Previous disclaimers still apply (e.g. adult sexual content, drug use, profanity, mild violence). Please see Part 1 for specifics.

Chapter 7: Twenty Questions

Tina took another swig of her beer and looked down at her cowboy boots, the light colored hardwood floor contrasting against the dark rich leather. Cool water condensed on the outside of the bottle she was holding, her thumb rubbing wetly over the Corona label. Lifting her eyes again, she glanced over the youthful face of Mariel Potidean. With a small smile, she spoke quietly, not particularly one for small talk, but willing to give it a go.

"So, how do you like Chicago?"

She could tell she was making the young scientist nervous and to be honest, she herself was feeling a bit out of sorts. The type of women Tina Amphipoli was used to dealing with were not at all like Mariel. Most of her casual relationships were with older, more...experienced women, like herself. She broke less hearts that way by involving herself with people who could handle her emotional distance and her aloofness. The investigator had only been truly in love once, although she had come close to those feelings one other time. The painful memories of that first foray into real love had left Tina cautious and afraid...not that Tina considered such a possibility with the young FBI researcher.

With a slight chuckle, Mariel smiled, her green eyes nervously catching blue. She looked over at the investigator as she spoke, crossing a leg over the other in an attempt to relax.

"Well, to be honest, it's a bit daunting, but I'm adjusting. I haven't really had a chance to explore much so.."

Mariel trailed off, her eyes returning to the hem of her sweater, unconsciously shifting back into her chair more. Tina nodded and murmured, her eyes returning to her boots.


Glancing back over to Mariel's lithe form settled in the chair, she was struck by the amazing differences between her and this young woman. Mariel had her degrees and her new career, she was unjaded by the real world, optimistic, ready to solve every problem. Even in the brief conversations they had, Tina could pick up on the type of person this young doctor was. That was her business, reading other people. Then again, considering Mariel's field, they had a few similarities with each other.

Mariel smoothed the cotton fabric of her khakis under her thumb before raising her eyes again to the detective. This wasn't going very smoothly. The dark woman didn't seem to be much of a talker. She'd have to be the one to get the ball rolling if they were ever going to get anywhere fast. With a smile, she chuckled.

"So, how 'bout them Cubbies?"

All of a sudden, Tina's body sprang from the couch, her tall form moving in a defensive posture in front of Mariel's chair. Startled, the researcher reached out and grabbed Tina's leather coat, her eyes darting around. Excitedly, she spoke.

"What is it?!"

Tina glanced behind her and put her finger to her lips, indicating the need for silence as her eyes narrowed. With a gesture, she indicated towards the darkened hallway. Whispering, she turned back to Mariel who was seated at the edge of her chair bewildered.

"I saw something back there."

Mariel rose from the chair, standing behind Tina, her hand still resting against the leathered back of the private detective. Peering off into her hallway, she searched for a dark intruder or some other form of danger that could be lurking in her apartment.


Tina spoke in a whispered voice as a small crash erupted in Mariel's dark bedroom. Rushing forward, she moved swiftly to the edge of the hallway, surprised to find Mariel pressed up next to her against the wall. Glancing back down at excited green eyes, she could see that Mariel was with her every step of the way. With a determined look in her eye, Tina Amphipoli tipped her beer bottle, draining the rest of the half-full contents in a gulp before turning the empty bottle in her hands and holding on to the neck. She was armed now.

Quietly, she peered around the corner into darkness, barely able to make out any shapes in the scientist's bedroom. Gradually, her eyes adjusted to the faint glow from the streetlights outside one window and she quickly scanned the room for the bulky shape of a hidden form. Seeing and hearing nothing from her vantage point, she turned back to Mariel, leaning down to whisper close to her ear.

"I'm going to reach in and turn on the light, as soon as I do that, I'm going in. You stay here."

At the investigator's whispered voice, Mariel felt a skittering shiver run down her back. The brief contact of lips against the side of her head and the warmth of breath sent a rather distracting thought through the young FBI researcher's mind. Looking up into Tina's blue eyes at close range, Mariel shook her head in agreement before she, too, downed her beer in a hurried couple of swallows, her petite face scrunching up just a bit when she was finished. With the bottle in her hand, she was ready. Damn if she wasn't going to arm herself as well.

With a smile and a nod, Mariel signaled to Tina and watched as the tall detective snaked her arm around the corner, finding the bedroom light switch. Instantly, Tina moved with speed and precision, turning on the light and doing a forward roll into the room, landing in a crouch in the middle of the brightly lit bedroom. Mariel followed right behind and had her bottle over her head, prepared to do damage. For a good five seconds, there was silence as both of them quickly scanned the sparsely furnished room, Mariel's heart beating a mile a minute.

Suddenly, the light blue edging covering the bottom of the bed moved and a small yellow-golden furry head poked out, blinking back at the two imposing women wielding beer bottles. With a tiny 'meow', the cat skittered out from under the bed and ran up Mariel's leg, launching itself on to the young woman's shoulder and latching its claws in the blue wool sweater. Wary golden eyes looked over at the tall dark-haired investigator. Laughing, Mariel cried out.

"Oh for Heaven's sake, it's just Idgie!"

Tina breathed out as she watched the researcher reach up and disentangle the cat from her shoulder and cradle her pet in her arms. With an amused smile directed her way, Mariel shook her head at the detective.

"I'm sorry, I should have told you about her."

Tina raised an eyebrow as she relaxed after giving the room the once-over again and bringing the bottle back down to her side. With a crooked smile, she approached Mariel, holding her fingers out so the golden cat could sniff her. With a semi-scolding tone of voice, the private eye glanced up at the sparkling green eyes of the young doctor and smiled.

"I thought I told you to stay back while I went in."

Idgie the cat examined Tina's outstretched fingertips and took a liking to what she found, reaching her neck out and rubbing up against the investigator's hand while Mariel held her. With a quirky smile, the scientist looked up into blue eyes.

"What? And miss all the excitement as you subdued Idgie? Not on your life!"

Tina scratched the soft yellow-gold fur on the side of Idgie's face, smiling a bit when the animal began to purr contentedly in Mariel's arms. Raising an eyebrow up at the researcher, Tina kept smiling as her low voice rumbled good-naturedly.

"Very funny, Mariel."

The blond looked down at Idgie receiving soft scratches from the detective and took a breath. There was something about the way Tina said her name that was vaguely disarming. It seemed to roll off her tongue in a deep timbre that vibrated inside of the young woman. Swallowing, she smiled as she looked up, her eyes catching warm blue briefly. With a laugh, she held out her empty beer bottle.

"Looks like we both could use another, huh?"

Tina chuckled and shrugged, her eyes falling back down at the purring Idgie cradled against navy blue wool. The faint herbal scent of citrus and spices from Mariel's bedroom wafted around her before she smiled up at the young doctor.

"Sounds good to me."


"And so, when he said 'But I'm a Boilermaker too', I said, 'You could be Purdue Pete for all I care, it ain't gonna happen'."

Mariel laughed, her gestures animated as she sat comfortably on the couch with Tina. The private investigator chuckled back at the young woman, noticing the slight reddening of her cheeks from the beer she was drinking. After the whole Idgie incident, they had felt much more relaxed, Mariel chatting easily.

Tina shifted in her coat and sank down further into the couch, her long legs stretching out in front of her and crossing at the ankles. Resting a half-finished Corona on the belt at her waist, her two large hands wrapped around the clear bottle, fingers clasping. With a glance over at the still-smiling scientist, she spoke.

"So, you seeing anyone now? I'm sure you've got the guys lining up for you."

With a glance over at the detective's profile, Mariel chuckled.

"Speak for yourself, I'm sure you have no problems in that area either."

Mariel paused as she watched the corner of Tina's mouth quirk into a small smile. Settling herself cross-legged, Mariel turned and put her back against the arm of the deep green couch so she could face the detective's lean muscular figure. With a shake of her head, she smiled down at her hands before she continued.

"But the answer is no. I'm not seeing anyone and I haven't for a long time., well, back in undergrad, I was engaged to someone. And, well, since then, I haven't really had time for dating."

Tina glanced over at the researcher, noticing the look that crossed the young woman's face. Returning her gaze to the floor, she watched Idgie walk by her boots, sparing a glance at the two while trying for a look of indifferent nonchalance. The cat had passed by her ten times since they settled on the couch it seemed, each time pretending she didn't care about the occupants and wasn't dying for some affection. With a soft voice, the investigator spoke.

"What happened to the engagement, if it isn't too personal to ask."

Mariel lifted her blond head to smile over at Tina, briefly catching her blue eyes. Reaching out, she pressed her hand against the detective's leathered arm without thinking and leaned back. Tina looked over at her and waited.

"No, it's ok. It was a long time ago. Peter, he um...well, he was accidentally shot and killed. We were visiting his parents in New York before the wedding and.."

Mariel paused and took a breath before continuing.

"It was just one of those freak things. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time, right in the middle of a robbery at a convenience store, down in the Village. Funny, we had just gone out to get ice cream."

The young doctor laughed as she remembered the search for Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.

"It was two weeks before our wedding in March. His mom wanted to go shopping with me for her dress. They..never caught whoever did it. I, uh...I wasn't paying attention when it happened, looking for who knows what in the damn store and I never saw who did it."

Tina was silent as she watched several emotions pass over the FBI researcher's face, those green eyes growing slightly darker as the young woman swallowed hard. Reaching out a long arm, her fingers wrapped gently around Mariel's wrist before she gave it a light squeeze and looked at her.

"I'm sorry."

Mariel lifted her eyes and smiled at the gesture from the woman she barely knew. Pushing back the bad memories, she nodded her head.


She watched as the detective let go of her and nodded with a soft smile. Raising her bottle, she took a drink and smiled back at Tina.

"I went into this field partly because of that. I wanted to understand what would make someone do something so horrible to someone else. I figured if I could help in some small way, it would be worth it."

Tina let her eyes drift back down to Idgie, the cat had positioned herself across the room from the couch in plain view of the occupants and simply sat there, with her side to the women, pretending to be disinterested in them. With a sip of her own warming beer, she swallowed and spoke in a low voice.

"Lots of reasons why someone might do the things they do."

Mariel nodded at the investigator's profile, her eyes tracing the strong lines she found there. Tina Amphipoli was an exotic beauty, her chiseled look was made subtle by the soft lines of her feminine features. Dark eyebrows framed her penetrating blue eyes and her jawline curved with a graceful strength. Her hair was luxuriously long and dark, the soft bangs highlighting her face. Her skin tone was flawless, a rich color to it despite it being far past the bronzing light of the summer sun. Sitting there on her couch, Mariel considered that Tina might possibly be the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

Seeing the tense lines on that profiled face, Mariel tucked her cryptic words away for later examination. The detective made no move to continue that line of conversation and it didn't seem like it was appropriate to bring up the painful past on the police force that Tina was surely referring to, Mariel smiled and changed the subject to something more light.

"So, what about you? Got any men in your life?"

That got a genuine laugh from the detective as she shifted back into an upright position, her arm causally draping across the back of the couch, the beer held lightly in that hand. Resting a booted ankle on top of her other knee, Tina turned to the young scientist and smiled. She appreciated the change in topics and relaxed accordingly, her full attention directed at Mariel. At that moment, Idgie chose to grace them with her presence and jumped up between them on the couch, waiting for expected attention. Mariel reached a hand out to stroke behind Idgie's ears and Tina nodded at the golden cat while she smiled, her voice holding a hint of amusement.

"She's a jealous one, huh?"

Mariel chuckled, smiling back at Tina when the investigator reached out and rubbed against the cat's back. Idgie purred at the attention of both women and sat there contentedly spoiled. With a soft laugh, the researcher spoke.

"Well, she certainly doesn't like to share me. Of course, she's more than eager to prostitute herself out to anyone willing to scratch her."

Tina's low laugh rumbled as she looked over into green sparkling eyes. She was beginning to really like this woman. She had a casual self-confidence once she got comfortable and she could put the edgy detective at ease with her laid back charm. Plus, there was a depth to Mariel Potidean that she admired, more than surface good looks and more than pretentious book smarts. She was real. Tina smiled at the doctor, unconsciously letting her mask down just a bit. With a low voice, the detective raised an eyebrow.

"I can see why she'd want you all to herself. Smart cat."

Mariel started at the comment, feeling the slight blush coming to the surface of her neck and cheeks. With a shy smile, she laughed a bit.

"Nah, she just sticks around because I feed her, right Idgie?"

The cat purred and closed her eyes as both Mariel and Tina's hands stroked along her soft coat of fur, the detective assigned to her head and her mistress assigned to her back. Idgie wasn't one to complain when she had it so good.


Tina's voice drifted between them as they concentrated on the pet. With a curious look, Mariel lifted her eyes and looked over at the lounging detective, her eyes narrowing at the faint smile on her face. The researcher's voice was confused.

"No, she doesn't stick around because I feed her?"

That smile got wider on Tina's face as she looked up, her blue eyes clear and unguarded. With a hint of amusement, the investigator decided to go for complete honesty here. No better time than the present to get this out in the open.

"No, I don't have any men in my life. I prefer the company of women."

The pupils in Mariel's hazel green eyes went just a bit wider as she registered this information. She hadn't been expecting that, really. Or maybe she was secretly hoping that was the case but didn't want to be disappointed if it weren't. Swallowing, she nodded and smiled, suddenly shy.


With a grin, Tina nodded her head in return, taking note of the rise of color against the smooth cheeks of the fair-skinned blond. Very subtle signs that Mariel was just fine with that little revelation. And as the detective noticed a slight increase in the pulse point at Mariel's neck, she considered that maybe the scientist was more than fine with that information. With a relaxed low voice, Tina confirmed.


At that, Idgie got up and moved sleekly over the couch and proceeded to curl herself up in the detective's lap, her paws scouting out a spot on faded Levi's before settling herself with a pleased purr. Both Tina and Mariel looked at the golden cat in amusement and the researcher laughed as she spoke.

"Even the company of spoiled girl cats?"

Tina smiled as she reached a lazy hand down and rubbed the tip of Idgie's ear between her fingers gently. With a chuckle, she looked back up into Mariel's bright green eyes, her own blue eyes twinkling in amusement.

"Yep, I'm not picky."

Mariel laughed as her nerves eased a bit more in Tina's company. While certainly she could still feel the nervous jitter run through her body in this woman's presence, she was also starting to feel comfortable. Everything she had heard about the no-nonsense detective and even their conversation at dinner didn't prepare her for this more relaxed side to the dark woman. It was entirely pleasant and quite interesting, indeed.

Tina chuckled and smiled over at the talented new member of the FBI. With a renewed sense of confidence, Mariel's eyes got brighter as she smiled. In a barely controlled, excited voice, she raised both dark golden eyebrows and grinned wider as she spoke.

"So, shall we talk about the case?"

Chapter 8: Let's Make a Deal

The table was silent, all eyes turned to the relaxed form seated comfortably in the middle of the booth. By some unspoken rule, no one sat closer than 2 feet from the blond, it would have been foolhardy to have presumed any other arrangement. Cirra was smiling, a cat-like expression crossing on her face. Anyone who would have seen the look would have known that the smile was coming from someplace different than actual happiness or good feeling. It was a predatory smile and coupled with the spark of something wild in her brown eyes, it made Cirra look all that more dangerous.

With her hands casually folded on the tabletop, she flicked her eyes over first to Teddy and then slowly, with a lazy roll of her head to Valerie, she pinned the girl with a hard stare as her smile faded, replaced by a tight-lipped sneer, her eyes hardening.

"So deal."

Her voice was no-nonsense and held a trace of edgy menace that made the girl with her tough crew-cut and her badass leather feel like she was just about to deal with the devil. Her previous delivery of a young boy to Cirra was easy enough, the kid's parents disowned him when they found out he was gay and had thrown him out years before. Valerie found him strung out, penny-less, and trying to make a living on the streets, selling his body. Hell, that kid had almost begged Valerie to take him to Cirra, promises of different arrangements luring him to go willingly. She didn't want to think about whether those promises of a new life ever came true.

Valerie steeled herself and let her light blue eyes find Cirra's as she took a drink of her beer before she spoke. Mustering up a small reserve of bravado, she swallowed and spoke, affecting a cockiness she really didn't have with the blond who lounged in the booth like a deadly panther would in the jungle.

"She's exactly what you want. Innocent and stupid. Plus the fact that she's a virgin makes her even more valuable. I found her and I want a fair price for her."

Cirra stared at her a bit longer, her eyes seeming to bore through Valerie with an unworldly power. With another smile, the blond's voice held a hint of amusement, though the undercurrent of it was far from amused.

"Oh, you do, do you? A fair price, huh?"

Valerie tried to hold Cirra's eyes longer, but they dropped to the table for a moment before she collected her thoughts again. She knew she was playing with fire here and she was going to have to make her case or lose everything. She knew Cirra's reputation and knew what happened to people who tried to double-cross her. That edge of fear made Valerie determined to save her ass and get something in the bargain. All she'd have to do was get her price and get out of town before Cirra discovered what Lisa had mumbled on her way in the club. Val suspected Lisa had a sister, from a few off-hand comments, but Lisa had never come out and confirmed it. Well, it was simple enough, Valerie was going to have to lie like her life depended upon it...because it did. Lifting her eyes, Valerie smiled as she spoke again. Her voice becoming stronger as she presented her merchandise and the deal.

"Yes, I think I deserve it for this one, Cirra. She's got no family, she said they all died in a house fire when she was young. She was staying with some second cousin or something on a farm in Indiana. She's not bad looking, easily talked into things, and most importantly, she's never been had."

At this, Valerie's eyes lit up as she watched Cirra gaze at her with mild interest, propping her chin in her hand on the table. With a raise of her eyebrow, Cirra purred.

"Go on.."

Teddy and Tara tried to make themselves inconspicuous in the booth, quietly watching the deal. They had learned long ago that if they wanted to survive in Cirra's world, they would speak when spoken to and do as she said. Teddy's loyalty was assured by his misguided and impossible love for the blond. His sister Tara, on the other hand, had dreams of becoming Cirra's right hand, insinuating herself into this dangerous world. She watched the exchange more to learn than anything else.

Valerie took a sip of her beer and crossed her legs, her eyes catching a waiter, his bare chest and tight leather pants coming towards them. He was young, maybe eighteen, but he was muscular and like the rest of the waiters here, he wore a black bandana nestled in the leather of his right back pocket. Holding up her bottle and giving it a little shake, she ordered another before she turned back to Cirra. She feeling much more confident now as she leaned back against the leather of the booth. Her voice went cocky as she smiled.

"She's perfect for your needs, Cirra, and I can make her disappear from my end of things. Clean wipe and a virgin. In fact, I think she's worth fair price and a little extra. I want twenty thousand in cash and 2 ounces."

The table was silent again, as they all turned to Cirra. Twenty thousand plus more than half that price in smack was mighty high for a deal. Cirra paid no more than fifteen total for anyone. She narrowed her brown eyes at Valerie and sat there quietly, absorbing the tone of voice and the words with great interest. Slowly, she leaned back in the booth, a smile in place. Oh, this one was good. Young and cocky. Too bad she made the mistake of trying to run the show. Pity.

Flicking her eyes over to Teddy, she nodded and made him move out of the booth without a word. Leisurely, she edged her way out, her shiny black leather pants sliding against the soft leather of the booth. As she stood at the edge of the table, she turned her head out towards the dance floor below her as Teddy settled back into the booth. Three sets of eyes in the booth watched as Cirra stood there for a second and then glided over to the railing. Valerie sensed a bit of a change and nervously glanced at Teddy whose eyes were solely on his blond mistress.

With her back to the booth, Cirra stood casually at the balcony railing. The painted on leather pants and black bustier clung like second skin to her thin body, the curves of her hips and breast perfectly outlined by the leather. With her shoulders bare, blond hair cascaded down in wild tangles. A pair of high-heeled boots held her toned form in perfect height. Even though she was thin, muscles were evident across her shoulders and bare arms. With a graceful stance, Cirra arched her back and stretched, her arms spread out to the side as the lines of her body curved with her stretch. Her hands and fingers spread out and wiggled just a bit. Unseen by the occupants of the booth, she was smiling with her eyes closed as she inhaled a breath. The music in the club and the patrons were forgotten as the feline mistress of Cirra's Cage prepared to bite.

With a relaxed turn, the tall blond faced the wide booth with a menacing smile and slowly sauntered over to it, her hips swaying as her leather-clad body came to a stop at the edge of the table. At that moment, the young waiter walked up and touched Valerie's drink against Cirra's bare arm, nudging her out of the way and making the hugest on-the-job mistake ever by interrupting one of Cirra's deals. He was new. And stupid. And doomed.

Cirra's face changed in a fraction of a second, the smile gone from her lips and eyes. With unbelievable speed, she elbowed the tall bare-chested waiter in the throat, dropping him to his knees as the beer crashed to the floor and broke. Everyone on the balcony turned and started to depart, knowing that the safest place in the bar at this moment was the dance floor. With a snarl, Cirra reached out and grabbed his hair and yanked his face to hers as her leathered knee drove into his stomach. Doubled over, the man groaned before the blond pulled his head up again and backhanded him with her fist, a light spray of blood from his mouth landing on Valerie. With a growl as dark as the atmosphere in the club, Cirra spat down at him.

"You stupid fuck! Don't you ever touch me without my permission again! And don't..."

She backhanded him again, sending more blood on Valerie who was watching wide-eyed and dumbstruck. She had heard about Cirra's unpredictable mood swings and violence, but she had never seen it first hand. She realized that she had assumed that interacting with this woman was going to be a nice, normal business deal. Unfortunately, the deal was nice and normal AND as insane as Cirra was. Teddy and Tara were used to this, having witnessed this power and aggression from their boss enough times to know when to keep their mouths shut. Cirra's voice was an edgy knife cutting through to the disoriented waiter.

"Don't you ever interrupt me again. Do you understand me?"

Through the pain, the waiter gasped and nodded. He had learned his lesson the hard way, but it was one he'd never make again. Getting a job here working for Cirra was important to him, in fact, he wanted to serve this violent woman if it killed him. She had that kind of power over people, and over men. With a soft voice, he lowered his aching head and heaved a breath.

"Yes, Mistress Cirra."

The blond smiled, her face transforming again as she looked down at him. Valerie watched as Cirra reached over and took a napkin, one hand gently caressing the side of the waiter's face while the other dabbed the blood from his busted lip. Running her hand through his dark hair, she smiled down at him and nodded, his dismissal clear in her gestures. Valerie watched as Cirra's eyes followed him away from the table before turning back to them with a sweet smile on her face. It was like she could turn it on and off at will with little or no thought.

And that fucking scared the shit out of Valerie.

Cirra let her fingertips play with the edge of the table before her eyes found Valerie's. The blond bit her lip gently as she smiled down at the girl trying to deal with her. Such a pity. Too bad.

"Valerie, dear, why don't we go downstairs and take a little look at your virgin before we settle on a price, hmm? I always make it a practice to examine the goods before I pay."

Cirra's voice was light and airy, almost lyrical as she spoke and her brown eyes sparkled. Letting her hand curve down along the length of her shiny leathered hip, she winked.

"I'd hate to find out something is wrong with the merchandise. I'm so picky about these things. Call me crazy but I'm sure you understand."

Valerie nodded as her heart pounded in her chest. Oh, she could call Cirra many things, crazy being right up there at the top. More importantly though, dangerous and possibly homicidal came to mind and Valerie had a feeling she had over-stepped her bounds. She was way out of her league and she was beginning to think she had made the biggest mistake of her young life...challenging Cirra Callistone.


Leon looked over at the nearly unconscious girl, curled up in a ball on the floor. For the last half hour or so, she had been mumbling incoherently to him and darting her eyes around wildly, looking for who knows what. All of a sudden, she had gotten really quiet and scared and had pressed herself into the corner of the room. With a look of utter terror on her face, Leon had watched the girl wrap her arms around herself and sink to the floor. Her long dark-brown hair was disheveled and she had lost one of her shoes, her skirt riding up her leg unnoticed. Whatever they had given her, she was totally out of it now.

A knock sounded against the door and he cracked it open, looking out to see Teddy's face in the dark hallway. The storage room he was located in was situated down the hall in the back of the building, through a set of double doors blocking patrons using the restrooms from the back of the club. Teddy grunted at him and he opened the door wide to allow entrance.

Teddy entered, followed by Cirra who wore a serious look on her face, her walk purposeful and to the point. Tara kept her smart mouth shut and followed after the blond, taking in everything and ready to offer any service Cirra might want from her. Last, Valerie came into the crowded room nervously, her eyes scanning until they fell on Lisa's form. Thankfully, it appeared her roommate wasn't going to be able to blow things for her by talking. She'd be lucky to even make her drug-filled body open her eyes.

Cirra stepped over to the girl laying curled on the floor and crossed an arm over her chest while the other hand held her chin. Looking down, she surveyed the dark-haired girl, her finger running over the smooth skin of her jaw. With a head roll to the side, Cirra's brown eyes found Valerie's and she spoke.


Valerie took a step forward and stood behind Cirra, peering around her bare shoulder to the ground, her roommate's low murmurs barely audible.


Cirra nodded and turned back to the girl. She looked healthy and young enough. Despite the hallucinogenic stupor she was in now, she'd be in fine shape for the transport in a few days. Once they got her started with doses every couple of hours, she'd be hooked by the time she was due to be shipped out. Easier to control that way. Cirra's eyes roamed over Lisa appraisingly. Yes. She would do just fine for the Far East shipment. They paid higher prices for American virgin females over there compared to the South American and European markets. Of course, money wasn't everything. Cirra smiled to herself. No. Every soul she bought and sold brought another one down to join her. Misery loves company. Maybe, one day, everyone would be as dead inside as she was. Oh, what fun that would be. The smile left Cirra's face as her booted foot reached out and nudged against Lisa, her voice low and deceptively soothing.

"Lisa, honey, can you hear me?"

The girl simply moaned, her brain completely fogged by the acid she had been given combined with the other drugs she had at Teddy's place. She couldn't have answered even if she wanted. Cirra crouched down and let her fingers move through the long strands of brown hair at Lisa's face. So sweet. So innocent.

Cirra stood slowly, turned to Valerie and smiled, her lips parting wide to reveal perfect white teeth. Reaching out, the tall blond took Valerie's chin in one hand and moved closer, her chocolate brown eyes dancing. Purring down at the shorter woman, Cirra's other hand brushed against the girl's cheek.

"Valerie, let's make a deal, hmm?"

Valerie swallowed, the closeness of the dangerous woman unnerving her. She looked into brown and nodded, her voice croaking out a word.


Cirra smiled even more widely and came in closer until her leather bustier pressed against Valerie's own leather coat. Vaguely, the New York girl detected the faintest hint of cinnamon coming from the blond before, surprisingly, Cirra's lips touched against her own in a kiss that would seal her fate.

Cirra pulled back and smiled, her hands holding Valerie's face between them in a gentle caress. With a light shrug of her shoulder, the blond let her brown eyebrow raise before she winked down at Valerie. At that exact moment, Valerie's world went black and she slumped to the floor in a boneless heap.


Cirra laughed as she looked over at Teddy whose hand held a thick black club and who had used it to smash against the back of Valerie's head, rendering her unconscious. Teddy lowered his eyes and nodded his love and submission to Cirra while Tara and Leon looked on. Cirra tipped back her head and laughed more, the sound of it making Lisa curl further into a ball before her body too went blank. With an amused tone, the blond clasped her hands together and gleefully proclaimed.

"It's two-for-one night! Cirra wins again!"

Chapter 9: Tea for Two

Tina smiled widely at Mariel's enthusiasm and watched as the young scientist rose from the couch and moved over to her desk to rummage through the stacks of paper and files. With a raise of her dark eyebrow, the detective glanced down at the purring yellow cat and shook her head. With idle fingers, she smoothed through the golden fur and took another sip of her beer, finishing it in a steady swallow. Glancing over at Mariel's back, the researcher was bent over the desk, one knee perched on her office chair. Tina swallowed again for different reasons.

Mariel was a beauty, that was plain to see. As Tina had cavalierly said at dinner, she wasn't expecting someone quite so attractive. That might have been why she was such an ass at the table, affecting a coolness that was unnecessarily condescending. To be honest, from the first moment her eyes caught sight of the FBI scientist, she felt something tingle inside her brain, almost like a memory. She had watched from a darkened corner of the restaurant as the young woman sat alone at her table, her chin propped on her hand with her elbow on the table, a far-off look on her face. Tina noticed the slight smile that had graced Mariel's lips, the corners of her mouth edging up until the waitress had come to interrupt her thoughts. Now, sitting in this woman's apartment watching her move with a casual confidence as she read through papers looking for the right ones, Tina knew that if she wasn't careful, Mariel Potidean could charm her way into the detective's life.

With a light 'a-ha!', Mariel turned back and raised an eyebrow at Tina's lounging form. Holding up a set of papers, she smiled.

"Found it!"

The investigator sat forward a bit on the couch, carefully picking up the reluctantly moving Idgie from her lap and depositing her on the couch next to her. She watched as Mariel made her way back over to the couch and sat down, turning to her with a smile and a deep breath.

"Ok, so here are the notes I've made for us about the case. The things we know so far, leads that have been followed, a rough sketch of where to start looking, other things I could think of."

The scientist handed Tina a copy of the thick stapled documents, all typed and marked with the doctor's clear precise handwriting. Separated into sections, each was labeled with headers such as 'Timeline', 'Suspects Contacted', 'Suspects Cleared', 'Background on Missing Kids', and so on. It appeared as if Mariel had condensed everything Agent Amy Ephran had given her into a more coherent profile of information. Tina looked it over, flipping through the pages as she eyed the layout. Sam Lamonie had filled her in on the bare details so she had a good enough idea how to proceed. The documents Mariel gave her would help fill in the picture more. With a smile, she raised her dark head over at the scientist.

"Looks like you've been busy."

The detective's low voice rumbled and Mariel smiled with a shrug. The excitement of the evening and the fact that she couldn't control the heat in her apartment (which she had conveyed with supreme displeasure to the housing people) had conspired to make it far too warm for wool.


Mariel paused as she casually removed her sweater, revealing a clean white t-shirt underneath, the word 'NAVY' crossing her chest in tall dark blue letters. Throwing the sweater over the arm of the chair next to the couch, she reached for her copy of the documents and continued, her eyes looking back up to Tina's.

"I thought it would help to profile out the specifics. Eph gave me a ton of files on this case and I figured the best way to start was to write what we know."


Tina agreed as she nodded at the words before she looked back down at the paper, her fingers playing with the edge of the pages while she glanced through them. It really wasn't helping that Mariel was sitting there looking all adorable in her t-shirt and khakis. The detective shook her head and told herself to focus. After all, it wasn't like the scientist was her type anyway. Focus. Focus.

Tina put the stack of papers on her lap and leaned back into the couch. Reaching up, she ran a hand through the front of her bangs and closed her eyes briefly. Her original plan was to check out the scene and shake down some of her informants for information. From what Lamonie had told her, the few leads they had had led them to the club scene in Chicago. It seemed that most of the kids who had disappeared somehow found their way to undisclosed and ever-changing clubs, reminiscent of the Rave scene in the late 80's. Only these days, the warehouses that were used were generally filled with more drugs and more gangs and younger kids. Tina had already dismissed gang hits as the cause because those were too random. No, from what the investigator could gather, specific kids were being targeted for specific reasons, and in order to find out who was behind it, they'd have to find out what the word on the street was.

With a roll of her head to the side, Tina looked over at Mariel before she spoke, her voice serious as the scientist listened to her intently.

"There's some type of centralized operation going on, my guess is that there's one person running it. There would have to be that kind of control to cover up something of this size and keep a lid on it. Someone out there wants these kids for a reason, they aren't being murdered or we'd find the bodies. It's like they're vanishing from the city."

Mariel nodded as she got up and started to walk into the kitchen, her voice carrying as she spoke.

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking when I started reading the files. Eph thinks that it's either drug lords wanting runners for out of state transport or some kind of slave labor system."

Tina watched as the scientist moved through the kitchen, putting on a pot of water on the stove. With casual grace, she got up and strolled across the room, her cowboy boots lightly thudding against the hardwood floor. Coming to rest with her shoulder leaning against the kitchen doorway, the investigator let her eyes catch Mariel's as the researcher got out two coffee mugs.

"I don't think it's drug-motivated. Kids are too big of a risk to handle that these days. And unless Clinton eased up on child labor laws here in the US, I don't think that's what's going on."

Mariel leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms casually, her green eyes gazing intently at the detective. She nodded seriously and spoke.

"I think you're right about that. It's like there's something more...sinister...going on here. From what I could gather from the case reports and eyewitnesses who might have seen a kid before they disappeared, I think it has more to do with..."

Here, Mariel paused briefly before continuing. The investigator silently listened, her blue eyes focused on the scientist.

"I'm afraid it has to do with exploitation. I think these are innocent kids who are being targeted and used on the black market. I got the sense that there might be some sort of..."

Tina nodded and filled in the rest for her, knowing what the FBI researcher was going to say before she said it.

"Sex slave ring."

Mariel looked at her, green eyes only hinting at her surprise briefly, before her voice held a compassionate note.

"Tina, how could something like that still happen these days?"

The investigator looked down at the stove, eyeing the boiling water before she casually reached down and picked up the pot. Mariel turned and grabbed the two mugs she had ready, holding them out while the tall woman poured the water into them. Tina shook her head as she poured, her voice steeled, betraying her emotions.

"I wish I knew. All I want to do is stop those bastards before anyone else gets taken."

Tina paused and waited until the scientist looked up before she continued.

"Mariel, this is going to be really dangerous, you know that right? Whoever is behind this business has a lot invested in it and isn't going to take kindly to someone shutting them down."

Mariel looked up into unreadable blue eyes before she set the mugs down on the counter. Turning back, she let her eyes speak for her as her voice got quiet.

"I know this is going to be rough, Tina, but I can take care of myself enough to not have you worrying about me every step of the way. As I said at dinner, I may be new to the field, but what I might lack in experience, I make up for in commitment to this. I've never backed down from anything in my life and I'd really rather not start now. I want to do this with you and I know the risks. I'm willing to take them."

Tina gazed down at her impassively for a moment, torn between wanting to keep this young woman she barely knew safe and wanting Mariel at her side in this. Putting a hand in her jean pocket, Tina leaned against the counter, resting her elbow on it as she came to her decision.


Mariel and Tina looked at each other for moment, quiet in the dim light of the kitchen. The steaming scent of tea wafted between them as the clock on Mariel's living room wall chimed softly, midnight signaled. A pesky drip of water sounded rhythmically as each drop fell into the white kitchen sink. With a quirk of her eyebrow, Tina licked her lips and spoke again.

"But there are a couple of ground rules when it comes to working with me in the field."

Mariel smiled at the detective's voice filled with that no-nonsense Chicago charm she had come to associate with the tall woman. With a nod of her head, she looked into blue eyes before turning to the mugs and stirring the gently steeping tea.

"Rule number one is that at the first sign of serious trouble, you hightail it out of there."

Mariel chuckled and nodded her head.

"Hightail. Got it. Next?"

Tina let a small smile cross her lips, wondering if this headstrong scientist would really listen to her advice. Probably not, but it wouldn't hurt to try. In a relaxed voice, she drawled out the next rule.

"If you get caught, you give up and then hightail it out."

The researcher nodded her head as she removed the tea bags and held up a Honey bear, her eyebrow quirking in question. Tina nodded slightly and Mariel squirted a dollop of the sweet golden syrup into the tea as she spoke.

"Ok, give up and hightail. Seems easy enough."

The investigator just shook her head and smirked, reaching a lazy hand out to take the mug of tea before shifting so that her back was against the counter. With a small sip, she smiled into the mug as Mariel came around to stand in front of her, sipping from her own mug as well.

"Third rule.."

Tina paused as the young doctor reached out and took her by the elbow, leading the tall investigator back into the living room. Mariel's shorter form guided them back to their places on the couch and Tina relaxed back into the green cushions. She was silent for a moment, unsure why the scientist's casual and gentle touch suddenly made her lose her train of thought.

Settled cross-legged again with her back against the arm of the couch, Mariel looked over at the sleek form of the investigator, puzzled. With a raise of her golden dark eyebrow, she prompted.


Tina looked down at the mug she held, it's dark green color soothingly warm in her hand, the white F.B.I. Behavioral Science Unit lettered across it. Lifting her eyes, she smiled over at the researcher.

"Third, if there are lots of them, let them fight each other while you hightail."

Mariel chuckled and took a sip of her tea, her eyes flickering over at the investigator in amusement. She was conscious of the fact that she was now the one making the enigmatic private eye nervous, why, she didn't know. It's not like she was this beautifully attractive woman's type. Then again, finding herself drawn to this woman was another discovery that she would have not thought likely. She had never been involved with a woman before, though the thought had crossed her mind more than once. With a light voice, she smiled over at the detective.

"Seems like a lot of hightailing."

Tina nodded with a slight chuckle and casually draped her arm over the back of the couch, her fingers idly playing against the fabric. Idgie, who had been hiding on the window ledge, poked her head out between the vertical blinds and pawed at those same fingers. The investigator turned her head and raised an eyebrow, her voice rumbled menacingly as her hand playfully dueled with the furry golden paw.

"You're asking for trouble, yellow cat."

Mariel laughed as she watched the furry faced cat reach out, her one white paw closing over the detective's fingers, claws extending lightly into the skin. Setting her mug quickly on the floor, she put one hand over Tina's to shield it and used the other to reach into the blinds, catching her cat gently.

"Idgie! You are such a little shit!"

With the cat purring contentedly in her lap against her t-shirted belly, Mariel picked up the investigator's hand and brought it closer, carefully looking for any damage.

"Are you ok? Did she get you?"

Tina watched as the young scientist held her hand and bent her head in examination. Mariel's smaller hands took hers and turned it over, looking at the back, running her fingers over a light scratch. The detective sat completely still and she could feel Mariel's light breath against her skin. The doctor's touch was soft, yet firm, her fingers gliding over skin looking for any marks. With a low breath, she spoke.

"I'll live."

Her low voice caught the FBI researcher's attention and she lifted her green eyes. Looking back down at the hand she held, she quickly let it go, the blood rushing to her cheeks in mild embarrassment. She had felt the strength in that hand, disguised by the softness of Tina's skin. It was an amazing feeling, really, and she had never noticed the subtle differences before. The guys she had dated all had rough hands, aggressive hands. But Tina's hand was soft and strong all at once. And it felt incredibly good. Covering her thoughts, Mariel reached down and picked up her mug, taking a sip while her eyes looked over at the detective.

With a smile, Tina shifted on the couch, crossing a booted foot on her knee again and wrapping a hand around the green FBI mug. Lazily, she reached out the attacked hand and held it out in front of Idgie, who was curled up in Mariel's lap. With a raise of her eyebrow, Tina spoke quietly to the cat.


Idgie sniffed at the fingers and before she closed her eyes and started licking against the detective's salty fingertips. With a loud purr, the golden cat signaled her truce. Mariel smiled as she looked down and watched as Idgie reached out a paw and gently curled it around Tina's hand to hold it while she licked. She was such a softy at heart.


Mariel spoke and Tina looked up, catching her eyes.

"Are there any other rules I need to know about when working with you?"

Tina chuckled and let her gaze drift down to Idgie before returning again, her blue eyes holding a hint darker shade than before. A dark eyebrow raised and she breathed out.

"Yep. There's one more rule."

Mariel let her hand drift over Idgie's soft fur and looked back across the couch to the lounging detective. She knew that there was something between them, something undefinable and she could only assume it was some sort of attraction. She was beginning to sense that Tina felt it just as much as she did. Part of the young scientist was intimidated, because truly, Tina Amphipoli was quite a woman and she couldn't imagine what the detective would see in her. A tiny bit of insecurity flashed though Mariel at the thought. Another part of her was scared, because it had been a long time since she had opened herself up to those kinds of feelings, afraid of the fragile nature of things, afraid of taking the chance of losing again. And finally, a part of Mariel was simply thrumming with excitement. Everything about Tina spoke to her, the way she held herself, her words, her stoic strength, her dazzling dark looks. It was chemical and so much more.

Raising her eyebrow, she smiled over at the detective, her voice lilting and soft.

"And what's that? More hightailing?"

Tina's low voice rumbled a chuckle as she drew her hand back slowly from the cat, her fingertips lightly grazing Mariel's hand before it settled back on the investigator's own Levi covered thigh. With a shake of her head, Tina took another sip of her tea, smiling back at the young woman next to her.

"Nope. The last rule is..."

At this, Tina's voice went to a lower register and her incredible blue eyes sparkled.

"...when all else fails, charm the hell out of them."

Chapter 10: Two Little Girls

Cirra stood smiling as she looked out over the balcony, the club was filled to capacity now and testosterone was abundant in high doses. Men. Such silly creatures. The blond inhaled deeply as she closed her eyes. They all wanted the same thing. Power, control, dominance. No matter how hard they tried or how much money they paid or who they forced, that's what it came down to. That's what made the slave market so easy. Everywhere, all over the world, men would pay top dollar so they could feel like they mastered something. Business men who couldn't handle their jobs, politicians who paid for discretion, impotent brutes who worked out their issues. Whatever. Cirra couldn't care less about them. This was why men fell at her feet. She was the one thing they couldn't have or buy or master.

The only other option was to serve her.

The bass of the grinding music below her echoed against Cirra's ears as she stood there, perched above her domain. She owned everyone who had ever stepped foot in this club. The men came here for the scene and their boytoys, but they came here under the rule that Cirra was their Mistress, no questions asked. That meant strict privacy and total absolute loyalty. The guys dancing below supplied her with her shipments, with the stock of young kids they found in the city. They did her bidding. In return? Cirra smiled as she let her brown eyes open slowly, her hand running along the sleek black railing of the balcony. In return, those who served her well were rewarded. Privileges. Money. Boys. And her Whip.

Oh, she was perfection when it came to punishment. In fact, she prided herself on it. Her wrist could deliver a sizzling kiss of leather barely felt or one that reached right inside and ripped out a man's soul. It was easy, really, Cirra mused. The pain she gave others, the ones who begged for it, that pain almost, almost could drown out her own. Each crack of her black leathered bullwhip for an instant made her forget what she had gone through, what made her who she was today. She was a sadist, pure and simple. Making other people hurt worked for her as long as it was a means to an end. She laughed as she gazed down at the leathered bodies sweating and grinding against each other. A sadist in a sea of masochists, indeed.


She let her voice drift over her shoulder, knowing that Teddy's kid sister would be there in an instant. She kind of liked the girl's attitude. A little rough around the edges, but she kept her mouth shut around Cirra and it was always handy to have something like that around. Sure enough, the short girl appeared next to her at the balcony, her brown eyes looking up excitedly.

"Yes, Mistress Cirra?"

The blond reached out her hand and ruffled against spiked hair, her smile wide as she started stroking the kid's head. Looking down at the dance floor, she spoke.

"Go get Teddy, tell him I'm ready to leave. I want those two.."

Here, Cirra paused as she pulled against a braid of Tara's hair, her eyes dancing as she stared out the sweaty bodies below. Her other hand curved up and she briefly played against her lip before extending a hand to point.

"..little bundles of joy downstairs packaged and ready to go."

Tara winced as Cirra's fingers started to tangle in her hair as the blond absently kept up her attention. Gritting her teeth, the young delinquent spoke.


Cirra smiled as her eyes glazed over, her hand tangling and pulling in the girl's now-messy hair. With a light voice, she chirped.

"Oh, those two will be such good little girls, won't they?"

The tall blond really wasn't talking to Tara as her fingers roughly pulled the tangles of dark hair from the girl's head. Tara grabbed the railing with one hand and used the other to reach up and put her hand in her hair, trying to stop the pulling as she cried out.


Cirra didn't notice as her fingers kept tangling and pulling. She had a wicked smile on her face as her other hand curled around her own leathered mid-section, hugging herself as she cocked her head to the side.

"They'll make someone very happy..."

Her singsong voice crooned as she closed her eyes, her hand still pulling at Tara's hair. Even with the harsh techno beat music. Cirra's voice was sibilant as she smiled.

"Happy, happy...everyone should be so very happy."

Tara winced again as the tall blond kept pulling at the braids and strands of her dark hair. The young girl suffered the harsh treatment because it meant that someone was actually paying attention to her for once. She had never had a very interesting childhood so she hung out with her older brother's friends, acting older than she really was. With her tough little leathers and her poorly applied heavy makeup and attitude, Tara was a wanna-be and right now, she wanted to be Cirra bad enough that she endured and kept her mouth shut.

Cirra leaned her head to the side before she lazily turned her eyes downward and gazed at the young girl next to her. Pulling the back of Tara's hair back, she smiled down the girl, her eyes still showing the lack of rational clarity. With a cock of her head, Cirra spoke with a wistful, biting voice.

"You know, I was never happy. No, I never got a chance to be a Junior Miss. Never got to be a cheerleader. No no no...I didn't get to be anything. Poor me, hmm? Funny how things change, isn't it? I get to be whatever I want now."

Tara looked up into chillingly cold brown eyes, Cirra's hand still grasped her hair tightly. With a meek nod, the young girl blinked up at her, unwilling to disagree. Cirra shook her head and let her lips curve into a wide, perfect smile, her teeth gleaming in the lights of the club. Tara breathed out a sigh of relief when the blond let go of her hair and turned back towards the dance floor below her, the smile on her face fading as her eyes took in the sight below her. With a sweep of her hand, she sarcastically commented.

"Kind of like being one big fish in a small dirty black little pond, though, isn't it?"

Tara kept quiet, watching, listening to the blond next to her. Cirra was the closest she ever came to someone actually giving her a chance at something bigger. To hell with the fact that that something was this shithole, Tara had dreams and she knew that to get them, she'd have to start small, follow the big fish around and avoid getting eaten. Cirra's quiet voice spoke again as she sighed, the fingers of both hands curving around the black railing of the balcony.

"Oh well...all that matters is who's happy and swimming in the end, right, Tara? Now, be a dear and go get Teddy."

The young girl looked up at the blond's profile, her beautiful face suddenly stone and cold as her gaze hardened. There was something so strange about Cirra. One minute Tara was scared of her, and the next, she felt sorry for her. The youth simply assumed that insanity did that to people...made them both feared and pitied. She watched as Cirra sensed her hesitation and rolled her head to the side, her eyes looking as if they might kill her with their mahogany intensity. Tara turned on her heel and went in search of her hulky brother, fear winning out over pity at this moment.


From her seat lounging next to Teddy as he drove, Cirra looked out through the semi-darkened windows of the black van. They were winding their way south through the city, driving on lesser traveled side streets. Leon, the big bulky guy who had loaded up Lisa and Valerie's unconscious bodies from the back of the club into the van when they left, sat silently in the back. Tara was crouched on the van floor between the front two seats, peering out at the city and occasionally giving a glance to Cirra. Behind her, the girls lay bound and gagged in two neat rows next to each other, packaged and ready to go.

The blond casually took a sip from her Evian water bottle, her lips curling around the tip in seductive fashion. With a slight shake of her head, she rolled her eyes at the urban landscape they passed and sighed. The run-down industrial area they drove through was full of empty parking lots, boarded up buildings, and filth. Graffiti covered the dirty columns holding up stretches of the city's numerous expressways, dividing the buildings and roads. There was trash scattered everywhere, discarded remnants of a forgotten and ignored landscape. Cirra's eyes caught the familiar landmark of a tacky red arch with gold etched lettering that signaled their arrival in Chicago's own Chinatown. At this time of night, the streets were deserted, the cold wind blowing paper in front of the van's headlights. Passing by one dark industrial building after another, the blond held her hand out behind her and spoke.


Tara knew her cue and reached for the slim cell-phone, handing it to Cirra. She watched as the blond used the very tip of her long-nailed finger to turn it on and click out a number. With a bored sigh, Cirra reached down and tilted her bucket seat back as she gracefully stretched her shiny leathered legs out in front of her, her boots resting on the van's dashboard. Teddy glanced over and kept driving along Wentworth. With a virtual purr, Cirra spoke into the black phone.

"Mmmm....yes. We're almost there. Shall I see you soon?"

The van was quiet as Cirra listened, a smile coming to her lips. She took another sip of water and laughed.

"Oh yes, all dressed up and pretty."

Teddy turned down Cermack, heading east towards the lake. He glanced over at Cirra and shifted in his seat, his booted foot slowing down on the gas. He hated this. Well, that's not really true, he hated Him. Cirra's seductive laugh filling the van as she listened to a voice coming through the cell lines. It made Teddy mad that Cirra's attention, full attention, was on Him.

"Yes, dear, that sounds, for them, I was thinking that Saturday's shipment would work out just for Bangkok and one for Marakesh."

Cirra laughed again as she closed her eyes, her fingers running over the plastic Evian bottle with subtle skill.

"Yes, that's right...Marakesh. I had a little trouble with that one so I think it's only fitting that she be sent someplace where she'll learn her proper manners. You know how they love submissive women over there."

Cirra listened and then laughed again. The van kept its slow pace down the street, the occasional stop lights were all green since no one ever drove down the side streets off Cermack in this area.

"Oh, and what would they do with me? I'm such a little kitten, don't you think?"

Cirra purred in imitation before holding the phone against her shoulder and stretching a slim arm above her head, her fingers curving into a claw as she swiped the air in front of her. Tara and Teddy thought that 'lioness' seemed more fitting.

"So you'll be here in a few?"

Cirra's voice questioned as she rolled her head to the side, gazing out the window at the empty lots with abandoned cars in them. Ahead to the right, she saw the rusty sign that signaled their final destination. Situated back from the street, the huge dark building was made of dirty red bricks, the windows blackened with some missing. This building stood bleakly alone on the industrial street, no others within an easy distance. As Teddy pulled up to the tall razor-topped chain link fence, the faint painted words on the building's front wall came into view: 'Olympian Tool and Dye'. Cirra laughed again as Teddy got out of the car to open the gate. With a light lyrical voice, she spoke into the phone before turning it off.

"See you soon, my sweet."

The van carrying its passengers and cargo drove around to the left side of the building, a large bay door of rusted metal loomed large as they approached. Teddy blinked the lights of the van and signaled to those inside to open it. Within seconds, two beefy leathered men hoisted the door up, the dim lighting inside the building throwing grotesque shadows of machinery and pipes and columns. Teddy pulled the van in as Leon moved to open the side door, sliding it with a precise slink of metal against metal. Cirra swivelled her chair around and gazed back into the van, watching the activity as the muscled door men helped Leon remove the bound girls.

"Easy boys, don't wanna bruise the delicate little fruits now do we?"

Cirra laughed again, her mood appearing frighteningly happy to Tara who sat back and watched. The blond always seemed to be in good spirits when she made a delivery herself. Tara knew better though, the conversation on the phone was the source of Cirra's pleasantries. The girl glanced over at her brother, seeing the look of complete and stupid adoration on his face in spite of the fact that Cirra couldn't give a rat's ass about him. Duh.

After taking a sip of her water, the blond rested her elbow on the arm of the van's bucket seat and propped her chin in her hand. Sleekly, she crossed her long legs as the men carted off Lisa and Valerie into the bowels of the abandoned tool and dye business. With a smile, she turned her attention to Teddy, her brown eyes glimmering in the faint glow of the van's interior lights.

"Teddy, be a darling and stay here with the cargo tonight and tomorrow. I don't want anything happening to my two little girls."

Teddy's face only showed the subtle hint of the real disappointment he felt as he nodded and lowered his eyes, his gruffly gravel voice lowered in submission.

"As you wish, my Mistress."

Cirra smiled before her eyes turned to the back of the van, the bright headlights appearing through the glass made her smile even more. Tara turned her head and looked out, knowing without a question who it was. The blond's voice happily proclaimed her pleasure.

"Oh goody! Here's my Ride. Behave, you two, hmm?"

And with that Teddy and Tara watched as Cirra gracefully slid out of the van and glided out the buildings cargo door towards the stopped car. Tara looked over at Teddy before she scrambled out for a better view, her small body pressing herself against the side of door as she peered around. It was Him.

Cirra's elegant gait brought her closer to the huge, shiny black stretch limo. The blond had thrown her long black velvet cape over her shoulders against the chill and its length swirled in softness around her leathered body. The wind swept through her wild white-blond hair as she neared the car. Tara saw the driver of the limo get out and walk around to the door where Cirra was approaching. He was dressed in a long grey overcoat, his crisp walk business-like as his gloved hand reached out for the door. The dim lights of the building reflected off the black mirrored glass of the limo's windows as the driver opened the door.

Tara's eyes went wide as she watched the scene in front of her. She had never really seen Him and had only heard mention of what he looked like. He was Cirra's business associate, he arranged all the money, financed the deals, took care of some of the more...schmoozy aspects of the international slave trade. And of course, he was Cirra's bed partner. She never slept with any of the men who worked for her. Never. So, Tara was curious to know what kind of man Cirra took pleasure with. After all, the blond was the dangerous leathered Mistress who whipped men bloody because they begged for it, whose orders were never questioned, who owned every man she ever came in contact with, like her brother, Teddy. At that instant, Tara watched as a dark figure emerged from the limo.


Dressed in a fitted black Armani suit, crisp white shirt, and red tie, the man stood as his eyes met Cirra's. He was simply the hottest fucking guy Tara had ever seen. Tall, gorgeous, and built like a God. His longish black hair was slightly wavy and he had an incredibly well-kept mustache and goatee the same color as midnight. He smiled brilliant white at Cirra, towering over her slim build and height. With a suave extension of his suited arm, he reached his hand out to take hers, bringing Cirra's hand to his lips and kissing it.

"Cirra, my dear, you are simply looking too delicious not to eat."

The blond laughed a girlish laugh, letting her cape be swept aside as the tall man pushed it off her shoulders, exposing her bare skin to lean down for a kiss against it. Reaching his arm around her, he guided her towards the open door, his voice a seductive rumble.

"My place or yours?"

Cirra turned her blond head and smiled up at him, her hand running playfully up his muscled arm. Before sliding into the black stretch limo, she lowered her voice in her own little seduction and winked.

"How about your limo first?"

They both laughed and climbed into the plush interior, the sleek lines of the car shining in the parking lot of the Olympian Tool and Dye company. Tara watched as it turned and made its way out of the dirtiest, darkest part of Chicago off to more glamorous destinations.

So, that was Ari Warinopolis.

Chapter 11: Who's on First?

The tea was sweet, the tiniest bit of spice mixed with the honey made the liquid taste slippery. Mariel had never really been one for the stuff growing up, but she had tried raspberry tea once in a little coffee shop in Madison one night when she was cramming for midterms. She never forgot it. It soothed her body and her soul, still reeling from the sudden loss her fiancé, Peter. It was a rainy night in March and she sat alone in a booth, her social psychology notes and books spread out on the table. Everyone else had left Wisconsin for spring break, but she stayed, determined to go on with her studies despite the fact that she should have been on her honeymoon that week.

Mariel had grieved and raged the weeks following his death, the shock almost too much for her to bear. She had considered giving up her dreams and simply retreating away someplace warm and safe so she could forget. But then, she knew that for her own well-being and peace of mind, she had to continue, had to move on with her life.

'Persistent' was what her professors had called her, even then. Stubborn was more like it. Mariel simply put her mind to something and was unwilling to give up until she got what she wanted. The young scientist thought that trait might come in handy with the dark detective who casually strolled across her living room. For some reason, Mariel knew that Tina Amphipoli was not one who tolerated quiters. Or non-creative types. In the investigator's line of work, Mariel knew that sometimes the strategies and plans she came up with would be unconventional, suited for the situation, even far-fetched. However, when she heard Tina's words, she had to say she was unprepared for this particular plan. Incredulously, the doctor spoke, her words scaring Idgie from her lap.

"Are you saying that I'm going to have pose as your...slave?"

Tina chuckled. She had just laid out the bare bones of her plan to the doctor as she quietly paced the living room, her body craving the activity. Pausing, the investigator turned and leaned her shoulder against the tall bookcases and idly let her eyes drift over the tomes before smiling back at Mariel. With a casual off-handed tone of voice, she spoke.

"Well, in these circles, I think the correct term is 'bottom'."

The look of horror on Mariel's face nearly made the private eye laugh out loud so she bit her lip to keep from doing it. The scientist's voice rose in a mixture of confusion, amusement, and indignation all rolled into one.

"Bottom!?? What the hell kind of thing is that??"

Tina let her fingers drift over the spines of the leather books briefly before she sat back down on the couch, her forearms resting on her knees. Turning to Mariel, a wry smile crossed her lips.

"Take it easy,'s just a way of describing how people act towards one another in certain situations."

Mariel's eyes found the detective's own and gave her a dubious look before she paused and spoke unconvinced.

"Uh..huh. Tina, would you care to explain further because I'm not getting the picture here. I'm not sure I like the idea of being referred to as a...'bottom'."

Here, the scientist's eyes danced playfully as she smiled over at Tina. The dark-haired detective smiled back and quirked an eyebrow up before casually reaching her hand over and giving a playful shove against Mariel's knee. With a chuckle, she proclaimed.

"You're an uppity bottom too. That's cute."

Mariel raised her own eyebrow in response and licked her lips before smiling. She considered making a smart-ass comment but decided against it. Was she going to argue when Tina thought she was cute? With a waving hand gesture, she prompted.

"Feel free to elaborate on this 'bottom' thing anytime please."

Tina chuckled and looked down at her boots, a smile crossing her lips before she clasped her hands together and turned her head to the side, capturing Mariel with her eyes' blue intensity.

"Ok. Since we decided our best bet was to work the sex slave angle, we're going to have to visit a few places looking for leads. Now, I've got some old contacts at The Whip Room which is a women's leather bar and I think we should also try The Mortar and Pestle which is mixed. Both of those places should give us something to start with in the way of information."

Mariel nodded, listening as she rose and went to her desk, grabbing a pen and notepad to jot down a few things. Sitting back down, she intently wrote out a couple of words before lifting her head and catching Tina's amused expression.

"What? Can I help it? I'm a helps me think when I see things written down."

Tina smiled at the young researcher and nodded before lifting her cup and finishing off the last of her tea. Mariel's voice was equal parts business and excited banter.

"Ok, so where does this whole 'bottom' thing come in?"

The investigator turned her head again and smiled before responding in a deeply rich voice that the doctor was finding quite becoming on Tina.

"Well, in order to avoid arousing suspicion, we need to fit in and that means playing the part. These clubs are pretty strict about the dress-codes and the rules. They all operate within the leather community so that means we're going to have to play along or they'll boot us right out the door."

Mariel nodded as she wrote down a few key ideas and looked up as Tina paused, her sleek muscled form leaning back against the couch with her long legs stretching out in front of her. Clasping her fingers together, she rested them on her t-shirted belly, her leather coat falling open. Letting her eyes meet the scientist's own green, she continued.

"It's really about power, Mariel. Within the community, 'bottom' generally refers to the submissive partner, sometimes called a 'slave' while the 'top' is the more dominant partner or 'master'. In the clubs, you're expected to act those parts and dress accordingly. Obviously, with us, you'll be the bottom and I'll be the top."

Mariel's eyebrows came together and she held up her hand with a slight shake of her head and a semi-miffed tone of voice.

"Wait. Why is that obvious? Why do you get to be the top and I have to be the bottom?"

Tina looked over at her, her dark eyebrows raising as she chuckled just a bit. Crossing one boot ankle over the other, the investigator gave a casual shrug and smiled.

"Mariel, no one would believe it if I were your slave. Trust me."

Mariel shook her head, indignation winning out this time in her voice.

"Hey, what makes you think I can't be the dominant one? How do you know?"

Tina glanced over at the researcher in her All-American glory, blond hair falling casually across the dark green fabric of the couch she leaned against. In her t-shirt and khakis, Mariel Potidean looked every bit the girl-next-door instead of some big leather top. Hell, it'd be a stretch to get her dressed and passed off as a bottom. Of course, Tina conceded, looks were deceiving when it came to who ruled in the bedroom. Briefly she wondered exactly what the young doctor would be like in that arena before she stopped herself and got back to the matters at hand.

"Listen, Mariel, this has nothing to do with what you might really be like. Right now, we need to pass ourselves off in a believable way and I already know I can pull off the top thing with no problem."

The sureness in the investigator's voice as well as everything Mariel had noticed about Tina actually made that point perfectly clear. In fact, sitting there in her leather coat and casual self-assurance, Tina already gave off the vibe that she was in charge, something that the researcher had found quite appealing. She had never really thought about it before but she guessed that such things could also play out in the bedroom as well. Mariel bit her bottom lip, imagining Tina taking charge there as well. With a slight shiver which she covered by standing again, it was her turn to pace the living room.

" do have a point there. I trust you on this. We're never going to get anywhere if we don't make it look real. So what do I have to do?"

Tina watched as Mariel paced, her shoes long since removed so that the young scientist padded across the hardwood in her socks. Mariel's body shifted as she turned, her lithe form muscled and surprisingly agile. The private detective concluded that Mariel must work out, her body as well-honed as her brain. With a smile, Tina nodded.

"Do you have a phone?"


Mariel had stretched out fully, lounging on her couch, her hands behind her head with her eyes closed. She had shown Tina into her bedroom where the other phone was located. Aside from her computer hook up, the scientist's apartment had only one other phone. Letting the investigator have her privacy, she relaxed, her mind vaguely tired but yet wanting to replay the entire evening.

Even though they had only met earlier that night, Mariel almost felt like she had known the tall, dark woman forever. She couldn't quite explain it, but there was a level of comfort and familiarity that she would have never expected. Could it be possible to feel that? Mariel had plenty of friends growing up, and even though she connected with them, there wasn't that same sense of...she didn't know what it was. Even as close as she had once been with her beloved sister, she hadn't felt the same kind of deep 'knowing' that she felt with Tina. It was crazy. Wasn't it?

Fuzzily, things shifted and Mariel felt herself drifting in warmth. In the silver moonlight of post-sundown, she wandered through tall rows, the dark stalks of corn high above her head. The air was humid, deep in the summer, and the crickets and cicadas were still chirping. Lightening bugs glowed on and off all around her. She was walking and walking, the coarse green leaves itching against her skin. There was something wrong. What was it? The row reached out forever in front of her and she stumbled, catching herself before she fell. Turning, she looked for Lisa.

Tina put the receiver back, her eyes still drifting over the cozy bedroom. She had been sitting on the edge of Mariel's bed while she made her plans. Idgie had nestled herself on the doctor's soft pillow, sleeping contentedly. The thick down comforter on the bed was soft and smelled freshly like flowers and citrus. She smoothed her hand over the blue flannel covering it and glanced around the room. Aside from the nightstand with a couple of books on it, there were few items in the room. A thick light blue rug covered the floor at the foot of the bed, an old wooden trunk resting at the end. There was also a dresser with pictures on it, a family of smiling faces. Standing, Tina moved over and took a look, smiling at a young Mariel, her arm around a girl of the same height with darker hair and two parents behind them. Next to that picture were a couple of older ones, grandparents maybe. Tina paused when her eyes fell on a picture of Mariel laughing and standing next to a slightly taller young man with his arm around her, his dark hair and fresh face looking back at her. Peter, she assumed.

She clicked off the light as she moved out of the bedroom and back into the quiet living room. With a quick glance, she saw Mariel stretched out on her couch. As she moved closer, the investigator saw that the young scientist appeared to be sleeping. Her face was gentle, the wisps of blond hair falling haphazardly across her brow. With her eyes closed, Tina thought Mariel looked younger still and innocent. The detective walked softly, coming to stand next to the couch, unwilling to wake the doctor up, content to study her peaceful face. Slowly, Mariel's brows came together as she twitched, her arms moving to reach around herself in sleepy comfort, soft murmurs coming from her lips.


Mariel pushed back the rows of stalks, searching for her sister. Wading further and further into the field, she began calling out Lisa's name and getting no answer. Frantically, she began to run, the corn scratching against her face and arms and legs. The sound of the crickets and cicadas growing louder as she ran, flashes of light from the fire flies flew past her eyes. And she ran. Forever it seemed.

Tina sat down gingerly on the edge of the couch next to the scientist's dreaming form and put a hand on Mariel's arm, lightly giving it a gentle rub. Lowering her voice so as not to scare the sleeping woman, she spoke.


The moonlight got brighter and Mariel felt herself falling, the scene changing in her mind to a misty place with no shape or form.

"Mariel, wake up..."

Tina's voiced soothed as she watched the researcher drift towards consciousness, her eyes fluttering in confusion as she turned her head to the side before focusing on the detective.

"Hmm? Was I sleeping?"

Tina smiled and nodded, her hand leaving the softness of Mariel's arm. With a gentle quiet rumbling voice, the detective shifted and shrugged her shoulder.

"Yeah, you were...look, it's late, I'm going to head out of here. I've got everything set up for tomorrow."

Mariel raised herself up on one elbow and reached out her hand, fingers finding purchase on soft dark leather. Somewhere inside her she felt a vague sense of disappointment at the thought of the private detective leaving. Golden eyebrows raised as the doctor tried to shake the fuzziness of sleep from her head, almost remembering a dream about her sister..maybe.

"Wait...what's the plan?"

Tina looked over at the obviously tired scientist and smiled. Idgie came into the room looking annoyed that her owner was not in bed with her providing a warm body for the yellow cat to curl up against. With a light jump to the couch arm behind Mariel's head she purred loudly, giving a look of displeasure at Tina who was responsible for keeping her soft warm human pillow from their bed. With a quiet voice, the investigator explained.

"We'll meet an old friend of mine at my place tomorrow. She's going to bring some things for you to wear, she's about your size."

Mariel let go of Tina's jacket and ran a hand through her blond hair as she nodded. Clearing her throat, she spoke.

"Ok...then what?"

Tina smiled and chuckled, the earnestly sleepy voice of the scientist sounding like something Tina had heard or felt before, long ago. And all the questions and clarifications, that too felt distantly familiar. With a quirk of her dark eyebrow, the detective answered.

"Then we get to do some of that exciting field work you wanted."

Mariel smiled and closed her eyes as she shook her head, remembering their dinner conversation, which at this point felt like a million years ago. She opened her eyes again when she felt the couch shift as Tina's tall body rose, picking up their tea mugs as she went before taking them into the kitchen. Mariel pushed herself up and stretched, making a contented little noise as Tina came back into the room. With a sleepy but happy expression, she followed the investigator to her apartment door.

"So...when will I see you tomorrow?"

Tina grabbed the stapled copies of the case information Mariel had prepared for her from the end of the couch before she stopped at the door, turning to the shorter blond and smiling. She spoke as her hand fished in her jacket pocket for her keys.

"How about we get lunch and go over the details?"

Mariel smiled, her head tilted up to regard the tall detective. With one hand she rubbed her t-shirted belly and nodded her head, her voice sounding happy about that idea.

"Lunch...that sounds good. I work out over at Patton Gym in the mornings, but I should be done by 11 or so. How does that sound?"

Tina reached her hand to unlock the door and smiled, her dark head nodding her agreement.

"I'll pick you up then."

Mariel nodded and put her hands in her pockets.


Tina shook her head in agreement.


Both of them stood there suddenly awkward, silence for a few moments before Mariel chuckled and spoke.

"So, how 'bout them Cubbies?"

Tina relaxed and laughed, reaching out to the shorter woman's shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze before letting her hand drop, her gaze drifting down briefly before returning to Mariel's face. With a sigh, her eyes softened as she spoke quietly.

"Listen, Mariel, I...about dinner. I shouldn't have said some of the things I did or treat you like a kid who didn't know what she was getting herself into."

Mariel shook her head and interrupted gently, her hand reaching to rest on the detective's leathered arm.

"Tina, it's ok, you don't need to apologize. We both were trying to figure out how this would work and you were just making sure I was up to the task. I don't blame you for not wanting someone you couldn't trust to cover your back. I promise you, though, that I'm in this with you totally and completely. You have my word."

Tina nodded, her blue eyes connecting with the scientist's before she smiled, her reply coming in a gentle rumble.

"And you have my word that no matter what, I'll make sure we stay safe. No matter how rough it might get or where this will take us, you should know that I will find a way or die trying."

The scientist nodded solemnly as she took in Tina's words and put her faith and trust into this woman completely. And it felt absolutely right and she believed every word. The investigator gave another quick nod and opened the door. Mariel's voice was soft as she watched the tall woman move out into the dim lighting of the apartment building's hallway.

"See you tomorrow, Tina."

The detective turned before she headed down the stairs and smiled, her dark head nodding. As she descended, she pointed at the door and called up.

"Make sure you lock that door tight, Mariel. Safety always."

Tina grinned as she disappeared down and Mariel chuckled, closing the door and locking it as she was told. Leaning back against the cold hard surface, she brought her arms around herself and smiled. This quite possibly was the best day of her young life, all because a tall dark stranger had come into it with casual grace and charmed the hell out of her. With a sleepy sigh, Mariel decided that maybe she had found her tree in the forest, in the most unlikely of places, Chicago, and in the most unlikely of people, Tina Amphipoli.

Chapter 12: The Morning After

Lisa woke to muted sunlight streaming across her face. Gradually, she opened one of her eyes and tried to stretch, groggily attempting to make sense of where she was and what happened. With a wince, she felt her hands bound behind her back and rolled to the side, blinking at her surroundings. She was laying on a cold dirty cement floor in some place that smelled like oil and steel. With a push, she managed to get herself in a sitting position, her neck stiff and sore from the floor.

"What a bitch, huh?"

Lisa turned and noticed her roommate Valerie sitting against the wall in shadows. She too was bound and dirty. Clearing her dry throat and licking her lips, the dark-haired girl croaked out a few words.

"Wh..what happened?"

Valerie's face was dark so Lisa couldn't see it very clearly. They appeared to be in a large storeroom, the walls rising high above them. Dirty windows far up allowed the morning sun to bleakly shine in the room. It was empty save for a few cots and chairs and a big bucket in the corner. The heavy steel door against one wall was the only exit. Valerie's voice slightly echoed in the room.

"Teddy sold us both out to that fucking psycho, Cirra. They knocked me out right after we got inside the club. Don't you remember?"

Lisa's mind tried to replay the events of the following evening but couldn't put all the pieces together. The last thing she remembered was getting out of a van someplace and going into some building with music, a club she supposed. That was it, she couldn't really remember much more than that.

"Wait...what do you mean Teddy sold us out...where are we and what's going on?"

She heard Val chuckle as the girl struggled to her feet and began to pace around the storeroom, her anger seething.

"That fuck Teddy...he's so pussy-whipped. We're fucking in some goddamned place because of that blond bitch. She's gonna fuck us over."

The words coming from Valerie told Lisa that this was not a good situation, not good at all. She didn't remember any blond...

"Hold on..Cirra? I sorta remember that who did this to us?

Valerie paused as she kicked at one of the seats, her booted foot sending the metal folding chair clattering to the ground. Her hands were bound behind her back and she struggled in vain to get out of them. She knew she was fucked. She gambled and lost. Hell, she was lucky to still be alive. As long as Lisa was still oblivious though, she might have some leverage left. All she knew is that she was not going to fucking get shipped who the fuck knew where for who the fuck knew what. Fuck!

"Yeah, she's the one. She's completely insane. Listen, if anyone comes in here, you let me do the talking, I'll get us out of here."

Lisa scooted herself over and leaned against the wall and rested her head back against the wall. She was parched and dying for cold water. Her head was throbbing something fierce and Valerie's voice echoing in this room was not helping. Looking down, she noticed she had lost a shoe. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, desperately wishing she could remember what happened last night. With a quiet voice, she spoke.

"We're in big trouble, aren't we?"

Valerie stopped pacing and looked over at the dark-haired girl, one tiny little tinge of regret before her instinct to save her own ass kicked in. Sitting down on one of the wooden benches, she shook her head.

"Yeah, but I'll take care of it. Trust me."

Lisa swallowed and nodded, willing her body to feel one iota better than it did now. 'Think good thoughts, it helps you forget the bad'. That's what her sister had always told her. Vaguely, Lisa remembered thinking about Mariel last night, picturing her or dreaming about her or something. She decided that she needed to think about that right now and wish more than ever that she hadn't been so stupid. Her last conversation with Mariel had been on the phone right before Lisa left home. Her sister had encouraged her to get her GED, to make something of herself. Lisa had argued, too selfish to admit she needed Mariel's support and too angry at her life to work at it. So many times she had wished she'd simply called home or called Mariel. It seemed that the more time went by, the more distance grew between them. She never got a chance to say goodbye. Taking a deep breath as a tear ran down her cheek, Lisa sniffled. 'Think good thoughts'. So the dark haired girl thought about how Mariel was now and what she might be doing.

Valerie swallowed and looked around the storeroom. With Lisa off in her own world, she suddenly became acutely aware of her body. A slight sheen of sweat broke out on her brow despite the chill in this building. She knew what the fuck she needed. Dammit, the last time was right before they left Teddy's places. This was not good at all. Fuck.


"You are magnificent."

Ari's rumbling voice spoke, the morning light shining through the penthouse windows. The room was bright and cheery, despite the dark occupants, and the view overlooking the lake on one side and the city on the other was breathtaking. They were at his place, the cozy top floor suite of the round thirty-two floor highrise building was all his. Crystal clear windows surrounded the entire place, light sheer curtains half-drawn. Ari smiled, looking up at the blond skillfully riding his muscled body.

"That's true, I'm such a good fuck, aren't I?"

Cirra's voice was playfully rough, her lithe body moving up and down sensuously. Her hands were resting on Ari's well-toned chest, fingers tangling slightly in the dark hair covering it. Blond hair was wild and her breasts moved in time to her hips, the creamy white mounds swaying perfectly. Ari's hands were planted firmly on her waist, pulling her down on him and groaning at her movements.

"That you are, Cirra. I knew the first time I saw you you'd be a wildcat in bed..."

Cirra threw her head back and laughed, her fingernails scraping against his chest, scratching him before she leaned back and her hands came to rest behind her on the top of his muscled thighs. Her hips never stopped their rhythm, her body taking in his length with slippery ease. Slowing down, she brought her brown eyes to lock into his and smiled a wicked smile.

"You like this, don't you, Ari?"

He chuckled, his chin raising a bit as his head went back into the silk pillows. Licking his lips, he gave a shrug of his head and replied in a deep voice.

"I like it as much as you do, Cirra."

With that, his biceps bulged as he pulled her body down on him harder, grinding his hips into her. He could feel her body clamp down on him and he groaned, her wet warmth squeezing against him. Cirra's eyes sparkled as she moved against him, her words spoken in a pleased voice.

"I'd call it a mutually satisfying relationship, wouldn't you?"

At that, Cirra leaned forward and put her hands on the bed at the side of the dark curls adorning Ari's head. She began to lift her body faster, pressing hard against him and pulling back as she looked down into his dark eyes. A slow smile eased across her lips as her breasts heaved in time to her hips. In the morning sun, their primal sounds filled the lavish penthouse.

Ari's jaw clenched as he felt her slide over him. With a growl, he muscled his strong body up and turned them over, pressing Cirra's back down into the spot against the sheets he had once occupied, never losing contact between them. He felt the blond's hands reach down and grab him, pulling his hips into her with intensity as her legs curled around his. He shook his head, his sweat dampened hair sticking against the side of his face. With a growl, he pressed hard into Cirra.

"Just remember our deal, Cirra. It's only a matter of time before she finds you."

Cirra's controlled pant turned into a breathless smile as her eyes narrowed. Her fingernails dug into his skin as she felt his thick length slide into her. She had to give Ari credit. He fucked as good as he looked. But Ari Warinopolis was her ticket to vengeance. With a push of her own hips, she spoke harshly.

"Oh, I'm counting on it. You'll get what you want and I'll get what I want."

Ari reached one hand and tangled it into Cirra's blond hair while the other arm held him above her. Roughly, he thrust into her, her slim body taking his with ease. He never trusted Cirra despite her being one of his most productive business associates. Oh, but she was good. And ruthless.

And uncontrollable.

"Don't try to fuck me on this, Cirra."

The blond laughed as she arched her body up against him, her firm nipples pressing into his dark hairy chest as her arms went around his neck. Letting her lips find his ear, Cirra spoke into it with a seductive tease.

"What? You don't like how I fuck, Ari? I'm insulted."

He closed his eyes as Cirra's legs bent up and wrapped around his muscled buttocks, pulling him into her while her body began tightening around his length, wetly squeezing and clutching. With a growl, he shoved her back down into the bed and let his weight fall on hers as his hips moved faster. Forcefully, he moved against her while he ground out his words.

"And I'm tired of talking."

Outside, clouds drifted across the October sky, the Chicago skyline shadowed in random patches of dark and light. The traffic on Lake Shore Drive below them began to pick up as the business commuters made their way to work. The lake was blue and frothy as the ever-present wind whipped across its surface. With a groan, Ari thrust one last time before he spilled into Cirra Callistone's arching body, her deep sigh the only indication of her pleasure.


The summer trip to camp, the one in Ohio where they roomed together in a cabin full of other giggling 10 year old girls. It was one Lisa's favorite times. For a week in July, she and Mariel left their sometimes lonely farm in Indiana and went to girls' camp at Lake Laurel. Tucked away in some woods, it was a chance for them to run and play with other girls their age, something they only got to do during the school year. It had been a blast. Canoeing, swimming, roasting marshmallows, singing. It was there that Lisa smiled with pride when Mariel discovered she had a knack for telling stories, ghost stories around the campfire or funny little tales of monsters and heroes. Every night in their cabin, the other girls would beg Mariel to tell a story and Lisa felt a sense of pride knowing it was her sister that everyone wanted to know. That made her someone they wanted to know as well, simply by relation.

Lisa was smiling before a harsh scrap of metal against cement startled her. Opening her eyes, she watched as two guys she didn't recognize came into the room, one holding a tray of food and drink, the other one carrying a blue tackle box. Valerie jumped up from her chair and got in the shorter one's face.

"Where the fuck is Teddy. Get him in here now!"

The muscled leather man simply shoved her back and locked the door behind him as he and his friend made their way into the storeroom. As the tall dark-haired man set the tray down, the shorter one pointed over at Lisa.

"You'll want to eat and drink at some point, I'm sure."

Lisa looked at him and stood, her back still against the wall. With an angry voice, she spoke.

"Who are you and why are you doing this? Let us go...we haven't done anything to you."

The two men exchanged amused looks before the taller one crossed his arms over his bulky chest and spoke, his voice caustic.

"Would you listen to that, Adam. She wants us to let her go. What'dya think? Should we?"

Valerie stepped back and stood next to Lisa, warily eyeing the men and the tackle box the short guy, Adam was still carrying. The two girls watched as he walked over and sat down on one of the benches and took off his leather jacket, revealing a tight muscle shirt under it. He laughed as he opened the box.

"Oh, I'm sure Cirra would agree. After all, she's pretty easy-going, right, Bud?"

Both men laughed as Lisa and Val looked at each other. Lisa's eyes got wide as the tall one named Bud came over to her and grabbed her roughly, bringing her over to the bench.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

Her voice was desperate as her eyes fell on the contents of the tackle box. Reaching in, Adam took out a syringe, uncorking the needle before laying it on the bench. With a shrug of his shoulder, he nodded and spoke.

"Get her ready."

Lisa looked on in horror as the shorter man began to prepare, extracting a spoon and a small blowtorch. She felt the binds at her wrist loosen as Bud untied her and began to roughly pull off her jacket. She tried to struggle but his beefy arm wrapped around her neck as he pulled up the sleeve of her shirt, exposing her arm and holding it out tightly.

Valerie looked on, now completely understanding what was going on. Her body began to shake at the thought that she'd get a chance to feed her own habit. She licked her lips and moved forward slightly. She was starting to come down hard and it was making things unbearable. Val had mostly hidden her addiction from her roommate, holing up in her room or going over to someone's house. All she knew was that another hit was in sight and that would help her figure out how she was going to get her ass out of this fucking nightmare before Cirra came back. Lisa was on her own.

"Noo...please don't."

Lisa's voice begged as she realized what was going to happen. It did no good. Adam stood and tied the bind from her wrist around her upper arm. He smiled cruelly at her and he tapped his finger against the skin of her arm where it creased, searching for her vein.

"Trust me, sweetheart, where you're going, you'll be glad we started with this. You won't feel a thing and they'll keep you on it as long as you work out for them. Don't fight it."

Lisa struggled one more time, attempting to kick until the taller man holding her wrapped one of his legs around hers and kept her completely still. Never before had she wished for something as much as she wished for someone, Mariel, her mom and dad, anyone to rescue her. She gritted her teeth and closed her eyes when she saw the needle approaching. The prick against her skin made her cry out before she felt a warmth flood into her arm, the binding released. Her body relaxed as Bud picked her up and took her over to one of the dirty cots, setting her down on the edge. All she could concentrate on was the pulsating rush moving through her body as she sat silently.

Valerie jealously watched as her roommate was given a smooth hit of heroin. Sweat was now pouring down the side of her face, her crew cut damp from it. Shaking, she went over to where the two men were putting away their tools and preparing to leave.

"Hey, wait...what about me? I need a quick one.."

Adam turned to her and smiled, snapping shut the tackle box. He cocked his head and grinned down at her before they moved towards the door.

"None for you. Cirra's orders. She said she wanted you high and dry for your trip."

Valerie's eyes looked back in horror. With her hands still bound behind her back, she ran over to the guys and pleaded up to them as they began to unlock the door.

"You can't do this! Doesn't she know I need it?"

Adam turned again, his eyes cruel as his smile faded. He and Bud were some of Cirra's most loyal, serving her for years. Part of her coldness had long ago seeped into them and now they no longer felt anything either. Looking at the girl who tried to double-cross their boss, he shoved her back and spoke harshly.

"Of course she knows you need it, you bitch. That's why she's not giving it to you. She wants you to enjoy your misery in all its glory."

Valerie looked on desperately, the thought of going sober at this point was terrifying. Her body was too far gone for that to be anything but one big fucking nightmare. Just before the door closed, Adam's head peeked back in and he smiled.

"Oh, and she wanted me to tell you that you're headed for Marakesh."

With that, the big steel door shut and locked. Valerie stumbled back against the cold steel wall. The Middle-East. She had heard horror stories about what happened to girls over there, the ones Cirra sent to Marakesh and Shiraz. If her drug withdrawal didn't kill her, where she was going would. Either way, it would be slow and painful if she didn't get out.

"Fuck me."

Chapter 13: Decisions, Decisions

Tina drove through the traffic with negligent ease, gliding the Buick skillfully past slower drivers, maneuvering the golden car through the morning sun. This October Friday was brisk, the chill from the previous day still hanging in the air. Commuters and others moved through the streets of Chicago on their way to destinations unknown. It was the alone time in her car that gave the private detective a chance to sort out her thoughts. And right now, her thoughts were focused on a certain blond scientist she had just met the day before.

There was something about Mariel Potidean that simply felt right. When she had finally gotten back to her bare, cold apartment after leaving the doctor's warm cozy home, she had fallen into a fitful sleep, snippets of their conversations mixed with dreams. It was like her mind was remembering feelings she didn't have, images she hadn't seen. And it all centered around Mariel. She had woken up early as usual, unable to shake the feeling that she needed to somehow be around the young researcher at all times. Not surprisingly, it wasn't an all together unpleasant feeling, just foreign.

As she drove further nouth from her Lincoln Park apartment, she smiled, remembering that Mariel also reminded her of her brother, Lucas. That same idealism, that same determination, even the look she got in her eye when she was excited about something. It had been years since she had seen that same fire. Lucas. Turning west on Fullerton, Tina passed a patrolling cop car as she made her way towards the Kennedy expressway and frowned, a mixture of anger and familiarity went through her. Her booted foot pressed the gas and sped down the on-ramp, blending into the cars on the Kennedy.

"Damn it."

The memories of her brother and their time together on the force came back to her. She didn't like to talk about it much, almost as if talking about it made it feel like she could have done something to change it. When she had heard the news that Lucas had been shot on a routine drug bust, she had nearly wrecked her own patrol car getting to the scene. When she arrived, there was a crowd of blues already there, closing off the scene.



She ran past the yellow tape, ducking under it as the ambulance personnel were starting to load his body into the van. Some of her fellow officers tried to hold her back, but she simply muscled her way through and breathlessly came to him, grabbing the EMS guy and stopping him momentarily from putting her brother inside.

"Lucas...Lucas? Can you hear me?"

She stroked his curly blond hair, the faint blood from his temple coloring her hand. Looking down his body, he saw his blue uniform soaked dark, near his heart. Pressing against the wound, she felt for his Kevlar jacket, her brows coming together when the required equipment wasn't on his body. One of the ambulance drivers tried to move her out of the way.

"Please, we need to get him loaded up, he's almost gone."

Tina had turned to him with the glare of utter shock and anger on her face.

"No! Get away!"

She turned back as Lucas' eyes were flickering open, his light blue coming to focus hazily on her own. She smiled down at him, her face softening. She whispered down at him in a soothing voice.

"Hey, Little ya doin'?"

He smiled back at her before wincing in pain and coughing. Tina had smoothed her hand through his blond curls and put her hand against his cheek, smiling at his reply.

"I've had worse."

Shaking her head, she let her forehead come down to rest on his, her voice a hoarse whisper.

"You're gonna be just fine."

Lucas winced again and looked at her, his eyes conveying what she knew to be true. He wasn't going to be fine. There was nothing anyone could do for him now. Except Tina. With weakening strength he raised his hand and put it on her uniformed shoulder, turning his head to find her ear.

"Tina, do something for me.."

She whispered back to him, her voice choking up as she spoke.

"Anything, Lucas, anything.."

The young man smiled and nodded before gripping her shoulder tighter, the pain and the blood loss starting to make him shake. Lucas looked past her shoulder and saw a cluster of Chicago police behind them, gathered watching the scene with interest. He was going to have to make this quick.

"They're a part of it. Watch your my locker..evidence."

Lucas coughed again and Tina pulled back, her face a mixture of anxious worry and confusion. Soothing the bloodied hair back from his temple, she watched as her brother's breathing became more labored. He struggled to keep his light blue eyes on hers as he lay there on a gurney in the middle of the street in South Chicago. Desperately, Tina spoke.

"Who? Who's a part of it, Lucas? What evidence?"

He started to speak, his voice a soft whisper and she leaned down again, putting her ear next to his lips, his last breath coming out in a voice that sounded so much like when he was younger.

"Adam 12."

Their word. Growing up, they'd watch the show and say to each other 'Let's go play Adam 12!' afterwards. Tina pulled back and watched as Lucas' eyes fluttered shut and his body stopped breathing. In horror, she touched her fingers to his pulse, looking for any sign and finding none. Tipping her head back, she cried out.



Tina Amphipoli gripped the steering wheel tighter as she pressed down harder on the Buick's gas pedal. Speeding along the Kennedy, she flew past everyone, the left passing lane clearing out for her, almost as if other cars sensed the need to move. If she drove fast enough, she'd forget long enough. Soon, the Buick was just a golden blur on the expressway.


Mariel stretched, willing herself into one more round on the machines before she left. The sweaty musty Patton Gym was sparsely populated, most of NU's students preferring the new Crown Center. This place was only a few blocks jog from her apartment and to be honest, she sort of liked its old charm. Of course, she had to do some fancy fast-talking to get herself a pass to use it, but she prided herself on being able to talk her way into lots of things.

Like last night. Mariel smiled as she climbed on the stair-master and began her set. She had to convince a loner renegade private detective to work with her and had managed to have equal input into the plan. Even if she had to be a bottom. The blond scientist chuckled to herself at that. Stepping faster, she shook her slightly damp hair back from her face and gripped the hand holds of the machine tighter. After Tina had left, she had fallen into a deep sleep, her dreams populated with fragments of the investigator and other surreal images of horses and campfires. She woke earlier than usual feeling refreshed. Calling into the office, she left voice mail for Agent Ephran, informing her things were all well and good with the 'blue file', Eph's code name for Tina. She let the section chief know that she'd keep her up to date with the case as they were going into the field.

Now, if only she could learn more about the enigmatic detective. She was dying to know about her past, what made her tick, what she was like growing up. Everything. She could tell Tina was reticent by nature, not prone to divulging too much. However, the developing closeness and how comfortable their conversation had been last night gave Mariel hope. Maybe during lunch she could broach the subject. She smiled to herself, already feeling the tingle of getting to spend the day with her new acquaintance.

In fact, Mariel mused, she was feeling downright excited and invigorated, ready to get cracking. The plan they had come up with sounded interesting to say the least and she was looking forward to getting down to business. She had done a little web-surfing before she came to the gym and had collected a bit more information about the leather scene and some of the basic rules. Who knew the color of a handkerchief could mean so many things? She closed her eyes and concentrated on her work-out, anticipating the evening with more than just professional interest.


Tina wheeled her car into a space in the parking lot of Patton Gym. She was early, as usual, but the drive through Evanston had given her a chance to collect her thoughts and get herself under control. The unexpected flashback of memories about Lucas had caught her by surprise. Pushing those thoughts back down, she opened the door and stepped out on to the gravel dusted cement, her boots crunching against the ground. The slight breeze whipped her black hair back, setting the long dark length to swirl around her face. Her sunglasses reduced the glare of the sun peeking out behind the occasional clouds as she put her keys in her leather jacket and paced towards the building.

She glanced impassively at the counter boy, sitting in a glass booth just inside the entrance as she pulled the outer doors open and walked forward, reaching for the gym's inner door. His young voice spoke through the opening in the booth.

"Hey, you got ID?"

Tina stopped and let her head swivel around to meet him. He was pale and gangly, his dark hair thinning even now. He had a baseball cap on his head and it looked like he just started shaving recently, his smooth skin barely showing any signs of mature manly growth. He swallowed at the look on her face as she raised her sunglasses up and pinned him with a blue stare.

"No. Do you, junior?"

He stood up in the booth and looked at her, speaking loudly through the opening.

"Look, you can't use the gym if you don't have ID, lady."

Tina's hand slowly let go of the door handle as she continued to stare at him. Turning, she removed her glasses completely and strode over to the booth, her jaw clenched tight. Coming to face him a mere inch or two through the glass, she hissed.

"Did you just call me 'lady'?"

The boy, no more than 20 or so, gulped, his eyes darting, looking for someone, anyone. He watched as this tall dark imposing woman dressed in jeans and leather moved even closer to the booth. He backed up involuntarily when she growled out her next words.

"Because if you did, I'd have to show you exactly what this 'lady' would do to you if you called her that. You got it, son?"

He swallowed again and nodded. With a really scary smile, the tall woman spoke again.

"Good. Now I'm going into this gym and you're going to sit in your booth and we're going to go on with our morning. No trouble. And no ID. Understand?"

The way the woman asked the question didn't leave much room for him to disagree. Damn, he'd only started working there a few weeks ago to help pay tuition, what did he care if someone went in without a NU pass. And to hell if he was going to tangle with her over it. He gave her a little smile and nodded. She smiled back, one of those dangerous sexy smiles he'd seen on TV before. She was hot even if she was a bitch. He just shook his head as he watched her saunter into the gym. Damn.

The place was more or less deserted and Tina walked down a few hallways before she found the weight room. Looking through the doorway, she caught sight of familiar blond hair and walked quietly into the room, pausing against the wall, watching. A couple of guys working in there looked up at her when she entered, gave her an appreciative once-over and then went back to their curls. Letting her eyes flicker over to the compact form, Tina smiled.

Mariel's back was to her as she held two weights in each hand and was rhythmically lifting them. The scientist was wearing a tight white tank-top, her muscled shoulders and arms standing out in relief as she worked out. She had on a pair of dark shiny navy blue Adidis running pants, three white lines going up the side of each leg. Mariel's hair was loosely braided in the back with blond wisps falling to the side, some strands wetly stuck to the back of her neck and shoulders. Putting it mildly, Tina's eyes took in the sight with relish.

Slowly, she made her way through the weights and towards the researcher, her reflection in the mirror finally catching the blond's attention. Mariel turned, a huge surprised smile on her face as she let the weights rest down at her side.

"Hey! What are you doing here? I thought we were going to meet later?"

Tina smiled back, putting the sunglasses she held in her jacket pocket. Causally, she put her back to the glass mirrored wall and crossed her arms, her dark features focusing on the scientist.

"I made better time on the Kennedy than I expected."

Mariel set the weights down and smiled, reaching for a small white towel and wiping off the sweat on her face. Her cheeks were flushed and she fairly glowed. Running a hand through her damp golden bangs, she chuckled as she came over to stand in front of the investigator.

"Well, I was just about done here anyway. I'm all sweaty, I need to get home and take a shower and change before we grab lunch. Is that alright?"

Tina quirked a corner of her mouth up and gave a slight nod, her eyes playfully catching the doctor's green. Somehow all the tension from her trip earlier this morning drained from her body and Tina suspected it was due to being in the presence of this radiant young woman. With a rumbling voice, she spoke.

"I suppose..."

She paused before reaching out a finger and letting it casually wipe across Mariel's muscled shoulder and continued.

"...wouldn't want you all sweaty now would we?"

Mariel's face blushed a bit redder as she laughed, her eyes looking up into the detective's face before she let them drop and come back up again.

"Right. So let me grab my stuff and we can go."

Tina just smiled and nodded, watching Mariel fish out a hooded dark grey sweatshirt from a backpack near her and put it on. White lettering spelled out 'Wisconsin' across the front. The researcher threw the towel into the bag and zipped it up, her face returning brightly to the investigator's.

"All set."

Tina smiled and reached over, taking the backpack from Mariel as she followed the blond out of the weight room. Once outside the gym, and after another glare from Tina at the counter boy, they stood in the cool sun. Mariel shielded her eyes from the brightness of being outside of the dark building and looked over at Tina. The detective had put her sunglasses back on and was standing tall in the parking lot. With a nod toward her car, she spoke.

"So, you want a ride?"

Mariel smiled, squinting in the sunlight. With a little chuckle, she reached over and dug through her backpack that Tina was holding and pulled out her keys. Holding them up, she spoke.

"Why don't you go on ahead and meet me at my place? My body gets mad at me if I don't stretch and run after working out. I'd hate to be all stiff and sore for our adventure tonight."

Tina raised an eyebrow behind her shades and smiled, shaking her head a bit. With a light shrug, she spoke good-naturedly as her hand took the doctor's key and she started towards her car.

"Suit yourself."

Mariel put her hand out and lightly grabbed hold of Tina's leathered arm, stopping the woman who half-turned to face her again. With a smile, the scientist looked up at the detective as her voice spoke sincerely.

"Thank you though."

Tina shrugged her shoulders and smiled, her voice a low rumble in the mid-morning air.

"Anytime, Mariel."

Mariel returned the words with a nod and a smile and started off, her light jog taking her through the parking lot on her way to the 5 block trip home. Tina watched the retreating form a while longer before heading to her car, shaking her head. She was completely and totally charmed. Damn.


When Mariel made her way up the stairs and to her apartment door, she opened it to find a now familiar sight: A lounging private detective on her couch and Idgie purring contentedly, nestled against jeans and a t-shirt and a warm body. She laughed when she came in, pulling off the hot sweatshirt and throwing it on the chair as she went into the kitchen, her voice calling lightly from the refrigerator.

"Looks like Idgie forgave you for keeping me up so late."

Tina smirked down at the yellow cat, her hand running through Idgie's soft fur. She watched as the scientist lifted a bottle of orange juice and drank, taking deep gulps. Smiling at the sight, Tina let her eyes drink in the rippled muscles running across the doctor's abdomen, clearly displayed under the tight tank top. And of course, Mariel's breasts were a thing of beauty as well. Clearing her throat, Tina spoke.

"Yeah, we've come to an understanding with each other."

The scientist lowered the orange juice and quirked an eyebrow, coming forward to lean against the doorway of the kitchen to face the detective. With an amused voice, she smiled.

"Oh really? Hey, do you want anything to drink? I've got juice,"

Tina chuckled and shook her head.

"Nah, I'm good. Thanks."

Mariel smiled, kicking off her tennis shoes and finishing off the rest of the orange juice as she headed towards her bedroom. Reaching up, she undid the loose braid of her hair and shook the blond length out. Pausing in the doorway that led to the back of the apartment, she turned and nodded her head towards the bathroom.

"I'm going to jump in the shower real quick. I'll be ready to go in 15. Wow, I'm getting hungry!"

Tina smiled and chuckled, her eyes looking down at the dozing Idgie and then back up to meet Mariel's before she spoke, her voice a mixture of amusement and something more.

"Yeah, me too."

Mariel detected the faintest hint of a flirt in those words and just smiled, heading into the bedroom to grab her robe. After throwing off her work-out clothes, she donned the light blue terrycloth robe. Poking her head around the door into the living room, she smiled over at Tina who looked up at her.

"I'll let you make the decision."

Tina quirked an eyebrow and cocked her head, a smile forming on her lips as her low voice inquired.

"About what?"

Mariel slipped past the doorway in her robe towards the bathroom before she paused again, her eyes finding Tina's across the room.

"About lunch...and stuff."

And then the blond was gone, the sound of running water filling the apartment. Tina ran her tongue over her lips and closed her eyes, shaking her head with a smile on her face. Gazing down at the sleeping cat in her lap, she chuckled and spoke quietly.

"Idgie, she's something else, isn't she?"

The cat just blinked open an eye and yawned before nestling herself closer to the investigator, enjoying the soft attention she was getting. As long as her mistress fed her and went to bed at a reasonable hour, Idgie was just fine with it all. And the new woman petting her worked too. She purred and drifted off into her cat dreams of catching mice and dust motes.


Continued in Part 3

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