by Kathleen Stoley
DISCLAIMER: This story may not be suitable for all readers as it contains mature adult subject matter. (Nothing graphic, as I believe half the fun of a story is using your imagination).
Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time drifted slowly by as Sydney watched the mourners filter into the chapel. Although few in number, it had been an interesting procession thus far. Sydney sat silently watching the faces to see who would show. So far, it had been a few colleagues but mostly, the petty criminals and down and out individuals that had dotted the deceased's life. Some were here out of respect but others, because they wanted to make sure the rumors were true, and were glad the deceased was finally out of their hair. 'If this is the sum of one’s existence, what does this parade say for the individual,' Sydney thought sadly. Rousing from these thoughts she chastised herself, 'What did you expect, a party instead of a funeral?' She watched as they approached the casket trying to read the expression on their faces as they walked away. The casket was closed for obvious reasons and the only adornment was a picture of the deceased. The picture was a far cry from the individual who stood hidden in the shadows. Sydney had tucked her long black hair under a beret cap and had hidden her ice blue eyes behind sunglasses, in an effort to keep her secret safe.
The person she was waiting for had finally arrived. Frankie Moldano, a snake by any other description was the man responsible for what was supposed to be her demise. He strutted in like a king with his court as they made their way to the front of the chapel. Moldano stopped before the closed coffin kissing his fingertips and placing them on the lid. In mock solemnity he took a seat in the front row with his men seated behind him. Sydney gritted her teeth and stared at the back of his head. 'Feel confident now but soon, very soon, I will wipe that grin off your face for good!' Sydney silently promised.
A side door opened sending a stream of light across Sydney's hiding place, and she instinctively stepped further back into the shadows. Illuminated in this light she caught sight of a familiar figure, and her breath caught in her throat in a strangled cry of surprise. She hadn't figured on the news of her funeral spreading so far. Sydney could see no more than an outline illuminated, but there was no mistaking that poise or walk. If Sydney could see the face she would see bright green eyes framed by blond hair. It had been almost two years since she last saw those eyes. She remembered the fight that had proceeded them walking out of their partnership and her life. The figure paused when it came near to where Sydney hid in the shadows. She could almost reach out and touch the hand that rested on the pillar she stood behind. Sydney was sure the pounding of her heart would give her away and closed her eyes in an attempt to steady her breathing.
Entering the chapel Sam stopped when a familiar presence tugged at senses that had long lain dormant in their self-imposed exile. 'God, even now I can still feel when she is near.' Sam stopped and leaned a hand against the pillar for a moment. Getting control, Sam moved forward and took a seat in the front of the chapel.
Sydney kept her eyes on Sam while the official took his place in front and began to speak, "Sydney Alise Wright was born in Chicago, Illinois on....." As the official droned on Sydney tuned him out and began scanning the crowd until a movement brought her attention back to the front. She realized the official had concluded and was taking his seat. Sydney's eyes snapped wide open when she saw Sam rise and approach the podium. 'What are you doing? Always a surprise from you Sam, even now' she mused with a tinge of regret.
Sam approached the podium and took a deep breath, "My name is Samantha Logan and Sydney Wright was my partner." Sam's voice dropped and she looked down at her hands. "Actually, we were closer than that at one time. She was my best friend, but I lost that because I went looking for more and ended up with less," she replied more to herself than the congregation.
"But, that isn't why we are here today," she stated loudly and brought her eyes up to a determined attention on the audience in front of her. "We are here to talk about Sydney Alise Wright who was an extraordinary individual. Many of you here can attest to her generosity; even through her tough exterior she always placed others before herself. The rest of you, I am not sure why you are here, except that you are in the presence of a greater human being than yourselves, and you know it." Sam looked directly at Moldano who shifted uncomfortably sending daggers back at Sam with his eyes. "What are you doing?" Sydney whispered, "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
Sam kept staring at him and didn't back down until she continued with what she had to say, "Her presence was a constant reminder that she was someone who wouldn't stop fighting for what she thought was right. Even when many of us didn't think it was worth the effort, she did. Sydney may not be here in person but," Sam paused in an effort to gain control and placed her hand over her chest, "she will always live here in our hearts. No one can take that away from us" she quietly ended. Sydney didn't miss the tears that had streamed down the young woman's face as she finished speaking and sat down. After listening to a few people attest to Sydney's generosity, she slipped from the back of the chapel and went outside. She went to the side of the building to find Sam's car and a place to safely watch her from. She knew that Sam's words would not go unanswered by Moldano.
When the service was concluded Sam went to speak with the funeral director to find out who was handling the arrangements for Sydney. She knew that Sydney didn't have any family and was curious who had set everything up, and why she wasn't contacted. "I had to find out from a source on the street," she continued complaining to the man as he sat coolly behind his desk. "I am sorry ma'am but, the arrangements were made over the telephone by a woman and a courier delivered the payment in cash. We have no way of tracing who made these arrangements" he explained.
'A woman? Who?' Sam thought as she felt a brief flirt of anger. "Sometimes we get these types" he shrugged his shoulders. Sam's green eyes blazed as she now had something to focus her anger on. She stood and leaned toward the ferret eyes behind the desk, "What do you mean these types?"
"Well, you have to admit ma'am her lifestyle wasn't a typical one for a woman," he answered defensively.
"Why, of all the dim-witted things I have heard, you take the cake" she stormed as she began pacing in front of the man's desk. "Say what you like Ms. Logan. It still isn't an acceptable profession for a woman".
The emphasis on the 'Ms.' wasn't lost on Sam and she stopped her pacing, her eyes cold and deadly caused the man to retreat further back in his seat. "It doesn't take a man to be a private investigator, just balls" she enjoyed watching his face turn crimson, "and she had more than you could ever hope for." Speechless and red faced the director just sat with his mouth hanging open. "Close your mouth, you look even stupider than you are!" she added angrily and spun on her heels, and headed out the door.
Everyone had left the chapel and Sydney was beginning to worry about Sam until she saw her exit from the building. By the gait in her walk, Sydney knew Sam was breathing fire and thought, 'Oh boy, I've seen that look before. I wonder who raised her hackles?' Sam continued down the steps still verbalizing what she thought of the man inside and crossed the street towards her car. Sydney saw the sedan pull away from the curb just as Sam reached the street.
"Oh no, Sam, watch where your going!" Sydney shouted knowing she couldn't reach her in time but trying all the same. The sedan bore down on the young woman who looked up just as she reached the back of her car. Instinct born of practice she leaped over the trunk as the sedan almost careened into the side of it before driving off.
Sam rolled on the sidewalk ending up sitting facing the street. As Sam got to her feet, she felt hands grab her from behind and pull her into a doorway of the building behind her. She started to struggle until a familiar voice stopped her cold, "Boy, you still don't know how to make friends, do you?"
'No, it can't be, she's gone' Sam moaned, knowing it wasn't possible but hoping it was so. She closed her eyes and leaned back into the waiting arms, 'if only for a moment', to let the dream continue.
"Come on Sam, talk to me. Are you alright?" the velvet voice insisted. Sam turned and looked up into bluest eyes that had never failed to move her.
"Sydney?" she whispered afraid that the dream would end.
"Yeah, it's me" the voice replied. Sam came back to her senses with a jolt and looked the woman over as anger began to once again boil. 'Oh, oh' thought Sydney, 'I've seen that look before too'. She tried to intercept what was coming, "Now, wait a minute and let me explain before you go off half cocked."
Sam waved her off, "How dare you pull a stunt like this. Do you have some sort of perverted wish to torture people?" Sam's' voice drifted off to a hurt whisper, "How could you do this to me?" Sydney could hear the pain in Sam's voice and it ripped through her chest.
"I didn't have a choice, Sam. I'd be dead now if I hadn't done it this way. There was no way Moldano was going to give up trying to kill me and I couldn't let anyone else get hurt because of me." Sydney looked at Sam and saw that some of the anger was dissipating. "I didn't mean for you to know about this. Hell, I haven't heard from you in two years. I didn't even know if you were still in the state!"
Sam winced at this truth and felt the guilt of their parting seep back into her. It had been nothing more than cowardice that had kept her from contacting the tall woman, and it had taken Sydney's 'almost' death to make her realize her mistake. She looked away from the dark-haired woman in front of her and whispered, "I know, I'm sorry".
Sydney pretended she hadn't heard the words and demanded, "Just what do you think you were doing in there? Do you have a death wish or something?"
"No, when I thought I had lost you, I became angry at myself for being so stupid and, I just lashed out," was all that Sam could say. Sydney saw the single tear as it slid down the younger woman's cheek and it quickly took away the momentum of her anger.
Sydney looked at the young woman and realized she didn't hate her but the unresolved hurt of the past still remained. She released the young woman and led her out of the shadows towards the car. "It will be o.k.," she replied quietly, "let's just get out of here before Moldano's goons come back for a repeat performance."
Sydney took Sam's keys from her and checked out the car before she would let the young woman get in. "Go straight home and if any one follows you, you remember what to do right?"
The blond nodded her head and asked, "What are you going to do now?"
"I'm following up some leads and working on a way to trap Moldano at his own game" Sydney replied.
Green eyes looked directly at her and offered, "I'd like to help."
"Why?" Sydney blurted out before she could stop herself.
"Do I have to have a reason?" Sam asked.
"Listen Sam, what you did in there could get you killed. I don't want that on my
conscience too," Sydney replied looking off down the road.
Ignoring the barb Sam pressed, "Can I at least call and see how you are doing?
Where are you staying?"
"How about I contact you?" the older woman evasively replied.
Green eyes narrowed slightly, "Don't tell me you are sleeping in your car again."
Sydney grinned trying to lighten the situation, "Well, it's not like a dead person can go home is it? I had everything put in storage for now."
Sam motioned to the passenger side and leveled a look at Sydney that defied her to decline, "Get in". Of course Sydney did just that.
After fighting a losing battle with Sam, Sydney relented and slid in the passenger seat. They drove over to where Sydney had left her car and she got her duffel bag and locked everything else in the trunk. As Sam drove, Sydney watched the mirror for any tag-alongs. They drove around until they were sure no one was following. Sydney started to have a sense of familiarity as Sam turned onto a private tree-lined road.
"Isn't this your Uncle's place?" Sydney asked.
"Yes, it was" Sam quietly replied. 'Damn!' thought Sydney, as she realized the one true family member Sam had in her life was gone and, she hadn't even known about it. She had only met the man on one occasion but Sam had always talked about him.
"I'm sorry Sam, I know how much he meant to you".
"It's been a year now and I guess I am getting use to it," she replied trying to smile. Sydney had only been here once before but as the house came into sight, it was exactly as Sydney had remembered it.
As they exited the car a large Doberman approached the car. Sydney raised her
eyebrow questioningly and Sam laughed, "Oh, Don't worry he won't bite you. He's just a big baby." To prove her right the dog ran over to Sam and hid behind her looking out at the other woman. Sam crouched down and scratched the dog behind his ear, "Isn't that right, Casey" she crooned and was rewarded with a wet kiss across her nose. Sydney laughed as she followed Sam up the walk, the dog keeping as close to Sam as she could without the young woman actually carrying him.
As Sam rounded the front bushes, the door was thrown open and Sydney watched as a strikingly beautiful redhead enveloped Sam in her arms. "Honey, I just got in and read your note. I am so sorry about your friend," the woman drawled with a deep southern accent. Sydney stopped and watched the encounter, and tried not to react to the unpleasant stirrings she was feeling. She surveyed the woman and saw that she was older than Sydney but carried herself with an air of grace. Sam returned the woman's hug and nervously motioned for Sydney to come forward. Sydney hesitated, wanting to be anywhere at that moment but there, and wished she had just walked away when she had the chance.
Sam noticed Sydney's reluctance and frowned, "Gwen, this is that friend."
Gwen looked perplexed as she looked back and forth from Sydney to Sam and back again. "But, I thought your note said..." the redhead stammered.
"It's a long story and I'll tell you about it later. Let's just get inside right now" Sam said ushering everyone indoors.
They entered the cool interior of the house and Sam introduced Gwen to Sydney.
Sydney noted that Gwen kept her arm protectively around Sam until she departed with the excuse of preparing dinner. 'So, this is Sydney' Gwen thought. Gwen knew most of what had happened two years ago. The cost of the family's interference and Sam's inability to fight them had been hard on the young. Gwen had never realized the depth of Sam's feelings for her friend, until now.
Sydney silently followed Sam as she led her to the guest quarters which were located by the pool, apart from the main house. Sam paused by the door, "We'll eat on the patio so join us whenever you are ready, O.K.?" Sydney just nodded her head. Sam didn't say anything more and left her to freshen up while she went back in to help Gwen with the meal.
After the door closed Sydney dropped her bag on the chair and sat on the bed. "How do I get myself in these situations?" she grumbled. "What did I expect, her to be pining for me. After all, she is the one who left, not you!" After stewing for a few minutes more, Sydney got up to throw cold water on her face in an effort change her disposition. "It's just for tonight and then tomorrow I'm gone," she told the reflection in the mirror.
Sam entered the kitchen to find Gwen at the stove. "What can I do to help?" she
Gwen looked over her shoulder and replied, "I'm heating up some soup, why don't you make a salad."
"O.K." replied Sam and set to work.
"I hope this is enough" Gwen remarked.
"It's fine by me, I'm not that hungry" Sam answered.
"That would be a first" Gwen retorted smiling. Sam just grinned and didn't reply. They worked quietly for awhile until Gwen broke the silence. "Are you going to tell me what happened today?"
Sam turned to face the redhead and nodded, "I'm sorry. I guess I owe you some sort of explanation."
"You don't owe me anything but, I would like to know what's troubling you" Gwen replied and turned back to the stove to give Sam some space. She purposely kept emotion of out of her voice as she gave Gwen a run down on the events of the day. This didn't go unnoticed and the older woman pressed for details in an effort to break down the barrier and get Sam to really talk. They brought the food out to the patio as Sam continued to evasively answer Gwen's questions.
Sydney saw the two woman seated on the patio. They seemed to be engaged in a deep conversation. Obviously, Gwen didn't like what Sam was telling her. Sydney could only surmise that it had something to do with what happened this afternoon. As she approached their conversation stopped and the redhead looked up smiling, "I see the dead walketh."
Sydney returned the smile and replied, "Alive and kicking."
"From what Sam tells me, that's been no easy feat," Gwen remarked as the smile
"Don't worry so much, Gwen, everything is under control," Sam interjected trying to lighten the conversation.
"Is is?" Gwen pointedly asked Sydney in an effort to get someone to really start talking.
Sydney maintained her composure and leveled steely blue eyes at Gwen, "There is nothing you, nor Sam, need to concern yourself with. I'm taking care of this matter alone."
Sam stared at the dark haired woman hurt by her sudden declaration. Gwen realizing things had gone awry, changed the subject, "Well, I'm sure you are more than capable, let's eat and talk about more pleasant things."
Dinner progressed solemnly with light pleasantries mostly between Sam and Gwen. Sydney responded when questioned, but offered nothing on her own. Gwen could feel the tension between Sam and Sydney building and excused herself as soon as possible when the meal was finished. Sam finally broke the silence, "Did you really mean it when you said you were going to do this alone?"
"Yes" replied Sydney looking directly into stormy green eyes.
"Why do you have to be so stubborn? Why can't you let the past go and trust me
again?" confronted Sam.
Sydney stood, holding in her anger, her hurt, and replied, "Listen, I don't need to have to worry about you running around trying to repay some debt you think you owe me. As for trust, whatever we had is in the past, you have your life and I have mine now." Sydney turned to go and added, "Personally, I don't think Gwen would appreciate your being involved."
"This has nothing to do with Gwen," Sam retorted.
"Doesn't it?" Sydney replied sadly, then walked back to her quarters.
Sam watched as her best friend walked away as Sam had done two years ago. Sam finally had a taste of the depth of the pain her denial and betrayal had brought to Sydney. When her tears finally dried, and the chill night air brought goose bumps, she got up and went into the house. Gwen was waiting up for her and as she passed the older woman's room she called out, "Sam, can I talk to you?"
"Sure, what's up?" Sam replied as she tiredly dropped onto Gwen's bed.
"You look like hell! What's going on between you two?" Gwen inquired.
Sam half grinned and shrugged trying to make light of the situation, but when her eyes met Gwen's, she knew that it wouldn't work with this woman. Gwen was her Uncle's third wife and the only friend that Sam had had in the past two years. She was also the only woman that didn't judge Sam for her lack of what others deemed 'proper direction in life'. Gwen had just wanted Sam to do what made her happiest. Sam continued to silently look at Gwen as the tears began to form.
"Just start at the beginning honey," came the gentle reply.
Sam told her of Sydney and how they had been in partnership and friendship. Sam hesitated telling her the rest but knew she had to talk with someone. She wiped her face and began, "I blew it. I threw away everything I had ever wanted because I was afraid to be happy. Instead I left her believing that I had wanted something different, something more than she could offer. Something my family deemed right, when in truth, I was afraid to listen to my heart."
The older woman nodded sincerely and spoke, "I know how your family is Sam. I know the belief system that they follow and the requirements they place on love. They gave your uncle and I a hard time in the beginning, because of our age difference. I don't think your mother ever fully forgave your uncle for loving someone half her age. But, you know Sam, love doesn't come in a nice little package and we can't control who we will truly fall in love with. We can try to make ourselves believe we love someone because it is the right thing to do, or so we are told. But, we are fooling ourselves and in the end we are the only ones who will suffer. There comes a time when we must stand firm for what we feel, even if other's don't agree. It is either that or live a shadow of a life to please everyone else, even if this means losing the respect of those who can't understand." Gwen reached over and squeezed the young woman's hand encouragingly.
"I know you are right but, look what's happened so far. I've spent 30 years listening to them tell me what is right and wrong. I don't know if I am strong enough to fight them anymore. They are all I have." Sam tiredly answered.
Gwen lifted the young woman's chin to get her full attention. "You have to stop and ask yourself, if this is the life you want to continue living? Judging from how miserable you've been, I think not."
Sam lowered her head nodding, knowing that the next step was hers to make. Sam kissed Gwen on the cheek and thanked her for listening. She walked down the hall her room and there, spent a sleepless night.
In the guest quarters Sydney was also tossing and turning in a fruitless attempt to stop her mind from thinking about the past. When Sam had left, a part of her had shut down and she felt that maybe she was being punished as her mother had said would happen. Her parents had been religious people and their daughter had been a thorn in their side. Her career and single status had been a constant sore spot with them. They would really have flipped if she had told them she wasn't all that interested in men. As it was, during the time before their death, the relationship had deteriorated to the occasional obligatory holiday calls. When she had gotten the call telling her that they had died, she felt more empty than sad. She regretted that they had not been able to love her and accept her for who she was, and not their idea of who she should be.
By the first light of dawn Sydney was dressed and ready to leave. She had decided some time during the night to leave before anyone awoke. She took the envelope with the note she had written Sam and left it on the table for her to find. After giving up any thought of sleeping, she had spent the better part of the night trying to think of what to say to Sam and finally just said good-bye. As an after thought, she had wished Sam and Gwen much happiness. Sydney took one last look around before she picked up her bag and walked around the side of the house, and down the drive.
Sam was staring out over the ocean when the sun peaked hazily over the horizon. Rousing herself, she showered, dressed and went downstairs to make coffee. As the coffee brewed she thought that maybe it was time she and Sydney had a long talk. After yesterday, she knew she wasn't ready to lose her best friend without a fight. As for the rest, she was sure it would take care of itself in time. 'That's right, Sam, deny what you’re afraid to confront,' she thought sourly. Shaking her head she poured coffee into two mugs and headed towards the guesthouse. She knocked and her heart sank when there was no answer. Quietly, she pushed opened the door and stepped into the empty room. She saw the note on the table and knew that Sydney was gone.
Sydney watched unobserved as the men unloaded the truck into the warehouse. She had been hiding in the same spot since dawn and her legs were starting to cramp. If she was right about what they were unloading, then she would finally have the evidence she needed against Moldano. 'This is too easy' she thought, 'I need to get closer and check in those crates before I do anything. If I can nail Moldano good then, I won't have to spend my life hiding.'
Only when the truck had been unloaded, and the men had locked the warehouse and driven off, did Sydney come out of hiding. Stretching her legs and back she looked at the warehouse and planned her next move. She looked up at the windows on the second floor and decided, 'Tonight, I will be able to get into the warehouse and get a good look at what's in those crates. Then it's just a matter of making sure the proper people know about it.' Confidently she headed down the alley to where she had parked her car. ‘Now, I need some food and place to hangout until it's dark.' She knew just the spot and headed down towards the beach.
Sam sulked around the house alternating between feeling sorry for herself and
berating herself for being such a coward. Finally, Gwen could take it no more and she walked up to Sam pulling her up off the couch, ‘It's time for a little tough love!' "That's about enough of this feeling sorry for yourself. It's time you either join the human race or crawl back under your rock!" the redhead stated emphatically.
"Excuse me?" Sam replied pulling away.
The redhead pulled her closer and painfully tightened her grip until she had the young woman's full attention. "Excuse me nothing, young lady. Ever since your accident, you've done nothing but hide in this house and run whenever your mother calls. Then you come home beaten and dragging around comatose for days afterwards. Are you going to hide here for the rest of your life because you don't have the courage to live it? I don't know everything that happened between Sydney and your family, but I do know she is in trouble right now. Just tell me this, what kind of person can abandon her 'best friend' to face it alone?"
Sam pulled away and started to pace, "She doesn't want my help. You heard her! And, what am I suppose to do just walk away from my family. Ciao, see you later? If my living here is a problem then I'll leave."
Gwen spun around shaking her finger, "Let's get one thing straight. This has nothing to do with my not wanting you here. This is your home and always will be. You are like a daughter to me. Do you understand me?" The redhead stared at the blond until she saw a slight nod of assent and continued, "As for your parents, I say Bugger them, they aren't your only family. Family is more than just blood Sam. Your Uncle taught me that. It's those we let in our hearts that really count. When are you going to start living Sam, really living? You deserve to be happy and have a life. Right now, your friend needs your help. If you can't do this for yourself, what about for Sydney. Doesn't she deserve better from a friend?"
Sam didn't know how to respond she just looked away from the other woman.
Gwen watched the young woman with sadness and quietly added, "You do what you have to, but think about this, there are worse things in this life than just existing. To have to live a hollow life with regret, on top of it all, is one of them. Time is running out for you and Sydney." Gwen waited and when there was no response from Sam she started to walk away, but hesitated and added, "I have to go out of town for a couple of days. I'll see you on Sunday." She turned and walked out of the room. 'You are going to have to come through this on your own sweetheart. I hope things work out for you both. Life is too short not to have happiness.’
Sea-green eyes swam with unshed tears as she stood staring at the carpet, unsure of what to do next. 'Oh, God, I know she's right but, what can I do?’ Finally, pushing the tears back she knew she had to come to grips with her fears if she was to defeat them. 'What is it I really want in this life? Do I want to continue the way I am or do I want to live my own life. What am I so afraid of? What have I allowed to happen to me. No matter what, she is still my best friend.’
Sam took off running down the hall to her bedroom and yanked open the closet doors. Finding the boxes she was looking for, she dumped them on the bed and began to search through old files. 'I'll just keep trying until I find someone who knows where she is. I've got to get to her and make her let me help. I can't afford to fail again.' Grabbing the phone she began to call the numbers of old contacts she had when she was Sydney's partner. After numerous calls and disconnected numbers she had come up empty and sat on the edge of the bed, 'Think Sam, think. Who would Sydney trust?'
Shaking off the pang of guilt that accompanied the thought that it wasn't her, she remembered seeing a familiar face at the funeral, 'Detective Abrams.' Locating his number she began to dial and let it ring until there was a gruff answer on the other end. After explaining the situation to Abrams, and getting him to believe she knew more than she did, she received the information she was looking for. She refused to answer any of his questions and hung up with the sound of his warning still ringing in her ear.
'Sorry, I can't promise to stay out of this one. Sydney may not want me involved but, I am and I won't walk away this time.'
Sam opened one final box and removed its cold metal contents. She never thought she would carry it again, but she also couldn't bring herself to get rid of it either. Pushing past the memories, Sam opened the cylinder and methodically began to load the weapon. 'I feel like I am back to where this all started. Maybe this time I will get it right.' It wasn't just the physical pain that had debilitated her from helping her friend, it was fear. When she had walked out on her friend without any explanations, she had inflicted the deepest scar of all. Opening her bag she put the gun in and headed for her car.
Sydney decided she still had a few hours left before it was safe to enter the warehouse. She pulled the car into the spot she had found a block over from the
building and slouched down in the seat to wait. She watched as the last of the workers left the warehouse and waited to be sure there was no one lagging behind. Finally, she left the car and merged into the shadows as she made her way down the alley behind the warehouse. The moon was full, but the cloudy night also gave her the ample cover of darkness she needed. She climbed the pallets that were stacked at the back of the building until she reached the window and pushed on it. 'Lucky break, it's unlocked. This is too easy,' the dark figured paused concerned for a moment, but when she didn't hear anything stirring inside, climbed through the window. Navigating her way down the crates that were stacked under the window she reached the floor and crouched in the shadows listening. 'Nothing, that's strange. I would have at least expected some sort of guard.' Hearing nothing she headed towards the front of the warehouse where the new delivery had been placed.
There were six medium sized crates stacked in front of the loading door. Sydney
grabbed the pry bar and as quietly as possible opened the top crate. The security
light's illumination was enough to let her know the crate was filled with nothing but shredded packing material. Rooting around proved futile, the crate was empty! "What the.... what's going on here?' she wondered and moved to open the next crate. By the time she had reached the fourth crate Sydney knew something was definitely wrong.
Sydney stilled instantly when she heard the click of a trigger behind her. "Well, well, looks who has come back from the dead to pay us a visit," came a familiar voice from behind her. Sydney eyes darted around for an avenue of escape but stopped cold when she felt the barrel of a gun pressed to the back of her head.
"Unh, Unh, I wouldn't try it if I were you. You won't make it two feet," came the laughing response. Sydney slowly turned to sneering face of Frankie Moldano and two of his henchmen.
"So, the cat has nine lives does she?" he laughed. "Soon, I think, you will be using up the ninth one. Tie her up," he motioned to his men, "I have definite plans for you later, my dear." Moldano stepped back and Sydney used the opportunity to make her move. She struck out at Moldano knocking him to the ground and as the gun skidded across the floor, she moved to intercept it. She was grabbed from behind as she attempted to level the gun at the trio in front of her.
"Drop it!" the assailant demanded. Sydney released the butt of the gun and it was grabbed from behind. Moldano rose from the floor and Sydney could see the hatred in his eyes as he advanced towards her. "Did you really think you could get away that easily?" he yelled as he backhanded her across her face. Sydney felt the pain explode in her jaw and he hit her again while she was held from behind. She felt his ring cut open her cheek and the warm flow of blood began to run down her face and neck. She struggled to remain on her feet and when the arms that held her up let go, she slid to the floor.
She lay on the floor in a daze trying to focus her eyes until a searing pain ripped
through her side. Moldano leveled another vicious kick to her ribs and she felt the air leave her in a rush. "Stupid bitch! What did you think I would let you just waltz in here and mess up my business!" he demanded as he pulled her hair and lifted her head off the floor.
Sydney's conscience swam between dark and light as she struggled to keep from
passing out. "How… did… you... know?" she whispered through the pain in her head.
"Oh, that's the best part" he laughed, "You see, your friend called me this evening and let me in on your little secret." Moldano let her head drop back to the floor with a thud. As Sydney drifted down with the pain, she heard, "Some friend, huh, Sydney? That's o.k.; where you’re going you won't need any." Sydney gave in and welcomed the darkness and the release from pain it afforded.
Consciousness came slowly to Sydney as a dull uncomfortable feeling in her arms that were pinned behind her back. Without thinking she rolled over to ease the stress on her shoulders. This movement caused her to snap alert as pain simultaneously stabbed in her head and side causing her to release a moan. She opened her eyes and saw that she was alone, lying on the floor of an office and assumed she was still in the warehouse. When the pain in her side and head abated slightly she attempted to sit-up. 'Big mistake!' thought Sydney as her head began to throb making her stomach toss. Leaning forward she gritted her teeth and concentrated fully on not throwing up or passing out. Sydney didn't hear the door open until she saw the figure advancing towards her. As the figure approached closer she leaned back and kicked out knocking him backwards. Quickly standing up she grabbed the edge of the desk for balance as her eyesight wavered with her stomach.
"Damn, Sydney," the figure moaned and attempted to stand. "Why'd ya have to go and do that?" Before losing consciousness again, she saw a vaguely familiar face as she slipped to the floor once again.
Sydney felt herself floating up out of the darkness and into the light and as the pain intensified she willed herself not to go back to the darkness. Moaning, she opened her eyes once more to see that she was in hospital bed and that it was daylight. With as little movement as possible she surveyed her surroundings as she heard a quiet voice from the corner, "Hey, Sydney how ya doing?" Sydney squinted and watched as Detective Abrams lumbered towards the bed.
"Where am I?" she asked hoarsely.
"St. Mary's. You were unconscious when they found you so they brought you here."
"Who found me? I remember.... can't remember" she mumbled.
"An anonymous call lead a squad car to the warehouse district where they found you in the alley" he replied. "What were you doing in down there?" he questioned.
'In the alley? I remember an office and a face...but nothing more,' she thought.
"Well, why don't I let you rest and we'll talk later o.k.? I'm just glad you’re alright," he offered. Confused, she looked at him questioningly as he walked out the door. The harder she thought about everything, the more her head hurt so she stopped and gave in to the peaceful darkness that enveloped her.
Coming fully alert to the quiet sounds of a television in the distance, Sydney opened her eyes and, for the first time since she was stomped, she could see clearly. Tentatively, she eased herself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. Her head didn't hurt as much but, her jaw and side ached, and she felt the cut on her cheek. 'Good, nothing too serious, nothing a few days rest won't cure.' She wasn't sure how long she had been lying here, but she knew she needed to get out of there before Moldano found out where they had taken her. Sydney couldn't remember how she had gotten into the alley from the warehouse. She also knew there was something she just couldn't remember, that one last piece of the puzzle she couldn't place. She opened the closet door and found her clothes still with dried blood, but that was the least of her worries right now. She had to find where Moldano had stashed that shipment before he had a chance to distribute it. She had to nail him with the goods if she was going to put him away.
After dressing she made her way down the stairwell and out of the hospital without being seen. She found a cab and after picking up her car, she checked into a nearby motel to clean up. Looking up at the setting sun, she took her suitcase from the trunk and went into her room. 'I've got some time to rest before Moldano will show at his place,' she decided.
Sam spent the night and better part of the next day cruising through the city streets and stopping at all the places she knew Sydney used to haunt. She stopped home briefly to shower and make a few more phone calls before continuing her search. Nearing evening she finally gave up and drove to Moldano's establishment. The Palm Club was an upscale yuppie hangout that mostly fronted for the drugs that were run through the back door. Classic supply and demand scenario, except in this case Moldano created the demand and supplied it. 'And who better to supply than those who can afford to pay for the service,' thought Sam. Sam entered the crowded club and made her way to a booth near the front window. In this crowd, she figured, she could observe in relative anonymity and still get out quickly if needed.
She ordered a drink and watched the crowd until someone slid into the seat across from her. She looked up and saw Moldano smiling at her, "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure," he asked. Swallowing to alleviate the panic she felt rising, she returned the smile and responded nervously, "I'm supposed to be meeting ah.... someone." She hated that Moldano could she that she was scared and knew he would take full advantage of it. He leaned forward and placed his hand over hers, "I hope nothing has happened to your guest. I would hate to think that someone would keep you waiting. Especially after losing your good friend." Sam pulled her hand free and stood smiling, "Not to worry I'm sure it's nothing serious. Maybe, I will go and see if there isn't a message on my service."
Moldano grabbed her hand and kissed it, "Well, if your uh...'friend' is unavailable,
maybe you would like to join me this evening." Sam extricated her hand from his
grasp, "Excuse me" and walked away wiping her hand on the back of her pants. She could feel her skin crawl from where his lips had touched her. She headed towards the phones in the back near the exit and slipped out quickly making her way to her car and driving home.
Sydney drove around to the back of the club and parked her car. She quietly made her way through the back door and stood unobserved by the edge of the bar. Her breath caught when she saw Sam sitting with Moldano. He was holding her hand and they were smiling. 'Your friend told me all about your little plan... some friend, huh...' The words came back to her in a rush as she stood watching her, one time friend, betray her again. Blinking back tears Sydney made her way out the back entrance and headed to her car. She drove around aimlessly, allowing her anger to build, as she decided her next move. 'Why is she doing this? I don't understand her involvement but, I think it's is time I find out!' with that Sydney made a sharp U-turn and headed for Sam's.
Sam walked into the house calling out to Gwen until she remembered that the older woman was gone. 'Funny, she didn't even say where she was going' she pondered as she walked through the house to the kitchen. Looking through the refrigerator she opted for a beer and headed outside by the pool and turned on the patio lights. She sat at the edge of the pool with her feet dangling in the cool water. The house behind her dark except for the light she left burning in the kitchen. She finished off her beer and was debating whether she wanted to get up and get another when she heard the scrape of the metal gate at the side of the patio. She looked up watching as a familiar figure approached her out of the shadows.
"Sydney!" Sam cried struggling to get to her feet, "What are you doing here? I've been looking everywhere for you."
"I'll just bet you have" Sydney replied sarcastically.
Sam looked at her confused as she watched the older woman approach. She saw the bandage on Sydney's face and noted the bruises that dotted her face. Sam raised a tentative hand to touch the older woman's cheek. Sydney stopped just out of reach from the young woman and the angry glint in her eyes made Sam drop her hand. "What's the matter afraid you’re seeing a ghost again? Or do you wish you were?" Sydney asked with a cold smile.
"What do you mean?" Sam responded trapped by the ice blue stare of the older
Without breaking eye contact Sydney coldly replied, "I think you know exactly what I mean. What I want to know is why." Sydney stood staring at Sam trying to hold her anger in check, her muscles twitching as she clenched her fists.
Sam could tell that Sydney was coiled to spring and this raw anger scared her. She had seen it before, just not directed at her and she wasn't sure why. Sam shook her head trying to clear the confusion and fear that she was feeling. "Why, what..?? What are you talking about Sydney? What happened to your face?"
Sydney grabbed the young woman's arm and pulled her closer. "Don't play games with me Sam! I saw you and your boyfriend. This is his little present from you. Do you like it?" she asked in a low threateningly tone.
Sam fruitlessly tried to wrench her arm away from Sydney as the woman's grasp
tightened. "I don't know what the hell you are talking about Sydney! Let me go, your hurting me!" she cried out in anger. Sam continued to struggle against Sydney thinking, 'What has gotten in to you?'
Sydney shook the young woman's arm and spat, "Don't play the innocent with me. I know you told Moldano exactly what I was doing and he was there waiting for me."
Sam's head snapped up and green eyes pleaded for reason as she spoke. "How
could I tell Moldano anything? You didn't tell me anything." Sam saw a slight hesitation of doubt in Sydney's eyes before the hard glare returned, and the door closed once again.
Sydney thought about his, but she had seen them together, and shook off any doubt. "I don't know how you found out but, I saw you with Moldano tonight and you two were pretty cozy."
Sam shook her head, "It's not what you think. Yes, I went there but, I went to look for you."
Sydney snorted disbelievingly and inquired, "Just tell me one thing. Why? Is this
paybacks for what I did two years ago?" When Sam didn't reply she took it as an
affirmation and continued, "If it is, I can handle that. I wasn't able to protect you and I take full responsibility. I just never thought you were into retribution." Sydney looked at Sam questioningly and then turned to leave.
"I never blamed you for what happened" Sam softly replied to the retreating figure.
Sydney half turned around, "No, you had a funny way of showing that."
Sam fought to keep herself from running to Sydney and making her see that she
blamed herself, not Sydney, for what happened and that everything had just gotten so messed up. Instead she stayed where she was and didn't say what she really needed to say. "What I did then was wrong but, I am telling you the truth now. Is there anything I can do to make you believe me?" Sam asked.
'Yes, tell me it was all a lie and you didn't really mean the things you said at the hospital and that your family took advantage of the situation and forced you to leave.' Sydney wanted to say, but her heart knew, 'that wouldn't have kept you away for two years.' Sydney looked at Sam and answered, "No, I don't thing there is" and turned and walked away.
Sam stood mute as Sydney slipped through the gate. The finality of the gate closing snapped Sam back to awareness of the situation. "Wait" she called as she ran for the house.
Sydney walked down the driveway to where she had parked her car. Her heart wanted to believe the sincerity she saw in Sam's eyes, but the young woman hadn't said anything except that she was wrong. 'Wrong for what? Blaming me for getting her shot or wrong for being with me?' Sydney climbed behind the wheel and sat caught up in the internal battle that was waging in her mind. She didn't see or hear Sam until the young woman opened the passenger door and got into the car.
Sydney looked over at Sam and before she could respond, Sam raised her hand to stop her and said, "Wait, before you kick me out onto the driveway let me have my say."
Sydney nodded her head and let Sam continue, "What I did two years ago was terribly wrong and what I haven't done in the past two years is inexcusable. I don't expect you to ever forgive me, but I want you to know that in no way have I ever blamed you for my getting shot. It was my own stupidity that caused it and I know that I could have gotten you killed in the process. I'll have to live with that. I'll also have to live with the fact that I made a mess of everything because I was a coward." Sam took a deep breath before adding, "I know you don't trust me or believe me right now, and I don't know of any other way to prove myself to you except to stay right here and help you."
Sydney looked at Sam in disbelief. 'She thinks what happened is her fault. That's not what her mother told me.' "No, it was my call and I should never have insisted that we try to go in without backup. You wanted to wait for help but, I talked you into going ahead without them" Sydney admitted.
"I could have said no. I am a big girl and, I can take care of myself. I wanted to jump into the fray just as quickly as you did," Sam replied. "If I used my head, he wouldn't have got behind me I wouldn't have gotten shot. So let's stop beating ourselves up over this and get on with this Moldano thing."
"What about Moldano? Are you and he working together?" Sydney asked.
"No! I wouldn't have anything to do with that snake and if you don't believe me, let's take a ride over there and I will prove it!" Sam answered emphatically.
"O.k. I believe you." was all Sydney said.
Both women grew silent, neither one wanting to be the first to broach the real issues that lay between them. Sydney was the first to break the silence. She gripped the steering wheel and looked out the windshield as she spoke. "I guess this isn't completely resolved is it? We haven't talked about the real problem have we?"
Sam looked down at her hands and replied, "No, we haven't."
Sydney nodded her head in understanding and looked at Sam, "Maybe one day we can but, right now, how about we take care of Moldano before he has a chance to get rid of his cargo?"
Sam looked at Sydney and smiled glad that her friend was beginning to believe in her and, secretly relieved, that they could postponed that hardest part of all. "O.k." Sam said rubbing her hands together in anticipation, "tell me all that has been going on and don't skip any of the details." Sydney laughed remembering the younger woman's enthusiasm and began to tell her all she had found out, up to her recent adventure in the warehouse.
"I can see why you thought it was me who betrayed you" Sam conceded, "but, who knew you were going inside?" she asked Sydney.
Sydney thought about his and answered, "Only you and Abrams even know I'm still alive."
"How much did you tell Abrams?" Sam inquired.
Sydney didn't answer as she thought about her conversation with the detective. 'It couldn't be him. He has saved my butt on more occasions then I can remember. Why would he give me up now? Think about this Syd. if it isn't him then it would have to be Sam.' Sydney closed her eyes at that thought and shook her head to clear her thinking. 'No, there has to be another answer.'
'She still doesn't trust me.' Sam thought sadly as she watched the inner turmoil play across Sydney's face. 'Well, I'll just have to try harder to prove myself' she concluded.
The drove in relative silence, each with their own agenda to work through. Sydney finally broke the silence, "We’re here".
Sam looked around and realized that they were parked in the alley near Moldano's club. "What are we doing here?" Sam looked around a little nervously.
"I don't think Moldano will expect me to come here, especially since I am still suppose to be in the hospital" Sydney replied grinning. "We need to find out where he put that shipment."
"Speaking of hospitals," Sam inquired, turning in her seat to face the older woman, "Just why aren't you still in the hospital?"
Sydney looked directly into green eyes, "Because I can't sit and be a target, waiting for Moldano or whomever wants me out of the way. I need to see this one through or I'll be looking over my shoulder the rest of my life. One way or another, I need to know. Can you understand that?"
Sam's felt the directness of those blue eyes and held the connection while nodding yes. 'I understand more than you know.'
"O.k." Sydney said and broke the contact between the two women, "I need to get into his office in the back without him seeing me. The club should be pretty packed by the looks of all the cars parked in front. You wait here." Sydney opened the door and added, "If I am not out in 30 minutes, don't come looking for me. Call Abrams."
"Wait!" Sam called after her. "I am not going to sit here while you go in there alone! Anyway, wouldn't it be better if I went in and kept Moldano busy?"
Sydney looked at Sam, her face cold mask, "Not a good idea."
Sam closed her eyes to stave off the hurt and anger she felt. "Listen Sydney. Like it or not you have got to start trusting me! You'll never pull this off alone!" the young woman retorted.
"Maybe, but I still won't put you in a position of danger. Do you know what Moldano will do to you if he gets the slightest suspicion you are working with me again?" Sydney replied and turned heading towards the club.
"Yes, I do. I am willing to take the risk" Sam called following after the retreating figure.
Sydney turned and grabbed Sam's arm to stop her and replied, "Yeah, well I'm not!"
"This isn't your decision to make Sydney. It's mine, and the sooner you understand that I choose where I want to be and with whom, the quicker we resolve this thing!" Sam replied pulling her arm away and walking ahead of the stunned woman.
‘I never could win an argument with her when she gets like this.’ Sydney thought
amused and ran to catch up with the angry retreating figure. When they approached the back entrance Sydney stopped with her hand on the door. "Sam just be careful in their o.k. Give me 20 minutes and then, no matter what, get out of there. Promise?" Sam looked up at Sydney, her anger quickly dissipating upon seeing the concerned look on other woman's face.
"Yes, I promise. You be careful too," Sam replied.
Sydney smiled and opened the door. Loud music assaulted their ears as Sydney
stepped into the dark smoky hallway and looked around. Seeing no one, she moved aside to let Sam go ahead of her down the hall. Standing in the shadows near the bar, Sydney looked into the club. Spotting their prey, she bent down and whispered quietly in Sam's ear, "There he is, the booth near the door. If you aren't out in 20 minutes, I am coming in after you, you got that?"
Sam shivered at Sydney's warning. She didn't know if it was the impending danger or the warm breath on her neck that had caused her to react. She turned to answer Sydney and saw that the she had already proceeded up the stairs to the office. Steeling herself, Sam walked into the club and headed towards Moldano.
"Well, to what do I owe this pleasant surprise again?" Moldano asked as he leaned back in his seat looking over the woman in front of him. 'This one is definitely a lady. After my brief warning she seems to have left well enough alone. She doesn't have the fire of the dark haired beauty but, there is a freshness, almost virginal quality to this one. I could do worse.' he thought grinning. "Please join me" he offered indicating the seat across from him. "Don't tell me you are still looking for your friend?" he asked knowingly.
"Not exactly" Sam smiled evasively.
"Good, then you can join me for a drink" he stated and motioned for the waitress to come over. After placing her order Moldano turned his attention towards Sam, "So, I hear your friend Sydney played a good joke on us all."
Sam tried to remain as unemotional as possible as Moldano scrutinized her reaction. "That's what I've heard" she replied as the waitress brought their drinks and conversation briefly halted.
"I don't suppose you know where she is?" he asked.
'Yea, she is right upstairs' Sam thought trying to maintain her facade of innocence. "No, I was hoping you could tell me" she replied.
"I can't believe her partner doesn't even know her whereabouts" he said shifting his body forward, closer to Sam.
"I'm not her partner anymore" Sam stated coldly.
"I didn't know that," he replied curiously adding, "then why are you looking for her?"
"Sydney owes me and I want to collect" Sam replied shrugging.
"That simple huh? Doesn't sound like you two are very chummy especially after the eloquent way you spoke at her funeral." Moldano replied grinning. He was actually liking this turn of events.
"Let's just say things aren't always the way they seem. She took some thing that was mine, and I want payment in return" Sam responded slightly grinning in return. 'Oh, yea, I want her to pay me but, not how you think slime ball', she thought mischievously.
Their conversation was interrupted by a ringing and Moldano picked up his cell phone, "Yeah." Sam tried to look uninterested as she listened to the one-way conversation. Looking at her watch she realized she was late but continued to listen. Moldano didn't say much and finally replied, "Set it up at the warehouse and no mistakes this time, you got that?" Without waiting for a reply he snapped the cover shut and set down the phone. Looking up and catching Sam watching him, he smiled and offered, "I'll tell you what, why don't we work together and try to find her. This way you can get what she owes you and I can get what's coming to me.
'Oh, I'd like nothing more than to see you get what's coming to you!' Sam grinned at her thoughts.
Moldano took her smile as agreement and continued, "I have to conclude some
business tomorrow evening around 8:00 p.m. Why don't we meet here around 9:00 p.m. to compare notes. I should have some interesting information by then."
Sam agreed to meet him the next day and exited the booth. She knew he was
watching her so she left by the front door and made her way around the side of the building.
As she reached the alley an arm reached out and pulled her around the building. Sam froze in fear until she heard a familiar voice in her ear demand, "Where have you been! You’re 20 minutes late. I was just getting ready to come after you."
Sam could see that Sydney was coiled and ready to snap, so she tried to diffuse the situation. "Let's not talk here" she replied heading towards the car. Sydney had no choice but to follow her and get into the car. Neither women said anything until they were headed down the parkway out of the downtown area. "So, did you find anything in the office" Sam inquired in an effort to get Sydney to start talking and stop grinding her teeth.
"No, not a thing" Sydney answered tersely.
"Uhm" was the only reply from Sam as she thought about her conversation with
"Well, are you going to tell me what took so long or am I suppose to guess?" Sydney asked still angry.
"Sorry, I was just thinking about everything and trying to put the pieces all together", Sam replied apologetically and told Sydney about the telephone call and the arranged meeting. Sam debated whether to tell Sydney about meeting Moldano in the club after. 'I have to tell her. There can be no more secrets between us if we are going to get through this.' Sam cleared her throat in an effort to get Sydney's attention, "There is one more thing." Sydney turned to her and raised her eyebrow in question. Sam smiled at this familiar gesture. "He wants me to meet him at the club after he concludes his business. He said he would have some information for me." Sam looked questioningly at Sydney. "What do you think he has planned?"
"I don't know but it's a bet that he is planning on getting rid of the shipment tomorrow, and I have to figure out a way to stop him," Sydney said frowning.
"You mean we don't you?" Sam replied seriously. Sydney looked over smiling and
Sam continued, "If not, it seems our friend Moldano thinks he and I can work together toward a common goal"
"Let me guess, the common goal being me?" Sydney retorted sarcastically.
"How did you know?" Sam asked feigning surprise.
Sydney grunted and replied, "I have many talents".
Sam chuckled at this and added, "Moldano is under the impression that you have a debt to repay me."
Sydney looked at Sam curiously and inquired, "And where did he get that idea, I
"Maybe it was something I said" Sam replied, unable to contain a grin from spreading across her face.
"I can only imagine what you told him" Sydney replied dryly.
The conversation had fallen into an easy going banter that had always been part of their friendship, its comforting familiarity relaxing both women. Sydney pulled into Sam's driveway and left it running.
Sam leaned over and shut off the engine and removed the keys, "Please, stay here tonight and tomorrow we can decide our next move."
"What about Gwen? I wouldn't want to cause any trouble." Sydney replied.
"She's out of town so it will just be the two of us" Sam answered, opening the car door.
"So, when the cat's away, the mice are playing?" Sydney retorted. "I don't think so," she said holding out her hand for the keys.
Sam stood next to the door with her hands on her hips and asked angrily, "What is your problem with Gwen?"
"No problem, I just don't want to get in the middle of your arrangement," Sydney explained.
"What arrangement for God's sake? She was my uncle's wife and I've been staying with her!" Sam exclaimed looking at the other woman in confusion. She saw the hope in Sydney's eyes and it suddenly dawned on her what this was all about. "You think she and I are....is that was this is all about?" she asked furiously.
"You’re not?" Sydney queried uncertainty creeping into her voice.
"No, how could you think there would be someone else? There was never anyone else," Sam replied curtly.
Sydney could see that Sam was about to go off on one of her rants and tried to
postpone the inevitable, "I'm sorry. I just thought..."
"No, you didn't think and you damn well better be sorry!" she exclaimed and stormed towards the house. Sam reached the front porch and stopped with her hand on the doorknob. Tired of always running away she rested her head against the cold metal and cried, 'How did I let things get so messed up between us? I ran away from her again in anger, no fear! She will never believe me when I tell her how much I need her.'
Sydney debated for a moment, '....always me...always me?' Finally realizing what Sam meant, she got out of the car and ran after her.
Sydney stopped as she almost ran into the young woman leaning against the house. She stepped closer and placed her hand on Sam's shoulder. She could feel the smaller woman trembling. "Sam, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you," Sydney gently whispered.
Sam turned around and looked at Sydney's concerned face, shaking her head she hoarsely replied, "No it's me. I'm the one who should be sorry. I'm forever running away. Can you ever forgive me?"
Sydney stepped forward and pulled the young woman into her arms and held her
replying, "There is nothing to forgive. We've both made mistakes." Sydney held her tightly until she felt the younger woman stop crying and began to move against her.
Sam's face was pressed into Sydney's neck and when she stepped back her lips
brushed Sydney's chin sending a bolt of heat through both women. Green eyes locked with blue in a moment of recognition and acceptance. Sam leaned forward wanting to touch the velvet skin once again.
Sydney closed her eyes as soft lips caressed her face. Nothing in this world was as soft as Sam's lips. Sydney moaned as feather light kisses made a journey toward their destination, and Sam ran her tongue lightly over Sydney's bottom lip. Sydney groaned and slightly parted her lips giving Sam the answer she needed. Sydney pulled Sam's body closer and the kiss deepened as tongues danced in reunion. Sam's hands caressed Sydney's shoulders and moved up to run her fingers through the long black tresses, pulling the dark haired woman closer. Gasping for breath they pulled apart and Sam buried her face in Sydney's neck. Sydney's heart raced as she realized the depth of that one kiss. Panic at what had just happened caused her to pull back away from Sam.
Sam was quick to recover and grasped Sydney's hand to pull her back to her. Green eyes searched blue and saw the fear that lay deep within them. Sam knew she had to do something or lose this forever. "Don't shut me out. I know I've hurt you in the past. I can't change what's happened. All I ask is that you give me another chance. I am not that same person. I know what I want, and I and you Sydney, and all that entails."
Sam saw the fear and uncertainty begin to fade and pulled the older women into the house.
The fires that still smoldered sparked to life as they fell together in a breathless
abandonment, kissing and confirming their love for one another. "I've missed you much," Sydney hoarsely whispered in Sam's ear, kissing the lobe and moving on down her neck.
Sam leaned her head back to allow Sydney freer access and answered, "I know, me too. We're together now and nothing will ever change that. I promise." Pulling away from Sydney, Sam grasped her hand and led her towards the bedroom.
Sated and sleepy Sydney held Sam in her arms stroking the young woman's back. Sam lay on Sydney's shoulder and felt a rumble from the woman beneath her. Turning her head Sam looked up questioning, "What?" Sydney indicated the clothes strewn across the room and the shirt hanging from the ceiling fan. Sam smiled and laid her head back down, "I guess we kind of got a little carried away."
"You can say that again" Sydney replied pulling Sam tightly to her.
"Did I tell you that I love you?" Sam asked sleepily.
"Yes, and you showed me too," responded Sydney. "You know I love you too, don't you?"
Sydney mumbled. Too tired to respond Sam nodded her head as they both slipped into a much needed sleep.
The next morning brought Sydney awake with a start. She felt a heavy pressure across her chest and a mass of blond hair in her face. Gently extracting herself from the sleeping body she got up and went into the bathroom. After a quick shower she walked back into the bedroom to find Sam still asleep. Unable to resist the soft lips pursed in sleep she leaned down and kissed her. A moan escaped those lips and Sydney deepened the kiss until arms snaked around her head and pulled her down onto the bed.
Sam awoke to the sound of water and realized that Sydney was gone. She debated whether or not she should get up and join her. Still trying to decide she fell back into a light sleep until she felt a feather light touch on her lips and moaned. She wanted to feel more of Sydney and reached up to pull her down onto the bed.
"Good morning," Sydney murmured between kisses.
"Yes, it is a good morning, isn't it?" replied Sam smiling under the assault.
"What's this?" Sam asked questioningly when her questing hands found the older woman dressed.
Sydney laughed and rolled off the young woman. "I think we had better get moving if we are going to catch Moldano." Sydney replied, rising off the bed before Sam could pull her back.
"Rats, just when I figure out all the answers, someone goes and changes the rules." Sam pouted.
Sydney laughed, "Don't worry we can figure them out again tonight."
"Promise," Sam leeringly grinned.
"That's a promise! Now get ready while I go round us up some coffee," Sydney
answered saucily as she wiggled her hips out the door.
Sam groaned and fell back onto the bed. "I'm dying here and no one cares!" she
shouted at the empty doorway.
"You'll live!" was the response from down the hall.
Smiling, Sam got up and went into the bathroom. After showering and dressing, she made her way to the kitchen where she found Sydney sitting at the table, her faced screwed in concentration. Sam walked behind her and pulled the woman into her arms. "What's got that pretty face so serious?" Sam inquired kissing her on the cheek.
Sydney smiled and turned in the chair and pulled the young woman onto her lap. "Just thinking about how to approach going to the warehouse again." 'To tell the truth I am scared to go back there again.'
"It bothers you to go there again doesn't it?" Sam inquired, concerned.
"Yeah," was all the other woman said.
Sam got off Sydney's lap and took the seat next to her. "This time you’re not going in alone. We will do this together, right!" Sam encouraged.
"Right!" Sydney smiled and gave the young woman a quick kiss. They spent the next hour talking over strategy and then it was time to leave. While Sam went to get her bag, Sydney made a quick call to Abrams to apprise him of the situation, and to get some backup.
Sam drove to the warehouse and parked in the alley a block over. There were no other cars in sight and they walked around the building looking for an entrance. Sam pushed on a window, which opened into a bathroom and motioned for Sydney to follow. They crawled through the window and came out onto a hallway near the front office. Sam motioned for Sydney to go into the office while she went to check down the hall. Sydney entered the office and began riffling through the file cabinets. 'Nothing, damn!' She moved over to the desk and began opening the drawers. She heard a sound from behind her and lifted her head in time to catch a fist as it came down knocking her sideways.
Sydney came to with her hands bound behind her, being held up by two men. A rope was looped around her neck and an overhead pipe which tightened each time she tried to move. She was balanced on a rail of the platform above the warehouse floor. Looking down she saw Sam standing next to Moldano with his arm around her waist.
Moldano looked up and smiled, "Well, your finally with us again. I was afraid Max had hit you too hard this time."
The man to Sydney's left grunted in acknowledgment and both men stepped away leaving Sydney to balance on her toes to keep the rope from cutting off her breathing. Oblivious to the pulling of the rope, Sydney looked at Sam and couldn't believe what she was seeing.
"You..." she whispered. 'After last night how could she do this. What was last night? Was it all a sham? What have I done that would cause you to hate me so? Have I hurt you that much?' Sydney lamented as she fought the tears that threatened to form. The pain in Sydney's head was nothing compared to the pain she felt in her heart as she looked into green eyes. "Why?" was all she could say as a tear slipped down her cheek and let her body sag forward as she bowed her head.
Sam saw the torn look in Sydney's eyes and knew she was giving up. "No!" cried
Sam, "It's not what you think!"
Sam tried to move towards Sydney but Moldano stopped her. "Not so fast my dear. The party is just beginning," he laughed and motioned for the men to get Sydney.
Sydney felt herself being lifted back up and the pressure ease from her neck. Taking in a deep breath she opened her eyes and looked uncaring at Moldano.
Moldano signaled and another man step forward and took Sam by the arm. "Take Sam to my office, it will be more comfortable for her there. Don't worry, dear, I'll take care of everything," he laughed, "and then I'll take care of you."
Sam, struggling to no avail as she was pulled away, shouted over her shoulder,
"Sydney, if you believe anything in this life believe this, I didn't betray you."
Sydney watched as they dragged Sam away and turned her attention back to
Moldano smiled up at Sydney, "Now, where were we? You've been a constant sore spot for me Sydney but, that's about to end. Eventually you will tire of holding yourself up and slip off the bar. It's a long drop so you shouldn't feel much." He motioned to his men and walked towards the office. Moldano stopped just under where Sydney was perched, "Oh, I should thank you for the little added bonus," he indicated the office, and as an afterthought, added, "You should more faith in your true friends."
The sudden release left Sydney shuffling to keep her balance on the rail as Moldano's words echoed in his head. "Yeah, true friends. What are those?' Sydney thought, "I don't have any friends.' Sydney remained perched on the bar until her legs began to burn from fatigue. She could slowly feel the rope tighten as she struggled to remain standing. The shadows in the warehouse were growing and she knew that night was approaching and her time was running out.
Sam paced the office trying to figure out how to get to Sydney. She had been left in here for nearly three hours and after twice trying to get out, she was brought back and unceremoniously dumped on her butt. After the second time, she had thrown a stapler at the barred window breaking the glass. Finally she had calmed down and had been pacing for the last hour trying to come up with something constructive. 'I can't leave Sydney believing that I had anything to do with this set-up. I've got to do something. If she doesn't make it out of here than it really won't matter what happens to me.' She thought and made her decision. Sam gently knocked on the door and when it was opened she smiled apologetically, "Do you think I could use the restroom? I've been in here for hours."
Max looked at her for a moment and nodded his head indicating that she should
proceed him down the hall. "Just don't try anything cute," he warned pushing her ahead of him. Max opened the door and looked around the room before allowing Sam to enter. "I'll be right out here and if you not out in 10 minutes, I'm coming in ready or not," he grinned maliciously.
"No problem," Sam responded.
As soon as the door closed, Sam ran to the window and gently pulled it open. 'Yes, finally something is going my way!' she congratulated herself and began to climb through. Once she was on the ground she ran around to the side of the building and looked for another entrance. Finding none, she ventured to the front of building and as she rounded the corner, she ran smack into Lt. Abrams.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded while trying to keep the young woman on her feet.
"God, am I glad to see you" Sam replied relieved and started moving towards the front door. "You've got to help me. They have Sydney inside and there isn't much time," she said pulling on Abrams to get him to move faster.
Abrams seemed to hesitate a moment and then moved in front of Sam and ordered, "Stay behind me. No matter what."
Sam nodded her head and followed Abrams into the warehouse.
They walked through the warehouse until they came to the stairs to the catwalk and Sam motioned up to Abrams. They climbed the stairs and headed towards the shipping area where Sydney was tied.
"Oh God," Sam moaned when she saw Sydney across the way. The woman was
slumped over, barely standing on the rail. Sam moved to get around Abrams when he put his arm out to stop her. She looked up confused until she heard a voice behind her.
"I see you have found my runaway. Thank you for bringing her back to me." Sam looked down at Moldano and Max moving towards the stairs.
She spun around to looked at Abrams who frowned and looked away. "How could you?" she asked him.
He looked at her and said, "I didn't have any other choice."
"You have a choice now. Look at Sydney, she can't take much more!" Sam exclaimed.
"You don't understand, it's my career at stake here," Abrams replied. "If I do this one thing for Moldano, then I'm in the clear."
"Do you really think it's as easy as that?" Sam yelled and then looked him in the eye before calmly adding, "Moldano will never let you off the hook and you know it. Does saving your career mean so much to you that you would sacrifice a friend?"
"No" Abrams mumbled running a hand through his thinning hair. "Get behind me and let me handle this," he ordered. As the men approached the top of the stairs, Abrams pulled out his service revolve and pointed it down at Moldano.
"That's far enough!" he called out.
Moldano looked up in surprise and anger flashed across his face when he saw the weapon pointed at him. "We had a deal Abrams," he angrily replied.
"I'm canceling it," Abrams answered back. Max made a move for his gun and Abrams fired a shot sending the big man hurdling back down the stairs. Moldano didn't wait to see if he was next and took off running down the stairs. He leaped over the motionless body at the bottom of the stairs and continued running with Abrams giving chase.
Sam ran for Sydney at the first sound of gunfire. She reached the woman who was fighting to maintain her balance and get free. Sam reached her and tried to hold her steady. "Sydney, I've got you, honey, just lean on me," Sam cried as she began pulling at the ropes that held Sydney's hands behind her back.
Sydney opened her eyes at the first sound of footsteps and watched the scene played out across the walkway. She remained still but kept her eyes focused on Sam. She couldn't make out the conversation, but it looked as if Sam was trying to get Abrams to listen to her. 'Probably trying to talk her way out of this one.' she thought bitterly. When the gunfire erupted, Sydney stood straight and began struggling against the ropes that held her hands. Sydney heard Sam running towards before she felt strong arms holding her up and easing the pressure from the noose. Her arms finally free, Sydney reached and pulled the rope from around her neck and jumped down to the catwalk. Sam caught Sydney as she stumbled on trembling legs.
Sydney stepped back, eyes locked for a moment before she said, "You should have left me there and got away."
Sam looked at Sydney and shook her head. "It wasn't me, it was Abrams that set you up" she answered. "I could never do that to you. Don't you know that?" she asked.
"Right now, I don't know what I know," replied Sydney, "except that Abrams is chasing Moldano and you are here, why is that?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because all I could think of was saving you," Sam responded as tears began to well up in her eyes.
"So you say" replied Sydney as she turned to go after Abrams and Moldano.
"Wait!" called Sam running after Sydney. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"To get Moldano. I don't know who is telling the truth, but I won't let him get away this time. It's either you or Abrams and I won't know until I talk to Abrams now will I?" Sydney bitterly responded.
"Then let's go find him and ask him," Sam replied and started running.
As both women ran through the warehouse a shot rang out and, in unison, turned to move in that direction. They came to the front office and found Abrams struggling with Moldano. Another shot rang out and Moldano slid to the ground. Sydney ran for Abrams and caught him just as he started to sway. She saw the first shot had hit him in the shoulder. Sam turned Moldano over and saw that he was no longer a threat and turned to Sydney, "He's dead. I'm going to get help."
Sydney nodded and turned back to Abrams and laid him back. "Hang on help is on the way," she said as she tried to assess the damage.
"It's not that bad" he replied trying to sit up.
Sydney pushed him back down and threatened, "Stay still or I will make it worse." Abrams smile turned into a frown and he looked away.
"Do you want to tell me about it" Sydney asked quietly as they waited.
Abrams looked back at Sydney and answered, "I'm sorry Sydney. I thought I needed the money, but Sam made me realize that it wasn't worth the price of a friend. It didn't start out involving you, but then Moldano added that to the deal when he found out you were still alive. By then, I thought I was in too deep to say no."
Sydney nodded as a tear slipped down her cheek. "What I did was inexcusable but, I hope one day, you can forgive me," he said as tears welled up in his eyes.
"We all make mistakes and then we have to live with those mistakes. I'm just glad you caught yours in time," she smiled and grasped his hand.
Abrams nodded and they waited until they heard the wail of the sirens, and Sam
returning with the paramedics.
Sam stood next to Sydney as they watched them load Abrams into the ambulance and drive away. The detectives arrived and bought Sydney into the office to question her about the events of the day. After telling them all she knew and declining medical attention, Sydney left the warehouse and stepped out into the night. She hadn't seen Sam for the past hour and wondered just what she would say to her. 'Maybe she has already left. Funny, I am finally free of Moldano but, somehow it just doesn't mean as much as it should,' she thought sadly. As she stood there staring at the sky she felt a presence behind her and knew instantly who it was.
"You’re still here," Sydney said without turning around.
Sam closed the distance between them but stopped just short of touching Sydney. Sydney could feel her breath ruffle the hair on her neck when Sam softly said, "I told you before that I wouldn't leave without you."
"I'm sorry for not trusting you. Can you forgive me?" Sydney asked hesitantly. Fear rippled through her that the chasm between them was too great to cross this time.
"There's nothing to forgive. A lot has happened in the past 24 hours but, it's taken me two years to realize that it will take more than that to come between us again. I've spent the past two years afraid of living and it's cost me too much already. I don't want to go back there, do you?" Sam replied stepping closer so that she was lightly touching Sydney.
Sydney closed her eyes in relief and her body swayed backwards into Sam.
Sam wrapped her arms around the taller woman and rested her check against her shoulder. "What do you say we go home and discuss our relationship further?" Sam offered.
"Home that sounds good but, do you think we could hold off any life altering
discussions until morning?" Sydney asked, turning to face the young woman.
"Who said anything about talking? Sam replied and pulled Sydney down the street towards the car.
Sydney smiled and responded, "I always said that I liked the way you think."
"Just the way I think?" Sam inquired teasingly.
"Oh, and more," Sydney retorted as they reached the car and Sydney trapped Sam against the car and kissed her soundly. The kiss deepened as each one vied for dominance with Sam winning this encounter. "Wow!" exclaimed Sydney as they pulled away from each other. "What I want to know is where did you learned to kiss like that?" she asked.
Sam smiled wickedly and answered, "I, too, have many talents."
ÓK. Stoley p>