lupin sat down in the middle of the floor. "Marcus! Go retrieve Xander!" he shouted, knowing he was somewhere nearby. He was working for Xander, they all knew it.
"Which secondary one is he at?" Marcus called.
"Either he went to the basement to get the stash there or he went to the Sart Center," Lotus called. The file disappeared. "It's fully gone now. He'll have to reload from the backup again."
Bastian nodded. "Not the first time. Why is Melissa meeting with Patrick?"
"Mom wanted to give her the chance to go straight for Ray and run that side if she wanted. She refused so he did the full disclosure thingy with them of the legit side so Ray would know why his future children were reading the Wall Street Journal."
"She finally bagged Ray? I'm impressed, love. She's loved him now for nearly two years." He shrugged and looked at Lupin. "What would you say if Xander had taken over your empire, changed it a bit so it ran more efficiently, and then added more on top of it?"
"I'd be impressed and sad that I didn't notice it," he said bitterly. "I'd never shoot him."
"Even if he was the reason your dad lost his mate?" Lupin looked up at him. "That bank robbery she was at five years ago, it was one of the criminals in his system. He did shoot them for it, mostly because he didn't order it, but she was there."
Lupin shook his head. "I'm not going to shoot him for that. He didn't kill her. If he didn't order it and didn't know about it in time to stop it, I can't fault him."
"He could have known about it beforehand," Lotus admitted. "That and the Regas job last year he screwed up for you on purpose."
"Zenigata was downstairs in the lobby and the odds were that one of you were going to have to shoot the other one fatally this time to get past him," Bastian offered. Lupin moaned and held his head. "He's always moving around and behind you to make things easier, Lupin. That's why we think you'll shoot him."
"That botched job in Monaco?" Jigen asked.
"Not him. Pure outside interference on our part," Bastian promised. Jigen had shot himself in the leg that time. "Homer and I saw things that you guys weren't aware of, including that unit of the army heading for you. That's why we jumped in. We did a bit of tapdancing with Xander later that night but he agreed with us. The odds were too long to get out of that one alive."
"He did baby you for that injury," Lotus reminded him.
"He babies all them," Lupin said, glaring at her. "Why, the bottom last straw why, did I shoot him?"
"Because he figured out two things were going to happen soon," Lotus admitted, getting comfortable. "One, that if Melissa couldn't perform as heir he'd have to do something to get her with someone who could help her with that. Which Ray can on the legit side until there's another heir. Now, that heir, if she doesn't have a kid within the next ten years, will have to come from him. Very specifically from him. It'll have to be like we combined him, Ishi, and Melissa into one kid who's got a stable personality and his mind and way of seeing things, which Ishi can see and Melissa's got his mind. He was actually putting a plan in motion so someone would do that combination in a mad scientist way so they could rescue the kid. The plan was to start in about eight year, just in case, and could be stopped if unnecessary." Jigen looked stunned at that. "Someone's tried it on him once without his planning it. That's why Sierra's pregnant, Uncle Lupin. I think that one's you and Uncle Stan though, not really sure. They captured her as a useful surrogate."
"We found out about a day after she disappeared and went to save her but by then it had already been implanted," Bastian offered. "Sorry, Lupin. She knows. We told her, and she did test pregnant just the other day. She's trying to figure out how to tell her man."
Lupin shook his head. "What's the other reason?"
"He's recently figured out when and what job is most likely your death," Bastian offered.
"Soon?" Jigen asked.
Bastian shook his head. "For Xander, soon is a decade. Soon in this case is about twenty years. Which makes the first problem more apparent. Xander's very good at finding patterns in things," he told them. "He's very good at sussing out how current events are going to shape the future. Yeah, Ray and Melissa's first kid won't be the heir he needs most likely. She's too new at it and the kid'll need a freer hand to develop the way it needs to. It'll be her second child, born a bit too early into the first one's life. Or her twin, which for some reason Melissa will leave more to Ray. He'll be the one to shape it into the heir Xander needs because he understand Xander the way his daughter doesn't."
"Uncle Xander's a puzzle guy," Lotus explained. "Everything to him is a puzzle. Everything he does, that everyone does, is a piece and it's making a giant whole. He can affect the whole by twitching corners here and there so they lay flat and work together, or by removing certain pieces and replacing them with ones that fit better. That's how he uses the patterns he finds in things. What he's trained to do and to be only helps with that. Right now, he's got a well-working machine that purrs along happily most of the time with only minor adjustments needed. Here and there he's got to tweak jobs and things as well to protect lives and to make sure things happen in a good way."
"Because right now that spider web of his is about covering the whole world. If he wanted to twitch a finger, he could start a monetary crisis or he could help ease a small one. He could basically undermine crime and let it come crashing down or tweak it a bit so it's more hidden and the more obvious and stupid are weeded out," Bastian offered. "And this scared him when he realized he had built it this way and that there's no heir to it. Melissa can't. She can't handle the strain of all of it. She and Ishi could together, but Ishi didn't want that sort of responsibility. He's his lieutenant in a way."
"How do you accidentally take over the world?" Jigen demanded.
"Easy. You start small and you build little cells of helpers, then connect them together. Then you find out they need things that they're not getting and you add those in. Then you start playing with your passions for collections which adds another group of people you weren't going to touch before. And as time grows while you're doing that you lose track of the whole picture because you're focused on the smaller vision. He was focused on you guys, his family, and making sure they were safe and protected. Hence people like Tornado and Spider."
"So, he accidentally took over the world, he's got twitchy fingers on the strings, and it could cause the world to reformat itself?"
"With a big ol' grinding noise like you forgot what a clutch was," Lotus agreed. "You got scared of him, Uncle Lupin. That's why you shot him, to protect others."
Lupin shook his head. "It can't be that simple."
"Right now, he's got strings that could topple all of Europe's syndicates in about six tweaks," Bastian told him. "Some blackmail, some knowledge. Some not. You topple those six and what they do, and if they talk about *anything* it leads you to another string. That string yanks and topples someone and they talk. It's what the US wanted to do to the drug cartels but couldn't."
"And Xander did this without realizing it?" Jigen asked bitterly. "How?"
"Because he thought he was giving the family and his people what they needed to survive and prosper," Lotus said firmly. "When he realized what he was doing, it was fairly shaky. The web could have come apart with the slightest stress in a number of places. That's why he had to move forward and solidify it a bit, making plans in case his heir never came to be in time. Making plans to make sure that the world wouldn't topple. Technically, my vision was about two years ago, when you found the house in Mexico. It could have toppled then and didn't. It was firming up at that time."
"By doing this island..." Jigen started.
"It actually allowed him to step back and out of control a bit, letting the web include him instead of only being manipulated by him," Lotus offered. "The web can stand alone now and he's got people running things even if he died. He had to get to this point because you can't unmake something this knotted and complicated without destroying a good bit of stuff. If he hadn't solidified it, then it would have fallen apart slowly after he had died."
"Because he did?" Lupin prompted.
"It'll live on and keep going as long as someone knows it's there and is in charge. Or a few people in charge. That's why he was splitting it up after him. Melissa got the criminal side and a few of the legit things that she could handle, like the research center. Bastian was getting the intelligence network. Homer was taking over the food production stuff if he died. There's a few others here and there."
"So we needed out of the way too?" Lupin asked.
"No, he needed to be out of the way and you know he's paranoid that you'll leave him, Uncle Lupin. He's still a Xander underneath everything."
"Fine," he agreed. "I won't shoot him. I still want to know. I want to help."
"This takes delicate precision," Bastian told him. "We get our minor parts and we gently play them as we're trained into our roles. He's been helping you and Jigen along but I think Ishi's gotten more responsibility recently.
"Ishi needed the vacation too," Lotus agreed. "He was basically running a few things for Uncle Xander." She looked at her other uncles, and her father coming down the stairs with Ishi. "He's popped out."
"I got the message about the computer system," he said, hauling his sister up and sitting down behind the desk. He checked the computer, then the physical mainframes he was using, then groaned and shook his head. "I told him that wouldn't wipe completely."
"Ishi, you need permission," Bastian ordered.
"I got it, from Melissa. Mom's starting to get scared of himself and what he's built. He needs the steadying influence of his lovers, if they don't shoot him." He started to type, and a message came up. He typed something in, frowning a bit, then smirked and typed in something else, bypassing it and moving into the backups. "Reloading. Hold on, Bastian. I'll call back if we lose you." He hit a few more keys, a function key, and then the screens started to refill with nonsense code. Then it was back to the way it had been. "Yesterday's backup. Let me reload." He went through the morning reload process to update everything and then leaned back. "Huh, the stocks are low today," he complained. "Very low."
"He split most of them," Bastian reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. I don't deal with that." He shrugged and looked back at his uncles. "Well, you've got a bit of a problem. He did hit the basement stash, which is in Stan's basement, and got caught. They're presently holding him. The commissioner was in the house and heard Stan yell. Thinks he was there to kill him probably."
"Wonderful, can we get there?"
Marcus came back. "Bloody hell yes. What happened?"
"They found out and my vision popped into Mom's head," Lotus told him.
"Hmm, well the world has stabilized since then," Marcus offered. He looked at Lupin. "Are you going to shoot him?"
"No. I might strangle the brat for working behind my back, but I'm not going to shoot him."
"Fine." Marcus walked outside the circle. "Lotus. Let's do a small portal, love."
Ishi looked at the screen. "Why? Melissa has it. She called dibs."
"How can you tell?" Jigen asked.
Ishi got up and stood on the desk, pointing at something. "These are called action codes. There's someone who routes calls and messages for us, well, a computer really. Melissa called in, said she had him to rescue, and now it's showing the code." He hopped back down, looking it over. "Huh. Lotus, go ahead and go. I don't like the looks of this." She nodded and created a small portal, stepping through with Marcus and her father. They came back about ten minutes later with Xander, but not Melissa. "'Lis?" he asked.
"Heading back to the lab. Easily took out the convoy as they were starting off. They weren't really sure which group this was. Seems Interpol might have a clue about his people."
"Huh," Ishi said dryly, smirking at Xander. "I fixed the computer system." He looked at his favorite uncle, the one who had raised him, then at Lupin and Jigen, then back at his uncle. "Come explain. I don't think they'll shoot you and if they try, they'll be on the injured list for a while." His father and Lupin both gaped at him. "I am that good," he reminded them. "And I am faster than everyone in this room, including Uncle Jigen." Jigen nodded at that. "So no guns and I don't get to enact my male PMS issues." He got out of the chair and patted it. "I already did the update for you." He gave him a hug once he was sitting down. "It'll be okay, just let them into the files," he whispered. "The information sheet files."
"I want all of it, including financial resources," Lupin said firmly. "It's no fair hiding this from your lovers, Xander."
"Yes, sir," he sighed, pulling up the information sheet file on one screen and the bank account summaries on the other. He got out of the chair and held Ishi, getting a hug from Goemon as well. "You didn't want to know?"
"You'll tell me some day," he said prosaically. "Have I been working for you or for him?"
"Mostly for him, but that thing with Selinas last year I used shamelessly," he admitted with a weak grin. Goemon shrugged and continued to hug him.
Arsene came trotting down the stairs. "What's going on?"
Lupin looked at her, then at Xander. "You didn't get a text message?"
"I figured she had enough to do with your empire," Xander admitted. He looked at her. "He's figuring out how I just took over the world."
"That's no fair! I get to be the evil dicatoress!" She stomped off, going up to pout and sulk. She always had to compare to what those two had done. She didn't even get to participate in it this time, not even as a minion of evil. Her grandfather found her sulking and hugged her. "Mom took over the world and didn't let me help," she complained.
"I'm sure he thought you were too busy remaking it in your image, princess. After all, you're a busy girl. When do you have time to sit in a boring and dusty office and do paperwork? Or did you want to have to be responsible for everyone and everything going wrong everywhere and have to have an heir to take over and all that stuff?"
"Eww." She shuddered. "Paperwork and kids? That's the nastiest combination ever," she complained, looking at him. "He didn't let me help at all. Everyone else got some funny text message thingy."
"I'm sure he used you without you knowing. Some of your jobs probably went to further his plans."
"Oh." She considered it. "You think?"
"I do. Xander's a very smart young man and I'm sure he took advantage of all the work you and the other children do to further his plans."
"Okay, I guess."
"And not a bit of paperwork," he reminded her. "No responsibilities. You can keep being Lupin the Fourth without having to worry about things like starving children."
"Yeah, that's a good thing," she agreed, hugging him. "Thank you, grandfather."
"You're welcome, child. Now go play. This island isn't meant for sulking. It's meant for playing." She smiled and nodded, heading off. "Mercurial, just like her grandmother," he said sadly. He went to find his son, getting this 'taking over the world' thing explained to him.
Lupin finished reading and looked at his man, then at Jigen, who had been reading over his shoulder. "Xander," he said finally, waving a hand. "Come here." He slowly walked over and Lupin settled him in his lap. "You made it solid, right?" He nodded, swallowing hard. "I'm not going to shoot you, Xander. I might fuck you into next week, but I'm not going to shoot you." He gave him a gentle kiss. "It's totally solid? If you die during a job, the world won't go to hell with us?"
"No. I've set it up so people can take over until Melissa gets her kids trained."
"Good. Very good. What happens if you have to go underground and change your identity for real?"
"The way I have things set up, only a few people know I'm me. Only a few lines lead back to the hub of the web, but a few others know that they work for me because they do so much of the other stuff between the groups. So I can change identities if I need to. I have another one set up and most everyone knows about it. That's why I used to do everything from a laptop. I still can, but there's too many screens for me to manage all at once sometimes. That's why I got the big setup here."
"How did all this get started?" Jigen asked, lighting up. Xander handed him an ashtray. "Thanks."
"Welcome. I started the legit side from the insurance settlements from California and my insurance company from the quake and losing my eye. I borrowed a bit at first, but not that much and I've long since paid it off. The one time I did have to borrow from the illegal stuff I paid it back into that fund as soon as I could. And see, everything makes decent profits. The research center gets thirty percent of anything sold. With the weapons and the robotics and the energy portions, that's a good bit each year. The anime company gives me dividends each year. See, I own some, like those, I have some that I have majority interest in, like a bank, and there's some that I have good stocks in but not enough to overrule the board or anything, just to be heard."
"You...have...interest in a bank?" Lupin asked. Xander pulled up that in the financial profiles. "Oh," he said weakly, staring at it. "I wondered how we got all new cards." He shook his head quickly. "So you're being really helpful and it's good for you, right?" Lupin asked. Xander nodded. "Did you need to retire?"
"No but I needed to take a year off to make sure that the food umbrella works well together. There's way too many of them so I'm assigning an overseer who'll report to me about them."
"That's...good," Lupin agreed, nodding. Jigen nodded too when they looked back at him. "Where was the island listed?"
"It's not. It's not a profit-making venture," he said dryly, pulling up the housing file. "It's in here." Lupin paged through it, blinking at the information sheets on each of the houses Xander owned.
"Um, Mom, was your spare laptop at Uncle Stan's?"
"No, just some cash, some car keys, and a passport. Why?"
"Just making sure. Could he have access to the laptop?"
"Only if he knew my password, which is now in Klingon. Why?"
"Because these information sheets could get you really in trouble."
"This is all the legal stuff, honey. The illegal stuff has a separate password to get into it. While I'm working on it, even if you open one of the other laptops or the other computer array, it won't tell you what I'm doing. It'll only show the updates to the stocks, the chat window, those things."
"Okay, just making sure," Ishi agreed.
"That's one of the first things I asked too," Xander admitted, grinning at him. "So, if Melissa can't have an heir, it'll have to be someone with my outlook and ability to see patterns, your ability to see problems, and Melissa's brains. Any particular mad scientist you wanna see make that kid?"
Ishi snickered and shook his head. "I'd hate to see that kid. We'll make sure to warp Melissa's kids since she's the heir."
"Thankfully you are not, or think about all the work you would be doing each day," Goemon said dryly.
"He's my messenger of doom," Xander said with a weak grin for him. "Him, Bastian, and Homer. He's also my lieutenant I can trust in the field if something happens, like Bastian and Homer."
"Which means that when we retire, he gets one of our spots in the field," Bastian offered with a smirk for the young man. "Isn't that right?"
"I'd rather have Homer's. He's very unbusy. You deal with too many idiots all day within the intelligence communities, Bastian."
"Point," he admitted smugly. "It takes a certain sort of patience to do what I do."
Lupin finished reading and then looked at Xander. "Can we hold another ball? That way I can see the rest of the empire at work? Since I'm a part of it and didn't realize?"
Xander nodded. "Uh-huh. We'll have to so everyone knows and can meet Ray. Since he'll be the new heir's father, they need to get to know him. Besides, his mother wants to see him again." Lupin grinned at that. "When did you want to hold it?"
"How about next month? We've got that meeting anyway," Bastian offered. "Just change it to announce that your daughter was now officially dating and to introduce the guy."
Xander considered it. "Sure. Where are we holding it? London, right?" He nodded. "That's fine. I'll be using the main house there, the one with the escalators." Bastian nodded again, smirking at him. "I like that one. Call it out, my lieutenant."
"Yes, sir." He smirked. "Have fun, mate." He disappeared and the genetics example came back.
Xander looked at the results on the bottom and sighed. "Ray and Melissa can have it but it came up best if Ray and Ishi had one."
"Well, there was that scientist who just bred Uncle Stan and Uncle Lupin," Ishi said dryly. "How is Sierra doing?"
"Pregnant," Xander said bitterly. "Forced surrogacy but still pregnant." He looked down at Lupin. "You're not mad?"
"I'm furious at myself for not realizing you were still building your empire," he said, staring at him. "I'm not mad at you, Xander. You're the only person I know who could take over the world by accident."
Jigen gave him a short hug. "I'm only scared for your sanity, what little is left after raising the kids." Xander gave him a grin for that. "We good?"
"We're fine," he agreed gently, hugging Jigen, then Lupin. "Can I have cuddles?"
"While you explain everything to us," Lupin told him.
Xander pulled out a drawer and took out a remote, pointing it at the wall behind him. A bed came down slowly and a few small lights were lit over there. "Okay."
"That's our cue to leave, dad, Lotus," Ishi said firmly, shooing them up the stairs. "Just think, dad, you used to worry about what Mom was teaching me."
"I still do, son. I know nothing of this and I will hear about your part of the endeavor."
"Yes, Father." He caught Lotus by her shirt. "Uh-uh. If I have to explain, you have to explain."
"Yes, daughter, do come explain such things to me. You don't have to tell your future stepmother but you do have to tell me."
"Stepmother?" Lotus asked.
"Really?" Ishi asked in that 'terribly interesting news' voice.
Goemon blushed. "Yes."
"Then we should get to know her better, father. You've been hiding with her and I haven't even gotten to meet her yet. That's improper for your first born son, don't you think?"
"Yes, son, you will be formally meeting her tomorrow. Along with her twin sisters. Now, speak."
"Is where she is sleeping."
"Ah." Lotus nodded. "Then my treehouse it is." She led them to the treehouse she and Xander had built, climbing up into it. "Here we are. There's pillows, just don't lose my place in the books." They moved books out of their way and sat on the comfortable pillows, looking at each other. "Fine, I'll start. I 'm probably the least complicated." She smiled at her father. "I'm doing magical research for him, daddy. Including people, spells, places, and artifacts."
Ray looked up as the delivery guy knocked on the office door, nodding him inside. "For who?" he asked, finding a pen to sign for it.
"An Inspector Vecchio?" he said, reading it off the card, then at the stunned looking man. He grinned. "I'm assuming that's you?" He nodded. "Sign here please," he said, holding out the clipboard. Ray signed it. "Thank you, sir. There's a letter and a bag." He pulled the letter out of his bag then handed over the actual bag, a suit bag. "There you are. Thank you, sir." He walked out, not waiting for a tip.
Ray hung up the suitbag, then sat down to read the letter, ignoring Stan's attempts to see. He finally hit him. "Get out of the light."
"Fine. What's going on?"
Ray looked up at him. "A ball for Melissa in the empire."
"Really?" He looked at the note. "Are we invited?"
"Nope. She said that Bix would go into labor right then and there if she did. Mom, um, Xander, her mom, called to ask her and Bix declined."
"Fine. I'll look forward to the report," he complained, going back to his desk. Zenigata was off today so he was in charge. "If that's a tux, it might need pressed again."
Ray got up to look at it, shaking his head. "Pristine." He zipped the bag back up and sat back down, looking at the letter. He didn't have to go. He could break this off. It was still wrong for him to date someone who was just over half his age. Then again, his mother liked her. He liked her. He liked touching her because she made him feel young again. She had vowed to hunt him down if he left her. He believed her too, she would. She'd have fun and smirk at him after she was done hunting him down. So he guessed he'd have to go. "I hate these things."
"Yeah, well, they don't happen often," Stan said dryly, glancing over at him. "Could be worse."
"Yeah, I guess," he agreed, settling in to finish up his current report and project.
Melissa smiled as Ray opened the door, holding out a hand since he was dressed. "Ready?"
"Nearly. Let me grab my keys and do my teeth."
"Like I care, Ray." She followed him inside, her dress a whisper against the rug in the entry. She closed the door and smiled, watching him head into the bathroom. She looked up as Bix poked her head down the stairs. "You can still come. We'd love to have you two."
"No, it's not proper."
"Fuck proper, Bix. There'll be cops there."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Get dressed, woman!" She smiled and went to change into something more formal, waking Stan up to do the same. They came down a few minutes later and Ray came out of the bathroom, looking at them. She was fussing with Bix's hair for her, adding a few of the pins she had in her bag to help it stay in place. Ray just swatted at Stan's hands and did the bowtie, then shook his head. "We done?" Melissa asked. Everyone nodded. "Good. Let's go. Limo's waiting." She opened the door, letting the other couple go first, then took Ray's hand as they walked out, letting him lock the door. She looked him over. "I knew that would look good on you."
"You didn't have to."
She pinched him on the butt. "Yes I did. You didn't have one." She smiled sweetly. "They're rare, but they do happen now and then." She took his arm as they walked to the car, being helped in then getting in. "Ah. Air conditioning is nice." Stan snickered. "It's humid on the island right now. All the pretties will think the family doesn't love them, but we're all there tonight. Even Fred and Alex."
"You managed to get Alex into a dress?" Bix asked. "How?"
"Easy. She looks quite deadly and can fight in it," Melissa said smugly. "Ar and I took her shopping and told the woman she had to look deadly, because she was."
"I'll have to remember that for my daughter," Bix said, holding a hand over her stomach. She smiled at her husband, who could only hug her. "Thank you," she said quietly, staring into his eyes.
"Honey, you're part of the family, just like Auntie Money Lady. We love you guys. You guys get the good perks." She looked at Stan, then at Bix's stomach. "Daughter?"
"Daughter by the ultrasound," Bix agreed happily. "He said he didn't care."
"Good, I'd hate to have to kick his ass in this dress if he did." She smiled at Stan, then at Ray. "So, you're going to be introduced to the empire tonight, both sides actually, and then we'll be chatted up about various and stupid things for a few hours. By the way, anyone who asks if I'm pregnant, tell them quite firmly no and they've got to wait at least another five years."
Stan coughed. "Xan's been doing his puzzle seeing into the future. They think they've got another twenty years left."
"Oh, fuck me," she growled. "No, not before five years is up. I don't care."
Ray leaned over to kiss her. "It'll happen when it does, I'm not planning on kids."
"You'd better, or else you may have to end up rescuing some kid from a mad scientist," Stan offered dryly. "The perfect match would be a kid from her, Ishi, and Xander, or from you and Ishi according to the genetics stuff his computer was crunching." Ray looked horrified at the prospect. "So, ya see," he said dryly, smirking at him. "Could be worse I guess."
"No it can't!"
"You could have to try the natural way," Stan teased.
"Okay, that's worse," Ray agreed, shuddering a bit. "So why are we going?"
"So everyone gets to meet you, dear," she said with a smile. "Besides, we were having a meeting earlier anyway. We wrapped up about an hour ago." The limo pulled into the driveway of a hotel and the door was opened. She smiled at the doorman, accepting his hand out of the back of the limo. Ray got out and tipped the guy, then took Melissa's hand. She got to lead the way and he even let her stop them before they entered for some fussing of his lapels and checking his tie and his hair. Then she pushed open the doors with a foot and smiled at everyone in there. She walked in on Ray's arm, making a very plain statement.
Xander smirked at his little girl and her flair for the dramatic. "Welcome, Melissa, Ray. Ah, you did talk Bix and Stan into coming. Good." He smiled at them as they joined him. "You guys remember Melissa, right?" Everyone nodded. "No, she didn't change sides." Most everyone in the room relaxed. "We all know Interpol is throwing away some of their best people and Melissa managed to catch the one she's wanted for a while now." He looked at Ray. "Let me remind you in front of witnesses that I'm capable of cruel and torturous acts if you hurt my daughter, and I might even have fun with it. Like I'm going to on Lotus' former boyfriend." Stan snickered at that. "Fine, I'll let you help," he agreed. He smiled at the band and they struck up a number so Melissa got to kick off this ball in grand style, in her man's arm, laughing at something he was grumbling. Xander waved one woman closer. "Tanya, this is Stan, he'll be taking over the anime part of your job, and his wife Bix, who used to be our nanny but now only babies him," he introduced.
She smiled and shook his hand. "Thank you. I'm going insane. I don't speak Japanese. I barely read it and I had to learn for this."
He smiled. "I'm now fluent in it. Between chasing this goober, my boss, and my own anime collection I felt I should be." She hugged him. "It'll be a while."
"That's fine. Can you come tour this weekend? That way you can see the setup? You've got a whole floor to yourself at the moment."
"Sure, if Bix agrees," he agreed, looking at his wife.
"I can't keep you from it," she said sarcastically. "You'd sneak out."
He kissed her gently. "You can come. That's where his kimonos are going in a few years."
"Only if we build a new wing," Tanya said bitterly. "Xander, I love you, but we're running out of room again." He flinched. "Sorry, boss, but we are."
"How can you run out of room?" Jigen asked.
"The bookcases are so close together I can't between some to dust," she complained. "The Pristine room's full too, boss. Either build on or find us a bigger spot."
"I'll look into adding on," Xander agreed. "You should have emailed me."
"I lost your address," she complained. He pulled out a card and handed it over. "Thank you, boss."
"You're welcome, Tanya. We'll figure out what you need before I head back to the island in a few days. That way I can arrange for it and then go relax and just check on you."
"Fine. As long as it gets fixed. I don't want to leave any dust near those boxes of comics."
"I wouldn't either," he agreed with a small grin.
"Xander, how did you fill up a *house* with comics?" Jigen demanded.
"Easy," he said with a grin. "All the issues ever made?" He slowly inched away but Lupin caught him. "Hi, Lupin."
"We'll be helping take the tour with you," he assured him with a smile. "I have a feeling that the six hundred DVD's on the island and the ones in your room in France don't even cover a third of your collection." Xander looked sheepish.
"No, not in the least," Tanya agreed. "They're probably duplicates of what we've got at the library though." She smiled sweetly and bowed to the couple. "I'll see you this weekend, let me get your number?" Ray handed her a card and she tucked them both into her purse. "Thank you. Whenever you can is fine with me." She hurried off, going to tell the others that Stan was a nice guy at least. Most everyone was smiling at Melissa and Ray as they danced and chatted. They were cute together in an odd way but it was clear where her loyalties lay. She had been overheard saying she wasn't giving up her job for him.
Ray's mother sniffled, leaning on her daughter's arm. "He is so handsome," she said happily. "She's a beautiful girl. There will be many bambinos."
"I'm sure there will, Ma," Frannie agreed, patting her on the back. "We'll go pounce him after he's done dancing with her. The song stopped and Ma walked out there. "Ma!"
Ray's head popped up and he frowned at them. "Xander pulled you into his empire too?"
"Mi Familia is half Ma's," Frannie said with a smirk. "She's a silent partner."
"I see. Xander!" He looked over but even Lupin looked bemused that Xander had just disappeared. "I'll get him later." He smiled and pulled his mother in for a hug. "Wanna dance with me for a bit, Ma? I'll get you in a minute, Frannie. Maria?"
"Not here. Tony left to head home and she's with the kids."
"I'll have to tell someone he's back," he said sweetly.
"Xander already did," Frannie teased. "It's nice that you joined Interpol with the kinda- brother and gave us another one, Ray."
"Yeah, but he's still gonna be dead when I find him," Ray said dryly, taking his mother out onto the floor to dance with her.
Melissa patted a stray pin back into place and smiled at her future sister-in-law. "Hi. I'm Melissa." She shook her hand. "Before you ask, I love to spoil Ray rotten."
"He's already rotten. He used to torture me all the time." She walked her off to talk to her. "So, you're heading home with him later this week?" She looked startled but nodded. "Good. Ma wants you at the house for at least a weekend so she can pump you for information."
"Of course. I had plans of stopping in on her once she found out anyway. I wasn't sure how long it was going to take Ray to tell her." She shrugged and sat them down in a little alcove so they could chat for a while. Ma came back to chat with her while Ray got grabbed by other members of the empire to be talked to. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, and all was right in her world.
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