Inspector Zenigata had a rude shock upon getting to work the morning after having to deal with Lavelle. The commissioner was sitting behind his desk, smiling at the picture of his family. "You couldn't call me to your office...sir?" he asked, remembering to salute him at the last minute.
"No, I could not. I wanted your opinion on this matter, Inspector." He tossed over copies of the letters. "They came from our office in Hong Kong."
Zenigata read them, then nodded. "We knew they were going to do a formal debut with the children, sir. We've been trying to figure out their targets and to track them now for months. I guess this was it. Kowalski thought something Asian but they were still debating targets the last time he knew."
"Where is he?"
"He took that warrant to Mexico. They've probably still got him if he's not in that house. Has anyone checked to see if they left him there?"
"Not yet," he said grimly. "I'll let you do that on the way to Hong Kong." He grimaced. "What is his connection with those thieves?"
He knew the man knew this, or he did if he ever read anything sent up to him, but he'd have to repeat it now. Again. "He and Lavelle met at some fandom conventions. He's always followed ethical guidelines in relation to his contacts with them, including taping most of them and handing them over still in the machine. We took him off the Lupin investigation years ago when he admitted his view was skewed by Lavelle's true nature."
"The guy's a big geek, sir, to be honest we're not quite sure what he's going to pull out of his butt this time. The last time, he had a mountain in China collapse because they took two of the younger generation. We got there too late and had to run for our lives."
"Yes, we noted that you met with the Lupin gang."
"I was trying to stop massive loss of life, sir. That was against a new arms dealing group who was making a very large and powerful machine. In the rubble we found the remains of a partially active nuclear reactor. We also found their munitions plant. We knew Lavelle was going to take them all out, and possibly anyone in close proximity, for the sin of touching a child he considers his."
"Inspector, you sound like you know quite a lot about this man."
"I've been forced to learn and I do listen to Kowalski each time he reports a new contact. He's the one building Lavelle's personality file as well. If you'd like to look at it, I can have it pulled."
"No, that's fine. Has a profiler looked at it yet?"
"Yes, and said she was clueless. Lavelle's not the normal crook, sir. He's been tortured so badly that some of his injuries lasted into his first year with Lupin. He got free right before Jigen found him." The commissioner looked stunned. "He still bears the scars from that. He's got strength from behind those years because his younger life wasn't that pleasant. Nothing too tragic, but lower income, semi-abusive parents, lack of drive in education, things of that nature. Plus, he was from Sunnydale."
"Pull Xander's background file," he yelled. It was walked in by Vecchio. "Here, sir." He handed it over. "His background before Jigen and he got together."
"Can you use any of this to catch him?"
"No. His parents aren't dead but they're not someone he talks to willingly. His former friends are the reason he was tortured. It's still good to know where the behavior came from. He never even had a speeding ticket before hooking up with Jigen." The commissioner grimaced. "After that, he's got stuff we can't find and we can't touch. He's got some totally legitimate funds, twice blessed by every bank I've talked to as being legitimate and from legitimate businesses. His title is from sleeping with someone who offered it if she could get off, which he did for her. He keeps his life away from those things. He's shrewd, he's knowledgeable, and he's damn hard to catch. Even when he was on my couch yesterday morning."
"Touching him and catching him are two different things," Vecchio agreed. "We've tried to bait him. When we've actually caught him he's escaped without leaving a clue how in most cases. Mostly, sir, we're just trying to contain the damage that man is capable of. We used to get Lupin and his crew now and then, then Jigen took in Xander during their vacation and it's suddenly ten times harder to catch any of them. Before you ask, that was *before* he and Kowalski met, sir. We met at the same time."
"I see." He put down the file after only glancing through it. "Then perhaps some new methods should be figured out?"
"What new methods? We've done everything we can think of, Commissioner," Vecchio said plainly. "We can't bait him. We can't capture him, when we try we usually end up being the victims of that trap. We can't keep him when we do actually manage to get him in a cell. You don't know Lavelle, sir. You don't catch Lavelle, you endure Lavelle and keep down the damage. He's the reason that Geneva had that sudden outbreak of faith a few years back. They wanted to hurt his kids." The commissioner shuddered at that. "So, no, we're doing all we can to keep them on the run or on vacation most of the time."
"They sent their notes for the debut," Zenigata offered, handing them over.
"She's just like her father," Vecchio sighed, handing it over. "Isn't this the sign of apocalypse?"
"You'd have to ask Dawn, she deals in those," Zenigata said dryly. They looked at their boss again. "As soon as we realized how much Lavelle had screwed with my people's heads, we moved them to other cases. They're only involved peripherally in anything Lupin related."
"Each time you send in a new inspector for Lupin the Fourth, we tell him what we know," Vecchio offered. "It's not helped yet."
"Yes, well, she's about to get her wish," the commissioner said snidely. "What about his supposedly legitimate side? Can we get it under racketeering laws?"
They both shook their heads. "I've asked," Zenigata admitted. "When Vecchio found out what Lavelle was doing on his legitimate side, I took it to the prosecutors to look over the information. We also took it to the banks to find out if we could find a money trail leading back to any heist. We couldn't. He had a small fund set up when he was still normal from the insurance settlement after Sunnydale and the loss of his eye. As far as anyone knew, he used that. We can't prove otherwise. He's smart enough to know the law, he probably studied it in his free time, and to get helpers who know all the dodges and outs. He even set the kids up with things like that."
"If there's things that Lavelle needs to do, he's got advisors in most of the banks, a few of them are financial managers of his legit side so he doesn't deal with the day-to-day stuff and ruin it," Vecchio told him. "I do know that he's recently expanded the empire for his legitimate side by a vineyard and a dairy farm."
"Any chance he's hiding things from Mexico there?" Zenigata asked.
"Sir, Mexico was the tithes from his intelligence network," Vecchio told him. "By the way, Kowalski finally got free and called me about ten minutes ago. He's on his way back."
"That's fine. Is he all right?"
"Just traumatized. They had sex in front of him a few times."
"Pity, but nothing I wouldn't expect," Zenigata admitted. "Any other new information?"
"Yeah, Lavelle left a few files in Mexico according to him. They're blackmail material that would get him what he wanted very quickly with some senators in the US."
"Why does he bother with them?" the commissioner asked. "He lives over here and in Japan."
"He was American, sir," Vecchio said patiently. He looked at his boss again. "We also lost the people on Lupin the Fourth's ship within a day of her finding them. We think their original bosses took them out."
"Quite possibly. She went through the Don to get them, so that would be an embarrassment."
"Kowalski said someone named Homer told Lavelle that the Don in LA was ready to offer his favorite child for his pleasure if he'd forgive him," he said dryly, smirking at his boss. "Apparently we were wrong, he was dealing with that small outbreak of crime while he was with Alan."
"Former boyfriend, an actor. Lavelle still loves him but he was impacting his career so he let him go be funny," Vecchio told him. "Kowalski got cried on about that, even though Lupin never knew." The commissioner looked stunned. "He can't capture him. They've been friends now for years, that's why he's not on the Lupin investigation and why Stan reports each and every contact made. I've got that report on my desk if you wanted it, sir."
"What about Inspector Kowalski's new wife?"
"Their former nanny," Zenigata admitted. "He met her through Lavelle and Goemon, another person who goes to the fandom conventions. Again, they set her up with a blessed and clean trust fund. We can't prove where the assets came from, they just appeared in a bank one day after a cash deposit. We can't find where the cash came from because nothing in the month before's transactions show that same amount or even one near it. Not within twenty percent of the amount of the deposit in either direction."
"Interesting. Anything relatively close?"
"Not really. They dropped a pretty specific fund of one-point-three million into that account for her retirement. Nothing was even close. Most of those that were happened to be wire transfers, which this wasn't. Also, the greater majority of anything closer went overseas or to a business entity like a jewelry store. The few that didn't we're still looking at but we're doubting it's anywhere near their financial manager. We've tried to raid her records before. All she had were some stock portfolio options and files on trades that she had taken over. Plus a copy of Lupin's grandfather's will."
"She said he had her look it over for more odd clauses like the one that said he had to have kids," Vecchio reminded him.
"True. Personally I think he made her the head executor of it but we can't find a paper trail of that either. I do know that the woman recently moved into a very nice condo on top of a very prestigious building, but her old one had damage done by the tenants upstairs." He scratched the back of his head. "Sir, Lavelle hires the best to advise him. The man is a borderline criminal genius who hires other geniuses to work for him. Since he does that, he protects Lupin and both gangs now. We can't catch Lupin while Lavelle is with them. We nearly got them when Lavelle wasn't speaking to them, but then they disappeared and I heard the Golden Dragons started something against them."
"Very well. What about this new one?"
"She makes some rookie mistakes, but she's been doing field work since she was eight," Vecchio said dryly. "Lupin the Fourth and her crew are very well trained by Lavelle and the others."
"He trained them?"
"Jigen the Second is his daughter, sir. Or did you not read the report on that artifact he had." He shook his head. "Then never mind. Why are you asking about things that we've already reported?" Vecchio asked. "I know IA does that now and then, but we do report everything to your office, sir."
"Inspector, I get seventy reports a day," he said coldly. "Yours are generally very long and detailed about things I don't care to know about."
"Then you shouldn't come down on us when we can't do our job because you do things like this," he said blandly. "Otherwise we'd have a few people heading to Hong Kong at the moment." He smirked. "Then again, I'm not one of them so I'm going to go back to my cases. You know, the other eight people on the top ten list." He walked out.
"Sorry, it's been a long night for him. Kowalski's wife was ill all night with morning sickness."
"Yes, otherwise he would have waited for her to retire in a few more years, once the youngest children were older."
"I see." The commissioner frowned at him. "Do you still feel you're objective about these crooks?"
"I'm realistic, sir, it comes with age," he said blandly. "I've chased Lupin across six continents for the last twenty-eight years. When I retire, they're still going to be going. They only seem to get younger and young, while I age like a normal person. Like Vecchio and Kowalski, I've learned all I could about these people so we can tell the next generation. I may get lucky and catch him yet, if he slips up due to his daughter making a rookie mistake, but I can't promise it. Back when he was still making mistakes it was a lot more likely."
"He doesn't make mistakes?"
"Not as many. Lavelle is a planning genius, he passed it onto his daughter. Together the three geniuses planned this out. I doubt we're going to see a flaw. Lupin always plans for the cops and what they can do. He's used us as a distraction so many times it's not funny. He and Lavelle can easily impersonate anyone in this office, except Dawn since none of them will ever put on that choker again. Lupin may be enemy number one, but I'm nearly fifty, sir. I'll gladly train my replacement and have him start now so they can get the next thirty years of their careers."
"You're giving up?"
"No, I just figure it'll take the next guy ten years to get all the nuances of the group. It took me five before Lavelle and I'm still learning about them from Kowalski."
"Oh. They are the same age as you are, inspector."
Zenigata snorted and took a picture off his filing cabinets, handing it over. "They sent that to us last holiday. Do they look my age?"
The commissioner looked it over, then grimaced. "No, not really. The silver haired one is Lavelle?"
"Fine." He handed it back. "Anything more recent?"
"Vecchio, do we have recent photos of the crooks?"
"The kids," he offered. "Let me check." He looked in his and Kowalski's desk, coming up with a present one of Xander. Then he had a hunch and checked his email, finding one from them on vacation. "Yeah, sir, we've got one from their vacation this summer." He printed the full email, going in to hand it over. "We've got to find a way to find that bug, sir."
"We do," he said grimly. "It's beyond our capabilities." He snorted as he read it, then handed it over. "For you, sir. Run the bug scanner again, just in case."
"Yes, sir. Inside and out." He went to pick it up and do it again. This was something they did every Monday morning. They still hadn't found the bug Xander had put in the office and hidden.
"How did he hear us?"
"He's had us bugged now for nearly a year and nothing Interpol or the CIA contact I have can find it, sir. We try every Monday morning, but we never find it."
"He put another regular one into Dawn's desk," Vecchio called. "How I'm not sure." His email beeped so he went to look at it, then snorted. "Sir, Marcus is on monitoring today and he said we're giving him a, I quote, frightful headache while he's ill. Could we please just shove the commissioner out a window so he could go back to sleep?" he read. He printed it off and handed it over with a smirk. "He and Kowalski exchanged cold and flu recently."
"Good, he deserves it," Zenigata yelled. "He's their research person, backup to Goemon when his son isn't around, and general helper," he said dryly as he handed it over. "They're showing off because you're here, sir."
"Wonderful," he said as he read it over. "This man threatened me. Where is he?"
"Who knows," Vecchio snorted. "He could be anywhere in the world. Lavelle owns a satellite." He went back to scanning for bugs. "Hey, Dawn, Marcus is listening."
"Hey, Marcus, did you get that soup recipe I sent you?" she called out. "It'll make you feel less grumpy. You're like Goemon when his loincloth thong got stuck with the superglue that time." She grinned at Vecchio's snickering. "What? He was picking on Xander yet again. Did you hear about the incident after he told Xander he would never be the thief Lupin is?"
"Noooo, what happened?"
"Xan had the kids check to make sure he didn't use any magic or anything. Got his clothes, his sword, his money pouch, even his loincloth, which went into the wash because Lotus said it was nasty looking. Dressed him in a bright pink silk loincloth with purple velvet dots. On the *inside*, thank you," she said with a mean smirk. "Then put that never-ending pink lipstick on him. The kids caught pictures of it after Xander flashed his hair to match his loincloth." Vecchio had to lean against the filing cabinets he was laughing so hard. "Yeah, that was right after Ishi got his glasses. Like the night they got back."
"Oh, damn, Xander is so mean to him at times."
"From what I've heard from LA, he and Goemon got into it that next morning on the ship. Goemon threw him overboard, so Xander got back on and tossed him into the ocean."
"Those two are like brothers," Vecchio said, shaking his head. He grinned at her. "Any other good news?"
"Yeah, there's word that Homer Peacekeeper and Melissa were seen on a date in Mexico but no one could verify it was her or him."
"Homer Peacekeeper?" Zenigata asked, coming out of the office. "That reclusive samurai that's nearly as good as Goemon, but he's built like a tree?" Dawn grinned and nodded. "Why?" he asked cautiously.
"She reminds him of his former wife."
The men sat down, staring up at her. She nodded. "No way," Vecchio said.
"Way," she agreed. "He's not that much older and he's very sweet. I met him once and he was very sweet, very polite, and very big. The man be six-four, but he's about six-four around too and it's all muscle. He's a big teddy bear from what I've heard."
"She could do worse," Vecchio admitted. "What about Brad?"
"She still adores him but he's a cop now. She can't have him."
"Good point." Vecchio looked at his boss. "It's probably better than her and Ishi." Zenigata shuddered at that. "Sorry, sir."
"No, those would be some nasty kids," he said, shuddering again. "I don't even want to hear about the Fifth when it comes into being."
"Well, Fred's turning into a mini slut monster and more like Lupin's father from what we've heard. He doesn't like to steal but he likes to have a temper and shoot at things," Dawn offered. "By the way, I spanked him when I found him in the house this morning. He was sucking up to our second daughter, Maria. Kinda literally, I found him stuck to her lips trying to catch a grope." Zenigata frowned at that. "I also called Bix, who yelled at him for a bit, then he slunk off back to wherever Fred goes when he wants to be alone."
"Why isn't he with the others?"
"He hates Hong Kong. Lupin had one of Xander's guys follow him around to make sure he was all right, but he's not stealing anything, just trying to hit on busty blondes." She shrugged. "Verian said he'd keep him in line this time."
"Where is she from?" Vecchio asked.
"Germany. She's the one who reported what Lupin the Fourth did to get broken in and how she went to a second one because the first guy was so boring she nearly fell asleep." She flipped some of her hair back. "So, what are we doing today? Besides finishing the bug search?"
"Heading to Hong Kong," the commissioner told her. "You're in charge of Lupin the Fourth's investigation."
"I'm not an inspector, I'm a consultant. I'm their profiler. Besides, if I go, then you lose Zenny to take care of our kids." The commissioner growled. "Sorry, but truth. I was trained by Lupin with Lavelle and Marcus. Zenny stole my ass after I figured out I couldn't kill people. Now I help him with the crooks and do their profiling. Since Lavelle taught me how I'm fairly accurate most of the time." She leaned against her desk. "I'm the mind behind the traps to catch the other six on the list recently." He looked impressed. "It's my work that leads to the arrests, I don't go out and arrest. I'd look really ugly in a uniform too."
"I can dissolve this unit."
"Yeah, sure you can," she snorted. "Since we've cleared everyone but two groups in the Top Ten list three times in the last six years, I doubt it's not going to cause a stink in the press. Then again, Zenny could retire and the kids would love it. I don't need to work. Vecchio has a standing offer to work for Lavelle's legit stuff, and Kowalski's got an open invitation to work in his comic warehouse with his personal librarian."
"He has staff?"
"Yeah, he pays a librarian and a pilot, plus a few managers to deal with things for him. He wanted Vecchio to deal with the company that did the restaurant and vineyard since he's so good with food stuff. Lavelle only knows which wine to eat with which chinese food."
"Do you do white or red with Ramen?" Vecchio asked.
"White," Zenigata told him. "He said so, I'd trust that. Usually I try for a beer when I'm at home, but he's a bit more upbeat than I am." He smirked at him, shaking his head. "You're so bad."
"Welcome, Vecchio. Who's on your plate today?"
"Mad bomber guy."
"He'll be hitting kids next," Dawn warned. "Get him before then. He's in Germany somewhere. Or else you will be presented that one, like the last time."
"Sure," Vecchio agreed, "any idea where in Germany?"
"Stutgart? Does that sound right?" she asked. His face lit up with a wicked smile. "Go for it, boy. Have fun."
"Thanks," he said meanly, grabbing stuff so he could head out. "Any hotel?"
"Nope, not heard yet."
"Hell, that area's only a mile long," Zenigata said dryly. "There's only sixteen real hotels and a few places where pros work and stay. It won't be that hard to find him. He's got a known kink for being pissed on."
"True," Vecchio agreed, heading out of the office. "Later!"
"Good job, Dawn," Zenigata praised. "How did you hear about that?"
"Marcus said if we didn't catch him, he'd be presenting the idiot to Vecchio. He's tired of him shaking things near his apartment and knocking off his ancient vases."
"Hmm. The last time Marcus presented us with a crook, it was a horrible sight," he admitted.
"He interrupted him while he was writing his dis. The man got what he deserved," Dawn said with a hand wave. "So, Commissioner, do we have someone new this week to teach about Lupin the Fourth? Since I heard they're going to Hong Kong?"
"Their new inspector is already on his way," he said calmly. "Go, inspector."
"Going, sir." He kissed his wife and headed off. "Kowalski's free and on his way back."
"I can hold down things until he comes back," she called after him. She looked at the inspector. "Should I send the Fourth's files to him?"
"No, I had my secretary call with the basics before he left," he admitted.
"Good. I'll check to make sure everything's in place and work on the number three person next then. Anything else you needed from us today?"
"Unfortunately, we will have to cut the budget a bit. This office uses a lot of travel miles each year," he sneered.
"Yes, but we get results, sir. Almost no one else does. Though Kowalski did pay back the travel office when he found out why he had been summoned to help 'save lives' by Lavelle." She sat down, putting her feet up on her desk while turning on her computer. "If you cut our travel budget, we won't get the results, then you think you'll be able to close us down, but I doubt it'll happen. After all, the crooks are scared of us, they aren't scared of the rest of you. Plus, if we had to, we could form a true consulting agency out of the house. Then you'd have to pay us to find most of them. Since you've had officers walk past six of our last eight captures and not recognize them. Your choice, sir, do you want the people who're experts at the job, or the newbies who can't hope to match it without us?"
"Not really. They'll still have to travel too. The Top Ten for Interpol is all over the world. Unfortunately six of them are in the Middle East at the moment at a conference. We liaisoned with the locals to get them instead of having to travel. When possible we do that in the Middle East and lower Asia. None of us speak the local language and they don't really like us that much." She stared him down. "The newbies will end up coming to us, which means we'd have to charge you as a consulting firm. Which is actually how I scammed Interpol for a few years before Zenigata caught me and joined. Anything else today, Commissioner?"
"Some day you'll all retire."
"Yeah, and we're picking our replacements. Otherwise they'll end up insane like that Suoh guy that Lupin the Fourth painted 'I love sheep' on and then glued stuffed sheep to him before hanging him off a bridge." He shuddered. "Remember, they'll have to deal with these same people, sir. We'll pick people who can for you."
"Fine," he grumbled, walking out. He did slam the door. He opened it again. "You're still going to lose your office. Unfortunately we need to expand the cells this way."
"That's fine, we can set up in the house. Vecchio and Kowalski only live three blocks away. That way the kids who want to join Interpol can get a good taste right off the bat. Anything else, sir, and what category should I charge our moving and setup expenses to?"
He slammed the door again.
She shrugged and looked at her email. "Pity, but there ya go. You earned it, moron." She got into her email to check it, smiling at the nice note from Marcus about how the soup tasted medicinal, but it had worked. "You're welcome."
Zenigata stomped out of the airport and saw a short man with long hair and a beard waiting on him in familiar cop gear: trench coat, hat, worn out shoes. "You are?"
"Suharto Majakalin, at your service, Inspector Zenigata. I believe I'm to take over one of the Lupin teams?"
"Yeah, Lupin the Fourth wanted you," he said dryly. "Where are we going first?"
"To the hotel. I've already spoken to both parties and they're worried but the local office is setting them up with some very good security measures until we can come back later tonight. I figured I would brief you while you had lunch, and then we could go back together later this afternoon, after the men of the family get home from their jobs in the financial district."
"Fine. Watch out, she's a nasty little brat and the commissioner doesn't like us," he said grimly. So this was who Lupin the Fourth wanted to chase her? Why? He couldn't see why. He got in to drive, he knew the city very well after so many times being here. "Which department are you from?"
"I've worked in Interpol now for a few years. My last assignment was in Bramapur, India dealing with the drug trade coming from the islands and this way. Take the next left, there's a wreck ahead. We're going to the usual one by the Academy."
"Fine." He took that advice. "Before then?"
"Before then, I was in Bangkok, also working in drugs and prostitution, and before that I was in Brazil. I was briefly stationed in San Francisco when I first joined Interpol, but my first station was with Surat, India, my native home. Yours?"
"Tokyo, then Interpol. Chasing Lupin since I joined," he admitted. "It's a hard case."
"Of course it is. You've got many people working together. It took years to get into the Mafia system and I'm assuming chasing Lupin is like a more mobile version of that."
"Sorta," he agreed, liking this guy more and more, even though he needed a shower. "Lupin heads his family, he always has, but he's got Lavelle with him and that makes him more dangerous and more deadly."
"I've heard much of Lavelle. I look forward to the briefing I can get from your other inspectors," he admitted. "I've watched as others were taken out by Lupin the Fourth, and knew she was looking for someone specific."
"Yeah, she asked for you. She even painted it a few times on the commissioner's stuff," he said dryly. "It took more than most people thought to get you though."
"Most usually you don't give into crooks, it only makes them cocky and I'm led to believe this one is already that way."
"She's been pulling jobs since she was eight, man, there's nothing but cockiness in her. She's a sixteen-year-old Lupin. They picked you because they said you reminded her of me."
"Really?" he asked, sounding interested. "Do you know why?"
"Apparently your devotion to the cause," he said dryly. "She wanted someone who could chase her like I do her father."
"Interesting. I'll take that into account. As for today, we will get back, I will bathe, you will eat, then we'll discuss this new set of problems before going back?"
"That sounds fine," he agreed lightly. "Were you undercover?"
"For ten days in the slums. No running water I'm afraid. I'm sorry if I smell too much."
"Ehh, we've all gotten that way in the past. When Vecchio and Kowalski first got in, they had to chase Lavelle through the tent city outside of Calcutta. On the way, they stopped some people killing others, dove through a big pile of trash, and then into the river near there." Suharto shuddered. "Exactly. They came back smelling so bad, even after a few long, hot showers and a great deal of laundry, the airline didn't want to let them on but they pulled their badges and forced them to." He grinned at this guy. "Don't worry, you'll fit in well with Stan and Ray. Or Ray and Ray, he prefers Ray. By the way, they've taken to calling us Pops and his two Rays, so if you hear that it's them."
"That's fine," he agreed genially. "It shows great affection for you that they give you nicknames."
"Yeah, chasing a Lupin is a strange thing. Sometimes you chase, something you're pursued, sometimes you've even got to work with them to make it out alive. They're not the average crooks and everything you've learned before will be like nothing once you're seriously on their trail. There are days when I wonder why I was plagued with Lavelle," he offered as he pulled into the parking lot of the hotel they were staying in. "Then I realize if I'm plagued with him, Lupin gets it much worse," he offered with a grin. "Let's head inside."
"Thank you, inspector, for accepting me."
"Not an issue. She wanted you, you can do the job from what you've done in the past. You'll be fine and I'll help until I'm forced to drink myself into early retirement. Besides, we've got an open desk for you back at the office. You'll love it, you can have plants and oftentimes one of my kids will come in and help. Not to mention the kitsune now and then." He got out, slamming the door, walking inside with his younger, smarter counterpart. This man could catch Lupin the Fourth, he knew he could and would some day. Eventually.
Dawn looked up and grinned as Ray trudged him. "You okay?"
"I'm fine," he said with a small grin. "Just tired. Bix gave me a hug when she picked me up. She's still pukin' too."
"We do that, Ray, usually for a few months," Dawn reminded him. "I've got some good and some bad news." Ray groaned. "Lupin the Fourth got who she asked for. He's with Zenny and Zenny is seriously impressed after talking with him."
"That's good. The bad?"
"We've got to move the office again. The commissioner said they're expanding the jail this way. So we're moving it to the house."
"You've got that building out back, put it in there," he suggested. He flopped down with a sigh of relief. "I'm tired. We need Xander's imps to move things."
"Imps? He uses *imps* to move shit?" He nodded, giving her a long stare. "How do you know?"
"He moved all the stuff from Mexico, which was all tithes. Lots and lots of cash. Lots and lots of jewels. Some minor paintings. Those two with the portal thingies."
She grimaced. "Those were stolen," she agreed. "But they're dangerous."
"Yeah, they sucked up some of the money and when they got it free, they found two people. They're fine, they're in the hospital down there. I stayed an extra day to deal with that with them." He stretched and let out another sigh of relief. "What else did the commissioner want?"
"To fire us all to save on the travel budget."
"Hmm. Pity. I've got a standing job offer."
"Yeah, so does Vecchio. Xan wants him to do something with the restaurant and the vineyards."
"Plural. He just bought a new one and a dairy farm the other night. Of course, if he's using imps, we'll never find anything they buried out there."
"You can't really bury stuff like that," Ray said thoughtfully. "You know, none of Xander's houses say 'Xander' to me. Most of them I've seen say 'Lavelle'. Not Xander. Not even Mont Blanc."
"Xander has always wanted something that was a Xander space," she agreed thoughtfully. "Do you think he has one?"
"If he does, it's probably not in his name," he pointed out. Then he paused, looking around. "Nothing bad happened, I may be wrong," he admitted.
"Yeah, Xander can occasionally do mean things to try to redirect you," she admitted, typing Xander into her search features. "I wonder if he has any other personas we don't know about," she said thoughtfully.
"Xander's one big case of MPD waitin' ta explode," Ray reminded her. "You've known him longer, what would he name it?"
"Not a friggen' clue," she admitted.
Xander looked down as his phone vibrated to show a new text message. He read it, then snatched his computer. "Sorry." He got into his monitoring system, typing at the computer.
Jigen leaned over to watch him type. "What other personas?"
"I've got some aliases," he admitted. "Dawn wants to break into them."
"Are they covered as carefully as everything else you do, Mom?" Melissa asked.
"All but one and I was fixing that the last time I knew." He typed in that question, getting the response that all birth certificates were in the correct books and that Bastian had called for him, leaving a message. "Open message," he muttered. He listened to the quiet audio, then sighed. "We've got to get Bastian away from them. Give me a minute, babe." He went back to fixing things so Dawn wouldn't find him again. Then again, he wasn't going to hurt her this time because she had gotten close, it would only make her more frantic to find them. Fortunately his backup persona was hidden so deeply no one knew who he was. He sat back and used the computer to dial the police station Bastian was in, then turned it off when the computer showed feedback through his wire in Dawn's scalp. He pulled up his cell to call instead.
"Hola, I'm Bastian Morales' current employer. I have heard you have him in custody? That would be fine." He grinned at the spitting. "Bastian. They can't have you, I won't let you go to some other syndicate, babe. You know that." He grinned at the calmer sounding man. "Now, let's fix this so we can go on the debut job." He smiled at the cop who had taken the phone back. "The man was trying to stop someone from kidnaping and using him. He's retired. I blatantly use him for his contacts. You can ask him about that if you want," he offered. The cop asked Bastian, who was quiet, then answered. He hoped Bastian knew he was playing. He decided to make sure of it. "Of course, if you asked him, he would also tell you that I'm using him to break in my infant daughter and to be her future spouse too," he joked, smirking at Melissa, who was shaking her head. Bastian broke out in swears again. "Put him back on. Bastian. Love you, man, but we both know the truth. Arsene is yours when she's finally grown up." Bastian let out a chuckle so he had gotten the clue apparently. "Forgive me?" He got a pleasant answer. "Now, tell the nice men that you weren't doing more than defending yourself so you can get out of that nasty hole. Before I'm forced to come up there in a few days time."
Melissa got up and snatched the phone. "Don't worry, Bastian, we'd let you date Lotus instead. Arsene got that 'cat with the whole pitcher of cream' look when he said that." She giggled. "No, this is one of his daughters, the brilliant planner of the family. And you are?" she asked calmly. "No, I'm the one who watches Bastian to make sure things like this don't happen. As it stands, we've been having a few talks with these people to let him retire in peace as well. They haven't gotten the point yet and tried to shoot him." She smirked. "I see. No, he was out of the country at the time. He's like that. It's the purpose of retirement for most people." She smirked. "Good! And can you really charge him with anything? What was he doing?" She looked at her father, who shrugged.
"That's fine. I'm assuming it was a contract from his *old* employers who needed a new identity. Did you find out which one so we can contact them? Then please release him. You don't really have much beyond the B&E, which is piddling shit to one such as him, but you'd be risking much more loss of property and life if someone in his *old* life decided to make sure he couldn't talk about anything he had done. After all, sweetie, he was a spy for nearly fifteen years. From the US." She could hear the man shudder. "Good point? Thank you for your cooperation and I'm sure it'll be fine. No, but I'm *sure* they're blackmailing him into it. I'm sorry, but consider it a test of your local security if you want." She smiled. "Thank you, inspector. You have a nice day. No, we'll call Bastian later, once he's had a good lunch and a nap. I doubt he's slept since you caught him and well...." She grinned at Lotus. "We do hope he has good dreams now that he knows which of us he'll be escorting around on his pretty little arm." She chuckled and hung up. "He's free, heading back to his hotel. He's been advised to leave the area by tomorrow." She sat down again, grinning at Arsene. "You'd drive him insane."
"Probably," she agreed sweetly. "But he's very pretty and very good in bed from what I've heard around."
"He is, but he's much too nice for you, Arsene. He'd never put up with your naughty streak," Xander assured her. He typed something into his computer, sending Bastian a plane ticket to wherever he wanted and a bonus for good completion of his job. "There, done," he said, closing his laptop out. He grinned at the others. "He'll be fine. I'll talk to him later, once he's had a drink to clear those mental images from his head. He's still got flashbacks to when he was captured once."
"That poor man," Lotus said quietly. "Is he all right?"
"Fine. He was in Sweden. Their jails aren't too bad at the local level. He was only pulled in for questioning really." He got comfortable in his seat. "Now what?"
"What other persona, Xander?" Lupin asked patiently.
"My hidden one."
"Fine." He gave him a long look. "I can get it out of you."
"Nope, sorry. That's my backup persona, you can't have it." He turned back on his computer, getting in to check on something. He thought he had sent those two he was hiding some cash but apparently he had forgotten again. "I've got to put that on autopost," he complained, sending it on. "Before Janus has to yell at me for making his future wife work."
"She's fine?" Arsene asked.
"She's fine. Just about due. I just forgot to pay things this month. I meant to last night." He closed out that program after sending it. Then reopened it to make sure it had gone through. He sent it again, making sure it went through this time. Then sent it via Western Union when it refused again. Two months worth, just in case. He got back a happy email a few minutes later from them saying it had gone through, so forwarded that to the girls. "There, done."
Lupin took the notebook, looking over the this new program, which was something they used at the house for allowances. He closed it with a pout. "Why won't you tell us about that one?"
"Because no one but Homer and Bastian know about it, Lupin. That's my backup and 'oh shit' position. If I have to use it, we're probably not a full group any more." He shuddered. "See, you don't need to know. Someone could probably find me that way. We don't want that so they only know parts that they had to play to help me make that persona. Not even they know all the details, guys. Sorry."
"Fine, but I'll expect to know some day, when it's no longer necessary," Lupin said, still pouting.
"Fine, Lupin, I can agree to that," Xander said patiently. "Now, shouldn't we be enjoying ourselves? It's the day before we go to work."
"We're trying to lay low so the other cops don't see us," Goemon reminded him. "Especially since that Suharto person booked them into the same hotel."
"He's an interesting choice, but I know we can make him into an obsessive person over us," Lupin said with a grin for her elders. "He's done a lot of drugs and pros in the past too."
"True, he comes from a sea-side on the Western side of India's coast. He's had a very good career, he's a very good cop, and he'll temper us brilliantly."
"We can hear you!" Zenigata yelled through the floor.
"Talk about bad luck," Jigen laughed, shaking his head. "Plan three?" Everyone nodded and grabbed their stuff, splitting up to meet later that night. Xander left last, doing a sweep of the room and because he still had to pack his laptop. Besides, he would only gas those two.
Jigen looked at his watch, then at Lupin. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know. I got a call from Xander, but no message. It was him breathing though."
"Was he maybe arrested? He did have more crap to carry."
"No, that was all in one suitcase now, with his laptop case." Lupin frowned at his own watch. "We're going to have to go in about ten minutes." He looked at Goemon, who shrugged. "You haven't heard anything?"
"Fine. Then we'll go." They headed for their target, going according to plan. Xander was in his spot so they'd talk to him later. They got into the vault with no problem, thanks to Goemon, and back out without any problem thanks to Xander and a knockout gas through the air conditioning system. They walked out the front door, heading at a dead run for the cars waiting on them. He nodded Jigen to take whatever Xander was heading for, grabbing Xander to pull him along. "Toss your keys to Jigen."
Xander tossed his keys. "The handle, underneath, and the door button," he called quietly. Jigen nodded, heading to get into his car. Xander followed Lupin, getting into the back so Goemon could have the front seat, he never got to sit up there. "What's up?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing," Lupin complained as he started the car. It wouldn't start and they heard a familiar chuckle. "Xander?" he asked patiently.
"I ended up shooting the new cop, but got him to the hospital. Gramps is not happy with me," he noted. "He probably did something to the engine." He got up, gun already drawn and picked off most of the cops, then hopped out with Goemon's sword to face down the two remaining people, who were definitely not cops. "Come on." They lunged and he sliced into them after a few strokes. He stopped to look at the cop staring at him, noticing he had a gun. "Go ahead and try," he said dryly. "At least I got him to the hospital, Gramps."
"True, he'll live because you did. You're awfully jumpy today, Lavelle," he sneered.
"Gee, excuse me, but I just had another trip through hell with two of the kids. Sorry, but I have fucking nightmares," he said bitterly. "Want some? I will gladly transfer them over." Zenigata backed off some. "Now, you can join him. I am that good."
"I've already got mine drawn, you'll be in the cellblock infirmary, boy."
"Ya think?" he sneered, staring him down. He saw the swallow. "Lupin, I'm having a conflict. Retire him or not?"
"Not, Xander. You know better. Only I get to hurt Pops."
"Fine." Xander ducked and brought up his gun blindingly fast. He still got shot but the cop in front of him only got hit in the shoulder. He walked back to the car, handing Goemon back his sword. "Sorry, don't have mine on me."
Lupin looked at him, taking off his shirt to look at the injury. "You idiot."
"You wanted him to stay on the force, Lupin. He will," Xander said, staring him down. "Now, fix the car and let's go so I can have some painkillers. Okay?" Lupin hopped out to search the cops for his car part, installing it again quickly and getting them gone to rendevous with the others. Xander slumped down, using his shirt to put pressure on the wound in his shoulder. "Are you having flashbacks to the other timeline and the earthquake?" he asked Goemon.
"I am," he admitted. "Are you all right?"
"I'll be fine once we pull the fucking bullet out and get it stapled," he offered. "The ship's got an infirmary and a good doctor onboard." They headed for the harbor, putting the car back onboard. Xander let them park it, heading up to the infirmary. He nodded at the woman in there. "Got some forceps?"
"Of course. What happened?"
He grimaced. "Zenigata." She was a doctor who had been banned for something as well. Something minor, he'd never trust a butcher on his ship, but she would keep quiet. She pulled out the bullet, watching as he grunted and flopped backwards.
"Let me stitch that, Xander."
"Sure, go for it," he said weakly. She settled in to stitch his shoulder, gently closing the wound. "Thanks, you're a peach. Can I have something for the pain?"
"Of course," she agreed with a gentle smile. "I patched up a small scrape on your daughter's arm. Not gunshot related, just a bad scrape from some gravel or bricks it looked like." He nodded, accepting the pills she poured out for him. "Let me get you some water, then I'll walk you back to your suite." He nodded again, letting her baby him for a few more minutes. Then she walked him up the stairs, meeting the children on the way up. "It's just a minor wound. It should be fine. It was fairly clean and he's got some stitches. I'm sure he knows what to do with them." She left him in the kids' care, going back to clean up after that minor emergency. It was nice, nothing too tragic had happened yet.
Arsene looked at her mother's shoulder. "What happened?"
"Zenigata fixed the car. Your father didn't want him to retire yet." He opened the door. "I'm back. I've got stitches so we need to find the waterproof bandages."
"What the hell happened?" Melissa demanded, coming in last to close the door. "Ours went off flawlessly but our cop wasn't there."
"That's because I had to shoot him earlier, dear. He drew on me and fired on me. He's in the hospital with a minor wound to his side." Xander flopped down, staring at the kids. "You picked a rabid bastard, guys. He shot at me, I wounded him. Now, he'll probably want revenge so he'll be going after you now. Try to be a bit careful, okay?"
"That had better be the pain talking," Arsene said coldly. "He's a good cop."
"With a history of brutality," Xander retorted. "He beat up his last drug capture, daughter. Nearly killed him too." She shuddered at the ice in his voice. "I did what I had to do. He's not dead. Feel lucky." They sighed and nodded.
"Xander, have you had anything for the pain?" Jigen asked.
"Just now, thanks." He got up and went up to their room, pulling the curtains.
"Why do I feel like I made the wrong decision?" Lupin muttered, looking at Goemon. "Did you see any other way for him not to be shot?"
"No. I'm glad he's as fast as he is. If he had went for a retirement shot, he could have fired during moving." He looked at Jigen. "He'll probably want held tonight if what he said was true."
"Good point. I'm on it. You get yours, kids?" he asked as he climbed the stairs.
"Yeah, but that's not the point!" Arsene said, stomping her foot. "He destroyed the cop we wanted!"
"Arsene, you're acting like a spoiled brat," Lupin told her. "You got your target, the cops will be back soon enough. Move on." He stared her down, watching as she stomped off. "I'll deal with her tomorrow."
"She's going to be fuming by then," Melissa warned. "You ruined her plans to have a great chaser like Gramps on her tail," she reminded them. "It was one of the dream things that she knew would mean that she was as good as you, Uncle Lupin."
"She's already got plenty of good cops after her," Lupin reminded her. "You guys are a lot more active and open than I am. You guys get chased a lot more than I do. Personally, Xander was right to shoot that other guy if he fired on him. Be thankful he's still living. I wouldn't have left him that way. Neither would either of your fathers."
The younger group nodded. "We understand, but you're puncturing her dream balloon," Ishi explained. "That's her fantasy of knowing she's as good as you are."
"She got hers without an injury, that's the thing she should be looking at," Lupin countered. He got up to go beat some sense into his daughter. He knew she wasn't ready to go out on her own yet. "We didn't have this sort of problem with Marcus and Dawn," he complained as he walked.
Goemon looked at the children. "Good job. Go play and relax. We should be leaving soon. If not, Melissa go make sure of it."
"Of course." She headed up to the bridge to check on that, getting a 'we've got one thing left to load, then we're heading out' response from the doorway. She went to join Ishi in the dining area to watch the skyline in the dark. It was a pretty city. "Are you picking a side?"
"If so, I'm going with mother. He was right to shoot him since he was being fired upon. His anger is reasonable. I'm not sure why he's mad at Uncle Lupin though."
"Apparently," Lotus said as she walked in, "Gramps showed up there and fixed Uncle Lupin's car so it wouldn't run. Xander got most of the cops with him, and two hitters who were following them. He asked Uncle Lupin from his position after striking if he wanted a retirement sort of blow or not. Uncle Lupin said only he got to hurt Gramps, so Xander only grazed him, earning that gunshot of his in the maneuver. So he's a bit pissed because he could have hurt him more from the position he had been in but Uncle Lupin didn't allow it." She hugged them both. "The Lupins are having a screaming match in our suite."
"That's why we're in here," Melissa agreed dryly. "Do I often have such funny images?"
"No, neither do the rest of us, but she is an idealist and a Lupin. The best Lupins have their own squads after them, the same as Lupin the First did," Ishi reminded them quietly. "She thinks that Zenigata won't be chasing us and doesn't want to take her father's chasers away. She wants one of her own to prove how good she is."
"Yeah, but some day Zenigata will capture Uncle Lupin again," Melissa reminded him. "The same as someday we'll be captured or killed." Lotus shuddered. "It's something I've had to think about in the past."
"As did we," Ishi agreed. He looked at the others. "I don't want to go out on my own yet. I believe that we're being arrogant." Lotus nodded. "Melissa?"
She considered it. "I'd rather be under Uncle Lupin," she sighed. "It's safer and easier for now. We made some stupid ass mistakes tonight. We have over the past few weeks, even though we planned this out flawlessly. Uncle Lupin plans many different ideas at once. He probably had one for when the cops showed up like that. It was probably Mom going off on them," she admitted. "But I didn't have one that detailed. I planned on Ishi covering us." She pushed back her hair. "I wouldn't mind."
"Good, then we'll talk Arsene into it."
"She'll be rebellious. She doesn't want to have to rely on the older group."
"We don't have to, but I'd still rather be a teenager again," Melissa told her. "I know there's no going back, but still!" She walked off, going to talk to her father. She walked in and found him on the couch. "Did mom kick you out?"
"He's in the bath. He's having nightmares," Jigen said quietly. "What's wrong?"
"We're being arrogant twats. We realize this." Jigen nodded, smirking at her. "Can we stay if we can convince her?"
"We're not kicking you out," Jigen promised. "Xander would never allow that. He and Lupin would get into it and the others of us would stick up for the rest of you guys, but she's got to get back under control again."
"I know." She curled up next to his head, staring down at him. "We made rookie mistakes, dad. My plans didn't cover all the bases."
"It's a wise girl who knows she does not know everything," Goemon agreed from his doorway. "The others?"
"We all want to stay, we're not sure about Arsene at the moment."
"Very well. That would entail rules."
"We knew that already but we figured we could maybe negotiate a few?" she asked hopefully. "Like tv's in our rooms?"
"We'll see," Jigen promised. "We should go stop the Lupin's."
Xander came out of the bathroom wearing a pair of boxer shorts. "I've had enough. Yes, you're coming back, Melissa. Alex needs you and I still need to finish teaching you about the empire." He walked out, going down to the other suite. "She's sixteen," he reminded the crew he pushed past. "Go back to your spots. I'm breaking it up." They scattered. He walked in and ducked the thrown vase, grabbing Arsene by the hair so he could look in her eyes, putting her into an uncomfortable position where her knees were bent and she was leaning back in his hand. "Shut up. Now."
"Xander, let her go," Lupin ordered.
"No. I'm not." He continued to stare into her eyes. "Lupin the Fourth, you have not a fucking clue, little girl. In any other circumstances, we would have killed all the cops there tonight. Most crooks would have. You may have earned your own investigator, but your arrogance is going to get someone killed. Now, you can either calm down and start to think rationally again, or I'm going to banish you to the pool house when we get back. I'm not putting up with you. I'm not putting up with the arrogance. The others found a self- regulator for it."
"I'm arrogant?" she snorted. "Pot and kettle situation, mother," she sneered. He gave the hair he had hold of a squeeze, making her scream.
"I've earned mine over the course of about forty years counting both timelines, young lady. As your father and all your uncles have. I still take advice from them and you need it." She tried to move so he tightened his grip again. "You're being a spoiled little child and you should have been spanked when you were younger to break this bad habit. You notice none of the others are sticking up for you? That's because they know they made rookie mistakes. They realize that they're not ready to kill or be killed out on the streets. They know exactly what can happen to them as they're shot and lie bleeding in the middle of a job. Do you?" She screamed as he gave a little yank of her hair. "How about if that rabid bastard had tried to shoot you, Arsene? Would you have done him? Even if it meant your team's life, would you have spared him?" He sneered down at her. "You may be skilled, but now it's time to finish the training, baby girl, because you have not a fucking clue what it's really like. You're still at the debutante level. Now let's talk about the reality of being a full-time criminal. Are you ready to give up the shopping trips on the spur of the moment? The partying to all hours in a very open club? Having to wake up in the middle of the night because someone found out where you were staying? Giving up *everything* around you at a moment's notice because you've got to move on?"
"You don't," she complained.
"I have and I will again someday. It's the reality of crime, little girl. Earlier, I could have left everything there, but I didn't have time to negate that laptop so I had to bring it with me. That's also why I had to consolidate bags. You have no idea what it's like living out of one bag at all times, wearing the same clothes for a week straight because it was necessary and you didn't have time to shower or change clothes. Or where you're in a spot where you can't change clothes. You've never seen the inside of a real prison, the sort where little girls like you are fucking party favors. Do you really want to do that?" She struggled but her position meant she could only fall onto the floor, and probably lose that chunk of hair. "You passed the basic levels. Now it's time to move on so you can actually be a credit to the family name. We're trying to keep you kids from learning what we did the hard way. Looking at the person beside you and seeing them dying and no way for you to get them help. Sitting in an alamo situation without enough weapons for more than a few more salvos. Being trapped and the options being capture or death, and capture would mean death. Now you start your real training, what I got when I came in from my private teaching. You'd better pray like hell that your uncles agree to finish it for you because right now I'm not feeling that nice." He let her go, watching as she fell onto her ass. "Make your fucking decision, now."
"I don't need more training."
"You do, Arsene. What he said was true. We've faced down all of those situations. I did a number of times before I ran into Jigen and offered him a spot with me, and Goemon as well." He sat on the arm of the chair nearest him. "You have inherited a lot of stuff, Arsene. Including a reputation. I had to build mine from the age you started out. I saw people dying on my orders when I was eleven."
"I saw them when I was eighteen," Xander told her, crossing his arms with a wince and a deep breath to control the pain. He calmed himself again. "You've passed the basic levels. You did the high school of crime. Now it's time for the college. Melissa may have a way to hide, but if she took you with your present attitude you'd blow it for her and probably for me because you're loud, showy, and you draw attention to your name. Your father was sleeping with me and didn't even realize I was doing other jobs. Until you get to *our* level, you don't go out on your own permanently. It's time for the college level classes. We'll start on the way back to France."
"Japan. I want to pull that job anyway. I sent the letter," Lupin said when Xander looked at him. "Is that okay?"
"Fine." He looked at Arsene. "What about you? Have you?"
"It's in my desk but I never sent it," she said, glaring up at him. "You're not my mother."
"Yay. You're the one who said I was, you can unsay it I suppose. It won't change the fact that now it's time for the more serious levels of training. We thought you could go out, but you started to throw a kiddie fit as soon as you got back because not everything went according to plan. I tell you what, Arsene, next time the cops don't show up, celebrate. That's what means you're getting away with it." He braced himself as the ship pulled away from the dock, staring down at her. "The rest of us weren't that lucky. The rest of us got hunted because of your arrogance. By the way, you almost left the plans in the hotel room." Lupin hissed. "I have them in my bag. We'll be going over them tomorrow to see where the plans went awry for your group to critique it. Others may be impressed but we're going to be realistic. The days of the easy A are over, little girl. Now, go to bed like the infant you're pretending to be."
"I'm not a child!" she shouted, standing up. She threw a punch at him but he blocked it and hand her in a choke hold before she knew it.
"Really? Because you're still throwing kiddie fits," he hissed in her ear. "The more you act Alex's age, the more you're going to be treated like it." He let her go, blocking her next kick attempt and knocking her back onto her ass. "Nice try, not." He sneered down at her. "Now, go to bed. Before I have to get mean on you. The others kids know what's going on and they decided to take the extra training." He walked away, leaving her there.
Lupin got up and pulled his daughter up, hugging her. "I'm sorry he was so mean," he said, stroking her back to calm her down, "but he was right, Arsene. You've still got a lot to learn that we had to learn the hard way. I don't want to have to bury one of you from your arrogance, especially not you. So therefore you will modulate your sneer, your attitude will come down again, and you will start to learn. The Academy was like a GED program. You passed it because you were years ahead of the other kids, but you never faced a bad situation. You never faced down twenty cops and no way to get away like we did tonight. Goemon and I started to react but your mother acted first. He's the one who saved us and my bad decision got him shot." She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "Can you face doing that to Ishi or Melissa? Or Fred or Lotus or Kenji or Yu?" She shook her head, hugging him again. "Then we'll start working again. You guys have skills, we can train the rest into you. I hope." He gave her a squeeze. "Now go to bed. It's been a long night and you're probably tired. Your mother was right about that."
"He's not my mother."
"That's up to you, Arsene. We all know who took care of you the most. It'd be a shame to lose that because your arrogance got in the way of your relationship. Yeah, he was harsh and cold. That's what it took this time. The others didn't need to be told about that. They knew. Melissa's seen people die from her gun. Ishi's seen people die from his gun and his sword. They know that it was probably going to be them or the other person." She turned green. "You haven't had to face that yet. Your choice in cops may or may not have been good, but that's beyond the point. It's not time for that yet, not with you still throwing fits like you were eight. Now, go to bed and think about it," he said quietly. "You're going to be on this ship while Jigen and I go get that other job, then we'll be heading back to the house. There's more stuff set up there to help you." He left her alone after wiping off her cheeks for her and kissing her on the forehead. He walked down to his suite thinking about it. Xander had been very cold and very precise. He closed their door quietly, nodding at Melissa to go. "It's safe."
"Thank you, Uncle. Is she okay?"
"Probably throwing stuff. Xander had to get cold and clinical on her." She nodded, understanding that. Her father had done it to her once or twice, but probably not that bad because she wasn't the arrogant brat Arsene could be. She gave them all a hug before leaving. "When did Xander find someone behind him nearly dead?" Jigen raised his hand. "During the training when?"
"Right before we went to LA," Jigen admitted. "Why?"
"He told Arsene what it was like and how we were going to teach them so that she'd never have to see it." He sat down, staring at them. "Where is he?"
"Not up here," Goemon offered. "There is a bar."
"There's two bars," Lupin corrected. "Fine, let's go find him. Jigen, are you all right?"
"I managed to get away with only running over a cop," Jigen pointed out. "He had to fight for you guys."
"He told Pops that he was so mean because he wasn't sleeping due to his fighting in hell."
Jigen groaned, tipping his hat down. "He hasn't been having the usual nightmares."
"He's also been sneaking out of bed to play video games," Goemon offered from his seat. They stared at him. "I've heard him a few times. He comes out after about an hour and goes back just before dawn."
"I wondered why I kept waking up at dawn," Jigen complained. "Fine, let's go find him and help him. He's got to be torn up."
"He's mad at me," Lupin told him. "He gave me a choice on how much to injure Pops and I told him not to hurt him, that it was my fun. He got shot because he was ducking to make his move."
"It probably wasn't the only one," Goemon said thoughtfully. "He did say that other one shot at him."
"We just saw him without a shirt on, I didn't see any grazes," Lupin offered.
"He'd have covered it," Goemon pointed out. He got up. "I'll talk to him. You two wait here." He headed down the hall, finding Xander up on the deck instead of in a bar. "Thinking about jumping?"
"No, then I'd have to drown and that sucks." He glanced at him, glancing over at his friend. "They send you to calm me down?"
"Lupin knows you're upset with him."
"I'm upset with myself, Goemon, not with him."
"Still, some of the anger must be at him for making that choice," he offered. He leaned next to the boy, watching the water. "It is very restive to watch, yet it is also very deadly and has lured many to its depths to die." Xander snorted. "The same as you have."
"No, I'm not quite that deep, Goemon. Nice try though." He started to reach over then winced again. "Sorry."
"Where is the other one?"
"What other one?"
"The one the other office gave you." He looked at Xander, noticing he was avoiding his eyes. "Xander, it must be looked at."
"It was when I took him to the hospital. That's why I got into position instead of meeting at the rendevous spot."
"I understand," he offered, looking over the boy's nearly naked body. "Where is it?"
"It's nothing, Goemon."
"If it was nothing, your pain medicine would have worked, Xander. You must let us take care of you sometimes. That is why we're family." He ran a gentle hand over Xander's back, watching him wince as he got to an area that felt wrong. "You covered it with your illusion?"
"Yup, sure did."
"May I see?"
"Xander, it must be checked. You could be bleeding again and we do need to know how best to help you."
Xander stood up to look at him. "I'm fine, Goemon. I just need some rest."
"Which you cannot get from the nightmares and the pain, Xander." He moved closer. "We took care of you when you came in so horribly injured, we will do so now. We like you more now than we did then because you grow on one, like moss." Xander snorted, but he was smirking a bit. "Please? I will not tell them unless it is too bad. We can even show it to the doctor on board, just in case something else needs to be done."
"It's fine, Goemon."
"It's not, Xander. You're shifting away."
"That's because you're being scary."
Goemon grabbed him and hugged him. "I wish you had been my child, then you would have been raised better."
"Yeah, but then I'd have to have Fujiko as a mother," he said bitterly. "Let go?" Goemon shook his head. "Please? You're making my shoulder ache and I'm about to react to the pain." Goemon let him go, undoing the bandage to look at it. "It's nothing, it got close to the bone, that's all."
"If you say so." Goemon took off his illusion choker, slapping at the struggling hands. "I have seen them before, Xander! Stop it!" He turned him around and held him against the wall of the ship, staring at his back, that had a very large amount of gauze and it looked like it was caved in. "Did something skin you?" he demanded.
"One of the crew on the ship from Sunnydale got infected by a hunter, they've got blades that come out of their palms. It decided it needed a sandwich," he complained. "Let go!"
"No! Hush! Before I treat you like I would my son! Not that my son would hide this from me. I would expect my son to come curl up and whine on me were he this injured." He used a free hand to move the gauze, then put the choker in his pocket for a moment so it would quit interfering with his view. "This is infected, Xander. It needs to be cleaned and treated. Have you been getting it wet?" Xander shook his head with a sigh. "Fine." He retaped that piece of gauze and moved to the one on his side, lifting a corner of that one to wince and recover it. "Did they remove the bullet?"
"Yeah, they thought I was yakuza so treated me and released me when I got demanding," he said, looking back at him. "Can you let me go before I start having rape flashbacks? I know you won't, but I really don't like this position very much."
Goemon let him go, stepping back. "I'm sorry. I did not mean to upset you further, Xander. Come, we will go down to the infirmary. Where are the children?" he asked as he hauled him off by his uninjured arm. "How did you climb that ladder like that?"
"Easy, the last pain killers wore out," he said bitterly, being drug along like he was a little kid. "I'm fine, Goemon."
"Hush, Xander. You need treated." They ran into Arsene, who was out pacing in the halls by the infirmary. "Are you injured?"
"No, I'm thinking about getting something to help me sleep." She stared at her uncle's body, gulping and turning away. "Ow."
"Yeah, they hurt when they were carved in."
"Hush, Xander. Arsene, is the doctor in?" She nodded. "Good, he has a prior injury that your chosen officer gave him that needs to be looked over as well." He walked in and shut the door, then came out a few minutes later with a paper envelope. "Here. To help you sleep." He walked back in and slammed the door.
She stared at it for a few minutes, then decided to do the adult thing and go in to check on her uncle, tucking the sleeping pill in her pocket. "What happened to his back?"
"A demon." Goemon held Xander down, keeping him from struggling as the doctor peeled off the old gauze, some of which was stuck in the injury. "I have seen him with much worse. Those scars on him were much worse when we got him. He also had areas of flayed skin," he told the doctor.
"I'll try to be gentle, Xander. I know how much you hate doctors. You told me so when you hired me." She wet down the rest of the gauze to remove it, then glanced at Arsene, who was now green. "I don't allow gawkers in my ward, young lady. You've got what you needed. Go back to your rooms."
"Should I get daddy?" she asked. "He'll want to know."
"You may tell him I'm having Xander's earlier gunshot looked over since it's still causing him pain. Xander or I will tell them about the rest." She nodded, hurrying out to do that before she got sick. "It's been a few weeks for that one."
"So I can see," she agreed, staring down at it. "Well, first, let's soak it so we can gently clean off anything nasty in it. Xander, should we knock you out? I do have some anesthesia on board."
"It doesn't work on me," he said calmly. "I'll be fine. I don't feel much there usually."
She nodded, getting to work by putting some sterile water on his back to do a rinse first. "Goemon, you don't have to hold him." He backed off and pulled over a chair to sit on, staying by Xander's head. "I thought he was with the others."
"He is, but sometimes he is much like my son. Though my son would have whined at me about such matters. I wish he would."
"I'm not like that, Goemon. We both know that."
"True, but if you had, it might not be infected. I would have helped you taken care of it so it wouldn't be infected." He accepted the small diamond she plucked out of his back and held out. "Thank you." He tucked it into his pocket. "You can have that back later."
"I don't care," he sighed, putting his head back down and closing his eyes. "Don't let them fuss."
"You are more than worthy of some fussing, Xander. Even if you do not believe it. Even Zenigata says that you're the reason he wants to retire. Most cops fear you." He stroked over the silver hair, tying it together and braiding it for the doctor and him.
"You're welcome. Your mates should do something like that. As should your friends." He went back to distracting him and keeping him calm. Even when Jigen came in. "Lupin?"
"Beating himself up over him being shot earlier."
"It was my stupidity for asking," Xander mumbled.
"No, you did what he would have wanted and you know it, but he hates that you got injured doing it, Xander." He walked in and looked at the open gap on his back, shuddering. "Eww."
"I can handle it. You can take Goemon with you."
"Fat chance. Someone's staying to hold you down in case I hurt you," the doctor retorted. "Whichever one of you keeps him calmer. How old is this, Xander?"
"The day we came out of hell."
"Hmm. Two weeks?"
"Just about, yeah," he said tiredly, letting out a yawn. "Sorry, I haven't been sleeping well."
"That's fine. I can cure that as well. I should have given you stronger pain killers earlier. Next time I'll give you something that will put you to sleep." She looked up at Jigen, noticing his pallor. "If you're going to be sick, do it in a trash can we can throw out."
"Yes, ma'am," he agreed, pulling over another stool to sit next to Xander's head. He saw the other bandage and winced. "Ow, that had to have hurt."
"It does," he admitted. "You can go back to bed."
"Shut up, Xander."
"Want Lupin?" Xander shook his head. "Fine, I'll go get him." Xander frowned at him so he stared back. "He needs to know too. That way we can take care of you." He gave him a gentle kiss to the temple, the easiest spot he could reach, then went to get Lupin from the bar. "Hey," he said, leaning in the doorway. "He got hurt fighting in Hell. He never told us he's got a spot that's been dished out on his back." Lupin groaned, holding his head. "The one from earlier is in his side. Into his side, not a graze by the way it's bandaged."
"No wonder he was cranky with pain," Lupin said bitterly. "He okay?"
"Goemon's treating him like he would Ishi. Wanna come up and sit with him. He says he's not blaming you, he's blaming himself for asking."
"No, I wanted him to ask but I still made the wrong decision." He finished that drink, bringing the bottle with him so Goemon could have some if he wanted. He took the stool beside him, handing over the bottle.
"We have real alcohol, we don't need to do field medicine in here," the doctor said as she patiently worked. "Do not spill any on him and no getting drunk around me."
"Yes, ma'am," Lupin agreed, grinning at her. She was a spitfire and then some. He looked down at Xander, giving him a sad smile. "I'm sorry I misjudged, Xander. It's my fault you got shot again and I'm sorry."
"I shouldn't have asked."
"No, I wanted you to ask, you did everything I could have wanted, but I let you down by letting you get more hurt." He bent down to kiss him, earning a small moan of pain. "Sorry. I'd offer you some alcohol but she might hit me." The doctor nodded. "See, she's mean."
"She's efficient and very good at what she does," Goemon chastised. "Besides, it would harm the painkillers working. Then he'd be in more pain."
"If it were me, I'd be screaming and crying for morphine," the doctor offered. "I'm being as gentle as I can, Xander."
"I know. I'll live."
"Good." She went back to work, gently getting what needed to go away gone, then spreading some creme over the area to keep out infection before rebandaging it. She wrapped them around his chest. "There, now you match Goemon. Let me check your stomach," she said lightly. He winced as he rolled onto his side, putting his arms above his head. "Just get comfortable, Xander." He wiggled some, his hands going under his head. "Thank you." She peeled off that gauze and nodded. "That one doesn't look too bad. It does look painful. Did they get out the bullet?" He nodded. "That's good. It's competently stapled and stitched inside. I'll just watch it for you." She turned him over, watching as he winced again but Lupin put down his liquor to help him move. "There we go, just the one I did earlier." She checked him over, gently touching the outer edges. "I'll get some antibiotics for you at the next port," she promised gently. "I've only got a limited store on here." He looked up at her and nodded. "Trust me, Xander, I'm not going to make you suffer. Now, lets sit you up," she offered, letting the men do that. "I'll have the captain call ahead to get some."
"You can call our usual one and have him call it in," Lupin offered. "We can have it delivered in a few days when we land in Japan."
"I want him on the antibiotics tomorrow, Lupin the Third. He'll need it. His back was already infected and the other two could easily infect. We're going right past a port tomorrow, I can have some called in and delivered out to the ship. They're used to it." He nodded, letting her handle it. "I've also got his usual medical file, full and complete, including his last exam. Do I need to do anything about your knees?"
"They've been fixed," he offered quietly.
"That's fine. Go sleep somewhere comfortable. I'll have that delivered as soon as we can." She stroked his cheek. "Let them baby you. One's guilty and the other one thinks of you like his favorite troublesome son." He nodded, letting the other men help him up and back to their cabin. She cleaned up again, taking the trash with her to the special incinerator they could use for medical waste, then went to tell the captain what to call in and have delivered. He needed stronger stuff than she had on board. If he wasn't in pain, she wanted to cry for what he went through.
Lupin got up in the morning and found Xander actually sleeping so smiled and curled up next to him.
"Want juice and stuff from the buffet?" Jigen asked quietly.
"Please. Get the usual for him." Jigen nodded, putting on some clothes so he could get them some food. He came back up a moment later with a large tray. "Goemon?"
"Yeah, apparently he's hoping that Xander can be adopted."
"That'd be odd, we'd have to call Goemon father-in-law." Jigen smirked at him, but let them put the tray over Xander's lap. "We shouldn't wake him."
Jigen kissed Xander's cheek, noticing it was cool. "He's breathing, right?"
Lupin checked and nodded. "He's got a good pulse too. Why?"
"Wonderful." They checked, there wasn't any blood on the bed. Xander was still sleeping and alive. Apparently he was cold. So they moved the tray and piled on another blanket, right up to his neck this time. "It's probably the drugs she's got him on," Lupin offered quietly. Jigen nodded, digging into his food. They left half of it on the tray for Xander, knowing he'd be hungry. He probably hadn't eaten much yesterday.
Jigen got up to put the tray on a nearby table. "Goemon, can you turn up the heat? He's cold."
Goemon nodded and closed the door in front of him, which helped a lot. "Better?"
"Much. Thanks. He's not awake yet."
"He needed his rest anyway," Goemon noted. "His medicine should be here in a few hours."
"Thanks. Tell us when and if something happens," Lupin called. Xander moaned and started to move but winced and moaned for a different reason. "Shh, Xander, I'm sorry I woke you," he soothed. Xander flipped over, cuddling Lupin's other side even though he was now in danger of falling off the bed. Jigen came over to help move them both, getting Xander comfortable again. Xander wiggled under the blankets, making them grin at each other. Sometimes he was such a kid.
Goemon came up the stairs with a bag. "It came early." He looked at the lump of blankets. "She said to get him to eat and take them immediately, and no sex until he was back in his right mind."
"Damn," Lupin complained, but he did start by stroking Xander's hair to gently wake him up. "Xander?" he called softly. He yelped as he got bit.
Goemon took the direct approach, lifting the edge of the blankets. "We've got breakfast, pain killers, and antibiotics here but you must get up. It's time." Xander grumbled something. "I am a father. Of course I sound like one. As I told you last night, sometimes you act like one of my children, plus you are young enough to be one. Now, get up so you may eat and take your medicine, then you can go back to sleep after you wash up a bit." He moved the blanket, letting Lupin help him so he was sitting up comfortably. He got the tray and put it across the pouting man's lap. "Quit, Xander. We got you most of your favorites and they left you most of them." He handed over the bag. "You must eat and take the proper dosage."
"Thank you, Goemon."
"You're welcome." He pulled a chair over to sit down. "I've seen Arsene and she's much better behaved this morning. Whatever you did worked."
"He grabbed her by the hair and gave her a taste of reality," Lupin said calmly. "She was scared by the time he was done."
"As she should be. Her arrogance would be something that would get my son killed," Goemon agreed. "Jigen, sit." Jigen sat down, getting comfortable on the foot of the bed. "Need the ashtray?"
"No, I'm fine," he admitted, puffing on his current cigarette. "Does it hurt a lot?" Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No, not really. I still need a new glass eye. This one is the wrong size and color." Xander ate a bite of english muffin with peanut butter. "Wow, homemade."
"Yeah, your chef is amazing," Lupin agreed with a gentle smile. "Eat all you want. We'll finish off whatever you leave."
"You can have some," he protested.
"We've already eaten, Xander. Finish it and we'll clean up the crumbs." He stroked down the non-bandaged part of his husband's back. "Did you want to stop in Japan for more than a day?"
"No, I'll be good with a day," he admitted. "I can call the guy who made my first glass eye, he's got a few more of them ready." He ate another bite, looking at them. "You're sure you want to do this job with two cops panting and pouting?"
"Yeah, they were recalled," Jigen offered. "The Commissioner wants to disband their unit. He wants Pops to retire. He wants Suharto to take over both Lupin cases. When someone, namely Melissa, called in to point out that both groups could be working at the same time in different parts of the world, he threw a fit. Suharto actually quit. He said he could not and would not cater to Arsene's delusions and that being a simple cop would be nice." Xander gave him an odd look. "His words." He shrugged. "Pops is being put back into a consulting position with his whole crew going with him. They're redesigning the building and the units. They'll be teaching the new idiots how to chase everyone else." He smirked at Lupin, who wanted to give the other news.
"Then the Commissioner quit. Right after taking us off the Top Ten and banning any Lupin from it ever again."
"Poor man. Did he go shoot himself before Arsene flew off to kill him?"
"Yeah, basically," Lupin agreed dryly, smirking at him. "We're still doing the job in Japan. We'll go back to doing it in leisurely style though. What do you think of the kids going back to their own ship?"
"Nope." Xander broke open his favorite type of muffin and buttered the still warm halves. "They need training in the more advanced stuff, even like this. What about the rest of us?" he asked, popping a bite into his mouth.
"You," he said with a kiss to the cheek, "were asked to help consult by the commissioner." Xander choked so he patted him on the uninjured part of his back. "Calm down, Melissa turned him down. She pointed out all either Ray had to do was to ask you for help and you would for certain cases, but that you'd look bad in the uniform. It wouldn't go with your eyes at all," he said with a small smirk. "So we're all cleared off the list."
"Pending what the next guy does," Jigen added for good measure.
"He won't put us back on. Interpol just got a budget cut and we cost them more than anything else they've got. Even traveling to take out the rest of the Top Ten list isn't quite as bad as ours and our bounties. So they got some guys who'll be cheaper, pay the others as consultants, which cuts down on their pay and their office space, plus it cuts down on the airfare costs. We should give them what they need if Interpol doesn't," he said smugly.
"Yeah, right," Jigen snorted.
"Dawn's got a pretty good computer system going, she borrowed some of my people to help her," he admitted. "If they can transfer their stuff that they've already got it should be fine. They've got that old barn out behind the house they can renovate. I'm sure both Rays could do that quickly." Xander ate another bite of his muffin. "Otherwise I might donate some of my older stuff. Maybe like the faulty personality chip," he added with a smirk when everyone stared at him. "Do you think Gramps could deal with an AI that spoke like a Drag Queen from the Valley?"
"It'd drive him insane," Goemon assured him. "Good job, I want to see that," he said with a smirk for the boy. "We'll let you talk to Melissa and Dawn later, once you're ready for your next dosage. Finish up so you can have the pain killers. She said to take them after you ate."
"Yes, Goemon." He finished what he wanted, leaving half of his last english muffin on the plate and a few other things. He popped one last grape with a moan and took his pills with his glass of milk, lying down again. "I'm full."
"I'm sure you are," Lupin said, giving him a gentle kiss. "Belch a few times to make room for it all, Xander." He grinned at him. "Want cuddled?"
"No I'm good if you've got to go do stuff for your job in Japan."
"We could, but we'd only be downstairs," Lupin promised. "You're sure?" Xander nodded. "Okay, then you rest. We'll have Ishi or someone come up to check on you in a while once he joins us." They headed down the stairs together. "Thanks, Goemon. He's letting us take care of him this time."
"He did the first time but he wasn't sure why you were at the time. Now he knows why you take care of him." He found his son sitting on the couch with a hand over his eyes. "What happened?"
"Naked women flashing us up on the deck." He looked at his father. "Did you know there's a whole nudist's cruise line?" His father slowly shook his head. "There is. They invited us over."
"I don't believe you need to go," Goemon assured him.
"That's what I told them, that we were pulling out of port in a few hours. But our lovely young ladies decided to get into the spirit so I had to see my sister naked, again. Then I accidentally saw Melissa naked. She's got a very nice set of tan lines from her thongs."
Jigen snickered. "You can hide down here from the naked women and help us plan, Ishi."
"Thanks. How's Mom?"
"Better. He just ate and had some medicine," Lupin offered. "You can go curl up next to him if you want."
"I wouldn't mind." He grabbed a book and headed up the stairs. He grinned at Xander, who waved him inside. "I come to help you back to sleep." He sat beside him, opening the older book. "This is a story of...."
"Why are you reading to me, Ishi?"
"I'm getting in practice for when I have nephews thanks to the naked chicks on the deck," he said dryly. "Did you know there's a naked cruise line? They wanted us to come over but we couldn't so the girls decided to get naked and party with them on our own ship. I saw them all naked." He shuddered.
Xander pulled him down to hug and kiss the top of his head. "It'll be okay. We'll find you your own girl to get possessive over." He let him go. "You ....you can read if you want."
"Thanks." He grinned, settling in to read to him. It was good practice for future offspring and nephews or nieces. Besides, no one had ever read to Xander before, he had admitted that a few years back when Melissa had been sick and asked what his favorite bedtime story had been.
Downstairs, Lupin and Jigen shared a smile, then grinned at Goemon. "He's a good son," Goemon said simply, sitting down to help them with this job so they could get something special for Xander.
Fujiko walked on once the ship had docked, smiling at the men waiting to get off. "You're leaving me again, aren't you?"
"We've got to pick up two things and Xander's got to get his fake eye replaced," Lupin said, kissing her on the cheek. He grinned at the scowling Alex. "We'll be right back, in maybe two hours, and then we'll go again, princess. Okay?" She shook her head, hugging him. "Ooh, you poor baby." He kissed her too, making her smile. "Just two hours? We'll bring you back a candy bar if you promise to share it with your daddy."
"Okay, but you come back quickly," she scolded. "Bring me candy." He nodded, grinning and handing her off to Jigen to get his own hug and kiss. Once she was down she hugged her uncle with a bright grin, showing off her missing tooth, then ran to their suite. She liked her room.
"I don't like girls," Fred pouted at his father. "They're icky."
"They'll get better as you get older, Fred, I promise," Lupin assured him. "We'll talk about the icky girl later, okay? Give us two hours?"
"Sure, daddy." He drug the other two boys down the hall, letting them wave. "Come on, the parents need to kiss and have sex."
Goemon looked at his wife, smiling at the lump he could see. He gently reached out to stroke it, even though she slapped him for it. "Thank you, Fujiko." He kissed her, making her go limp against him. "I missed you. Let Xander sleep, he's taken his pain medicine just now. The doctor for his eye will be in shortly." He kissed her again. "Then we will celebrate." He let her go, following his cohorts out of the port building and to the car.
"I saw, man, congrats," Jigen offered.
"I hope it's a daughter," he said, smiling back. "Let's go. I have to celebrate later."
"Sure, daddy," Lupin teased. "Should we stop to pick up some special stuff for you?"
"I can't think of any we'd need. We have champagne on board. We have chocolate. We have nuts." He shrugged. "My wife is usually more than happy with those. Perhaps I can get her back into that bathing suit."
Jigen laughed. "You've got it bad, Goemon. Let's go, Lupin, before the kids starting timing us and pout us to death."
"Sure," he agreed, speeding off into the early afternoon.
Xander woke up to a gentle stroke to his face. "Hmm? Fujiko?" He pushed himself up with a moan of pain. "Time for medicine?"
"No, Xander, your doctor's here. How did you stand twins?"
"Easy, no choice," he said dryly, looking at her stomach. "Hmm, not two girls," he said, heading down the stairs to flop onto the couch. "Hi, doc."
"Konnichi wa, Xander. Let me check your socket and remove that other eye." Xander laid down with his head in the guy's lap, closing his other eye. "Yes, this is just as easy as it is in the office." He lifted the lid, picking up a small pair of padded forceps to take out the temporary eye. "Hmm, that was too big. There's some muscle strain."
"Will it matter?"
"You should let it rest and heal, Xander."
"Doc, I hate having that socket open."
"Fine, are you sure?" Xander nodded. "Very well. I brought all three new models. Which one do you wish? The one with distance and wind speed? The one with the camera? Or the regular one?"
"Shit. We're heading home. Fujiko, where are the cats?"
"Back in France. I've already had them taken home by Homer." She sat down. "Get the one with the camera. I heard it's useful."
"It is, but it's also annoying and Lupin now knows how to log into it." He looked up at his doctor, then at the other eye. "That's why it hurt."
"Yes, I'm afraid so," he offered, putting it down onto some tissues. "I can leave them here. It really should rest for a day, even though you do hate to do so." Xander moaned.
"You're going to be asleep anyway," Ishi offered from the staircase, coming down them. "It's not really going to matter so much, mom."
"I know," he sighed. "I still hate the feeling of it being empty. I can feel the wind going through it and things."
"Well, I can put one in. Which one would you like?"
"I guess the speed and distance because we've got to work on the kids' training."
"Very well." He picked it up. "Close your eyes, Xander." He did so while the doctor wet down the eye with sterile contact lens solution. "I'll leave all three with you this time," he promised. "Plus some more solution." He opened the empty socket, not watching as Fujiko shuddered. Instead he gently shoved the glass eye back into the correct spot, adjusting it so it looked like he was looking straight ahead. "Did you want to be cross-eyed again?"
"No," Xander said with a chuckle. "Thanks anyway." The doctor wiped off the area around his eye, then let him sit up. "Thanks, doc."
"You're welcome, Xander." He checked the orientation, adjusting it a bit with a gentle finger. "There you go. Looking straight ahead and everything." He patted him on the side of the face. "I've got a case for the others and some solution to go in there." He wrapped the others up so they couldn't be scratched, then put them into the special box he had made. He handed over the small box. "There you are. If you need the forceps I can leave a pair here as well."
"No, I'm one of those 'sticky thing on the fingers' guys," he admitted sheepishly. A pair of forceps was handed over as well. "Do I owe you anything?"
"No, Xander. You invested in my company and it's going very well. By the way, on the table is the latest statements for that wonderful woman, Murami, to look over. Tell her I still wish she would have lunch with me. I'd like to copy her eye color, it is most amazing." He bowed to them. "Have a nice day, all." He walked out, leaving them alone.
Xander let out a yawn and put the box back down. He flopped backwards, then shot back up, back arched. "I forgot about that," he admitted with a small hiss.
"Come on. The bed upstairs is very soft so it does not bother you," Ishi said patiently, helping him up and up to the bed. He tucked him in. "Do you need another story?"
"No, I'm good," he said with another yawn. "Thanks, Ishi."
"You're welcome. I'll put those in the cabinet. That way the kids can't play with them." He went down, putting them beside the tv. "There, that way we don't have to see the kids playing with them." He looked at his mother. "I see I am to have another sister?" he asked politely. She nodded. "I'm sure father will be pleased. Kids, I'm heading down to our room. Want to come watch the fish?" No answer so he went to check on them. They were asleep curled around Yu. "Awww." He pulled out his phone to take a picture of it, sending it to his father's phone, which was in the bedroom by the way it was ringing. He went back to his room to show the others, getting stereo 'awww's from Melissa and Lotus. "Also, the maternal unit is giving Father another daughter."
"Good, father needs a daughter to spoil," Lotus agreed dryly. "Arsene, there's a picture of the kids." Arsene came out of her room to look at the picture, then handed it back before heading back to her room. "Are you all right?"
"No, I fucking well suck," she said, slamming her door again.
"I think it's about time we talked to someone about her depression," Melissa said quietly. "My dad?" Everyone nodded, Jigen wouldn't sugar-coat anything but he wouldn't be mean about things either. "Fine, when he comes back." She settled in to read. "Are you okay, Ishi? You've been up there a lot."
"I've been reading bedtime stories to mom," he admitted, sitting next to her. She looked stunned, then hugged him. "I thought he needed some and deserved to have that experience since my father seems to have adopted him." He grinned at her and patted her on the back. "Off, Melissa. Should we run off to get tampons and stuff."
She sniffled, nodding as she pulled back. "Yeah, we should." They got on outside clothes and headed off the ship to the giftshop in the port building. When that didn't work, they headed for a taxi and a major grocery store. They got back about as their parents did, barely making it back on the ship. They held up their bags. "Sorry, necessities," she said sheepishly. "The gift shop didn't have enough chocolate on hand." She grinned at her dad. "Arsene's depressed."
"I'll talk with her tonight," he offered. "Xander?"
"Has a new eye in and is back in bed, but the kids were all napping." Ishi showed him the picture he had taken, making all the parents grin. One of the crew came up to close the door, handing over the dropped bag.
Lotus countered, then grimaced. "Um, we're missing six or seven bags," she complained to the others.
"Shit! We must have put them in the boot of the taxi."
The crew member sighed and called the captain, who nudged them back into port so Melissa could run out and check, and he got the one that was floating in the water. "There you go. Just tell us when you're ready."
"Sorry," Lupin offered with a grin.
"It's not a problem, sir. Commercial lines have this sort of problem all the time for missing people." Melissa came back with the bags, getting back on board. "Do we need to run out for anything?" They sat down to look in the bags, then Lotus ran back to the gift shop. "Necessities?"
"Soda, chocolate, tampons, midol," Melissa told him.
"Ah, teenage and girl necessities," he said wisely. "My sister has those sort of problems. Speaking of, sirs and ma'am. My sister is presently getting ready to graduate from a fashion school with interior design skills. She'd like to apply to work on those other rooms." His eyes grew wide when he saw who was escorting the girl back to the gangplank. "Who is he?" he squeaked.
"Hey, Homer," Melissa called. "Come on. You can ride with us."
"Thank you, Melissa. I've always enjoyed ships. I even brought an offering if we have a moment to load on the wine and cheese from Xander's new vineyards. He sent too much to the houses over here."
"Sure, I want to taste some of this stuff," Lupin ordered, waving a hand. "Please. Coopt Ishi and Lotus if you need to."
"No, I can get them, they're not that heavy."
"I'll help," Ishi offered, following him out to his car. "You can get the car on board too."
"It's a rental," he said with a shrug. They carried in the food, Homer coming back to do a last check and take everything else with him. He saw a security guard storming his way. "I'm going back with some friends. It's a rental," he ordered, standing up fully. "Thank you for having them come get it." He bowed and went back on board the ship, handing Lupin that last round of cheese. "The case had six of those."
"Cool," he agreed happily. "Someone go get some crackers and some of the wine, we'll have some in our suite. C'mon, big guy, we'll find you a room later. Xander's in bed because he's injured."
"Of course he is. That happens nearly as often as he's kidnaped," Homer agreed as he followed them.
The crewmember watched as everyone disappeared, checked the loading area and the gangplank, then pulled it back in and closed the door again, ignoring the things floating in the water. Those tampons probably weren't going to be any good now anyway. He found Lotus looking at something. "Still missing something?"
"I had a caramello bar," she complained. "I miss caramel."
"You could ask the chef, he does it very well," he promised. She beamed up at him and his whole mood lightened. Such pretty girls were allowed leeway in his book. "Want some help?"
"Please." She handed over half the bags, walking ahead of him. She opened the door since she had a freer hand, letting him put down things on the floor. "Thank you. I'll walk you back toward the kitchen."
"Thank you, ma'am." He smiled again, walking up with her. "So, those cats of yours were pretty interesting."
"They are, but they're Mom's and Uncle Jigen's. I'm just a comfy lap for them to cuddle on," she assured him with a grin. He chuckled at that. "Didn't one of the kittens keep coming down to help you?"
"Help my roommate actually, ma'am, but he's still with us. He's a happy little guy. Where's the others?"
"France, sucking up the house keeper," she said with a sheepish grin. "My maternal unit said so and she's rather pregnant."
"I saw. I also heard your father saying he wanted another daughter. Can't understand why when he's got one like you. You're beautiful, smart, and skilled, what more could he want in a daughter?"
Lotus blushed. "Thanks." She opened the door to the dining area/restaurant. "There you go. I'm off to get some caramel. Have a nice trip."
"Jones, ma'am," he offered, taking off his cap.
"Jones then," she agreed. "I'm Lotus." She patted him on the arm and headed into the kitchen to hug the chef and blatantly beg for caramel. He saw her coming and opened the refrigerator to show off the dessert toppings. "Oh, you precious man! You have caramel!" She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you! We've got an extra guest, one Homer Peacekeeper. He's the big guy."
"I'll make allowances, Miss Lotus. Did you need anything else?"
"Nah, he's a tea guy like daddy and they're all nibbling the new cheese and wine in their suite. I'm headed there now."
"I'll make dinner a bit later for you then," he promised, smiling as she walked out, stopping to hug Jones too. Interesting.
Lotus walked into the adult suite and grinned. "I met the nicest crew member and we have caramel in the kitchen, along with some chocolate sauce. The chef said he'd make dinner later for us and I told him about Homer." She sat down, taking some of the sliced cheese to taste. "It's very subtle."
"It's not aged yet. As it ages it'll earn that sharp bite," Homer told her. "I like this for fondues though. It's mild and it melts wonderfully."
"I can see this pouring over something a bit salty," Melissa agreed happily, taking a sip of her wine. "This wine is fantastic however. Mild, with a slight aftertaste, but crisp and clean, like the flavor doesn't really pollute your tongue."
"You took wine tasting lessons?" Homer asked.
"No, I just know what I like," she admitted with a grin. He grinned back. "You?"
"I used to only drink saki. Xander made me taste a lot of red wines for him so I appreciate the others. "
"Mom likes those too-sweet ice wines for drinking," Melissa told him.
"Yes, they were quite sweet, but he always paired them with bitter chocolate." He sipped his wine. "It is like how the taste explodes when you bite into a fresh pepper."
"Exactly," Melissa agreed. She nibbled another bite of cheese. "We really should have some bread."
Ishi picked up the phone, calling down to the kitchen. "Chef, can we steal some bread for this cheese? Sure, I can bring you a big chunk to taste. Want some of the wine too?" He grinned. "Sure. Come on up." He hung up. "He'll be right up. This way he can taste it without having to break into the bigger masses. I never knew this kind of cheese came in wheels that big."
"Often, and bigger for some types. There are table-sized blocks of parmigiana cheese. It's also very hard to cut. Xander had me cut into one of his blocks for him once. Apparently half went somewhere as a present."
"I'm sure they were very happy people," Ishi said dryly. "I remember that thing it was huge!" Melissa grinned at him. "It was. That thing you thought was a round table was that wheel of cheese." She giggled. "I'm thinking he sent it to Ray's ma."
"Probably," Goemon agreed. "He seems to like her."
"He needed a mother like her," Lupin pointed out. "It would have made him an incredible good guy if he'd had one."
"Yeah, but then we'd be Xanderless," Jigen said dryly, swirling his wine around before taking another sip. "I can be selfish at the moment."
"Me too. Ishi, how did his eye thing go?"
"A new one's in. The doctor left a few spares. They're in the box by the tv." He sipped his own wine. "I still think I like saki better." His father smiled at him for that. "What?"
"It took us four years to make your father drink anything besides saki," Lupin told him, shaking his head. Someone knocked. "Enter!" The chef came in, handing over some bread. "Thanks, man. This is great, unaged, cheddar."
He nibbled a bite then smiled. "It is very good. What farm is this?"
"Xander's," Melissa said with a nod. "Henri begged him to buy that and the vineyard." She handed over her glass. "This way you don't have to take a paper cup."
He sipped delicately, then gulped the rest. "That is very good. I can think of many dishes to use that on. I'll have to call Henri to make sure we get our share of the inter-corporate profits." He smiled at them. "When should I make dinner? I was making the pork chops again."
"I loved those," Ishi told him in awe.
"Thank you, young man. Say eight?"
"Eight would be fine," Lupin agreed. "Xander may not be up to eating in there but we'll try or bring him back his plate. Need help?"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you for bringing this for me." He nodded and left them alone, going to experiment with that cheese. It was smooth and mellow, it would go well in many things.
Dawn looked around the space they had gutted. Then she looked at the demon she had captured. "Okay, fix it. We need electrical outlets, computer outlets, and a big wall of monitors for briefings. Just like the pictures I drew up." The demon didn't move. "Now, or else I'm not letting you go. I'll make you babysit instead."
The demon shuddered and did as she asked, even making sure it all worked, otherwise she'd be in trouble. Those children were horrible. She did have orders from a Great One to import some things from his house nearby so she did that as well. That cube was plugged into a computer and loaded itself, making her wince. She hoped it was a good thing. She looked at the old furniture they had brought, making it all comfortable with stain resistant and burn resistant protections. Then it felt it's leash loosen so it slipped free and disappeared. It did make one more helpful thing, blocking all Great Ones from the computer finding them.
Dawn looked at where the demon had been, then snorted. "Fine, as long as it works." She walked over to look at the servers, noticing the cube that was plugged in. "What are you?" She picked it up and it zapped her, but the computer picture above her wavered. "Hi, are you a techno demon?"
"No, dudette, I'm your new Artificial Intelligence. My sister unit's *so* chilin' in Paris. Whoa! So am I now! Killer!" It's voice was kind of lower baritone, but it had whiny underhints and it sounded like every flaming, limp-wristed queen she had ever met in any gay club. Not that she didn't like her drag queen buddies, but this one was worse than most of them combined.
"Who programmed you?"
The face on the multi-screen unit crinkled up. "You don't have to be mean about it!" it said in a squeaky voice.
"Sorry, didn't meant to upset you, just wondering who I could thank for sending you."
"Xander," he said with a sniffle and a small smile. "He thought you could use me to track those totally heinous people who do mean and nasty things to others, like pinch them on the behind but don't go further."
"Do you have a name?"
"Okay, Al, how do you like your servers?"
"They need to be connected together and I need a *bit* more room. I'm not chunky," he said quickly, "but I am muscular."
"I can see that. I'll have another few Gigs added for you or so," she promised, going to call the office to get the rest of their stuff and Tech Support in to make sure everything worked right. She should have expected Xander to have helped with that.
Kowalski walked in with Bix, making her and Al smile. "This is the new office," he said, letting her sit down at his desk. "How do you like it?"
"It feels demonic."
"I had one of them decorate," Dawn told her. "Saved me from moving stuff. Oh, we got a present from Xander," she said, pointing at the screen.
Ray looked. "Hey, Al. How's it hangin'?"
"The waves are smooth on the 'net and I'll soon have a bigger space for my very well built body," Al teased. "Don't you just wish you could be in here with me?"
"Yeah, but then I wouldn't have Bix," he said, nodding at his wife with a grin for her. "We're gonna have a baby."
"OOOOH! A BABY!" Al squealed. "You adorable man! If I had real arms I'd hug you and her! Even if you are het, I can forgive you for that because you'll have *adorable* babies!" he cooed.
Bix smiled. "Thank you. I'm sure we will. I'll bring him by to see you after he's born."
"Of course! You're welcome in here *any* time, sweetie. Xander told me *all* about you and how good you were to his monsters."
"Hey, if you like kids that much, I'll gladly start bringing out some of mine," Dawn offered.
"It's babies that are cute. Older kids are useful, babies are special and cute."
"We're hoping not to have grandchildren for years," Dawn told him. "The kids are way too young for that." She looked at Ray. "Did you tell her about Homer and Melissa?"
"Homer and Melissa?" Bix asked.
"Yeah, he adores her. When she was taken, he threw a fit," Ray said with a grin. "He says she reminds him of his first wife."
"That's so sweet," Bix said with a smile for him. "I'll have to send her a letter and tell her she can ask about relationship things if she wants."
"She's keeping it at the dating stage for now," Dawn told her. "Homer's like twenty-six years older than she is," she offered.
"Sometimes you need an older man to teach you to appreciate the gentle things in life," Bix said with a blush after glancing at Ray, who also blushed a bit. She squealed and grabbed his hand, putting it over her stomach. "Did you feel that!"
"It's a baby Goemon," he agreed, stroking her stomach. "You can teach him whatever form of martial arts you want," he promised, giving her a kiss, then grinning at her. "I'll teach 'im how ta be a good cop and a good shot and you teach him honor and how to kick ass like you do." She smiled and stroked his cheek before giving him another gentle kiss.
"Not in front of us," Vecchio complained as he walked in. He noticed the face up on the monitors. "Who're you?"
"Al," Ray said. "Xander sent 'im." He stole another kiss. "The baby just kicked her."
"Congrats, Bix," Ray said with a grin. "Just wait, it'll be doing that all the time soon enough." She laughed and patted him on the arm. "Okay, what else are we doing today?"
"Upping our server size so Al's muscles aren't cramped into something that's too tight, just something that looks good on him, then we're making sure everything works and having Tech Support in," Dawn told him. "I had a demon help us move since Xander uses imps."
"If you say so. I'll have my chair blessed or something." He moved it away from his desk, going into the house to get a different one. "Xander sent a house warming present," he told Zenigata when he came in. "We have an Artificial Intelligence named Al."
"Al?" Vecchio nodded. "Wonderful. Why are you stealing chairs?"
"Dawn had the demonic decorating crew in."
"Wonderful." He walked that way, taking his old chair from his office out to put behind his desk. He heard the squealing and winced, walking inside. "Hi." He gave his wife a kiss. "Problems?"
"Tech Support said we can have the old servers they're getting rid of, Mark's coming over with them." She grinned at him. "He's staying for dinner." He cleared his throat and nodded, heading over to sit down and check his desk. "I only made her put things together and stuff, really, guys!"
"I'd still rather not take that chance. I like being a good Catholic boy," Ray reminded her as he walked in with the offspring who wanted to be cops. "There, go help by making sure the files are in order." They went to work, Sierra stopping to pat Bix on the stomach.
"You, none of those for at least ten years," Zenigata ordered. "By the way, write your sister."
"Yes, sir. I'll do that tonight." She went to help, smiling up at the computer. "Hi, Al. How's it shakin'? You still havin' cyber nookie with Cheyenne Mountain?"
"Sure am and he's one hot alien piece of ass," Al said smugly, smirking down at her. "By the way, there's going to be two new Goemon children. A boy and a girl."
"Cool. I'll write him later too," Sierra agreed happily.
"Do you need help, Al?"
"No, I'm waiting for a looser size of storage," he admitted.
"That's fine, my man, just yell if you need me." She looked at the cube, then up at him. "Did you need this still or should I send it back to mom?"
"No, leave it here so we can go onto the laptops too, baby child. They'll need me to help them with those nasty boys and girls who do naughty things, like tease."
"We usually go for those who kill and maim," Ray told him.
"Well, then they certainly need to be caught! After all, they'll take all the pretty people away!" Al said, working himself back into a fit.
"Calm down, that's why we're here," Ray Kowalski assured him.
"That's good then," he agreed with a sniff. He smiled at the man coming in carrying the boxes. "Oooh, you gorgeous stud!" he said happily. "Have you come to fit me for some new pants?"
Mark nearly dropped the server, staring at him in shock. "Who're you? The last time I knew Uncle didn't have an AI program in his office."
"Lavelle sent him," Ray said dryly, smirking at him. "It's one of his."
"He's having cyber sex with the military one in the US," Savannah told him, grinning at him. "Hi, Mark. Need help?"
"Sure, I wouldn't mind. There's six more just like this one outside and it looks like it's going to rain."
"OOOOH! Not lightening!" Al shrieked, disappearing from the screens.
Mark looked at his uncle. "Are you sure he likes you?" he asked quietly.
"No, Lavelle likes them," he said, pointing at the Rays and Bix. "How are you feeling, Bix?"
"Pregnant. The baby kicked a while ago," she said with a small smile. "Should I start dinner?"
"Sure you can help me," Dawn offered.
"No, I'm in the mood to cook," she promised, sliding past her to go do that. That way she wouldn't have to correct Dawn before she ruined another meal.
Dawn sighed. "I can cook!"
"Yeah, but she'll make food from home," Zenigata said with a smile. "You've never been good at stir frying, Dawn." She sighed and nodded, going to help Mark and show him what had already been done. He and Vecchio shared a look, that had been close. "Any news from home?" he asked.
"Yeah, the big goofball sent my Ma half a ton of cheese," he said dryly. He leaned back in the old chair. "Not only was it one of those hefty, huge, only used in restaurants locally wheels of parmesan, but he had it sent in the full half of the wheel, rind still on. My Ma's in heaven, even when I told her who that was. They're doing a benefit for their church though so it's all good to her. He also sent her some new wine to try for him and she's delighted and sharing it with her friends."
"That's fine, he sent you a few bottles too. They're in the refrigerator," Dawn told him, smirking at him. "One red, one white, and one in a bottle I can't tell."
"Fine." He went to find them, knowing she had probably chilled them too much already. He found the three bottles in the wine cooler, so that was good of her. He pulled them out. "Dessert wine, dry white wine, hmm, good red wine makers," he decided, looking at the bottle. "Not too old, so not too strong. Maybe for dinner. Bix, what're we having?"
"Xander said to let those age for at least six more months, if not longer," she chastised. "The dessert red is from the experimental stuff. The white is from the new vineyard, some of their stock from last year. The other is a red from the new crop and needs at least a year." She kissed him on the cheek. "We don't need wine tonight. Not everyone can drink it."
"Fine." He took them out to his desk, he'd take them home later. It was cold enough out there. "We'll need heaters out here eventually."
"That's what I forgot," Dawn complained. "I need to capture that demon again."
Zenigata pulled her over and kissed her. "We can hire a contractor," he assured her. "No more demons in my house, Dawn. You can't keep up with Xander." He kissed her again then let her go with a pat. "Go check on the others. I haven't heard any screams yet."
"Yeah, well, your mother's favorite has picked up a bad Fred habit. He's begun to try to nurse off his sisters." She went up there anyway to check on the kids. They had been too quiet.
"Nice job, sir," Ray said happily.
"Thanks, Zenny," Kowalski agreed with a grin for him.
"Thank you, Uncle Zenny," Mark agreed with a smile for him. "I've never understood the dark desire for demons."
"Sometimes it's easier," Vecchio said with a shrug. His phone rang so he pulled it out. "Yeah, Ma?" He smiled. "No, I'm not doing much. We're setting up the new office. No, Interpol kicked us back to consulting status. What's wrong?" He grinned. "Really? Why?" He glared at Zenigata. "No, that's fine. Did it come with hotel reservations or should I make you some? Sure! Not an issue. We can take the train down there and everything, Ma. No, I'm still living with Stan and Bix. Yeah, no, actually she's in the kitchen and Stan's doing his email searches for new problems. Sure! Not a problem! See ya next week, Ma. Love you too!" He hung up and put his head down. "Remind me to shoot Lupin the next time I see her!"
"What did she do?" Zenigata asked.
"My *whole* family is coming over to visit for a week here and then a week in Italy."
"I'll clean tonight," Ray promised. "Rooms?"
"They're apparently got a very nice place set up for them in a small apartment. It'll be cramped for a few days, but they can manage Ma said." Ray looked at his roommate. "Xander gave her his supply depot in town."
"Shit," Zenigata said in awe. "I'll start the paperwork."
"We're consultants, you don't have to fill it out anymore," Kowalski reminded him. "And hey, no more sand from the Middle East ever again hopefully." Zenigata smirked at him. "What? They don't like me and I don't understand them. I'm honest, not a bigot. It's mutual distrust in this case. Ever since that cop tried to have me arrested as an unescorted girl I can't really find it in me to like 'em."
"I just don't like the sand, it gets into everything," Vecchio said sarcastically. "How did they think you were a girl?"
"I don't know. Who knows. I never thought I looked like I had tits. I still say that was Xander playing a practical joke." His email beeped. "Hey, the bug came too. No, it wasn't a prank, it was a myopic cop who only saw my hair," he read. "Eeehh, whatever." He deleted it. "We've got to find that bug."
"It's somewhere on Dawn," Zenigata told them. "I got one critiquing my performance one night. There may be others now." He pointed at the cube device hooked to their server.
Vecchio picked up the scanner and went to find Dawn, finding her cuddling the baby who was fussing in his sleep. "Hold still, it's on you." He found it eventually but it was embedded. "We'll have someone cut that out for you," he said dryly, going back to the office. "It's in her scalp, four fingers width from her left ear toward the middle of the back of her head."
"Thanks, I'll have someone yank it out later," Zenigata said. "Scan everything else."
Kowalski took it, it was his turn this week. They found a few more but mostly just ones in things they had known about before. The one in Vecchio's locked drawer was new but the blush was enough to make him look. He saw the picture of Melissa in that bikini and blushed himself. "No wonder you locked that up," he muttered, moving on. He shook his head, not imagining his own wife in that thing. He stopped what he was doing to give her a kiss and pat his baby. "Did you get to see Melissa in that string bikini made of knots?"
"I saw the picture," she said with a smile. "It'd hang off me, dear, but you can appreciate her. She is a beautiful child, who is dating Homer."
He grinned. "Good point. Thanks, love." He kissed her and went back to his scanning. He found another set of pictures in Zenny's desk with another bug and shook his head. "I don't need ta know, just hide 'em better. She can pick locks." Both sets of pictures got put into pockets and he went on, finding another one in the cube but he couldn't remove it, it kept shocking him. "Hey, Al, you've got a listening device on your cube. Mind kickin' it out?"
"That tickles and I'm still hiding from the lightening!"
"Fine. I'll get it later," he promised, moving onto the other stuff.
To Part 59