Crossing the Line - Part Seven
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" and the stories "Pushing Back the Shadows", "Plausible Deniability", "Smoothing the Water", "Game Plan" and "More Than Partners". 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.
* * * * *
The entire precinct seemed subdued when I arrived. There was a cluster of uniforms around the front desk talking quietly. A few looked more worse than wear then usual and I could only assume that they’d been to either the funeral, one of the wakes afterward, or both. The detectives’ bullpen upstairs was equally subdued. I went to my desk and started shuffling through the messages and updates.
"Hey Partner," Elisa sounded normal, casual and just a little tired. I looked up at her in acknowledgement then matched a phone message to a case file.
"Elisa, check this out." I waved the message in the air. "One of the coats from the Draysen Fur robbery ended up in a pawn shop in Queens."
She set down her coffee cup and looked over my shoulder. "No kidding. I was wondering if we’d ever get a break on that case. Who hocked the coat?"
I read the name off the message slip. "Veronica Beam. According to Ellison, the detective that recovered the coat, she’s a college student. She pawned it after a fight with her boyfriend."
"Did he interview her already?"
I shook my head. "No. He got all that from the guy at the pawnshop."
"Great. So we go and talk to Ms. Beam." She glanced in the direction of Captain Chavez’s office. The Captain had one ear to the telephone as she had since I walked in the door. She looked worn out.
Elisa went back to her side of the desk, downed some coffee and picked up her keys. "Ready?"
I finished checking the messages, made sure there was nothing more pressing in the stack, and nodded. We left the precinct to interview our witness.
* * *
I congratulated myself silently for maintaining a façade of normality while we were in the bullpen. It wasn’t so hard. I just had to pretend the Matt who sat at the desk checking phone logs and dispatch reports and the Matt who I made love to two hours earlier were two completely separate people that just happened to bear a striking resemblance to one another.
We made it to the car and when I was a block from the precinct he looked over at me and smiled. "Hello gorgeous."
"Hey." It was a brief moment before the squall of radio chatter reminded us who we were and what we were supposed to be doing. I dropped my eyes and tried to concentrate on my driving. With Matt’s help, I found the small apartment block not far from N.Y.U. where our witness lived.
A tile hand painted with a "B" marked the door. We knocked. A muffled cry of "Be there in thirty seconds," rang out and a nearly a minute later, a girl in her late teens or early twenties answered.
"Sorry about the delay, I was shooting a portrait for my photography class. I had everything set to go with a delayed exposure and I didn’t want to wreck the shot."
"No problem," Matt replied. He showed her his photo i.d. "Are you Veronica Beam?"
She shook her head, then motioned for us to come inside. "No. I’m her roommate Cassandra. Hang on a minute." She turned away and yelled into the back of the apartment. "Ronnie, door for you."
She ushered us into a room done in postmodern milk-crate and cinderblock. The makeshift furniture was enlivened with bright squares of fabric rescued from the secondhand store. The walls were embellished with photos in hand decorated frames.
Veronica Beam entered the living room dressed in a silk kimono, still in the process of plucking ostrich feathers from her hair. "Sorry to keep you waiting, but I felt kind of silly in the costume Cassie had me wearing." She looked us over, decided we were strangers and said, "You are?"
I explained about the coat and she sighed. "I knew that stinker Barry was too good to be true. Will I have to give the money back? I really need it for summer school."
I mentioned the fur company was offering a reward for the recovery of their stock and the capture of the people who took it. Veronica Beam grinned.
"Karmic justice, cool."
She gave us Barry’s name and address then explained that he told her he had purchased the ‘slightly damaged’ coat with his substantial employee discount and given it to her as a make up gift after one of their many recent fights. When she broke it off with him for good, she decided she didn’t want anything from Barry, so she pitched or hawked everything he’d ever given her.
Matt and I rose and thanked her for her assistance. I handed her one of my cards. "Please don’t say anything to anyone about this," I cautioned.
She nodded and showed us the door.
* * *
Veronica had a streak of avarice that would probably keep her mouth shut, but I couldn’t help notice the worried look in her roommate Cassandra’s eye. I suggested we go visit Barry and invite him down to the precinct for a chat.
Elisa nodded. "You caught that too, huh?"
"Yeah," I replied. "I think Cassie has picked up where Veronica left off."
The boyfriend’s apartment was only a couple of blocks away. I radioed for a prowl car to meet us and it was waiting when we arrived five minutes later. The unis that met us looked like ex-linebackers.
We left one of the pair at the foot of the stairwell and climbed two floors to Barry Weller’s apartment.
Not surprisingly, he was just leaving as we arrived. Elisa flashed her shield and he bolted. It wasn’t much of a chase. Pinned between the three of us and Refrigerator Perry’s twin in the lobby he tried to rabbit out an emergency exit and tripped over his own feet.
We were just getting ready to follow the squad car back to the precinct when a call came over the radio and my cell phone rang simultaneously.
* * *
I cranked the engine over and pulled out into traffic before Matt had a chance to close his door or put on his seatbelt. He managed to do both while juggling his phone and shooting me a very annoyed look. But as whoever was on the other end of the telephone explained the situation, the annoyance gave way to concern. "We’re rolling. We’ll be there as fast as we can."
The blue lights wired to the front grill were already blazing and my siren was blaring, but I slowed long enough from him to secure the gumball light onto the roof.
"Who was that?" I asked as I cut around a panel truck. "And what did they say?"
Matt gripped the dash as I cut close around an econobox. "Franco at the Mayor’s Office. We’ve got a standoff situation at the Delacourte Theater. The Gargoyle Liberation Front has captured a juvenile male gargoyle and threatened to blow him up if the rest of the clan doesn’t surrender for immediate relocation to their secret retreat." He switched the radio to a tactical frequency and chatter directing SWAT and other units began to pour over the air.
"Oh god, Graeme." I could feel the blood drain from my face as I imagined how scared he must be. "Is everyone else all right?"
Matt shook his head. "Shots have been fired. One of the gargoyles was hit."
I felt sick. The world tilted off its axis and Matt grabbed the steering wheel. I took my foot off the accelerator long enough to get myself under control, then gave a weak shake of my head. "I’m all right."
"I’m fine," I insisted, forcing more conviction into my voice. "I’m fine."
* * *
Elisa was anything but fine. She had the steering wheel in a death grip and muscles in her cheek were jumping over her clamped jaw. "Sweetheart, we’ll fix this."
She gave me an angry look. "Don’t call me sweetheart, Matt, not right now. I’ve got to think."
It was time to pull rank. Elisa might be the one the clan looked to but according to the City of New York, I was their official liaison officer. "Here’s the plan. First: You’re going to calm down. Do some of those breathing exercises you’re always ragging me about. Second: We’re going to get to the scene and assess the situation. Third: We are going to rescue Graeme and make sure that everyone else walks out of there alive and unharmed including the bad guys. We don’t want to start a riot. Are we clear about this?"
She didn’t even spare me a glance. "We’re clear." Her voice was brisk, professional and utterly impersonal.
I picked up the microphone and gave them an updated ETA. The situation had stalemated into a tense standoff and the communications officer at the scene suggested we use all possible speed.
I didn’t think it was possible to move through Manhattan any faster than we had been doing, but Elisa found a way. Five minutes later we pulled into the hot zone.
* * *
I yanked the keys from the ignition and ran to the command post with Matt at my heels. A hundred yards beyond I could see the outline of the amphitheater lit for an evening play. "What was going on here?"
A senior officer I didn’t recognize answered. "It was a special presentation of Peter Pan. They started just after seven and were midway into the performance when all hell broke loose."
"What do you mean?" Matt asked.
"Evidently the little guy was watching from a spot over there." He jerked his hand towards a copse of trees too far for a human to have a comfortable view but well within a gargoyles visual range. "The bad guys saw him, knocked him out of the tree with a tranquilizer dart, and took him hostage."
"Was he alone?" I was worried about Ariana; she and Graeme were rarely apart.
The officer gave a brisk shake of his head. "No. He had a companion. A witnesses description says he was big and light blue. They tranqued him too, long enough to rig the little one. He came to, made a rescue attempt and got shot for his trouble. Witness say he left a blood trail as he went screaming into the night.
"They let him go," Matt surmised.
"That’s our assumption. The performance was stopped then they hauled the hostage onto the stage and issued their demands."
"Which were?" Matt again, still in charge. I fumed but I had no choice as the Q & A continued. In this situation he outranked me.
"The usual. No one leaves until the gargoyles arrive and give themselves up into protective custody. Plus ten million cash for their education campaign."
"What philanthropists," Matt said with disgust.
"And the or else part?" I had to know.
He gave me a withering look. "Or else everybody – human and gargoyle dies. These are extremists, people. The bomb squad says there’s enough plastic explosive wired to that vest to reduce this part of Central Park to a smoking crater."
I heard the whoosh of wings and looked up. The clan had arrived.
* * *
I’ve never seen the gargoyles look so angry. Goliath’s tail was lashing so fiercely the others had to keep their distance to avoid being battered. Brooklyn and Sata looked ready to rend the first person that got in their way limb from limb. Angela was grim, clearly worried about Broadway who must have been left in the care of Hudson and Ariana. Lexington was missing. I borrowed binoculars from a support officer, looked upward and spotted him doing aerial surveillance.
"Why has this happened?" Goliath demanded.
I didn’t have a good answer to that. No one did. Elisa approached slowly wading into the midst of her clan, touching each of them in turn saving Goliath for last. Fearlessly, she placed her hand over his extended talons and curled them inward. "You’ve got to remain calm and let us handle this."
The other officers manning the command post were watching with a mixture of awe and interest. I needed to get their attention off of Elisa so that she could manage the clan.
"All right, people. Listen up. I’m going to go down there and start a dialogue. I want someone from Hostage Negotiation there to back me up. Is Robinette or Snider on scene?"
Someone got on a radio and a couple of seconds later a trim blonde woman broke through the crowd. "Here I am, Bluestone."
"Thanks, Sandy." I hooked a microphone pack onto my belt and fitted the headset as she did the same. Elisa looked at me with worried eyes and mouthed ‘Be careful.’ I nodded back.
We went down the slope. Somebody handed me an oversized protective vest emblazoned with Police and I put it on as we moved into position. I swallowed a couple of times to loosen my tongue and wiped sweat off the palms of my hands. I took a deep breath and opened the mic identifying myself to the terrorists.
* * *
They were livid, all of them. Somehow I had to keep Goliath and the others calm enough to keep them from escalating the situation. I kept my voice soft as I muttered reassurances. They were looking to Goliath, even Brooklyn and Sata who had the most to lose if everything went wrong. He had to listen to me. I touched him and he looked down on me, depthless eyes full of conflict. Gargoyles protect. The only problem was, the best way to protect everyone from harm was to do nothing. I held his eyes with mine. "Please, Goliath," I whispered. "Let Matt do his job."
It cost him, I could tell, but he nodded his head slowly and the murderous look faded from his eyes. "We will comply."
I nodded back. "Now recall Lexington before he gets any ideas."
Another slow, heavy, nod. He touched the transmitter that hung from the slender chain at his neck and gave the order.
* * *
I’d taken the classes and talked a few guys off the edge, but I wanted a backstop, which is why I had requested Sandy Robinette accompany me as we went to meet the GLF.
They had been equated to PETA on steroids, and it was an apt description. Their battle cry was humans were exploiting the gargoyles need to protect their environment. In essence, we were using them to protect ourselves when they should be protected from us.
Angela had taken a group of them on one night trying to explain they did what they did because they wanted to. The GLF spokesperson had patted her on the hand, and offered to deprogram her if she agreed to go away with them.
In short, as one of my old T.O.s used to say, they were nutty as fruitcakes and made less sense. Consequently, when they shot a burst of automatic fire over my head and told me to go away, I was less than amazed.
Sandy gave me a reassuring glance. "Try again. Tell them you need to negotiate a-" She paused. "Don’t use the word, surrender, that will only upset them. Pick something more neutral."
"Safe passage of the gargoyles?" I ventured.
She nodded. "That’s good. Yes. Tell them you’re working on it but they’re worried about all these human children being around the explosives."
"Right." I opened the mic and started my spiel. The two masked figures bracketing Graeme looked at each other. One was nodding yes, the other shaking his head no. They both looked off stage and at instruction from some, unseen third party reiterated their demands.
"Would it help if it came from one of them?" I ventured. "I’ve got the leader, Goliath here on site."
That got an affirmative response. I switched frequencies and keyed Elisa.
* * *
My microphone crackled and Matt’s voice in my ear was terse. I listened and relayed his instructions to Goliath. I wasn’t surprised when he immediately agreed. "I will go."
"Not without me," Brooklyn said.
"Or me." Sata moved forward with one hand on her katana.
I sighed. The beginning of the glimmering of a plan began to kick at the back of my head. "We’ll all go." I looked around for a uniform officer about my size and lucked out. "Officer, over here."
He was young, no more than twenty-two or three. "Yes, ma’am?"
"I need your body armor."
He opened his mouth, took one look at Goliath and the others and closed it again. "Right. Just give me a minute."
He stripped, handed me the vest and put his uniform shirt back on. I looked at it and grimaced. There was no way the protective gear was going to fit under my tee shirt without giving me away and it was too hot, not to mention suspicious looking, for me to wear my bomber jacket, currently in the backseat of the car, zipped. I keyed Matt and told him to return to base. I had a plan.
* * *
Elisa was deep in consultation with Lexington, a couple of the bomb squad guys, and a guy in a plain black suit and crew cut that screamed Fed when I got back to their position. Everyone looked grim. "What’s up?" I asked.
Elisa pointed to the suit. "This is Special Agent Campbell he keeps tabs on radical groups."
We shook hands and I got that lousy feeling that meant things were about to get worse.
Campbell didn’t waste time, which under the circumstances I appreciated. The atmosphere was tense and the crowd in the stands was anything but calm. Children were crying and the ring of paramilitary guards who watched over them was getting surly.
"Evidently our friends over there, want to liberate the gargoyles in the most permanent way possible. According to our intelligence they’ve decided the gargoyle race have been so corrupted by human influence the only thing to do is give them another spin on the karmic wheel."
"In other words," Brooklyn snarled. "No matter what they promise we end up dead."
"Not if I have anything to say about it." Elisa’s eyes were fierce. "Lexington, you’re sure you can block the frequency of their detonator."
He retracted a cable from a small computer and nodded. "Not a problem, Detective Maza."
She took a deep breath. "Good. Okay, here’s my plan."
As she began to outline what she had in mind the lousy feeling grew worse. I could see that Goliath shared my opinion.
"This is madness," he insisted. "I cannot let you take such a risk."
She challenged us all. "Have you got any better ideas?"
At the moment, I hadn’t and apparently neither did anybody else. Elisa took my arms and pulled me aside. "Matt, give me your shirt."
"You’re sure about this?" I turned my back to her not sure I could control my emotions any other way and did as she requested. I handed her the shirt, buttoned my jacket over my naked chest and replaced the oversized kevlar vest.
"No," she admitted. While I had finished dressing she had done the same. The body armor was much less visible under my slightly too big shirt. "But it’s what I have to do. Are you ready?"
I swallowed and nodded. We went to face off with the crazies.
* * *
I watched Matt and Goliath approach the cadre of so called liberationists with a lump in my throat. They began their diversion arguing for the release of the innocent playgoers while the rest of the clan and I moved out and SWAT got into position.
We went slowly so not to excite their suspicion. I hid under the cape of Brooklyn’s wings until I they were close to the stage and then I dropped to the ground and crawled on my belly as Lexington and the others, hands held high in the air moved to ‘surrender’ themselves to the GLF.
I was nearly in position when something went wrong. Too soon, Goliath bellowed and he lashed out at the masked gunman. Gunfire popped. I screamed "Now!" and dove for Graeme, yanking a pair of wire cutters from the back pocket of my jeans. There was mass confusion as the crowd stampeded. I knocked Graeme and his chair over, cut every wire I could reach and then the lights went out.
* * *
"Hey, Elisa! Stay with me!" I demanded. I held her hands in mine rubbing at her wrists until she stirred. A paramedic looked on, but he didn’t intervene.
"Matt?" She was groggy. "What happened? Is everyone okay?"
I smiled at her. What had seemed like a hair-brained scheme had worked. Under flag of truce the gargoyles had gotten close enough to do what they couldn’t before. They overwhelmed the cadre of GLF soldiers who held the stage and while they were fighting, Lexington had jammed the detonator long enough for Elisa to disarm it. "Yeah, everybody is good. You caught a stray punch in the confusion. How do you feel?"
She sat up and raised a hand to her temple. I reached to steady her and after a second I helped her to her feet. "I’m fine." She let the paramedic wave a flashlight in her eyes and counted fingers to his satisfaction. He moved off and Elisa surveyed the now quieting scene. "Where’s Goliath?"
It’s funny how epiphanies strike. There was something about her voice. It was so full of worry that I knew right then, I’d lost her. I closed my eyes, took a breath and tried to ignore the gut-punched feeling. "Back at the castle. We thought it’d be best if they didn’t stick around."
She nodded. "I should go."
"We’ll talk later."
I hurried after her as she retreated towards the car.
* * *
It’s never easy admitting you’ve screwed up and I had, royally. I’d never killed another human being and no matter what they teach you at the academy, and no matter what some psychologist says afterward, I wasn’t ready for the guilt, the depression, any of it, really. The experience left me reeling and vulnerable. In short, the Hastings shooting had thrown my world off its axis.
Matt had been a part of it. He understood. I trusted him and so I clung to him like a lifeline. The only problem was Matt, for his own reasons, had been as off balance as I was. To cope we’d created a fantasy and escaped into it. But tonight had forcefully reminded me that our place was here in the real world.
I heard his measured steps behind me. At first I ignored him and then as we neared the car I turned and acknowledged his presence. "You followed me."
He tried to be casual but his eyes were full of pain. "You have my shirt."
I started to unbutton it but his hand stilled mine. "Keep it. It looks good on you."
We stared at one another each daring the other to speak first. Matt broke the silence. "This isn’t fair."
He was right, it wasn’t, but then again, life seldom is. My mouth was bitter as I replied, "I know. But they need me."
He reached for me and my hand found its way into his. He curled his fingers around mine and squeezed gently. "I need you."
I felt tears well. "I need you too. You’re my partner, my friend. You’re the person who backs me up when no one else will. I can’t be who I have to be without you."
"Duty and commitment." Matt looked up toward Xanatos’ palace in the air. "Is that what this is about?" He sounded resigned but understanding wasn’t make things any easier for me and I doubted it was doing much for him either.
I wanted to be strong, but I couldn’t help the tears. I scrubbed at my cheek with the back of my hand and Matt handed me his handkerchief. "I’m sorry, Matt. I wish-"
He silenced me with a touch of his fingertips to my lips. "I know, sweetheart. Me too. So what are we going to do now?"
My chest was so tight I could barely breathe. I looked up at him knowing what I had to say but unwilling to lay the burden before him. Finally, I found the courage to meet his eyes. "We have to put this behind us and start over." I took his other hand in mine. "Can we do that? Please?"
"We’ll always have Paris?" he replied quoting Rick from Casablanca. "I don’t know if I can be that noble, Elisa."
He was being honest with me and I appreciated it. I was, after all, asking a lot. But after everything we’d been through I didn’t want to lose him completely. "I know it won’t be easy. But if we can’t be lovers then-"
He gave me a bittersweet smile. Perhaps he already understood the compromise better than I did. "Partners to the end." He gave my hands one final squeeze before letting me go and I knew we had crossed that tenuous line between lovers and friends once more.
* * * * *