Authors: Michelle McGriff
“Are you on a drug? What the hell is wrong with you? I never knew you hated her so much.”
“I don't hate her, but look, you could be in danger. You're my partner, and I don't care if it was your motherânobody is gonnaâ¦” Tommy seemed to catch her words. “I'm getting in this thing. If nothing else to keep you safe, whether I like it or not.”
“I'm sorry, Tommy, I'm sorry about all this,” Keliegh said, rubbing his head. “But I can't haveâ”
“Sorry? No. Don't âsorry' me out of this. I know what you're about to say, but no.”
“Fine! But if you're going to âhelp' you have to believe she's innocent!”
“No, I don't. I have to believe in what's right and pursue that. If she falls on the wrong side of it then there ya go. But for now, nothing seems right and I can't work with that.”
Just then he heard a noise coming from outside his condominium. It was the sound of an engine shutting off. The unmarked car had just returned from somewhere.
What kind of surveillance is that? What'd he do, leave for donuts?
“Hang on, Tommy,” he blurted, tossing the phone on the couch and marching out of his house toward the parked car. The man inside looked at him as if suddenly nervous. Keliegh had never seen him before. He wasn't from his own precinct, nor did he look like anyone he'd seen at his uncle's precinct.
Keliegh grabbed at the locked door. “Open the door! Open it, you mother!”
“What? What?” the man asked, lowering the window slightly. Keliegh could hear Top Forty music coming from his radio. He was nowhere near set up for police surveillance.
“Who are you? Why are you watching my place?”
“I'm a security guard. I work at the mall. I took this gig for some moonlighting money.”
“What? Who hired you?”
“Some dude. I don't know his name,” he explained.
“Big black guy?” Keliegh asked, jerking at the door again.
“Maybeâ¦maybe,” the guy answered, holding tight to his side of the door. “He told me to watch your place and then he'd check in with me periodically to get a report. He told me to leave when you leave and follow you around. So I did. But I took a little, you know, break. Had to goâ¦you know. Too much coffee, I guess,” the guy explained.
Keliegh slammed his hand on the window forcefully. “Get outta the car!”
“What? Hell no.”
“I said, get outta the car!” Keliegh barked.
Instead of obeying, the guy started the car and peeled off, causing Keliegh to spin off the car and stumble a little bit. Catching his balance, Keliegh stomped and spit. “Shit!”
Storming back into his place, he knew he had to call Tommy back now. He'd screwed up. There was no doubt. He'd let Romia get away and it was more than clear now that nothing was what it was appearing to be.
Stepping inside and slamming the door behind him, he glanced over at his sofa, noticing the shadowy figure sitting there. The man reminded him quickly of the pictures he'd seen of ninjas. Surely this wasn't a true ninja.
With all the other crazy shit going on, he could only hope not. Keliegh immediately took assessment of his mind and his weaponâ¦neither was where he wanted them to be. Suddenly, he remembered Romia's description of the man who attacked her behind the tavern.
“You're the Shadow?”
“Nice name. You make that up?” the man asked, jumping to his feet and taking a fighting stance. Keliegh was a sharp shooter, not a fighter. This wasn't gonna be pretty, he could tell.
“You are so going to kick my ass, huh?” Keliegh asked.
The Shadow chuckled wickedly.
Tommy loudly explained that she was leaving to follow a lead she had on a case she was working. She'd been talking in a low volume to Keliegh, hoping nobody had been paying attention, because she didn't want them to know what she and Keliegh were up to. They were flying solo on this case and not sure what side they were fighting for: Romia's or the law.
“Turner, meeting, let's go!” The captain snapped his fingers as he stepped from the glass elevator that brought him down from the second-floor perch. Everyone hated this new addition to their building. If the captain didn't feel as though he was a demigod before he sure did now, with the way he could look out over the low sides of the balcony above. He would watch without anyone really noticing until it was usually too late. The captain pointed toward muster room three.
“But I wasâ¦” Tommy sighed, realizing she was talking to the back of his head as the short man headed down the hall.
In the meeting room
“Okay, everyone, listen up. I know this is really a tough one, but it has to be done. We got a swerve on our hands and so our duty as officers of the law is to pick her up and bring her in. No heroics, and by the book,” the captain said, aiming his comment toward Aston. Tommy realized then he was present.
“At this point, we've had IA dentify the folks killed at The Spot and, unfortunately, they were not from our neighborhood. They were dignitaries from the government of a friendly country just out for a stroll,” the captain went on. Everyone groaned as if realizing the political implications.
“So, folks, this case is no longer entirely in our hands. IA is working with foreign secret service to get this thing taken care of before it escalates toâ¦” the captain looked around as if searching for a word to represent how bad this could get. “Whatever,” he said instead. “So for them to play their political games, and since officer Romia Smith is one of our own, we've been asked to bring her in for them. Now, with that said, it is not gonna be easy. She's on the fly andâ”
“Cap'n, you sound like we're lookin' for Supergirl,” Aston interjected, bringing laughter from a few others in the room.
“Yeah, I just think we need to put a flame on the end of that broom of hers and that'll end that âflying' business,” another one said.
“Yeah, maybe we just need to put up some posters saying there's a leather sale at Frederick's of Hollywood and that'll get her attention,” another officer taunted.
Instantly, Tommy realized how her fellow male detectives felt about Romia's sexy looks.
And so what
? she thought in response to the jeering.
Romia is a good cop but all they see is a woman under that protective leather
. Tommy thought about Romia's looks:
Black leather, high heels, motorcycle. Yeah, they see a slut with a badge.
One of the males jeering Romia turned his attention to her. As a detective, Tommy tried to dress comfortably yet ready for action. She enjoyed wearing her fair amount of leather, but she was more of a tomboy in brown suede. Not Romia. Romia was exotic. They were jealous of what they couldn't have, Tommy knew this.
What one of those guys might do if they found Romia suddenly made Tommy's flesh crawl.
Romia didn't deserve the nasty-sounding comments coming from these men. “I'll bring her in,” Tommy volunteered, speaking above the snide remarks.
“No, Turner. Your partner is all wrapped up in thisâ¦way too close for my comfort.” The captain looked around. “We got asked to help, we said okay. If we see her we'll nab her. If we don't, then
c'est la vie
“I can bring her in. Nobody else is gonna be able to,” Tommy continued to push.
“Oh? Since when can you take her?” Aston blurted.
“Why does everyone think she needs a fight? Has anyone even considered that she might be innocent? Besides, why are you even here? Why didn't you get suspended like Keliegh?”
“Maybe because I didn't do anything wrong. Unlike Keliegh.”
“He didn't do anything but keep you from getting your ass kickedâ¦again.”
“Oh, yeah?” Aston jumped to his feet and so did Tommy. She knew Aston was studying martial arts, but still she could take him. He was big and bulky. Tommy's skills didn't match Romia's, but she could take Aston with no problem.
“Okayâ¦okay! Let it go, folks,” the captain interjected. “What suspension? I didn't suspend anybody.”
“IA suspended Jack because he was obstructing. We had her, Cap'n, and Jack let her goâ”
“You had nothing! Captain, has anyone thought to just talk to her and ask her what happened?” Tommy asked.
“No,” a few people said in answer to what was meant to be a rhetorical question. Tommy sighed.
Even Keliegh seemed to be losing hope in Romia coming around, Tommy could tell by their last conversation. Sure, she never really had faith that Romia was innocent, but even with that, everyone deserved a chance. Even Tommy realized that Romia deserved a chance to explain the possibilities of her being innocent. Whoever was looking for her was vicious. By the looks of her own apartment she could tell that. If Romia wasn't crazy, she was in danger. And if this was how the foreign IA worked, they had some strange policies on search procedures.
Maybe she needed to visit this Mr. Maxwell guy. He seemed to be the only real lead any of them had toward getting to the bottom of all this.
Just then, a high levelâlooking suit walked in the room. He smelled like a fed but there was no way of knowing. He motioned for the captain to follow him. Tommy's neck stretched as far as it could before Aston's voice brought her back.
“Broadsâ¦” was all Tommy caught of his comment.
“What did you say?” Tommy asked him.
The room broke into challenging woof calls. She looked around for Canasta, the only other female in the precinct, and of course she was missing from this meeting. “I was sayin' that you broads always stick together!” Aston accused.
“Broads!” Tommy asked, slamming her hands on her hips, which brought on even more woof calls. “You wanna take this outside? I'll show you some stickin'. I'll stick this boot up your ass.”
“Right,” Aston guffawed, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I'd take the challenge, Aston. I'd love to get in a headlock with you, Tommy ol' girl,” another male officer yelled out.
“Shut up, asshole,” Tommy snapped, pointing her finger at him, but turning her attention back to Aston who still thought the situation was funny. Tommy stepped up to him. They both took a fighting stance. Tommy had had it up to her eyebrows and was prepared to dance Aston all around that room.
About then, the captain walked back into the room. “Whoa! You two, back away from each other! Now!” he yelled before wiping his brow. “Announcement. We're off the Smith caseâcompletely.” He stretched out his arms as if calling an out in baseball. He was perhaps calling time out for Aston and Tommy as well.
“What? Did somebody find her?” Tommy asked.
The captain's glare showed though the stare. He was pondering how much to tell her, that was clear. Or, maybe he was pondering her suspension. Who knew? “It's out of our hands, Turner. Let it go. Okay, everyone. To the streets. We all have something to do that's more important than this, and now that we've wasted a lot of time, we have less to do it in,” he instructed before heading out of the office.
“Wow, we got all worked up for nothing,” Aston said, following his words with a sarcastic-sounding heavy sigh, holding out his hand to shake Tommy's. “Truce?”
Tommy looked at the hand like it was rotted meat. “Screw you, Aston,” she said, before storming out of the meeting room to stop the captain before he hit the elevator that would take him up to his office on the second floor. He never took the stairs, despite his weight issues.
“Cap'n, you have to tell me what's up with the Smith case. Did they find her? Tell me somethin'.”
“Cap'n, come on now, you can't just leave me hanging like this. You know I need to know.”
“Sure I can. And you don't need to know nutt'n,” he stated bluntly before walking into the open elevator. “I need to know, however, where your partner is, and I also need to know why I shouldn't suspend him right now,” the captain added before the door closed. Seconds later, Tommy watched him walking above her head into his office and slamming the door.
Tommy looked around, noticing a few Nosey Roseys watching her. Bob Hetchum was one in particular. He stared so hard that Tommy was drawn to his desk.
“Wow, Cap'n had some serious issues after that suit stopped in this morning. Where were you, by the way?” she asked, noticing that he and his partner were missing from the morning meeting.
Hetchum looked around and then back at her. “When Big Brother speaks, somebody gotta listen,” he said under his breath.
“Yeah, that suit was CIA.”
“You shitz'n me?” she asked, trying to hide her immediate shock.
“Yeah, apparently Smith is in deep on all four corners. First the feds, now the CIAâand who knows who's next thanks to that nice little massacre out there at the bar.”
“So what do you know about all this? I'm still kinda in the dark,” Tommy admitted.
“Well, not much, but my sources tell me that those foreign guys were terrorists.”
“What?” Tommy blurted.
Bob shushed her. “Seriously, I'm hearing they were here on”âhe made quotation marks around the next wordâ“business that involved Romia. Seems like our little stone princess isn't who she seems to be. I mean, phone records, letters, all kinds of shit was found at her place. She's into all kinds of international stuff,” he exposed. “Sounds wild, I know, but hey, with a swerve, I mean, anything could be going on. I hear her mother was communist.”
“And if she was, what does that have to do with Romia?”
“I know. It's turning into a witch hunt.”
“And as I always say about witches, if she is one, I wouldn't be trying to find out. Okay?” Tommy slid onto the edge of Bob Hetchem's desk. She watched his eyes cover her thigh and then make their way up to her face. She thought about what her fellow male officers thought about Romia's sexy ways. Did they think that about her too? She slid back off the desk and stood tall with her hands in her pockets, trying to look manly as possible. “But then, with a swerve, you're right. I mean, they could be into anything and everything.”
“Hey, by the way, how is Keliegh doing? I mean, he's got to be wiggin' out, Romia trying to kill him and all.”
“Kill him? She didn'tâ¦” Tommy caught her words. She'd get more information from playing along than resisting. “Yeah, well, I'm sure he's having it rough. I mean, between him getting suspended andâ¦” Tommy was playing along here. She knew Keliegh hadn't been suspended but she wanted to play dumb. She wanted to see what Hetchem would tell her.
“Suspended?” Hetchem gasped. “Where'd you hear that?”
“Same place you heard Romia was tryin' to kill him, probably? I'm guessin' the head of IA.”
Hetchem's eyes widened. “Head of IA?”
“Yeah, Maxwell somebody,” Tommy continued to play along. “I was gonna give him a call andâ¦”
“Nobody in IA named Maxwell,” Bob said, clicking away at his computer instantly. He was a bit of geek. Tommy suspected that he liked her a little bit. He had gone quickly to the data bank to pull up some information on Maxwell, no doubt.
“Yeah, head of IA is a guy named Roberson,” he confirmed. “And, besides, why would IA have information that would help you? Why would you call them when they haven't called us?”
“Really? Nobody from IA has been down here? Wouldn't you think they would with Romia being a cop and all?”
“That suit who just left here is the first and only suit to come since this whole mess started.”
“Wow,” Tommy said, sounding truly impressed. She was, actually. This was the best gossip she'd had so far. “Well, I gotta try something. I mean, Keliegh is my partner.”
Hetchem looked around suspiciously. “Look, Tom, you need to stay outta this web. The spider's got a lotta legs and, well, I'd hate to see you get stung. I hear things. I heard things,” he said. “This is the first suit that came, but not the first like”âhe made quotation marks in the airâ“official type who came here.”
“Who was the other guy?”
“Can't tell you.”
“Don't know who he was. I asked Aston, since it seems like they were chums, ya know, but I got nothin' but a hearty âstay out of it.' So I'm telling you the same thing.”
“And I hear you,” she responded. He smirked at her. “No, seriously, Bob, I hear you,” she assured. “Did you happen to hear the name Huntington?” she asked. About then, Aston came into earshot of their conversation. Moving over to her desk, Tommy pulled out her cell phone and called Keliegh again; he didn't answer. Pushing the red button instead of leaving a voice mail, she noticed a call come in from blocked number.
“Turner,” she answered.
“Really? Funny you should call me. I was just thinking about calling you,” she said teasingly.
He chuckled. “That would be rather difficult, don't you think? I mean, considering I don't exist.”
“Exactly, I was gonna use my âspecial directory,'” she said, looking around now as if to see which wall had ears. It was clear to her that he had somehow heard her conversation with Bob. Tommy felt instantly a little freaked out, but she tried not to let it show in her voice. It wasn't as if she hadn't been seeing and hearing some pretty strange stuff since last night. “So, tell me, my man, what's really going on?” she asked, sounding like Keliegh in one of his more cocky moods.