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Death in the Shell: Promises

Chapter Text

                                                                

 

 

 

A year and half had passed since two soulmates, from two dark pasts, would band together to bring down a crime boss who had gotten so corrupt with power. No one counted on the fact that this particular incident would set off a chain of events that would start when an innocent woman's 'link call would be the signing of a death warrant.

 

She didn't question the caller or the urgency of the request. In fact, pleasure and excitement rushed through her as she put aside her plans for an early night. Her movements both graceful and efficient, she dressed quickly, gathering what she needed.

She strode through her pretty apartment, ordering the lights to dim, and remembered to switch to sleep the little droid kitten her lover had given her as a companion.

She'd named it Sachmo.

It mewed, blinked its bright green eyes and curled into a ball. She gave its sleek white fur an affectionate stroke.

"Be back soon," she murmured, making a promise she couldn't know would be broken.

She glanced around the apartment as she opened the door, smiled at the bouquet of red roses in full and dramatic bloom on the table near the street window. And thought of Li.

She locked her door for the last time.

Following ingrained habit, she took the stairs. She was a slim, athletically built woman with eyes of deep blue. Her blond hair swung past her shoulders, a parted curtain for a lovely face. She was thirty-three, happy in her life, flirting around the soft edges of love with a man who gave her kittens and roses.

She thought of New York, this life, this man as a new chapter, one she was content to walk through, page by page, and discover.

She tucked that away to turn her mind to where she needed to go, what she needed to do. Less than ten minutes after the call, she jogged down the second flight of steps, turned for the next.

She had an instant to register the movement when her killer stepped out. Another for surprise when she recognized the face. But not enough, not quite enough to speak before the stunner struck her mid-body and took her down.

She came to with a shocking jolt, a burn of skin and blood. A rush from dark to light. The stunner blast had left her body numb, useless, even as her mind flashed clear. Inside the paralyzed shell, she struggled, she strained. She looked up into the eyes of her killer. Into the eyes of a friend.

"Why?" The question was weak, but had to be asked. There had to be an answer. There was always an answer.

She had the answer when she died, in the basement five floors below her pretty apartment where roses bloomed red and a kitten purred in sleep. She died never knowing that she and her lover would never be the same again.

Chapter Text

'As if this day couldn't get any shittier,' Eve thought to herself as she began her drive to the home of the man she considered her closest confidant, Morris.

Sure she did have her share of shit days, it came with the job as Lieutenant of the NYPSD. But today was definitely perfect for a shitty day, as she began to notice how the morning of May 2060 was already becoming.

ooooOOOOoooo

It had all started when Eve stepped out of the shower and into the drying tube, she had woken up from a solid eight hours' sleep and had woken up early enough to indulge in thirty laps in the mansion pool, a spin in the whirlpool, followed by a twenty-minute 90 degree hot shower.

The day before was a productive one, closing a case within two hours. If a guy was going to kill his best friend and try to pass it off as a mugging, he really shouldn't get caught wearing the dead friend's inscribed wrist unit.

She'd testified in court on a previous case, and the defense counsel's posturing, posing, and pontificating hadn't so much as cracked a hairline in her testimony.

Topping off the day, she'd had dinner at home with her husband, watched a vid. And had some very excellent sex before shutting down for that eight straight.

Life, at the moment, absolutely did not suck. What a big joke that turned out to be.

Morning exercise done, she walked into her husband, Roarke, sipping coffee in the sitting area while he scanned the morning stock reports on his tablet.

There were those hands that had worked their magic the night before, one holding a coffee mug, the other absently stroking their fat slug of a cat. Galahad's dual-colored eyes were slits of ecstasy-she could relate.

That beautifully sculpted mouth had turned her system inside out, twisted it into knots of screaming pleasure, then left it limp and satisfied.

Just shy of two years of marriage now, she mused, and the heat between them showed no signs of banking down.

As if to prove it, her heart gave a leap and tumble in her chest when he turned his head, and his bold blue eyes met hers.

Did he feel that? she wondered. Could he possibly feel that every time? All the time?

He smiled, so both knowledge and pleasure spread over a face, she thought foolishly, must make the gods weep with joy over their work.

He rose, moved to her-all long and lean-to take her face in his hands. Just a flutter of those clever fingers over her skin before his mouth found hers and made a better morning brilliant.

"Coffee?" he asked.

"Yeah. Thanks." She was a veteran cop, a homicide boss, a tough bitch by her own definition. And her knees were jelly. "I think we should take a few days." He programmed the AutoChef for coffee and-if she knew her man-for the breakfast he intended her to eat. "I mean maybe in July. Like for our anniversary. If you can work it in between world domination and planetary acquisitions."

"Funny you should bring it up." He set her coffee on the table, then two plates. It seemed bacon and eggs was on the menu this morning. On the sofa Galahad twitched and opened his eyes.

Roarke merely pointed a finger, said, firmly, "No." And the cat flopped the pudge of himself over. "I was thinking a few weeks."

"What? Us? Away? Weeks? I can't-"

"Yes, yes, crime would overtake the city in July 2060, raze it to smoldering ash if Lieutenant Dallas wasn't here to serve and protect." Ireland wove misty magic through his voice as he picked up the inert cat and set him on the floor to make room on the couch for Eve.

"Maybe," she muttered. "Besides, I don't see how you can take off for weeks when you've got ninety percent of the businesses in the known universe to run."

"It's no more than fifty." He picked up his coffee again, waiting for her to join him. "In any case, what would be the point of having all that, and you, darling Eve, if I can't have time with you, away from your work and mine?"

"I could probably take a week."

"I was thinking four."

"Four? Four weeks? That's a month."

His eyes laughed over the rim of his cup. "Is it now? I believe you're right."

"I can't take a month off. A month is like . . . a month."

"As opposed to what? A chicken?"

"Ha. Look, maybe I could stretch it to ten days, but-"

"Three weeks."

Her forehead furrowed.

"We had to cancel plans for a quick weekend away twice this year. Once for your work, once for mine. Three weeks."

"I couldn't take more than two, even-"

"Two and a half. We split the difference." He handed her a fork.

She frowned at it. "You were always going for the two and a half."

He took her hand, kissed it. "Don't let your eggs get cold."

She'd squeezed confessions out of stone killers, browbeaten information out of slimy weasels, but she would never come out a hundred percent on top with Roarke in a negotiation. "Where would we go during this famous two and a half weeks?"

"Where would you like to go?"

Now she smiled. Who needed a hundred percent? "I'll think about it."

She could remember the exact moment when it happened. The call that came in while she ate, dressed and happy enough to let herself enough time to take her time. She strapped on her weapon harness while considering taking in one more cup of Roarke's delicious coffee before making her drive to Cop Central.

Her communicator signaled. She drew it out of her pocket, and seeing "Dispatch" on the readout, went straight to full cop mode.

She saw him watch it happen, the moment her eyes went from laughing, to flat and empty. The eyes of a cop. She stood straight, her tall, lanky body braced, long legs spread, boots planted. Her face, all those delightful angles of it, showed no expression. The generous mouth that had been curved moments before, set.

"Dallas."

Dispatch, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. See the officers, 525 West Twenty-third Street. Basement of residential apartment building. Possible homicide, female.

"Acknowledged. On my way. Contact Peabody, Detective Delia. I'll meet her on scene."

"Well, you had breakfast first," Roarke commented when she pocketed the communicator. He traced a finger, lightly, down the shallow dent in her chin.

"Yeah. I won't be getting that last cup of coffee. Then again, the female on West Twenty-third won't be getting any either."

She had no idea that her quip would have an extra harsh sting of truth to it.

ooooOOOOoooo

She had double-parked at 525 West Twenty-Third Street and flipped her On Duty light, ignoring the bitter curses and rude gestures tossed at her by her fellow New Yorkers. Life and death in the city, she thought, was rarely a smooth ride.

She hooked her badge on her jacket, grabbed her field kit out of the trunk, then approached the uniform at the main door.

"What've we got?" was normally her question to any uniform on duty.

"DB in the basement, female, round about thirty. No ID, no jewelry, no purse or nothing. Still dressed, so it doesn't look like a sex crime." He led her in as he spoke. "Tenant and his kid found her when they came down to get the kid's bike outta the storage locker. Kid's been grounded or something. Anyway, they called it in. Guy thinks maybe she lives here, or around. Maybe he's seen her before, but he ain't sure. He got the kid out pretty quick and didn't take a good look."

They headed down a stairway, boots and cop shoes clanging on metal. "Didn't see a weapon, but she's got burns here." He tapped fingers on his carotid. "Looks like she got zapped."

"I want two officers knocking on doors. Who saw what, when. See the tenant and his boy are secured. Names?"

"Burnbaum, Terrance. Kid's Jay. We're sitting on them in six-oh-two."

She nodded at the two officers securing the scene, engaged her recorder. "Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, on scene at five twenty-five West Twenty-third. My partner's on her way. Find out if the building's got a super or manager on-site. If so, I want to see him."

She scanned the area first. Concrete floor, caged lockers, pipes, spiderwebs. No windows, no doors. No security cameras.

"I'm going to want any security discs from the entrances, and from the stairwells. Find the super."

Lured her down here, Eve thought as she opened her kit for her can of Seal-It. Or forced her down. Maybe she came down for something and got jumped. No way out.

She studied the body from where she stood, coating her hands and boots with sealant. Slim build, but didn't look soft. The head was turned away, with long blond hair curtaining the face. The hair had a shine to it, and the clothes were good quality.

Not from the streets, she thought. Not with that hair, those clothes, the nicely manicured fingers on the hand she could see.

"The victim is lying on her left side, back to the stairs. No visible prints on the concrete floor. It looks clean. Did Burnbaum move the body?"

"He says no. Says he went over, took her wrist. Said it was cold, got no pulse, and he knew. He just got his kid out."

On any normal homicide, she would've given it her all, no matter who the victim was. If the lady laying down on the floor were any other person, she would've given it her all to give her justice. But a small sliver in her brain gave her some comfort with knowing that at least her friends were still alive.

But the moment she circled that body and crouched, it set off a low alarm in her brain, and a dread in her gut. When she lifted the curtain of hair...everything would change.

"Goddamn it. Goddamn it. She's one of us."

The cop who'd stayed with her stepped forward. "She's a cop?"

"Yeah. Coltraine, Amaryllis. Run it, run it now. Get me an address. Detective Coltraine. Son of a bitch."

Morris, she thought. Oh, fucking hell.

"This is her place, Lieutenant. She's got four-oh-five, this building."

She ran the prints because it had to be done, had to be official. The sick dread rose to a cold rage. "Victim is identified as Coltraine, Detective Amaryllis. NYPSD. This address, apartment four-oh-five."

She flipped back the light jacket. "Where's your piece, Coltraine? Where's your goddamn piece? Did they use it on you? Do you with your own weapon? No visible defensive wounds, clothes appear undisturbed. No signs of violence on the body but for the stunner burns on the throat. He held your own piece to your throat, didn't he? On full."

She heard the clang on the stairs, looked up as her partner came down.

Peabody looked spring fresh. Her hair flipped at her neck, dark sass around her square face. She wore a pink blazer and pink skids-a color choice Eve would have made numerous pithy comments on under any other circumstances.

"Nice of them to wait until we were almost officially on shift," Peabody said cheerfully. "What've we got?"

"It's Coltraine, Peabody."

"Who?" Peabody walked over, looked down, and all the rosy color drained out of her cheeks. "Oh my God. Oh God. It's Morris's . . . Oh. No."

"She isn't wearing her weapon. It may be the murder weapon. If it's here, we have to find it."

"Dallas."

Tears swam in Peabody's eyes. Eve understood them, felt them in her own throat. But shook her head. "Later for that. Later. Officer, I want you to take a man and check her apartment, make sure it's clear. I want to know either way. Now."

"Yes, sir." She heard it in her voice-not the tears, but the simmering rage. The same that rolled in her gut.

"Dallas. Dallas, how are we going to tell him?"

"Work the scene. This is now. That's later." And she didn't have the answer. "Look for her weapon, her holster, anything else that might be hers. Work the scene, Peabody. I'll take the body."

Her hands were steady as she got out her gauges, went to work. And she froze the question out of her mind. The question of how she would tell the chief medical examiner, tell her friend, that the woman who'd put stars in his eyes was dead.

"Time of death twenty-three forty."

When she'd done all she could do, Eve straightened. "Any luck?" she said to Peabody.

"No. All these lockers. If the killer wanted to leave the weapon and hide it, there are a lot of places."

"We'll put Crime Scene on it." Eve rubbed the space between her eyes. "We have to talk to the guy who called it in, and his son, and take her apartment. We can't have her taken in until Morris knows. He can't find out that way."

"No. God, no."

"Let me think." Eve stared hard at the wall. "Find out what shift he's on. We don't let the morgue unit have her until . . ."

"The uniforms know a cop went down, Dallas. It's going to start spreading. Cop. Female. This address, or just this area. If Morris gets wind-"

"Shit. You're right. You're right. You take over here. The uniforms are sitting on Terrance Burnbaum and his boy in six-oh-two. Talk to them first. Don't let them take her off scene, Peabody."

"I won't." Peabody scanned the text on her PPC. "One thing good, Morris is working a noon to eight. He wouldn't be at the morgue this early."

"I'll go to his place. I'll do it."

"Jesus, Dallas." The words trembled. "Jesus."

"If you finish in six-oh-two before I get back, start on her apartment. Fine-tooth, Peabody." Steps, Eve reminded herself. Take all the steps. Think about the misery later. "Contact EDD, but give me a head start. All her communications, all her data. Uniforms are finding the super, so confiscate the security discs. Don't-"

"Dallas." Peabody spoke gently. "I know what to do. You taught me what to do. I'll take care of her. You can trust me."

"I know. I know." Eve struggled to let out a breath that wanted to stick in her throat. "I don't know what I'm going to say to him. How to say it."

"There's no easy way."

Couldn't be, Eve thought. Shouldn't be.

"I'll tag you when I . . . when it's done."

"Dallas." Peabody reached out, clasped Eve's hand. "Tell him-if it seems right-tell him I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

With a nod, Eve started up. The killer had gone this way, she thought. Only way out. Up these same stairs, through this same door. She reopened her kit, unsure if she was stalling or just doing her job. But she took out the minigoggles, studied the lock, the jamb, and found no sign of force.

Could've used Coltraine's key card, Eve thought. Unless he was in first, jumped her when she came down.

Damn it, damn it, she couldn't see it. Couldn't clear her mind to see. She went up to the next level, repeated the process on the back door of the building with the same results.

A tenant, someone let in by a tenant-including the victim-someone with a master or superior skills at picking locks.

She studied the security cam over the rear door. Then shut the door, secured it as one of the uniforms jogged down to her.

"Apartment's clear, Lieutenant. Bed's made, no dishes around. It's neat and tidy. Lights were on dim. She, ah, had this droid pet-little cat. It was set to sleep mode."

"Did you see her weapon, her badge?"

His jaw tightened. "No, sir. We found a lockbox in her bedroom closet. Space

for her sidearm and a clutch piece, holsters for both. None of them were there. Box wasn't locked. I didn't see her badge, Lieutenant. We didn't search, but-"

"What do you do with your badge when you're off duty for the night, Officer . . . Jonas?"

"Put it on my dresser."

"Yeah. Lock up the weapon, leave the badge on the dresser. Maybe on top of the lockbox, but easy access. Detective Peabody's in charge here now. I don't want her name out, do you hear me? I don't want a leak on this. You keep it contained here until I clear it. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's one of us down there. She'll have that respect."

"Yes, sir."

ooooOOOOoooo

The moment she got back in her car, she was in the middle of giving a death glare to a driver parked behind her vehicle.

"Fucking cops!" he shouted. "Think you own the streets, or what?"

She imagined herself going up to the window, plowing her fist into his face. Because one of the cops he cursed was lying dead on a concrete floor in a windowless basement.

Some of it may have showed on her face, in the cold hard stare. He pulled his head back in, brought up his window, hit the locks.

Eve stared another moment, watched him shrink behind the wheel.

As she drove away from Coltraine's apartment, she had to look up Morris's address, and used the in-dash computer. Sure he was her closest confidant, but she never made any social visits to his place. Even after being raised by Motoko Kusanagi and Batou of The Ghost Organization, she still had trouble with socializing even with people she called friends.

"Major," Eve whispered Motoko's rank to herself.

It had been a year and a half since Eve reunited with Motoko Kusanagi, the beautiful female cyborg who rescued her at eight years old. A machine who gave a little girl much more compassion as opposed to the man she considered the worst parent in the world, Richard Troy, her father.

Thinking of her mentor definitely made Eve a lot more edgier than she felt when she discovered the woman her closest friend was dating.

She knew he liked music, and was especially fond of jazz and blues. He played the saxophone, dressed like an uptown rock star, had a mind full of interesting, often incomprehensible trivia.

He had humor and depth. And great respect for the dead. Great compassion for those left behind by death.

Now it was a woman he'd . . . had he loved her? Eve wondered. Maybe, maybe. He'd certainly cared deeply for the woman, the cop, who was dead. And now it was he who was left behind.

Morris lived in Soho. She should've guessed it. There was something bohemian, exotic, artistic about the man who'd chosen to doctor the dead.

He had a Grim Reaper tattoo, she remembered, which she'd seen inadvertently when she'd called him in the middle of the night, and he hadn't bothered to block video. Though he'd been in bed and barely covered by the sheet.

The man was hot. No wonder Coltraine had . . .

Oh God. Oh God.

She stalled, couldn't help herself, by searching out a parking spot along the street. Artists tented their wares or grabbed them from the little stalls to dash with them out of the rain. Those too iced to settle for trendy shops lived here, among the lofts and varied restaurants, the in-groove clubs and nightspots.

She found a spot, three blocks from Morris's place. And she walked through the rain while others dashed and darted around her, seeking shelter from the wet.

She climbed to the main door, started to push his buzzer. Couldn't. He'd see her through his screen, and it would give him too much time to think, or he'd ask, and she couldn't answer. Instead, she violated his privacy and used her master to gain entrance to the tiny lobby shared by the other lofts.

She took the stairs, gained herself a little more time, and circled around to his door. What would she say?

It couldn't be the standard here. It couldn't be the standby: I regret to inform you . . . I'm sorry for your loss. Not here, not with Morris. Praying it would come to her, it would somehow be the right way, she pressed the bell.

In the time that passed, her skin chilled. Her heart thudded. She heard the locks give, watched his lock light go from red to green.

He opened the door and smiled at her.

His hair was loose. She'd never seen it loose, raining down his back rather than braided. He wore black pants, a black tee. His exotic almond eyes looked a little sleepy. She heard the sleep in his voice when he greeted her.

"Dallas. The unexpected on my doorstep on a rainy morning."

She saw curiosity. No alarm, no worry. She knew her face showed him nothing. Not yet. Another second or two, she thought. Just another few seconds before she broke his heart.

"Can I come in?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Art radiated from the walls in an eclectic mix from bold, bright colors and odd shapes to elegant pencil drawings of naked women in various stages of undress.

It was an open space with the kitchen in black and silver flowing into a dining area in strong red, which curved into the living area. Open silver stairs ribboned their way up to the second floor, again open and ringed by a shining rail.

There was a sense of movement in the space, maybe from the energy of all the color, she thought, or all the pieces of him and his interests displayed there.

Bowls, bottles, stones, photographs jockeyed for position with books-no wonder Morris and Roarke hit it off-and musical instruments, sculptures of dragons, a small brass gong, and what she thought was an actual human skull.

Watching her face, Morris gestured to the long, armless couch. "Why don't you sit down? I can offer you passable coffee. Nothing as prime as you're used to."

"No, that's okay." But she thought, yes, let's sit, have coffee. Let's just not do this thing.

He took her hand. "Who's dead? It's one of us." His fingers tightened on hers. "Peabody-"

"No. Peabody's . . . no." Only making it worse, she thought. "Morris, it's Detective Coltraine."

She could see by his face he didn't understand, he didn't connect his question with her answer. She did the only thing she could do. She plunged the knife in his heart.

"She was killed last night. She's dead, Morris. She's gone. I'm sorry."

He released her hand, stepped back from her. As if, she knew, breaking contact would stop it. Just stop it all. "Ammy? You're talking about Amaryllis?"

"Yes."

"But-" He stopped himself for making the denial. She knew the first questions in his head-was she sure? Could there be a mistake? There must be a mistake. But he knew her, and didn't waste the words. "How?"

"We're going to sit down."

"Tell me how."

"She was murdered. It's looking like her own weapon was used on her. Both her weapons are missing. We're looking. Morris-"

"No. Not yet." His face had gone blank and smooth, a mask carved from one of his own polished stones. "Just tell me what you know."

"I don't have much yet. She was found this morning, in the basement of her building, by a neighbor and his son. Her time of death was about twenty-three forty last night. There aren't any signs of a struggle at the scene, or in her apartment. No visible wounds on her, but for the stunner burns on her throat. She had no ID on her, no jewelry, no bag, no badge, no weapon. She was fully dressed."

She saw something flicker over his face at that, a ripple over the stone, and understood. Rape always made murder worse. "I haven't looked at the security discs yet, because I needed to tell you. Peabody's on scene."

"I have to change. I have to change and go in. Go in and see to her."

"No, you won't. You tell me who you trust the most, who you want, and we'll arrange for them to do the autopsy. You're not doing it."

"It's not for you to say. I'm chief medical examiner."

"I'm primary. And you and I both know that your relationship with the"-she swallowed the word victim-"with Detective Coltraine means you have to step back from this part. Take a minute, take as many minutes as you need to come down to that. You can't work on her, Morris, for your own sake and for hers."

"You think I'll do nothing? That I'll stand by and let someone else touch her?"

"I'm not asking you to do nothing. But I'm telling you you won't do this." When he turned, started for the stairs, she simply took his arm.

"I'll stop you." She spoke quietly, felt the muscles in his arm vibrate. "Take a swing at me, yell, throw something, whatever you need. But I'll stop you. She's mine now, too."

The rage showed in his eyes, burned them black. She braced for a blow, she'd give him that. But the rage melted into grief. This time when he turned, she let him go.

He walked to the long, wide window that looked out on the buzz and vibrancy of Soho. He laid his hands on the shelf of the sill, leaned so his arms could hold some of the weight his legs couldn't.

"Clipper." Now his voice was as raw as his eyes had been. "Ty Clipper. I want him to take care of her."

"I'll see to it."

"She wore, always wore a ring on the middle finger of her right hand. A square-cut pink tourmaline, flanked by small green tourmaline baguettes. A silver band. It was a gift from one of her friends when she turned twenty one."

"Okay."

"You said the basement of her building. She'd have no reason to go down there."

"There are storage lockers."

"She didn't keep one. She told me once they charged a ridiculous price for little cages down there. I offered to store anything she needed stored, but she said she hadn't accumulated so much, yet, that she needed spillover space. Why was she there?"

"I'll find out. I promise you. Morris, I promise you I'll find out who did this, and why."

He nodded, but didn't turn, only stared out at the movement, the color, the life. "There's a place inside, when you're connected to cops-as friends, as lovers, even as associates-that knows the risk of that connection, of involvement. I've worked on enough dead cops to know those risks. But you have to put it aside, lock it away, because you have to keep that connection. It's what you do, who you are. But you know, you always know, and still when it happens, it seems impossible.

"Who knows death better than I? Than we," he said, turning now. "And yet, it seems impossible. She was so alive. And now she isn't."

"Someone took the life from her. I'll find them."

He nodded again, managed to get to the couch, sink down. "I was falling in love with her. I felt it happening-that long, slow drop. We wanted to take it slow, enjoy it. We were still discovering each other. Still at the stage where when she walked into the room, or I heard her voice, smelled her skin, everything inside me sang."

He dropped his head into his hands.

Comfort wasn't her finest skill. Peabody, Eve thought, would have the right words, the right tone. All she could do was follow instinct. She moved to the couch, sat beside him.

"Tell me what to do for you, and I'll do it. Tell me what you need, and I'll get it. Li-"

Maybe it was the use of his first name, something she never used, but he turned to her. When he turned, she held him. He didn't break, not yet, but kept his cheek pressed to hers.

"I need to see her."

"I know. Give me some time first. We'll take care of her for you."

He eased back. "You need to ask. Turn on your recorder and ask."

"Okay." Routine, she thought. Wasn't that a kind of comfort? "Tell me where you were last night between twenty-one and twenty-four hundred."

"I worked until nearly midnight, clocking some extra hours, clearing up some paperwork. Ammy and I planned to go away for a few days next week. Take a long weekend. Memphis. We booked this old inn. We were going to take a garden tour, see Graceland, listen to music. I spoke to several people on the night shift. I can give you names."

"I don't need them. I'll check it out, and we'll move on. Did she tell you anything about her caseload? About anyone she had concerns about?"

"No. We didn't talk shop a great deal. She was a good cop. She liked to find answers, and she was organized and precise. But she didn't live the job. She wasn't like you. The job was what she did, not what she was. But she was smart and capable. Whenever we had our jobs intersect, that came across."

"What about on the personal front? Exes?"

"We started seeing each other shortly after she transferred here from Atlanta. And while we were taking it slow, letting it all . . . unfold, neither of us was seeing anyone else. She had a serious relationship in college. It lasted over two years. She was involved with another cop for a while, but said she preferred the casual dating scene as a rule. That I was breaking her rule. I know there was someone else, someone serious, and that ended before she transferred to New York."

"Any complaints about any neighbors, anyone in the building hassling her?"

And that was when he said it, "No. She loved that little apartment of hers. Dallas, she was an orphan."

"What?" Eve said in a shock.

"Her parents and her little brother," Morris began to say, "All three of them were killed in an automobile accident when Amy was 13."

'My God,' Eve thought to herself. 'Coltraine was like me.'

Albeit, Eve's orphan situation was radically different, compared to Coltraine's.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I never did get the full details, but from what she told me, they were picking him up from a Little League baseball game, apparently another car swerved past them and it caused them to fall of a bridge at Interstate 285."

"No survivors?" Eve asked.

Morris just shook his head, looking at her through grief filled eyes.

This immediately caused Eve to get up from his couch to look at the art hanging at his walls, one in particular she noticed was a picture who almost looked exactly like Motoko. It was a picture of a woman with black hair, in a sleeveless evening gown that was white. Her expression looked like she was grieving for someone, and in a way, both Morris and Eve were already grieving right now.

Neither she nor Roarke, considered themselves religious, but she knew Morris practiced in Buddhism. What little she learned from it, she knew that Buddhists tend to believe in a form of reincarnation. But another conflict in her mind was that she didn't know Coltraine well enough to figure out what she believed in. 'Perhaps on the night she died, she was probably thinking that she would be reunited with her deceased family in the most violent way possible.' Eve thought.

Those thoughts in her head, plus the dread in her stomach, made her fail to notice when Morris made his way to her while she was looking at that picture.

"Dallas," that made her pretty jumpy. "Whoa, what's wrong?"

Eve caught herself before she screamed in fright and she started giving out some shaky breaths. In a few minutes, she managed to calm herself down and seriously study Morris' eyes. 'The grief is still there,' Eve mused, 'But even now, he still manages to bring some comfort to people he calls his friends.'

It was right then and there, a decision had to be made, especially since a particular clock was ticking.

"Li."

"I'm right here, Dallas," Morris said softly. "Tell me what's troubling you."

Eve let out a long breath, "You know how I was raised by Motoko Kusanagi and Batou of The Ghost Organization, right?

"I think everybody at the NYPSD knows it by now, Dallas."

"True," Eve agreed, "But what I'm about to tell you is gonna be a secret that I don't want leaving this house."

"What is it?" he asked curiously.

"At the Ghost Organization, we mostly have people who are part cyborg or all human," Eve began to say. "Motoko Kusanagi is the only member who is all cyborg, and the thing is, no one really knows where she came from. Not even she herself knows it."

Eve waited a beat to see if Morris had any questions, but he motioned her to continue. "What nobody knows, not Peabody, not Whitney, Tibble, Mira, Baxter, Webster or even Feeney know, is that after me and Roarke worked with the Ghost Organization to assassinate David Yost, we began work on two prototype cyber-bodies over the course of a year."

"What are these two bodies supposed to do?"

Eve began to think on that for a quick second before coming up with a decent answer, "Say you get severely injured enough to the point where it's either near-fatal or outright fatal, normally a cyber-body can't adapt to dead heart or brain when it dies, you actually have to be alive in order to get a cyber-body."

Then the puzzles started to fit together, "So you're saying that..."

"These two new prototype bodies are designed to adapt to a heart and brain that's been dead for twenty four hours. Coltraine's TOD was twenty-three forty."

"So what you're saying is..."

"There might be a chance to bring her back, Morris," Eve finished the sentence for him. "It would potentially give us a chance to find out who killed her."

Hearing this new revelation, now made him think. It was like he was immediately in the bargaining stage of grief. The type of bargaining that even Eve was juggling with earlier, and she couldn't blame him for it.

"Does she stay alive permanently?" was the first question he asked.

"Yes," Eve began to say. "But like The Major, she can't really die, nor can she live."

"Like a vampire?"

"Technically yes, even though we both know I don't believe in them," Eve remarked hoping to break the tension.

The final question he ended up asking, "Would she be able to remember who she is? Who you are? Who I am?"

Eve let out another long breath, "We don't know that yet, with the stunner blast on her throat, it might leave her with some amnesia. But with some diagnostics we've done during development, the body should be able to treat that amnesia within twenty-four hours of completion."

"And you need my consent?"

"You technically weren't her spouse," Eve said knowing that it left a sting on both of them, "But you were definitely the closest thing to one."

Morris nodded in acknowledgment, then turned for the window he was staring at earlier. "But seeing as how she had no living relatives, you would probably need Whitney and Tibble's permission to go through with this."

"Yes."

Morris stared at the window for a few seconds more, then turned walk up the silver stairs without saying another word.

A few minutes later, Morris came back down with a manila folder and a key card for Coltraine's apartment. "If they say no, I want it done anyway. If I get a chance to see her at least one more time, I'll be damned if they turn me down."

Eve looked down at the key card before turning up to Morris, "Did she have a key to this place?"

"Yes."

"Change your codes."

He drew a breath. "Yes, all right. I need you to keep me informed. I need to be involved in this."

"Well, in case they either do say yes or no," Eve began to say. "You'll probably be greeted by some members of The Ghost Organization, they're going to take you to our secret headquarters. All you are going to be able to do is just observe, you will not be allowed to help. Am I clear on that?"

Morris nodded.

"Then we'll let you know when something comes up. In the meantime, I've got to get back to this, to her."

"Tell Ty . . . Tell him to play Eric Clapton for her. Any of the discs in my collection. She particularly liked his music." He moved to the front door, opened it for her.

"I wish sorry meant something. Peabody . . . she told me to tell you the same." She stepped in, kept her eyes on his as the doors slowly began to shut.

ooooOOOOoooo

On the walk back to her car, Eve began to place her hands on the trunk to catch her breath. What she had just did, felt like she was being handed the keys to Pandora's Box. To think it was a year-and-a-half since she dealt with a case against a mad doctor who was playing God, the same case that reunited her with Kusanagi after ten years apart. Now she was about to commit a similar sin, all just to comfort who? Morris or herself?

Feeling the first few drops of the rain falling on her hand, Eve was prompted to get back in her car. With a heavy sigh, Eve reached for the Ghost-Link she kept in her pocket, the very memento Motoko gave to her to connect with The Major without the need for implants.

Eve: Major, are you there?

Motoko: Yeah I'm here, what is it, little one?

Thirty-one years old and it still gave Eve some warmth when Motoko called her that name, especially now.

Eve: We need to get one of prototypes ready.

Motoko: Did something happen, are you and Roarke okay?

Eve: No, Major, we're fine. But it's about a friend of mine.

She told Kusanagi everything about Coltraine and The Major listened without interruption until Eve finished.

Motoko: And you're worried about administrative blocking?

Eve: Not only that, but I fear that we might be playing with Pandora's Box. We really hadn't had any chance to put those two bodies to the test yet, and I fear that Coltraine might use that body as way to get revenge when she finds out who killed her.

Motoko: I'm going to contact your NYPSD superiors for a private meeting, I want you in this meeting when I get there. But first, I want to meet you at your City Morgue, so I can have a look at her.

Eve: Well with your permission, Major, I want to bring in some people to this meeting with Whitney and Tibble. I want to be there when we go through with this process.

Eve gave her a list of names of who she wanted at this private meeting.

Motoko: Very well, Lieutenant, but only people you know you can trust to keep all this a secret.

Eve: You have my word, Dallas out.

Eve disconnected from The Major and as she began the drive out of Morris's neighborhood, called Roarke.

ooooOOOOoooo

On the drive back, she tagged Peabody. "Did the sweepers find the weapon?"

"That's a negative."

"Damn it. I'm heading back to the scene. Contact the morgue. Chief Medical Examiner Morris assigns ME Ty Clipper to this matter. He requests the ME play Eric Clapton during autopsy."

"Oh, man. How is he? How-"

"He's holding up. Make sure they understand these are Morris's directives. I'm on my way back. You and I are going to go through her apartment, inch by inch."

"I was about to start on that. I talked to Burnbaum and his kid. Nothing more there. The knock-on-doors hasn't turned up anything. Security-"

"Fill me in when I get there. Ten minutes."

She clicked off. She needed some silence. Just silence until the emotional knots loosened. She'd be no good to Amaryllis Coltraine if she let herself stay twisted up over the grief in a friend's eyes.

At the apartment, she waited until the morgue team carried the body out. "She goes straight to ME Clipper," Eve snapped. "She's a cop. She gets priority."

"We know who she is." One of the team turned after the body was loaded in the wagon. "She's not only a cop, she was Morris's lady. We'll take good care of her, Lieutenant."

"One more thing," Eve said before they closed the doors, "I don't want Clipper opening her up."

"What?" one of the morgue team members asked out of concern.

"I got someone coming to the morgue to look at her with me, I don't want so much as a regular scalpel touching her until we get there."

"Whatever you say, Lieutenant."

Satisfied, she went inside, took the stairs to Coltraine's apartment. Using the key card Morris had given her, she found Peabody inside.

"It was hard," Peabody said after one look. "It shows."

"A lot more than you know. Security?"

"I took a quick scan. Nothing on the rear door. He had to come in that way, jam the camera. EDD's on it. Front door cam ran the whole time. I've got her coming in about sixteen hundred, carrying a file bag-which is still here-and a take-out bag. She didn't go out again, not by the front. Stairway has cams, and they were compromised. Both the rear and stairway cams shut down from about twenty-two thirty to about twenty-four hundred. Elevator has cams, and they ran through. She didn't take the elevator. Neighbor confirms she used the stairs, habitually."

"The killer had to know her, know her routine. Had to take her in the stairway."

"I've got a team of sweepers in there now, going top to bottom."

"Taking her that quick, that clean, the killer had to know she was going out. So either that was another habit, or he lured her out. We'll check her transmissions, but if that's how it went down, he used her pocket 'link, then took it with him. Someone she knew. A friend, an ex, one of her weasels, someone in the building or close by. Someone she'd let get the drop on her."

Eve glanced around the apartment. "Impressions?"

"I don't think she left under any kind of duress. Everything's just too tidy for that, and that droid kitten?" When Peabody gestured, Eve frowned at the snoozing ball of fur. "I checked its readout. She set it to sleep mode at twenty-three eighteen. It doesn't seem like something you'd do if you were in trouble."

Eve studied the room as she wandered it. It had a female feel, a fussy woman's order to it. "The killer contacts her, via her pocket 'link. Come out, meet me for a drink, or I had a terrible fight with my boyfriend, come over so I can boo-hoo all over you. No, no." Eve shook her head, wandered into the small bedroom with its mountain of pillows on its neatly made bed. "She had her clutch piece. Most cops are going to carry a weapon, but I don't see her strapping on a clutch to go have a drink."

"One of her weasels. Meet me here, at such and such time. I got some good shit."

"Yeah, yeah, that could work. We'll talk to her boss, her partner, her unit, see what she was into. She could've been meeting another kind of source, or just meeting someone she didn't completely trust. A little extra insurance with the clutch piece. And still he got the drop on her, took her down without a struggle."

"She wouldn't have been expecting to see him in her stairway. Her guard's down, and that's that."

Eve said nothing. She needed to turn it over awhile, walk it through. "Let's see what we can find here."

They got to work, searching through drawers, in closets, through clothes, in pockets. The dead had no privacy, and Eve thought as a cop; Coltraine would have known and accepted that.

She found the goodie drawer in the bedside table-body oils, a few toys-and had to block the image that kept trying to lodge in her head of Morris and Coltraine rolling around naked on the bed.

"She liked pretty underwear," Peabody commented as she went through other drawers. "All her stuff's in the lingerie level. Sexy, girlie. She liked pretty things. The little bottles, the lamps, the pillows. Her drawers are neat and organized, nothing like mine. She doesn't have a lot of stuff, you know. No clutter. And what's here doesn't match-match, but it all works together. It's just a really pretty place, to keep dogging the same word."

Eve stepped to a clever little corner table that held a compact data-and-communication system. In the single slim drawer she found a memo book. But when she tried to bring up data, it denied her access.

"She's a cop. She'd've passcoded it," Eve said. "We'll want this tagged for EDD. I want in."

She learned more about the victim on the search. Peabody was right, she'd liked pretty things. Not overly fussy and frilly, just female. But no clutter, not crowded, and everything in its place. The roses in the living area were real, and fresh.

She found a trinket box that held florist cards, all from Morris. He'd said they'd been exclusive for months. At least as far as flowers went, Eve thought, he was right.

That didn't mean she hadn't had something on the side. When a woman went out that time of night, it could be a booty call.

Yet, it just didn't strike right. She'd seen Coltraine with Morris. She'd felt the zing between them.

"Secure building," Eve said out loud. "A nice, compact apartment, droid pet. Nice furniture, nice clothes. Not a lot of either. She's selective. Not much jewelry, but again, what she has is good quality."

"Same with the hair products, the enhancers," Peabody put in. "She knew what she liked, what worked for her, and stuck with it. Me, I've got a drawer full of cast-off lip dyes, eye gunk, hair crap. Perfume. One scent. There's leftover Chinese in the fridge, vac-sealed, some health food, bottled water and juices. Two bottles of wine."

"She's got a lover, but lives alone. The men's toiletry kit is probably Morris's. We'll check with him rather than sending it straight to the lab. The man's shirt, boxers, socks, pants, they look like him. Not a lot of him in here, though. They probably spent more time at his place. It's about four times as big as this, and the location's prime for cafés, clubs, restaurants, galleries. How'd the killer know she was in last night? Stalking her? I should've asked Morris how often they were together, if they had a routine."

"Dallas, you gave him a break. Gave him a little time. We'll follow up."

"The killer didn't come in here. Too risky. Why chance being seen? No, no, he tagged her on her pocket 'link."

"They could've set up a meet prior."

"Why risk that? She might tell somebody-Morris, her partner, her boss. I'm meeting X tonight, and then we'd be talking to X instead of wondering who the hell he is. Morris was working, she'd have known that. So she's not going to tag him at that hour and tell him she's headed out for something. She just gets her stuff, turns off her cat, and goes. She knew her killer, or whoever set it up.

"Let's get the sweepers in here, and have EDD pick up her electronics." She checked her wrist unit. "We'll go by the morgue after that."

"I'll do that. You told Morris," Peabody added. "I'll tell her family."

"She doesn't have a family," Eve said suddenly.

"What?" Peabody asked in shock reaction.

Eve gave Peabody an abbreviated version of the tragic loss of Coltraine's family.

"My God," Peabody let out an exasperated sigh. "The tragedy this poor woman has been through."

"I know Peabody," Eve had to force herself to give out a temporary lie. "But there's nothing we can do on that front, except bring her killer to justice. In the mean time, we'll both talk to her partner, her squad, her boss."

ooooOOOOoooo

In the car, Peabody sat slumped in the seat, staring out the side window. "Dallas? I got this thing eating at me, and I just want to get it out."

"You felt bitchy and resentful because she hooked up with Morris."

"Yeah." Peabody let out the word, like relief. "I didn't even know her, hardly at all, and I let myself think, like, who the hell is she, sashaying-I even thought the word sashay, because she was from the South-in here and getting all smoochy with our Morris? Stupid, because I'm with McNab and never had a thing with Morris anyway, except the occasional perfectly permissible and healthy fantasy. But I decided I didn't like her, just for that. And now she's dead and I feel like crap about it."

"I know. I've got the same thing going. Except for the fantasy part."

"I guess that makes me feel a little better." She scooted up again, studied Eve's profile. "You really never had the teeniest fantasy about Morris?"

"No. Jeez."

"Just a little one. Like you'd go to the morgue one night, and it's strangely empty, so you go into the main cutting room and Morris is there. Naked."

"GOD DAMN IT, PEABODY, WILL YOU STOP IT!?" Eve yelled through the top of her lungs.

That left Peabody in a shock, normally her talking about sexual fantasies mildly annoyed her partner, both knowing that it was a way for Peabody to cope with the idea of seeing death from day-in to day-out. But to have Eve snap at her like that, not only frightened her, but had put a dent in her feelings.

"I'm sorry," Eve said finally as she put the car in auto to calm her nerves. "It's just the fact that Coltraine was an orphan, like I was, it's been putting me on the edge a lot more than usual. Me yelling at you was 100% uncalled for and I am deeply deeply sorry."

Peabody gently laid a hand over Eve's, "No, it is I who should be apologizing," she said softly. "I didn't take into account that Coltraine had a similar background like yours."

"Coltraine's background and mine are not too similar," Eve corrected. "I didn't come from a happy family like she did. She wasn't a victim of rape and torture like I was, and she sure as hell wasn't raised by a group of U.N. Soldiers."

Eve let out a long breath before continuing, "But you are right about one thing, someone robbed her chance to start her life over with a man she was so warmly in love with. They robbed her chance to start a family with him, to grow old and die out into the next world in peace. That's what really made me angry, because I too am living in a job where that could happen to me. Where I might not live long enough to grow old with Roarke."

"I know that, Dallas," Peabody continued in her soft voice. The type of soft voice that gave comfort to the grieving families. "I live with that everyday. Every cop deals with it, but we got to keep going and not let it get to us, or you might wash out."

"That's the reason, I picked you as my partner," Eve agreed, "You, Roarke, Feeney, Kusanagi and Mira are the few people out there that remind me of that."

"Keep that in mind as we go to the Morgue. Speaking of which, whose working on Coltraine?"

"Clipper."

"Die-For-Ty? Talk about the sex. How come so many death doctors are wholly iced?"

"A mystery I've pondered throughout my career."

"No, seriously. Clipper's like ummm. He's gay and has a partner, but a yummy treat for the eyes. His partner's an artist. He paints people, literally I mean. Body painting. They've been together about six years."

"How do you know all this stuff?"

"Unlike you, I enjoy hearing about people's personal lives, especially when it involves sex."

"At least since Clipper's not into women, you won't be troubled by sexual fantasies."

Peabody pursed her lips in thought. "I can work with it. Two naked guys, body paints, me. Oh yeah, endless possibilities."

"Before I let you have your fun with your fantasies," Eve interrupted her thoughts. "I need to let you know that Major Kusanagi is going to join us."

That got Peabody's attention, "Kusanagi? What does she have to do with this case?"

"Everything will be explained during a meeting with Whitney and Tibble, I'm going to need you, Baxter, Trueheart, McNab, Feeney and Dr. Mira in the room with us."

Eve could tell that she ruined Peabody's chance to fantasize about a gay doctor and his partner because of some secret meeting that she would have to plan along with. But Peabody knew that when your superior officer told you to do something that was serious, you better get to work. And go to work, she did by contact Eve's list of people.

ooooOOOOoooo

The moment passed soon enough. Once they arrived at the morgue, started down the long white-tiled tunnel, the mood shifted. It wasn't just death, it wasn't just murder. Nipping and gnawing at objectivity were the keen teeth of personal loss.

They crossed paths with a tech who stopped, slid her hands into the pockets of her long, white coat. "Ah, Clipper's using Morris's suite. I don't know if he-if Morris is going to check in or anything, so maybe when you talk to him you could tell him . . . We're all here."

"Okay."

"Whatever we can do." The tech shrugged helplessly, said, "Hell," and strode away.

Eve moved on to the autopsy room where Morris habitually did his work. In his place stood ME Ty Clipper, a solid six feet with a muscular body clad in a pale blue shirt and khaki pants. He'd rolled up his sleeves neatly to the elbow, donned a clear cape.

He wore his hair in a close-cropped skullcap. A short, neat goatee added a hint of edge to his conservative attire, and interest to his angular face. But with Clipper it was all about the eyes. Huge, heavy-lidded, they were the color of crystallized amber and a jolt of contrast to his dark skin.

In the room stood the familiar figure of one Motoko Kusanagi, wearing her trademark black-leather jack on top of a one-piece pink tube top, black leather pants and black leather boots. Her signature hair was also the same as Eve's, but with a purple color, as opposed to her brown. She looked at her former student with a blank-look in her eyes, but Eve knew that her mentor had nothing but sympathy for her loss. Eve also noticed that wires were hooked to the back of her neck, and that they were connected to the viewing screen that Morris usually used.

"Kusanagi filled me in on why didn't want me to cut her. You didn't inform me that she had full X-Ray." His voice held a hint of his native Cuba.

"She's 100% cyborg to the bone," Eve quipped before looking at Motoko. "What can you tell me?"

"She wasn't raped," Motoko began to say. "There's no evidence of sexual assault, or sexual activity. That would matter to friend."

"Yes, it will." Like a murmur in the background a man sang a plea to someone named Layla. "Is that Eric Clapton?"

"Yes." Clipper replied.

"1992, the Unplugged version," Motoko noted. "A very somber choice."

"That'll matter to him, too." Eve set it aside, stepped forward.

Coltraine lay on the slab. "No defensive wounds." Eve studied the body now as she would any piece of evidence. "No signs of violence other than the throat burns."

"There are minor bruises on her shoulder blades, and the back of her head." Clipper gestured to the comp screen, called up the scan. "Of the sort you'd incur by knocking back against a wall."

"She was shoved, pushed."

This time Motoko spoke, "Death ensued soon after. The burns on the throat are consistent with a stunner pressed to the area. Contact burns. Were you able to find her weapon?"

"No I haven't, Major."

"Until you do, we can't confirm it was the murder weapon, or if another was used. Only that the wounds are consistent with contact burns from a police-issue."

"If her own weapon was used, how the hell did he disarm her? Shoves her back, she hits the wall. It's not enough, not for a cop. There aren't any cuts, no evidence of restraints." Because he didn't offer, as Morris would have, Eve picked up a pair of microgoggles herself, leaned over Coltraine to examine. "No abrasions on her wrists, her ankles. Here. Right here. On her biceps. Pressure syringe?"

"Very likely." Major replied.

"How did he get close enough to her, without her putting up a fight, to drug her?"

"I have the tox screen flagged priority. You're right that there are no signs of violence outside the body. But there are, in."

Eve glanced up at the Major, then shifted to study what her X-Ray eyes revealed. "What am I looking for?"

"Her internal organs showed signs of distress."

"Dying will do that." But she followed her, looked closer. "She took a hit?"

"We need to complete more tests before I can be sure. I understand you want quick answers," she added at Eve's hiss of impatience. "But we need her weapon, little one."

She shook her head, willed herself to throttle back. "I guess that's the reason why you wanted to look at her, I'd say, you're thorough and you're precise. Give me best guess. I won't hold you to it."

"A high-range stun, frontal assault. No more than three- to five-feet distance. A body shot."

"Which would have taken her down, down and out. She takes a hit, it knocks her back against the wall-in the stairwell, and she goes down. He has to get her down to the basement. No signs she was dragged. So he has to carry her. Or there could have been more than one assailant. Carry her down. Why not just finish her off in the stairwell and be done with it?

"Because there was something they wanted, something to say, something they needed her to say, to tell them," Eve continued. "So he/they cart her down, and they bring her back with a jolt-a hit of amphetamine, adrenaline." Pain, Eve thought, they'd brought her back to pain. Helpless. Body paralyzed from the stun, mind aware. "To tell her something, to ask her something. And when they finished, they shut her down. She'd have known it was coming. When they pressed the stunner to her throat, she'd have known."

She pulled off the goggles, tossed them aside. "They used her weapon. They used it to kill her because it's more insulting, more demeaning. Ambushed her in the stairway, dropped her. Carried her down, jolted her back, took her out. In somewhere around twenty minutes. That's quick. Took her weapon, ID, badge, 'link, jewelry. Why the jewelry? The rest makes sense. It's professional, but the jewelry's amateur hour. So why? Just because you can? Just because you want? Souvenirs, mementos?"

"Because it left her with nothing?" Peabody voiced the question. "It strips her. They leave her dressed, maybe because it's not about that kind of power or violence, even that kind of humiliation. But they take what's important to her, and leave her on the floor. With nothing."

"Maybe." Eve nodded to Clipper. "I can tell you Morris will not be coming in today."

"Excuse me?" Clipper asked in response.

"Her body is now in the custody of The Ghost Organization," Motoko said before Eve could. "This is 100% NYPSD's case, but Morris has agreed to give her body to our custody. There will be some people coming to take her to our headquarters, in the meantime, I want you to keep her in storage until they get here. Understood?

Clipper looked at Motoko for a beat, then looked at Eve, "You don't have a problem with this, Lieutenant?"

"No," Eve replied. "Do what she says and don't argue."

Clipper then nodded and said, "Very well, I'll keep her in storage and will be here when your people pick her up."

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Eve had gotten finished with letting her bullpen know that because of Coltraine's murder, scheduled leave would be very likely canceled until this case was closed. She promised to clear overtime for any and all who were tapped to join the investigative team. But anybody on personal or hardship leave in the interim would've had to clear it with her, and would have to make it a damn good reason. There would also be no statements to the media, officially or unofficially, unless she cleared it.

But for the most part, no one would had any complaints or objections. To her bullpen, they had no problem with viewing Coltraine as if she were part of homicide. One cop did voice his concern about Kusanagi being part of the investigation.

"As far as The Ghost Organization is concerned, this case is under NYPSD jurisdiction, we are only here to serve as consultants for the Lieutenant." Motoko answered on Eve's behalf.

It was a stock answer that was pretty close to the truth, but Eve and Motoko had no plans to share the real truth with her bullpen. Only the people who had already arrived to Commander Whitney's office, when the three ladies arrived.

He rose from behind his desk and filled the room with his presence. He wore command the way a man wore a suit perfectly tailored for his height, his girth. It belonged to him, Eve had always thought, because he'd earned it-with every step.

Though he rode a desk rather than the streets, that suit of command had been tailored for a cop.

Even as Eve walked through his office door, Peabody and Motoko in tow, seeing him behind his desk. Baxter, Trueheart and McNab on the right, Feeney and Mira were on his left, Chief Tibble was standing beside Whitney like a king. It looked like she was walking into the scene of a meeting.

"Lieutenant."

"Sir."

He didn't gesture for her to sit. They would do this standing. He studied her for a moment, his wide, dark face solemn, his eyes cold.

"Before we get started on this meeting," Whitney began to say. "I need a report to the best of your knowledge."

She gave it quickly, straight out, every detail even as she laid disc copies of her on-scene and Morris's manila envelope on his desk. She then looked at the four male cops and one female doctor, "The reason why Major Kusanagi and myself have summoned you guys here is because there's something you guys need to know."

She then gave a detail of her and Roarke's development of the two cybernetic bodies, which happened over the course of a year. She then brought up the possibility of putting Coltraine in one of those bodies and how Morris gave his consent for it.

"And you come to us with this information, because you need our permission to go through with this?" Tibble asked Dallas.

"Yes sir," Eve replied crisply, "I didn't know, until talking to Morris, that she was an orphan. She doesn't have extended family members to give consent to this operation, the only one who could really give consent to this was Morris, even though they weren't married."

Both Whitney and Tibble took a read through of Morris's letter of consent to put Coltraine's body in The Ghost Organization's custody.

When they finally finished reading, Whitney asked Motoko, "You're sure this needs to be done within twenty-four hours of her death?"

"Yes, Commander, the preparation can take up to two to three hours and another five hours for the brain and heart to adapt to the cybernetic body."

"Do you think that she'll have her memories when she wakes up?"

"If you're thinking that Coltraine would likely get revenge on her killer, Dallas and I have discussed it. But because Coltraine suffered a violent death, there is a good chance that Coltraine will get amnesia."

"But these prototype bodies," Eve began to say. "We've designed them to let the brain and heart recover from amnesia."

"So even you guys were to bring her back," Feeney began to say. "She wouldn't be able to remember who killed her?"

Eve let out a long breath, "More than likely, no she wouldn't."

There had a been a long pause and the air had been thick with silence. But Eve and Motoko waited patiently for the answer from Whitney and Tibble.

"Well I normally would reject this idea," Tibble was the one who broke the silence. "But I was doing a read-through of Coltraine's contracts involving life-insurance and donor transplant. Since she has volunteered for her organs to be donated and since Chief ME Morris was the closest thing to her spouse, and with him giving his consent, there's nothing me nor Whitney can do to reject this."

"What Chief Tibble is saying Lieutenant," Whitney took over for Tibble, "Is that we are against this, on record, but legally we can't do anything about it. Therefore we are going to allow you and The Ghost Organization, but know that you're playing with God."

"I am highly aware of that, sir," Eve nodded in agreement then turned to her friends. "Which is why I summoned all of you guys to this meeting."

She turned to Baxter, "I going to name you as co-primary on this case, I want you, Trueheart, and Peabody to meet with her lieutenant, her partner, anyone from her house who may be able to provide insight or details."

She turned to McNab and Feeney, "I need you guys to talk with her old unit in Atlanta, I'm going to require copies of her case files, opened and closed, her notes. And I'm going to want fresh eyes going over them. I'm going to need runs on everyone in her apartment building. Everyone she came into contact with routinely. Her neighbors, the guy she bought her food from, who delivered her pizza. Any previous relationships, any current. Her friends, the bartender where she drank. I want to know her inside and out."

Finally she turned to Mira, "I feel bad going imposing on your schedule, Doctor, but I'm going to need you with me and Motoko."

Mira raised up her hand, "Apologies are not necessary, Eve, because I imagine you need someone to help with Coltraine in case she gets amnesia."

"Like I said, Doctor," Eve said after nodding her head, "We don't know if she'll get it, but in case she does, I need someone who can try and walk her way out of it."

"Of course, Eve," Mira said in her soft yet regal tone. "I will have my schedule cleared with my admin immediately."

Trueheart, like the green rookie he was, raised his hand, "If I may ask something, Sir."

"What is it, Trueheart?" Eve looked at his direction.

"What exactly are you going to do?"

"Roarke has already been notified and is en route to the Ghost Organization headquarters. I'm going to join him and observe Coltraine being put in her cybernetic body. I'm partially responsible for creating her new body, I need to be there in case there are any screw-ups."

"Another thing we need to mention," Motoko began to say, "I don't want ONE. SINGLE. WORD. of this meeting leaked to anyone, not even to an origami crane. Once we end this meeting, we keep our mouths shut."

"Agreed," Tibble said, "There is a chance that if this meeting were to be leaked, the killer will know and will more than likely try to stop it."

Tibble turned to rest of Eve's confidants, "I trust that you guys will keep this meeting at a Code Blue?"

"Yes sir," came the reply of Eve's squad.

"Very well," Tibble said, "You are all dismissed."

ooooOOOOoooo

Eve and Motoko went back to her office, closed the door to review Eve's notes, open her murder book and start her board. A few minutes in, Motoko was finishing a call with her headquarters.

"Lab results are already coming in," Motoko said as Eve continued prepping her board. "They shot her up with a stimulant-enough so she was conscious and aware, but unable to move, to fight. No trace on her. No prints on the outside, rear door. Sealed up, and had to wipe it down for good measure. No prints, at all. Her internal organs showed extreme trauma, from a stun. If she'd lived, she'd have been in bad shape. He didn't take any chances, but was careful, and knowledgeable enough to know what setting to use so she'd go down hard, stay down, but live. Until he was finished."

"He definitely wanted to make her die in pain," Eve mused as she continued with the board. "Probably made him pretty hard."

"If you think it made him hard, why didn't he just take her pants off and get the raping over with?"

"That's what's made me curious as well, like maybe he was paid to kill her and nothing else."

Motoko and Eve were now looking at Coltraine's ID shot. "Peabody and Baxter should be on their way to interview her squad, from what I gathered, they worked squad-style, so she partnered or teamed with everyone."

"They'll have a great handle on this, little one," Motoko said taking note of the grief that still held on Eve's face. "How are you feeling right now?"

Being alone with the woman who saved her, the same woman who was smart enough to lock her office door from the outside, it gave Eve enough cause to gently weep on Motoko's shoulder while The Major stroked her back and rocked her for comfort. The same way that happened when Eve was a little girl in that Dallas hospital.

"She could have been me, Major," Eve calmed herself down enough to say. "I could've been lying on that basement floor when I was still dating Roarke."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm talking about the DeBlass case."

Eve gave an abbreviated version of when Derrick Rockman, the loyal assistant to Senator Gerald DeBlass, the same senator who raped and killed his granddaughter, had snuck into her apartment after she arrested the senator. Had it not been for her cat Galahad and Roarke, Eve would've been raped and murdered by Rockman's hands.

"And you cry because, unlike you, she didn't have a cat to save her."

"Just a simple droid kitten that was already purring in sleep," Eve replied. "And unlike me, her killer was ruthless enough to do the job without running his mouth."

"That's where your would-be killer failed," Motoko stated matter-of-factly, "He was running his mouth like a fucking moron. That gave your cat opportunity to distract him, while you and Roarke were able to stop him."

Suddenly Eve's 'link beeped, she saw it was Morris on the readout, "Hey, what's up?"

"I just needed to let you know that some guys from The Ghost Organization picked me up just now," he pointed his screen to show a man with white hair and glass eyes. "So far this guy has actually managed to make me chuckle a few times."

"That's Batou for you," Motoko quipped, "Always willing to pick you up when you're down."

"Yeah that's me," Batou replied, "Always willing to be the comic relief for grief. When are you and Dallas going to get to headquarters?"

"We're getting ready to leave in a few minutes, we're just waiting for Dr. Mira to join us on the trip, though Roarke should probably be there before you. "

"Well before you hang up, Morris, I need to ask," Eve said as the screen reverted back to his face. "Were you and Detective Coltraine together yesterday morning?"

"Yes." He replied. "She stayed here the night before. We had dinner around the corner, a bistro. Jaq's. About eight, I think. And we came back here. She left yesterday morning, about seven. A little after seven. She had an eight-to-four shift."

"Okay. Thanks."

"I spoke with her twice yesterday. She called me sometime in the afternoon, and I called her, at home, on my dinner break. She was fine. I can't remember the last thing I said to her, or her to me. I've tried, but I can't."

"It doesn't matter what the last thing was. Everything else you said to each other over these past months, that's what adds up. That's what counts. It'll especially count when you get to see her again."

That brought his mood way back down, "But what if she doesn't remember me?"

"She will remember you," Eve said without thinking with her head. "I know what it's like to be in love and to be loved and if I'd have been in that cyborg body, I would've fought tooth and nail to remember my husband. There's not a doubt in my mind that she'll do the same for you. Just wait for us, we'll meet you when we get there."

"I trust you to be right, Dallas. But just so you know, if she doesn't remember me, I won't think any less of you."

"Thanks," Eve felt genuinely touched. "Just wait for us, we'll meet you when we get there."

ooooOOOOoooo

"First day back out on the streets together," Baxter said to Peabody as he drove his car to Coltraine's cop shop. "And it had to be over a dead cop."

"Yeah," Peabody nodded in agreement, "Difference being I'm doing this with you voluntarily."

"Yeah, I noticed that you weren't putting up any fight to go with Dallas and Kusanagi," He looked at her with concern. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, we're okay," Peabody said with a smile. "But she needed Motoko more than she needed me, I could tell."

When Baxter asked why, she gave both him and Trueheart details about their trip to the morgue.

"Yeah, she's definitely shaken up over this," Baxter said, "But then again, any cop with a friend like Morris's would definitely be fucked up over this entire shit."

Trueheart decided to jump in the conversation, "Hell I'm surprised you didn't tell the Lieutenant about the pass you made at Coltraine."

"This is Baxter we're talking about, Trueheart," Peabody replied without missing a beat. "He makes a play for anything female, even at my fat ass."

He smiled a little, appreciating her attempt to keep it light. "What can I say? Women are the best thing going. She gave me half a flirt back, you know? But she was all about Morris. There's nobody out there who wouldn't jump to work this case, because she was a cop. But every one of them will jump higher, jump faster because of Morris. Just wanted to say."

"And to give the Ghost Organization credit," Peabody replied again. "They're offering their assistance to help us, while at the same time staying out of the way."

"Dallas was definitely raised by good people, that's for sure." They eventually found an open parking spot near Coltraine's district. "In the meantime, let's go in and get these squad interviews over and done with."

ooooOOOOoooo

Coltraine's cop shop squatted between a Korean market and a Jewish deli in post-Urban Wars ugliness. The concrete box would probably withstand a bomb, but it wouldn't win any beauty prizes.

Inside, it smelled of cop. Foul coffee, sweat, starch, and cheap soap. Uniforms milled around in their hard shoes, coming in from details or heading out again while civilians shuffled their way through security. Baxter held his badge to a scanner, had it and his prints verified with Peabody's and Trueheart's, and passed through.

He moved straight to the sergeant's desk, badged him. He was a hard-eyed, craggy-faced vet who looked like he enjoyed a nice bowl of nails for breakfast.

"Detective's Baxter and Peabody, with Officer Trueheart, out of Central, to see Lieutenant Delong."

Those hard eyes trained on Baxter's face. "I thought Lieutenant Dallas was the one who caught the case?"

He didn't have to specify which case-not for Baxter, or for the cops within hearing distance. "That's right, she is, and she is still primary."

"Then how come she ain't with you?"

"What I can tell you is that she had an important meeting that couldn't be avoided, so she left me in charge of handling interviews with Coltraine's squad."

"Eighteenth squad's one floor up. Stairs there, elevator there. You got any juice on it?"

"We've just started to squeeze. Has anyone off been in to see her, anyone we might want to talk to, the last few days?"

"Nobody comes to mind. If you need to see my log, I'll make sure you get it. The rest of the desk shift's, too."

"Appreciate that, Sergeant."

"I don't know what kinda cop she was, but she never passed this desk without saying good morning. It says something about a person, they take a minute to say good morning."

"Yeah, I guess it does."

They took the open, metal stairs, and both Baxter and Peabody felt cop eyes follow them to the second floor. The squad room was smaller than their bullpen-and quieter. Six desks jammed into the room, four of them manned. Two detectives worked their comps, two others their 'links. The Public Administrative Assistant sat at a short counter. His eyes were red, Peabody noted, his white, white skin blotchy as if from a recent crying jag. He looked, to her, very young.

"Detective's Baxter, Peabody and Officer Trueheart to see Lieutenant Delong."

"Yes, we're-he's expecting you."

Once again, Baxter felt cop eyes on him and Peabody. This time he shifted, met them, one by one as the routine activity in the squad room stopped. He saw anger, resentment, grief, and a measurement. Are you good enough to stand for one of ours?

And through a glass wall they saw the man Baxter assumed was Delong rise from his desk and start out.

He stood a little under average height, looked mid-forties and fit-strong through the shoulders. He wore a suit, dark gray with a white shirt, gray tie. A crop of wavy black hair swept back from a thin face that showed strain around the eyes and mouth.

"Detectives." He offered a handshake to both. "Please come back."

Silence followed them into the glass-walled room. Delong shut the door. "First, let me say you'll have complete cooperation from me and the squad. Anything you need, any time you need it."

"Thank you, sir."

When Delong asked about Lieutenant Dallas, Baxter give him the same answer he gave the Sargeant and left no room for further questions.

"Well, anyway, I've already copied all of Detective Coltraine's case files, and cleared EDD to take her electronics. I also have copies of her personnel file, and my evaluations." He picked up a pouch. Peabody took it, slipped it into her file bag. "You can use my office to talk to the squad, or one of our boxes. There's a small conference room upstairs, if that works better."

"We don't want to put you out of your office, Lieutenant, or cause your men to feel they're being interrogated by another cop. The conference room would be fine. Also, I speak for Dallas when I say, I'm sorry for your loss, Lieutenant. I know it's hard to lose a cop under your command."

"Hard enough if she'd gone down in the line. At least then, you know. But this . . . Is there anything you can tell me?"

This time it was Peabody who spoke. "We believe she was ambushed in the stairwell of her building, taken down to the basement. We haven't found her weapon. It may have been used to kill her. What was she working on?"

"A robbery in Chinatown, a break-in, electronics store-a couple cases of pocket 'links and PPCs were taken, a carjack-armed. It's all in the files."

"Did she report any threats against her?"

"No. No, she didn't. I have an open-door policy. We're a small squad. If something's up, I usually hear about it."

"Who was she partnered with?" Baxter asked.

"We work as a squad. She'd have worked with everyone at some time. I usually paired her with Cleo. Detective Grady. They had a good rhythm. But she was on with O'Brian for the break-in."

"How'd she get along with the rest of the squad?"

"She slid right in. We had some ribbing going on. Southern transplant, and her looks. But she held her own, and earned respect. I'm going to say my squad runs pretty damn smooth. Ammy fit it."

"What kind of cop was she?"

He sighed a little. "She was solid. A detail cop. Organized, good eye. She'd work a case through, no bitching about OT, no griping over paperwork. She was an asset. She cleared her share of cases. She wasn't flashy, didn't need the big collar. She was steady. Did her job."

"And her personal life?"

"She wasn't flashy there, either. Everybody knew she was involved with Morris. We got a squad of four here. It's hard to keep secrets. She was happy. If she had trouble, she didn't share it, she didn't show it."

"Why did she transfer out of Atlanta?"

"I asked her, the way you would. She told me she'd started to feel as if she'd gotten into a rut, that she needed a change of scene, of routine. I wish I had answers. I wish I had something clear-cut to give you. I know your reputation, Baxter. Same to both you and Lieutenant Dallas," he added with a nod to Peabody. "While part of me wants my team on this case, I know Ammy's in good hands."

"Thank you. If you'd direct us to the conference room, we'll set up. If her most usual partner, Detective Grady's available, we can talk to her first."

"I'll take you up."

The room boasted a single long table, a lot of creaky chairs, two wall screens, a wide whiteboard, and an aged AutoChef.

Peabody tried the coffee, blanched. "It's worse than ours. I didn't think that was possible. I'm going to hit Vending for a soft drink. You want one?"

"Yeah. Go ahead and get me a Pepsi because I know that's what Dallas drinks."

While he waited, David thought of Delong. He understood. If Coltraine had gone down in the line, under his command, there would be guilt and grief and anger. But he'd know why. The bad guy got the edge that day. He'd know who, and even if that bad guy needed to be chased down, he'd know.

He ordered Trueheart to set his own recorder and his notebook on the table. Took out his PPC to refresh himself on Detective Cleo Grady.

Thirty-two, Baxter mused. Detective third grade with eight years in. New York transplant from Jersey. No marriages, no cohabs, no children. Several commendations, and a handful of disciplinary slaps. Part of Delong's squad for three years, transferring at her own request from SVU. Parents retired to Florida. No sibs.

He glanced up when Cleo rapped on the doorjamb. "Detective Grady, Baxter."

"Have a seat."

It showed in the eyes, Baxter thought. The anger and the resentment. And in the tight line of the mouth. Cleo wore her streaked blond hair short, straight, sleek, and showed off a couple of winking blue studs in her earlobes. The eyes, a deep, almost navy blue, stayed level with Eve as she crossed the room.

She hit five-five, with a body both solid and curvy. She wore simple brown trousers, a white shirt, and a thin tan jacket over it. Like Eve, she preferred the shoulder harness.

"The boss wants us to cooperate, so we will." She had a quick, clipped voice, a little raw

at the edges. "But this should be our case."

"If it was my Lieutenant, Peabody or my aide, Trueheart, I'd probably feel the same. But it's not your case. We're on record here, Detective." He paused as Peabody came in, shut the door.

"I picked up some water and Pepsis," Peabody said, and set bottles on the table.

Cleo shook her head. "The least you can do is tell me what you've got."

"You can talk to your lieutenant about that. We brought him up to date. You can play the hard-ass with us, but that's not helping Detective Coltraine."

"If you're looking to dig up dirt on her-"

"Why would we be? We're not IAB. We're homicide. Your squadmate was murdered, Detective. So cut the crap. You and Coltraine were often partnered."

"Yeah, the boss thought we complemented each other."

"Did you also interact on a personal level? Socially?"

"Sure we did. Why wouldn't . . ." She shook her head again, held up a hand. She picked up a bottle of the water she'd initially rejected, twisted it open, drank. "Look, maybe I'm sorry for the attitude, but this is hard. She was part of my team, and we got to be friends. We worked damn well together, you can look at our case files and see that. And we got so we'd hang out sometimes. Have a drink after shift or a meal. Maybe just the two of us, or maybe with some of the other guys. It wasn't always about the job, either. We'd talk about regular stuff. Hair and weight and men."

"You were close," Peabody commented.

"Yeah. We each had our own life, but we hit it off. You've got to know how it is. When you're working with another female, there are things you can get into, things you can say that you wouldn't with a man."

"Did she tell you about any old lovers, boyfriends, guys that wanted to be with her?"

"She was seeing a couple guys casually back in Atlanta before she transferred. One was another cop, and that was basically a booty buddy she'd been tight with awhile before. The other was a lawyer. She said it just wasn't a good fit, and both of them got to just drifting along in the relationship. One of the reasons she transferred was because she felt her personal life got stale, and she felt she was losing her edge professionally. She wanted something new."

"Nobody serious?" Peabody pressed, thinking of what Morris had said to Dallas. And saw Cleo hesitate.

"She mentioned there'd been somebody, pretty intense for a while. But it hadn't worked out."

"Name?"

"No. But it bruised her up some-emotionally. She said they broke it off, and she'd done the casual thing for a couple months with the lawyer. But she wanted a change-a new place, new faces. Like that."

"And once she'd transferred-on that personal level."

"The thing with the ME started pretty quick. She hadn't been here long when they met. Ammy said there was this instant spark. They took their time. I mean, they didn't jump in the sack right off. When they did . . . like I said, you tell a woman partner things. She was crazy about him, and it came off mutual. I went out with them-like a double date deal-a few times. They gave it off-that spark. She wasn't seeing anyone else."

"She never mentioned anyone pushing her, on that personal front."

"No."

"Did she take meets on her own? With weasels, other informants, or arrange to deal with suspects solo?"

"Not generally. I mean, she might hook up with one of her weasels solo. But she'd been working this area less than a year. She didn't have that many."

"Names?"

Cleo's back went up, Baxter and Peabody could see it. No cop liked to share weasels. "She mostly used this guy who runs a pawnshop on Spring. Stu Bollimer. He's originally from Georgia, so she played the connection."

"Were you using him on anything currently?"

"I know she gave him a bump on the Chinatown robbery we're working, and he said he'd keep his ear to the ground."

"Anything you worked on generate trouble, somebody who'd want to hurt her?"

"You bring in bad guys, they're not going to be happy with you. Nothing stands out. I've been going over and over it since I heard. We're a small squad, and most of what we handle just isn't that juicy. She liked doing the small jobs. The mom-and-pop whose market gets ripped off, the kid who gets knocked off his airboard so some asshole can steal it. The truth is, she was thinking, maybe down the road, about marriage and having a family, taking the professional mother deal. She liked her job, and she was good at it-don't get me wrong. But she was thinking, especially since Morris, that down the road . . ."

"All right, Detective. If you'd send Detective O'Brian up, I'd appreciate it. If he's not available, your lieutenant can send up whoever he can spare."

"O'Brian's working his desk. I'll send him." Cleo got to her feet. "I don't think it's too much to ask that you come to us if you need more manpower on this. Not every cop works out of Central."

"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you, Detective." After Cleo went out, Baxter sat back. "Does she just not get it? Is it just a blind spot?"

"That every cop in that squad is currently a suspect?" Peabody shook her head. "I guess you don't look at your own family first."

"Civilians don't. Cops do-or should." Baxter made a couple of notes, then reviewed her data on O'Brian.

"Next up has twenty-three years in. He made first grade five years back. He's been with this squad for a dozen years. Second marriage, fifteen years in. No kids from marriage one, two from marriage two. Commendations, and two valorous conduct citations. Worked Major Case until he transferred here. That's a big shift."

Baxter finally cracked his tube of Pepsi, took a hit. "He's been here the longest, longer than his current lieutenant."

"Guys like that can be the touchstone of a squad. The one the others go to when they don't want to go to the brass."

"We're going to be here awhile yet. Check in, will you? See if there's anything new we can use here."

O'Brian, beefy, long-jawed, sharp-eyed, stepped in as Peabody moved to the far end of the table. "Detective Baxter. Detective Peabody."

"Detective O'Brian. We're splitting duties here, to try to keep ahead of the curve. We can talk while my partner makes some contacts."

"Fine." He sat. "Let me save you some time. Detective Coltraine was a good, steady cop. Dependable. She liked to dig into the pieces for the little details. When she first joined the squad, I had my doubts she'd make the cut. That was my own prejudice, because she looked like someone who should be making beauty vids. After a couple of shifts, I saw what was under her. She knew how to be part of a team, how to handle herself in the field, and with the rest of the squad.

"If she got taken down in the stairwell of her own place, it wasn't a stranger."

"How do you know how she was taken down?"

His eyes never shifted from Baxter's. "I've got connections. I've used them. I haven't shared what I dug up with the rest of the squad. What gets shared there's up to the boss. But I'm telling you here, if she left her place last night carrying both her weapons, she was on the job. She went down in the line. And I'm going to be pushing for her to have that honor."

"Who could have gotten into her building?"

"Fuck if I know. We don't work that much heat here. She didn't have anything going for somebody to swing out and kill a cop. We got a break-in, electronics. Inside job, no question. We'd've had the guy sewed before noon today. I'll still have him sewed before end-of-shift. He's an idiot, a screw-up. He's not a cop killer. I know Delong gave you the case file. You'll see for yourself."

"Could she have, when picking at the pieces for the little details, on this, on something else, have scraped up something hot? Something that came back at her?"

"If she did, she didn't tell me. We had a-I guess I want to say a kind of relationship where she'd talk a case through with me." The grief showed now. He stared down at the table, but Eve saw it working over his face. "She had dinner at my place a few times. My wife liked her, a lot. We all did. Maybe it was Morris."

"Excuse me?"

"Something he was working on, or had. Somebody who wanted to pay him back. Where do you hit? She was in love with the guy. It showed. The few times he came in, to hook up with her at end-of-shift? It was all over both of them. I don't know. I'm reaching. I can't see anything she was on, anything she was connected to that she'd die for."

"Would you mind telling me why you transferred out of Major Case?"

He shrugged. "The job's a good part of the reason my first marriage went south. I got another chance. Got married, and had this kid. A little girl. I figure, I'm not going to risk it again, so I transferred. It's a good squad. We do good work here, and plenty of it. But I don't get many calls in the middle of the night, and most nights, I'm home for dinner with my family. So you don't have to ask, that's where I was last night. My kid-the oldest-she's fourteen now. She had a friend over for a study date. Mostly bullshit," he said with a hint of a smile. "Around midnight, I was giving them both a raft of grief for giggling like a couple of mental patients when they should've been asleep."

"Detective Grady mentioned a weasel, Stu Bollimer."

"Yeah, Ammy cultivated him. He's from Macon so she used the old home connect. The guy was born a weasel. I can't see him setting her up, not for this. He's small change."

"All right. I appreciate it, Detective."

"Are you going to keep the boss in the loop?"

"That's my intention."

"He's a good boss." He pushed back from the table. "If she'd felt anything coming, anything to worry about, she'd have gone to him, or to me."

"How were her instincts?"

For the first time, he hesitated. "Maybe not as tuned as they could've been. She was still feeling her way here, a little bit. Like I said, she was hell on details, and she was good with people.

Put wits and vics at ease. But I guess I wouldn't say she had the gut. The head, yeah, but maybe not the gut. Doesn't make her less of a cop."

"No, it doesn't. She's going to get our best, Detective O'Brian."

"Can't ask for more."

"Who should we talk to next?"

"Newman maybe. He's not going to get dick done today anyway."

"Would you send him up?"

Peabody waited until the door shut. "Touchstone," she said again. "He'll take this the hardest. The boss is the boss, but he's the team leader."

"She didn't have a cop's gut. He didn't want to say it because it seems disrespectful. But he knew it might help the investigation. She didn't have the gut. Got the call, went out. Probably never felt any twinge. She'd been set up-and it doesn't feel like impulse, but something planned out. But she didn't feel it. It's good to know."

Peabody reviewed her data on Detective Josh Newman. "I'm going to handle this one, Baxter."

Baxter let out a silent nod.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Peabody and Baxter found Josh Newman sad, steady and talkative. The easygoing type, they decided. The sort that did his job, did it competently, then went home after shift and left the job on the job.

Average, was how she thought of him. The family man who just happened to be a cop, who would unlikely make it to detective second grade. And who gave her no new insights on Coltraine.

They moved on and took Dak Clifton. Though he was the squad's youngest member at twenty-nine, he'd been a cop for eight years, and held his detective's shield for nearly four of them. Peabody thought of him, within minutes, as the Hot Shot.

His strong, good looks-the warm gold skin, the steel blue eyes and tumbling sun-tipped brown hair-probably served him well with female wits. Just as his aggressive, kick-your-ass interview style might have given some suspects the shakes.

Peabody didn't care to have it directed at her.

He leaned in, pushing into her space, with his eyes hot and bright. "We don't need outside brass on this. This investigation needs to be handled in this house, in this squad. We take care of our own here."

"It's not up to you to say who handles this investigation," Baxter replied. "It's done. If you're going to take care of your own, Detective, you can start by easing back."

"We worked with her. You didn't. She's just another case to you."

Since his words echoed Cleo Grady's, Peabody gave him the same response. "You don't know what she is to me or to Lieutenant Dallas. You want to bitch, bitch to somebody else. Now you'll answer my questions."

"Oh really?" Clifton let out a sarcastic smile, "I don't see the Lieutenant here, did she chicken out like a little bitch?"

That really set Peabody off, to the point where she shot up from her chair with enough force to make the chair tip over.

"WHERE SHE'S AT IS NONE OF YOUR CONCERN!" her voice raised in a fever pitch. "NOW I'M WARNING YOU FOR THE LAST TIME TO ANSWER OUR FUCKING QUESTIONS OR SO HELP ME!"

"PEABODY!" Baxter pounded a hand on the table. "You will either sit down and calm yourself, or you're going to head outside."

To Peabody's credit, her loss of temper managed to not only straighten Clifton up, but it also managed to make Trueheart go white as a ghost. 'Don't ever really make this lady mad,' Trueheart whispered to himself.

While Peabody began to pick her chair up, Baxter looked to Clifton with eyes of cold anger. "Let me ask you this, are you just an asshole? Or is there some reason you don't want to answer our questions? Let's assume you're just an asshole, and start with your whereabouts yesterday from twenty-two hundred to twenty-four hundred hours."

The gold skin went hot as he showed his teeth. "You're no better than the IAB rats."

"Consider me worse. Whereabouts, Detective, or yeah, we will continue this at Central, in a box. Oh and by the way, Dallas will be in that box and will eat you up like a late breakfast."

"I was home, with a woman I'm seeing." Sneering, he sat back, deliberately rubbed his crotch. "Want to know what we were doing, and how many times we did it?"

"Peabody?" he said with his eyes on Clifton's. "Are either of us interested in what this asshole did or didn't do with his cock between the hours of twenty-two and twenty-four hundred last night?"

"We couldn't be less."

"Name the woman, Clifton, and consider yourself lucky I have more important things to do right now than have Commander write you up."

"Kiss my ass."

"I'm no more interested in your ass than I am your dick. Name, Clifton, or I'll find the time to have you not only written up, and have a thirty day rip issued to you. But I will also push for your rank to be busted all the way down to traffic tickets if you don't stop screwing with us. Name. NOW!"

"Sherri Loper. She's upstairs in Communications."

"Tell us about your relationship with Detective Coltraine."

"We worked together."

"I'm aware of that. Were you friendly, unfriendly?"

"We got along fine."

"And occasionally worked cases together?"

He shrugged, stared up at the ceiling. "Some of us actually do the job."

Baxter sat back. "If you keep trying to bust my balls here, Clifton, I'm going to bust yours. Believe me, I'm better at it. I'm rank, and don't you forget it. Now show some respect for the rank and for your dead squadmate."

"I said we got along fine, and we did. Hell, Ammy got along fine with everybody. She had that way. She was good with people. You think I don't want to know who took her down? We all want to know. It doesn't make any sense." Some of the bravado cracked as he dragged his fingers through his hair. "Why the hell aren't you hammering at the people in her building? It had to be somebody in there. She lived in a secure building, and she was careful."

"Have you been to her building, her apartment?"

He closed up again. "Sure, a couple of times. Picked her up, dropped her off when we worked a case together. I have a ride, she doesn't. So what?"

"Did you and Detective Coltraine have a personal relationship?"

"You mean did I screw her? Look, Baxter-"

Baxter leaned in again. "Don't you dare throw my last name around as if we're drinking buddies. Answer the God damn question."

"No. Not like you mean. We had a drink now and then, like everybody else in the squad. Maybe we grabbed a meal. She was tied up with the death doctor. You ought to be talking to him. He had access to her building, her apartment, he'd know how to take her out fast, leave a clean scene."

"Do you have any knowledge that there was any friction between her and Dr. Morris?"

He shrugged, scowled off toward the window. "People have sex, they have friction. First person you eyeball with murder is the spouse or lover. But you're here, grinding us through it."

"So noted. You're done, Detective."

Baxter sat, watched as he strode out, gave the door a slam behind him. "He made a play for her, that's my take. Too much heat there. He made a play and she brushed him back, and then she goes for Morris. He's the type used to having women go for him, not somebody else."

"He'd be stupid to give us an alibi we can break," Peabody said.

"Yeah, but we'll check it anyway. In fact, you do that now. I'll go thank Delong."

"If there was something between him and Coltraine, or tension between them because she didn't let there be-wouldn't the rest of the squad know?"

"Cops are good at keeping secrets."

ooooOOOOoooo

At Baxter's invite, Peabody and Trueheart joined him at an Italian restaurant five blocks away from Coltraine's cop shop. Peabody used this time to give Eve an update on the interviews with Coltraine's squad.

"So, Clifton's alibi checks out." Peabody chomped into her crab salad with obvious enjoyment. "But she was pretty pissy about it. 'Yeah, we spent the night together, so what.' Snarly, defensive. She and Clifton deserve each other."

Dallas was eating her own lunch at Roarke's insistence, at her old bedroom at The Ghost Organization headquarters. In the middle of their conversation, she noticed cops come and go. Busy little house, she thought. And little meant more interaction, more internal relationships. Cops tended to stand for each other, it was part of the code. She'd taken down wrong cops before, and it was a hard and ugly process. Her taking down two wrong cops from last year alone proved it.

She hoped they wouldn't have to take one down for this.

"Clifton's had a lot of disciplinary slaps, and a few marks for using undue force." Baxter jumped into the conversation. "He's got a temper. This murder doesn't feel like heat. But we need to dig into him, and his alibi, a little deeper."

"Personally," Peabody heaved out a breath, "I really hate looking at us for this."

"Then we better hope it's a straight bad guy, one without a badge," Eve said in between bites of her pizza. "But we look. You guys take the weasel next and head back to Central after that."

"What were you going to do, Boss?" Baxter asked.

"I want to go back to the scene, go through it again," Eve said while Motoko walked through the door. "But right now, we're in the process of putting Coltraine into her cybernetic body. Dallas out."

ooooOOOOoooo

"I hope this won't take too long," Roarke began to say on the way to the lab. "Because we do have that dinner with Mavis and Leonardo and Bella tonight."

"All this being riled up and I completely forgot about that," Eve said after a deep breath. "The run-through shouldn't take long."

"How's she been doing," Motoko asked referring to Mavis.

"Yeah I don't think you've ever met them yet," Eve said after just noticing it. "Well my fears were confirmed when she served her punishment on me during our first year anniversary."

"Gee, I wonder what the punishment was?" Batou had been traveling with the group to the lab.

Roarke decided to answer that one, "Before we got married, Mavis was the prime suspect in a case that Eve was primary on, Trina promised Eve free hair consultations and treatment for the rest of her life."

"And apparently you don't like it, little one?"

"I'm just fulfilling the favor of a friend," Eve said defensively. "It was my way of apologizing for arresting her on suspicion of murder."

"That may be true, and I respect you for honoring your friends," Motoko said stroking Eve's back. "But think of it this way, it makes you a better friend compared to Coltraine's."

"Speaking of which," Roarke began to say. "I imagine you guys barely scratched the surface on the case, but I still want to do what I can to help you find her killer. He's my friend too."

"Yeah, yeah, I know." She gave in for a moment, moved into him, dropped her forehead on his shoulder. "God. Oh, God, it was horrible. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. It made me sick inside, just sick to knock on his door. To know I was about to break a friend in two. I have to find the answers for him. It's more than the job."

"It is, yes." He held her close and tight, and as Motoko had done with her at Central, rested his cheek on her head. Battled back his own fears.

"But if I can give Eve credit," Morris said after overhearing them on the way in, "Her telling me about all this, took some of the sting out of it."

By the time the foursome walked in with Morris to the lab, he had already witnessed surgeons carefully removing her brain, stem and all, and already they were beginning to remove her heart.

"I was kinda hoping that you wouldn't watch through that," Eve said out of concern.

"I deserve a chance to see her human body one last time, before you turn her into a cyborg,' he then turned to face Motoko and Batou. "Again I got to thank you and your friend for this." Motoko just smiled softly at Morris.

"Yeah," Batou said while patting Morris on the shoulder. "Just wish that we met under different circumstances."

"You know I gotta ask, you two," He turned to Motoko first. "Dallas told me that you don't know your origins, but do you at least have an idea on how old you are?"

Motoko let out a soft chuckle, "Last time I delved into that, was during the incident involving The Individual Eleven."

"The same incident that led you to quit Section 9 two years prior to The Puppeteer incident," Batou remembered along with Motoko like it was yesterday.

"Most plausible theory I've heard was, I was a near-dead survivor of a plane crash, they had to put me in a shell in order to live. Especially since I was like Coltraine, I had no family to claim me, they were more than likely dead in that plane crash. Give or take that incident would've been back in 2011."

"But the reason why we don't officially adopt that theory," Batou continued, "Is because we couldn't find any surgeons to confirm her theory."

"Which is why," Dallas added, "Us adding Coltraine to our cybernetic body might have the potential to be the first individual to not get amnesia."

Just then Mira came in and looked at Eve, "Out of curiosity, why exactly did you and Roarke develop two bodies?"

ooooOOOOoooo

Before anybody could give Morris their answer to the development of those two cyberbodies, the group were notified by the person in charge of Coltraine, that her brain and heart were removed, contained in sanitary jars and ready for transplant. It led to them walking to another room, whose purpose was for observation.

"As you can see, Dr. Morris," Batou began to say, "This is the great room where we make the cybernetic bodies, do you have any questions before we get started?"

"Well one thing I did notice," Morris began to pull up a picture of Coltraine he saved on his 'link. "I noticed that you guys didn't ask for a picture of her to use while creating her cyber-body."

"Great feature about this new body," Motoko replied. "It has the ability to adapt the DNA of her brain and heart from the ground up, giving it the ability to adopt every ounce of her genetic make-up. All the way to the follicles of her hair."

"So basically, a near perfect copy," Morris murmured to himself.

Eve heard his murmur and nodded, "Only thing we've been concerned about is her memory..."

"I told you before Dallas," he held up a finger. "I will not hold responsible if she doesn't remember."

Comforted by his reassurance, Eve nodded to the lab techs who were getting finished with preparing Coltraine, signaling that they were ready to begin.

Roarke Industries, Project: 1001, Initiating.

The computer announced as dim lights began to highlight a silhouette of an empty shell. What the group couldn't see was it's bodies brainstems were connecting to Coltraine's brain, while her heart was being attached to it's blood vessels. It felt like a relaxing experience to the human beings. But as quick as the brain and heart attached to the body, it soon was being dragged through some liquid illuminated by red light. It's travel soon came to a stop as the body began to pass through some thick white liquid, the same substance that was used to create Motoko's artificial skin.

It gave Motoko a sense of Deja-Vu to see that shell move through that liquid. It felt like those numerous trips she took to the depths of the Hudson River, where she saw her reflection at the top of the water.

Motoko: What we see now, is like a reflection in a mirror. Then we shall see, face to face.

Batou: Yeah that definitely puts things in perspective, doesn't it.

Like what Eve and Motoko promised, once the shell passed through that liquid, it gave out Coltraine's exact length of hair, right down to the neck.

As soon as the white liquid began to dry, it suddenly began to peel away from the shell like pure white moths flying from the body. Sure enough, Coltraine's white skin and blonde hair were on full display, like she was sleeping like a reincarnated newborn.

The process was finally concluded when her body was being scanned for measurements for data-keeping purposes. Her body was then transferred all the way to the room where Motoko, Batou, Mira, Eve, Roarke and Morris were waiting and watching. Liquid flowed through a hole into another drain and finally Coltraine, in all her naked glory, rose from that liquid and her body was held by some anti-gravity fields.

As her body began to be air-dried, Morris immediately began to remember how the wind flowed through her hair. Just like it did when he first met her at that island resort last summer.

"I'd be lying to you, if I said I'm not hurting right now," Morris said after giving his first glimpse at the new body of Amaryllis Coltraine.

"Can't say I blame you," Eve said as she stared at the new body. "Then again, none of us even asked for this, but someone definitely did."

"I quite agree," Mira said while turning her gaze to Eve. "From what I gathered in reading your initial report, someone gave her reason to transfer to New York."

"And someone related to that reason pulled the trigger that killed her," Motoko said in agreement.

Looking at Motoko, Eve asked, "Are you sticking with your words to officially be consultants?"

"I'm a woman of my word, Little One."

"Roarke and I are expected to have dinner with Mavis and Leonardo, while we're doing that, I need you and your boys to dig up whatever you can on Coltraine and her history in Atlanta."

Before Morris could object, Eve held up a hand, "There's not a doubt in my mind that she was a good cop who was killed on the job. But like Mira said, someone gave her a reason to have her transferred and we need to find out why."

Morris was about to voice his apologies when Eve's 'link began to beep, Baxter's name showing on the read-out.

"Block Video. Dallas."

"A package came for you, special messenger. They scanned it downstairs. There are weapons inside. Police issue."

"Where's the messenger?"

"In holding. It's been scanned for prints. The messenger's are on it, and two more sets-both employees of the mail drop where it was left. No explosives scanned."

Peabody crowded in behind Baxter. "They've got to be hers. What else could they be?"

"Do not open that box until Roarke and I get there," Dallas ordered as she and Roarke began to leave the lab. "Get that Messenger in Interview when I get there."

"You got it, Boss," Baxter acknowledged. "Baxter out."

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

I TOOK THESE OFF THE CUNT COP, AND KILLED HER WITH HER OWN WEAPON. SHE WAS EASY. YOU CAN HAVE THEM BACK. MAYBE SOMEDAY SOON, I'LL BE SENDING YOURS TO SOMEBODY ELSE.

That was the message that the disc read in the package that was sent to Eve. The package contained both of Coltraine's weapons, her badge and her ID. She checked for prints and sure enough they didn't find any. No hair, no fiber, no nothing.

Shortly after that, Eve and Peabody had a tense conversation with the messenger who sent the box, with Roarke and Baxter doing the observing.

"You gotta admit," Roarke began to say as he drove her car to the gates of home. "You probably scared off a few weeks of his life."

"Yeah," Eve nodded. "With all the stress I've been feeling today, maybe projecting my anger to a connected stranger would've helped with this case. But even I knew I was being naive for thinking that."

The mail drop led nowhere. Bogus name and address on the receipt, prepaid, comp-generated form the killer could have picked up at any of hundreds of locations at any time, or, in fact, downloaded on his own unit or at any cyber-café.

All she had there was the location of the drop, and the time the package was retrieved and logged in.

Same-day drop, expedited delivery ordered and paid for.

He'd been prepared, she thought now. Prepared to move on it as soon as the media ran with the story and reported the murder-and the name of the primary investigating officer. Fill in her name, dump the package, go.

That told her it had always been part of the plan. Not just the in-your-face shipment to Cop Central, but the use of Coltraine's weapon against her. The entire setup was all planned in steps and stages.

And that was something to chew on.

She thought of Morris, what he was doing, how he was coping with the fact that he was waiting for Coltraine to wake up with her new body. When they turned through the gates toward home, the spring she'd nearly forgotten about during the long day, exploded here. White and pink blossoms shimmered on the trees, glowing like chains of pastel jewels against the twilight.

Cheerful heads of daffodils danced with the more elegant cups of tulips in cheerfully elaborate sweeps. It seemed to her as if some happy artist had dabbed and stroked and twirled all his joy across this one secluded slice of the city, spilling it out here so the grand house could rise through it.

The towers and turrets speared up into the deepening sky, the terraces and strong lines jutted out. The lights in the many windows welcomed her, and sent the rich stone to a sparkle as evening shifted toward night.

They left her humble vehicle at the foot of grandeur, walked between the pansies Roarke had planted for her-that blooming welcome home-and into the house.

"Perhaps you'll feel better once you and I have dinner with Mavis, Leonardo and Bella." Roarke said as he helped Eve out of the passenger side.

"Just looking at the pansies alone have started the process," Eve said as she actually walked to those flowers to smell them. The scent reaching her nose felt like she was given some aspiring for her headache.

"Then after that, I want you and I to have a talk about all this."

"Well if you and I are going to talk," Eve looked at him with a smirk. "I want you to make me hurt so good after the talk."

"You'll have that paid in full by the end of the night," Roarke gave out his own smirk as he opened the door for her.

They found Summerset lurking in the foyer like a black cloud over a sunny spring day. It threw her off-stride for an instant not to immediately confront Roarke's majordomo and her personal nemesis. But she gotten a big surprise as the butler had gently removed her coat from her, instead of her usual habit of putting it on the newel post. A gesture that felt very fatherly. Though Eve wouldn't outright admit it, Summerset was definitely like a father-in-law to her, him having raised Roarke since finding him near death on the alleyways of Dublin.

"Words cannot describe how sorry I am for you, Lieutenant," Summerset said as he released his hug from Eve.

"And here I was hoping you'd give me one your usual spats at me," Eve said hopefully to break the tension. "But in this case, I'll make an exception."

Roarke shook his head over her attempt at her usual sniping match with his butler, "I assume you have everything ready for our dinner with Mavis and her family this evening?"

"There's lasagna, garlic bread, salad and chilled red wine in the dining room. There's also sparkling grape juice for Mavis to drink as well. Your guests should be here in thirty minutes, they're busy getting Bella ready."

"Well I could definitely kiss you for the lasagna alone," Eve said after picking up their cat Galahad after he rubbed his body around both their legs. "Who knows, maybe that would take some points off your ugly face."

"Personally, I'm more satisfied with how I look, but thank you anyway."

Eve and Roarke then crossed the foyer to the parlor, and as they sat comfortably across the already lit fire-place, took some preliminary servings of their red wine.

ooooOOOOoooo

They spent the thirty minutes in the parlor basking in some much needed silence. The silence only being deafened by a crackling fire and a purring cat being petted by Eve. Being around those two elements combined with Roarke's heartbeat against her ear had taken a good chunk of the edge off Eve's stress, an edge that was put more at ease when she took some sips of the red wine, the alcohol hitting her brain like aspirin.

The silence was immediately broken when she heard the voice to one of the most happy personalities that clashed against her darkness.

"Dallas!" A bundle of color and cheer with her artfully tangled pink-tipped blond curls, Mavis bounced up.

She tended to bounce, Eve thought, as Mavis hurried over in towering, triangular-shaped heels covered with rainbow zigzags. The bounce sent the green-and-pink diamond pattern of her microskirt fluttering. She wrapped Eve in a hug, then just beamed pleasure out of eyes currently the same sharp green as her skirt.

A deep contrast to what Bella was wearing, all pink and white and gold.

"What do you know, I actually keep my half of the dinner plans for once," Eve said as she gave her oldest human friend a hug.

And she didn't know what came to her, because normally it was not her nature, she reached for the baby without feeling uncomfortable. 'Perhaps this is the final piece of my comfort,' Eve thought as she gave Bella the type of hug she used on Galahad earlier. And without missing a beat, Bella happily returned the hug.

"Awww, that is so precious!" Mavis cooed at the sight of Eve hugging Bella.

"You can only imagine the hard day I've been having," Eve said as she looked at Mavis. "I don't even know if it's Saturday yet."

"Oh, I just heard the news before we got ready to leave," Mavis said as she took Bella from her grasp. "I bet if you talk with us about Coltraine, maybe it might help."

Leonardo started over. He was big where Mavis was tiny, copper-skinned where his wife was rosy pale. And together, Eve had to admit, they looked pretty damn perfect.

He leaned down, kissed Eve's cheek. The sausage twists of hair in the style he was currently sporting brushed her skin like silk. "We are so sorry."

"Well let's get ready to eat," Eve said as the group made their way to the dining room.

ooooOOOOoooo

"So let me get this straight," Mavis said after a bite of lasagna. "You had to let Baxter take co-primary on your case because of a meeting?"

"Sometimes being a Lieutenant comes with those responsibilities," Eve replied after taking her own bite. "Especially since it involved problems with the budget of the department."

"You're not wasting money are you?"

"More like somebody in my department was stealing it from us, so once I found out who it was, I had to arrest him for larceny which took another three hours of paperwork."

"And all that time, you couldn't even roll up your sleeves to work on Coltraine," Mavis took a sip of the sparkling juice. "No wonder you were giving my Bellamina a hug."

"No that wasn't the reason," Eve said without missing a beat.

"Oh?" That stopped Mavis mid-bite.

"I was hugging her because, unlike me or Coltraine, she's lucky to have you. She's lucky that she has a chance to be raised by a good mother like you."

"Wait you and Coltraine?"

"She was an orphan like me, didn't even have the chance to bear children." Eve then proceeded to tell everyone about Coltraine's parents and their fatal accident.

"My God," Leonardo said in a shock. "This poor woman has been through so much."

"Yeah," Roarke agreed. "And someone had to kill her just to put the icing on the cake."

"We only met her that one time." A tear slid down Mavis's cheek as she began to remember her and Leonardo's encounter of Morris at the club. "She seemed so up, and they were so into each other. Total vibe, total sparkage. Remember, honey-pot, how I said after they were just gone squared over each other."

"I remember."

"I don't care if it's you, Baxter or Peabody." Mavis firmed her chin, patted Belle's back as she began to prepare herself for feeding the baby. "You'll find the bastard who did it. Morris knows that. We're going to leave so you can do the cop stuff. If there's anything-you know, stuff I know how to do-you just tag me. I'm there."

"You have my word," Eve replied with the same firm tone. "I will keep in touch with you in case something comes up."

Mavis then walked into the foyer to feed her daughter in private.

ooooOOOOoooo

It amused Eve to watch Bella roll-over from her back to her tummy and flailing her arms to learn how to crawl. She obviously wasn't at an age to do it yet, but she was able to compensate by shaking her rattle and giggling at it, at the same time. She then eyed Eve and made some sort of gooing, cooing sound.

"She wants you to pick her up, Dallas," Mavis said when Eve didn't get the hint.

Instead of objecting, Eve proceeded to pick the little girl up, and feeling a little adventurous, gave the baby an experimental bounce. And something white bubbled out of her grinning mouth.

"What is that? What did I do? Did I push something?"

"It's just a little milk puke." Laughing, Mavis dabbed Belle's mouth with a tiny pink cloth. "She ate like an oinker, too."

"Okay. Well. Here you go." She held the baby out to Mavis.

As Mavis took Belle, Leonardo whipped out a larger pink cloth-like a magician-and draped it over Mavis's shoulder.

They began to transfer Belle into her carrier as Summerset walked in with a tray. "You're leaving."

"Bellissimo needs to go night-night." Mavis rose on her rainbow tip-toes to kiss Summerset's cheek. "We'll be back-us girls-for the big bash. A bridal shower and all that girl stuff's just what we all need. And you guys." She elbowed her husband. "Zipping off to Vegas for the man party."

"Vegas?" Eve blinked. "Huh?"

"Actually," Roarke began to say. "I'm planning to talk to Charles about that later tonight."

"What do you mean?" Leonardo asked.

"Something came up last minute that requires me to stay here in New York, so I'm going to talk to Charles about having our bachelor party stay here in the city."

"Oh..." was all Mavis could say at first. "Well that's going to be a bummer for the boys, they were looking forward to having the party."

"Don't worry," Roarke kissed her on the cheek. "I'm sure the bride and groom will understand, especially since the bachelorette party will still be here in the mansion."

"And that is one party, Bellisimmo and I will definitely not miss," Mavis said cheerfully as they made their exit. "Catch you later, Dallas!"

When she was alone with Roarke, the wine, and an elegantly arranged plate of food, she frowned. "You guys were planning to go to Vegas-shit, you do mean Las Vegas, right? You're not going off planet to Vegas II."

"No, we were going to the original."

"Then why exactly were you going to cancel?"

"Because it's our project, Eve, it's part of my responsibility to keep an eye on her in case something goes wrong."

"You've been having that thought as well, have you?" Eve asked knowing that Roarke knew what she was talking about.

"Bring a murder victim back from the dead, we risk her attempting to get revenge on her killer," Roarke replied as he offered her a plate of apple pie and vanilla ice cream. "Best better eat this before the ice cream melts."

"I'm going to take it up, eat at my desk."

As Eve and Roarke began to make their way upstairs, Eve began to ask Roarke about some backup plans for Charles Monroe's bachelor party.

"We're simply going to have it at Purgatory, darling Eve," Roarke said as they entered her home office. "I thought it'd be nice to use that club for something other than a sting for the cops."

"Yeah I was asking for that," Eve as she mixed her pie and ice cream and savoring the vanilla apple taste. "Man for all the insults I shoot at Summerset, he does know how to make a good pie."

"I'm glad you like it, Darling."

"I'm more glad that you're with me in my office. It always helps me see things clearer, or from other angles, when I run the case by you."

"Tell me a little about her first. Did you know her well?"

"No. I ran into her a couple of times at the morgue. She transferred here a few months ago. From Atlanta. Mavis had it-the vibe thing. He was in love with her, Roarke, and with everything I've learned since this morning, she felt the same about him. I get that she was a good cop, detail-oriented. She didn't live the job." She glanced over at him. "I guess you get what I mean by that."

He smiled a little. "I do."

"Organized, feminine. She had eight years on the job. No big flash in her jacket, no big lows. Steady. People liked her, a lot. From what Peabody and Baxter said, her squad, her main weasel, hell, the woman who owns the Chinese place where she ordered her takeout. I can't figure out what she did, who she twisted, to be targeted like this."

"It was target specific?"

"Yeah." In her office, she sat behind her desk, told him the details while she ate.

"The locks were checked for tampering?"

"Yeah, and they say no. Could've used a master, could be another tenant in the same building. Could have managed to dupe her key card, or someone else's in the building. Or he could be as good as you, and didn't leave a trace."

"She was taken down with a stunner," Roarke mused. "They're not easy to come by, and very pricey. Could he have disarmed her first and used her own weapon both times?"

"It doesn't play. No defensive wounds, and other than the kill burns, and the bumps on the back of her head, her shoulder blades, no offensive wounds. No cop turns over her weapon like that, not even to someone she knows."

"You'd give yours to me," he pointed out. "If I asked to see it for a moment, you'd give it to me."

Eve considered that. "Okay, maybe she would, to someone she was really tight with. But it still doesn't stream that way for me. She was heading out, sidearm and clutch piece. Taking the stairs, because she always did. That's a setup. And it had to be done fast and smooth. No time to ask her nice if she'd let you hold her stunner."

She pushed up, began to pace. After, Roarke noted, she'd eaten only half her meal. "We ran all the tenants. Got a few criminal pops, but nothing major. We'll interview everyone again who came up with any sort of a sheet, but I have to ask myself why she'd be going out, armed, to meet one of her neighbors."

"She might have been using the stairs simply to get to one of the other floors rather than the exit."

Eve stopped, frowned. "Okay, that's a thought. She arms herself first, though, so it's not a neighborly visit. It wouldn't be smart, going to another apartment for a meet when it's on the shady. Then why did the killer, if he's inside, need to jam the rear door security camera? Maybe to throw us off," she said, answering herself. "So we're looking outside the building."

She paced again. "Unnecessary complication. But we'll interview the tenants again. It just feels like an extra step to take, when SOP would be to run and interview everyone anyway."

"I can help with the electronics."

"That's Feeney's call. He's always happy to have the uber e-geek on board, but he may have it well under control. I've got a lot of case files to wade through. I need to study her currents, her closed, her open, and what I got from Atlanta. You can-yeah, yeah, it's an insult to you-but you can think like a cop. Maybe you can take a look at Atlanta while I do New York. Plus, they need to be cross-referenced. I need to know if anything from before connects with now."

"And I can do that faster than you."

"Yeah, you can." She angled her head. "You can also think like a criminal, which is handy. Would you have sent her weapons to the primary? Why or why not?"

"I wouldn't have taken them in the first place. A smart criminal takes nothing-unless it's straight thievery, which this wasn't-and leaves nothing of himself behind. Otherwise, there's that connection."

"But he did take them. And I don't think he's stupid."

"They must have served a purpose. Leaving them-especially if he used one to kill her-would be, in my opinion, more of an insult to her. And you, or whoever caught the case. So taking them served another purpose, even if it was just the jab to you by sending them back. He's not a pro."

"Because?"

"A pro does the job, walks away, moves on. He doesn't taunt the police."

"Agreed. He might be a professional criminal, but it wasn't a professional hit. It looks simple, on the surface, but it was actually much too elaborate-and too personal-for a straight hit. A straight hit, you don't take her in a populated building, but lure her out of it, maybe to a meet. Take her there, or along the way. He wanted something, information or something she might have taken with her we can't know about. Or he wanted to give her a message before he finished her. And he wanted her found without much delay.

"I want to set up my board here, and run some probabilities before I start on the case files." She dug out a disc. "Here's Atlanta. All data's on my office unit, which I know you can access."

"Then I'll get started."

"Roarke." It had niggled at her all day, and still she hadn't meant to ask. Hadn't meant to bring it up. "Morris . . . when I was with him today, he said that being involved with a cop, being in a relationship with one . . . He said every day you have to block out the worry. Fear," she corrected. "He said fear. Is that how it is?"

He slipped the disc into his pocket to take her hands, and rubbed his thumb along her wedding ring. The design he'd had etched into it was an ancient charm. For protection. "I fell in love with who you are, with what you are. I took on the whole package."

"That's not answering the question. Or, I guess, it is."

His gaze lifted from her ring, met hers. Held hers. "How can I love you and not be afraid? You're my life, Eve, my heart. You're asking, you're wondering if I ever worry, if I ever fear, that one day Peabody or Feeney, your commander-a cop who's become a friend-will knock on my door? Of course I do."

"I'm sorry. I wish-"

He cut her off by brushing his mouth over hers-once, then twice. "I wouldn't change a thing. Morris is right, you have to block it out, and live your life. If I didn't, couldn't, I'd never let you leave the house." He brought her hands to his lips now. "Then where would we be?"

"I'm careful."

He gave her a look filled with a mix of amusement and frustration. "You're smart," he corrected, "you're skilled. But not always as careful as you might be. I married a cop."

"I told you not to."

Now he laughed, and kissed her again where her brow had furrowed. "And would I listen? I'm damn good at being married to a cop."

"Best I ever saw."

His eyebrows shot up. "Well now, that's quite the compliment."

"I don't take it for granted. I know it seems maybe like I do, but I don't. I don't take for granted that when I walk in two hours-or maybe it was three-late like tonight, forget we had plans, you don't get mad. Or all the other things. I don't take it for granted."

"That's good to know." Odd, he realized, that she would need reassurance here. Or not so odd, really. The death of another cop, and one a friend had loved, brought it home. "We made promises to each other, nearly two years ago now. I'd say we've done a damn fine job at keeping them so far."

"I guess we have. Listen, if sometimes you can't block it, you should say it. Even if we fight about it, you've got a right to say it."

He traced his finger down the dent in her chin. "Go to work, Lieutenant. There's no worries tonight."

Sure there were, she thought when he went into his office. But it seemed like they were handling them okay.

She had told him not to marry her, she remembered. Thank God he hadn't listened.

She set up her board, pinning up Coltraine, her squad, the names of any tenant in her building with a sheet, the names of the particulars in her most current cases. She added a photo of the shipping box, the weapons, the note, the badge. Lab reports, the established time line. She had a description of the ring the victim should have been wearing, and a close-up of it she'd extracted from a photo in Coltraine's apartment.

Why had the killer returned the gun, but kept the ring?

She studied the board, angled it so she could study it from her desk. Armed with a fresh cup of coffee, she sat to run a series of probabilities.

The computer calculated an eighty-two-point-six percent that the victim and her killer had known each other or had some previous contact. A ninety-eight-point-eight percent that the victim was a specific target.

So far, she thought, she and the machine were in accord.

She decided to leave it there, and start on the case files.

Neither case contained any actual violence, she noted. The threat of it in the Chinatown case, but no execution of violence. Two males, wearing masks, rush into a market at closing, grabbing the female owner as she wheeled in one of the sidewalk carts, and holding a knife to her throat. Demand all cash and credits on the premises, and the security discs. Get both. Order both the owners-husband and wife-to lie on the floor. Apparently grab a few snack packs and book.

Less than three hundred netted-small change for armed robbery, she mused.

The vics had been shaken up, but unharmed. Though they'd turned over the discs, the husband had noticed a tattoo on the wrist of the knifeman-a small red dragon-and both had stated they believed the robbers had been young. Teens to early twenties.

The snack pack snitch told Eve the same.

They'd given the police a very decent-and unusually consistent-idea of height, weight, build, coloring, clothing. Two witnesses saw two young men matching the description running away from the direction of the market.

Penny-ante, Eve mused. A couple of stupid kids. Confirmed, as the investigating officers had tracked down the tattoo parlor, and were ready to hunt up and pick up one seventeen-year-old Denny Su who'd had the ink on his right wrist.

No idiot teenager, and his as-yet-unidentified dumb friend, had the smarts to access Coltraine's building and get the drop on a cop.

The break-in-literally, as a window had been smashed to access-netted a bigger profit. But a guy who could finesse the solid security at Coltraine's building had the skills to finesse the less solid on the electronics shop. Plus, the glass had been broken from the inside, leading the investigators to conclude-ta-da-inside job. They'd begun to lean on one of the employees. From the notes Eve read, she'd say they were leaning in the right direction.

In this case, the suspect was again young, fairly stupid, and had a short sheet of shoplifting charges. Guy liked to steal, simple as that, Eve mused. He didn't score for her as a cop killer.

She took the time to run both through probability, and in each case the machine agreed with her, with both percentages under eighteen percent.

Eve sat back, studied the board. "Do I run your squad through my comp, Coltraine? It's an ugly business, cops running cops. The comp's going to favor them. Nothing in their data to hint at the dirty. Why does a clean cop, at least clean on record, kill another cop? The machine's not going to find that logical."

"Neither do I. But I have to run it."

Just then her Ghost-Link began to beep in her pocket and saw Motoko's name on the readout, she put the link in her ear.

Eve: What do you got, Major?

Motoko: We found a case she worked around three years ago that you might want to look at. There's something else you also need to know.

She glanced over, saw Roarke in the doorway that adjoined their home offices.

Eve: What is it?

Motoko: Her heart and brain have responded positively to the transplant of her cybernetic body, she's getting ready to wake up.

 

Chapter Text

Standard Disclaimers Apply

Chapter Six

Eve and Roarke couldn't drive fast enough to the headquarters of The Ghost Organization when they heard the news. Anxious as they were, they knew New York City enough to know that everyone was in a hurry to be slow, especially on a night like tonight.

Eve: Major, what can you tell me about Coltraine's case from three years ago?

Motoko: There was a robbery from an antique shop. The manager was beaten, several thousand dollars' worth of merchandise taken, nearly that much destroyed. They also forced him to open the safe and turn over all the cash, credits, and receipts-which carried the credit and debit card data. One of the other employees found him when he went in to work, notified the police and the MTs. Coltraine was assigned."

Eve: What else?

Motoko: During the investigation she interviewed the owner of the shop, and according to her case file, spoke with him on the matter several times. His name's Ricker. Alex Ricker.

The name rammed into Eve and Roarke like a bare-knuckled jab, a pure sucker punch: Max Ricker's son?

Roarke: She's not wrong, I was doing a read-through of that case before you notified us, Major.

Since Roarke was behind the wheel, Eve took an opportunity to take a long breath and regain her balance: So Alex Ricker has property and business in Atlanta. Wasn't he in Germany or something?

Roarke: He was raised there, and his father kept him insulated. When Ricker and I had . . . business together, Alex was kept back. I never met him. I'm not sure any of Ricker's associates did-not then.

Eve's balance was definitely back now, and walked it through: You worked with Ricker, back in the bad old days. Went out on your own, did a hell of a lot better. Years later, you help me take Ricker down, way down, so he's spending the rest of his miserable life in a concrete cage off-planet. I wonder what his baby boy thinks of that.

Roarke: I don't know anything of their relationship, but I do know that Ricker's connected to me-to my father, to yours. I know he went to a lot of trouble to take me down, and failed. And to end you, and failed. Now his son may very well be connected to your victim.

Motoko: I don't have to remind you that Max Ricker had a lot of cops in his pocket. A lot of officials, a lot of politicians.

Eve: Yeah, we dug some of them out last year, but it's definitely unlikely we dug them all. Would Ricker have passed them to his son?

Motoko: We figured we'd wait until the both of you get here to headquarters, but who else would be a good question.

Eve: Yeah. And his businesses, too-what we didn't find and shut down. Certainly, his contacts, his power points, and there'd be finances. Coltraine meets the son of a notorious criminal, now doing life-well, several terms of life-she'd have run him. She'd run the owner of the business that got hit. It's routine. Make sure it doesn't come up an insurance fraud, at the very least. When she did, she'd have made the connection to his father. She'd ask him about it. Have to.

Motoko: She'd have to ask. Three years ago Ricker was still at large, still slithering through the loopholes, but any standing background check on the son would have coughed out the data on the father.

Roarke's car had arrived at the parking garage that hid the location of The Ghost Organization, Eve knew that Motoko would be waiting at the hidden parking lot. So they waited in silent as the elevator made their slow decent.

They found Motoko and Batou waiting at the lone open parking spot they reserved for Eve and Roarke. The same spot that they used since last year, when Eve briefly left the NYPSD in protest.

"Was Coltraine able to close the case?" Eve asked Motoko as soon as the couple got out of the car.

"In a manner of speaking. She narrowed it down to three suspects. In each case when she secured a search warrant and went to serve it, she found the suspects gone and several items from the antique shop on the premises. Within two days, the bodies of the three men were found floating in the Chattahoochee River-chained together."

The foursome began to travel through the headquarters. "Okay. Okay, so maybe it's like father, like son? Ricker's a killer. He didn't think twice about snapping necks or slitting them. The son gets ripped off, hunts down the ripper-offers-or follows Coltraine's dots to same-and does them. Or has them done. She'd have to look there."

"According to the file, Alex Ricker was attending a charity event, in Miami, with a few hundred witnesses at the time of death of the three suspects."

"Didn't want to get his hands dirty, ordered the hit when he was covered."

Roarke spoke this time. "Possibly. If so, he proved as elusive as his father did. Oh, and I accessed the ME reports on the dead thieves." He watched her start to speak-to object, no doubt-then swallow it. "They'd been beaten over the course of several hours, incurred numerous broken bones before their throats were slit. That's the Ricker touch, in my opinion."

They walked into the room where Morris and Mira were standing beside a comatose Coltraine.

"She had to know it." Eve studied Coltraine sleeping on the soft mattress, tried to see into her head. "Everyone says she was thorough, detail-oriented. She wouldn't have missed the link. But I thought you said she was about to wake."

"She is, Lieutenant," Motoko said. "But let's just say that the trip back from the grave can be a little painful."

Eve nodded in understanding, looked at Morris, "I don't think Coltraine would be happy to see you looking like shit when she wakes up."

Morris let out a laugh, "I could be in a muddy swamp and still look like a God to her."

"Yeah," Eve agreed with a smile. "But I was more concerned with that fact that you didn't get yourself any rest, what with the possible fatigue from what happened today."

"If Eve were in this body," Morris looked at Roarke. "Would you get any sleep?"

"No I wouldn't have," Roarke agreed while giving his friend a hug. "The only way to put me to sleep is if you put me on the other body."

"Is that why you had two bodies?" Mira asked.

Eve nodded to Mira, "The idea of it started after Mick Connelly sacrificed himself to save Roarke during a botched robbery attempt at the charity auction last summer."

"It had been while Eve was watching me mope for two days over the fact that if it hadn't have been Mick getting the knife, it would've been me or her. So when Eve told me about Motoko's unknown origin with her cyber body, we both agreed to work with The Ghost Organization to develop the two bodies, one for male and another for female."

"And you were planning to use it on yourselves in case you died?" Morris asked.

"It had been a serious option," Roarke admitted before pointing to Coltraine. "But once I gotten notified by Eve and Motoko about her, it made sense to put her in that body."

"Well by chance, did you know Eve was looking stressed when she told me about these bodies?"

"Can you blame her?" Batou jumped in the conversation. "You put a Ghost in a Cybernetic body, you are basically playing with a piece of Pandora's Box."

"Especially if the Ghost had been murdered in her previous life." Motoko said before she noticed something.

Like a newborn baby, her face began to scrunch up and tighten before her eyes slowly began to open, she knew she should be dead. But there's no way she could remember how she got there, but the first thing she began to see was the white light blinding her irises, and she began to her voices in her ears. The light was then darkened by a shadow of a familiar face, her eyes adjusted to see the man who had gotten close to her.

"Li," she whispered to him.

"Ammy," he whispered back to her. "You're back."

"Back?" she began to move her head and body around. "Where am I?"

"Easy, Coltraine, easy." Eve said as she gently restrained the detective. "You just woke up from a long nap, I don't want you to push yourself."

Coltraine recognized Eve's browned eyed-face and short brown hair, "Lieutenant."

"It's alright, Ammy," Morris said. "You're with some friends right now, and you're safe."

He made a grab for her face and immediately noticed how it felt close to her real skin. He couldn't resist wrapping his arms around her stomach before he sobbed on her shoulder.

It had been a lot for Coltraine to take in, but she couldn't forget the sensation of his muscular arms wrapping around her body.

"You know," Coltraine began to drawl out in her southern accent. "I always pegged you to be a sensitive man, but I never pegged you as a crier."

He let out a watery laugh. "Oh trust me, I got plenty of reason to cry right now."

Just then a hand gently touched Morris on the shoulder, it was Mira's. "You know who I am right?"

"Yeah you're the top shrink, some of us in my unit have talked to you before."

"Very good," to Coltraine, Mira smiled at her like a mother. "But can you remember anything from last night?"

That drew a blank look from Coltraine, "No I don't think I can, did something happen that I miss?"

Just then Eve stepped in to speak, "There's no easy way to say this, but you were murdered last night."

"Murdered?" Coltraine looked at her Lieutenant with puzzlement. "If I'm murdered, then what am I doing here?"

"Your heart and your brain were transferred to a cybernetic body," Eve replied. "It was the only option we had to figure out if you could remember who killed you?"

Coltraine then looked at Morris, "Is this all true?"

"I saw it all first hand, they had your vital organs transferred to your new body, then they put you in some thick milky white liquid to help develop your skin. Are you sure you can't remember who hurt you?"

"No..." Coltraine whispered with sadness creeping at her throat. "I can't."

That broke the damn as she wrapped her arms around her lover to let out her own sobs. Being the man that he was, Morris wrapped himself around her as she sobbed out her grief. The grief of knowing that she was a walking dead woman with no memory of who killed her.

ooooOOOOoooo

The rest of group quietly left the room Coltraine was sleeping in and waited till they were in Motoko's office/conference room.

"God Fucking Damn It!" Eve shouted while pounding on Motoko's couch.

"Don't get so worked up, Lieutenant," Motoko said calmly. "We knew that amnesia was imminent."

"It's not the amnesia," Eve objected. "It's the fact that I knew she would show some grief when we told her about being murdered. I don't know if it was Max or Alex, but someone definitely put us all in this predicament."

"I don't disagree," Mira said gently. "But you're not having a clear head on this case."

"My head is clear, doctor. Clear on the fact that even if she were to remember who killed her at some point, she'll likely find him and act on revenge."

"No one is disputing that, Eve," Roarke gently put a hand on her shoulder, forcing her to take a deep long breath. "The only thing we can do is just keep everything Code Blue from her, for her own good."

Eve took a few moments to let in some deep breaths in and out, then noticed the computerized white board in Motoko's office. Coltraine's face, her squad, her whereabouts, the works. Then she saw Alex Ricker's face on the board and studied it up close.

"Where is he right now?"

"He's still here in New York," Motoko replied. "Been for the past week."

"Is that so?" Eve stuck her hands in her pockets, rocked on her heels. "Now, see, that's just too much coincidence. Where is he?"

"He has a pied-à-terre on Park Avenue." Roarke said as he stood next to her to look at his face.

"Convenient. I'll have to pay him a visit in the morning."

"I'll be going with you." He held up a hand before she could speak. "Anything that involves Ricker, his son, his second cousin, his bloody pet poodle, I'm in it, too."

"They don't allow dogs on the Omega Penal Colony. Okay. I'm not going to argue about Ricker-either of them. We did enough of that a year ago."

"A year ago," Roarke pointed out. "A kind of anniversary. And here we have a reborn cop-and you were littered with them last spring-as well as another Ricker. Oh, aye, far too many coincidences here."

She'd already followed that path. "We need to do a deep background on Alex Ricker. When did he buy the Park Avenue property, what other businesses does he have, and how many of them are in New York? How often does his name pop up in conjunction with an investigation? And what has he been doing for the past year? Has he contacted his father? A lot of questions."

"You won't find the answers to all of them on your home or office units." Motoko said as she and Batou stood by the humans. "Not with the privacy laws and CompuGuard. Believe me, he'll be protected under several layers."

"Then we'll start digging from here," Eve said before turning to Mira. "Roarke and I are going to stay here tonight, we can get ride home from here."

"Very well Eve," Mira said as Eve began to escort her back to the parking lot. "I'll do the best of my ability to give you a profile on Alex Ricker by morning."

"I have no doubt you will," Eve agreed. "But take care of your business first because I have a feeling we won't have anything concrete by tonight. We'll give you a full report by end of shift."

ooooOOOOoooo

"So tell me Rich Boy," Batou said to Roarke as Motoko began to set up the Ghost Organization Unregistered Computer in a separate office. "You have us resurrect a dead cop for her boyfriend, the now cyber cop is later connected an old nemesis of yours. Do you think there was a chance that she was on the take?"

"You haven't know Morris enough like I have, Batou," Roarke replied as he tied his long hair back into a tail. "She didn't strike us as a dirty cop, and by all accounts both her and Morris were getting arms deep into each other before someone bollocks that up."

Just then Eve walked into the room, "Thing is, Batou, we don't know. I hope not, for Morris's sake. But if she was dirty, I need to find out. If she was clean, and if Alex Ricker had something to do with her death, we need to find out."

Motoko was already starting the computer up, Eve took notice on how the console flashed on, a sea of jeweled lights and controls. 'Just the one at our home.' she thought to herself.

She also noticed the pot of coffee that sat on a metal table and the two cups that sat next to it.

"I know you didn't work with us on Max Ricker," Eve said as she stood next to The Major who was still working. "But you do know about Roarke's association with him right?"

"I do, little one," Motoko looked at her softly. "Just like I know how both of your fathers worked with him when you were children. And before you say something about killing your father for raping you, I need to remind you again that there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded lion."

"Okay." Truth could still dry the throat and chill the blood. She looked at Roarke. "The fact is, he's still dead. So's your father. And your father pulled a double-cross, on Ricker, on a weapons deal. About twenty-four years ago."

"In Atlanta."

"Yeah. In Atlanta. Down the line, you worked for Ricker."

Roarke's tone turned very cool. "In a manner of speaking."

"Hard thing to admit," Batou said in empathy. "You guys have a deep association with him. Jump further down the line, Ricker shows up in New York, and he's hell-bent on destroying both of you."

"Three years ago, when Ricker was probably dreaming about eating your liver, Coltraine connects with Ricker's son. In Atlanta. Between that point and this point, we brought Max Ricker down. One year ago. And a couple months after that Coltraine requests a transfer to New York. She gets cozy with the chief medical examiner. A man I have a close work relationship with, and who we both consider a friend. Alex Ricker comes to New York; she dies. I think when you've got that many intersections, you have to take a real hard look at the road."

"And how will it be, for both of you, if this somehow tracks back to both of your fathers?" Batou asked.

She took a breath. "I don't know how it'll be for either of us, but we need to find out."

"We do, yes."

"The killer sent her weapons, her badge back to me. Personally. Maybe he's got a mole in Dispatch, and arranged for me to be assigned. But the fact is, it doesn't take a brain trust to figure out that even if someone else had caught this case, I'd have been involved. Because of Morris. That package was always going to come to me."

"Then we're on the same page. And the note inside the package becomes more a threat than bravado."

"Possibly. She wasn't a street cop, Roarke. She was a puzzle solver, a detail chaser. But she wasn't street, sure as hell wasn't New York street. Nobody's going to take me with my own weapon. Damn if I'll have that in my jacket at the end of the day."

Motoko nearly smiled. "So pride will keep you safe?"

"Among other things. If I'm a target, why take her down? Why put every cop in the city on alert, then go for me?" She faced Roarke over the wink of jeweled lights. "I'm better than she was. That's not bragging, that's just fact. So it's smarter to try to take me out cold than to try it when I'm already looking for a cop killer. And when, within the first twenty-four hours, I'll find Alex Ricker in her files."

"Logical." Batou said with a smile. "And somewhat comforting."

"In any case, that's all speculation. We need data."

"It'll take some time, to get under the layers."

"Then let's keep going through her case files."

The group began to take their places, Eve and Roarke took part in the auxiliary stations, while Motoko and Batou worked the main consoles.

'Ricker', Roarke thought. The name was like a virus in his life, springing out, spreading, then crawling back into hiding only to slither out again. And again.

He had reason to wonder if Ricker had been responsible for jamming the knife in Patrick Roarke's throat in that alley in Dublin years ago. And that, Roarke admitted, was the single thing he'd have to be grateful to Ricker for.

Not true, he corrected, not entirely true.

He could be grateful for what he'd learned during his association with Ricker. He'd learned how far he would go, and where he wouldn't go. He knew it had both amused and annoyed Max Ricker that he wouldn't deal in the sex trade when it involved minors or the unwilling. That he wouldn't kill on command, or for the sake of spilling blood.

He'd taken lives in his time, Roarke admitted. He'd spilled blood. But always for purpose. Never for profit. Never for sport.

He supposed, in some oddly twisted way, he'd learned more of his own lines, his own moralities from Max Ricker than he had from his own unlamented father.

What, he wondered, had Alex Ricker learned from his father?

German boarding schools, Roarke noted. Military type. Very strict, very costly. Private tutors on holidays, then private university. Studied in business, finance, languages, politics, and international law. Played football-soccer to the Yanks.

Covering many bases there.

No marriages, no children on record.

Alex Maximum Ricker, age thirty-three, residences in Atlanta, Berlin, Paris, and most recently, New York. Financier and entrepreneur listed as occupations of record.

Also covering a lot of bases. Current net worth: 18.3 million.

Oh, no, there'll be more than that. So, Roarke thought. Let's get down to it.

He worked steadily for an hour, ordering multiple runs and chipping away manually.

"Covering asses, too, aren't you now?" Roarke mumbled to himself when he hit a block, shoved and tunneled around and under it. "Not so quick to toot your own horn as your father was. Smarter. All that posturing and preening helped bring him down, didn't it? Ah, now, there's a start."

"What? What have you got?" Motoko asked.

"Hmmm?"

"You found something, Rich Boy," Batou turned to face him. "Apparently your wife hasn't found squat."

"Well it's definitely not coffee," he said with a glance at his empty mug. "Which by the way, thank you Ms. Kusanagi for bringing my brand in."

"Well you're welcome," Motoko smirked at him. "But don't expect Eve to put on a frilly white apron and white cap."

"Stop Major," Eve said in a pained look. "You're going to put his mind in the gutter."

"Too late, Eve, she already did."

Eve looked at Motoko "Does Batou ever tell you his fantasies?"

"Not really," Motoko gave a gentle smile. "But one time he put me in a cybernetic body that looked like a Gothic Lolita."

Batou held out a hand before Eve could flip out, "It was for replacement purposes, her original cyber-body was destroyed beyond repair after The Puppet-Master incident. I'm more turned on by the way she looks now, little girl bodies mean nothing to me."

Batou had her there, especially since he never made a pass at her in that age. Eve knew they were very private in their sex life, but she could never miss the looks of love and loyalty between them. Making a concession, Eve walked to the metal cart that contained her and Roarke's coffee.

"Anyway," Roarke began to say as she passed him a cup. "What I've found is the reason Alex Ricker hasn't blipped on my radar, not that I've given him much thought. But from a purely business standpoint, why he hasn't blipped."

"Why?" Eve asked.

Roarke gestured to the wall screen when he ordered data to transfer there. "He's scattered and spread himself out, with numerous small to mid-size companies. None of them with holdings that cross the line into interesting."

"What's the line where they become interesting to you?" Motoko asked.

"Oh, for me? Eight to ten million, unless I'm looking to acquire small, individual properties or businesses."

"Oh yeah, anything under ten mil's boring." Eve joked."Is he laundering or hiding income?"

"Not that I've found so far. He's bought or established companies. Some he owns outright, others a controlling interest. Still others a small percentage. Some of his companies are arms of his other companies."

Eve and Motoko began studying Alex Ricker's business practices on the screen. "Some of his companies own property-homes in Athens, Tokyo, Tuscany. He holds some of these interests through an Atlanta-based operation called-logically enough-Varied Interests. Others are held by the Morandi Corporation, which was his mother's name." Eve said.

"Dead mother, as I remember."

"Very dead. He was six when she ingested an unhealthy number of tranqs and supposedly fell or leaped from her bedroom window, twenty-two stories above the streets of Rome."

"Where was Max Ricker?"

"Excellent question. According to statements in the very thin police file on her death, he was in Amsterdam when she jumped, or fell. Alex also has a company he called Maximum Exports, which owns-among other things-the antique store in Atlanta that was hit. There's no criminal on him. He's been questioned on various accounts by various authorities on various continents. But never charged."

"All of these business activities and the structuring are perfectly legal," he told the team. "Close to the edge on some, but never over. I've no doubt, unless he's a complete bint, he's got a second set of books on every one of his enterprises, and considerable funds sheltered in coded accounts."

Batou began to fit some puzzles into the slot, "He stays under the radar. Very carefully under. No splash, no flash. Quietly successful businesses that make no real noise. Until you dig down, put them together and see there's really one entity that's worth about ten times what his official data lists for him."

"And there's probably more." Motoko agreed.

"Oh, very likely." said Roarke. "I can find it, now that I've got his pattern. I could find those coded accounts, with enough time."

"Those would probably still be on the legal side." Eve looked at Roarke. "What about the illegal side?"

"Some of these may be fronts. Or I'll find smaller, more obscure businesses that serve as fronts. An antiques business-of which he has several worldwide-is always a handy way to smuggle all manner of things. There's an easier way for me to find out if he's taken over some of his father's trade. I can ask people who know people."

"Not yet. For one, I don't want the people who know people to signal him we're coming to see him. For another, I don't want to get so bogged down in Alex Ricker, when there's no clear evidence he's involved. Coltraine's the priority. I'm going to run her financials. I'm going to run them from here because I don't want to set up any flags there either. I'm hoping she was clean, and if she was clean, I don't want to be responsible for even a whisper she might've been dirty."

""I'll run them. I'll do it," he said when she started to protest. "I can do it faster, as we both know. And it'll be easier for you if you don't have to do it yourself. I know it troubles you to look at one of your own this way. Even after she got put in that cybernetic body."

"Yes," Eve admitted. "But even if I were to ask her, she probably wouldn't have an immediate memory of who Alex Ricker was."

"You worry about her too much, little one," Motoko said softly to her. "Just give her some time and she'll remember. Best thing we can do for her is not lead to a path of revenge."

Eve looked at a viewing screen that showed Morris and Coltraine sleeping on the hospital bed that Coltraine woke up in.

She promised her closest confidant she'd find answers for both her and him. But what if those answers were the woman he loved was a bad cop, a liar, that she'd used him? What if the answers were as painful as the questions?

"Eve."

She turned, faced Roarke. "What?"

"I can do another level or two, try some tricks, but what I'm seeing here is a woman who lived within her means. You may be interested to know a New York City detective third grade makes a bit more than an Atlanta detective. But the cost of living balances that out. She paid her bills on time, and now and then went a little over budget on her credit card and carried a balance for a month or two. There aren't any unusual deposits or withdrawals, no major purchases.

"I've tried the most usual mix of names-hers, her dead family members, Atlanta, and other key words that make sense to me and the computer to search for a second account. I haven't found one."

Most of the tension eased. "So, at this point, it doesn't look like she was on the take."

"While looking in her apartment, was there any art, any jewelry?" Motoko asked

"Nothing that rings the bells. Framed posters, street art, a couple of good pieces of jewelry, the rest tasteful costume. Let's let this alone until we talk to Alex Ricker. I don't want to do this to her any more until I have to."

"Very well, little one." Motoko ordered all data saved, then laid her hand on the palm plate. "Major Kusanagi. Power down."

As the console winked off, Roarke was the first to cross to her and he put his hands on her shoulders. "It's harder when it's personal.

She closed her eyes a moment. "I'm still in a conflict about all this. I'm glad that her being in that cyber-body has eased his suffering. I should take myself off the case, for all the same reasons I can't and won't take myself off the case. Because everything has been turned inside out."

Motoko nodded to her in understanding while offering her hand to walk her student out of the room. "Because you also have a heart that cares. Your heart cares about a friend and woman he loves. No filters or any additional bullshit, just give me your instincts on her."

She pointed both Eve and Roarke to sit on the conference room couch that sat in front of her personal desk.

"I was a fucking dick to her." Eve admitted after some hesitation.

"And why were you a dick?"

"Well, it sounds stupid. But because of Morris. Because he's . . . He's Morris, and I didn't see her coming until she was already there and he's gooey-eyed. It's not like I have-ever had-that kind of thing with Morris. Or wanted one, or even thought about him. Not like Peabody and her sexual fantasies. I mean, Jesus."

"Why that slut," Roarke replied sarcastically. "I thought I was her sexual fantasy."

Eve gave him a relieved but bland stare. "You lead the charge, but apparently Peabody's got the capacity for lots of fantasy partners. Probably all at the same time."

"Hmm. Interesting."

"I yelled at her earlier today," Eve admitted to Roarke. "But I did apologize shortly after."

"Why did you yell at her?" Motoko asked

Eve explained to the three about Peabody pestering her about some sexual fantasies between her and Morris. Fantasies that Eve never had with anybody before Roarke.

"You have a connection." Motoko said softly to her. "An intimacy that mirrors mine and Batou's. Except yours wasn't sexual with Morris. You felt that Coltraine was getting in your way."

"That's it." Eve pointed a finger at her mentor. "That's exactly it. And she didn't deserve that from me. She made him happy. Anybody could see it. I'd say, now that I think about it, her apartment didn't surprise me. The look of it, the neatness of it, because that's how she struck me. A woman who had things in place, and knew what she liked. Dressed well-not flashy, but well. Sexual. She gave off the sexual and the female more than the cop, but the cop was there. Under it. She took her time, in how she talked, how she moved. That's a Southern thing, isn't it? Nothing New York about her. I don't know." She shrugged again. "It's not much."

"Your instincts on a very brief acquaintance told you she was a woman of subtlety-not flashy. Comfortable with her sexuality, who took her time and who liked order, respected her own tastes, and who was willing to try something new. A new city, a new man. That's considerable, I'd say. Your instincts and what you've learned since confirm that her work was just that to her. Work. It didn't drive her life. Given that, it's very possible, isn't it, that a sexual woman of taste could find herself attracted to a man like Alex Ricker. And he to her. Wouldn't that relationship, if one developed, have eventually conflicted with her work, or become somewhat problematic?"

"A cop hooking up with a guy with a shady rep?" She arched her eyebrows at Roarke. "Gee, why should that be a problem?"

He laughed. "We're different, you and I." He put his arms around her. "But it's interesting, isn't it, to speculate how a similar situation might go very, very badly."

"There was a high chance I could've been a full-time member of The Ghost Organization instead of being a Lieutenant."

He shook his head, touched his lips to hers to stop the words. "No. We were always meant to end up here." He pressed the release on her weapon harness. "Always meant to find each other. Save each other. Be with each other."

"You could also say," Batou interjected. "That you could have been raised in foster cares as opposed to us taking care of you."

"True," Motoko said to her husband. "But sometimes it takes a soda can to carve a diamond."

That left a look of confusion on Eve's face, but then she thought back to the moment when Motoko found her in that alleyway in Dallas. "I can hardly consider myself a diamond, Major."

"Oh but you are," Roarke said with a kiss. "You are the shiniest diamond ever carved on this earth. And I do believe you want to make me hurt you so good."

Batou and Motoko gave out a laugh. "Well if you're going to do that, your room is vacant and ready."

"Well before we do anything," Eve said softly to her lover. "Those weird intersects in the past-your father, mine, Ricker. They didn't stop us from getting here. Roarke, when Ricker intersected with us again, it screwed us up for a while. I don't want that to happen again. I don't want wherever this investigation may lead to cause a rift between us again."

"I wouldn't want to see you take this investigation into an area that causes a rift. Same goal," he said at her frown. "Different angles of approach. Do you want me to promise, Eve, that I won't get pissed off if you put yourself in Alex Ricker's sights, as you did with his father? I can't. The name Ricker makes it personal. There's no way around that."

"You have to trust her to do her job, Roarke," Motoko said. "To handle herself."

"I do. Every day of my life."

Eve understood then it was his trust in her, his belief in her that held his fear for her at bay. "Then I'll make a promise to you. That I'll try to tell you beforehand whenever I have to deal with Alex Ricker during this investigation."

"Try?"

"If something comes up, if I can't take the time, or hell, don't know ahead of time, then I can't tell you. I can't make a promise to you I might have to break."

"All right. That's fair enough. I'll promise to try not to get pissed off."

She smiled now. "I'll probably have to do something, and you'll probably get pissed off."

"But we'll have tried."

"Yes. So in case trying doesn't turn out to be enough, let me say this now. I love you, forever."

The pleasure rose enough to warm even Motoko and Batou. Roarke and Eve stood up from the couch hand in hand.

"We bid you good night," Roarke said to their cyborg counterparts.

"Good night," Motoko said to both of them then gave Eve a hug. "Remember if you ever need me, I'll be there, little one."

Chapter Text

*Flashback*

It had been a week since coming back from her vacation, the same week where she met a man who worked at the same jurisdiction she recently transferred to. Two weeks prior, she didn't know beforehand about him or his work, but she did know that they clicked well enough for them to have a steamy affair at that beach resort.

She set out on foot on her way to work, and after her first day on the job in New York, she found herself in front of a little club called the Blue Note that advertised live music. It was jazz, she realized as she stepped inside - smoky seductive jazz. Normally she went for driving rock and metal, but she needed an escape and the band wasn't bad - especially the saxophonist who was playing a solo that seemed like a proposition. So she ordered a drink and sat at the bar, let the music, the sound of live people's voices, take her away.

It wasn't until the sax player finished and lowered the instrument that Ammy recognized him.

Li Morris, chief medical examiner. Coltraine could never forget his face, especially since his slick suits enhanced the beauty of his entire face, she didn't count on the fact that most of the homicide detectives mostly came to him for the autopsies of their murder victims. Morris was the best, always respectful and gentle with the dead, perhaps it was the same when he touched her body.

And tonight she was at the bar he played saxophone at, and it gave her and opportunity to appreciate his dapper suits and to listen to the music he played with while he worked.

Maybe music was his escape, she mused.

Coltraine knew the moment that he saw her - he nodded in her direction, and Coltraine decided she'd stay at the bar and see what happened.

When the band took a break, Morris made his way to her table.

"Of all the jazz joints in the world…" he said with a teasing lilt.

"I pick this one," Ammy finished the sentence.

"You read my mind," he said with a smile.

"More like I was reading your music," Coltraine mirrored his smile and enhancing her accent in the process.

Two weeks spent together at the tropical island resort before she moved to New York, and now they were standing at the bar in the same city.

Life was weird, and tonight in a pleasant way.

"Need any help taking a tour of the city?" Morris' voice was cool, but there was something under it that made her look at him.

"Depends on what place you have in mind," Ammy shot back.

He glanced at the stage. "Right now, playing another set. Afterwards…"

"I can stay awhile," she said.

He flashed her a smile, headed back to the stage.

This time, his solo was definitely a proposition.

She was inclined to take him up on it, and see how busy they could keep each other.

*End Flashback*

Coltraine woke up from that dream with a loud thump on her chest, a feeling that filled her with dread as she was still struggling with the fact that she was technically dead and brought back to life in a cyborg body. She still couldn't remember who killed her, but she could definitely remember the first night she walked into The Blue Note to hear Li play his saxophone, almost completely by accident.

Li, in turn, woke up a few minutes after Ammy did and immediately noticed her distress.

"What's wrong, baby?" he asked softly.

With tears in her eyes, Coltraine replied, "I think I had either a dream about us or a flashback."

She told him about their first meeting at The Blue Note where he played the saxophone and she listened with heated attention.

"I remember that night like it was yesterday, Ammy," Morris whispered as he wiped the tears from her eyes. "But can you tell me why you're feeling sad about it?"

"Why do you think?" Ammy asked in reply. "I remember that night and here I lay in this bed like a zombie when I should be dead."

Morris had every right to be angry at her response to his question, but after doing some thinking, thought it would be best to just play it cool and handle this situation with kid gloves. After all, this was just as new an experience for him, as it was for her.

"Believe me, I wish things were different as well," Morris said softly. "Hell I wish that you and I were at the first train to Memphis to spend our weekend off together, but someone interrupted that chance."

Coltraine nodded in agreement, "I was excited to go with you and see Graceland and the old Sun Records building, especially to see the Jungle Room in the old mansion."

Morris was half-tempted to bring up a certain surprise that he had planned during that trip, but regarding the circumstances, decided to keep his silence.

That's when the door opened and Motoko came in, she wore a black tank and blue jeans, she regarded the couple with a neutral look.

"How's our patient this morning?" she looked at Coltraine.

Coltraine told the Major about her dream last night and her feelings about when Motoko pressed for it.

"You're starting to gain a piece of your memory back, that's a sign of progress," Motoko said while the door opened again to Eve Dallas and another cyborg walking in with a rolling serving tray full of bagels, cream cheese, fruit jam and coffee.

"We were going to invite you to come to Motoko's office for breakfast, but we thought it'd be better for you to have breakfast over here," Eve said while helping herself to a bagel and fixings.

"Though I do assume that you have a deeper purpose of this visit do you?" Morris asked the lieutenant as he helped himself to make some bagels for him and Coltraine.

"You definitely know my little one," Motoko replied with a small smile.

Eve, on the other hand, hesitated at Morris' question, she'd been around her share of jealousy in the past, Roarke in particular being the textbook definition of the word. And in a way, she was also a walking definition of jealousy herself, but that sense of jealousy had been mostly due to her fear of losing the man who completed her emotional puzzle piece, the same way Motoko had been the first piece.

"There's no easy way to ask this of you, Coltraine," Eve finally began to reply. "But are you familiar with a man named Alex Ricker?"

Coltraine looked at her lieutenant with eyes wide open, and suddenly a flash of the past appeared in her eyes. As if actually traveling through time, her body felt she was being transported back to being a detective in Atlanta to investigate the robbery of the antique shop that was owned by Alex. Another second later, her mind transported back to when she first started having sex with him, a son of a criminal mastermind, who Eve Dallas had arrested last summer.

The rest of the people in the room, silently waited for her reply, when Coltraine looked at Morris with fresh tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Li," Coltraine said softly. "I should have told you about him."

"Was he?" Morris didn't need to finish the rest of the question before Coltraine turned to look at Eve.

"He was my ex-boyfriend," she told Eve.

"Do you at least remember that he was in town this week?"

Coltraine then looked at Eve with a blank look, "I can't seem to remember."

"Did you ever meet with him this week, or maybe last week?"

Coltraine shook her head, "I don't know, if I did I'd tell you."

"Why didn't you want to tell me?" Morris gently asked.

"Because I wanted to move on and put him in the back burner of my life," Coltraine replied before she began to weep silently against his chest. "I wanted to focus my attention on you and only you, Li, I was feeling a much deeper spark with you than I did with Alex."

Out of pure sympathy, Morris wrapped his arms around his lady-love as she spoke in-between sobs. For Eve and Motoko, it was definitely their cue to leave the room, but not before taking some additional bagels with them.

ooooOOOOoooo

Returing back to Motoko's office, Eve had finished contacting Peabody with orders to return to Central and follow up with EDD. She'd keep her partner in reserve regarding interviews with Alex Ricker. It seemed good strategy for her and Roarke to meet the son of the man who'd enjoy seeing the pair of them slow-roasted over an open fire without additional cop presence.

"When did you figure out that they had a relationship?" Motoko asked Dallas.

"Because there's too many parallels between me and Coltraine for it to be a coincidence," Eve replied to her mentor. "I need him information from him and I want to confirm if there was even a relationship between those two...I just hope that me and Roarke going doesn't turn out to be a mistake."

"Can't say I blame you, Dallas," Batou said as he and Roarke walked in from the computer room. "Both you and Rich Boy basically threw his daddy to jail, turned the key, then threw it away."

"One of my fondest memories." Roarke said with a smile to Eve.

"Yeah and it's exactly why we can't push in his face if we want any kind of cooperation."

"And you think I'll go in with a neener-neener?"

She'd have laughed at the term if she hadn't been concerned he'd go in with the Roarke equivalent. The ice-cold fuck-you look. "I'm saying we either distance ourselves from past history, or use it. Depending on his reaction. His reaction may tell us if Coltraine's murder was, in any way, connected to us. I need something from him, so approach matters."

Roarke smiled a little, spoke blandly. "And, of course, I know nothing about the art of negotiation and interview."

"I've seen you work, pal. I don't want him squealing for a lawyer because you put on Scary Roarke."

"I've seen you work, pal. So I'd advise you to keep Lieutenant Kick-Ass under wraps."

"Now kids, you need to play nice," Motoko said with a teasing smile.

Now Eve did let out a chuckle at Motoko and finally managed to calm herself after taking a breath.

"The bottom line is that there's a good chance that Alex will not be happy to see us, but we need to keep this as civilized as we can and not have it escalate to the point of him not cooperating with us."

"Now that I can agree with," Roarke replied as he accepted Eve's bagel as a sign of ending the civilized argument.

"Now Motoko," Batou began to ask, "Our plan is to join Feeney and look deeper into the Atlanta angle, right?"

Motoko nodded, "It's the best way for us to figure out if there's a conspiracy to her being transferred, I wouldn't look past her surperiors to spearhead her transfer after being paid off."

"But you're not going to go to EDD for that are you?" Eve asked.

Motoko shook her head, "It's best that we do things on our end so that way we don't break the Code Blue. Which is also why I don't want you mentioning to Alex about Coltraine being a cyborg, understood?"

"I wasn't even going to think about it, Major."

Motoko smiled and said "Good girl, now you and Roarke run along and play nice with your new play mate."

"Yes Major," Eve replied with a chuckle as she and Roarke exited the Ghost building.

ooooOOOOoooo

The doorman halted his quick march mid-stride. The sour expression the dingy police-issue brought to his face transformed into polite welcome.

Irritating, Eve thought. One look at Roarke wearing his power the same way he wore the perfectly cut suit and Italian shoes, and it went from "Get that piece of shit away from my building" to "What can I do for you, sir?"

"Good morning, sir. What can I do for you?"

Eve nearly snorted. Roarke merely angled his head and sent her a very subtle smirk. "Lieutenant?"

She thought, Showoff. But said, "NYPSD." Eve held up her badge for the doorman. "Here to see Alex Ricker. My ride stays where it is."

The doorman's eyes shifted from Eve to Roarke, and back again. The puzzlement was clear, but obviously he knew a man didn't keep a primo gig on a door like this one by asking the wrong questions of the wrong people. "I'll call up, see if Mr. Ricker is in and available. If you'd like to step into the lobby?"

He moved briskly to the door, held it open for them.

The outer dignity continued inside with the black-veined marble floor, the rich tones of wood that had likely been in place for a couple of centuries. The seating was red and plush, the tables topped by antique lamps with touches of gilt, all set off under a multitiered chandelier of dripping crystal.

The doorman opened a panel to reveal a wall 'link. After entering a code, he cleared his throat, squared his shoulders.

Eve studied the face that came on-screen. Not Ricker, she mused, but a man about the same age. What she'd call a slick character with an expensive haircut styled so the dark waves curved around a smooth, even-featured face.

"Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Sandy. I have the police in the lobby asking to speak to Mr. Ricker."

Nothing registered on Sandy's face, and his tone was very cool, very authoritative, faintly European. And, Eve thought, just a little prissy.

"Verify their identification, please."

Eve simply held up her badge again, waiting while the doorman ran his scanner over it, read the display. "Dallas, Lieutenant Eve, verified." He turned to Roarke.

"Expert consultant, civilian. Roarke," Eve said briskly. "With me."

"Send them up, please." Sandy ordered. "I'll inform Mr. Ricker."

"Yes, sir."

The doorman started for an elevator as its dull gold door slid open. "Two passengers cleared for Ricker penthouse."

Eve and Roarke stepped inside. The doors closed without a sound. "Nice building," she said conversationally. "Yours?"

"No." Knowing, as he was sure Eve did, the elevator's security likely ran to audio as well as video, he leaned back casually against the wall. "I doubt he'd feel . . . comfortable living in a building I owned."

"Guess not. Bet it's a nice view from the penthouse."

"No doubt."

The elevator opened directly inside a foyer that smelled of roses from the forest of them madly blooming out of a Chinese urn on a pond-sized table. Slick Character stood beside it.

"Lieutenant Dallas, Mr. Roarke, I'm Rod Sandy, Mr. Ricker's personal assistant. If you'd come with me?"

He led the way into a wide living space.

She'd been right about the view, it was a killer. The wall of windows and glass doors opened to a bricked terrace that jutted out toward the spires and towers of New York. Inside, the sunny, open space murmured with European dignity. Antiques mixed with deeply cushioned chairs and sofas, all in deep hues that translated wealth without flash.

A room, Eve mused, Amaryllis Coltraine would have approved of.

More flowers sat in the hearth in lieu of a fire, framed in marble. Paneled walls concealed such mundane matters, she thought, as entertainment and mood screens, room security, data-and-communication centers.

All that showed was comfort, style, and the money required to maintain both.

"Mr. Ricker's just finishing up a 'link transmission. He'll join you as soon as he's free." The tenor of the statement indicated Mr. Ricker was a very busy, very important man, and would make time for his lessers when it suited him. "Meanwhile, please sit, be comfortable. May I offer you coffee?"

"No, thanks." Eve remained standing. "Have you worked for Mr. Ricker long?"

"Several years."

"Several years as his PA. And you don't ask the nature of our business here?"

Sandy's lips curved, very slightly. "I doubt you'd tell me if I did. In any case, there's no need." Something smug came into the polite smile. "Mr. Ricker's been expecting you."

"Is that so? Where were you night before last from twenty-one to twenty-four hundred?"

"Here. Mr. Ricker had dinner in, as did I. We remained in that evening."

"You live here?"

"When we're in New York, yes."

"Plan to be here long?"

"Our plans are flexible at the moment." He looked past Eve. "Should I stay?"

"No, that's all right."

Alex Ricker stood in the wide archway off the living area. His eyes, a dark, steady brown, skimmed over Eve to settle, to hold, on Roarke. He owned the sort of face, Eve thought, that seemed to have been chiseled, painstakingly, into angles and planes. Dark, bronzed hair with a hint of curl brushed back from his forehead. Like Roarke, he wore a suit, perfectly cut. She thought they looked like the dark and the light.

He stepped forward, a smooth gait, a slim build, with every appearance of ease. But he wasn't at ease, Eve decided. Not quite at ease.

"Lieutenant Dallas." He offered a hand, and a firm, businesslike handshake. "Roarke. I wondered if we'd ever meet. Face-to-face. Why don't we sit down?"

He chose a chair, relaxed back into it. And again, Eve thought, not quite relaxed.

"Your assistant said you've been expecting us."

"You," Alex said to Eve. "Obviously I've followed your . . . work."

"Is that so?"

"I think it's natural enough to be interested in the police officer responsible for my father's current situation."

"I'd say your father's responsible for his current situation."

"Of course." After the polite agreement, he glanced back at Roarke. "Even without that connection, I'd have had some curiosity about your wife."

"And I make a habit out of taking a personal interest in those who take one in mine."

Scary Roarke, Eve thought, but Alex smiled and continued before she could speak.

"I'm sure you do. In any case, I understand the two of you often work together, or I suppose it's more accurate to say you engage Roarke as a civilian expert on occasion. I didn't realize this would be one of those occasions."

The pause wasn't a hesitation but more of a beat, as Eve interpreted it. One that separated one tone and topic from another.

"You're here about Amaryllis. I heard what happened to her yesterday, so I've been expecting you. You'd study her files, from Atlanta as well as from here. Once you saw my name, you'd have to wonder."

"What was your relationship with Detective Coltraine?"

"We were involved." His gaze stayed level with Eve's. "Intimately involved, for nearly two years."

"Lovers?"

"Yes, we were lovers."

"Were?"

"That's right. We haven't been together for about a year now."

"Why?"

He lifted his hands. "It didn't work out."

"Who decided it wasn't working out?"

"It was mutual. And amicable."

Eve kept her eyes sharp, her voice pleasant. "I've found when people are intimately involved, for nearly two years, say, the breaking it off part is rarely amicable. Somebody's usually pissed."

Alex crossed his feet at the ankles and his shoulders moved in the faintest of shrugs. "We enjoyed each other while it lasted, and parted friends."

"Her work, your . . . background. That would have been a problematic mix for her."

"We enjoyed each other," he repeated, "and largely left work-hers and mine-out of the mix."

"For nearly two years? That's a strange kind of intimacy."

"Not everyone needs to blend every area of their lives. We didn't."

Getting under his skin now, Eve noted, just a little prick under the skin. She dug deeper. "Apparently not. I spoke with her former partner, her former lieutenant, and we've contacted her family. No one mentioned you, her lover of close to two years. That just makes me wonder. Were you really so intimate and amicable, or did you have something to hide?"

Something hardened in his eyes. "We kept it low-key, for the very reasons you named. My familial connections would have been difficult for her professionally, so there was no reason to include them in our relationship-or to involve others. This was our personal life. Our personal business. I'd think you'd understand that very well."

Eve lifted her eyebrows.

"The lieutenant and I were open about our relationship from its beginning," Roarke pointed out.

"Everyone makes their own choices."

"Your father wouldn't have approved, any more than her superiors," Roarke speculated as he studied Alex's face. "No, he wouldn't have liked his son and heir sleeping with the enemy, unless it was for the purpose of recruiting. That he would have approved of, quite well."

"If you're looking to use our relationship to stain Ammy's reputation, you're-" He broke off, settled back, but the temper had whipped out, left the sting in the air. "We kept business out of our relationship. And there comes a time when a father's approval isn't the driving force in a man's life."

"Did Max know?"

"You'll have to ask him," Alex said coolly. "You know where to find him."

"Yeah." Changing tack, Eve drew his attention back to her. "A concrete cage on Omega. Crappy place, isn't it?"

"Is this about my relationship with Amaryllis or with my father?"

"Depends. When's the last time you saw Detective Coltraine?"

"The day before she was killed. I got in touch with her when I got into town. She came here. We had drinks, caught up with each other. She was here for a couple of hours."

"Alone? Just the two of you?"

"Rod was here. Up in the office."

"What did you talk about?"

"How she liked New York, how she was settling in to her new home, her new job. What I'd done in Paris. I'd come in from there. She told me she was involved with someone. Seriously involved, and that he made her happy. It was easy to see that was true. She looked happy."

"And on the night she was murdered?"

"I had dinner in. About eight, I think. Rod would know. Caught up with some work. He went to his room about ten, and I went out shortly after that."

"You went out? Where?"

"I was restless. I thought I'd take a walk, as I don't get to New York often. I like the city. I walked over to Broadway."

"You walked from Park to Broadway?"

"That's right." The faint edge of annoyance crept in. "It was a nice night, a little on the cool side. I wanted the lights, the noise, the crowds, so I ended up wandering around Times Square."

"Alone."

"Yes. I hit a couple of video arcades. I like to play. I stopped in a bar. Crowded, noisy. They had the game on-screen. American baseball. I prefer football. Not what you people call football. Real football. But I had a beer and watched some of the game. Then I walked back here. I'm not sure of the time. Not very late. Before one, I'd say."

"What's the name of the bar?"

"I have no idea. I was walking around; I wanted a beer."

"Got a receipt?"

"No. It was one bloody beer. I paid cash. If I'd known I'd need an alibi, I'd've done considerably better."

Temper, temper, Eve thought. "A man in your position, a businessman with international interests-and considering, again, your background-might find it necessary to own a licensed weapon."

"You know I do. You'd have checked already."

"You're licensed for a civilian stunner, which is registered in your name. Maybe, since you're being so cooperative, you'd allow me to take it with me, have it tested and examined. Since you were having a beer and watching the game when Detective Coltraine was killed."

Resentment lay cold on his face. "If my father was anyone else but Max Ricker?"

"I'd still be asking for it. I can get a warrant, if you'd prefer."

He said nothing, only rose. He walked to a table, unlocked a drawer. It was smaller, sleeker, and less powerful a weapon than hers. One that stunned only. He offered it to her, along with its license.

"Handy," she said.

"As I said, I was expecting you. I'm not my father." He clipped out the words as Eve put the weapon and paperwork in an evidence bag, labeled it, sealed it. "I don't kill women."

"Just men?"

"I cared about her, or we wouldn't be having this conversation. Now we're done." He accepted the receipt Eve printed out of her PPC. "I expect the cop who put Max Ricker in that cage will catch the person who killed Amaryllis."

He walked back to the foyer, called the elevator.

"You know the routine, don't leave town, stay available, blah blah." Eve stepped onto the elevator with Roarke.

"Yes, I know the routine. I also know if our backgrounds made us who we are, we'd all be fucked."

He walked away as the doors closed.

When they hit the sidewalk, Eve stopped, turned to speak. Roarke simply shook his head, then took her arm and led her to the car.

"What?" she said, and repeated when they were inside, "What?"

"Drive. If I were a man who'd been expecting a visit from a cop who'd be looking at me for killing another cop, I'd have myself a plant on the street, with eyes and ears. And then I'd know just what that cop thought about me and our conversation. Especially if we were to be at risk at breaking the Code Blue."

Eve frowned as she drove. "You actually have people who walk around listening to other people?"

He patted her hand. "We're not talking about me, are we?"

"Privacy laws-"

"There, there." He patted her hand again. "He was in love with her, and still is. To some extent, still is."

"People often kill the ones they love."

"Well, if he did, he's either amazingly stupid about it, or damned clever. Pathetic alibi like that. You'll be getting a warrant for his building's security discs, to verify his coming and going."

"First on the list. He'd have to know that, so he'll have come and gone pretty much as stated. He's wide open for the time in question. Wide. And he was nervous when we got there. He lost some of the nerves as we went along because he got mad. The stunner's not going to play out. He gave it up too easily. He could have another, unregistered, unlicensed. Hell, he could have a freaking arsenal."

"Max did love the weapon's trade. He's smoother than his father," Roarke commented. "And yet not so smooth. Odd, really. Max wouldn't have shown those nerves, wouldn't have felt them come to that. Yet the son has a polish the father lacked. He doesn't seem the type to use the word cunt when referring to Amaryllis. It's too vulgar."

"Maybe he hires vulgar underlings."

"Very possibly. Or it was a deliberate choice because it seems off. Because it seems more like his father."

"Maybe. He's interested in us, has been interested in us. But-"

"No more, it seems, than reasonable. Given the circumstances."

"It seems," she agreed. "There's either some tension between him and his father, or he wanted us to think there is. I wonder which. Anyway, are you going to midtown? To your office?"

"I suppose I am."

"I'll dump you there."

"Shows me what I'm worth to you. Now I'm dumped."

"I mean drop you off there, smartass. But speaking of dumping. She breaks things off back in Atlanta. He's pissy about it-amicable, my ass-but maybe it's like, sure, screw it, who needs you. Or maybe he keeps at her some, and that's why she decides to transfer."

"The timing would indicate she wanted distance."

"What did he say? He doesn't get to New York often. Then he comes here, contacts her. Here we go again, she thinks, and just when she's gotten into this romance with Morris. When things are smoothed out. She goes to see him, tries to convince him it's over and done. He could play that out. Like you said, he's smooth, he's polished. But it burns his guts. This bitch can't dump me. She's not going to get away with it. Works himself up. Really gets up the steam. Contacts her that night, demands she come meet him, or he's going to make it sticky for her with Morris, with the department."

"She might argue with him, or try to reason," Roarke continued her thought. "Or simply go along. But she'd take the precaution of strapping on her weapons."

"Yeah, but he's waiting for her. Already in. Could be he managed to get her key card when she came to visit, or his pal Sandy did-clone it, get it back without her realizing it. Takes her out on the stairs, carries her down, brings her back so he can tell her no woman tells him it's over. Maybe he lets her plead with him, promise him, tell him she loves him-whatever she thinks will save her life. But he knows she's lying, and that just makes it worse, so zap. Lights out."

She shook her head. "And it just doesn't ring all the bells for me. Especially not when Coltraine basically confirmed it for us before he did."

"He'd have hurt her more. That's what you're thinking."

"Wouldn't you? Bitch dumped you, now she's spreading them for some other man. Gotta pay."

"He loved her. Maybe enough to kill her, and too much to hurt her."

Since she understood exactly what he meant, she shook her head. "People are so screwy. It wasn't impulse, that's the other thing. It wasn't like: I'm going over there and deal with that bitch. It was too organized for that. So, you take it back, figure he'd planned it awhile. Before he even got to New York. He'd have known about Morris. He could have had her shadowed, and then he'd have known about Morris. Plays nearly the same way then, except he invites her over, makes nice. So good to see you again, glad you're happy. Aren't we mature adults? Then he calls her, tells her he needs to see her, or he's in trouble, needs her help, whatever it takes. And she goes."

She shoved her way across town. "Or, and here's one I don't like because it could work. They were still screwing around. She was in his pocket. Things went south, and he did her or had her done. I hate that it's the one that works the best."

"It only works best with the current data," Roarke pointed out. "Do you think Coltraine may have remembered Ricker killing her?"

"No," Eve sighed. "It's still too early in the adaptation process, Roarke. But one thing is certain, you could tell that Morris felt a little kicked in the gut when I brought up that Alex's name, but to his credit, he decided to remain calm for Coltraine and not add any additional stress to her. I also believe that Coltraine wanted to completely move on from Ricker, why else would she not talk about him to Morris?"

"You're going to let them get together a bit longer?"

"I am," Eve nodded. "But today, I'm going back, get all this down in the book, get the stunner to the lab. I need to fill Peabody in. And other stuff. I'm hoping I'll have something more solid when I talk to Morris."

She got as close to the big black tower that housed Roarke Industries as the madness of New York allowed. "Thanks."

"Actions speak louder." He cupped her neck, and leaning to her took her mouth in a kiss that made her swear she could see little red hearts dancing over her head. "Take care of my cop."

"I try to make a habit of it."

"If only you did." He stepped out, shot her a last look with those blue laser eyes, then strode down the sidewalk to the black spire he'd created.

ooooOOOOoooo

She went by the lab first, hand-delivered the stunner. On her way to Homicide, she made a mental list of what had to be done. Get the Alex Ricker interview into the file, along with her impressions. Check, for her own curiosity, how often father and son communicated. Run probabilities on all the scenarios she'd run through with Roarke. Meet with Mira to get a solid profile on both vic and killer. Update Peabody, study EDD results.

Then, because it couldn't be put off, she'd deal with the "other stuff" she hadn't explained to Roarke.

She'd contact Don Webster in IAB.

Because, goddamn it, if anybody had a whiff of Coltraine and Max Ricker's son, it would've been IAB. If they'd known, the info on that relationship would've been passed along from Atlanta to New York.

Webster would know.

The idea of having to wheedle information out of Internal Affairs-and out of a former one-night stand-just burned her ass. Especially after they almost had a falling out over Eve resigning from the NYPSD to rejoin The Ghost Organization. Words were exchanged, when both parties knew they shouldn't have, punches were even thrown between man and woman, to the point where Roarke had to be the one to break up the fight, a fight that ended up breaking Eve's desk lamp. They ultimately did reconcile after Webster recovered from a near fatal knife wound done by Sargeant Art Clooney, a knife hit that was meant for Eve to take, had Webster not taken it instead.

She was about to reach for the link when it began to beep and she saw Morris' name on the readout.

Chapter Text

Standard Disclaimers Apply

Chapter 8

"Block video. Dallas."

"Oh good, I caught you at a good time," Morris said on the other end of the line.

"Is everything okay? Coltraine?" Eve felt a mix between concern and fear.

"She's fine, Dallas, she's just resting right now, I'm talking to you outside her room."

"What is it then?"

"I deceived you earlier this morning about Alex Ricker," Morris replied after a long breath.

"What do you mean?"

"I knew there had been someone, that she'd been involved with someone before she left Atlanta. They'd broken it off, and it left her upset, at loose ends. It was one of the reasons she decided to transfer. Just a fresh start, a clean slate-some distance between what had been and what could be. That's how she put it. I should've told you this morning. But I didn't want to further upset her."

"It's okay," Eve said softly. "I'm not mad at you or anything, but did she ever explicitly mention his name to you?"

"Not his name, no. She mentioned it, the way you do when you're getting to know someone. She said . . . What did she say? I'm trying to remember. Just that they couldn't make it work, couldn't be what each other needed them to be. She never mentioned his name. I never asked. Why would I?"

"Did you get a sense that she was worried about him, about how they'd ended it?"

"No. I only remember thinking what kind of fool had let her get away. She didn't bring it up again, and neither did I. It was the past. We were both focused on now, on where we were going. On what we could continue to be, I suppose. Did he do this?"

"I don't know. It's a lead, and I'll follow it. But I don't know, Morris. I'll tell you what I know, if you trust me to handle it."

"There's no one I trust more. That's the truth. And I know she trusts you."

"From what Alex Ricker told us, he met with Coltraine before she was killed."

"Excuse me?"

Eve heard the rage in his voice, barely controlled. "Hear me out," she demanded. "He contacted her, and she went to see him the day before she died. He volunteered this information to me this morning when I went to see him."

"I believe Ammy still wasn't involved with him. I would have known."

"He said they weren't, and that they broke off their relationship amicably. They met as friends. They had a drink and a catch-up conversation during which she told him she'd met someone, was involved. He stated that she looked happy."

"Did you believe him?"

Hell, she thought, how did she dance around her suspicions and keep her word? "I believe he might have been telling the truth, or part of the truth. If she'd felt threatened or worried, would she have told you?"

"I believe her in that she wanted to put him on the back-burner. But I do want to ask her why she didn't, but I don't want to create a rift or anything between us."

She didn't have to see his face to know there was pain. "It could be it meant so little to her she didn't feel it was worth mentioning."

"But you don't think so."

"Morris, I know people in relationships do strange things. They say too much, don't say enough." Take me, she thought. Had she told Roarke she intended to contact Webster?

"Or it could be, especially since our relationship had become very serious, I might have asked questions. Ones she didn't want to answer. It's not that she'd been involved with someone before, neither of us were children. But she'd been involved with Alex Ricker."

"Yes."

"The son of a known criminal, a known killer. One who, when they were involved, was still at large. Still in power. How likely is it that Alex Ricker is uninvolved, unconnected to his father's activities? But she, a police official, became involved with him."

"He's never been arrested or charged with any crime."

"Dallas."

"Okay, yeah, it's dicey, it's tricky. It's sticky. I'm a police official, Morris, and I not only got involved with a man cops all over the planet-and off it-gave the hard eye to, I married him."

"One forgets, it would've caused some friction for her on the job. As it did for you." When she said nothing back, Morris continued. "Was she investigated?"

"I'm going to find that out. But . . ." Truth, she reminded herself. That was the deal here. "She kept it to herself. From Ricker's statement, from what I've gotten out of Atlanta, and out of her squad here, nobody knew she'd had a personal relationship with him."

"I see."

Worse, Eve realized, worse for him that the relationship with Alex had been important enough for her to have kept it a secret.

"It could've been for a lot of reasons. The simplest is she wanted to keep her personal life off the job."

"No, you're trying to comfort me again, to spare me. I know how the grapevine works. Everyone in my house, in hers, I'd wager nearly every cop, clerk, drone, and tech in Central knows Ammy and I were involved. Keeping it quiet had to be deliberate, and because of who he was. And to keep it quiet for that long? That's serious."

"You're going to find out. You mean you're going to talk to IAB?"

"It's necessary."

"If they didn't know, they will now. After you talk to them."

"I can't go around it. I'll be as careful as I can, but-"

"Max Ricker carried cops in his pockets like other men carry loose credits. You're wondering now if his son had Ammy in his."

"I have to ask. I have to look at it. If I factor it out, push it off to spare her rep, maybe her killer slips through the gap. That's not going to happen. Not even for you."

"I knew her. I know how she thought, how she felt, how she slept and ate and lived. I'd have known if she was dirty. I know how she defined her work and how she felt about doing it."

"You didn't know about Alex Ricker."

She felt the shutter come down, the one that shut her out as a friend, as a cop, as a colleague. "No, I didn't. Thank you for keeping me informed."

"Look, Morris, I can't and won't apologize for doing my job, but I can be sorry that the way I need to do it causes you pain. Just like I'm sorry to have to say this. I want both you and Coltraine to stay away from Alex Ricker. If I don't have your word you'll keep clear, make no contact with him, I'll put a tail on you. I don't care if it's The Ghost Organization or the NYPSD, but I won't let you impede the investigation."

"I give you my word."

"I'm going to talk with Mira about having her making another visit to The Ghost Headquarters, see if she can help Coltraine with her memories. In the meantime, I want both of you to stay where you're at."

"I'll be waiting." It was the final thing Morris said before hanging up.

Alone, Eve sat at her desk, dropped her head into her hands. Friendships, she thought, were so damn complicated, so bound with sharp edges that could jab a hole through you at any given point.

Why did people always get tangled up with other people? Why put ourselves through this shit?

She had to consider the possibility Coltraine had been dirty. Wasn't that hard enough? Did she have to carry the guilt for hurting Morris along with it? And to top it off, could she be betraying Motoko Kusanagi for aiding a criminal cop?

Crap. Yeah, she did. No way out of it.

She wanted to ignore the knock on her door, really wanted just to wallow for a while in a little stew of self-pity. But duty won.

"What? What the fuck do you want?"

The door eased open a few inches, and Peabody peered in. "Ah. Are you okay?"

There it was, Eve supposed. There was the answer to why people got tangled with people. Because when you were down, when you were wallowing, someone you mattered to would ask if you were okay.

"No. Really not. Come in. Shut the door." When she had, Eve blew out a breath and shook it off. "EDD?"

"There's nothing off on her home or work units. Nothing off on her house or office 'links. Nothing referencing an appointment or meet for the night she died. Her date books check out. The only one we haven't been able to pin down, so far, is a notation for AR, the day before her murder. It's listed under personal. No address, no number, with the additional notation of a-slash-s, which corresponds with 'after shift' in her other notes."

"I've got that one. Sit down. AR is Alex Ricker."

"Alex . . . as in Max Ricker?"

"As in his only son. Here's the deal."

Though she kept silent during Eve's recap, various expressions raced over Peabody's face, and Eve could read them perfectly. They ranged from Holy Shit to Poor Morris to What Now.

"You told him?"

"Yeah."

Peabody nodded. "Well, you had to."

"I didn't tell him about Ricker's lame alibi, because he didn't ask. I didn't tell him it was pretty damn clear to me Ricker still has feelings for Coltraine. Even without that, it was bad enough. I need you to get a warrant to search Alex Ricker's penthouse, and to confiscate and search his electronics. He'll be expecting it. He'll have covered himself, if need be. But we're pretty damn smart around here. We can see what's under the covers if we look hard enough. We've got to check his idiot alibi. If Baxter and Trueheart are clear to sweep around Times Square with a picture, I want you to work with both of them. Sports bars are the focus."

Eve rubbed her eyes. "Now I've got to twist Webster into meeting me somewhere away from here, where we're not going to run into other cops or anybody else."

"Lets you see how it was for her. I mean different reasons and all, but it's stressful trying to arrange to see somebody on the down-low. I can't imagine doing it for almost two years. Either she really loved him or the sex was, like, stupendously mag."

"Or she liked the thrill, and the profit."

"Oh, right." Peabody's face fell. "It's hard to go there."

"Tell me. But I'm going, and . . . I've just thought of the perfect place." She swiveled to her 'link. "Shut the door on your way out. No point in advertising I'm calling the Rat Squad."

ooooOOOOoooo

The Down and Dirty was a sex and strip joint where the patrons downed the throat-searing, stomach-burning adult beverages, and liked it. For those who could pay the freight, private rooms offered a cot and a lock, and an area in which to perform whatever natural or unnatural acts they chose.

Privacy booths were often choked with smoke while illegals were passed around like candy corn. At night, the stage generally held a band of some sort, in various stages of undress and with questionable talents. Dancers with the same qualifications usually joined them-as did patrons who might be influenced by those adult beverages and/or illegals.

Violence was known to break out-suddenly and gleefully-which was part of the appeal to some. Odd and unattractive substances stuck to the floor, and the food was utter crap.

Eve's bachelorette party had been held there, during which she'd caught a murderer that gave her a black eye, the day before her wedding. Good times.

The man behind the bar towered up to about six and a half feet of muscle. His black skin gleamed against an open leather vest and body ink. His shaven head shone like a dark moon as he mopped the bar top and the holo band beat out a jungle rhythm for a trio of impressively built and talentless dancers.

Crowds didn't pack into the club this time of day, but a few men huddled at tables sucking brews, apparently content to watch the clumsy footwork since it was attached to naked tits.

Two of them scanned her as she strode by, then hunched down to make themselves, she supposed, disappear. The guy behind the bar gave her a good, long stare. Bared his teeth.

"Hey, skinny white girl."

"Hey, big black guy."

His wide, homely face broke into a grin. He reached across the bar with arms as long as Fifth Avenue, lifted her off her feet, and slapped his mouth noisily to hers.

"Get off, please." was all she could say.

"Can't help it. I missed seeing your face, plus I thought about you just this morning. How about that?"

"Yeah, how about that. How's it going, Crack?"

"Be up, be down. Mostly be up these days. I went by the park this morning, like I do once in a while, to take a look at the tree you had planted for my baby girl. My baby sister. It's greening up. Makes me feel good to see how it's getting green."

His expression changed from pleasant to dangerous, like a flick of a switch, when someone dared to approach the bar for service while he was otherwise engaged.

The customer slunk away.

They called him Crack, it was well known, for his habit of cracking skulls together-be they employee or patron-if their behavior displeased him.

"Whatchu doing in my place?"

"I've got a meet, and I wanted to have it in private."

"You want a room?"

"Not that kind of private."

"Good to hear. I like your man. I hope he be up."

"Roarke being up is never a problem."

Crack's laughter was like a thunderclap.

"Anyway, I thought I could take the meet here, and not run into another cop. If that's not a problem for you."

"You want, I'll kick these assholes out of here, close the place down, and you can have it to yourself as long as you want."

"Just a table, thanks."

"Drink?"

"Do I look suicidal?"

"Got some bottled water in the back." His gaze tracked away from her. "You don't wanna see other cops, you got a problem, 'cause one of your kind just came in."

She nodded, spotting Webster. "It's okay. That's my meet."

"Take any table you want."

"Thanks." She walked toward Webster, then gestured toward a corner table, and kept walking.

It was always a little awkward, dealing with him, she admitted. Not because she'd bounced with him once, when they'd both been detectives working Homicide. But because he'd taken the bounce a lot more seriously than she had.

More awkward yet as, years after, both her and Webster got into a very heated argument over Eve deflecting to The Ghost Organization after losing her NYPSD badge, something Webster shoudn't have said had set Eve off and ended up beating him up in a loss of temper. Roarke had walked in on even as Webster tried to deflect it. The two of them had gone at each other like a couple of crazed wolves, wrecked her home office and caused each other considerable bodily damage before Roarke had knocked Webster unconscious.

They'd come to terms, she reminded herself. She and Roarke, Roarke and Webster, she and Webster, whatever. Especially after Webster nearly died to save her.

Still. Awkward. And that was before you added the sticky layer of Internal Affairs.

Webster, a good-looking man with sharp eyes, scanned the room, then sat-like Eve-with his back to the wall. "Interesting choice of venue."

"Works for me. I appreciate you meeting me."

"Aren't we polite?"

"Don't start."

He shrugged, leaned back. "Does this place have any coffee?"

"Yeah, if you've got a death wish."

He smiled at her. "Does Roarke know you're meeting me in a sex joint?"

"Webster, I'd as soon nobody knows I'm meeting IAB anywhere, anytime."

And leaning against the wall, his back went up. "We've all got a job to do, Dallas. If you didn't need IAB, we wouldn't be here."

Since he had a point, she didn't argue. "I need to know if IAB has any connection to or any interest in my investigation of Detective Amaryllis Coltraine's murder."

"Why would you ask?"

"Yes or no, Webster."

"Have you uncovered any evidence or are you pursuing any line of investigation that indicates there is or should be IAB involvement?"

She leaned forward. "Fuck that. A cop's dead. Try to care a little."

He mirrored her move. "Fuck that. If I didn't care I wouldn't be IAB."

"Give me a yes or no to my question, I'll give you a yes or no to yours."

He leaned back again, studying her. Calculating, she knew, how to handle it. "Yes."

The knot in her belly twisted, but she nodded. "Yes. I need to know if she was dirty, Webster."

"Can't tell you. Can't tell you," he repeated, pointing a warning finger when her eyes fired, "because I don't know."

"Tell me what you do know. Quid pro quo," she added. "I'll reciprocate, with the stipulation we both keep this conversation off our records, unless both agree otherwise."

"I can do that. You wouldn't be here if you hadn't already made the connection between Coltraine and Alex Ricker. Is he a suspect?"

"He is. I don't have enough, or much of anything on him. But I'm looking. IAB's been on her since Atlanta, then?"

"The bureau down there got a tip she was involved with Ricker."

"A tip?" Eve prompted.

"Some photos of Coltraine and Ricker-hand-holding, lip-locking-landed on IAB's desk."

"Handy. Somebody wanted her roasted."

"Probably. It doesn't change the picture. IAB got the package about nine months before she requested transfer. They followed through on it, confirmed. While each maintained a separate residence, they essentially lived together in a third-a condo in Atlanta in a building owned by Max Ricker. Private entrance, private elevator, private garage. She could come and go with little risk of being seen. They also spent time together when she was off the roll. She traveled with him to Paris, London, Rome. He bought her jewelry, high-ticket items."

"No high-ticket items in her place," Eve put in. "No evidence she kept a lockbox anywhere."

"She gave it all back when they split."

"How do you know? You had her surveilled? You had the place wired?"

"I can't confirm or deny. I'm telling you what I know."

"If all this was going on, why didn't IAB pull her in?"

"Contrary to popular belief, we don't go after cops for the fun of it. Alex Ricker? No criminal, no evidence of criminal. No evidence Coltraine was on the take or passing police info to him. Hypothetically, if the place was wired, Alex Ricker and his old man are the types who have places swept regularly."

"And who are smart enough not to discuss anything incriminating unless they're sure it's safe."

"They got bits and pieces."

"Did she meet Ricker?" Eve demanded "Max Ricker? Have any dealings with him?"

"Nothing came up. Then again, like I said, she and Ricker's boy, Alex, traveled. So they could have. But those bits and pieces included the boy making it clear he didn't want to discuss Daddy. So they didn't. Upshot is, things got rocky in paradise, seriously rocky after Daddy went down."

"When we took him down," Eve murmured.

"Yeah. She started spending more time at her own place. They argued a few times when there were eyes on them. Then it shut down. Few weeks later, she put in for the transfer to New York."

"That's when you guys took over."

"We kept an eye on her. Nothing close. Maybe if we had, she'd be alive. The fact is, we looked, couldn't find, and put her on the outer rung. Nothing we picked up since she transferred indicates any contact with Ricker-Max or Alex."

"Alex Ricker's in New York. She met with him the day before she was murdered."

"Fuck me."

"You didn't know."

"I just said we'd bumped her down." Frustration pumped out of him. "We don't crucify cops, goddamn it. She'd screwed around with the son of a known bad guy, but nobody can pin anything on the son. It smelled, sure, but nobody found anything to pin on her either. She came here, by all appearances kept her nose clean. We weren't dogging her. I wish we had been. I don't like dirty cops, Dallas, but I sure as hell hate dead ones."

"Okay, fine. Throttle back, Webster."

"Fuck that, too. Are you looking at jealous former lover here? He does her or has her done because she walked away, and she's heating sheets with Morris?"

Eve lifted her eyebrows.

"Christ, everyfuckingbody knows Morris had a thing going with her. I'm goddamn sorry for him."

"Okay. Okay." She did her own throttling back because she knew that as truth. "Yeah, it could play that way. The problem is, he has a really crappy alibi. If he's a bad guy, he's a really smart one, so why doesn't he have a solid alibi?"

"Sometimes the crappy ones are more believable."

"Yeah, I've gone there, too. He was still in love with her, at least part of the way. Still stuck on her."

Webster twisted his lips into a pained smile. "I know how that goes."

Eve eased back, cursed herself for walking straight into it. "Come on."

"I've recovered," he said easily. "But I do know how it goes. It pisses you off, and pushes at you. I never wanted to kill you though."

"Whoever did her, wanted it. Planned it. You can't tell me either way, if she was dirty or not."

"No. You can't tell me either. You can't give her the benefit of the doubt. Whatever you want to say about IAB, you know you have to look at her for being on the take, or at least under the influence of her feelings for the guy. You have to follow the line."

"I don't have to like it."

Heat leapt back into his eyes. "You think I do?"

"Why do it otherwise?"

"Because we're sworn to uphold the law, not use it. Protect and serve, not grab whatever you want along the way. Not do whatever you want. We're supposed to stand for something."

She couldn't argue. "Did IAB look at me when I hooked up with Roarke?"

"Yeah, some. You knew it, in your gut. Your rep, your record held up. Plus," he added with a quick grin, "nobody's ever pinned anything on him either. The fact is, I know from personal experience, he could be the baddest of the badasses out there, and he'd never use you."

He hesitated, then seemed to come to a decision. "You may never see captain. They may never pull the bars out of their tight asses for you. Especially not after you defected to The Ghost Organization previously, and in a way are a double agent."

"First off, I'm not a "double agent"," Eve stopped him. "I only work with The Ghost Organization if I seriously need help with a case. Second, I have no interest in getting the captain's bars."

"You should."

It surprised her to hear the resentment-for her sake-in his voice. And left her without a clue what to say.

"Anyway." Webster shrugged. "I'll take a look at things, on my own time. So we don't put a smear on her if she didn't earn it. If you get any more on Ricker, either way it leans, I'd appreciate if you'd pass it on."

"Okay. I can do that."

"How much does Morris know?"

"I told him about Ricker before I tagged you. I'm not going around him on this."

"So he knows you were going to run this up with IAB."

"He put the dots together, yeah."

"If you talk to him again, tell him I'll be keeping a lid on it."

"Yeah, unless I find something. Then he'll want to eat my heart with cranberry sauce. I have to get back." He got to his feet. "Be careful around Ricker. You put his father over. Odds are he'd be happy to eat your heart raw."

"Well there is one thing you need to know, Don," Eve began to say while getting both of them up from the table.

Walking to one of the privacy rooms marked with a green light, Eve told Webster everything that led up to Coltraine being put into her cybernetic body.

"Do you have any idea what you might be doing?" Webster asked after hearing the information.

"There's not a second that goes by where I don't feel that conflict, Webster, but it was something I had to do for Morris. The only thing that's taking the sting out of this is that Coltraine doesn't remember who killed her yet. And yes," Eve began to say before he rebutted. "I know there's a good chance that she might murder her own killer out of revenge and we're doing

everything that we can to catch her killer before that even happens."

"Yeah but what's to stop her from doing it anyway, you can't find a way to shut her down?"

"If we did, she wouldn't be going to the next world."

"How would you know that?"

"Because Major Kusanagi has died a few times in the past, but she never passed into the afterlife, her ghost goes to the net. Chances are the same thing will happen to Coltrane as well if we were to shut her down."

Webster let out a sigh of frustration, the same type of frustation that Eve had been feeling since yesterday. "I have no doubt that you'll close this case in a timely fashion, I also give you my word that I'll keep this information confidential. Just don't be surprised at whatever consequences might come if you were to fail."

Eve waited silently until Webster walked out, then went over to say her good-byes to Crack.

OoooOOOOoooo

Walking out of the sex club, Eve had gotten a text from Dr. Mira to let her know that she was at the Ghost Organization headquarters to help out with Coltraine and her memories. 'Guess Kusanagi must have given her clearance to access the headquarters last night.' Eve thought to herself as she walked into the old bedroom she used to sleep in when was a little girl, after being taken in by Motoko and The Ghost Organization.

As the department's top profiler and head shrink, Mira claimed a roomy space, decorated to her own liking. Which edged toward female and class.

Just like the doctor herself. And in a way, her bedroom had the same environment.

Mira sat, her legs crossed and shown to advantage in a pale pink suit. Her deep brown hair curled softly around her calm, lovely face as she sipped tea.

"Morris had informed me on the details of Alex Ricker earlier," she told Eve. "You asking Coltrane that question this morning had given them quite a shock."

"Sometimes the cop gets the best of me," Eve shrugged in defense. "You were able to read the files, the updates? Everything?"

"Yes. One of our own goes down, it's a priority. She had an affair with Max Ricker's son. A dangerous business. A professional risk. Yet I wouldn't characterize her as a risk taker."

"She was a cop...still is a cop." Eve corrected herself.

"Yes, which always involves risks. But according to her files, she never once in her career discharged her weapon. She solved puzzles. She was a thinker. An organized, detail-oriented thinker. She came from a good background, upper-middle-class, single-marriage family that yes, died in an automobile accident that happened while picking her little brother up from baseball practice. But even after all that, she excelled in school while being under the foster care system. Her job evaluations were always solid and steady. No black marks, no shiny stars. This was a careful woman. Alex Ricker was the exception."

"Love, lust, or gain?"

"If gain, or only gain, why risk the connection, the closeness? To continue in the relationship for more than a year, to go to the trouble to hide it from her colleagues, her family? Lust can start the fire, but it rarely keeps it burning for long. It may have been all three."

"The attraction first-the lust. Hot guy, interesting guy, classy. Dangerous. The good girl gets a tingle from the bad boy."

Mira smiled a little. "Are you projecting?"

"I didn't get a tingle. I got hit with a brick. Yeah, I see some parallels, but the way she played it . . ."

"Wasn't the way you did," Mira finished, "or ever would. It's possible the clandestine nature added some excitement. Everything I've studied about it indicates she followed the rules. Except here. That's another form of excitement."

"So she leads with lust, and there's all those tingles-the excitement. Come away with me to Paris tonight. Hotdog. And yeah, she jumped through a lot of hoops to be with him," Eve considered, "and to stay with him, so love-or what she thought was-had to play a part. She's in love, and he says, maybe you could do me this little favor. Not a big thing. Stars in the eyes, you do the little favor. What does it hurt?"

"And the next favor's bigger. You're in deeper." Mira nodded. "It's a logical pattern."

"Maybe he starts to ask too much. There's more risk for a woman not wired for them, and it starts going south. It went south, according to my source, right around the time Ricker went down. She sees what happened, wonders if that's going to happen to the son and to her."

"It changes the pattern," Mira agreed. "Alex is now, with his father's defeat, in charge."

"She can't handle it, breaks it off. Puts distance between them. Clean slate, that's what she told Morris. Fresh start. Alex Ricker loses a lover and a resource. Bad break for him."

"His father is a violent, unstable man. A known criminal, a man of power and no conscience. His mother died when he was very young. Accident, suicide."

"Or murder," Eve added.

"Yes, or. While he was given a superior education, and raised with the advantages money can buy, he was placed in confined institutions, regimented schools. As his only acknowledged blood kin-as only son-Max Ricker would have expected a great deal. Demanded it. He'd be expected to excel, and expected-when his father was ready-to step up and take the helm. He, too, from what I've studied, is a careful man. While he may be in the business of risk, he's certainly minimized it by covering himself with layers of protection. His public persona is much more polished than his father's. He has, with careful, even meticulous PR, evaded the scandal of having a parent convicted of all the crimes Max Ricker was convicted of."

"It stings him anyway."

"Oh, it would have to. His only surviving parent, and the one who saw to his needs for most of his life, is locked away. Much of his wealth confiscated. And as you said, his father's arrest, the repercussion of that, closely coincided with the breakup with Detective Coltraine."

"He had a real bad week, I bet."

"He'd have to be angry, feel betrayed, deserted. Again. His mother left him, now his father's taken, and the woman he loves-or is intimately connected to-leaves."

"A careful man could bide his time."

"Yes, a careful man could. But-"

"Damn it. I knew it."

"There's no intimacy in the killing. No passion, no retribution. It's cold, calculated, distant. She belonged to him, in a very real sense. Either just as a woman or as a woman and as a resource. If that sense of betrayal and that anger-even cold and controlled-led him to kill her, I'd expect to see some sign."

Mira sipped her tea, shifted. "Could he resist hurting her, taking more time? Certainly a man with his profile would be much more apt to choose a safer place for the kill. Still, using her own weapon is personal, even intimate. It's insulting."

"He hired it out."

"Much more likely, in my opinion. A careful man, used to protecting himself and his interests. A hired kill staged to look like a personal one. Sending the weapon back, to you, with a personal message? Again conflicting meanings. A careful man would have left, or ordered the weapon left on the scene. If not, then would have disposed of it. Sending it back, that's a taunt."

"It's an I-dare-your-ass. The killer was proud of his work, and wanted to get that last lick in."

"Yes. Tell me, was she in love with Morris? You'd know."

"Yeah. I think she was," Eve said before continuing. "And from what I gathered, she still is, even in her cyborg body."

Mira nodded. "Then I have no reason to think she'd betray him. If she'd ended the relationship with Alex Ricker, and found someone else she wouldn't betray it."

"Which gives Ricker another motive. If their personal relationship was dead, how about their business one? If they'd had one."

"I'd say, if there was one, they were tied together. Why would she risk it?"

"Maybe he didn't give her a choice. I want her to be clean."

Mira reached out to touch Eve's arm. "Yes, I know you do. So do I. It's painful to see a friend in pain. But I can also tell that there's more that's troubling you."

Eve let out a long breath. "Well aside from me playing with Pandora's Box to bring a woman back from the dead, This Alex Ricker stuff has brought in some deeper conflict, what if I brought back someone who was a dirty cop. I'd run the risk of having enough people not forgiving me to the point where I would have to seriously give up being a cop again, let alone work with the Ghost Organiztion."

"Because you fear that Coltrane may have been dirty."

Eve was about to say something in response before turning around to see Batou walk in, "Coltraine wants to talk to you, Dallas."

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

As Eve, Batou and Mira were making their way to Coltraine's room, she, Morris and Motoko were waiting for them.

"Are you sure you're ready for this, Ammy?" Morris asked again after she told him she was ready to talk to Eve.

"I know it's sudden, Li," Coltraine replied. "But her mentioning Alex to me made me remember everything. It took a while but I think details of my death are starting to fall into place."

"Like a puzzle piece," Motoko replied. "And a big one I'm guessing."

Coltraine nodded, "And it had to take the Lieutenant's deductive skills to figure that out."

"She's worried about you, you know," Morris said softly.

"I can only imagine why," Coltraine's expression grew dark. "There's so much I want to do to when I confront my killer, so much I want to say...hell I'm having visuals right now on how I want to kill her in order to achieve my revenge."

"But you know we can't let you do that," Motoko replied solemnly. "There are many reasons why revenge is never a good answer especially when it comes to being a ghost."

Just then the doors to Coltraine's room opened and Eve walked in with Batou and Mira behind her. One look at Eve's cop eyes and it was enough to make her eyes go All Cop.

"I know who killed me Lieutenant," was what she began to say.

Eve nodded solemnly, then prepared to take out her recorder. "With your permission, Coltraine, I wish to record this for your safety and for the record."

"If your Major doesn't have a problem with it, I don't." Coltraine replied while looking at Motoko.

"I'm not her Major, Detective," Motoko replied with her own set of cop eyes. "But she is still your Lieutenant and the primary in your murder case."

Coltraine nodded at both Eve and Motoko to confirm her permission, Eve and Mira began to sit down on her bed to begin.

"Just so you know," Mira said before Eve could talk. "If at any point you begin to feel uncomfortable, you can stop at any time."

"Understood...Lieutenant?"

"Record on. Dallas, Lieutenant Eve interviewing Detective Coltraine Amarylis of the New York Police and Security Department, Robbery Division. You have the right to remain silent." Eve began to read off the revised Miranda.

Batou: Kinda pointless to read the revised Miranda to the deceased.

Motoko: True, but dying declarations are still admissible in court.

Cybernization may have been common in Japan, but in the U.S. a good chunk of the population still clung to the idea of humanity. But people who did convert to being cyborgs had been involved in a debate on whether they had the same civil rights as a human being. Motoko briefly remembered the day when her American political allies with The Ghost Organization had drafted and successfully passed The Cyborg Civil Rights Act of 2040, three years after she had rescued Eve from Texas. The act included a provision where if a human volunteered their body to be converted to cyberization and were in a near fatal attack that involved attempted murder, the victim had a right to declare dying to be admissible in the court of law. In Coltraine's case, she'd be the first individual to have a dying declaration after already being dead.

"Do you understand your rights and obligations, Detective Coltraine?"

"Yes sir."

"What can you tell me about your relationship with Alex Ricker?" Eve asked Coltraine after reading the revised Miranda.

"It started three years ago, I was working the robbery of his store, an upscale antique shop. Manager of that shop was badly beaten, thousands of dollars in cash were stolen, twice that money was destroyed in merchandise. Alex Ricker owned that store."

"Looking into your old case files, the three people behind that robbery were eventually found dead at the Chattahoochee River-chained together."

"If you're asking if Ricker was involved in those deaths, I always suspected but I could never get anything concrete from him. After all his alibi was that he attended a charity event in Miami."

"And your sexual involvement with Alex Ricker?" Eve asked as the cop in her disregarded Morris' discomfort.

Coltraine, on the other hand, had to take a moment to look at her lover to see if there was a sign of discomfort. But Morris showed nothing but stoicism and she knew that there was a reason for it, but couldn't afford time to dwell on it.

"It started about three months after the investigation of his antique store, it was mostly out of lust at first. But three years pass and we began to care about each other overtime, he gifted me with jewelry, I accompanied him to foreign trips."

"Yet you never reported your trips or your relationship with Alex to your superiors in Atlanta?"

"You think they would've accepted it, L.T.?" Coltraine threw the question back at Eve.

"Then maybe you can answer me this, do you remember the day you and Alex Ricker decided to end your relationship?"

"It was after you arrested his father, Max Ricker, I had begun to notice a change in him. He had become cold distant and argumentative, our breakup mostly involved us debating over whether or not he could distant himself away from being his father and when I accepted the fact that he would never change, we mutually agreed to go our separate ways. I ended up giving him back the jewelry he gave me not long after I transferred to New York City. A month before I started, I was on vacation when I met Li Morris, and it was three months before I met you."

'Right around the time when I worked the Icove incident,' Eve thought to herself as she began to mentally travel back to that timeframe.

"Can you remember the day of when you were murdered, Coltraine?"

"The day before, I was at Alex Ricker's flop for drinks and catching up, the entire time I knew Alex was trying to gently convince me to come back to him. But I was falling in love with Li that I knew there was no chance of that happening and I wouldn't have been as happy with myself if I did. But during that time, I was called in with O'Brian to investigate that robbery in Chinatown. The night I was killed, I was getting ready to turn in early when my 'link signaled. But when I answered it, it wasn't Detective Patrick O'Brian on the readout."

It was right then and there, Eve knew that Coltraine was about to reveal who killed her, was kinda struggling with how to approach saying the name of her killer.

"Detective Amaryllis Coltraine, if you know who killed you, if you were friends with him, he stopped being your friend when he zapped you at your apartment staircase."

"That's the thing though, Lieutenant, of all the people who I trusted most in New York...I had no idea that it would be Cleo Grady pressing the stunner to my throat. When I saw her name on the 'link, she told me that she had a solid on the Chinatown case. On the third flight of stairs is when I saw her with the stunner in her hand and she shot me without hesitation. When I woke up, I couldn't move my body, but I could see her face clearly and her eyes were cold and deadly. 'Alex is killing you, bitch. Alex is taking your own goddamn weapon and pressing it to your throat. Feel it? You don't walk away from a Ricker and live.' Next thing I knew, I felt the electricity hit my throat and I was screaming in pain while I felt my body convulse. I didn't even have the chance to beg her for mercy and stop."

"She wouldn't have given you mercy, Coltraine, once someone adopts the eyes of a killer all mercy goes out the window." Eve said after Coltraine finished her story.

"She was never a friend, never a partner." Sorrow weighed down Coltraine's voice. "Not to me, not to any of us."

"I doubt you were her first. It usually takes more than one to do it that cold. She doesn't have any kills on the job. Probably too bad as Testing after a termination pretty intense. More intense than the screening, the evaluations, to get a badge."

Eve would know, as she's been through her share of Testing, last time that happened was after she narrowly escaped the Icove cloning center and had to kill some human clones in order to escape.

"Are you having any urges to get revenge on Cleo Grady?" Eve asked.

"Yes," Coltraine said without hesitation. "A voice inside my head is screaming at me to escape this room you brought me in, to look for Cleo and kill her and even kill Alex Ricker then ask questions later. But there's another factor that's outweighing that idea and stopping me...it's you."

"Me?" Eve asked in mild surprise.

"Everyone looks up to you, lieutenant. Most cops admire you for the code you carry when you work, a code that I try to follow when I put the badge on and go to work. I admired you, Dallas, even when I figured out that you were jealous of me being with Morris."

"I wasn't jealous of you being with Morris," Eve rebutted. "That was more Peabody's attitude, me on the other hand I was nothing but a cold bitch and for that I am sorry."

Coltraine gave a light smile to Eve's apology and nodded. "Then if there's anyway we can start over and arrest Grady, I'll give you my word that I won't kill her."

As form of resolution, Coltraine extended a hand for Eve to hopefully shake in order to seal that promise. In a last ditch effort to see if Coltraine was deceiving Eve, she hesitated returning the handshake and spent at least two minutes studying her eyes, but seeing as Coltraine had none, she gave her hand in solidarity and ordered the recorder off.

"We need to build a firmer case against her," Eve said after getting up from Coltraine's bed. "It's not that the courts wouldn't accept your statement, but you know my code of never giving criminals a sliver of escape if I catch them. I want them to stay in prison and never get out."

"I want to help with that, sir," Coltraine said while trying to get up from her bed. "Let me help, Dallas."

"No Coltraine...No!" Eve said when Coltraine began to argue. "I don't want to risk your cover being blown while your case is still ongoing. Your squad still thinks you're deceased and you being in a cyber-body is still classified a Code Blue."

"I'm not talking about helping with the investigation, LT."

"What are you talking about then?" Motoko asked after staying silent during the interview.

"I'm talking about a sting op, something that will take Cleo Grady by surprise as we arrest her."

Before Eve could press for an explanation, her communicator beeped and she picked up to answer as she saw Feeney's name in the read out.

"Block video. Dallas."

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything, kid, but your partner Peabody and my boy McNab got involved in a serious car wreck."

ooooOOOOoooo

Feeney told Eve about Peabody and McNab being tailed by a late-model, nondescript black sedan with tinted windows and New York plates. To Peabody's credit, she was able to get the vehicle registration codes: New York. Eight, six, three, Zulu, Bravo, Echo.

They had been in Eve's Police Issue from Requisitions, which had been rear ended by a speeding van. By the time Eve and Mira arrived, she had already found Roarke near the barricades and his car had been double parked a few blocks away, letting her know he made it on foot.

Knowing Roarke, he'd probably let that car be towed and bill him to pick it up. They both saw the wreck first-the accordion pleats of metal, the shattered glass and bitten chunks of fiberglass.

Seeing Eve behind the barricades beside him, lessened the anger, but he still felt irritated.

"I thought you were in that vehicle when I heard about Peabody," Roarke said when Eve and Mira got close to him.

"No I was with Motoko and Mira, Coltraine was ready to talk," Eve replied evenly. "But where's Peabody and McNab?"

"They're with an MT, being treated, something that you would have acted like a baby over if it were you in the car."

Eve couldn't argue that logic, Roarke knew her that well. Suddenly she found Feeney helping those MTs load Peabody and McNab onto the Med-Bus.

"How come you're not injured?" Eve asked him after badging her way past the barricade.

"I was on my way back to Cop Central to follow up on the evidence we secured from Alex Ricker. Not long after I began to leave, I saw the black sedan tail your car and saw the accident happen. And before you say I should have followed the people on the sedan, you think I would leave a fellow officer to bleed on the streets?"

"No you wouldn't," Eve replied after taking a breath. "But change of plans, Feeney, I need you to meet me at my house, it's about the Code Blue."

"What about it?" Feeney asked.

"What I can tell you is that we're on a wild goose chase, but I can't say anything more about it." She walked over to the Med-Bus and let the EMT's know to delay their transport of Peabody and McNab after letting her know the severity of their injuries.

Eve had been injured on the job many times before, but when it came to being treated, she didn't want to be drugged up with medicine designed to either put you to sleep or make you loopy. Even when it came to safer medicines like sleep tranqs or boosters, she refused to take them. Peabody on the other hand, never had a problem with the loopy drugs and Eve could tell her partner was drugged up when she looked at her partner wearing the drug equivalent of beer goggles.

"I fucked up Dallas, please don't be mad at me." Peabody said in the voice of a guilty kid.

"Why should I be mad at you for following cop instincts, Peabody?"

"We did a search and seize on Ricker's place, which he was expecting. Still, it had to be done. We split off after, to head back to my place, work from there. Spotted a tail. I should've known. It was sloppy, obvious, McNab and I got smug. Had my attention on the tail, and verifying the registration, start to cross at the light, and wham." Peabody clapped her hands to mimic an explosion.

That's when McNab jumped in, "This van came out of nowhere, laying for us. Peabody punched it, over and up, but a vehicle like yours Dallas, it doesn't respond like the freaking wind. Dipshit behind the wheel of the van caught the rear wheels and sent us into a dive. We wrecked your ride as a result. The woman behind us at the light catches the fender and sent us into another spin. We're padded in as we're going round and round."

"From what Feeney told me, the guys-or guy and a woman-who may be white, or Hispanic, were out and gone by the time he caught up to you. The sedan was shooting up Madison and was dumped on Eighty-sixth and Third. No wits had come forward yet."

"You're not mad at us for wrecking your ride, sir?" Peabody asked with tears in her eyes.

"Fuck the ride, Detective, I'm more happy that both of you are still alive. It's bad enough that we have to deal with another dead cop, let alone two."

"Yeah we don't want that," McNab agreed before the techs told Eve they needed to go.

"I need both of you guys to stay at the hospital until the doctors give you the all clear, when he thinks you're ready I need you to report to my house, understand?"

"Yes, sir," Peabody replied as she was about to slip off to sleep.

ooooOOOOoooo

"What can you tell me about the van?" Eve asked Feeney as the ambulance began to leave.

"The van was reported stolen by some delivery company in the Bronx this morning," Feeney continued. "The sedan was registered to a guy in Queens, and according to his wife and his boss, he's in Cleveland on business, and has been for two days. The vehicle was boosted from long-term parking at the transpo center in Queens."

"They probably hit my vehicle thinking I was in it, damn it." Eve said after punching a light pole in anger.

"It's a stupid way to try to kill them, kid," Feeney emphasized with Eve's anger.

"It's not a matter of kill, Feeney, they were trying to just mess my partner and your boy up. The part was a fucking success," Eve said the last part sarcastically. "Even if they were to mess them up or me up, if I had been in the car, the investigation's ongoing. Especially after we've been led to a wild goose chase."

"Speaking of wild goose chase," Feeney interrupted her. "I reached Whitney, Tibble, Baxter and even called Cher Reo for good measure. They're going to meet at your house tonight."

"Well I'm going to need Webster in on this meeting as well," Eve then told Feeney about her meet with the IAB Lieutenant at the Down n Dirty while Roarke walked into the conversation. "Crack says hey by the way."

"Interesting venue," was all Roarke said.

"The connection with Crack makes it my turf. I needed to let Webster know about Coltraine being in her new body."

Roarke tapped her chin. "Isn't it lucky I'm not the jealous type?"

She simply stared at him. "Oh yeah, that's lucky. But let's finish this conversation at the mansion."

Coltraine now knew who killed her, but Eve now had to figure out why Cleo Grady held the stunner to her throat.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

"You should be thankful that you were with Motoko and Batou when Feeney called you," Roarke said not hiding the irritation in his voice.

"Why are you being mad about that?" Eve asked in her own irritated voice.

"Because I'm not okay," Roarke replied in a fit of anger. "What if it were you in that car and not Peabody? Do you think I would've been strong for you if you were killed?"

Before Eve could respond in her own anger, she suddenly felt herself be drawn into a ferocious kiss from her husband and she felt everything he was feeling. The anger, the fear, the grief and the love. All that in just one heated kiss. It would've given way to some angry sex, but Roarke and Eve knew that they had to put it away for another time. If not now, it would definitely be later.

"I'm sorry," Eve began to say. "I should've called you about me going to The Ghost Organization again, but Mira needed to see me and I didn't have enough of a time window to tell you."

"She'd probably tell me not to blame you for Peabody's accident, but as your husband, I just can't help myself when it comes to what's mine."

"That would probably be more Motoko's thing," Eve replied with a smile. "After all, she can't help herself when it comes to her little one."

Roarke couldn't help but mirror her smile as she threw the words back to him as they began to enter the doors of home. It gave Eve a jump of surprise to see Motoko and Batou conversing with Summerset as they began to enter the foyer. The black crow of that foyer, Summerset, didn't disappoint.

"How's your girl Peabody?" Summerset asked Eve.

"Sedated but she and McNab will be fine," Eve replied knowing Summerset's feelings about her partner. "How are you getting along with my mentors?"

"They are very interesting people, I always find it amazing to find fellow soldiers of the Urbans whom I have never met. The same soldiers who treated you the way I treated Roarke when he was injured."

"Yeah," Batou replied. "Just three guardian angels looking out for their abused cubs."

"Well that's good and all but what are you guys doing here, where's Coltraine?" Eve asked Motoko.

"She's with Morris at the headquarters, figure the both of them needed some serious alone time." Motoko replied. "But the reason why we're here is because we uncovered some information on Coltraine's old squad in Atlanta."

"Well we were about to inform the NYPSD of our wild goose chase with Ricker and since you're here, might as well kill two birds with one stone."

Roarke and Eve led Motoko and Batou to Eve's home office to work on updating both her board and her murder book. It hadn't been the first time that Eve's mentors had been in the home office that was modeled after her old apartment, that moment belonged to when they worked together to arrest The Purity Group and the military hacker whose methods rivaled those of The Laughing Man, a character that Donald Dukes, The Purity Hacker, had a sick fascination for. It technically should've been a case that Eve wanted to work with just the NYPSD, but she knew enough about The Laughing Man incident to the point where she couldn't resist contacting The Ghost Organization to help her with apprehending The Purity Seekers.

"So what do you got for me, Major?" Eve asked after updating her board.

"It turns out your old friend Max Ricker had spearheaded Coltraine's transfer from Atlanta."

"No surprise there," Eve said flatly. "But how come he was able to arrange her transfer from his prison cell?"

"Not long after you took Feeney's call, after getting Coltraine's statement, we had Ishikawa look into financials from the higher ups Atlanta Police and Security Department." It was Batou who replied this time and gave Eve a disc for her to display on screen.

The phrase 'holy shit' didn't even come close to describing what Eve saw on her comp screen. "100 thousand dollar bump in their salaries? Captain, Commander and Chief? You've gotta be fucking kidding me."

"That ain't the worst of it, little one," Motoko said in a calm voice that contrasted Eve's angry surprise. "Guess who was the mule in delivering that money."

The data on the disc then showed the picture of a big bulky man in an officers uniform via an ID shot. "Rouche, Cecil, cage guard on Omega-six years in. Assigned to max security wing. Ricker's wing." Eve began to read off the data. "Divorced. But, oddly, his ex-wife's financials have had a serious increase in the last year. Well, not her financials so much as her insurance coverage. She's increased it to five mil. Now what does the ex-wife of an Omega guard, who also quit her mid-level drone job eight months ago, when she also relocated from a rental in Danville, Illinois, to a twenty-room villa in the south of France, have that's worth five mil?"

"Art, jewelry. Liquidating cash into solid investments." Roarke replied

"Exactly. Plus the real estate. She paid cash for the house, which is in both her name and the ex's. Have you been able to track down the fullest extent of his financials, Major?"

"Not yet, Dallas, but Ishikawa and Saito are hard at work finding info for us."

Like clockwork, Feeney, Whitney, Tibble, Webster, Baxter, Trueheart and Cher Reo made a single file entrance to Eve's home office to report in for what The Ghost Organization found in their investigation. Although there had been no place to sit, the NYPSD made no complaint to Eve as they awaited her briefing.

"First off," Eve began, "I apologize for having Feeney contact all of you on such short notice..."

"No, Lieutenant," Whitney interrupted her apology. "Feeney told us that you and The Ghost Organization uncovered something during the investigation of Coltraine's murder."

"More like Coltraine was the one who did the uncovering," Eve remarked back to Whitney. "Though she did confirm my theory that we were being led to a wild goose chase with Alex Ricker. But before we go any further, do you need an update on Peabody and McNab's condition?"

Upon Whitney and Tibble shaking their heads, Eve decided to give Coltraine's statement to her squad mates at Cop Central.

"So from Coltraine's statement, she has identified Detective Cleo Grady as her killer and Grady used the Chinatown Robbery as a cover to lure Coltraine into her deadly trap."

She proceeded to play Coltraine's recording from earlier that afternoon, "When Motoko Kusanagi, Batou and I were about to investigate further, Feeney tagged me with information that Peabody and McNab had gotten into a vehicular accident and my theory is that Coltraine's murder and Peabody getting into a wreck is not even close to coincidence."

"And you think Grady might be linked to Peabody's wreck?" Whitney asked.

"It is a theory," Motoko nodded in agreement. "Another theory is that someone was driving the van with her in the passenger seat."

"Then what was this about Max Ricker buying Coltraine's transfer to New York City?" Tibble asked.

Eve gave the team an abbreviated version of the financials that Ricker gave Coltraine's higher ups from Atlanta, angry as they were, they never dropped their cop eyes when they saw the financials up close.

"So it begs the question, Reo," Eve looked at the Associate Prosecuting Attorney. "How can we build a case against Detective Grady?"

"What you don't think Coltraine's statement is enough? Dying declaration is still admissible in court."

"I agree," Eve said. "But I have a feeling that a smart defense lawyer might make an argument to have her statement be thrown out of court. Yes I know about the Cyborg Civil Rights Act, but it only applies to people who are near dying and Coltraine was already dead when we put her in her body."

"Well other than her statement, all you have are theories. Sorry." Reo spread her hands. "You've got no probable cause, no witness, nothing putting your suspect at either scene. Unless Rouche worked with her directly, and can give us some chapter and verse-or Ricker gets a wild hair and decides to flip on her for the fun of it-there's no physical evidence, and no real circumstantial."

"I can help with that," Feeney intervened. "I could send Callendar up to Omega and have her bring Rouche back here."

"An excellent idea, Captain," Motoko agreed with a smile. "But if you want him on planet in the course of a day, you might be better off me sending one of my boys to Omega and have them take care of it."

"How are you going to do that?" Feeney asked Motoko.

"We have our own space shuttle with level ten warp drive, too heavy for a human to handle, but tough enough for a cyborg to go through the trip without having the need to throw up."

"I should know," Eve said in agreement. "I've seen video of those shuttles up close, but Motoko never allowed me to travel in that warp level, I always did have a fear of being air sick so I never begged for it."

"As willing as we are to accept your assistance, Major Kusanagi, and even appreciate it." Whitney spoke up. "I think it's best we keep it a human job and send Callendar to Omega to take care of it."

"I could offer my own shuttle to get Callendar there," Roarke jumped in. "It might give us time to link Cleo Grady's involvement with Max Ricker."

Eve gave Roarke a nod of acknowledgment then turned to Motoko. "I want you and the Ghost Organization to find any connection with Cleo Grady and Max Ricker. They had to connect somewhere. It's unlikely she killed Coltraine for love or the fun factor."

"Only killed for the money," Motoko agreed. "But I personally wouldn't discount the fun factor or what people like her consider love."

"It'll go back, though," Eve mused. "There's also a possibility that she was no new recruit under Max Ricker."

Motoko didn't say anything, but nodded in agreement.

"If you find me a connection between her and Ricker-something solid-I can use that and her connection to Coltraine. I may be able to finesse a search warrant, and authorization for that deeper dip into financials." Reo considered it. "If you can get Rouche to say Ricker has someone in Coltraine's squad. I don't need a name, just the verification that Ricker has someone inside that unit, I can get the warrants. Maybe IAB-"

"Will more than likely not have anything on her," Eve looked at Webster. "I'm not wrong am I?"

"I can't say for sure," Webster said to Eve. "But I'll definitely look into her."

"I could also get Mira to look deeper into Grady's file and background data. I'll work up a more comprehensive profile."

"If that's all, then we all start work on our assignments tomorrow." Tibble said to the group. "It's getting late and I want us to start on this after a complete rest up."

Standing near the door, Feeney let the group before him exit first. Whitney and Tibble turned to Eve before they exited her office. "Tell Detective Coltraine that she did good in remembering her killer. Also good work, Lieutenant." Tibble said to Eve.

Eve nodded in agreement as they exited her office.

"I take it the bachelor party is still going to be held in Purgatory?" Feeney asked Roarke.

"It is yes, I still need us to keep an eye on Coltraine just in case."

ooooOOOOoooo

"You know when we get back, we still need to talk with Coltraine about this 'sting' she was going to propose." Batou began to say as they began to leave.

But when Motoko just nodded in silence, Batou got pretty curious but thought it'd be best to wait until they got in their vehicle. "What's on your mind, Motoko?"

"It's the third time that Max Ricker had messed with her, Batou, last two times we let him escape through our fingers."

"You're not blaming Eve for the second time are you?"

"No," Motoko let out a breath. "And maybe the second time was the wrong word to use. But I'm saying that I should've killed him when I had the chance."

"And you think she would've accepted that?"

"She's got a strong moral code, Batou, she doesn't kill unless directly in danger. To her killing a criminal is no different than the murder of a civilian."

"A lot stricter code compared to ours, Motoko, and I'm sure we have a good idea why."

"Yeah," Motoko sighed. "Because of the trauma of killing her father, that and I'm sure our methods on how we do the job probably set her off."

"We're not different from Dallas, Major, we're just a little more loose. But the shit she's been through had definitely influenced her stricter code. I'm not questioning our training of her, Motoko, we obviously were successful in that, she's done good."

"That's not what's troubling me, Batou. What's troubling me is that Max Ricker is giving me the urge to cross a line I don't want to go to, because I know she wouldn't want me to."

"She's got you wrapped around your finger," Batou said with a smirk.

"From the beginning," Motoko agreed with a light chuckle. "She was like an injured puppy when I found her, an opinion that you shared the first time you saw her."

"I remember how you had to calm her down when she first saw me. It didn't take her long to warm up to me when I showed up with that bottle of magic bubbles and the bubble wand, took three tries until she asked me if she could blow some herself."

"I still keep that now empty bottle and wand in one of the drawers at my desk, she had fun with that thing."

The rest of the drive had Motoko and Batou think silently about their time with Eve Dallas and their training of her. The first few months had undeniably been rough ones, but that didn't mean Eve wasn't willing to learn. The problem was more the fact that she didn't have a lot of schooling under belt, she could read but she couldn't do math, didn't learn science or history or social studies. But Motoko and Batou never gave up on their little one. They were tough but gentle teachers, they never screamed at her, abused her or even hit her. If there was ever a screw up, they would tell her why she screwed up and would make her do things again until she got it right. Their guidance of her was quintessential to how she performed at the police academy and eventually her road to being a lieutenant for the NYPSD.

When Motoko and Batou hit the parking lot of The Ghost Organization, Batou had asked Motoko why she was bringing up Eve's past with them.

"We may still be in bodies that look the same age as Eve and Roarke's, but you and I are getting too old to keep going."

""And what you're thinking about retiring? You know what were to happen if we decide to retire."

"I know that, Batou, but the more I look at Coltraine and Morris, the more I realize that it might be time for us to move on and pass the torch."

"But you're not looking to pass the torch to Dallas are you?"

Motoko shook her head. "No...I'm looking at Coltraine for it."

ooooOOOOoooo

Eve and Roarke had spent a good chunk of the evening going through financials involving Coltraine's old bosses and running them through the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Atlanta Police and Security Department. Both parties knew that with the information given to Dallas via The Ghost Organization, it would definitely lead to possibly the biggest scandal in Law Enforcement history. Higher ups basically being offered money to have one of their cops assassinated by Max Ricker, the public would be eating that story for generations to come.

Eve went through last night in her mind, as her body was waking up from the beautiful pain her husband gave her after a night of spaghetti and meatballs with rough sex for dessert. She woke up to find Roarke sitting on the couch, with his coffee, tablet and their cat. Didn't look so dangerous now, she mused. Not such a bad boy. Just an absurdly handsome man starting the daily routine.

Except, of course, he'd probably started the routine a good hour or two before, with some international 'link transmission or holo-meeting. But still, didn't look so dangerous.

Which, she supposed, was only one of the reasons he was. Very.

"You were already giving it up."

He turned his attention from the scrolling codes and figures on-screen to Eve. "Giving what up?"

"The allegedly criminal activities. When we met, you were already shedding. I just sped up the process."

"Considerably." He sat back with his coffee. "And with finality. Otherwise, I'd have, most likely, kept my finger tipped into a few tasty pies. Habits are hard to break, especially fun ones."

"You knew we'd never have this otherwise. We'll always slip and slide some on that line that shifts for us, but that? That would've been a wall, and we'd never have had this with a wall between us. You wanted this, wanted me more."

"Than anything ever before or since."

She walked over and sat on the table to face him. Galahad flopped over on Roarke's lap to lay a paw on her knee. An oddly sweet gesture.

There were all kinds of families, Eve supposed.

"I didn't want this, because I didn't know what this was. But I wanted you more than anything before or since. I couldn't have looked the other way, but I couldn't have wanted you more than anything if you'd asked me to. I might've tried, but it wouldn't have held between us."

"No."

"The habit, the . . . hobbies-that's exactly what they'd become for you. They weren't the driving force, not the way they'd been when you started. Not survival, not your identity. Success, positions, wealth, power, security, yeah, all that's essential. But you don't have to cheat to get them or keep them. Besides me, your own pride played a part. Sure, it's fun to cheat, but after, it's just not as satisfying as doing it the hard way."

"Sometimes cheating's the hard way."

She smiled. "Maybe so. Here's the thing. He-Alex Ricker-he didn't give it up for her. He expected her to look the other way, and she did, for close to two years. But it couldn't hold. He didn't or wouldn't give it up because he didn't want her more than anything. She was secondary to him, just as the job was secondary to her. Maybe they had the heat, and maybe they loved each other."

"But it wasn't enough."

"I wondered if we were connected to her murder. I don't know that yet, but we're connected to her. We took Max Ricker down, and when we did, the dynamics shifted. The son climbs up a few rungs on the power chain, doesn't he? Or is free to-"

"Shed the shady," Roarke finished. "And he didn't. He didn't choose that."

"She had to know, at that crossroads, he never would. She made her choice, because of that. Or it had to play out. The timing just fits too well for the other."

"He didn't choose her, she couldn't choose him."

"Yeah." She thought of Coltraine sitting in that bed at the Ghost Organization headquarters. Her telling the lieutenant about her life with Alex Ricker and the betrayal of her friend Cleo Grady. There might have been tears in her eyes when Coltraine gave Dallas her statement, how cold and distant she'd gotten when she remembered the truth. 'Perhaps her being in the cyborg shell is a side-effect of that,' Eve mused.

"He didn't kill her. If she was secondary, what's the point? He made a choice, she made hers. If he was that miffed about it-because it couldn't have been about pride and ego-you get crime of passion. Why wait a year, then fuss around with it?"

"Maybe he changed his mind."

"Yeah, I think he might've. At least changed it enough to come here to see her, to gauge the ground. He'd've known she was in another relationship. Maybe pride again, with vanity tossed it. He's got plenty of both. He sees she's happy, that she's moved on. That had to sting some, but enough to take her out?"

She shook her head again. It just didn't play through for her. "He let her go in the first place. And under it, he still doesn't want her more than he does the life he leads. He's a businessman-a crooked businessman, but enough of one to know when a deal's not on the table. There just isn't enough love there for murder, not cold, premeditated murder."

"Not for love, or for passion then." Since she hadn't gotten any for herself, Roarke offered her his coffee. "If she had something on him, was working for him? Or had been?"

"If she had anything, she kept it to herself during their breakup, after it, and for a year." Taking a few sips of the coffee Eve continued. "We shouldn't even dwell on Alex Ricker being a suspect anymore. Especially since it was Cleo Grady with the stunner and Max Ricker with the leftover pockets. What I really need to figure out is why Grady decided to take the kill for Coltraine and her connection with Max."

Then out of nowhere, the house 'link began to beep on the table beside the couch, Roarke picked it up to see Alex Ricker's name on the devil.

"Speak of the devil's son," Roarke said and answered. "Hello? Yes? Really? Actually how about you come to our place and we'll talk there. Yes I want my wife in the conversation, especially after she ruled you out as a suspect. Thirty sounds good, we'll see you then, thanks."

"Why did you tell him I ruled him out?" Eve asked when he ended the call.

"Because you already did when you talked to Coltraine yesterday."

"And you're telling me that Alex is going to come to our house and have a friendly chat?"

"He gave me his word that he's going to be alone, besides you don't have a vehicle to get to you work yet do you?"

"Shit," Eve hissed out in anger.

"Have some breakfast while we wait for Ricker, Darlin'" Roarke said, "then we'll deal with your transportation."

"Yeah well thinking of those assholes in Requisitions has made me lose my appetite."

In response Roarke simply walked over and programmed her a breakfast burrito, packed simply with eggs, sausage, tater tots and jalapeno nacho cheese. "Here, quick and easy."

"What you're not going to program oatmeal on me again?" But Eve took a bite and melted at the taste. "Holy shit, this is good."

"Thought that would up your mood and might get you quiet long enough for you to see what I have for you waiting outside."

Taking the elevator down to the parlor, so Eve wouldn't trip and drop the burrito, Roarke led her to the front door and opened it.

In the drive sat a vehicle of dull and somber gray. Its lines were too practical, too ordinary for ugly-so the best it could claim was drab. It did boast some shiny bits of chrome that glinted hopefully in the morning sun. In a way it almost looked like what Motoko used to drive when Eve lived with The Ghost Organization

"Peabody already took care of it?"

"No...but her being in that wreck did."

She'd started to walk to it, struggling against the personal disappointment that it was much more humble in appearance than her old one-a lot more humble, so the shiny bits came off as pitiful as cheap lip dye on a homely woman. Then she stopped, frowned.

"Don't tell me it's yours. You don't have anything this ordinary in your toy box."

"It's not mine. It's yours."

"You said Peabody hadn't . . ." Now who was a half step behind? "You can't buy my official vehicle."

"There are no rules or regulations restricting you from driving your own vehicle on your official duties. I checked."

"Yeah. I mean no. I mean you can't just give me a ride."

"Of course I can, and fully intended to. It was going to be your anniversary gift. And now I'll have to come up with something else there."

"You were going to give me a cop ride for our anniversary in July. What, you're a sensitive now and foretold my ride would get trashed?"

"It was only a matter of time. But no. I thought it was a gift you'd appreciate. Now, it's not a gift. Now, it's a request. You'll do a favor for me and take it, use it."

"I don't get why you'd-"

"It's loaded," he interrupted. "The internal data and communication, both primary and secondary, are state of the art. Its vertical and air are comparable to the new XS-6000."

"The XS . . . you've got to be kidding me."

"As with much else, it's what's inside that counts here. It'll go from zero to sixty-ground or air-in under one-point-three seconds."

"Sweet."

"It can achieve a fifteen-foot vertical lift within that same amount of time." He smiled as she began to circle it, study it. Smile widened to grin as she opened the hood. She knew next to nothing about engines.

"It's really big and shiny under here."

"It's programmed for solar, noncombustible, and combustible fuel. Its body is blast-proof, as are its windows. It's a bloody tank that'll move like a rocket. Auto-nav, of course, holo-map, voice or manual controls. It has an electronics detector that will notify you if anyone has rigged it-or attempted to. There's an in-dash camera with a reach of a hundred and fifty yards in any direction."

"Holy shit."

"Memory seats. Alarms, lights, and sirens as required by the department. A blast screen that can be activated between the front and back sections if you have a need to transport any suspicious characters. Let's see, have I forgotten anything?"

"Yeah, the twelve-disc tutorial that tells me how to run it. Roarke, I can't-"

"It's programmed for your voice and print, no codes necessary." She wouldn't, he'd determined, get out of it that way. "For now, you just tell it what to do. It's programmed for Peabody as well, as I know you very occasionally allow her to take the wheel. And for me. If at any time you want someone else to drive, you can authorize them. Ghost Organization included."

"Okay, now hold on. This is worth five times-maybe ten times-what a department ride is. I've never actually bought a vehicle, so I'm ball parking here. I can't drive around in something that costs more than all the rides in my department put together. Pretty much."

He thought she could be as skittish as a virgin when it came to money. "But I can bribe your fuckers and bastards with cases of brew and sports tickets."

"Yes. Not logical, but yes."

He just brushed a finger on the healing cut on her forehead. "Think of this. If you or Peabody had been driving this yesterday, you'd not only have avoided the accident, you'd have apprehended those in the van. You may very well have closed your case by now."

"Or she would have done the closing for me."

"But more, I'll say again. This isn't a gift. It's a favor to me. I'll know when you're in it, you're safe. So I'm asking you to do this for me."

"It's sneaky of you." She hissed out a breath. "Damn sneaky of you not to get pissed or demand. Make it a favor. That you're doing it as much for yourself as me."

With the soft spring morning around them, the homely ride beside them, his eyes met hers. "That would be the truth."

"Yeah," she said after a moment. "Yeah, it would be. I can do you a favor."

"Thanks." He touched his lips to hers.

"Hey." And she grabbed his lapels, dragged him back for a long one. "Pretty damn smart, aren't you? You made it just ugly enough. Inconspicuous. Nobody looks twice."

"I have to admit, that was a hard one for me. I think one of the designers had a breakdown. Cried for an hour."

She laughed. "It's good. It's really good. You had it built for me. Jeez, it's my first actually owned-by-me vehicle, and you had it built for me."

"It's the DLE Urban-and one of a kind."

"DLE? What-oh." It took her a minute, and pleased her absurdly. "Dallas, Lieutenant Eve."

"And, as I said, there's only one. We're manufacturing others with the body type-for the economical range-but none will have the unique capabilities as this one."

"What'll it do?"

"I had it up to two-ten on the straight-road and air. But I'm a better driver than you, so don't be pushing it."

"Man, it almost make me jones for a vehicular chase. Well, one day. And maybe one day I can pay you back for the favor."

"What if I don't want to collect?"

Eve just gave him a smile, "Oh trust me, you'll be more than happy to collect with what I've got in mind. And that's all I'm going to say about it."

Before Roarke could press any further, he noticed Eve switch her gaze to the entrance gates. He turned and saw a black limousine waiting at the front gate, security scans confirmed that it was only Ricker and a driver from one of Roarke's transport companies inside the limo. The gates opened at Roarke's permission and the limo slowly made it's way near the parking lot where Eve and Roarke were still standing next to the DLE and considering it's armor, Eve would consider it a good shield in case Alex decided to pull a violent stunt.

'Never did hurt to have low trust in people.' Eve thought to herself.

But what surprised both of them was Alex getting out of the car when the driver opened the door for him and he raised his hands up.

"I come in peace," he said while keeping his hands up. "I assure you that I am unarmed."

"Not that we don't believe you," Roarke said while Summerset came out with a weapon scanner. "But breaches have happened in this house before."

The scan was performed by Summerset himself, he was thorough, which is one of the reasons why Roarke allowed him to scan Ricker in the first place. When Summerset gave a nod of confirmation to Roarke, both he and Eve moved closer to Alex to start to conversation.

"Very cautious even in your own house," Alex said simply. "It was one of the reasons why I considered you a nemesis when we were young."

"Was I?" Roarke asked.

"My father pushed you into my face, at least initially. This is what you need to be. Ruthless, cold, always thinking ahead of the others. Until he decided you weren't ruthless enough, cold enough, and worried you thought too far ahead of him. Still, you were shoved at me. I'd have to do better than you, by his measure, or I'd be a failure."

"That's a pisser, isn't it?" Eve asked.

Still looking at Roarke, Alex replied, "It was. When he came to fear and detest you, it was worse. He ordered three hits on you that I know of."

"There were five, actually."

"I don't need the blood of my competitors. Or even my enemies. He was, for some years, nothing to me. But he should never have touched my wife. I'd have done him for that, if you're interested. For putting a mark on her."

"You didn't, and he lives."

"Because doing so would've put another mark on her, as that's who she is."

"You let him live to protect your wife?"

Roarke looked Alex in the face. "If you think the lieutenant needs protection, mine or anyone's, you've severely misjudged her. I let him live out of respect to her. And I became convinced living, as he is condemned to live now, was worse than death."

"It is, for him. He'll never admit it, not even to himself. A part of him will always believe, needs to believe, he'll fight his way back. Not just off Omega, but back to the top of his game. He'll live for that, and live a long time, I think, dreaming of your blood. And your cop's."

"You do realize I'm right here, do you?" Eve cut in.

"I do darling, because I'm simply speaking the truth."

"When did you start ruling me out as a suspect, Lieutenant?" Alex turned his attention to Eve.

"I can't divulge all the details, but what I can tell you is that an anonymous source came forward with some crucial information. This source ruled you out as a suspect and that Coltraine's killer was setting you up for a frame."

"I always figured that much," Ricker replied as he turned to look at the sunrise. "I loved her once. I cared about her still, very much. Whoever did it is using me as a shield. A diversion. And that infuriates me."

"Can you tell me what really happened at the last meeting you had with Coltraine?"

"I came to New York hoping to convince her to come back to me. Because no one else in my life has ever made a difference. And I could see in a moment it would never happen. She was happy, and she was in love. And we were still who we were in Atlanta, still who we were when we went our separate ways. She could never accept me, what I am, what I do, and be happy. She'd faced that, and walked away. After seeing her again, I faced it."

"Did you think she would change what she was in Atlanta, or now?"

"Yes. Yes, I did. Or that she'd just ignore my business dealings. They had nothing to do with her, or with us. But she couldn't resolve it. And after a while, couldn't live with it. Or me."

"Did it never occur to you to adjust your business dealings?"

"No. It's what I do. If I have my father in me, it's that. I hope to God that's all of him I have. I've never killed, or ordered a kill. It's not . . . practical."

"Then how come the men that hit your antique store in Atlanta died a violent death?"

"Because it was him who ordered the hit. They insulted him-by his way of thinking-by making a fool out of me. Out of his blood. So he dealt with it, his way. And his way put me and my interests under a great deal more scrutiny than necessary. I don't kill, it's simply not good business."

"What would you have done?" Eve asked.

"I would've trusted Coltraine to handle the job in apprehending them alive, I already was when she started working the case."

Turning away from the sun, Alex let out a breath. "Aside from the anonymous tip, I guess there isn't anything else you can tell me can you, Lieutenant?"

"No, but I can tell you that an arrest is imminent. I give you my word that Coltraine will get justice."

"That's all I need to hear, if you need me for anything, let me know. Thank you."

When Alex began to re-enter the limo and leave the mansion, Eve's 'link began to beep, Whitney's name was on the readout.

"Block video. Dallas."

"Lieutenant, I need you to report to my office at Cop Central first thing you come in for work."

"I'm about to leave immediately sir, it'll probably take me about forty minutes to get there."

Ending the call, Eve looked at Roarke. "That should give me enough time to get there with me new ride shouldn't it?"

"A lot quicker if you're a gambling woman."

"Well I'm not big on gambling, but I can tell the bastards in Requisitions to go fuck themselves." She grabbed him again, kissed him again. "Thanks. It's probably the best favor I've ever done for anybody. Catch you later."

"Yes, you will."

He watched her climb in, grin when her butt hit the seat. She pressed her thumb to the pad, and the engine rumbled to life.

"Hot damn!" she shouted again, flashed him that grin. And shot off down the drive as if in pursuit of speeding felons.

"Oh well, Christ. She could hit a brick wall in that and walk away whistling."

"I see the lieutenant likes her new vehicle," Summerset said from the doorway.

"She does. Ah, God." He held his breath while she did a trio of 360s, obviously testing the maneuverability. Then went in sharp vertical to drive over the gates instead of through them. "She's never had her own before. I don't know why I forget things like that. For a bit, it'll be like a new toy. Then she'll settle down with it."

"Your first, boosted at about the age of twelve, ended up nose down in a ditch outside of Dublin."

Roarke turned around. "I didn't think you knew about that."

Summerset only smiled. "Or that you'd managed to hide it in Mick's uncle's garage for the two weeks or so you had it before you got cocky and wrecked? You learned a lesson, didn't you, and were more careful with the next one you boosted."

"It was a thrill. The stealing as much as the driving."

"Do you miss it?"

"The stealing? Now and then," he admitted, knowing Summerset would understand. "Not as much as I thought I might."

Chapter Text

Stand Disclaimers Apply

Chapter 11

It was hard, but Eve resisted hitting lights and sirens and smoking it all the way downtown. She didn't resist doing a seat dance while she threaded through traffic, skimmed around maxi-buses, beat out the competitive Rapid Cabs at lights. But when she reached her parking spot at Central, she cooled off her elation when she saw Webster and Baxter together in the parking lot.

"Your ride is wrecked to pieces and all you got is another hunk of junk, Dallas?" Baxter asked when Eve got out of her car.

"If it was a hunk of junk, then how come I got here in thirty minutes?" Dallas let out a smirk.

"Actually she's got a point," Webster said to Baxter. "I'd be willing to bet that this car tempted her in breaking some traffic laws."

"Yeah but I didn't want to make a bad impression on it's first day on the job. I take it Whitney invited both of you to this meet?"

Baxter nodded and was about to say more until Eve stopped with a finger.

"Until we get to his office let's keep it shut for now."

"Agreed," Webster said as the trio walked to the elevators at Cop Central.

"I'm not gonna argue," Baxter said to Eve when the elevator doors closed. "I figure use this trip as an excuse to talk about that new ride of yours."

"Well if you must know, I have the option, per regs, of using my personal ride if it meets code. Just like you use that toy back there."

"Dallas, you have depths I've never plumbed."

"You never plumbed any of my depths."

"Well prior to Roarke," Webster said to Baxter. "She always was pretty picky about who she bedded with."

"The only other man I heard her be with, before you, was Lieutenant Lowenbaum from the S.W.A.T. Unit."

"He always had a body that worked like a pile-driver," Eve smiled at Webster. "And unlike you, he knew when to let go when I ended things."

Webster had to chuckle at himself for walking right into Eve's rebuttal. "If your ride meets code, then why do I get the feeling that it's still loaded?"

"Maybe one day I'll give you guys a ride, but that'll be a long time before that happens."

"Yeah your partner will probably ride it first before we do, Boss," Baxter said as the elevators stopped at the floor of Whitney's office.

"Did the doctors clear her and McNab for duty last night?"

"No, we're in the dark as much as you are, Boss."

"Yeah and I should've called the hospital last night," Eve sighed in frustration. "Instead I had to focus on doing homework."

"You think she wanted you to do otherwise?"

"No, but I know how whiny she'll get when she's kept out of the loop," Eve sighed in frustration. "Partners are a pain in the ass."

"Not mine. Boy's a jewel." Baxter referred to his aide Trueheart. "But compared to Coltraine, at least both our partners would never stab us in the back."

"If that ever happened, forget ending a partnership, I would've cut her out of my life," Eve looked at the other cops with cold eyes. "I wouldn't have tolerated having a dirty cop as a partner just like I don't like being stabbed in the back."

"You still think we stabbed you in the back last year, don't you?" Webster asked while stopping a few inches before Whitney's office.

There was a small air of tension between the three cops as they flashed back to Eve's resignation and defection to The Ghost Organization. Eve and Peabody had been able to reconcile easily when she returned. But the air of distrust still weighed heavily between Eve and Webster and Baxter, Eve didn't dispute that the two were only carrying out their duty in honor for the badge. But to Eve, it still felt like a knife wound that was still recovering after the extraction.

"When Sargent Clooney almost killed you," Eve looked at Webster. "I cried for the friendship that we had prior to what happened with Bowers. I still looked to you as a friend even after we slept together, you are a dedicated cop and I always respected that. The Ghost Organization was my first family, they rescued me from Dallas, they offered me a chance to come back and I took it. The words you spoke to me when trying to get me off Max Ricker cut at me and I only got violent at you because you wouldn't back off."

"I know that, Dallas and I have long since regretted that. But since we are on Clooney, I take it you didn't hear the news."

"What news?" Baxter and Dallas asked.

"He's dying, Dallas, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer last month and from what he told me he's denying the cure for it."

"Why the fuck would he do that?"

"He still feels guilt for what he did to Kohli, to me and even to you. But mostly he still feels guilt for his son."

"We'll talk about this later, we need to meet with Whitney." Baxter said to both Webster and Eve. Eve made a note to visit Clooney in the future and hopefully end things on a lighter note.

ooooOOOOoooo

The three cops entered Whitney's office to find him behind his desk alongside Tibble, Feeney, Motoko, Batou and Mira in the room. But what really surprised Eve was her seeing Peabody and McNab in the room.

"What did the doctors let you out?" Eve asked Peabody as she sat in one of Whitney's visitors chairs.

"Dr. Dimatto cleared it this morning, Lieutenant," Whitney replied in Peabody's place. "I had her and Detective McNab personally transported this morning. Figured that they would want in on this OP."

"What OP sir?" Baxter asked before Eve could.

"Before we can explain any further," Motoko said. "I need to give you all an update on our side of the investigation."

At Whitney's nod, Kusanagi ordered details on Cleo Grady on holo mode. Her ID shot came in center along with six dead bodies. Three on the left, three on the right, four males and two females.

"Our U.N. handlers allowed us a full search with all our international agents. Turns out Coltraine wasn't the only kill under Grady's belt, all six of those bodies you're looking at were paying Max Ricker protection money prior to his arrest last year. All six of them were wacked after they threatened to talk with the proper authorities."

Eve read off the names of the six victims, their occupations were surprising to her. One of the ladies was a Licensed Companion, one of the male victims ran a simple limo company and the rest of victims were previously associated with rival gangs.

"And she killed them on Ricker's orders?"

"Can't confirm it, but it is a theory," Batou replied. "But it did give us probable cause to dig a little deeper into Grady. You remember those little mosquito drones that we used to extract your blood when you lived with us?"

Eve's eyes widened at Motoko "You didn't."

"We had probable cause, Lieutenant, the U.N. gave us full authorization to use them. We had to do it to confirm our theory."

The next screen showed a strand of DNA next to Grady's picture, another strand of DNA showed next to Max Ricker's mug shot photo. The DNA was an exact match, Grady and Ricker were father and daughter.

"What about Rouche, are we still planning to question him?"

"The warden at Omega has agreed to place Rouche in custody until questioning," said Whitney. "From what I gathered from your report on Atlanta Police and Security Department along with you giving details to Internal Affairs and with the work of The Ghost Organization, APA Reo has agreed that we now have enough evidence to make an arrest on Detective Grady immediately."

"Then what was this about an OP, sir?" Eve asked.

"Motoko has come forward with Coltraine's idea, we held off on planning her memorial until you made considerable progress with the investigation." Tibble replied instead of Whitney.

"She wants to arrest her killer at her own funeral?" Eve finished the idea for the group.

"A fitting end to the murder case isn't it, kid?" Feeney said with a grin.

"Sounds like something you would read from a Shakespeare play," Eve looked at Motoko with a look that reminded both girls of Eve's childhood.

"The announcement was made this morning," Whitney told Eve. "Today at fourteen hundred, in Central's bereavement facilities. Anyone not actively in the field or prevented from attending by duty needs to put in an appearance. No time lost. Dress blues preferred. Coltraine's entire squad will obviously be there."

"More than enough time for Roarke to make it," Eve nodded at Whitney then looked at Motoko. "What was Coltraine planning to do at her funeral?"

ooooOOOOoooo

With the OP given by Motoko and Batou, Whitney and Tibble dismissed Eve's team to prepare the necessary arrangements. Eve had asked Motoko to meet privately in her office while she updated her murder board and book. Batou used that opportunity to help McNab and Peabody and Feeney with E.D.D.

"Are you mad at us for keeping you out of the loop, little one?" Motoko asked when they were alone.

"In a way I should, but you knew I was busy with the Atlanta side of things. But my concern is why did you have to spearhead everything on Grady when I could have done things with the proper NYPSD channels?"

"Because I know you, little one," Motoko softened her voice to Eve. "This case hasn't been the only thing that has been stressing you out."

Eve wanted to deny it at first, but a simple touch of Motoko's hand to hers made her relent a bit. "What made you think that?"

"I got X-Ray eyes, little one, I've been seeing that your back, your shoulders and the nerves on your neck have been tied into knots."

"It's more than your cybernetic eyes, Major," Eve rebutted. "It's you knowing me more than anyone else has. Though Roarke has been a close competitor to you."

"He's your soulmate, little one, and the best thing to have ever happened to you," Motoko softly whispered to Eve. "I only saw your wedding via the disc you sent me, but I could tell that he was your knight in dark armor. A knight who would fight alongside you and love you till the bittersweet end."

"A knight in dark armor," Eve repeated to her mentor. "Guess I wasn't the only one who noticed the darkness in him at first glance."

Motoko chuckled to herself while Eve went to the AutoChef to program two cups of coffee.

"You're not wrong about the stress, Major," Eve said while Motoko accepted the second cup. "My friend Louise DiMatto, the doctor Whitney mentioned, she's getting married to my other friend Charles Monroe next month. I'm the bridesmaid and Roarke's the best man and we're in charge of handling their parties this weekend."

"And I bet that you're dreading the fact that you might be doing it in the middle of finishing your case."

Eve nodded. "Even if we were to arrest Grady today, we'd still have to deal with processing and making sure that she gets the guilty verdict, what if some idiot judge were to give enough grease to make her go loose?"

"It won't happen, little one," Motoko said firmly. "Not on our watch."

"I don't want any blood to spill though, Major," Eve let out her own firm voice. "Coltraine wouldn't want it either. If you were to kill Max Ricker and Cleo Grady, you wouldn't be any better than both those shitheads."

Motoko never did deny Eve's statement, nor did she ever hide The Ghost Organizations record of killing criminals if the case called for it. But when it came to Eve Dallas and her connection with Richard Troy, Eve didn't want any blood spilled on her part. Not during the incident involving Homeland Security, nor with the arrest of Niles Renquist, the corrupt U.N. handler who had gotten in too deep with the lust of murder.

"You should have let me kill Ricker, Eve, he crossed too many lines with you, Roarke and The Ghost Organization."

"What good would it have done, Major?" Eve asked with her anger rising. "You think it would've given justice to the families of Taj Kohli, Thad Clooney and their families?"

"Some animals can never be tamed by cages alone, little one, they need to be put down and you know it."

Before Eve could say anything else, she had to stop and take a breath. She'd been with Motoko and The Ghost Organization long enough to know that they rarely killed for the thrill of it. They have not only taken in criminals alive, but their influence on the world had also led to the resignations of many world leaders, business executives and public officials. To prepare herself for the transition of going to the NYSPD, Motoko agreed to let Eve help The Ghost Organization on cases they worked on in the New York area. The work not only prepared Eve on how to think like a detective, but had also given way to some high profile arrests in the city. The Ghost Organization agreed to keep Eve out of the records, but her work came in handy in allowing Eve to join the Police Academy as soon as she turned eighteen years old.

"You're right, Major," Eve said after a few minutes then repeated herself. "If I had allowed you to kill Ricker after I arrested him, maybe Coltraine would've been alive. I've been struggling with accepting that when I linked her with Alex Ricker and his toxic family."

"Even now you're still struggling with it."

Eve nodded without hesitation, "I know one thing though, Max Ricker has gone too far this time. When he ordered Coltraine's murder, he messed with Morris, when he messed with Morris, he messed with me...and that is something I will never forgive."

Motoko looked at Eve's eyes, they changed from being a cop with the NYPSD to being an agent of The Ghost Organization.

"Cleo Grady will be arrested and taken alive...but Max Ricker is going to hell."

ooooOOOOoooo

If it had been another time, it would've stopped for Eve from being out in the field to work the case for Coltraine, because it would've done a lot more good than in a funeral home. But The Ghost Organization had her back and the arrest would happen today. Already changed into dress blues, the glides were actually empty enough for Motoko and Batou to change into thermoptics and stand behind Eve as they made their way to the funeral home where Morris and Coltraine would be waiting.

Some cops would come to grieve, to pay respects and one, she knew, would secretly be laughing at Dallas probably chasing her own tail. But how long would the laughter last? Perhaps when Eve arrested Grady, the laughter would stop and no other cop would be killed by Ricker ever again.

She hoped it would be enough.

The doors of the room Morris had chosen stood open so the music flowed through them. The bluesy sort he and the woman he'd loved had enjoyed. She caught the scent of flowers-the roses-before she stepped into the room crowded with cops.

Red roses, Eve noted, and photographs of the dead. Casual, candid shots of Coltraine smiling mixed with formal ones. Coltraine in uniform looking polished and serious, in a summer dress on some beach laughing. Small white candles burned a soft, soothing light.

She had found Morris and Roarke standing next to a glass casket, Coltraine laid inside that casket, wearing her own dress blues and looking like she was sleeping like the dead. In a way she wasn't wrong.

"Gives you nightmares, doesn't it?" Eve asked Roarke.

"That I sometimes see you in that casket?" Roarke ignored his attraction to Eve wearing her blues. "Didn't I explain it to you enough when Peabody got into the wreck with your old car? Or that Coltraine is now in a body that was supposed to be built for you?"

"We now have the resources to build another one Roarke," Eve replied. "You and I aren't going to go down easily and Coltraine should be more than enough to send that message. No offense."

"Why would I be offended?" Morris asked Eve silently. "I'm more happy that Coltraine will be here to hand-deliver some justice to her killer. That after this, we'll be able to start over again."

"That's all you can do in this case," Eve agreed as she noticed Peabody, Feeney, McNab, Webster, Whitney, Baxter and Tibble entered into the parlor wearing their own dress blues.

They didn't see Motoko and Batou with the humans, but knew like Eve did that their camoflauge allowed them to hide behind Coltraine's casket.

"It feels weird being in blues again," Peabody said to Eve as she walked in. "But you and upper brass were right. It's more respectful."

"And probably more haunting," Eve agreed. "What did Louise tell you when you left the hospital?"

"Well thankfully McNab and I can still walk," Peabody smiled at McNab. "But she recommended me to take a few days off from the streets, said I should be fine after the bachelorette party."

"Did she tell you to also refrain from drinking?"

"Yeah and I was really looking forward to it."

With a sigh Eve looked at Peabody with guilt in her eyes. "It's partially my fault anyway, especially after finding out that we were dragged into a wild goose chase."

"You and I both know that's bullshit," Peabody retorted. "There was no way of me knowing that you were talking with Coltraine while she identified her killer."

"Well that's a situation I plan to rectify next time," Eve had a cold look in her eyes. "And that next time is going to come sooner."

Peabody felt a slight twitch when she noticed the cold snap in her partner's eyes. Deciding to change the subject, she studied Morris looking at Coltraine's casket.

"Morris should start wearing a more hurtful look, he looks too peaceful for someone who's in mourning."

"Maybe you can remind him, but keep in mind that the rest of Coltraine's squad haven't shown up yet. We still have time before they show up."

Following Peabody's gaze, Eve looked at Morris softly stroking Coltraine's face and her body being still throughout the touches.

"Keep an eye out on the cops," Eve suggested to Peabody. "Keep an eye on her squad when they get here. Make sure you speak to every one of them, I don't believe any of them conspired with Grady to kill Coltraine, but I'm not taking any chances."

Eve failed to notice Motoko clipping a Ghost 'Link on her ear, but Peabody saw it and her eyes felt like she was seeing a magic trick was being performed.

Eve: It's not the time for magic tricks, Major.

Motoko: I know that, little one, but you and I know that we need to communicate this way in order for this OP to work.

Amaryllis: That and I needed to talk with you, Lieutenant.

Eve: About what, Coltraine?

Amaryllis: I don't believe Grady had a partner in the squad, before I saw her kneel down in my face, I remember seeing a second figure in the shadows. He looked familiar to me.

Eve: It wasn't Alex was it?

Amaryllis: No but I recognized him from my visit with Alex the night before I died, I can't remember his name though.

Though Eve couldn't actually see Motoko lean her back against the wall behind Coltraine's casket, she knew that her glare mirrored Motoko's when they realized who the real co-conspirator was.

Eve: Find out if Rod Sandy has a residence in the city.

Motoko: Already on it, little one.

ooooOOOOoooo

While Motoko had dispatched The Ghost Organization to look for Rod Sandy, Eve and the rest of her squad had spent the time mingling with the cops who came into the funeral to see Coltraine in her casket and say good bye to a cop that they never worked with, but respected her enough to say good-bye.

Detective O'Brian and Lieutenant DeLong had appeared in their dress blues, both of them telling Eve that a lot of cops stopped in from the field, or came in before they had to head out again. There wasn't always time for a change of clothes. It disappointed Eve to see Grady not wear her dress blues, it would have been fitting uniform to wear for someone who didn't deserve the title of a cop anymore. That's why Eve never referred to Grady as detective from the start.

Keeping an eye out for Grady to enter the funeral home, Eve brushed by O'Brian first, deliberately, then stopped. "Detective."

"Lieutenant." He met her eyes, then looked away to Coltraine sleeping in her casket. "Morris did right here. It's the right way. For her, for us. It's the right way."

"The cop way?"

He smiled, just a little. "Some of that. But the rest? It shows who she was. You can see her here."

"It's hard for you, losing one of your squad."

"I see her desk every day. Somebody else'll be sitting there before much longer, and you'll get used to it. But it's hard not seeing her there. Harder knowing why. My wife just came in. Excuse me."

He moved off, working his way toward a woman who stood just inside the doors. She held out a hand, and O'Brian took it. Eve just stood with Morris and they watched him walk away.

Motoko: He's not wrong, Lieutenant.

Eve: It's not like she could ever go back to working with the NYPSD.

Motoko: I know you want to ask, Coltraine, but I prefer you wait until we make the arrest.

Wanting to switch gears, Eve looked at Morris again, he wore a simple and elegant black suit, with a black cord winding through his long, meticulous braid. And she thought his face looked thinner than it had even the day before. As if some of the flesh had been carved away.

It worried her.

"You look like you haven't eaten this past week," she told him.

"You're not wrong," Morris agreed while glancing at Bollimer, and the owners of the Chinese restaurant where Coltraine had ordered her last meal. "She mattered to a lot of people."

"Yes she did, might matter as much if she were to come to her own memorial in Atlanta, where there will be more people she mattered to."

"Coltraine and I talked about that the night before, I don't think it will be happening, but Motoko is working out a way to have her human body be buried alongside her family in Atlanta."

Motoko: I'll explain to you later, little one.

Eve wanted to press the Major a bit further but stopped herself when she saw Mira and her husband.

Mira moved naturally, simply put her arms around Morris and held him. When he dropped his head on Mira's shoulder, Eve looked away.

Dennis Mira rubbed Eve's arm, and made her throat burn. "When death strikes home," he said in his quiet way, "it's harder, I think, for those who face it every day."

"I guess maybe it is."

Something about him, Eve thought-his gangly frame in his oddly formal black suit-was as comforting as she imagined Mira's hug would be. "It's the knowing how it works, and what it leaves behind."

He studied the body in the casket. "She was very lovely, very young." And looked at Eve. "I don't think I've ever seen you in uniform before. Have I?" His eyes took on that vague, distracted look that appealed to her. "In any case, you look formidable."

"I guess I am."

He smiled at her, then stepped up to Morris. Eve allowed them to slip away and noticed Roarke follow behind a few more cops.

"Guess I owe you another apology," Eve said in a soft tone of voice she reserved for her husband.

"There's nothing to apologize for when it comes to asking a normal question," Roarke mirrored the tone in his wife's voice.

"This case along with the other shit life has been throwing at me has been stressing me out, my comments to you earlier was a slip of the tongue and I'm sorry."

"It's almost over Eve, are you okay now?"

"I will be more than okay once we arrest that fraud of a cop."

And like clockwork, Eve saw Grady make her way toward Coltraine's casket, the husband and wife duo kept a blank neutral look when she arrived. But Eve made a silent gesture to every cop that was in Whitney's office when the Code Blue was enacted. Baxter and Webster had sat in the front of the makeshift pews, left and right. Whitney and Tibble were busy conversing with other cops but trusted Eve and her squad to carry off the op without any help.

Peabody and McNab stood behind Grady to prevent any chance of escape, they didn't gave any body language to spook her but both of them knew that Grady had been too focused on Coltraine's casket for her to notice.

Eve then noticed Morris make his way back to the Coltraine's casket and knew it was time to commence the plan. It didn't take long for her to notice that Grady was finally beginning to register both Morris and Eve standing beside her at both the left and right side of the casket.

"You were supposed to be her partner," Morris looked at Grady with the face of a wolf that was out for vengeance. "She looked to you as her friend and confidant...so why did you betray her?"

Before Grady could react, Eve and her squad pulled out their respective weapons and shouted for Grady to get down on her knees and put her hands behind her head.

"Cleo Grady, you're under arrest for the murder of Detective Amarylis Coltraine," Eve then listed other names that Grady had killed before then read off the revised Miranda.

In that moment the entire funeral that wasn't in on the OP or the Code Blue, thought they had witnessed an episode of The Twlight Zone when the cops saw Motoko and Batou appeared out of their thermoptics and when they saw Coltraine had woken up from her casket.

"Karma is a bitch, ain't it, partner?" Coltraine asked in a thicker southern accent that Eve could swear belonged to a scene from a western she watched with Roarke.

"What the hell is this shit?" Cleo screamed in anger at Coltraine. "You should have been dead you bitch."

"I am dead you fucking cunt," Coltraine threw back at her partner being dragged away by Webster and Baxter. "And now you are going to pay. That is a promise."

 

Chapter Text

*Two days later*

Eve didn't consider it hiding. Maybe she was in a room she wasn't entirely sure she'd been in before with the door shut. And locked. But it wasn't hiding.

It was working, Eve told herself. In a quiet place, where she wouldn't be distracted. She could probably stay in here for the next twenty-four hours, no problem at all. She had a sleep chair, a workstation-a mini-unit, but very slick. She didn't see a wall screen, but when she booted up and requested one, the glass on the fancy mirror went black.

A little playing around with the control panel netted her a mini-AutoChef and friggie when the counter under the window opened, and up they came.

She poked into the attached bathroom and found all the necessities, including a shower designed like a little waterfall. Yes, she could be happy here. Maybe for years.

It was the type of place where she could gather her thoughts as she read through Peabody's report on the arrest of Coltraine's partner, Cleo Grady. It took some prying from both her and Motoko, when they had her in interrogation, but after interrogating Max Ricker in Holo-mode at his room at the prison planet Omega, they managed to confirm what Coltraine told Eve the day before.

Eventually moving to Cecil Rouche, he'd actually gotten the lighter deal and would serve twenty to life on planet for conspiracy to murder. There was still that chance that Grady would probably fight Coltraine's dying declaration, but Reo assured both her and Dallas that the Cyborg Civil Rights Act would be enough ammo to keep Grady in a cage for eternity.

Finishing the report by Peabody, Eve later read the report done by Whitney, who was put in charge of crowd control along with Tibble. It mildly impressed her to see that Whitney had been able to control the uproar of the crowd in under two minutes, forcibly telling the funeral home crowd to sit on the pews and to shut up while explanations were told about Coltraine's cyber conversion and the involvement with The Ghost Organization. But at the end of the meeting, both Tibble and Whitney made it known that if word of this incident leaked to the press, they could forget being chewed at, they could automatically find themselves out of the job if one mouth talked.

Drinking coffee, Eve sat back on the chair in the guest bedroom of her home to take in the remaining quiet moments before the coming bachelorette party that Mavis and Peabody had been planning the month before this entire shit started. The party was supposed to start today and was already stressing Eve off.

So much stress ran through her that she didn't hear the three loud knocks on the door, "Open up, little one, it's just me."

Eve followed Motoko's command by unlocking the door and letting her mentor in, "You're early, Major."

Motoko nodded at Eve as she went back to her seat, "Figured you could use some more comfortable company before the party started."

It was then Eve began noticing Motoko carrying a transparent bag of lotions and bottled scents, one of them labeled a combination of vanilla and spearmint, a scent Eve actually loved when she was a child.

"It's been a long time since I gave you a massage little one, you're way past due for one."

"Ten years past due," Eve agreed. "So how much is the library fine?"

Motoko let out a chuckle at Eve's small joke, "I think a situation like this can count for the library fee being waived."

Eve motioned to the Major the double king sized mattress where she wanted the massage to be done at. Motoko stripped her long overcoat to reveal the black mini-tank top that exposed her stomach and the matching black biker shorts. In turn, Eve stripped off her shirt and support tank, not feeling self-conscious about being half-naked to Motoko, she then laid face down on the mattresses comforter taking in the softness of the phony fur texture.

There had been an hour of comfortable silence between Motoko and Eve as the former worked on the knots of her little ones back. To Eve's comfort, she felt little to no pain from Motoko's hands loosening the knots on her back.

"You know, Major, Roarke might be your closest rival when it comes to magic hands," Eve said as Motoko continued working her back.

"Well if he wants, I can probably teach him my methods in the future."

Eve moaned in agreement as she reveled in Motoko's soft-yet-firm touch on her back, "Just feels like old times doesn't it?"

"It was always your weekly reward for when you completed a weeks work of training, you always looked forward to this every Friday after you completed a lesson."

"I always liked it because it kept me away from the nightmares and gave me a soft dreamless sleep."

"It always pained me when I saw you suffer at night," Motoko softened her voice as she stroked a hand on Eve's face. "There were times where I wish I could've found you sooner and take you away from that piece of shit you had for a father."

"You rescuing me in that alleyway was more than enough for me, Major," Eve returned her mentors touch with her own hand. "You and Batou were always like sister and brother to me, it's all I ever wanted at the time. Roarke was the final piece of that puzzle."

"He's perfect for you, little one," Motoko said while Roarke walked into the room. "Everything that a human could want in terms of love."

"And you're the only person who I could never be jealous of touching my wife," Roarke said as Motoko continued working on Eve's back. "The only person who was the closest thing to family for my wife."

"You're just as much my family, Roarke, as my little one is," Motoko replied as she ended her work on Eve's back. "But now that I have both of you in the same room, I figured it be a good time to tell you the news."

"What news, Major?" Eve asked as her mentor gave her back the support tank.

"For the record, I did ask Coltraine if she wanted in on the party, but she decided not to, she wanted to spend her time with Morris and make her decision to him."

"Decision about what?"

"I offered her a chance to join The Ghost Organization as a new agent, seeing as how she really can't go back to being an NYPSD cop again."

"Why would you offer her to join you after being brought back from the dead? After reuniting with Morris?"

"Rest assured, I have no intention of making her leave Morris behind, that's why I made him an offer to join as one of our new doctors."

The detective in Eve Dallas made her realize in an instant that there was more to what Motoko was really telling both her and her husband.

"You're planning to retire are you, Major?"

But when Motoko shook her head, Eve's eyes widened in surprise at the silent answer.

"The Prime Minister of Japan and myself have been discussing the idea of both me and Batou becoming duel-minister and handler for The Ghost Organization. The perks would be less time on the field, but I would have deeper control of how the organization will work in future cases. You will always be a priority for us, little one, but more than likely you'll be working with someone else when the time comes for my successor to take over as leader."

And that's when Eve realized, "You were planning to make Coltraine your successor weren't you?"

Motoko nodded to Eve, "She's free to say no if she chooses, but she'd be missing a good opportunity to train and become a formidable commanding officer, like you are right now."

"I've no doubt about that, Major, but I'm more surprised that you're not going to go back to the 'net after I heard many stories where you might go there after either resigning or retiring."

Accepting a cup of coffee from Roarke, Motoko said to Eve, "There was a time where I did want to retire from active duty, I even seriously considered doing so around the time I met you, little one. But as the years went on and I watched you grow into the woman that you are now, I realized that I had a deeper purpose to stay. And that purpose was to keep an eye on you and to always be your protector whenever you need me."

It melted Eve's heart to hear her mentor and protector say those words to her, to the point where she couldn't help but wrap her arms around Motoko's back for a hug. A hug from little sister to big sister.

"Then I take it that Eve will be in good hands as me and the boys go to Purgatory for our bachelor party today?" Roarke asked Motoko.

Smiling at Roarke, Motoko replied, "She'll be in good familiar company, Roarke, you and your guy friends have a nice safe evening. Just don't get into too much trouble."

But before Roarke made his exit from the room, Eve gave her own hug and kiss to her husband, reminding him who she was devoted and deeply in love with, a reminder that he savored every second of.

"There you are!" the voice of Mavis Freestone, Eve's first ever human friend skipped down the hallway, in full party gear of a bride-white mini and knee-high skin-boots of screaming red. Her hair, the same screaming red as the boots, bounced as it tumbled to her waist. "Everyone's asking. I was just checking on Bella. You are the maggest of the mag! The little nursery's so cute!"

"We want Belle to be happy and comfortable whenever she visits," Roarke told her.

Eve's stride took yet another hitch. "You brought the baby?"

"I was going to bring a sitter, but Summerset said he'd rather be with Bellisimo than go to Purgatory. The man is sugar. They're in there now, playing with Hello Kitty and Keroppi the Frog."

Eve remembered buying both the stuffed Hello Kitty and Keroppi the Frog stuffed toys not long after Bella was born. It was during the investigation of the murders, that were ultimately committed by eight year old Raylene Straffo, that Eve made a brief after work trip to her old apartment that Mavis and Leonardo currently occupied. During that time, an old fling of Roarke's name Magdalena Purcell was spreading rumors that he was having an affair with the female thief. A rumor that actually held no weight because Roarke and Dallas were with the Ghost Organization working on the two cyber bodies, a few months before Coltraine would ultimately occupy one of the bodies.

"We are going to have the abso-mega best time. Wait till you see the decorations, the food. And the salon is completely uptown. I'm going to plant a big wet one on my honey bear, so we can get this party started."

"What am I going to do?" Eve managed as Mavis bounded down the stairs.

"Just play along, Eve," Motoko whispered in her ear as they followed Mavis outside. "I have a special plan for our boys later tonight."

Eve was tempted to ask Motoko what she meant but immediately got distracted by the sight of the limousine the size of Long Island waiting at the front parking lot. She couldn't possibly know all these people. When her head stopped ringing, she realized she didn't. Strange faces mixed with the familiar.

The groom-to-be caught her in an enthusiastic hug. "Thank you," Charles told her. "For everything. Louise is so excited about all this."

Eve glanced over to see Louise with Dennis Mira. Good God, sweet Jesus, Eve thought, Roarke was taking Mr. Mira to Purgatory. If Motoko weren't standing beside her right now, her world would be more inside out than it already was.

Somewhere in the chaos, men packed into the enormous limo. As it rolled down the drive, Baxter popped out of one of the moonroofs, shooting up the victory sign while the ladies cheered.

Then she was alone with them.

They squealed. Jumped around. They made inhuman noises and whirled in a blur of color and limbs. And ran for the house, still making them.

"Maybe it's all some strange dream."

Laughing, Mira stepped over to put an arm around Eve's shoulders.

"I didn't realize you were out here."

"It was quite a crowd and such an interesting dynamic. The men going off to their indulgence, and the women gathering here for theirs." Mira gave Eve's shoulder a little pat. "Celebrations, very defined, very traditional to prepare two individuals for becoming one unit."

"Next thing you're going to tell me is that I should be drinking and screaming with them because I gave justice for Coltraine and Morris."

"That would be a reason for celebrating," Mira nodded in agreement. "It's too bad that Peabody and McNab can't join either of our festivities today."

"I know," Eve sighed heavily. "But you know how Louise gets stuck up when her orders aren't followed."

"She's passionate about her job, Eve, just like you and Motoko, as women you have to fight ten times as hard to achieve respect. But I assure you, they're fine, Eve, they're just spending the day watch vids on screen."

"Okay." She noted Mira wore a dress-pale, pale blue and subtly elegant. "Do I have to change?"

"Actually," Motoko jumped into the conversation. "That's where I want to discuss a plan I have for you to combat your stress, little one. Dr. Mira, would you like to join us in the master bedroom and hear my plan?"

"Well if what you're planning will put Eve in the mood, I would be more than happy to hear this plan of yours."

"Fine, sure." The trade-off would give her time to hear Mira's side of what happened during Coltraine's funeral. "Did anybody freak out over Coltraine waking up in her casket?"

"Yes, and Whitney and Tibble were very effective in calming everyone down," Mira replied as they went inside, started upstairs. "What about you? Was Grady in denial over seeing Coltraine wake up in her casket?"

"Huge denial," Motoko replied on Eve's behalf. "But hitting her with Coltraine's recorded statement, video footage of Coltraine's brain and heart being transferred to her new cyber body, voluntarily provided by us. She ultimately began to confirm everything that Coltraine said in her interview with Eve after Max Ricker basically stabbed her own daughter in the back after we made a holo visit to his prison cell in Omega."

"Another father who doesn't care about her own flesh and blood," Mira replied as they walked into the bedroom, and at Eve's gesture, to the closet. She opened it and immediately let out a sigh. "Oh. Eve."

"He's always putting things in there."

"It's a fantasy. Like an eclectic little boutique." She glanced back. "See, I'm already having fun. Oh my God, the evening wear alone!"

Remembering Motoko's unrevealed idea, Eve turned to her and asked, "I don't have to wear a formal thing, do I?"

"On the contrary, little one," Motoko gave Eve a smirk. "What I have in mind will probably be the most sluttiest thing you'll ever wear."

Mira immediately turned her head to Motoko, "You want Eve to dress up like a slut?"

"No, but her outfit would be pretty frisky."

Eve noticed Motoko walking into the closet along with Mira and began her own run through of it's contents until she pulled out a simple black cotton tank first, then pulled out a pair of tight leather pants. She then pulled out a flowing, thin-strapped dress the color of ripe plums. "This will be what you'll wear for the party, the tank and pants will be your outfit for when we crash our spouses bachelor party tonight."

"Crash their party?" Mira asked before Eve could.

"I'm not a bright woman, Major, but wouldn't that be bad luck for the bride and groom?" Eve asked before she began to put the dress on.

"I've been married to Batou for twenty years, little one, I seduced him at his bachelor party a month before we got married. You could say it was my way of marking my territory with him, tonight is a good opportunity to re-mark your territory with Roarke while your friend Louise marks hers with Charles."

While Eve had put on her dress, Motoko decided to keep up with the trend by putting on a simple black dress with an open back and no sleeves. When Eve and her two older confidants made it to the pool house, she was pretty sure her mind just ran off and left her. It had been transformed into a female fantasy of gold, white, and silver canopies, lounge chairs, towering white candles. White tables held frothy pink drinks in crystal flutes, and silver trays of colorful food. Yet another held a tower of gifts with trailing ribbons.

To the far side of the deep blue water of the pool was the salon. Reclining chairs, massage tables, manicure and pedicure stations-and the tables with all those tools and implements that always gave Eve a slightly queasy stomach.

"Bellinis!" Mavis pushed one into Eve's hand. "Mine are with the nonalchy bubbles since I'm nursing. But they're still delish. We're going to draw lots for services in a few minutes. After some lube."

"You put mine in didn't you?"

Mavis grinned. "You read my mind," she said and danced off.

'What the hell.' Eve thought to herself as she knocked half the Bellini. It was actually pretty tasty.

"Here," Motoko came to Eve with a pizza wrapped in a paper napkin in one hand, another Bellini in the other. "You look like you haven't eaten all day."

"I didn't think pizza would be provided at this party," Eve said as she accepted the food from Motoko.

"They didn't, but I made a request from one of your Autochefs, drinking with an empty stomach isn't good for you."

"Well maybe coffee could be a exception."

Louise walked into Motoko and Eve, who was finishing off the slice of pizza already lifting up her mood considerably.

"So how's our unhappy patient?" Louise asked as she tapped her glass against Motoko and Eve's.

"Sheesh, you ask as if I'm a child having a phobia over an injector needle," Eve complained to her bride-to-be friend.

"Well, to be fair, you sometimes act like it."

"You gotta remember, Doctor," Motoko began to say. "My little one ain't like other girls, she hasn't been around the concept of being a girl. Just mostly focused on trying to impress me and my boys."

"First off, Motoko, call me Louise," the doctor replied with a drunk chuckle. "Second, her being a cop is a good thing, but she also needs to take time and turn it off to enjoy the party."

To prove her point, Louise replaced Eve's empty Bellini and gave her a fresh one. "When I was a girl," she began, "I dreamed about getting married, and all that went around it. For a long time, after I grew up, I put those dreams aside. For the work, and because no one measured up to what I had dreamed as a girl. Now, with Charles and what we have, with all this, and what I have right this minute, it's so much more than I ever dreamed."

"You look stupid with happy, Louise."

"I am. I am stupid with happy. I'm especially happy that Morris and Coltraine were able to get justice for each other. It's a shame though, I would've been more than happy to invite her to this lovely party."

"They need time alone, Louise," Eve began to reply while beginning to explain to her friend what Motoko told Eve earlier that day.

"If I were to guess, some of the members of my Ghost Organization are probably helping out with cleaning Coltraine's apartment as we speak," Motoko said while taking note of the guests of the party. "So, how long before somebody gets drunk and falls in the pool?"

"Oh, no more than an hour," replied Louise.

"Hopefully you can swim to help save somebody if that happens," Eve said to Motoko as she took another drink.

"It's too bad you don't have implants, little one, my body can easily breakdown alcohol without any hangover. Also that pool ain't deep enough for me to sink in if I want to swim in it."

ooooOOOOoooo

As the party of Louise DiMatto raged on, Li opened the door for Ammy and let her enter her soon-to-be former apartment first. She stepped forward, intending to say something, but froze at the site of the familiar.

"Ammy," Li softly said as he came to wrap arms around her. "You can always let the agents do this for you."

"I'm okay, Li, really," Ammy replied in the same soft tone. "It's just sad that I'm entering this apartment as a shell of my former self and not as a human."

"I know it hurts, love," Morris said with gentle conviction. "But it's all over now, we finally achieved our justice. Grady being sent to jail with no chance of getting out, it's enough for us."

The American Agents of The Ghost Organization followed both man and woman and patiently waited for Morris' orders. He ordered them to handle the heavy stuff, while he and Coltraine would handle the smaller, more intimate stuff.

"It's amazing how I kept everything clean around here. Even at work, the boys always thought that my desk made them look like a slob."

"Your fellow cops at your district pretty much had a heart attack when they saw you wake up from your casket," Li reminded her. "But you had that planned from the beginning didn't you."

"To make them see that she was the traitor in our squad, hearing Eve talk with my L.T. made me realize that he wouldn't remotely believe the oral truth."

"Why didn't you let your partners touch you when things began to calm down at the funeral home?" Li said as they started on her closet.

"I couldn't let them, Li, my skin may feel real but knowing what I am now I couldn't let them possibly feel the metal bones inside."

"Yet you let me touch you," Li touched a hand to her shoulder while reaching for one of her favorite sweaters.

"Because your love for me mirrors mine for yours, even though you have every right not to love me anymore, not like this."

"Because you're in a new body, doesn't make my flames of desire cool for you," Li rebutted in a soft but firm tone. "I have you back, Ammy, I don't care if you're in a shell, I'm never letting you go again."

"Even if I accepted Motoko's offer to go to Japan?"

"She knows how to love, Ammy, she and Batou have that old couple intimacy that I've seen my parents wear when they look at each other. They may be cyborgs, but they know love and if I have to I could be a cyborg myself just to prove to you that I don't need to be human to love."

Ammy looked at Li with warm tears in her eyes, the tears that told him that she was beyond moved and touched at Morris' suggestion to join her as a cyborg.

"You'd do it, for me?"

"Right now."

Throughout their conversation, the agents of Ghost continued packing without much conversation, the living room was practically clean and empty, save for one droid kitten, still purring in sleep.

Too distracted in their declarations of love, the agents offered Morris and Coltraine a chance to pack up the rest of the clothes, jewels, along with the bed and dressers. The couple accepted their offer as they cleared her bedroom and immediately noticed the droid kitten still sleeping on the floor.

"I wonder why they left it here?" Ammy asked she gently picked Sachmo up off the floor, it's belly on her palm.

Suddenly on cue, Sachmo opened it's eyes to recognize the face and voice of it's master. The kitten gave plaintive meow and stared at Ammy with adoring eyes.

"I guess to prove us a point," Li replied as the kitten rubbed it's furry face against Ammy's face. "That even droids can feel love and attention."

"I remember buying it little toys, and that cat bed," Ammy stroked it's back and reveled in it's familiar fur. "I remember how much I loved it when you gave it to me, I immediately began buying things for Sachmo after you gave it to me."

"There's always more opportunity to give it more gifts, to give it more love, like I plan to with you."

To prove it, Li looked at Ammy's blue eyes with love and tenderness and lowered his lips in gentle but everlasting kiss. The first kiss that would follow with many more for their new life ahead.

ooooOOOOoooo

Women sat or sprawled everywhere while Louise began the ritual of removing ribbons, bows, and paper. There were coos and ooohs, bawdy laughter at the gag gifts of sex toys. And the conversation around the openings turned to weddings, men, and sex.

Men, Eve thought, didn't have a clue what women said about them when they weren't around. Comparison studies, polls-discussions of length, thickness, duration, positions, quirks, preferences.

Mavis, who had been feeding her daughter Bella, had switched to her other breast. "Leonardo can go all night. He's a-"

"Huggy bear," Eve said, and made Mavis giggle.

"Yeah, but that bear's got stamina."

"What's the record?" somebody asked her.

"Six in one night. Of course that was before Belladonna here," she said through the round of applause. "We gotta squeeze in the hump and bump when and where we can these days. But the bear knows how to spring to attention."

"I dated a guy once who was all buildup and no payoff. Huge cock," Nadine added, using her hands to demonstrate-to the hilarity of women. "And he'd dock, and deflate. Like a turtle pulling back in the shell. He's The Turtle."

She then turned to look at Motoko eating an eclair, "You know, we barely know you, you got to tell us your craziest sex story."

Swallowing the pale gold pastry, Motoko looked at Eve with the tiniest of smirks on her face, Eve mirrored her smirk as Motoko turned to the ladies of the party and said, "I'm bi-sexual."

"SHUT UP!" Reo exclaimed in surprise.

"Oh trust me, I know," Eve confirmed.

"AND FOR THE RECORD!" Motoko snapped before anyone could say anything. "I have not involved Eve in any of my lesbian affairs, but I did make occasional double female sandwiches with Batou over the years. Sometimes I've even invited him to watch me perform three ways with female sex cyborgs."

Once and only once, did someone try to ask Motoko why she didn't have sex with Eve. But one set of glares from Motoko, Mira, Mavis and Eve immediately shut her up. Eve didn't share with everyone about her rapist father, but with a big sister like Motoko Kusanagi, The Major would rather cut off her head than have sex with her little sister.

"Anyway," Nadine said to break the tension and looked at Louise. "What's Charles? The suave licensed companion turned sexual therapist. The sex has to be amazing."

"Isn't it just?" Louise gave a slow, satisfied smile that put a glow in her gray eyes. "He's The Leopard. Elegant, graceful, strong-and believe me, he can travel across the mesa. And back again."

"Leopards, puppies, owls-even snakes are sexy," Nadine complained. "I get a limp turtle. Your turn," she said to Eve, then wagged a finger when Eve shook her head. "Then I'll project. Panther. Sleek, mysterious, coiled, with an elegance and purpose of movement."

"Okay."

"Not fair! Okay, what's the record? How many times?"

"If you can count them, he didn't drop you out."

Nadine groaned, shuddered, grinned. "Bitch."

Amid the laughter, Louise opened the next gift. Eve sipped her coffee. "Wolf," she murmured, without thinking.

"Yes." Beside her, Mira patted her hand. "They mate for life."

But as the last present was opened and sighed over, Motoko placed her own hand on Eve's shoulder, whispered in her ear to follow her and even invited Mira to join them.

ooooOOOOoooo

"Very nice comparison, little one," Motoko said as the elevator doors opened to Eve and Roarke's room.

"And very much the truth," Eve agreed as she followed the Major to the bedroom. "Why are you bringing Mira and me here?"

"To get you ready for Purgatory, Eve." Motoko pointed her to enter the bathroom and make Eve notice some barber shop tools on the duel bathroom sinks. "And to tell you what happened with Morris and Coltraine?"

While preparing a chair from the bedroom dining area, Motoko told Eve about The Ghost Organization cleaning up Coltraine's apartment and their decision to move to Japan. Eve was tempted to ask how Motoko found this information while at the party, but caught herself remembering that The Ghost Organization could transfer verbal thoughts between each other, like with Eve's Ghost 'Link.

"I'm surprised Coltraine hasn't been able to use the built in Ghost-Link in her new body." Eve began to sit down on chair after stripping off her dress.

"My guess, little one, is that she doesn't know she can do that, yet."

"Then what's this about Morris getting rid of his body for Coltraine?" Eve referring to his decision to put himself in the other prototype body.

"It's because of his love for her, Eve," Mira replied on Motoko's behalf. "Isn't love the reason why you created those two bodies in the first place?"

With a sigh, Eve replied, "I guess you're right, just makes me wonder what both of them are going to do when they realize they can't have children."

"They still can, little one," Motoko replied.

Eve asked what she meant and Motoko continued, "Along with extracting her heart and her brain, we were able to also extract her reproductive system, it was a separate part of her reproductive system when she died."

"So you're saying that she can still have children?"

"It's going to take a human host, little one, but if they choose to have children they're going to need one."

"Even with all the advances of technology," Mira softly said to Eve. "A child still needs the warmth of a human being to grow."

Taking Mira's words into consideration, Eve asked Motoko, "Are you planning to tell him about this?"

"Ishikawa will, once they make it back to the headquarters and we prepare your friend for his cybernization."

Throughout the conversation, Motoko had been finishing her work on Eve's hair and when she got Eve to turn around in front of the big bathroom mirror, she had to gasp at the beauty of Motoko's work.

"My God, Eve," Mira began to say. "She made you look exotic."

"I don't know if exotic would be the right word, I actually look sexy," Eve said as she took notice of the half-pixie cut that Motoko just gave her. "It fits."

"It definitely does, Eve, Roarke is going to love it."

"Maybe you would like to do the honors of doing her makeup, doctor?" Motoko pointed Mira to the Gothic makeup kit on the bathroom counter, ranging from eye-shadow to nail polish.

"I'd be more than happy to, Motoko."

Chapter Text

Coming out of her bedroom in her nightclub wear, Eve and Motoko opened the invitation about crashing Charles Monroe's side of the party and explained to Louise how it would be marking her territory with her future husband. To her surprise, everyone actually agreed to this plan, so Eve ordered Summerset to get them a limo to take them to Purgatory, the wait time was long enough for the rest of the female group to get themselves appropriately dressed for the club. Bella had already been sleeping, but Mavis told Summerset to keep an ear out in case something happened.

 It didn't surprise Eve to find a long velvet rope with a line of people waiting outside her husbands club, but thanks to her privately calling the manager of the club, she and her lady friends were quickly led from limo door to club entrance door. Purgatory's name was symbolized by Catholic priests as a place for atonement and rehabilitation, but Roarke had always seen it as a last chance to be human. She remembered how the place looked after it had been rehabilitated during the aftermath of Taj Kohli's murder. 'Glamour with a bright smear of sin.' Eve thought to herself as she took another note of the snake-shaped banisters, and every few feet, one was swallowing its brother's tail.

 She even familiarized herself with the gold and red poles that lanced up from the stage, the pie plate-topped columns, human-sized gilded cages and the strippers dancing and to her surprise, they actually were enjoying the party along with the group already dancing in the club.

 But her mind was already on the bar and her noticing Rue MacLean tending drinks to customer who just came in to get juiced. Rue had long since cut her hair to a pixie cut, like Eve's, but kept it blonde. But she also noticed that the manager of Purgatory had traded in her curvy look for a figure that belonged to a fitness model. But most of all, Rue was wearing all black with no sleeves and it pleased her to see that Ricker's bruises had disappeared from her skin, and from the looks of things, had disappeared from her emotional memories. Rue had immediately noticed Eve beginning to sit down and decided to take her drink order.

 "Your best vodka and make it a double," Eve said without raising her voice thanks to Rue's earpiece allowing her to hear customers with their indoor voice in a crowded club.

 Giving Eve the drink, Rue offered her an ear piece and she accepted. "Does your husband know you're out this late?"

 "No," Eve replied with a smile. "But I wouldn't be surprised if he were to find out that me and some friends of mine are hear to crash his party tonight."

 "Well as the wife of the owner, your drinks are on the house."

 Eve thanked Rue for the offer and although she didn't say anything further, she wouldn't be surprised if Roarke were to cover the tabs of her friends drinking tonight.

 ooooOOOOoooo

Motoko, on the other hand, had immediately went searching for a girl who could dance with her. It wasn't exclusively an LGBT Club, but to Roarke's credit, Motoko knew that he had a few of those clubs under his belt. She even knew that he carried a zero-tolerance anti-discrimination policy, if anybody harassed anybody they'd be out on their ass and never be let back in to any Roarke establishment for as long as they lived.

So it wouldn't be hard to find another female who'd be willing to do both sexes and could even be tonight's pet for her and Batou. Her eyes scanned all over the club until she found a girl on the dance floor swaying her hips to the techno music the house DJ was playing. Her skin was a caramel brown, that was highlighted by the red leather halter top and leather skirt of the same color. Records indicated that this lady, named Nikki, was a high dollar licensed companion who was willing to work with both sexes. She was beautiful and young, Motoko thought to herself as she began to join this woman on the dance floor.

Nikki noticed her unexpected companion almost immediately. It was honestly hard not to notice her and when that taller frame shifted into her space, the LC happily allowed it. Watching her from beneath lashes so lush they could only be achieved by a make-up brush, her pillowed lips as red as her halter pulled into a sultry smile and Nikki pressed against her in invitation.

 “Well hey there, sugah, y’all lookin’ for a good time?”

Motoko felt that soft southern accent jolt right through her system, utterly electrified. It was pure sex wrapped up in the English language and it zeroed right in at her core, heating her up and making her hungry. “You could say that.”

Batou watched Roarke turn away in a huff. Temper dogged the man’s every step, but other things drew his attention. The music pounded, bodies writhing against each other in a ritual almost primal and amidst it all, his gaze found Motoko pressed up against a girl with barely a breath between them. Blood pooled downward and drink forgotten, Batou made his way toward the dance floor, something far better in mind.

Motoko knew the moment he approached. Bodies parted like the red sea and the hot, feel of him molded against her a moment later was intoxicating, familiar hands already reaching, “Hey.”

 “Hey. Who’s your little friend?”

Purring under the joint adoration, and already aware of the desires wanted from them thanks to Motoko, Nikki beamed up at him, arching her slim body toward his large bulk. “I’m Nikki, sugah and I’m ready to play.”

ooooOOOOoooo

Either security must've notified Roarke of Eve's appearance in the club or his senses for her had him stirred. But the hairs in the back of her neck stood when she felt his gaze on hers. Turning around, she felt her breath leave her lungs just by appearance alone. The shirt he wore was like a second skin, it was technically a dark purple, but when the club was dark enough, it looked like black to the naked eye. His pants were dark and as tight as Eve's leather ones, the look he gave her was full of possesive desire.

"Didn't anyone tell you that it's bad luck to crash a bachelor party?" Eve could hear him whisper even without the earpiece.

"You might call it bad luck," Eve said as she offered her husband a drink. "But I agree with Motoko that we call it marking our territory."

Roarke accepted her drink, but didn't immediately sip. "Who else is with you?"

"The entire party, I imagine might be picking up their mates for a little fun of their own."

Turning around, Roarke could see that the females from Eve's party were picking up the males from Roarke's party, one by one. It made him somewhat thankful to remember that his club actually did have some private VIP rooms and that his male party-goers had immediate access to those rooms in case something happened and an individual got too drunk.

Letting Rue know about the situation, she agreed to handle with letting security know about the spouses and significant others and to let them use the VIP rooms without argument.

Getting that business done, Roarke turned to Eve and whispered, "You're being a very naughty girl tonight."

"Why do you think I'm here in the first place?" Eve whispered as she shivered at the warm hand caressing her bare shoulder.

"Then get ready to hurt so good, Darling Eve."

ooooOOOOoooo

Roarke’s clubs catered to every need of its patrons and that was no different when sex tended to be what was on the menu. Motoko and Batou led the way to a booked room and once inside, the noise of the club melted away. It was nice, bordering on overly plush. Mostly gold and cream, with red accents, not that any of the trio cared. The bed was the most interesting part and it could’ve been lime green for all any of them gave a shit.

Nikki ran her slim fingers over the intricate pattern on the bedspread. It wasn’t often she got to do her thing in one of Roarke’s places and the very idea left her giddy. Eyes almost the same shade as her skin watched the two who had, for lack of a better word, purchased her for the night and damn, if true want didn’t quiver inside her. Just as starved for them, she grinned. “So, let’s get started.”

Motoko needed no other invitation than that. She stalked toward the young girl, gaze roving over her in a way that had Nikki’s breath hitching. She was being stalked and knew it. Motoko’s movements were calculating, teasing almost and when she finally closed the distance and touched Nikki, the sensation sizzled along her nerve endings with the force of a flash fire, dragging a shocked moan from the LC.

Chuckling, Motoko reached up, fisting the soft tresses of her hair and glanced back at Batou. “Eager, isn’t she?”

“I think she wants it more than we do,” Batou replied, tone deepened by arousal. For now, he kept back, enjoying simply watching Motoko for the moment.

Slowly Motoko undressed the LC. Nikki moved when told to, until she was wearing nothing but her jewelry and a smile. Motoko noted the girl had gone for a permanent body hair removal. Every inch of her was bare including her flushed sex and to the Major’s amusement, Nikki’s clitoris was pierced. Reaching down, she gave the ruby studded bar an experimental tug, delighting in the croaked curse that escaped the girl.

“F-Fuck!”

“Huh, so it’s true what they say? Clit piercings enhance the sensations.” Motoko continued fiddling at the piercing.

The sounds Nikki were making were splendid and out of the corner of her eye she saw Batou venture over to the room’s supplied toy box to have a root. When he lifted one free, Motoko grinned at his choice. She immediately guessed his intention and in response yanked Nikki forward taking her lips in a fierce kiss.

Nikki arched against her, Motoko swallowing her shock and pleasured mewls with a brush of her tongue. Guiding the LC’s hands to her clothing, she conveyed what she wanted and Nikki happily obliged. Layer by layer she stripped away any barriers between them, until Motoko was just as naked, creamy skin almost like starlight over taunt muscle and shapely curves. It was a stunning contrast between the pair, the sun and moon blending together, with no real beginning or end. The kisses grew more frantic, touches more numerous and when Motoko cupped Nikki’s slick sex finally, she almost came just from the single stroke of her finger. Never in all her time as an LC had the sex ever been this good and the main event hadn’t even started!

ooooOOOOoooo

In a heated blur, Eve found herself being pinned between a large privacy screen and her turned-on husband kissing her possesively on the lips.

"Dear Roarke, what will the club neighbors think?"

"You say that," Roarke began leaving kisses on her neck. "But the way you move your hips, tell me otherwise."

"But your tent just feels so good against my tight leather pants, it just feels so sultry."

Roarke chuckled and pressed himself even further against his wife, crushing his lips against hers. Three songs were spent with Eve and Roarke dry-humping and strip-dancing each other. Taking advantage of a night where they could really be feral without limitations.

Song number four had Eve push her husband against a red velvet couch, her clothes were gone now, but he still had his pants on. Seeing him shirtless made him look like a muscular rock star getting ready to fuck a groupie, but there would be no groupies tonight, just a man and wife throwing the rules out the window.

She slowly unbuttoned and unzipped his pants to reveal a nice meaty cock, just hard and ready for her. She didn't take him straight into her mouth at first, but instead treated it like it was a mini stripper pole and her tongue was the performer for the private party. Eve then gently let that cock into her mouth, her tongue circling around that velvet covered steel and taking in the combination of sweat and musk that permeated through his skin.

Normally a man would put hands on a woman or man's hair while the partner would suck his dick, but Roarke was so taken by how sensual Eve had sucked him, he just sat back and looked at her giving him the type of eye color that made whiskey even darker. Soon her work was enough to make him burst his seed into her mouth and she sucked him without stopping and let those bursts of seed travel down her throat.

Feeling himself stripped completely naked, Roarke then felt his mate climb up to his lap, giving him a kiss that tasted like her and him at the same time. His still hard cock began to enter her pussy, giving her an idea to brew in her head. The next song had enough beats to match her hip movements as she began to give him a private fuck dance. Her body just moved along to the beat of the music and Roarke couldn't help but be taken at the way her body moved sensually against him. She allowed him to kiss all over her moving body while she danced only for him. Would always dance for him.

But not wanting to fully release yet, Roarke lifted his wife off his cock, he wanted her to get on her hands and knees on the couch.

"I'm going to make you scream tonight, Darling Eve," He then rammed himself into Eve's core once more.

"FUCK!" Eve groaned as she felt her entrance be roughly entered by Roarke's hard cock. He didn't waste time with his harsh thrusting into her pussy. And she couldn't resist turning her head around to see his face unleash his alpha male look. It made him look like a monster, a monster that she fully embraced. But what surprised her more was that he eventually began to slow down and stop. When she turned around again to see what he was doing, she didn't expect him to enter her anus so swiftly.

The pain actually felt so good to her that she let out a shriek of pleasure. It made Roarke throw caution to the wind and made him take total control over her body as he grabbed her hips and fucked her ass at practically 90 miles per hour. The speed of his thrusts began to increase when he pushed deeper onto the couch, to the point where she laid completely flat against the velvet couch, completely surrendering to her monster of a husband.

Eve felt Roarke's fingers interlace with hers, his hot breath down her neck, her moans ringing into his ears. All while the music played and the crowd danced without a care in the world. Eve could then feel Roarke's cock get even thicker against her ass, telling her he was ready to explode.

"ROARKE! I LOVE YOU!" Eve yelled as her orgasm exploded brutally around her body.

That was the trigger for Roarke to declare his love like a growling wolf as he emptied his seed into the tightness of her ass.

There had a been a brief reprieve that mostly involved Roarke giving both of them a bottled water and a two boosters. Knowing Eve's hesitation on taking any drugs, Roarke simply told her "I'm not even remotely finished yet."

ooooOOOOoooo

Batou watched Motoko move things to the center of the ridiculously large bed. Tossing aside his shirt, his slacks and boots following a moment later, he approached. Ropes of steel like muscle rippled beneath his skin and he was so very ready to join in the fun. Motoko’s kisses moved from Nikki’s mouth to her neck.

She loved the LC’s hungry keens of pleasure, every sound thrumming through her. Working her way over the soft honeyed flesh, her tongue teased a hot trail over pert nipples and when she latched on, she pushed a finger inside Nikki’s slick heat.

“Oh f-f-fuck!” Body bowing up, Nikki saw stars. Her orgasm ripped through her in a vicious storm, leaving her shaking. “More!” She begged, voice hoarse.

Motoko’s grin was nothing short of feral, “Oh, with pleasure.” Holding out a hand she accepted the toy Batou had retrieved.

A strap-on, the manhood feeling as close to the real thing, it fitted the Major easily, snug to her own heated core. Nikki watched through hooded eyes. Toys were not a new thing to her. Clients often added them for a hint of spice, but she had honestly never had a woman slip into a strap-on, eyes blazing and ready to mount her like a God damn bucking bronco. It was both terrifying and the hottest thing she’d ever seen in her life!

With a yelp, she grasped for purchase when Motoko suddenly grabbed her waist and rolled. On top now, Nikki tossed a glance back to Batou and noted an object in his hand. The sight of lube had her burning with want. “Oh, sugah,” she crooned, “Is that for little ol’ me?”

Batou chuckled lowly. “A spitfire,” he commented idly. “Gonna keep her busy for me, huh, Major?” A quick shift of her hips and Motoko loved the sounds and curses that fell from Nikki’s pillowy lips when she penetrated and filled her body.

The LC spread her thighs further apart and tilted forward, exposing her curvy ass to Batou. She knew exactly what he wanted and she was one hundred percent up for it. Batou twisted off the lid and poured a generous amount of the slick onto his fingers. She was quite tiny and his girth wasn’t exactly small.

Leaning over Nikki, he pressed a kiss to her shoulder, his gaze on Motoko. Her eyes were all smoldering heat and never looking away, Batou reached between Nikki’s cheeks, fingers teasing against her back entrance. Nikki bucked, crying out when it forced the strap-on deeper, bumping against her cervix. The mix of pain and pleasure left her toes curling. More, she wanted more! The wet digit rubbed and prodded and when Batou finally began to inch it inside, Nikki welcomed the burn.

One finger became two and finally three. It left Nikki panting, writhing between the pair, caught on the precipice of another orgasm. Unable to take it anymore, Batou coated himself in lube and moved behind her. Between one second and the next, he replaced his fingers, filling her with something more and how her ass sucked him in, just as hungry.

“HOLY SHIT!” The exclamation exploded out of Nikki in one breath, eyes wide. It felt so good! “F-Full, so full! Oh God!”

Hot all over, Motoko rolled her hips harder beneath the LC. The friction was sublime and when Batou started to move, forcing the girl to rut against her, well the Major all but saw stars. Faster and faster, frantic breaths mingled, curses and prayers filling the room. Kisses were stolen and when that familiar sensation rippled through her lower muscles, Motoko thrashed until with a curse her body tipped violently over that heavenly edge. Nikki was next, the orgasm so fierce it brought tears to her eyes. She flopped onto Motoko, no longer able to stay up, her body jerking with each of Batou’s plowing thrusts, until he too met his end. Completely spent, Batou rolled and let his body drop next to the pair so he wouldn’t crush them. Looking up, he caught Nikki grinning like a loon.

“Hell of a time, sugah, you can call on me whenever the hell you like!”

ooooOOOOoooo

Leaning against the privacy window again, face first, Eve felt her pussy being rubbed by one of Roarke's hands, his other hand grabbing her breast as they shared another heated kiss in front of the party being held at the club. They could see the dancers, but they couldn't see them, it was a very erotic feeling for both of them. Feeling the vibrations of the heavy bass music hitting her chest, added to the sensations of the pleasure she felt from his hands on her pussy.

In the middle of the pleasure though, Eve suddenly found herself being turned around to face her husband claiming her lips again in heated war of tongues, though she was more than happy to lose the round right now as she melted at the alpha side of Roarke's sexuality. Releasing his claim on her lips, Roarke began to kneel down to her warm and inviting pussy, he delved into her folds with his tongue. Eve arched her back, currently feeling vibrations against the privacy wall. He wasn't slow about it either as he alternated between licking the lips of her pretty pink pussy with his entire tongue and poking deep inside her just to give her another shuddering orgasm.

A series of orgasms she was more than happy to give as she began to slightly buck against his face. Orgasmic waves rolled over her body as she moaned her climax into her husbands mouth, a climax that would've made her get down on her knees had it not been for his strong hands pinning her to the wall. Feeling herself being grabbed again, Eve suddenly found herself, face first, back on the couch. Roarke then forcefully made her get on her hands and knees, and without warning, pressed his still hard cock into her tight wet pussy. The love was still there between them, but both of them knew that neither of them were in the mood for romantic foreplay, as he flexed his hips deep into her with every thrust, her whimpers only turning him on more.

It felt incredible to have him fill her up, slow, hard, fast. Anyway she wanted, basically, as he moved his hips like a beast. If Eve were to wake up in pain tomorrow, it'd be the most beautiful pain she would receive tonight. Finally reaching his Zenith, Roarke allowed himself to empty inside Eve's warm and willing pussy. Letting out as much seed as he did when he fucked her in the ass.

Eve then found herself being offered another drink of water from the half-empty water bottle, Roarke in turn finished off the water bottle when she accepted his offer. Roarke then offered Eve some wet wipes to remove some of the smudges of her black make-up that got wet during their sweaty rounds of sex.

"There she is," Roarke said when the makeup was gone.

"What you didn't like it?" Eve asked softly.

"On the contrary, I loved it, it made you look wild like a wolf."

"With what had been going on these past few days, I needed to let out some steam, you were go-to person for it."

"Why darling, that's so sweet."

"That's just me, being so sugar," Eve then finished that statement with a gentle kiss. "I love you."

"Tá mo chroí istigh ionat," he spoke in Irish. "My heart is within you."

"Anata wa watashi ga imamade hoshikatta mono subete, soshite sore ijō no monodesu." Eve whispered in his ear one of the many languages she learned from Motoko over the years.

"You definitely continue to surprise me, Darling."

"The feeling is mutual, Ace," Eve then let out a yawn of exhaustion and felt herself drift off to sleep in his warm arms.

 

Chapter Text

One week later

Prison had not been kind to him since Eve and Roarke had brought him down last year, a grudge that he had never let go. He used to have a wavy mane of dark hair tipped with silver wings, but his hair had grayed and thinned out to the point of bald spots showing. His body also began to sag and his skin to sallow. Max Ricker would almost be a shadow of his former self, if not for his eyes, still vital and vicious than ever before.

He still remembered the week prior when Lieutenant Dallas and Major Kusanagi appeared in his cell in Holo mode. Tremors were all over his body, a mix of shock, excitement, and a mix of fear. Seeing those two in his cell made him spring to try and strangle Eve as a way to get revenge. A move he immediately regretted when he passed through the holograms and scraped his hands on the wall when he threw them up to stop his forward motion.

The conversation mostly revolved around Eve and Motoko telling Max that he had been charged to conspiracy to murder of a police officer. He would be charged, convicted and given another life sentence.

"It still doesn't matter to me, the bitch is still dead," Max whispered to himself as he tossed and turned around his bunk bed.

"You're not wrong about that," came a female voice whispering to his ear. "And it will be the last of your kills."

Being stirred awake, Max opened his eyes to see a form of solid nothing. Motoko was still under camouflage but it was only at half of its full potential. She had snuck into the prison planet under complete camouflage and not once did anybody see her sneak into his cell and patiently wait for him to re-enter his cell and wait for lights out.

"Are you too cowardly to face me personally?" Max asked Motoko in defiance.

"Not as cowardly as you almost accepting a deal to make a little girl your permanent rape toy."

"I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Oh I think you do," Motoko lowered her voice to a quiet snarl. "But maybe I should refresh your memory."

Motoko dug out her thermoptic 'link and showed Max a picture of a man with brown hair and eyes, the face was almost a spitting image of the woman who had brought him down. "Does the name Richard Troy ring a bell for you?"

It took a few seconds but Max began to remember the name that had been associated with the face. The same face who had a daughter and he was planning to put said daughter into the child sex trade. Last he heard of Richard Troy, he went to Texas and no one had actually seen him since.

Seeing Max recognize the face, Motoko continued, "There's a saying that there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded lion being cornered. The same thing can be applied to a cub, when the lion kept raping the cub, the cub found a way to kill the adult lion."

The pieces fell together slowly for Max Ricker and as the last one fell into place, Motoko said, "I was the one who rescued that cub, I trained that cub to become the woman she is now. That same cub I found, was the same cub you were planning to rape just so her father could get money off her."

Suddenly Max felt himself being pinned to his bunk with the weight of 200 pound dumb-bells pressed against him. "You wanted to rape my little one, a poor defenseless child, I should have killed you for that alone. But I didn't because I wanted Eve to respect me as an honorable leader. I should have killed you after Eve and Roarke took you down, but I know Eve didn't want it. But Eve knows that you have crossed the line when you ruined the life of the man she calls her friend and she has agreed that now it's time to pay your debt to the devil."

Max felt the prick hit his wrist as Motoko gave him the injector needle and immediately began to feel his consciousness slipping away. "By the time the guards find you dead, the poison I gave you will already be long gone and no one will know that I was the one who killed you, farewell Max Ricker."

Motoko got back into full camouflage and easily slipped out of Ricker's cell and not once did she look back to see him die in his sleep.