Title: Choices 3C/?
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I spend a lot of time with them. This is gonna get dark folks, so consider yourselves warned. Archiving: P & P, DuVista, women_in_kevlar, all others please ask. Next in my series. Many thanks to AbbyLewis for betaing and Soul_Caged aka Complete_Machine for being my new writing partner
By the time five thirty rolled around, Miami was bathed a bronzed afterglow, traffic at a standstill, the hot wet blanket of humidity settling over the city like a blanket.
The Miami Port Authority office had closed for the night, but somehow, the chain had been clipped from the gates leaving them semi open, enough for a car to slip through. It was a silent invitation. The lights in the manager’s office were off, as were all the cameras that normally rotated in 360’ intervals.
Ryan drove to the designated location and stopped his car. Looking around for a moment, he didn’t see anyone so he started to get out of the car, when there was a voice that came from behind him as he opened the door.
“So you’re Officer Wolfe.” Came a whiskey dipped drawl from behind a container. A young woman in her mid twenties walked cautiously out from behind a giant tower of metal. Her hair was coal black, short and choppy, dressed casually, she held up both hands, open by her sides. Her face was half covered in black Oakley reflective sunglasses which only mirrored back Ryan’s reflection.
Ryan’s hand unconsciously inched towards his gun. “Yeah, and you are?”
The unknown stranger’s face morphed into a semi condescending smile, but she stopped a good distance away, her hands slowly spread out in front of her. Ryan noticed the stranger’s clothes, a black V-neck tee shirt with short sleeves that matched her black motorcycle boots, her legs were encased in artfully distressed denim jeans, and his mind marking everything in detail to report to Calleigh. He also noticed how the woman’s shirt had ridden up exposing abs a fitness model would be jealous of. He was only male after all. “I’m the person you came here to meet... Easy officer. I’m Cerano.”
“Cerano.... Do you have a last name?”
“That is my last name. Where I come from, that’s all you need to know.” Came the clipped reply. The tone of the reply brooked no room for disrespect or argument; it was a voice of complete control. She scratched her nose, yawning slightly.
Over the strangers shoulder, Ryan noticed a black SUV. To simply call it an SUV would be a gross understatement. The glossy black range rover sat slightly lower than practicality would allow, with large black racing rims, and black windows, no chrome was showing, everything was black. How fitting Ryan thought sarcastically. He knew nothing about the girl, and she showed up in what was referred to as a “murdered out” vehicle. The fully loaded vehicle looked just as mean and dangerous as the driver in the late afternoon sun. His eyes flashed to the license plate trying to memorize the numbers, his hand still inching towards his gun. His eyes flicked back to the woman, her freckles that dusted across her button nose, her confident stance.
Ryan took a deep breath and he put his hands upon his hips on the inside of his jacket. “Well, Cerano, this isn’t old home week, and I don’t know where you’re from, but I’ve had one hell of a day, so I need you to indulge me. What is your full name?”
The girl set her mouth in a firm line, but her body language never shifted from its cautious stance between him and the street-racing machine behind her. “I’m not known for my faith in the law. Forgive me if I’m hesitant in spilling anything personal. You have to give a little to get a little, suga’.” She crossed her arms across her chest. Ryan watched the muscles in her flex and shift, then he noticed the fine lines of scars that crisscrossed her knuckles, forearms and biceps, they were razor thin, but visible to a seasoned eye.
Ryan mimicked her actions, staring at her a long while before he came to a decision. “Ok, let’s try this. My friend, Calleigh DuVista called a mutual friend, Jen and asked her if she could help her out with a friend of ours who has gone underground, and she recommended you. Calleigh trusts Jen, whom I am guessing that you do also or you wouldn’t be here. So since there is mutual respect for at least one person in this group, let’s cut to the chase and get started.”
“Ready when you are Wolfe-man.” Cerano replied as she walked towards him, pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, checking for any text messages from Jen. Wolfe didn’t necessarily make her nervous, not many people could intimidate her, but he was a cop, and that was the deal breaker. She pushed the phone back into her pocket and looked at him sideways, waiting.
“We need you to find a cop who is having some medical issues and has gone underground. He is a trained CSI, and knows how to cover his tracks.”
Cerano nodded slightly, her arms uncrossed and she unconsciously rubbed the back of her left forearm, thinking to herself for a moment. “I need a current photo of him, what does he drive, license plate numbers, basic info. What kind of medical issues are we talking about here?” Cerano’s voice was all business in a flick of the wrist. “As for the ‘Trained CSI and knows how to cover his tracks’... everyone slips up.” She finished flashing a tight vicious smile.
Reaching inside his car, Ryan pulled out Eric’s duffle bag and placed it on the ground between them. “This has everything that you might need. His name is Eric Delko, and he has a bullet floating around in his brain causing personality changes.”
Cerano leaned over slightly and nudged the bag open with a toe, bending down, she picked up the medical files flipping them open pulling out an x ray. “Wow, I’ve only read about stuff like this... from what I know, which isn’t much, he is headed down hill, fast.” She closed the file dropping it back into the bag but not before pulling out a photo and examining it from behind her mirrored sunglasses.
“That’s what we are afraid of. He has changed drastically in the last month and now is threatening people that he cares about.”
“It won’t be a problem finding someone who’s in this kind of condition. Do you want him wrapped up like a gift basket or tied up like a hog?” She asked grimly after putting the photo back in the bag and zipping it up.
Ryan took an unconscious step towards the dark woman in frustration. “We just need to have him found so that we can get him the help that he needs. We’re afraid that... we just don’t know what he’ll do next. He’s already assaulted Calleigh and Natalia, and he may do it again. We just don’t know.”
Cerano didn’t even budge an inch at Ryan’s invasion; her smile disappeared however. “I’m sorry. I had no idea. Are they okay?” Her voice was quiet as she looked down before looking back up at Ryan. She wasn’t going to apologize, but she was being contrite, knowing she had over stepped her bounds. “And if you’re worried about me, don’t be. I can handle myself.”
“I’m sure that you can. I just want you to understand how important this is. Eric isn’t a bad guy, he’s just in a lot of, probably mental pain, but it’s not just affecting him. Calleigh is worried that he’s going to go after Natalia, and I’m worried that he going to attack Calleigh again. There are just too many variables to contend with here.” Ryan brushed his hand through his hair while turning away.
Cerano hesitated; it wasn’t in her nature to be caring, warm, or affectionate at all. Quite the contrary, she was a Cerano, for God’s sake. Her family did their job, neatly, efficiently, deadly at times, but they were uninvolved with their work. This was dangerous territory and her gut was screaming at her, so she squashed her feelings. “Wolfe... I promise.” She fought the urge to put a hand on his back; he was obviously troubled. “I will find him. As for him attacking Calleigh and Natalia, I may have a little fix for that.” She smiled evilly.
The young man looked at this strange woman in a manner reminisce of his Lieutenant, from the side. “Cerano, we don’t want him hurt. We want to get him help, but on the other hand, we do want you to take every precaution in protecting yourself.” Leveling a hard gaze at the mirrored glasses, Ryan’s voice lowered. “I don’t care what you have to do, but I want you protect Calleigh and Natalia at all cost. If it comes between them and Eric, I want you to choose them. If you need anything, text me. I’ll get you whatever I can.”
“When I’m not tracking Eric, I will be watching Calleigh and Natalia personally. As for when I’m not around, I have other sets of eyes.” Cerano placed her hands together, looking at Ryan from behind reflective black surfaces, she sighed. “I can’t guarantee he won’t be harmed when I finally bring him to you, but I will bring him to you.” She smiled tightly, turning around on her heel, grabbing the black duffel bag, striding towards her car with a smooth confident gait.
“Before you go, I don’t know if you watch or listen to the news, but both Calleigh and Natalia were involved in a bank robbery this afternoon, and Calleigh was injured.”
Cerano halted her stride, her head turning sharply to the side; she hesitated slightly before turning slightly to face him. She hated cops, loathed them to her very core. Her hand unconsciously ran up and over the brutal scar that extended from under her right ear three inches to the middle of her jaw. “A bank robbery? Really?” Her voice was not mocking, just astonished.
Running his hand through his hair, Ryan grimaced. “Yeah, bad luck seems to follow those two around. Also, our Lieutenant told us that Eric called in and asked for some personal time off. Calleigh kind of lied to him, saying that Eric had not looked himself when she saw him last and maybe he had the swine flu.”
The smirk that burst its way onto Cerano’s face was obvious. Even though she probably had a million things to respond with, she kept her own counsel and chose to say anything, except then a quiet chuckle.
“Anyway, Horatio asked me to go by his place to check up on him, so I was wondering if you would like to back me up. There may be more there that could help you out.”
“I’ll follow your lead Wolfe Man, but only because there is a very slim chance he’s there. His paranoia won’t let him rest for too long.” Cerano offered casually, agreeing to go along. She’d tracked cops before, even the occasional federal agent; CSI’s however were a whole different breed of demon in her professional opinion.
Nodding his head, Ryan suggested. “Ok, so why don’t you follow me over to his townhouse.”
“That’s fine, when we get there, I’ll pull around back, you have an official reason for being there, I don’t.” Cerano mentioned sarcastically almost, she climbed into the SUV shutting the door and set the duffel bag on the floorboard.
The two unlikely associates were soon headed towards Eric’s townhouse, and true to her word, Cerano pulled into the back alley while Ryan went and knocked on the front door. Not getting an answer, he used the spare key that he had and went inside. He quickly made his way through the dark house to open the back door.
After cutting the engine, Cerano had opened the glove box, pulled out custom-made leather driving gloves, slipped them on, then reached under her seat pulling out a 9mm handgun. She silently slipped out of the vehicle, quietly stole through the back alley and through the back door, tucking the pistol into the back of her jeans.
As soon as she entered the town home, Cerano could tell how mentally disturbed Eric had truly become. What was once a tastefully decorated home was now piled high with debris, papers, trash, furniture had been knocked over and holes had been punched in walls.
“Man, this place looks like a hurricane went through it. Trust me, Eric is a neat freak. Everything in its place.” Ryan looked around with a worried face.
Cerano pulled the gun out from the back of her jeans, she moved through the house quietly, if Delko was home, she didn’t want to be pounced on and caught unawares by a mentally disturbed CSI. She checked each room efficiently and quietly until she stumbled upon a locked door. “Wolfe, I found something...” she trailed off.
Quickly Ryan joined her at the locked door. “This dead bolt is new. This door shouldn’t have a lock on it at all. I guess that I’ll have to bust it in.”
“No wait, if Delko returns and finds a busted door, he’s going to know we know about him. Surprise is the key in hunting...” Cerano trailed off as she knelt on one knee, pulling out a small black pouch out of her pocket. She unfolded the kit on her knee pulling out small silver tools, inserting them in the lock quietly. Within seconds, she had the door unlocked and it creaked ominously swinging open. Cerano stood up packing up her miniature tool kit and slipping it back into her pocket.
Ryan shook his head in admiration at the speed at which the young woman performed the action all the while muttering, “I did not see that, I did not see that.”
Cerano suppressed the laugh she knew was coming, choosing instead to cough into her hand. She clicked on the flashlight she’d brought, and walked into the room. An entire room had been dedicated to different pictures of Calleigh and Natalia together. Sometimes they were apart, sometimes they were at work or home, sometimes they had clothes on... sometimes they didn’t. Cerano’s temper snapped at intrusive photos of the women’s private moments, she turned away looking at other pictures.
Ryan pulled out his own flashlight, clicked it on, and was caught off guard by the walls plastered in photos. He walked closer, trying to pick one to look at; his eye was drawn to a large picture of Calleigh and Natalia together. They were outside work, in their own backyard kissing on the porch. Natalia's face in the photo had been burnt out, her body shredded with a knife. Calleigh however remained un-maimed in the photo.
The flashlight, slipped from his hand as he struggled to comprehend what he was looking at. Bending down, he was reaching for the light, when he caught a glimpse of another photo. This was a picture of the two women, riding their horses on a beach. The horses were walking close enough that Calleigh was leaning over to give Natalia a kiss.
“This is borderline, Wolfe...” Cerano muttered, looking at the pictures pinned to every surface of the wall. Delko was ruthless in his pursuit to take their photographs. He was tracking them, hunting them, toying with them like a lion with a mouse.
Ryan’s eyes flew over the pictures, stopping at some while averting his eyes at others. “They are going to be…. I don’t have words to describe how mad Calleigh and Natalia are going to be... I’m speechless. I didn’t think that he was this bad.”
Cerano was thinking quietly, scrutinizing each picture, she noticed a particular detail. “I’ll tell them, you don’t have to let yourself get skinned for it...Wolfe, look at these photos.” Cerano pointed out. “This set was taken from about two to three hundred feet away.” She grabbed another set off the wall. “These are at about one hundred and fifty feet.” She grabbed the close ups. “These are so close he could smell their perfume. He’s getting braver.”
“Yeah, I actually figured that out yesterday, and confirmed it today. He trapped Natalia in a back hallway last night and tried to kiss her, and then this morning, attacked Calleigh in the back parking lot.” Ryan turned to face the door. “No, I’ll tell them. They deserve to hear this from me.”
Cerano shrugged, but filed the information about Delko’s most recent attacks. If she could provoke him into attacking her when she caught up with him, it would be simple to disarm him, she wasn’t as helpless as most women were, even if they were cops.
“Is there a way that you can have someone watch this place in case he comes back? I don’t think that he will, but I guess that I really don’t know him as well as I thought?”
Cerano nodded slipping out her blackberry, she texted the address and a photo of Delko to some of her friends on the street. Within seconds, a conformation email had been returned saying the house would be under surveillance within the next hour. “Some people I know will be here within the hour to sit on the house.” She slipped the phone back into her pocket examining the room. “I think he’s still coherent enough to play games, though I don’t think he understands his actions fully.”
“I agree… I gotta get out of this room.” Ryan walked out, leaving the young woman in there.
Cerano watched him leave. Walking up close to the window looking out over the neighborhood Cerano sighed, she turned back to the photos of Calleigh and her wife. There was no way in this life or the next she was going to let anything happen to either one of them. She swore it.
Walking outside with Ryan, Cerano turned to look at him. "Tomorrow at Officer DuVista's house, text me the time and we can meet. Discuss strategies." She closed the door behind her, relocking it with her pick from her kit.
“That’s good for me. I’ll call them in the morning and find out the time.” Hesitating, Ryan came to a decision. Turning to the young woman, he held out his hand. “I don’t know who you are, or your full name, but I want to thank you for helping my friends. You have your reasons for not trusting the police, but I thank you for trusting me the amount that you have. If you need anything, just call.”
Cerano hesitated not out of hatred or even rudeness, but out of fear and caution. She slowly grasped Ryan's hand in a firm handshake, her black eyes boring into his. "Officers take an oath to uphold and protect. It's not safe for Delko to be out there in his mental condition. My trust comes with my loyalty; you haven't earned either... yet." She smiled at him warmly for the first time.
Nodding his head, Ryan simply stated. “Fair enough, now let’s get out of here and I’ll contact you tomorrow.”
He followed the young woman to the back door, locking it after she exited, before going out the front door, making sure and everything was secure. With one final look at the townhome, Ryan got into his car and drove away.
The next few hours were a flurry of activity for the two women. As soon as Calleigh arrived at the ER, she was examined, x-rayed and it was diagnosed that she had two fractured ribs. They gave her something for the pain, before they started taping up the ribs. The medication lessened the pain, but she was still very uncomfortable while they were working on her, but soon she was taped up and just waiting for Natalia to come pick her up.
During all this time, Natalia was being grilled by Internal Affairs on the robbery, and on the shooting. They repeatedly asked the same questions again and again, and she gave them the same answered until she was fed up.
“Listen, I’ve said the same thing over and over, and you’ve seen the tape, so unless there is something new you want to ask, I’m out of here.” Natalia stood up, turned to her union rep and thanked him for showing up. Nodding to the two dark suits that had stolen three hours away from her life, Natalia left the room, and gathered both her and Calleigh’s personal items from their lockers before heading to the hospital.
After asking for her wife and getting her condition, Natalia quickly made her way over to the curtained off area, drawing the material aside, and slipped in. The first thing that she saw was that Calleigh was sound asleep, with a sheet covering her chest. The second thing that she couldn’t help, but notice was the large bruise she had on her bicep. Frowning, she remembered back to the robbery, but didn’t remember Calleigh being grabbed there.
All of a sudden, the guilty looks that Calleigh and Ryan had shared at the ambulance made sense.
Calleigh whimpered slightly in her sleep, her body shifting slightly before realizing its own pain, and quieting down. It was Natalia’s name that she was whimpering.
Natalia bit down on her own anger at Calleigh’s cover up, Ryan’s omission of the lie, and Eric’s brazen insanity. He would burn in the darkest depths of hell for what he was doing to her wife. Natalia walked up quietly, laying her hand on Calleigh’s forehead, tracing away the worry lines that were present, even mid-dream.
At her wife’s touch, Calleigh’s eyes fluttered open, and she looked around dazedly before focusing on the beauty standing next to her. “Hey darlin’, are you here to get me out of here?”
“Yes I am baby...” Natalia’s voice trailed off, her fingertips tracing down Calleigh’s brow, over her collarbone, bypassing her favorite pieces of the blonde, her touch drifted over the bruise on her bicep and halted. “...but first we need to talk.”
Looking down, Calleigh swallowed as she knew that she was going to have one very unhappy spouse in a few minutes. She struggled to sit up, gasping lightly in pain, but took a deep breath to gather her courage. “Um.... I was going to tell you about it tonight, honest. I didn’t want to do it at work.”
Natalia sighed sadly. Her gaze broke away from Calleigh’s staring out a nearby window. She stayed silent for a long few minutes before speaking quietly. “..What happened, Calleigh?”
Silence filled the room briefly as Calleigh tried to decide how much to tell her. “I had forgotten my spare clothes, so I went back out to the car to get them. Eric drove up while I was there, and things got out of hand. He grabbed me by the arm, and then he punched me, before driving off. I called Ryan to help me out, so he did. There’s more, but this isn’t the place for us to discuss it.”
It mentally took everything in Natalia not to snap, and start screaming. Calleigh was right; it wasn’t the time or the place. She clenched her fists, and lifted up the gym bag from the floor containing a button up shirt for Calleigh, a pair of sweat pants with some flip-flops to put her feet in.
“What about you? Are you going to tell me what happened yesterday with Eric?”
Natalia’s rage vanished into thin air, she walked closer to the bed, laying her hand on top of Calleigh’s, squeezing it tightly. Her voice was tiny and full of shame. “Eric... caught me in the hallway... words were exchanged, he almost kissed me if Ryan hadn’t interrupted him.”
“He had me pinned against the wall... I couldn’t get away.” Natalia hid herself behind a caramel curtain, the incident with Eric weighed heavily upon her mind reminding her too much of Nick and his brutal ways.
Calleigh was in the process of swinging her legs over the side of the stretcher when she froze, clinching her jaw and green eyes growing hard in anger. Breathing through her nose, she struggled to reign in her anger. Forget it, Eric was a walking dead man.
Natalia noticed Calleigh’s change of body language, and put her hands on her chest pushing her back down. “Stop, you’re going to hurt yourself, and now isn’t the time or place baby...” Pleading with her wife, Natalia tried to get her to calm down so she could change, and they could leave the hospital, growing tired of all their time spent in them.
Breathing slowly, Calleigh ground out. “You’re right. Help me change, and we’ll go home to talk.”
Placing her hand on the blonde’s cheek, she leveled Calleigh with a searing, chocolate gaze. She just wanted to let Calleigh know that she SAW her. She was with her every step of the way, no matter what, they were in this together.
Leaning forward carefully, Calleigh gently brushed her lips against her wife’s. “We’ll get through this, darlin’. Let’s just get home.”
Natalia nodded without a word, and began pulling the sheet off her wife. She knew at first glance, that not all of these bruises came from the robbery, a majority of them came from Eric. The thought made her ears roar in anger, and her jaw tightened, but still she knew it wasn’t the place for such an outburst. Dressing Calleigh quickly, and painlessly as possible, she helped her off the table.
After checking out, Natalia carefully helping the blonde into her car, and they were soon on their way home. The drive was short, but by the time they pulled into the garage, Calleigh was asleep.
Natalia quickly opened the kitchen door, setting down their things, and ran into the bedroom getting the bed ready so Calleigh could sleep. She knew after the day they’d both been through, sleep was key to revival. She knew the gist of things with Eric. The finer details could wait until morning. Walking back to the car, she silently opened the passenger side door kneeling next to her wife. “Baby… we’re home, wake up.” her voice was soft and gentle.
“Hmm, oh ok... sorry, darlin’, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” Calleigh brushed her face with her hand, trying to wake herself up.
Natalia captured her hand in her own kissing the knuckles before easing her gently out of the vehicle, and into her arms. “Shhh baby, it’s okay, I’ve got you, let’s go to bed.” Natalia kissed the top of her wife’s blonde hair, smiling at the scent she knew by memory already.
Slowly the two women, made their way into their home, and into their bedroom. Calleigh slowly sat down on the edge of the bed, slipping off the flip-flops, and groaning.
Natalia eased her back into the bed, she quickly slid off the sweat pants and shirt, kissing her wife’s cheek, and slid into bed next to her.
Muttering, Calleigh turned her head to bury her nose in caramel hair. “I love you, Talia. I’m sorry about not telling you. I just wanted to protect you, that’s all.”
“I know, but you can protect me and share things with me at the same time Cal...” Natalia ran her fingers over Calleigh’s beautiful face. “You’re only one woman.”
Chuckling sleepily, Calleigh couldn’t resist saying. “Thank you pot for calling the kettle black. Right back at you.”
“Hush... we are more than two peas on a pod, Angel, we are two souls sharing one life.” Natalia kissed Calleigh’s nose softly. “Go to sleep my love, we can talk in the morning.”
Slowly moving closer to her wife, Calleigh was asleep before she could make a reply.
Natalia ran her hands up and down Calleigh’s back, her aching body begging for rest, she slowly joined her wife in slumber.