Crossing the Line - Part Two
Pushing Back the Shadows
Written by M. the Cat
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. The characters belong to their various creators: Buena Vista Television / The Walt Disney Company and The Gargoyles Saga, and they are used without their express knowledge or consent.
Author’s note: The following is based on the Madame Destine story "Kaleidoscope Eyes" and follows the introductory chapter "Prelude". However it isn’t set in the universe of Madame Destine or any other ficverse. It occupies a place and time of its own.
Thanks to Mooncat for setting me off on this little tangent.
* * * * *
I entered the precinct just as the shift change began even though I’d left home hours before. I needed time to think so I walked to work and stopped for dinner at a little steakhouse along the way. I hadn’t seen Elisa since the French fry incident and I was worried that things might be weird between us. That night when we returned to the precinct she acted kind of distant while we were finishing up our paperwork and she didn’t offer me a ride home at the end of shift.
She was there. She held her face cradled in her hands. Her hair had fallen forward to obscure her features. Pieces of a case file were spread out on her desk.
"Something up?" I asked as I reached our shared desks. I shucked my trench coat, dumped it over my chair and moved to stand behind her.
"Matt." She seemed nervous at my proximity so I stepped back a little to give her space. I don’t think I’d startled her by peering over her shoulder because she’d looked up as soon as I’d addressed her. But maybe her thoughts were on the file in front of her. I’d done that myself from time to time when I’d been trying to place a name or M.O. that sounded familiar. She shoved the paperwork back into the jacket and picked up a call sheet. "Captain just handed this to me. It’s an armored car robbery."
"The perps were wearing clown masks," I anticipated as she finished the short report. I sighed, exasperated. "What, again?"
"Yeah, so let’s move it." She pushed me gently out of the way as she got to her feet. "Three this week is a bit much even for this town."
We hustled for the car and rolled on the call just as new information came over the radio. A patrol unit was in pursuit of the hijacked armored car. I acknowledged the call and informed them we were rolling, as did several other units. Elisa was in perfect form dodging smoothly through early evening traffic, lights and sirens blazing, on an intercept course.
We caught up with them at Madison Square Garden just as all hell broke loose. The armored car had overturned and the three clown-masked stick up men were using it as cover as they sprayed submachine gun fire at the patrol unit that had managed to pick up their trail.
"Damn," I muttered.
I grabbed the mic and requested SWAT and an ambulance. Elisa killed the lights and siren. We glanced at each other, rolled past the crime scene and around the corner.
She double-parked. We unbelted and got out of the car.
There was another tattoo burst followed by the pop of a smaller caliber weapon. "Vests, Elisa," I reminded as she drew her service revolver.
She gave me an aggrieved look but reached into the car and punched the trunk release. I tossed hers to her and added Kevlar to my ensemble. It wasn’t snappy, but it might save both our lives.
"Let’s move," she said softly and we were on our way.
We did the only thing we could do. We snuck up on the clowns from behind them and took up firing positions. Three fingers up in the air. I nodded and when the third finger dropped we moved like a precision machine. We rushed the three bad guys and I was relieved to see one of them was already down. That evened the odds a little. Now we only had two nutcases with superior firepower.
We yelled "Freeze Police!" at the same time. Clown number 1’s gun swung around and we both fired. His submachine gun went flying but he stayed on his feet, pulled another gun out of his waistband and brought it into firing position. He drew on me and Elisa fired again. This time he went down and stayed there.
Our distraction gave our brother officer an opening and he dropped the final suspect with a neat slug that probably broke his collarbone. His agonized cry was lost in the wail of sirens as the rest of the rescue party finally arrived. The whole thing seemed like it went on forever, but had probably only lasted a minute. My heart was racing as we moved in to cuff the wounded suspects.
We kept our guns drawn as we approached just in case they were still feeling frisky but the gun battle seemed to have knocked the starch out of them. The guy with the collar shot was lying on his back moaning. I peeled back his mask and told him not to move. He looked at me. I looked at him. I asked him if he understood me and he nodded, so I read him his rights.
The other two were silent. Elisa moved in and pulled back the rubber mask of the suspect she’d dropped. "Just a kid," she said softly.
I looked over and swore. Not only just a kid - a girl kid. Teenage female. Approximately seventeen years old - dead on scene. The press was going to have a field day.
I checked the other perp. A boy, maybe a year or two older, with a striking resemblance to both the girl and their wounded comrade. All three were blue-eyed, towheaded and thin lipped. The type you expected to see skateboarding down Fifth Avenue.
"I guess they decided to keep it in the family." Elisa’s voice was calm but it dripped anger. She turned on the wounded man. "Was this your idea?"
He glared at her. "I’m not saying anything."
Elisa stalked away. And when I looked up she had her arm around the patrol officer who was sitting on the pavement trying not to cry over his fallen partner.
It was a given that the rest of the shift would be pretty much burned doing debriefing and paperwork. We had discharged our weapons and that meant an extra ream of reports. Elisa and the uniformed cop, Perkins, had killed suspects. That was another ream apiece. We relinquished control of the crime scene to other detectives and emergency personnel and waited for the duty captain.
It wasn’t much of a wait, just long enough for the excess adrenaline to start to seep out of my system and give me the shakes. I looked up to check on Elisa and the patrolman. She had handed him off to a paramedic and she was standing very quiet and stiff. Every so often her glance would stray to the dead kids and then she would look away. A paramedic approached and she rebuffed him. He argued and she stood her ground. I did the same. By the time the EMTs had packed up and the medical examiners moved in, the duty captain finished instructing the crime scene investigators and he motioned to us. Elisa and I went to check in.
His name was O’Hanlon and I didn’t know him well. He took our names and badge numbers and then a burly detective lumbered up to me and I took that as a hint that he wanted to talk to Elisa alone.
It’s all part of procedure. Everyone is interviewed separately as soon as possible after an incident. They used to give us forty-eight hours to calm down. Now you’re lucky if you get four. The probability was the union rep with an attorney in tow would meet us when we were finally allowed to return to the precinct.
I watched as O’Hanlon bent his balding head to listen intently to Elisa. He asked a couple of questions, apparently trying to clarify things in his mind. An evidence technician approached and O’Hanlon waved her away. Evidently, Elisa would be allowed to keep her gun. You can’t always tell, some of these guys are careful to the point of paranoid. He said something else and she replied before O’Hanlon dismissed Elisa and motioned me to join him.
So I told the brief tale of the clowns with machine guns twice. O’Hanlon seemed satisfied and said he’d talk with me again later after the reports had been typed up.
A news van screeched to a halt just in front of the police barricade and the crew tumbled out. Nichole St. John wasn’t far behind them though she moved at a much more dignified pace. She smoothed her perfect blonde hair while the lights and camera guys did their set up.
I whistled at Elisa. She looked up from the pavement, made an irritated face and cocked her head toward the car. We walked rapidly away from the crime scene and the sanctimonious Ms St. John. Elisa dug the keys from her pocket and handed them to me.
I unlocked the passenger side first and held the door as she slipped out of her Kevlar vest and bomber jacket and got into the old Fairlane. Once she was settled I closed the door, opened the trunk, removed my own vest and stowed our gear. I was cold despite the warm night and wished for my coat still hanging over my chair at the office. I hurried and took my spot behind the wheel.
I cranked the engine over and turned on the heater. Elisa was starting to tremble in earnest. We’d only gotten a couple of blocks when she folded in on herself and began to shake uncontrollably.
Shock. It hits us all in different ways. The only thing that was keeping me going was I needed to get us back to the 23rd.
I pulled into an alley, switched off the lights and killed the engine. She didn’t seem to notice as I scooted across the length of the bench and pulled her into my arms. She buried her head against my chest and my cheek ended up next to hers as she took deep wracking breaths.
"Easy Elisa," I murmured. I patted her awkwardly biting back the endearments that threatened to spill out of me. I wanted to call her ‘honey’. I wanted to tell her ‘It’s okay, sweetheart. Don’t be afraid to let it out.’ But I didn’t dare. She was in danger of hyperventilating. I didn’t want her to pass out on me and I didn’t want her to pull away. "Shhhh. It’s gonna be okay."
And it probably would be eventually.
For a while, I just held her as the stress reaction took its toll. My hand started moving of its own volition rubbing her back through the thin material of her black tee shirt in small, slow, circles. Her breathing became less explosive and I found myself relaxing too. Her holster was an impediment, so I worked the straps off her shoulders and out of my way and began to stroke along her spine. I felt the tension start to ebb as her taut muscles relaxed under my palm.
It took awhile, but the tremors faded and for the first time I became conscious of how intimate our embrace had become. We sat in total darkness curled together on the passenger’s side of the bench. Elisa’s hand had found its way to cradle the back of my neck and she was kneading at the nape with skilled fingers. The other had come to rest quietly at the small of my back.
Her shirt had come loose from her jeans and from time to time I grazed warm bare skin with my fingertips. My face was tucked near her earlobe and when I inhaled I breathed in herbal shampoo and warm clean female scent overlaid with the residual tang of stress. The combination appealed to the paleo-man in me and without realizing what I was doing my free hand found her cheek and guided her mouth to mine.
Not here. Not now. Not like this. It wasn’t easy, but I shifted at the last possible moment and disentangled myself. As I pulled away I buttoned my jacket so it covered my lap. "How are you feeling?" I asked softly.
Elisa was quiet as she regarded me with dark unreadable eyes. "Raw," she said at last. "I feel like I’ve been through a meat grinder."
"You killed tonight. That’s a legitimate reaction." I wanted to hold her again, to give her what strength I had to offer. But I knew, at least for the moment, that time had passed. Elisa looked grim and drawn. She needed energy to counter act the effects of the shock.
"They’re waiting for us at the precinct but we could stop for coffee," I offered. "Or maybe something to eat first."
She was staring out into the trash-strewn alley. "Coffee, I guess."
I nodded and a few minutes later we were parked again but this time on the street in front of a small, well-lit coffeehouse. I left Elisa in the car and went inside. I ordered, waiting impatiently while the barristo made espresso and foamy milk and poured it all into a tall to-go cup clucking in dismay as I poured way too much sugar over the top of it all.
"That was good coffee, you know," he snapped prissily to my back when he thought I was out of hearing range.
I slammed the door on my way out not stopping to leave a tip.
I got back in the Fairlane and pressed the cup into Elisa’s hands just as our call sign came over the radio. Time to face the inevitable. Elisa’s hand crept into mine a block away from the station.
* * *
Was it fear that caused me to take Matt’s hand as we approached the 23rd? I’m still not sure. All I do know is that in one moment my life had changed forever – again.
Captain Chavez was standing in her office conferring with half a dozen men and women in severe looking suits. Some of them wore badges clipped to their belts but all of them looked like lawyers. I recognized the short boxy frame of Eva Sherman. She smiled sympathetically at us as we hesitated near the back of the bullpen.
Matt stood at my back and his presence reassured me. Eva herded us into a conference room. As union rep she had first crack at us. She invited us to sit down.
"Elisa, I understand that you were responsible for the second fatality at the scene."
"Are you all right? Does either of you require medical or psychological assistance at this time?"
I shook my head. Matt spoke. "Look, this has already been a rough night. Do you think we could just talk to the suits and go home?"
Eva pursed her lips. "It’s my job as your rep to make sure that your rights are protected. You know that the family is going to try and spin this as rogue cops going crazy the first chance they get."
"The family?" Matt and I asked as one. He looked at me and I took the lead. "Have they identified the perps?"
Eva looked pained. The collection of laugh lines around her eyes hardened to crow’s feet. "They weren’t street kids, detectives. The surviving suspect was Marcus Hastings. The female was his sister Jessica and the male deceased his brother Troy.
I stared. I couldn’t help it. The Hastings weren’t just socially prominent, they were old, old money. "What were three kids like that doing knocking over armored cars?"
She shrugged. "The District Attorney will be taking that up with their lawyer. As of now you two have other things to worry about."
"Like what?" I said.
She hitched a hand toward the Captain’s office even though it was invisible through the cement walls of the conference room. "Because the suspects in the incident are from a high profile family their lawyers are going to launch a media campaign to muddy the facts of the case. I’d advise you to retain counsel and invoke your right to an attorney now."
"This is crazy," I said bitterly. "We came to the aid of fellow officers in a hostile situation." My voice was rising as I flashed back to the crime scene. To the tattoo of gunfire as it sprayed across the plaza. "They were shooting at us." Eva gave me one of those unperturbed faces that makes her such a great negotiator. "A cop died tonight. Doesn’t that count for anything?"
"Of course it does," she replied soothingly. "I’m just trying to look out for your best interests. That’s my job."
"And all we did was ours." Matt stood up. "Elisa has nothing to hide and neither do I. Thanks for the advice, Eva." He turned to me. "Come on, Elisa, let’s go face the sharks."
They were actually pretty decent to us. We filed into the interrogation room they reserve for the white collar types and sat down. Somebody brought coffee. There was a tape recorder and a stenographer present but no video camera - it was concealed behind the one way glass. They were taking no chances so that no one could cry ‘impropriety’ or ‘blue shielded blue’ on this one.
The questioning was only vaguely hostile as I.A. and the A.D.A. hammered our statements looking for inconsistencies. I understood why Eva had suggested we retain counsel. I felt lower than slime when we were finished and I wasn’t sure which way was up or down.
Two hours later we were free to go minus our guns and badges. We were both given two days of paid administrative leave and instructions not to talk to anybody about what happened except the police psychologist.
Matt still had the keys and I asked him to drive me home.
* * *
It was still early, so when Elisa asked me to take her home I assumed she meant Castle Wyvern. It caught me off guard when she told me to take her back to her apartment.
We were stopped at a red light and I looked over at her. "Are you sure? You should be among your clan. They’ll take care of you."
She shook her head. "No." Her voice was quiet but firm. "That’s the last thing I want right now. I don’t think they’ll understand."
The light changed, but there was a fairly long line of cars ahead of us. "What do you mean?"
"They’re warriors, Matt. Even if their creed is to protect, they don’t consider it wrong to take a life if the situation justifies it."
I was operating under pretty much the same rationale When you strap on a gun, you know that someday you might have to shoot it at somebody. You know that you might have to kill somebody. Of course every cop I know prays that night will never come. "I’m not following you."
She sighed and her voice was as troubled as her eyes. "I’m not there yet, Matt. At the scene I reacted on instinct. I’d do it again. I know that. But she was only seventeen. Who knows why she was out there tonight. Maybe her brothers talked her into it."
"And maybe she was the mastermind," I fired back. "Tonight they killed a cop. Last week it was two armored car drivers. These weren’t kids pulling pranks."
"You’re right." But she sounded unconvinced.
Traffic began to move. "So shall I take you to the castle?" She shook her head. I shrugged and signaled the turn that would take us to her apartment.
* * *
Maybe the guys would understand. Maybe Broadway wouldn’t get that feral gleam of triumph in his eyes when I described the events of the shooting. He hated guns more than any of the others, but he hated those who used them on innocents even more.
Worse would be Goliath’s reaction. Either he’d be sympathetic, which I couldn’t bear right now, or he’d point out yet again how much stress my job was putting me under and we’d fight.
It’s funny, I thought by hooking up with a fellow warrior I’d avoid that particular argument. Of course, it rarely worked that way when two human cops married, so maybe I was expecting too much. Either way, the castle was the last place I wanted to be.
The trouble was when we pulled into the parking garage of my apartment, I realized I didn’t really want to be alone either. I asked Matt to come upstairs.
* * *
When Elisa asked me up I felt I had no choice but to agree. She wasn’t herself, that seemed fairly obvious. She was questioning her actions. She was anticipating negative reactions from those around her. She seemed to trust only me and that was a heady feeling despite the dire circumstances.
My fingers were trembling when I unlocked the door to her apartment.
* * *
Cagney met us at the door and nearly tripped me wrapping himself around my ankles. I reached out and grabbed Matt’s arm for support. His bicep was flexed with tension and suddenly I realized he was probably as stressed as I was. Still, he was willing to take charge, and for once I was willing to let him.
When he guided me to the couch and covered me with a blanket I was listless as a rag doll. It was easier that way. I had felt his reaction to comforting me in the car. They say no two things are more intrinsically tied than sex and death. To be held, to be touched, to make love, to take comfort in the flesh of another. To push back the shadows. To push away the memory of peeling back that ugly clown mask to reveal the placid features of a teenage girl who would never wonder who would ask her to the prom. I knew that Matt was fighting the same urges yet he did nothing more provocative than make tea.
"Thank you," I said when he finally sat down in the chair across from me. "What you did for me tonight-"
"No," I pressed. "I need to say this. You brought me back from a scary place. I don’t think I could have made it back alone."
Matt’s cheeks colored and he couldn’t quite meet my eyes. "You should get some sleep." He rose to leave. "Are you sure you’ll be all right?"
I was a grown woman. I was a cop. I was fierce and independent but I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want the clowns to come out of the darkness and turn into dying children. "I’ll be fine," I lied.
My partner gave me a hard look. I crumbled and shook my head. He gathered me into his arms and held me tightly for a minute before gently leading me to my bed.
* * * * *