Nick smiled, though he was nervous. He knew the diamond-and-sapphire heart pendant necklace was worth at least fifteen hundred dollars, and he needed a quick infusion of cash. Leaving Paris had used up his available funds, and as he'd learned, jewelry had lasting value. He hadn't expected to incur as many expenses as he had in his move to Chicago; he'd forgotten just how expensive it could be to move, especially when he hadn't been drawing a regular paycheck for quite some time and had been living off of friends.
He hoped that Amanda hadn't been lying when she had told him that the jewelry was part of a heist she'd done fifty years ago. The last thing he needed was some hotshot Chicago cop on his ass, trying to figure out how one Nick Wolfe had ended up with stolen merchandise. He'd initially been reluctant to accept the jewelry, knowing how Amanda had obtained them, but the Immortal thief had insisted that he'd keep them.
Silently, Nick thanked her for the gift, though a part of him wondered if every time he started over, she would be a part of it. Every moment he spent now was a second beyond what he'd anticipated having. He'd thought he was going to die of poison, but Amanda had had other plans. She'd loved him too much, she'd told him later, to just let him die when she knew he could live forever. So, she'd shot him, then later tried to make up for playing God with his life by sending him a teacher and a sword. In time, he'd accepted his life and had even tried to love her, but nothing would ever be the same between them.
Therefore, he hadn't tried. It was easier on his heart, anyway, to leave and start somewhere fresh, somewhere where no one knew his name and the memories were just waiting to happen. Now, all he needed was some cash to tide him over until he got a job.
He'd been in Chicago less than a week, intent on seeing if he could perhaps establish a life there. He'd been a cop in Torago, and he'd been considering becoming one again. Though maybe not right away, he thought, given the kind of transaction I'm conducting right now.
He waited patiently as the jeweler examined the necklace he'd brought with him. Suspecting the jeweler would be suspicious if he didn't give him a story, Nick produced one. "My aunt died last week," he told the jeweler, "and I have no use for jewelry. I think she thought I'd give it to my ex-wife. Aunt Serena was always a romantic." He realized abruptly that his English had a slight French accent to it, and it dawned on him that he was thinking in French and then translating it in English. I've definitely been in Paris too long, he told himself.
The jeweler grunted. "Your aunt has good taste. These sapphires are purple. You don't see those too often. I'll give you thirteen hundred for the necklace."
"Nineteen," Nick haggled instinctively.
The jeweler looked at him in surprise, then smiled, and the negotiating began.
Twenty minutes later, Nick walked out with a check for one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars. As he stepped out onto the sidewalk, the unmistakable migraine-like warning of another Immortal slammed into his consciousness.
Nick swore. He wasn't eager to fight anyone, and he'd come to hate the aftereffects of a Quickening.
Slowly, he turned around, searching for the source of the warning. He found a thin, black-haired teenager dressed all in black staring at him from just outside the piercing parlor next door. Instinctively, Nick knew he'd found his mystery Immortal.
"I don't want to fight you," Nick said quietly.
"Too bad," the teenager said. "I know you, Nick Wolfe. You don't remember me, I'm sure, but I know you. You sent me to jail, and I died there."
Nick narrowed his gaze. Torago, where Nick had been a cop, wasn't all that far away from Chicago — a few hours at most by car. There were a number of cases he'd been involved in that had been committed by juveniles.
"Brent Koeltzow," the teenager threw out his name defiantly.
"Armed robbery of a convenience store." The mental case file clicked, and Nick realized he wouldn't be getting out of this one. "So now that you have a chance to live forever, you'd like to die."
Brent sneered, the expression marring what was otherwise a fairly nondescript face. "No, I'd like for you to die."
Nick assessed the younger man, seeing the burning hate, the resentment. For a moment, his mind flashed on how he had been angry with Amanda for the choices she had made in his life, and how long it had taken him to accept the gift she'd given him. "You don't have to do this," he told Brent. "You have a shot at something few people do."
Brent laughed coldly. "Don't try and sell me on how good life is. I already know. But you, you don't deserve to live. In the end, there can only be one of us."
Nick took one last look and sighed, resigned. "Let's take this somewhere more private then, shall we?"
"So, you've really moved into a new place," Ray Kowalski remarked to Benton Fraser as they walked down the street. He was happy for his friend and unofficial partner; though Ray knew Fraser had managed to live in what amounted to a file room at the Canadian Consulate for several months now, it wasn't exactly Ray's idea of home. He still wasn't sure how Fraser had managed to live like that.
Ray had been on a stakeout the day that Fraser had moved into his new apartment, so he hadn't seen it yet. This was the first opportunity the two friends had had to get together since their return from adventuring in Canada, and Ray had been looking forward to it for weeks.
"Well, Ray, I couldn't stay at the Consulate forever," Fraser pointed out reasonably. "It was only temporary quarters since my apartment building burned down. I never intended to live there for an extended period of time, but as you are aware, I had difficulty finding a place that would allow a wolf onto the premises. Since Inspector Thatcher returned to Canada, it made it especially imperative that — " He stopped abruptly and cocked his Stetson-covered head towards an alley.
"What?" Ray glanced at his friend and groaned at the intent look he saw on the other man's boyishly handsome face. That usually meant Fraser's white knight instincts were on full alert, and trouble wouldn't be far behind.
Damn it, why now? Ray wondered.
Ray ran a hand through his short blond hair and tried for a voice of reason, knowing even as he did so his efforts would probably be in vain.
"Fraser, whatever it is, whatever you heard with your Superman-like hearing, can we just ignore it, just once? You know we're both off-duty right now, and you know your new boss isn't going to like us having to explain just how you came to be involved with a non-Canadian-related thing... "
Ray let his voice trail off as he realized Fraser wasn't listening; he was already headed down the alley. Ray swore under his breath. It didn't look like they were going to be checking out Fraser's new apartment any time soon.
"Can't he just turn off being a Mountie just for ten minutes? Ten minutes, that's all I ask," he muttered to no one in particular. For half a second, he considered just walking on, but both the cop and the friend in him wouldn't allow it. Reluctantly, he followed the plaid-shirted Mountie down the alley.
As he drew closer, he heard steel clashing with steel. It sounded like something out of a movie. Puzzled and wary, Ray drew his gun and put on his glasses. He turned a corner, crashing into Fraser as the other man snagged him and pulled him behind a stack of wooden crates.
"What's going on?" Ray hissed.
"Two men are having what appears to be a sword fight. I believe they are using actual swords, as one of them seems to have been cut several times. When I came up to them, one of them had the other's sword at his throat, and appeared to be trying to convince the other to end the fight. The offer was refused, and they have been battling since. It's actually quite interesting. "
"A sword fight?! Here? Now? Why didn't anyone tell me that perps have sworn off guns and decided to go 'Braveheart?' Did I miss the memo?" Even though Ray knew Fraser would never lie to him, he still didn't believe what had been said. It seemed incomprehensible to him that anyone would want to fight with swords in the middle of Chicago on a late summer day.
"See for yourself," Fraser invited. "It appears that they are engaged in some sort of ritualistic combat."
"And you didn't charge in to stop it?" Ray asked, surprised.
"Well, Ray, I thought it might be prudent in this case to wait for you, as you have a gun, and as you so often have pointed out to me, I don't."
"Now you remember," Ray said, rolling his eyes. "All right, let's get these Zorro wannabes."
Ray leaned past the crates, and saw exactly what Fraser had described. It didn't look like two people rehearsing for some movie, either.
The man on Ray's right was solidly built, approximately six feet tall, and moved his body with the grace of a natural athlete. He had sandy brown hair and was dressed in a blue button-down shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. Ray estimated his weight to be around 210 pounds and his age to be in his early thirties. His high-boned face was bisected by a strong nose, deep-set eyes, and marred by a day's growth of beard.
The sword the stranger held was huge — at least a good three and half feet long, but the length didn't seem to be a detriment to his attacks. His smile held grim confidence.
The man on Ray's left was slimmer and shorter than his opponent and looked like a teenage Gothic-wannabe. Rips marred his black T-shirt and jeans. His sword looked positively feminine in comparison to the beast his enemy wielded.
Ray looked back at Fraser. "This isn't happening, Fraser. I'm dreaming this, right?"
"If you are, Ray, then we both are having the same dream. However, as I can assure that I, at least, am wide awake, and since I know you've been awake for several hours, I believe what we are seeing is real."
"Next time, just answer me, 'No, Ray.' None of that long-winded stuff I can barely follow."
Ray nodded, satisfied.
A moment passed. "Uh, Ray?"
"I believe you were going to apprehend the two swordsmen?"
Ray swore at his loss of concentration, and returned his attention to the fight. He stepped past the crates and stopped in his tracks.
As Ray watched, Button Down Shirt slashed across Gothic's stomach, effectively disemboweling him. Screaming in pain, Gothic fell to his knees, dropping his sword. His opponent didn't hesitate, but brought his sword down across Gothic's neck and sliced clean through.
Then the world exploded and lightning began to strike out of a clear blue sky. Ray was shouting something; he was sure he was trying to arrest the stranger for murder, but Fraser was pulling him back, forcing him to take cover behind the stack of crates as a blue haze started to form around the two swordsmen. Wind rose to batter them with debris, forcing Ray to shield his eyes. He risked a look around the stack of crates in time to see the victor being lifted off the ground by what appeared to be a single strand of lightning.
Even over the wind and the sounds of things in the alley spontaneously combusting and shattering, Ray heard Fraser gasp at the sight as he tried yet again to pull Ray to safety. Too stunned to think, the two men could only stare at what logic told them could not happen.
The victor screamed, a cry that seemed torn from the soul. He brought his sword down with great effort, slamming it onto the ground. It seemed to bring him back down to earth, but the weird blue lightning continued to batter his body, bringing him to his knees.
Fraser chose that moment to come to his senses, and yanked Ray back behind the crates.
After what seemed like an eternity, the lightning faded. Cautiously, Ray peered around the stack of crates. The victor of the sword fight locked gazes with him as he started to pick up the loser's sword.
Ray found his voice. "Freeze. Chicago PD." He pointed his gun at the murderer and flashed his badge. "Put down that sword. Both of them. Slowly."
The stranger hesitated.
"I said, put it down."
The other man sighed heavily, and set the swords down with exaggerated care.
"Step away from them," Ray ordered, approaching him cautiously. "Fraser, would you grab the swords?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Ray saw Fraser do as he asked. Ray lowered his gun as he grabbed his handcuffs, intending to cuff his prisoner.
Abruptly, the man took off running.
Ray swore, and took off after him.
"Cut him off!" Ray shouted to Fraser over his shoulder. He didn't stop to look back to see if his partner was complying with the demand, knowing that Fraser would do so even if Ray hadn't said something.
The guy was fast, quicker than Ray had expected. He was also good, creating obstacles Ray was forced to overcome. Then he turned a corner into a crowd, and Ray lost him.
Swearing at his misfortune, Ray made his way back to where he'd abandoned the corpse. Fraser showed up a few minutes later, as Ray was calling in his report. "Any luck?"
Fraser seemed just slightly out of breath, but he still managed to look impeccably groomed. "Lost him when he jumped off the roof." He shook his head. "No one could have survived a six-story fall. I thought he was dead, but when I made my way back down to the ground, he was gone."
"Roof? What roof?"
"Well, Ray, when he took off running, I chose to pursue a course I hoped would intercept him, as you were already following him. When I caught up to him, he proceeded to go up the nearest fire escape and I continued to chase him. I nearly had him, but rather than surrender peacefully, he chose to jump."
"We'll find his dead ass," Ray vowed.
Stepping into the two-bedroom apartment he'd rented on the north end of the city, Nick breathed a sigh of relief. He'd cut it close; too close for his own liking. He had doubled back and grabbed his sword, not wanting to leave it behind. It had nearly cost him; he'd glanced back and seen the Stetson-wearing cop turn the corner. As a result, he'd been forced to abandon Brent's sword, though he'd intended to take it as a backup to his own.
He set the bloodstained sword on the coffee table. It was a handcrafted hand-and-a-half sword, made in the seventeenth century. A wolf's head, with rubies for eyes, formed the base of the flaring steel crosspiece. The grip was leather-wrapped wood. It was unlike any other sword Nick had ever seen, though he knew now that its maker had made a hybrid of an Irish sword and a Scottish claymore. It had been a gift from Amanda, an apology of sorts for triggering his Immortality and playing God with his life. Though he still didn't agree with her decision to do so, he had accepted his fate, and moved on with his life.
As he quickly cleaned the sword, Nick reflected on the events of the day. Running into Brent hadn't been in Nick's plans. Then again, he never wanted a life where he had to go around chopping other people's heads off in order to live forever. He'd offered Brent a chance to live, but the younger Immortal had spurned it. Then he'd launched an attack that had taken Nick by surprise, and Nick had been forced to defend or die.
The deed was done, though. Nick closed his eyes as he wiped the last traces of blood away. The Quickening danced on the edge of his consciousness, reminding him of what had transpired. From his two previous experiences, Nick knew it would be hours yet before it fully settled. When it did, he would be tired for days, but until then, he was restless and energized. He was glad that the Quickening had given him the adrenaline he'd needed to escape the two cops, but hated the fact that the power had come to him at the cost of another life. He sighed, resigned to his fate, and opened his blue-green eyes.
The cops would be looking for him, he knew. They wouldn't be content just to leave a headless corpse alone, especially since they'd seen him commit the murder. He'd known the instant he had seen the blond-haired man that he had been caught red-handed. The shocked look on the other men's faces had told him they'd seen what had happened, and that they weren't a part of the Watchers, a secret organization of mortals who chronicled the lives of Immortals. The order to freeze had only served to confirm that Nick was in trouble.
The smarter thing would have been to accept the arrest, face the music, but Nick wasn't prepared to deal with that set of consequences. The next best thing to do would be to leave town, but Nick wasn't ready to do that just yet either.
Might be fun, seeing if I can match wits against another cop, now that I'm Immortal.
He smiled grimly to himself.
Somehow, something told him he'd need all his talent to get out of this one. He cursed the impulse he'd had to take Brent's sword; they would undoubtedly run his prints. The address he'd given the jeweler wasn't the one he was currently at; he had just dreamed it up on the spur of the moment, not wanting to reveal himself in case Amanda had lied and the jewelry was still hot merchandise. He said a quick prayer of thanks that he'd been that paranoid. It would give him some time to figure out what to do next. He had cash. He had his sword. Now all he had to do was keep his head.
"I'm telling you, Fraser, what I saw doesn't make sense," Ray said as they drove back to the station, having cleared the scene. "Even magicians use wires. That guy back there was no magician."
"Well, then, how do you explain it?"
"I don't know," Ray sputtered. "It just isn't normal, okay? People do not go around Chicago lifting off the ground — "
"Levitating, Ray. The word is levitating."
"Lever waiting, lifting off the ground, whatever," Ray said carelessly, waving his free hand. "I don't know how it is up in Canada, Fraser, but here in Chicago, lightning does not do that to a person."
"Actually, Ray, there have been documented cases where lightning has — "
"Yeah, but did they live to tell about it?"
Fraser rubbed an eyebrow in a gesture of annoyance. "In a diminished capacity, yes."
"Which means what?" Ray asked impatiently as he waited for the light to change. His fingers drummed on the steering wheel. "Their brains got scrambled from the electricity, right?"
"That would be one result, yes."
"Did that guy run like his brains were fried? "
"Mental capacity is something best left for a psychiatrist to determine, Ray."
"Oh, don't give me that mumbo jumbo. You saw it, too." He glanced over at Fraser, and nodded sagely. "Yeah, you know as well as I do the guy was sane. Even if he did kill himself jumping off the roof."
"Ray, the light is green," Fraser remarked. "And I cannot be certain he was indeed dead."
Ray snorted at Fraser's obvious reluctance to give a concrete reply, but pressed the accelerator pedal and powered the black GTO through the intersection.
"So what you're trying to tell me is that you witnessed a murder and you lost the suspect." Lt. Welsh, a heavyset man in his fifties, reiterated the facts as Ray and Fraser stood in his office. "Any other witnesses besides you two?"
"No, sir." This was said almost simultaneously by both Ray and Fraser.
"Any ID yet on the guy who croaked?"
"His wallet identified him as one Brent Koeltzow, age nineteen," Fraser replied, rattling off the teenager's home address.
"Frannie's checking for relatives," Ray added, referring to the civilian aide who often performed his research, "but it doesn't look like there's any."
"So what's the deal with the sword?" Lt. Welsh asked, gesturing to the object in question, which now lay in a sealed evidence bag on his desk.
"They were trying to kill each other with them," Ray supplied. "The other guy's was huge. What did you call it, Fraser?"
"A hand-and-a-half sword, Ray. The name is derived from the type of handle it has. It doesn't require a full two hands to wield it, but it would be fairly substantial in its weight and cutting power. This sword here," Fraser nodded to the one on Welsh's desk, "is a rapier, the kind that was used in duels in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is the basis for the sport of fencing, in particular, foil fencing."
"So what does that mean?" Lt. Welsh asked.
"Means that the other guy was outmatched, even before he started," Ray interjected, forestalling the explanation he saw coming out of Fraser's mouth.
Lt. Welsh looked at Ray in surprise.
"Fraser explained it to me on the way over," Ray said hurriedly, clearly uncomfortable with the scrutiny his commanding officer was giving him. "Basically, this Koeltzow guy went into a fight hoping he was quicker than the other guy. Right, Fraser?"
"That is correct, Ray."
Lt. Welsh rubbed a hand over his face in a gesture that said clearly that sword-wielding killers were not what he wanted to deal with, nor had they even been on his list of potential problems. "We got any ID on the suspect?"
"Not yet," Ray answered. "Lab boys think they might be able to get some prints off the sword."
"All right." Lt. Welsh sighed. "You guys know the drill. Keep me posted."
Ray nodded his confirmation and walked out the door as Fraser thanked the lieutenant before taking his own leave.
"You didn't tell the Lieutenant about the lightning, Ray," Fraser pointed out as he caught up with the detective, who had returned to his desk.
"How am I gonna explain that?" Ray questioned. "I'm telling you, Fraser, that — that weird light show made no sense. That was no ordinary lightning. That was like out of some sci-fi movie. Do you want Welsh to think I'm crazy?"
"Well, no, Ray, of course not," Fraser returned steadily.
"Then let's just forget we saw that, okay?"
Fraser looked at Ray, clearly wanting to pursue the subject further.
"Let's go," Ray said abruptly, unearthing his keys from the chaos that was his desk.
"Where are we headed, Ray?"
"That alley was behind a market. I can't believe no one saw anything. You think you can come up with a sketch of the guy?"
Forty-five minutes of questioning later, Ray and Fraser struck pay dirt.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" the jeweler said as Fraser and Ray stepped into the office.
"Yes, we're looking for someone who we understand was in your shop earlier today."
"Yeah, I remember this guy," the jeweler said, looking at Fraser's sketch. "Spoke with a French accent, said his name was Nicolas Lope. I have his address right here. I don't give out that much cash without a receipt."
"A very smart thing to do," Fraser commented as the jeweler copied the address.
"So this guy, he didn't steal anything, did he?"
Ray glanced at Fraser. "No, he didn't steal anything. We just want to ask him a few questions."
"I see. Well, hope this helps," the jeweler said, passing the note to Ray.
Ray grinned wolfishly, looking at the address. "Looks like our guy likes the same places you do," he told Fraser as they left the jewelers.
"What makes you say that, Ray?"
"He's your next door neighbor."
Fraser looked at the address. "That's not possible, Ray. There is no such apartment number."
"However, I would like to pick up Diefenbaker, as I'm sure he will be sulking if I leave him at home all day."
Ray sighed. "Yeah, yeah, we'll get the wolf," he said irritably.
Ray and Fraser headed back to the station, stopping off at Fraser's apartment to pick up Diefenbaker, and (Fraser suspected) to verify that there was indeed no apartment 16 in the complex.
"Hey, Frannie," Ray said as he passed the civilian aide's desk, "I need you to run this sword through the lab for prints." He dropped the weapon, which had been sealed into an evidence bag, onto her desk.
"What do I look like," the Italian-American woman complained, "your secretary?" She turned to Fraser and flashed him a thousand-watt smile. "Hi, Fraser," she said seductively.
"Good afternoon, Francesca," he returned evenly, oblivious as always to her attempts at flirtation.
"Frannie," Ray said warningly.
She pouted momentarily before returning her attention to Ray. "No, you take it to the lab," her voice turning sour.
"Fraser," Ray said, annoyed, "ask her to do her job."
"Francesca, we need that sword analyzed for fingerprints."
Instantly, she brightened. "Anything for you, Fraser," she informed him, picking up the weapon and brushing her barely-clad body against him as she headed for the lab.
It was some time later that she returned.
"Any ID on the guy who killed Koeltzow?" Ray pounced on her.
"He's not Nicolas Lope, if that's what you're asking," she informed him. "Funny thing. He's a cop."
"A cop?" Ray pounced on the information.
"Well," the Italian-American woman drawled, "used to be a cop." She handed him a printout and looked smug, before turning to Fraser. "You look good, Fraser," she said throatily, leaning in a little closer to him than was necessary.
Ray glared at her obvious attempt at flirtation while Fraser looked uncomfortable. "Thank you, Francesca," Fraser returned politely.
"Anytime, Fraser," she replied.
Not for the first time, Ray wondered when Frannie would ever get a clue that Fraser wasn't interested. Rather than dwell on it, though, Ray snagged the sheet from her fingers and scanned the information. "Nick Wolfe, and that's 'wolf' with an 'e' at the end. Detective First Class with the Torago Metro PD. Isn't that near the border, Fraser?"
Fraser nodded, and quoted the exact distance from Torago to the border, causing Ray to roll his eyes. "It's interesting to note, Ray, that Nicolas Lope, translated literally, would be Nick Wolf in French, though that would be the 'wolf' as in — " A sharp yip sounded from the floor. Fraser looked down at the half-wolf who'd chosen that moment to show up from wherever in the station he had wandered off to after Fraser and Ray had arrived. "Yes, Diefenbaker, I said 'wolf', and no, I wasn't referring to you. Well, not you specifically."
Diefenbaker whined. There were times Ray swore the dog was not only not deaf, but human in his interpretations of insult.
"Now is not the time to discuss your lack of female companionship, Diefenbaker," Fraser said sternly. He turned back to Ray. "As I was saying, it's just the French version of Mr. Wolfe's name."
"So that means he knows French."
"Or at least enough to translate his name."
Ray nodded his agreement. "The jeweler said he spoke with an accent, so it's probably a safe bet to say he knows it." Ray glanced at the printout again, reading further. "Looks like he was a good cop once. Two citations for bravery, commended numerous times for his work, rose through the ranks pretty quickly. Says here that he quit when his partner died in the line of duty. Was up for a promotion to lieutenant, too."
"A not uncommon reaction," Fraser noted, "if a bit extreme."
"Yeah, well, that's enough to screw anyone up," Ray remarked as he read further. "Hey, here's something. Interpol reports his current whereabouts as 'may be in the company of known international thief Amanda Montrose, AKA the Raven.'"
"Montrose?" Fraser questioned. "There was an Amanda Darieux who has been wanted for a series of jewel thefts across Canada. She was known for wearing a flaring black trench coat and someone had dubbed her the Raven for it."
"Probably the same woman," Ray surmised. His tone indicated that, as usual, he was going off of gut feeling he had. "In any case, this guy is wanted for questioning in connection to a series of art thefts in Paris. Possible suspect in the death of Nadia Chapaev. No charges filed due to lack of evidence."
"I talked to a friend of a friend," Frannie interjected, her eyes wide with the excitement of relating a tidbit of gossip. "Everyone at his old precinct thinks he's in cahoots with this Amanda chick. Says she's his girlfriend."
"A bad cop?" Ray exchanged looks with Fraser.
"He isn't an officer of the law any more, Ray," Fraser pointed out, taking the sheet from Ray. "There are many reasons a man may choose to be with another person. He may well be in love with her."
Ray rolled his eyes at Fraser's comment. "Come on, take a look at that arrest record of his. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to fall in love with a thief."
"It is possible, Ray."
Something in Fraser's voice, the barest inflection of personal pain, made Ray take a second look at his partner. Fraser wasn't looking at anyone, seemingly fascinated with the details of the printed information. With a sudden rush, Ray recalled how, when he'd taken on the role of impersonating Ray Vecchio, Fraser's previous partner at the Chicago PD, he'd been briefed on a certain female criminal in Fraser's past. He'd read the case file, written up by Vecchio, and did his share of asking around. Ray knew the only thing that had stopped Fraser from throwing his life away for that woman had been a bullet fired by Vecchio. Now, seeing the rigid way Fraser held himself, Ray realized he hadn't quite believed all that he'd heard and read... until now.
Suddenly uncomfortable, Ray glanced at Frannie, who was staring at him like he was from another planet. What the hell were you thinking? her look demanded. He winced and looked back at Fraser.
Fraser's eyes weren't on the paper anymore, but at some distant point only he could see.
Mentally, Ray swore. Not for the first time, Ray cursed the fact that he'd stepped into Vecchio's shoes and yet was supposed to know everything Vecchio had. Even though Ray had his own name back now and no longer had to pretend to be Vecchio, there were moments when he wished he'd never agreed to the undercover assignment in the first place. It would be a million light years easier if he'd been just some new guy who had no clue he'd just set off the alarm on the territory marked "Mountie Mistake." Hello, my name is Stanley Ray Kowalski, and I'm from Mars...
"Yeah, I uh, I'd guess you'd know about that," Ray said awkwardly. He quickly looked at Frannie. "Frannie, look up that Chapaev death. I wanna know how she died."
Ray risked a glance at Fraser, and saw the rigid, unfocused stare snap back to attention. He sighed, privately relieved the awkward moment had passed, and proceeded to follow the civilian aide back to her desk and crowded around her computer, with Fraser a step behind him. After some effort, Frannie produced the information.
"I'll give you two guesses on how Chapaev died," Ray said, looking over Frannie's shoulder at the computer screen. "And the first one doesn't count."
"Beheaded," Fraser returned, "by a sword or similar object."
"The report says they had Wolfe's sword," Ray read.
"Did they get any information on the sword?" Fraser asked.
"Um, let me think. Oh! Yeah, I think I saw that somewhere. Now what key was it that had that screen?" Frannie thought for a moment, then ventured to hit a key. Ray held his breath as the screen changed, then released it heavily as the screen went black. Frannie had apparently used up her quota of capability for the day.
"Stupid thing," Frannie swore as Ray began to hound her.
"Never mind, Francesca, we'll make some phone calls," Fraser said, noting her increasing frustration. "Ray. Ray. Ray."
"Yeah, I'm coming."
Just then, Lt. Welsh called them. "There's been an explosion at a warehouse down by the docks. They found a headless body," he said gruffly. "I need you two to go check it out."
The warehouse looked as though it had been bombed. Shattered glass lay everywhere. Ray was reminded of pictures from the Oklahoma City bombing; it was the only thing he could compare the scene that lay ahead of him to. As a result, he was secretly glad the carnage was limited to the warehouse, and didn't seem to include people. He glanced at the officer in charge of the scene, a Sgt. Hunter.
"Bomb squad's already looking this over," Sgt. Hunter told them as she led Ray and Fraser towards the center of the wreckage. She was a diminutive woman with a Tinkerbell-like face who wore her brunette hair in a French braid. "They say it's the most interesting demolition they've ever seen. Whatever blew this place came from the dead guy, over here. They can't find a trigger for the explosion, though."
Sgt. Hunter stopped in front of a headless corpse, dressed in what Fraser recognized as an Armani suit similar to what Ray Vecchio had favored. The dead man was portly and had swarthy skin.
"Any ID on this guy?" Ray asked.
"Running his prints now." Sgt. Hunter smiled, but in a not-entirely-friendly manner. "What brings a guy from the 27th and a Mountie here?"
"We're working on a case that might be related," Ray interjected before Fraser could speak. Ray had a sneaking suspicion that Fraser would tell everyone the story of precisely how he'd come to be in Chicago at the drop of a hat. In the detective's opinion, there wasn't really time for that now. Then again, Ray knew he'd heard it enough times to recite it in his sleep.
"I see," Sgt. Hunter said, though her tone indicated she resented the intrusion they represented on what appeared to be a fairly clear-cut case. Though they were supposedly on the same side, the explosion had happened in another precinct. On the surface, there wasn't much reason for two other officers from another precinct to be on the scene.
Any other day, Ray would have been inclined to agree with her. Any other day, Ray would have been inclined to try and flirt with her. Something told him he'd have better luck elsewhere. Instead, following the instinct that he generally let rule his life, he decided to wander away from the conversation. He smiled when Dief chose to leave Fraser's side to accompany him.
"Did you or your partner happen to find a sword laying anywhere near by, perchance?" Fraser ventured, watching Ray and Dief's apparent meandering out of the corner of his eye.
"Sword?" she asked, confused.
"Yes, a sword," Fraser replied . "Possibly a seventeenth century hand-and-a-half broadsword, with a flaring steel crosspiece and a wolf's head at the base of the crossguard, or something similar."
The petite woman looked up at Fraser as if he was suddenly speaking Chinese. "You can't be serious. Who'd be waving around a sword when you blow up a building?"
Fraser started to explain, certain she was in need of clarification, only to be interrupted by the sudden pressure of Diefenbaker against his leg. He glanced down, and Dief cocked his head towards the northeast corner of the warehouse, where a pile of molten metal Fraser assumed had once been machinery stood. Then the wolf took off at a brisk trot.
Fraser followed, Sgt. Hunter a few steps behind.
They found Ray trying to comfort a woman. She had a heart-shaped face framed by shoulder-length, flame-red hair. A royal blue, short-sleeved, midriff sweater clung to full breasts, exposing a flat stomach and a pierced navel. A denim miniskirt had been eased over generous hips and showed off a pair of long, shapely legs. Her feet were encased in impossibly high heels. From the way she was eyeing one of the shoes, it appeared that she'd broken the heel off of one.
She was laughing at something Ray was pantomiming. From the look on Ray's face, he wasn't finding his effort to communicate with her as funny as she thought it was.
"Oh, good, you're here," Ray declared, seeing Fraser and Sgt. Hunter. "I found her laying here. Her English isn't all that good."
"Everything okay?" Sgt. Hunter asked.
"I think she twisted her left ankle," Ray answered, his eyes going to Fraser, who immediately bent down to check.
Easily, Fraser switched languages. In French, he informed the woman who he was, and received the news that her name was Monique Le Due. He then asked for permission to examine her.
She gave it, smiling bravely. A lock of hair fell over her gold-green eyes, and she reached up with her left hand to brush it back. As she did so, Fraser noticed the inside of her wrist was tattooed with an odd symbol. It looked like a gently swooping V set in a dotted double ring. Fraser didn't recognize it.
"Interesting tattoo," he commented as he moved to examine her ankle.
"Oh, you know, the things you do when you're drunk." She laughed and shrugged her shoulders, causing the midriff sweater she was wearing to ride up. The movement revealed she wasn't wearing a bra. Quickly, Fraser averted his eyes and concentrated on the task at hand.
Expertly, he felt around the swollen joint, noting her sharp wince of pain. "It's badly sprained," he told her, still speaking in French. "You're not going to walk out of here without some assistance."
"How bad is it?" Ray wanted to know.
"Well, I think she pulled the tendon in her ankle," Fraser answered in English. "She's not going to be walking on her own for a while."
"I can call someone," Sgt. Hunter offered her hand going to her radio. "An ambulance?"
"No, no," the woman demurred in English, her French accent strong. "No doctors. It is only, how do you say, a little hurt." Unsteadily, she rose to her feet, only to collapse when her ankle refused to bear her weight.
"Better call one," Ray said to Sgt. Hunter, who nodded and began to issue instructions into her radio.
A few minutes later, the paramedics arrived and took Monique to the hospital. Ray waited until Sgt. Hunter was out of earshot before confiding to Fraser, "I caught her trying to take this."
Ray pulled aside a piece of tarp Fraser had noticed earlier, but had dismissed in his attention to Monique. Light from the blasted windows glinted off of a bloodstained blade.
Fraser stared at it. "We need to tell Sgt. Hunter this."
"In a minute," Ray said, crouching down to look at the sword. He was careful not to touch it. "I just want to see if it's the same as I remember. Hand me something to turn it over with, will you?"
Wordlessly, Fraser handed him a white handkerchief.
Ray took it and moved the sword just enough to see the whole thing in better light. From what Fraser could see of it, it appeared to be the right length.
Ray examined it a moment longer, then rose jerkily to his feet. "Hunter!" he called, stalking off in the direction the sergeant had gone. "We got something for you!"
Fraser looked at the sword as Dief whined softly. The crosspiece of the sword was a plain, no-nonsense affair. Fraser had gotten close enough to the sword Nick Wolfe had wielded to know the sword he was looking at wasn't it.
"Yes, I know," Fraser told his animal companion quietly. "I'm disappointed too."
Dief made a low noise.
"Well, no," Fraser answered, "I didn't expect it to be that easy, but you have to admit, it would have been nice to wrap this one up fairly quickly."
Dief snorted, as if to say, "You would be bored if it was simple."
Silently, Fraser admitted the wolf was right. He chose, though, not to give Dief the satisfaction of hearing him say so. Something told him he'd never hear the end of it if he did.
"Ray, we should wait," Fraser began as Ray expertly picked the lock on Nick's apartment door. Not more than a few hours earlier, Fraser had suggested to Ray that they do a check with the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if Nick had obtained a driver's license; the search had revealed that he had obtained one in his real name. "Just because he didn't answer the knock doesn't mean he's not here. I seriously doubt he'd just leave the sword laying around for anyone to see. Aside from that, the address he gave on his driver's license may not be this one."
Fraser knew talking his partner out of anything by using logic was bound to just result in Ray becoming more stubborn about going his way. Still, the Mountie had to try. "In any case, what we would find here may be subject to your unreasonable search and seizure laws."
"Well, lookee here," Ray drawled, pushing the door open. "It was open. A clear invitation to come in if I ever saw one."
Fraser glared reproachfully at him, but the look was lost on Ray as the latter strolled through the apartment. Resigned, Fraser followed his partner and immediately stepped into the living room. Bookshelves flanked a dark-patterned sofa. A coffee table, set in front of the sofa, held a pair of boxing gloves and a copy of the day's newspaper, which lay open to the TV listings. Across from the coffee table stood an entertainment center, home to a modest home theater system.
The living room opened into the kitchen; the two rooms were separated by a breakfast bar. A short hallway led off to what Fraser presumed to be the bedroom and the bathroom. He could hear the sound of water running and surmised that someone was taking a shower.
Even as the sound registered in Fraser's mind, he saw Ray head for the bathroom.
"Freeze," Ray ordered. "You're under arrest."
"Oh, dear," Fraser said, stepping just inside the bathroom.
Nick stood there, looking surprised, as water dripped down his shocked face. Ray's gun was pointed directly at Nick as the scent of shampoo and steam rose to assault Fraser's senses.
To his credit, Nick recovered quickly. "Mind if I get a towel first before you haul me away?"
Ray stepped back, nearly colliding with Fraser. "No tricks," Ray warned, tossing Nick the towel off of the rack near the door.
Nick snagged it easily. "Sorry to disappoint you, but I left my rabbit hat with my other birthday suit."
Ray glared at him, his eyes narrowing.
"I think," Fraser stepped in before Ray could unleash his temper, "we'd better give Mr. Wolfe some privacy."
"Fine," Ray agreed. "You watch him, then. Make sure he doesn't try to take off through a back window."
Ray stalked out of the bathroom, heading for the living room.
There was a moment of awkward silence as a now-dry Nick stepped out of the shower and discarded the towel. Fraser's eyes automatically followed the movement of the towel, then rose to meet Nick's amused gaze.
"I'll just... I'll, uh, I'll be right here," Fraser stammered, pointing to the hallway. He could feel the heat staining his cheeks as his embarrassment grew.
"You do that," Nick told him, stepping past him to get to the bedroom.
An hour and a half later, Ray stared at Nick as the latter sat, handcuffed, in the chair in the interrogation room. Nick was now attired in a pair of jeans, a loose T-shirt, and sneakers. His hair had dried quickly in the dry air of the police station.
"Come on, Wolfe, you know the drill. You were a cop. You know it'll be easier on you if you just admit we caught you red-handed. You killed Koeltzow and you just beheaded another guy. So why don't you run it by me again about where you were today?"
"You heard me the first time. I was exercising in the park. I'd been home less than ten minutes when you showed up."
Nick shrugged. "You want a name? I don't know. I just moved here. It's some park about a five mile jog up the street from my place. You want witnesses? I can't give 'em to you, but I can tell you, people are watching me all the time."
"What do you expect, Wolfe? Your girlfriend's a thief." Even as Ray said the words, it struck him as odd that Nick would be so aware of his movements being tracked. Maybe he's paranoid, Ray told himself. Ex-cop like him probably has a lot of reason to think someone's watching him.
"She's not my girlfriend." The denial was quick, but Ray watched the flash of pain register on the other man's face and knew he'd struck a nerve.
Ray tried a different tactic. "So this Amanda chick, is she hot?"
That brought a smile to his prisoner's face. "She likes to think so," he drawled, insolence and innuendo in his tone. "Trying to close a few cases on the Raven, Detective? She is an international thief, you know. Think of how that would advance your career."
Ray's eyes narrowed. He'd never been a glory hound, preferring instead the quiet satisfaction of a job well done, but he had to admit the chance to snag a well-known criminal wasn't one he was about to pass up.
"Maybe," Ray hedged.
Nick chuckled humorlessly. "Good luck. I suppose this is where I get to ask you what ratting her out would do for me, supposing of course, I actually knew where she was."
"It might go a long way to helping you."
"Forget it, Detective. You'll just have to chase her like I did. Maybe you'll have better results and actually bring her to justice." He snorted softly. "Providing, of course, she doesn't make you wonder if there is really any justice in this world." With that said, Nick closed his eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Without opening his eyes, Nick replied, "Do you know the story of the raven and the wolf?"
"Is this one of those Eskimo stories?"
Nick laughed shortly. "You sound like you've heard a few."
"Something like that," Ray said impatiently, pacing the room with his characteristic restless, manic energy. "So, what's the story? You gonna tell me about the guy whose head you sliced off?"
Nick shook his head. "Ever watched a wolf play tag with a raven?" he asked casually. "The rules of the game are simple. The raven sits still and within easy reach, the wolf lunges forward, and the raven makes a last-minute escape. Ravens who lose get eaten for lunch. And right now, you're forgetting I not only know this game, but I've been both the raven and the wolf." Nick's voice became mocking. "Right now, Detective Kowalski, from where I'm sitting, I think you're in over your head. Are you sure you aren't on the menu?"
Frustrated, Ray stepped out of the interview room and into the viewing room next door, where Fraser stood, observing the proceedings.
"He's hiding something," Fraser noted.
"Yeah, he's protecting the thief." Disgusted, Ray paced the room. "He knows we got him, why doesn't he just confess?"
"He's protecting something more than a girlfriend," Fraser mused aloud. "It's not uncommon for criminals to have a code of silence, even among those who have fallen a art as partners or who are enemies. We may be running up against that in this case. I don't think he is going to be willing to reveal Amanda's whereabouts in return for leniency on the two murders for which he is accused. "
"We got him. He knows it. He's just being a smartass about it. Probably thinks if he pisses us off enough he'll get off on a technicality."
Fraser wasn't inclined to believe that was entirely the truth. "May I question him?"
Ray looked at his partner, then shrugged. "Go ahead. Maybe he'll talk to you."
Fraser stepped into the room. "Good afternoon. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. I'm Constable Benton Fraser of the RCMP."
Nick opened his eyes in reaction to the change in voice. He eyed Fraser warily. "That would explain the uniform. I thought maybe you'd been called out from a costume party. What's a Mountie doing in Chicago?"
"I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father, and, for reasons that have no bearing at this juncture, have remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian Consulate. " The familiar litany recited, Fraser gestured to the chair across the table from Nick. "May I?"
Nick's eyes widened, then he nodded. "I see. So this is where we play good cop, right?"
"I wouldn't presume to be anything less than a good officer of the law," Fraser said, taking the seat. "One must perform one's duty to the best of their ability."
Nick snorted disbelievingly and closed his eyes, clearly dismissing Fraser.
Aware that Nick, a former police officer, would know about the two-way mirror in the interrogation room, Fraser chose not to insult Nick's intelligence by pretending he hadn't heard the entire conversation Nick had had with Ray. "You seem to know a lot about Inuit mythology."
The other man laughed ironically. "Just call it a minor fascination. I wanted to know why, of all things, a thief would be named after a bird. Wanna hear another one?"
"Actually, I'm quite familiar with a number of them. You see, I grew up in the Northwest Terrorities, and there wasn't a whole lot to do in the evenings but tell stories." Fraser paused. "It's interesting to note that the raven is often mentioned as the thief who stole the sun and the moon and the stars."
"Yeah, and it took a great warrior to bring her back," Nick added, still keeping his eyes closed. "But she claimed she wasn't stealing anything. She was just preventing someone else from plunging the world into darkness." He snorted cynically. "You know, you should never trust a thief. Maybe that's why wolves love to eat ravens for lunch."
Fraser mulled that information over for a moment. "What was it that she lied to you about?" he asked calmly. "Was that what made you leave the police force?"
"Maybe I just wanted a change of scenery," Nick shot back, nearly sneering as he opened his eyes. "See how the other half lives. They're the ones who have it made, Constable. They know what they want, and they get it. No worries about the consequences, no red tape, no playing politics, no running after trouble and wondering why you put up with all the crap."
Fraser regarded Nick mildly, seeing the hurt beneath the bitter mask.
"You fell in love with her."
The statement was made quietly, but even in the observation room, Ray could hear the wealth of understanding the statement carried.
Nick's gaze narrowed. Fraser met the suspicion with as even as a stare as he could manage, ignoring the memories that flooded his mind. Then Nick leaned back in his chair, settling in as best as he could with his hands cuffed.
"My partner died trying to save the life of a thief. A thief who was upset that some creep decided to help himself to the merchandise she had stolen. My partner had a husband and two kids whom she barely saw because she was working all the time. Claudia had a life worth living. Amanda took that all away when Claudia took a bullet for her." The words were angry, bitter, raw. "Why would I love someone who killed my partner?"
Fraser waited patiently, watching the other man. "Love does not always know reason. You followed the Raven into the darkness, hoping to find the light. What you found, though, wasn't what you were looking for, was it?"
Nick stared at him, then looked away. When he finally spoke, his voice was flat, as if he'd removed himself from the room and was speaking as an observer. "Claudia was shot by another cop. He was dirty. The department wanted to cover it up, wanted to avoid an internal investigation. I didn't agree."
"Even if it meant you refusing a promotion?"
Nick looked directly at Fraser. "There are some things that go beyond duty, beyond honor. " Now passion crept into his voice. "If a man is judged by his actions, then there is no need for words to explain to you what I mean."
Fraser said nothing for a moment, letting his silence serve as his agreement. "The sword you had when we first met is unlike anything I've ever seen. Where did you get it?"
The ex-cop smiled cynically. "Swords 'R' Us, where else? It's amazing what you can find in the Yellow Pages these days, especially on the Internet."
"You might be interested," Fraser began, "to know a sword like it was stolen from a private collection in Windsor, British Columbia, fifteen years ago. It's valued at a million dollars and is said to be the only one of its kind ever made. The family that owned it said it was an heirloom from an ancestor who had commissioned it in the seventeenth century. The piece is especially unique and valuable because the wolf's head that forms the base of the crossguard is set with rubies for eyes." Fraser paused, watching Nick, who appeared to take his statements as if he'd heard them before. "I take it you already know the sword's history."
"No," Nick said smoothly, "but thanks for telling me. I had absolutely no idea."
Fraser eyed Nick, measuring him. If Fraser wasn't mistaken, Nick had just lied to him. "You're quite welcome," the Mountie said. "Though I do believe you already had an idea. That sword has been your possession for quite some time, judging from the familiar way you held it in the alley the other day."
An expression of surprise crossed Nick's face. It appeared to take him a second or two to regroup. "That's fascinating, Constable," he drawled."Do you work at being a walking fount of information or is that just a Canadian thing?"
"I have a deep appreciation for knowledge," Fraser replied.
Smoothly, he returned the focus of the conversation back to the point. "Why do you need a sword when some other weapon would be just as lethal?"
Nick smiled. "Why do you wear a holster when you don't carry a gun?" he volleyed back.
"As a Canadian citizen, I am not allowed to carry a firearm in this country."
"Well, then, there you go."
"A sword is not easily traceable. It makes an interesting choice for a personal weapon."
"So I've heard." Nick shook his head, apparently disgusted with the questioning.
"You realize that the evidence against you is not something a court would dismiss lightly," Fraser commented. "Although you are no longer an officer of the la , I believe you still believe in it strongly. I'm puzzled as to why you choose now t disobey it."
Nick rolled his eyes. "So put it down on record that I'm not being a very cooperative suspect. Tell me why I should just spill it all and let you lock me up. That wouldn't be a very smart thing for me to do, now would it?"
"If it was in your best interest to do so, you would confess," Fraser told him. He studied him a moment, considering. "As of this moment, it is not."
Nick snorted. "You think you've figured me out, think you've got a solid case against me. I don't doubt that you do."
He paused, and lowered his voice. Instinctively, Fraser leaned closer. "You've watched the lightning, but you still don't know what you're dealing with here. You won't." Nick laughed cynically. "I sure as hell didn't," he added cryptically. "Why don't you just give up trying to figure it out and accept that some things unknown are best left alone forever?"
In the room next door, Ray watched his partner. He wasn't sure where Fraser was going, but as he had gotten more response out of Wolfe than Ray had, Ray wasn't going to question his methods.
"Where is the sword now?"
Nick chuckled, the first real smile Ray had seen on the man. "As a friend of mine likes to say, it's a kind of magic."
"Do you consider yourself to be a magician?"
Nick laughed shortly. "Only when I die." He snickered again. "And then again on alternate Thursdays. You see, I couldn't have killed anyone this week. It's the wrong Thursday."
Fraser eyed the other man consideringly. Something in that statement held more truth in it than Fraser understood at the moment, and he decided to play out a hunch. "An old friend of my family's once told me the story of a man he'd met who claimed he had the secret of immortality."
"Let me guess," Nick drawled insolently, "he had some snake oil to sell."
"Actually, it was whale oil, but — " Realizing he'd been neatly distracted, Fraser decided to try something else.
"The lightning we saw was not caused by a lightning storm. I checked the weather reports. There is no record of such an incident."
"Maybe you ought to change weathermen."
"In other words, you aren't going to tell me about that."
"Score one for the Mountie."
"As you wish," Fraser conceded. "You were a police officer a long time. Was Brent Koeltzow one of your cases?"
Nick smiled. "Why don't you send in the other guy, and the two of you can play against each other? You know, it works so much better that way. I used to do that all the time with my partner."
In the observation room, Ray made a mental note to check on Koeltzow as he saw Fraser leave the room. He met Fraser in the hallway.
"He isn't going to answer any more questions, Ray." Fraser sounded apologetic.
"He's guilty," Ray decided. "Until we get his sword, though, it's our word against his." He came to a decision. "Let's get this guy back in lockup."
"As you wish, Ray."
The following day
"There's something I don't understand," Ray commented to Fraser as he sat in the GTO, staking out Wolfe's apartment. Wolfe had been released earlier in the day on bail. "According to prison records, Koeltzow has been dead for two years. Some perp cut him up while he was on the inside."
"It's highly improbable that he died twice, Ray. Not to mention physically impossible."
Ray gestured impatiently. "I know that," he said, annoyed. "You know that. But the fact is, Koeltzow was alive when you and I saw him. So someone could've faked his death in prison."
"Why, Ray? Koeltzow was in prison for armed robbery of a convenience store. There was nothing in the case notes to say that he knew anything of importance to anyone."
"So? He could've been a player. He might've heard something in prison." Ray shrugged.
"Yes, but what purpose does a sword fight with the police officer who had investigated and arrested him serve? It was a duel to the death. Only one of them would've walked away from it. Only one of them did, and it wasn't Koeltzow. "
Ray absorbed the observation. "Maybe Koeltzow was nursing a grudge."
"Given who Wolfe was to Koeltzow, that seems like a reasonable conclusion," Fraser replied. "That still doesn't solve how he came back from the dead, Ray."
"I dunno know, maybe he wasn't dead the first time. Maybe he had some, uh, magic potion up his sleeve or something. Maybe he — " Ray broke off his sentence as something Wolfe had said occurred to him. "Fraser, what was it that Wolfe said yesterday, when you asked him about magic?"
"Actually, Ray, I asked him if he thought he was a magician."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. What's important is his answer."
"He said, 'only when I die.'" It took a second for the words to register. Slowly, Fraser turned to his partner, seeing the confirmation of his thoughts in Ray's face. "That's impossible, Ray. Everyone dies. There are a few people who have been declared clinically dead and have come back to life, but those cases are relatively rare."
"Wolfe wasn't talking about that, and you know it."
Just then, Ray's cell phone rang, and further speculation was halted. "Kowalski," he answered, and Fraser couldn't help but notice the slight smile the sound of Ray's own name produced on Ray's face. He knew Ray was glad to have it back, rather than having to answer to Vecchio, but there were times when Fraser could swear that Ray took an inordinate amount of pleasure at the change.
"What?!" Fraser heard Ray exclaim. "No. That's not possible. We've been watching him all day and — "
Suddenly, Ray shoved the cell phone on the dash. With a vicious shove, he opened the car door and sprinted across the street to Nick's apartment. Fraser followed a heartbeat behind, his delay caused by stopping to admonish Dief to stay in the car.
Nick's top floor apartment was unlocked. It was also empty. A mannequin, the kind found in storefront displays, had been cleverly positioned on the sofa so that it appeared that someone had fallen asleep while watching TV.
A tape deck was playing the sound of someone softly snoring. Muttering under his breath, suspecting the tape was nothing but that sound, Ray headed over to the stereo and hit the fast forward button until the tape reached nearly the end, then hit 'play'.
Wolfe's voice came on. "This is Amanda, snoring."
Then another male, unfamiliar, Irish-accented voice warned, "She's going to kill you for that, Nick." Shared laughter resounded, and then the tape ended.
"How'd he do it, Fraser?" Ray demanded, stepping away from the stereo and down the hall. "How the hell did he do it? Don't tell it's magic again. We were watching him."
Fraser stepped out of the bedroom. "Do you remember the woman we saw leaving the building about an half an hour ago?"
Ray stared at him, momentarily disbelieving that he'd somehow overlooked the possibility of Wolfe going out in disguise.
To compound his frustration, Fraser held up the bag of a well-known costume shop.
"No," Ray said hotly. "Don't tell me we lost him again. I do not want to hear it." He turned, and stalked out of the apartment.
"As you wish, Ray." Calmly, he followed Ray out to the car. Both men got into the GTO at the same time.
"I take it we're headed somewhere?" Fraser asked as Ray started the car.
"Yeah," Ray said. "To talk to a dead man."
Nick had long ago abandoned the wig and baggy woman's clothes he'd used to fool the cops watching him and was now headed towards a bank set on the corner of a strip mall. In all the confusion of the past few days, he hadn't been able to deposit the bulk of the cash he'd been carrying around. He wondered who had paid his bail; he'd tried to find out, but for some reason, the clerk hadn't been able to find the record. He shrugged; he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
He grinned at the thought of the deception he'd played on the two cops. He'd almost forgotten what a rush it was to be undercover, the sharp bite of adrenaline as it kicked into his system. He imagined they'd be quite mad when they discovered his ruse. He figured that given the tape he'd put in of Amanda's snoring was ninety minutes long, he had at least that length of time to run his errands.
As he waited in line for the next available teller, he thought of how many times he'd been on the other side of the chase. This wasn't the first time he'd been the subject of an investigation, but he'd had help from Amanda the last time he'd been accused of murder. Getting out of this one was proving to be a challenge.
He hadn't expected a Mountie. The mentality of an American cop or an Interpol agent or a French policeman was something Nick was familiar with, but a Mountie threw in a different perspective. That was a dangerous risk in Nick's mind. Constable Fraser struck Nick as a man who would analyze all the angles until he'd figured out just how the puzzle pieces fit. Detective Kowalski was a wild card in a stacked deck, and Nick wasn't sure just how successful he'd been at faking out the both of them. At best, he'd managed to stall them.
Nick swore. As much as Nick preferred to tell the truth, Immortality wasn't a truth he wanted to share with just anyone. Especially since he would still be admitting to murder, and the last thing Nick relished was the thought of spending eternity in jail. Still, that didn't leave him much in the way of choices.
Maybe, he thought, it's time I headed out of town.
Even as he considered the option, he knew he wasn't going to run from this one. Running away from trouble when it crossed his path had never been his style. Amanda had often accused him of taking too many risks with his life in his pursuit of justice. He preferred to see those taken chances as the cost of seeking the truth, though he privately acknowledged that he hadn't always considered the amount of danger involved.
Now that he was the one being pursued, Nick realized he didn't like being accused of a crime he didn't commit. He certainly hadn't killed anyone other than Koeltzow. At least, not in Chicago and certainly not this week. All he wanted was to live the life he'd reluctantly come to accept was his, for better or worse. Right now, it seemed a bit much to ask. He sighed, and decided to distract himself by checking out the barely-dressed redhead he could see through the side window of the bank who was limping to a bench at the bus stop on the corner.
He had just finished depositing his funds when movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Curious, he turned slightly to see what it was.
His brain barely had time to register the sight of a lone gunman armed with a semiautomatic shotgun firing randomly into the crowd before a bullet slammed into his heart. He felt the pain blossoming in his chest even as he felt Immortal healing trying to compensate for the sudden shock to his system. Even as he crumpled to the floor, he knew he was dying. He had just enough energy to swear.
Damn it, this is the last thing I need...
Ray and Fraser ducked under the police tape surrounding the shattered remains of the bank. The survivors huddled in shell-shocked groups; the dead and injured were being loaded into waiting ambulances and morgue vehicles. The gunman had apparently shot himself after killing at least four people and seriously wounding twelve others. The entire scene was chaos, between the media, various emergency vehicles, the survivors and those who had come to gawk at the latest tragedy to hit the city.
They headed for the nearest police officer, looking for the one in charge of the scene. After a few questions, they were directed to one of the morgue vehicles. Ray opened the back and unzipped the body bag.
One look told him all he needed to know. "Damn," he swore. "Looks like Wolfe bought it," he told Fraser. "Take his pulse, willya? I just wanna be sure he's dead dead, and not pretending or nothing."
"Hmm," Fraser said distractedly.
"Fraser?" Ray started to question, then followed Fraser's line of sight.
"Wolfe coming here to bank is a, a — "
"I believe the word you're looking for is, 'coincidence,' Ray."
"Yeah, that word," Ray continued, acknowledging Fraser's help with a quick nod and a grimace for his inability to handle what he'd once called ten-dollar words. "But what's she doing here as well?"
"That cannot be determined at this time."
Ray barely heard Fraser's comment. He was already walking towards the redhead who limped her way through the crowd of bystanders. Her face was scrunched into an expression of pained determination, and she appeared to be doing her best to hurry.
Ray stepped in front of Monique, blocking her path. She'd been so intent on making progress that she nearly plowed into him.
"Stupid son of a bitch, why don't you get out my way?" she cursed in flawless English.
"I will, soon as you tell me where you're going in such a hurry," Ray replied.
She gasped, recognition setting in as she realized exactly who she had bumped into. "Sorry, so sorry," she apologized, the French accent neatly back in place.
Ray glanced over at Fraser, then looked at her suspiciously. "Drop the act. We know you can speak English without any problems."
Her eyes went wide in perfect innocence. Ray had to give her credit; either she just happened to know how to curse fluently in English, or she was a good actress.
"I don't understand," she said helplessly, turning to Fraser.
"I believe what Detective Kowalski is saying, ma'am," Fraser replied, speaking in English, "is that you have some explaining to do." Just on the chance she hadn't been bluffing, he said it again in French.
Monique looked at both of them, shock written all over her face. "I just was headed to the doctor," she said in French, pointing to a medical office on the corner across the street from the bank. "I'm late for an appointment."
"What's she saying, Fraser?" Ray demanded.
"She claims she is late for a doctor's appointment," Fraser replied. To Monique, he asked, "You speak English to the doctor? You just spoke very good English to my partner here a moment ago."
"I learned from watching movies," Monique said, irritation in her tone. "Insults are easy."
Ray eyed her suspiciously. He didn't like being excluded from the conversation, but knew he had to wait. He knew he had problems just speaking English sometimes; he wasn't about to attempt to learn another language.
"Fraser, if she says she has a doctor's appointment, let's go check it out," he said impatiently. Then he groaned as Fraser picked up Monique and proceeded to carry her to the doctor's office.
"When I said check it out," Ray said to Fraser a few minutes later, "I didn't mean that you had to carry her all the way."
"She was injured, Ray. It made no sense for her to aggravate the injury when I was available to help."
Ray grumbled wordlessly. He knew he was only venting his frustration; Monique had been telling the truth about her appointment. It was mere coincidence that she'd happened to be near the site of the shooting. Yet her arrival on the scene bothered Ray.
Maybe she knows something about this whole dead-people-who-aren't-dead thing, he thought.
He decided it was time to ask the questions he'd meant to ask her earlier. By the time he and Fraser had gotten back to the hospital, Monique had already been released. Then Frannie had found Wolfe's address, and Ray had put Monique out of his mind, intent on arresting Wolfe.
"How long do you think she's gonna be in there?" Ray asked Fraser.
Fraser looked at him. "An hour, perhaps? They attended to her right away."
"We could, uh, we could take her home," Ray suggested.
"That would be a very gentlemanly thing to do," Fraser agreed.
"I saw how she was looking at you," Ray continued. "I think she likes you. You'd like to get to know her better, don't you, Fraser?"
Fraser looked startled, then he appeared to understand Ray's intentions. "That would be dishonest, Ray."
Ray threw up his hands. "We gotta ask her questions. She knows more than she's telling. Why would she be interested in the sword at the warehouse? What are the chances of her being here now? Look, if you aren't going to do it, I will." He strode back to the medical office.
Fraser caught up to him just as he was asking the receptionist where Monique was.
"I'm sorry, sir," the receptionist said, "but we have no Monique Le Due here as a patient."
"Wait a minute," Ray said. "You couldn't have missed her. We just brought her in a few minutes ago. You know, big red-suited guy carried her in all the way to the examination room?"
The young, heavyset man shook his brunet head. "I'm sorry, sir," he repeated firmly. "I have no recollection of that. I just returned from lunch."
"There was another woman here at your desk," Fraser interjected. "If it's possible to check with her?"
"Oh no, I'm sorry. Beth has gone to her lunch."
Ray rolled his eyes. "Great. Just great. And I suppose the doctor went to lunch as well?"
The receptionist nodded. "Dr. Rogers always takes his lunch between two o'clock and three o'clock. I am here just in case any of the three o'clock patients arrive early."
Ray sighed, frustrated.
Fraser glanced at his partner, and realized Ray was too irritated to think straight. "Has there ever been a Monique Le Due as a patient here?" he asked the receptionist.
"One moment please, while I check my computer."
"Thank you kindly."
A few quick mouse clicks later, the receptionist answered, "It appears that there was a Monique Le Due who was a patient here, but she hasn't been in since last year."
At that news, Ray stalked out of the office, seething.
Worriedly, Fraser watched his partner's departure. Hurriedly, he said to the receptionist, "Thank you kindly for the information," and headed after his partner.
Ray was headed back across the street to the bank, towards his car. His strides were quick, angry, and rapidly brought him back to the GTO. "Where are we, Fraser? The Twilight Zone?" he demanded, seeing Fraser walk up. "Nothing about this makes sense. That's twice she's vanished on us."
"It does seem curious, Ray."
Ray snorted. "Curious, hell. You still have her address?"
A few minutes later, they were headed across town to a small apartment near Loyola University. The door was answered promptly, and a woman emerged with a huge tiger-striped cat draped over her left arm.
Fraser and Ray looked at her, then looked at each other. The woman did not look anything like the one whom they'd just helped into a doctor's office. This woman was short, built like a quarterback, and her red hair was sprinkled liberally with gray.
"Monique Le Due?" Ray asked.
"Yes, I'm Monique," the woman answered. "Is there something I can help you with?"
Ray exchanged another look with Fraser. He knew this wasn't the same woman, but he wanted to be absolutely sure.
"Detective Ray Kowalski, Chicago PD," Ray said, flashing his badge, "and this is Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Were you anywhere near the Village Bank today?"
"The Village Bank?" She frowned. "Isn't that where that horrible shooting was at? You know, I saw that on TV. Unbelievable, isn't it, what some people do."
"Yes, it was."
She shook her head. "No, I've been taking care of Henry here," she said as she patted the cat, who blinked sleepily in response. "He's got some godawful knots in his fur. I'm just waiting for him to fall asleep so I can yank them out." In a conspiratorial whisper, she added, "See, I get him drunk, and then he doesn't mind me yanking the knots out." She paused, as if suddenly realizing that she was talking to two police officers. "That's not a crime, is it?"
"It could be classified as animal abuse," Fraser replied, disapproval in his voice.
"But since you answered our questions, we'll just let it go," Ray added smoothly, with a telling look at his partner. "Thanks for your time." He headed down the hall, knowing he'd hear a lecture on animal cruelty laws as soon as Fraser joined him the car. At the moment, he didn't care.
His cell phone rang just as he started up the car and Fraser slid into the passenger seat.
"Kowalski," Ray answered. He listened for a moment, then hung up. "They've found Wolfe's sword," he told Fraser. "We need to get back to the station."
"So this is the sword that killed Koeltzow," Lt. Welsh said, eyeing the weapon, which now lay in an evidence bag on his desk.
"Actually," Fraser corrected, "based on visual evidence, this would more than likely be that sword. We don't have any blood evidence linking — "
"It's the same sword, Lieutenant," Ray interrupted.
"Where did you find it again?"
"Coroner found it with the body. Wolfe had it strapped to his back," Ray said. "Dunno how he managed to run with it like that, though."
Lt. Welsh looked to Fraser. "Any ideas?"
Fraser shook his head. "Logically, it would be impossible, unless the sword was collapsible, which it is not. Mr. Wolfe did tell Ray, though, that he'd hid the sword through a kind of magic."
Lt. Welsh snorted. "Yeah, he'd have to be David Copperfield to hide that. What's the latest on the warehouse murder?"
"The dead guy is a Saquib Khan. He owned the warehouse," Ray answered, grateful that Fraser had bothered to check Ray's mailbox and had found the information. Ray often forgot he had one at the station. "The sword we found on the scene is his. Sgt. Hunter says they found a customs receipt for it when they did a search of his house. By all accounts, he had no enemies. No close friends, either."
"A loner," Lt. Welsh interjected.
"It would appear so," Fraser commented.
"The lab says there was blood on the sword that doesn't belong to Khan," Ray added. They're hoping to check it against Wolfe's blood type. They couldn't find any blood on Wolfe's sword."
"Keep me posted, okay?" Lt. Welsh said. "Dismissed."
Ray picked up the sword and walked out of the office. Fraser followed.
"I'll go return this sword to Evidence," Ray said, "then I'm going to get something to eat. Want to join me?
"Certainly, Ray. Let me just find Diefenbaker, and we'll meet you at the car."
"See you there."
Coming back from the dead was a little like having been at the bottom of a pool, having held one's breath for just a little too long and having to surface way too quickly.
Nick had never enjoyed swimming.
There was always that sudden rush of consciousness that never failed to take Nick by surprise, as if his brain had figured out that dead was dead and hadn't expected the proof that he was the exception to the rule. He breathed sharply, hyperventilating for a minute as his lungs tried to compensate for the time he'd spent dead. He opened his eyes, blinking against the influx of light. It took a moment for him to realize that he lay naked under a green sheet and that the surface he lay on was a steel examining table. The air was cold and smelled of embalming fluid and death. He wrinkled his nose at the smell.
Better this, he reminded himself, than being permanently dead.
He pushed the sheet aside and swung his legs over the side of the table. A quick glance around the room confirmed that he was in the police morgue. A search of the immediate vicinity of the table revealed his clothes. He sighed, relieved; he hadn't relished the thought of trying to find something to wear. He dressed quickly, guessing he didn't have much time before the morgue attendant returned.
He was, unfortunately, without his sword. His eyes narrowed as he calculated the risk of simply leaving without it.
No, I can't do that. There isn't another one like it in the world, and I can't afford to get another one that comes even close.
Decision made, he headed for the door, and the most likely place in the police station for his sword to be.
Ray strolled down the hallway to the evidence room. The sword's weight and length had initially surprised him. Somehow, he hadn't quite expected it to be so awkward to wield. He looked quickly to see if anyone was watching. Seeing no one, aware that this part of the station was largely deserted at this time of day, Ray began to swing the sword, but paused as Diefenbaker trotted over from a side hallway to meet him. Experimentally, he parried an imaginary opponent.
"What do you think, Dief?" he asked.
The wolf snorted and started walking away.
"Hey!" he protested. "Is that any way to treat the guy who gives you donuts when Fraser's not looking?" The junk-food addicted wolf ignored him and continued to move away.
Shaking his head, Ray pounded on the door to the evidence room. It was then he remembered that Fraser was looking for Dief, and wouldn't leave the station until the wolf was with him. Ray swore, and banged on the door to the evidence room again.
Where the hell did the sergeant on duty go? he wondered.
He waited a minute more. Receiving no reply, he went after Dief.
"Hey, come back here," Ray called, forgetting again that the wolf was deaf. "Fraser's looking for you."
Now Dief paused and looked back at him. He seemed to be headed towards the morgue, and wanted Ray to follow him.
"What? There isn't anything down there but dead people."
"Look, furball, there's a donut with your name on it if you just come back this way," Ray told the wolf with affectionate exasperation. "I'm telling you, there's nothing but dead people down there. I hate dead people."
Dief stood his ground and regarded him anxiously.
Ray sighed, recognizing the look the wolf was giving him. "I'm telling you, Dief, there isn't anything there. C'mon, let's go. I'm hungry." He headed back the way he'd come.
He'd taken about three strides when he stopped to see if Dief was following.
The wolf wasn't moving.
At that instant, Ray couldn't say he blamed him.
What he was seeing couldn't possibly be what he was seeing. Dead people stayed dead. They did not come back to life anywhere but in bad horror films. This was real life. Still, Ray's instincts were screaming that he had to trust what was right ahead of him.
He shook his head as if to clear it, blinked twice, and slipped on his glasses.
No, he decided, that's definitely Nick Wolfe.
He took another look to be sure he was seeing the same tall, dark brown-haired, rangy man who'd been a corpse in a body bag the last time he'd seen him. The bullet-ridden oxford the man wore only served to confirm Ray's vision further.
"You're dead," Ray said, stunned.
"Doesn't look like I am, now does it?" Nick drawled. "Call off the wolf."
"He's not mine to call." Suddenly, Ray was inordinately grateful for that fact. "Besides, he's deaf."
Nick glanced down at the wolf. "Then it appears we have a problem."
Ray grinned and set the sword he'd been carrying on the floor. "Not from where I'm standing." He pulled his handcuffs from his back pocket and started forward. "You're under arrest. "
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Nick said urgently. "Now, as I see it, you have two options. Arrest me, or let me go. I'm as good as dead here anyway. Since I happen to know what the paperwork on reopening a closed case is like, I'd recommend highly that you let me go. I'm sure you have a ton of cases on your desk you've been pretending don't exist because the perps got away, right?"
Against his will, Ray found himself nodding in agreement.
Nick smiled and winked conspiratorially. "And pretty soon, your lieutenant's gonna ask what happened to the paperwork on some case that happened two weeks ago. You know you aren't going to find that paperwork because someone, namely you, spilled coffee on it in a fit of anger, and that case is suddenly going to be the one thing that might cost you your badge. It's probably nothing more than a minor B and E, am I right?"
Ray started to nod again, then caught himself.
Apparently, Nick caught the slight movement anyway, for his smile widened. "I thought so. Compared to that, I'm not that important. Let me go. "
Ray stared at the other man. "I can't do that." He closed the distance between them and snapped the handcuffs on Nick.
"Ray?" Fraser's voice echoed in the hallway as his footsteps on the tile floor announced his arrival. "Have you found Dief — Oh dear."
Nick glanced over at Fraser and laughed humorlessly. "Your wolf's quite a tracker."
"Thank you kindly."
Seeing that the wolf had, upon picking up his scent, looked his way, Fraser spoke. "Dief, release." Dief trotted obediently back to Fraser.
"You're not dead," Fraser remarked, more calmly than Ray would've imagined.
Then again, Ray reminded himself, this is Mr. Unflappable here.
"I'm not Canadian, either," Nick replied with a grin.
Instantly, Ray hated that grin. Annoyed, Ray jostled Nick forward.
"All right, wise guy," Ray growled impatiently. "You have the right to keep your mouth shut... " he began reciting his version of the Miranda warning, moving Nick towards the jail for in-processing.
Nick lay on the narrow cot in his cell, dozing lightly. The holding area for criminals waiting to be transferred to other prisons was relatively quiet in the early morning hours before dawn. Suddenly, he felt a slender hand on his arm. He was awake instantly.
"Shh," a French-accented female voice warned him. "You must leave now."
"What's going on?" he whispered.
In reply, she shone a penlight on her left wrist, revealing a tattoo he recognized instantly. Shocked, aware she'd taken an oath of noninterference, his eyes flew to meet her green-gold ones. In the dim light of the penlight, he could see she had red hair and a heart shaped face. His mental mug file placed her as the woman he'd seen limping to a bus stop near the bank earlier.
In French, she continued, "I know I'll get into trouble for this, but I'm no good to the organization anyway. I attract too much attention. A Watcher is meant not to be noticed, and I have been caught by the police once already. You're not one of the evil ones, and they will find out about Immortals if you stay. They already know too much."
"You're my Watcher, then," he guessed, speaking French. He surmised it was her native tongue, and she appeared to talk more rapidly in it. "You paid my bail."
She nodded quickly. "Monique Le Due, from Côte d'Azur," she introduced herself. "I've been Watching you since we learned you had become Immortal."
"You shouldn't do this for me, Monique," Nick argued. "I heard they shoot those who break their Oath."
She winced. "Things are changing," she said briefly, and left it at that.
Somehow, he doubted that statement.
"Listen to me, we don't have much time. There are clothes in a red Corvette parked in the police parking lot. Your sword is there, and the keys are in the ignition. If we become separated, you must go there."
"What about the guards?"
"They are sleeping."
Instinctively, Nick knew they weren't sleeping of their own volition. That meant she had planned this jailbreak. Nick wasn't one to trust people readily, but at the moment, Monique was all the chance he had at freedom. She was right; he couldn't go to jail. There was no way to explain what he'd done to Koeltzow, and no way to explain how he knew how the other guy had died.
"We have exactly — " she glanced at her watch " — two minutes to get out of here. Hurry."
He started out of the open cell door.
Ray wasn't sure what woke him at three in the morning. He groaned, and tried to roll over and convince his body to go back to sleep.
It refused to cooperate.
He gave up and decided that now that he was wide awake, he might as well get dressed. He had just started a pot of coffee when he heard a knock on his door.
He opened it to find Fraser, dressed in his red serge uniform as he almost always was, waiting patiently.
"Fraser, it's three in the morning. What the hell are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep," Fraser admitted. "There's something that's been bothering me about this case."
"Can't it wait till later?" Ray asked, knowing even as he asked it, the answer would be no. He opened the door wider, silently allowing Fraser inside his apartment.
"I have reason to believe that Monique Le Due may break Nick Wolfe out of jail tonight. " Fraser stepped inside and shut the door behind him.
Ray moved to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. From a drawer, he pulled out a bag of Smarties and dropped a handful of the candy-coated chocolates into the cup. He took a sip, then stated, "Monique Le Due isn't her name."
Fraser shook his head. "I did some research. The woman who answered the door at her address is named Monique Le Dieu."
"What? You said it differently."
"That's because it's a different word. 'Le Dieu' means 'the god'. 'Le Due' means 'the due one'. To your American ears, it would be easy to interchange the spelling and the pronunciation. I believe in this case, the woman we are looking for is Monique Le Due."
"The due one," Ray repeated, just to be sure he heard the slight difference correctly.
"That's correct, Ray."
"What makes you think she's gonna bust him out?" He took another sip of coffee.
"She paid his bail."
Ray looked at Fraser and set his coffee cup down on the kitchen counter. He picked up the phone and dialed the station.
No one was answering at the duty station for the jail. He hung up the phone and grabbed his keys. "C'mon, Fraser, let's go."
"Shoes might be helpful, Ray."
Ray halted just at the door and looked at his bare feet. "Uh, yeah," he agreed sheepishly.
He spared a moment to stuff his feet into his black, biker-type boots, then, trusting Fraser would follow, headed out to his car.
They arrived just as a red, late-model Corvette tore out of the parking lot. They gave it chase for several miles, but Nick took advantage of the newer vehicle's handling capabilities to outclass him. Through the city, down a host of side streets, the chase wound at a high speed. In the end, they lost him when he turned down a side street and gunned the Corvette into a quick turnoff.
They returned to the station to find it in an uproar. They discovered someone had caught Monique Le Due. Apparently, she had been slower to leave than Nick had been.
At least, someone got caught tonight, Ray thought with relief as he went to question her.
"I don't get it, Fraser. Why would she go through all the trouble of breaking him out of jail when she says she's never met him before?" Ray asked later as they walked out of the now re-secured jail.
"She said she read of him, and believes he was a good man," Fraser reminded Ray. "Sometimes that is enough of a reason."
Ray thought of the woman he'd left sitting calmly in the holding cell, and shook his head. "It still doesn't feel right. There's something else going on here, Fraser. All that freaky lightning, the swords, Wolfe dead one minute and walking around hours later... it adds up to something, but I don't know what."
"Perhaps we're not meant to know, Ray."
Ray snorted. "Yeah, well, I don't know about you, but I've had enough of weird, Twilight Zone stuff. It's crazy, and I don't think it's gonna make any sense any time soon."
Even as he said the words, Ray knew he wouldn't forget what he'd seen. He knew Fraser probably had the word for what Nick Wolfe was, but Ray didn't need it to know that he'd been witness to something supernatural. It gave him chills in places Ray didn't want to think about.
"It does appear to be a kind of madness, Ray," Fraser agreed.
"Well, I've had enough of it. If I hear anymore about it, I think I'm gonna hit somebody." His stomach chose to grumble about a lack of food then, and Ray nearly smiled at the sheer normality of it. Weird stuff could wait. To Fraser, he said, "Let's go find Dief and get some food. I'm starving."
"As you wish, Ray."
*** Finis ***Comments?
Read the sequel, A Shot of Reason (NC-17 for m/f sex)
Some final notes: The raven/wolf story Nick relates is true. Wolves and ravens do play this game in the wild. :-) The cat Monique Le Dieu has is based on a friend's, who had the worst knots in fur I've ever seen (though she didn't get her cat drunk to remove them... she just yanked them out.) The Irish-accented voice on the snoring tape belongs to Father Liam, an immortal priest and friend to both Amanda and Nick.
©2006 Raine Wynd