Chance Harper was already worried by the time he stepped off the plane in Toronto that night. Very worried. The flight had been uneventful, which either meant that his luck had suddenly gone away--though that was unlikely--or that something even weirder than normal was waiting for him somewhere in the city. At least, he hoped it was the latter. He had to admit, if his luck ever did decide to abandon him, he'd be a very bored man. It's much easier to go from a normal life to an eventful one than the other way around.
When he had gotten his bags, rented his car and left the parking garage, all still without incident, Chance really became concerned. If something didn't happen soon, he was going to stop in the middle of the road and wait for it to.
At that moment, a car came out of nowhere and smashed into him, driving the rental into the side of the alley and crumpling its expensive hood against the bricks like wax paper. Chance's first thought was one of triumphant delight--he was right, his gift hadn't abandoned him after all--but it was quickly followed by the sickening realization that his almost brand-new rental car had just been rendered useless.
A second later, a blue classic Cadillac convertible came screeching around the corner. It pulled to an abrupt halt, and the two men in the car jumped out. They yelled something at the driver of the vehicle that had hit him, waving guns in that direction. Apparently they were with the police, because the other man slowly got out and put his hands on top of the car. The shorter and heavier of the two officers, whose hair was already in an advanced state of recession, cuffed the driver. The other one, a thin man with dark blond hair and a pale complexion, approached the smashed rental car.
"Are you all right?" he asked, his voice filled with genuine concern.
Chance nodded, reaching down to open the door. It was jammed.
"I'd be fine if I could get out," he muttered with a smile.
Returning the smile, the cop reached down and gave a sharp tug to the door. It came open almost too easily, and the photographer stumbled out.
The other cop approached them, leading the man in handcuffs. He whistled at the sight of Chance's car--or rather, his former car. It looked more like a TV dinner wrapped in tinfoil now. "If you'd pulled into that intersection a second earlier, he probably would have broadsided you. You're are one lucky man, mister."
Chance smiled mysteriously. "So I've been told." He raised a hand in greeting to the man who had helped him out of the car. "I'm Chance Harper."
"Detective Nick Knight. This is my partner, Don Schanke."
"Pleased to meet you," Schanke contributed. "Now, excuse me while I go book this guy." He disappeared in the direction of a police car which had apparently also been a part of the chase.
"I'm sorry about your car," Nick offered. "Would you like to use my cell phone to call a tow truck?"
Chance nodded. "And the rental company, if you don't mind. I'm just glad I bought the insurance." He flashed the detective a carefree grin.
This elicited a faint smile from the other man. "It's a rental car?"
He nodded again. "Just picked it up at the airport about ten minutes ago."
"Well, if it's any help, I will vouch for the fact that the accident was in no way your fault."
Chance stifled a chuckle. I wouldn't be so sure about that, knowing my luck... "I'd appreciate it. Thanks."
Nick handed the other man his cell phone, then walked over to speak with Schanke while Chance dialed the number of the rental agency. A few moments later, the photographer approached the two detectives. The look on his face was somehow frustrated, relieved, upset and pleased at the same time. Nick was speaking with one of the officers in the squad car, so Chance directed his next words to the other cop.
"They're coming to get the car, but they won't give me a new one for a couple of days. Which leaves me without transportation in the interim." He sounded almost amused.
Schanke grimaced. "Tough break. Kinda spoils the vacation plans, huh?"
Chance smiled. Vacation wasn't usually a word he associated with himself, since it implied relaxation and relative calm. "Actually, I'm here on a business trip, sort of."
"What kind of business?"
"I'm a freelance photographer. I'm working on a photo essay."
Schanke nodded, looking up as Nick approached them. "The kid's without wheels for a couple of days."
Nick nodded. "I could give you a ride to your hotel, if you like. As long as you don't mind coming to the precinct with us first."
Chance agreed readily. "That'll be fine."
Grinning, Schanke slapped him firmly on the back. "Great! Then we can all go out for souvlaki afterwards!"
(The precinct, later that night)
Nick and Schanke led the photographer into the bustling precinct. Following close behind them were two uniformed officers with the man they'd just arrested...thanks to Chance.
"Why don't you tell Cohen about our guest here? I, um, have to talk to Nat," Nick told his partner as he spotted the coroner talking with another officer. Schanke led Chance into Amanda Cohen's office, trying to decide how to tell her about the photographer's intriguingly integral role in catching the suspect in the O'Shea case. His partner approached Natalie and the female officer she was speaking to.
"Who's your friend?" the M.E. asked.
"Friend?" Nick echoed.
"The guy who came in with you and Schanke..." Nat shot him a questioning look.
"Oh, him! His name is Chance Harper. He's a photographer from Seattle." He explained how Chance had inadvertently helped them catch the guy they were chasing. "I offered to give him a lift to the hotel after work tonight," he concluded.
The coroner shook her head, laughing. "The poor guy. First night in town and he's wrecked his rental car, apprehended a criminal, and now he has to put up with you!" The other officer giggled slightly at their banter, but Nick began to frown. Seeing his frown, Nat sobered a bit. "I was joking, Nick. Lighten up, would you?"
Still looking uncomfortable, he said, "I'd like to talk to you, Nat...if you can spare a moment." He smiled at the other cop and walked away.
"Geez! What's gotten into him?" Nat asked her friend, who shrugged.
(an empty office)
"What did you want to talk about?" she asked as Nick closed the door firmly behind them.
"About what happened Saturday." He didn't look directly at her.
Saturday had been on Nat's mind as well, but probably for a different reason. They'd spent the day in the loft, watching movies and talking. Nick had been in an exceptionally warm and friendly mood...and then they'd kissed. The kiss had been something they'd both wanted, or at least that's how it seemed to her. But just as it was getting good and she thought they'd finally have some form of intimacy, he pushed her away and ordered her to leave. She'd protested, but he kept insisting. Then she did leave, angrily telling him she wouldn't be back for a long while. That had been five days ago.
And Nick just now wants to talk about it? "What happened Saturday, Nick? Refresh my memory." Nat's voice was harsh.
"I...I didn't mean for it to work out that way. But..." Now he looked at her, hurt and frustration in his eyes. "We shouldn't have kissed, Nat. It was wrong. I could hurt you."
"Nick, you say that all the time! It was a kiss. One simple kiss, and a nice one at that. I enjoyed it, why can't you?"
"Because I can't let myself. Not with you, Nat. Not until I'm mortal again."
"But you can let yourself with Janette? Don't think I don't know why you spend so much time at the Raven, Nick. I know full well that every time we get a little too close for your comfort you go running to her." Nat's eyes flashed.
"Leave Janette out of this!" Nick's eyes were glowing, and he had to fight off the beast within him. "Janette is my friend, Nat. What should it matter if I go to her for comfort?"
"If comfort was all you went to her for, it wouldn't matter," she spat at him.
Catching the innuendo and feeling guilty at the truth of it, Nick turned and left abruptly. The door slammed shut behind him.
Sinking down into a chair behind the empty desk, Nat began to cry. I shouldn't have pushed the issue. It needed to be said, but I really shouldn't have pushed it. Why couldn't I have just let him apologize?
Nick was lost in thought as he drove Chance to his hotel. Thoughts of Natalie, Saturday and Janette floated through his mind. He paused on the thought of Janette. She could always ease his troubled blood. No one else could do that.
Sighing, he tried to push the frustration he'd been carrying around for five days aside. But he knew he couldn't. If it weren't for Chance, he would go to the Raven to see her tonight. He'd feel better then.
"Um, Knight? I asked you a question." Chance's voice broke into Nick's thoughts.
"Hmmm?" Nick asked.
"I asked if you could help me with my shoot. I'm doing a photo essay comparing the night life here in Canada with what it's like in the U.S. I was wondering if you might be familiar with a few of the hot spots in the area."
"Hot spots? Clubs?" The question led him back to thinking about Janette. He smiled dreamily.
"Yeah, clubs. You know of any?" Chance was starting to think there was something odd about this cop. He'd been in the precinct long enough to see Nick lock himself in the office with the M.E., then storm out of it a few minutes later. After that, the rumors that started flying around were as easy to pick up as shells on the beach. So did they or didn't they have a thing going? And what about this odd silence?
"Um...yeah. The Raven. I'm going there tomorrow on my night off. I could pick you up if you'd like." The cop pulled up in front of the hotel. "Need help with your luggage?" he asked.
"No, I can manage...and sure, I'd love to see the Raven. What time?"
They set a time for Nick to show up and Chance disappeared inside the hotel. Nick went home, still occupied by thoughts of Janette.