Wed, 4 Nov 1998
The Lady lady@tropicalstorm.com

Disclaimer: Witchblade and the characters therein belong to Top Cow. I'm just borrowing her and trying to have a bit fun along the way.

General Note: This is my attempt at a Witchblade fan-fic. Folks have talked about wanting some diversity, so here goes nothing. Comments and feedback are highly appreciated and welcomed. Please be gentle ;)

Continuity: These events take place just before the events of Witchblade #15. The Microwave Murders have been solved, so if you don't know or haven t read it, this could be a spoiler for you. (For all you Witchblade buffs, I cover part of the police station scene in #15 but with my own words and twist since the comic took Sara in a direction I didn t want to go for this story.)

Rated: PG 13 due to language, violence, and adult content.


The Gauntlet

The Lady

 

The voice called to her even in her dreams.

It soothed her. Coaxed her. Seduced her. It wanted to bond with her. Mind, body, and spirit. Bonded together in no, something was wrong. The world began to swim before her. Even that calm voice in her ear was eclipsed. Light warred with darkness. She felt warm and cool all at once. Everything was chaotic. Colliding together with blinding fury. There was blood. Everywhere. Blood and gunfire. And at the apex of this blurring vision was...her father?

Sara Pezzini bolted upright and awake in her bed. It took her several long moments before she realized where she was exactly. It took the space of several more heartbeats before she could separate what she saw physically from that which still echoed in her mind s eye. Long chestnut hair was matted to her forehead by beads of perspiration. Slowly, she lifted her wrist up to her face. Yep. It was still there. A dark gray, thick looking watch band on her right wrist. There were three jewels encrusted in it. The center one being large and red, the other being a translucent white one that flanked it and one dark blue jewel on the underside.

Each time she woke up, she almost half expected it to be gone. She half wished it was gone. Even after weeks of dealing with the Witchblade, that sentient gauntlet which had decided to attach itself to her, she couldn t decide whether or not it was a blessing or a curse. Considering it had saved her life more than once, she should be leaning towards blessing but then that part of her that has been honed by instinct and experience let her know that curse is perhaps just as likely. If not more so.

After taking a couple of minutes to gather herself, dark eyes glanced over at the alarm clock next to her bed. 6:30 pm. Her jaw tightened. This was going to be the second time in a week that she was over an hour late for work. Someone s head was going to roll. Namely her own. She thought to herself that she probably had just enough time to get cleaned up before going down to the police station. If she was going to get chewed a new asshole, at least she wouldn't have to face the firing squad with morning breath.


7:21 pm

Police Station

Detective Pezzini had been more than prepared to deal with a lot of yelling. The surprise came when she discovered it had already begun before she walked through the door. And strangely, none of it was directed toward her. Yet.

"Hey, Pez!"

Sara's head turned at the familiar voice. Jake McCarthy, her partner, motioned to her. A lot of the other cops often teased him about the surfer, beach bum motif they associated with anyone being blond and from California, but he normally took it in good stride. Sara stuck her hands in the pockets of her dark blue slacks as she walked over to where everyone was half-gathered to watch the action going on across the room. "So what's the deal? Who's that in the chief's office?"

The dark looming shadows of two men could be seen against the closed blinds of Lt. Joe Siry's office. Whoever he was trading words with was obviously a man. A big one who looked more than a little upset. Jake looked grim faced as he turned to Sara, shaking his head. "Captain Lofrumento."

Shit. Sara just shook her head and sighed to herself. Whenever the captain of the district decided to pay a visit, it was never a happy occasion as far as she was concerned. "So what does he want?"

Jake shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine."

"Something about the precinct numbers," one of the sergeants spoke up from his perch on a nearby desk. "New York City s crime solvency has been at 85 percent. Our's has been a little lower."

Sara arched an eyebrow, glancing at the window of the chief's office again. "How much lower?

The sergeant muttered something that Sara couldn't quite make out.

"What?"

The man cleared his throat. "About...40 percent."

She and Jake both winced at the same time. She knew that the department as a whole had not been up to top performance. Most of their resources had been concentrated on solving the Microwave Murders. But 40 percent was probably enough to get anyone's ire going.

"Pezzini! McCarthy!" The two detectives jumped at the booming bass voice that rolled toward them from the now open doorway of Siry's office. Only the voice that boomed wasn't Siry s, but that of Lofrumento.

Suddenly all the other police officers and detectives around them began to look very busy. Sara and Jake had only the briefest of moments to exchange glances before they made a quick line toward the office. The way Lofrumento s eyes watched them as they walked past him and into the office made Sara feel like she was walking the gauntlet. Then again walking a gauntlet might be more enjoyable than what she thought was going to happen next.

The door slammed with such a suddenness that made Sara almost jump out of her skin for the second time in less than five minutes. Her jaw tightened and narrow brown eyes locked on the captain. She knew when someone was trying to intimidate her and she wasn't about to let the captain get away with it. "You wanted to see us, sir?" Her voice sounded almost pleasant. Her features had settled into a hard line that gave away nothing.

"I don't know what the hell kind of stunt you two snot noses have been trying to pull but it ends. Now!" The captain lifted a hand to forestall the words he knew would be forthcoming from Siry the moment he opened his mouth. "The half-ass police work you two have been doing is going to stop now. The numbers don't add and the two of you are part of the problem!"

Jake stepped past Sara in a blur of anger. "Hey! We're the ones who've been busting our asses out there! We caught the biggest serial murderer to hit this city in years and it wasn't exactly a walk in the fucking park. So why don't you just lay off?" The moment the words had left his mouth, Jake knew it was the wrong thing to say.

Sara winced inwardly and had never seen the captain turn that particular shade of red. But before she could even say anything, Lofrumento was already on it. She looked over at Siry who watched the entire scene with a set face. He wasn't happy, that much she could tell. But there was something else, too. Something she couldn't quite place.

"I should bust your ass down to traffic duty for that show of insubordination!" The captain had moved so that he was literally yelling into Jake's face. "I've seen all your sloppy reports, McCarthy. You took the same damn oath as everyone else and you've been screwing up."

Sara stood with her arms folded off to the side. Though she wasn't the least bit surprised when those dark eyes that had been fixated on Jake turned to glare in her direction. "And you Detective Pezzini," he always used her title with more than a hint of mockery. "I always knew you were trouble. Damn department s gone to hell with all this modern crap and women on the force."

"You really- don't want to take me there." Sara's features narrowed. She d heard Lofrumento spout off his misogynist bullshit before and after her day, she really wasn t in the mood to humor him. Thankfully, she didn't have to worry about it.

"I expect this precinct to straighten up, Siry." The captain had dismissed Sara and turned his attention to the chief. "No more screw ups. And I better see some improvement around here. Or else." His eyes drifted over to Sara and he stormed out still in a rage.

Already, she could tell this just wasn't going to be her night.


11:22 pm

Little Italy

It wasn't much later that the call came through and Detectives Pezzini and McCarthy found themselves dispatched to crime scene. But when they arrived, even they weren't quite prepared for what they found. If someone had dropped a megaton nuclear warhead on the warehouse, it might ve been in much better shape. As it was, part of it was still standing somehow thanks to the city's Bravest. But not a single person inside had been left alive.

Sara was crouched in the corner looking over one of the bodies that the medical examiner had already covered. Cause of death seemed simple enough. The victim had had his throat sliced by something razor sharp. A knife. Or perhaps even a sword. Sara frowned and shook her head. She'd only met one man who had the style, and perhaps the arrogance, to use a sword in his hits. And he was dead. Ian Nottingham had died that same night that Kenneth Irons fell before the power of the Witchblade.

"Find anything?"

Sara looked up over her shoulder to see Jake standing just off from her, a pad and pencil in hand. She shook her head as she moved to stand. "Nothing that M.E. hasn't already reported. Come across any witnesses?"

"Not a one. Strangely enough, you could see the building burning blocks away. But no one within a city block seems to have heard or seen anything."

Sara shrugged. "Surprise, surprise." She glanced around the more than half torched building looking for clues. "It's a known mafia warehouse, but of course, no one's been able to touch it."

Jake nodded. "You think some of the Families are feuding?"

"I don't know." She stretched out stiff shoulders. "But it s too loud and showy for the Yakuza. Maybe the Triad." She shook her head. "I m going to check around the building and see if I can find any clues."

"All right. Be careful." Jake turned and began his own walk through the crime scene, watching his step with the practiced ease of a pro.

Sara made her way to the alley portion just off the side of the building. It was dark. The only light to see by was the dim glow of the street light and the flashing red and blue lights of the marked cars at the top of the alley.

Grabbing out a small pen light, Detective Pezzini looked around the exterior of the building. She doubted she would find anything that would do her much good. The on the scene officers had already gone through the area with a fine tooth comb, or so the story went. Still, she wanted to be sure every avenue had been covered.

'Protect....'

Sara blinked at the voice that echoed in her head. She stopped in mid-movement.

'Protect....'

Sara looked down at her right arm with a frown. She knew the source of the voice. It was the witchblade. But it was the why now part of it that caught her. As it called to her tendrils began to snake up her arm. Sara glanced all around her to find any source of danger, but to no avail. "What the hell is "

There wasn't even time to finish her sentence before she was hit from behind. The force of the blow sent her tumbling across the ground in an ungraceful heap. Sara rolled up and onto her feet with some effort as she tried to regain her bearings. Another blur of motion came out of that darkness and she was sent flying against a nearby brick wall.

Though the breath was knocked out of her, the witchblade had already extended its armor of protection up her arm and across her body. Sara looked up from the ground to find a tall man looming only a few feet. He was Asian with a slight muscular build. A partial tattoo across the left side of his face gave the illusion of tiger stripes. In his hands were tri-chucks with long blades on either end.

His name was Tora no Shi. Tiger of Death. The name perhaps said it all.


The Gauntlet - 2

Ever since she was a little girl, Sara Pezzini always knew she wanted to be a cop. There was never much doubt in her mind. New York's not really such a bad place, her father would say. But like any place else, there were good people and bad people. And Sara knew she wanted to be the one to bring the bad people to their knees. It was an ambition that only solidified after the death of her father -- no, she corrected herself -- the murder of her father. The witchblade had enabled her to take out the bad guys time and again. But she was still reluctant to use it. It's hard to really appreciate the weird things at your disposal that you do not understand'.

Little Italy
11:27 pm

But right now, Sara was prepared to make one hell of an exception.

"This day just keeps looking brighter and brighter," Detective Pezzini muttered to herself. Across from her, in a darkened alley lit only by flashing police lights at one end and a dim streetlight on the other, was a tall Asian man with a slightly muscular build. He held in his hands a set of tri-chucks with twin blades on either end. He'd thrown her for a couple of loops, but the witchblade had already begun to heal her scrapes and bruises.

The man was Tora no Shi. His name meant 'Tiger of Death' and right now he seemed intent on causing Sara's own demise. He came at her again; his movements were so fast that his tattooed face even resembled the tiger emblem that was showed clearly on his weapon of choice. But this time Sara was prepared.

She ducked into a roll to avoid the slash aimed at her torso, but that only earned her a swift cut along her left thigh as the other blade swooped in at her unguarded flank. "Ahhhh!" Sara cried out at the unexpected pain, biting down on her own lip. As she swung up this time, she leveled the witchblade gauntlet at him.

'Destroy''

Sara flinched as the thoughts of the witchblade merged with her own. Played off of her anger and emotions. But this man was out for blood. And this was perhaps one of the few times she and it agreed. A blast of energy shot from the gauntlet toward her assailant -- but was artfully dodged with both an efficiency and a grace that would have made Sara pause in any other instance'if she didn't think it might be at the cost of her life.

The blades came aimed at her once more. Tendrils suddenly jutted out from the witchblade, ensnaring the weapon and deflecting the blow. Another set of tendrils reached out to catch his legs. Tora no Shi rolled backward while in mid-air to avoid the tendrils. He jerked his weapon free nearly snapping it in two between his own strength and the grip that Sara had on it.

The man stood now, a good several feet away, back toward the other end of the alley. He merely stood there, watching her.

'Destroy him''

Then, Tora no Shi bowed. A slow smile briefly crossed his strong features.

'Now!'

Sara shook her head violently back and forth, closing her eyes in a clash of wills with the witchblade. No. She had to fight for control. She couldn't let herself be overwhelmed. To let it rule her actions. Always death and destruction. She would not kill him unless she was forced to; she would not strike him down where he stood.

"Whoever you are -- " But there was no one there to hear her words. In the brief moment she had closed and then reopened her eyes, he had disappeared. Enclosed in shadows her eyes and ears couldn't seem to penetrate. The witchblade had retracted on her arm, once again appearing almost ordinary.

There was not a sign or trace left anywhere to show the mysterious man had even been there.


Meanwhile....

"The death of Kenneth Irons has left a definite void in the criminal underworld, Takata-san." Bruce Wilder sat across from the young Asian man with the narrow lensed, red-tinted glasses. A cup of coffee was held casually in his hands, the steam smoking up steadily between the two men.

"The lack of Mr. Irons' presence is of little consequence right now, Mr. Wilder. The Yakuza has already taken steps to assert its authority and position of power in New York." The young man spoke with a practiced grace and maturity that seemed years beyond him. "Soon, there will be no doubt as to who is at the top of the criminal underworld. The Triad is of little consequence here. And the Italians shall be dealt with as my uncle deems fit."

Bruce smiled and bowed his head respectfully. "Of course, Takata- san. And I am more than happy to assist you. Though I am sure you know that the Italians are not simply going to roll over and give up their territory without a fight."

Takata nodded once. "Indeed, Mr. Wilder. We do not expect them, too. Which is why my uncle has granted me authority over this particular situation. And I have taken care to see that they understand we will not be denied."

"I trust that your venerable uncle will also see to it that my consulting fee is deposited into the proper account? While I am glad I can lend my services," he smiled and gestured with a free hand, "a man must make a living."

"Your usual fee has already been desposited, Mr. Wilder, with my uncle's gratitude. The information you have imparted to us has been most valuable and has already been put to good use." Takata looked up then and past the man in front of him.

A look of confusion briefly crossed Bruce's face before he turned his head to follow Takata's line of sight over his own shoulder. His eyes went wide briefly with surprise at the lone figure standing in the back of the room, half-cloaked in shadows.

"Please, Tora. Do not be shy." Takata half-smiled and gestured toward Bruce. "Mr. Wilder is an'information broker of quite a reputation.

Tora No Shi melted from the shadows, taking a single step into the light given off by the single lamp on the desk across the room. Whether he had only just arrived or had been standing there for hours was perhaps anyone's guess. His dark gaze shifted from Takata to Wilder, but he said not a word to either. Held casually in his hand was a simple cane with a white tiger emblem for a handle.

"You see, Mr. Wilder," Takata began to explain. "Your information has indeed already been put to good use by Tora. While we have known of the locations of several of the mafia warehouses, we knew not which ones contained what goods. What people worked at which locations. Which we could damage to send a message to our adversaries." He turned his attention back to the tall man with the cane. "The job is completed?"

Tora simply nodded his head. His face was set into an almost unreadable mask. It was that stern set of features that was the last things his victims in the warehouse had seen. But combined with that sternness had been something else. A passion. Though whether it had come from sheer killing or from the art of killing, his victims would never know.

"Yeah, well'," Bruce moved to stand, setting down his cup of coffee. "This is all fine and dandy but I have some previous engagements." He straightened the front of his jacket and gave Takata a half bow. "Takata-san'Tora." He turned to leave, a slight smirk on his features, though none could see it.

Takata moved to the other side of his desk, leaning against it as he gaze for a moment at Tora. "You have done well this night. You serve our family with honor."

Still, Tora merely stood there. He didn't even acknowledge the words with a nod of his head.

Takata frowned, but let this slight pass. He stood straight and walked over to the window of his office that overlooked a great deal of New York City, giving a picturesque view of the buildings and nightlights.

"I encountered the bearer of the Sacred Blade," Tora said after another moment had passed. His voice held a calm resonance that carried without him even trying.

"Did you now?" The other man's interest was peaked at this, though his voice did not change from its usual conversation tone. "So the woman showed up to investigate the crime scene, I imagine. Did you engage her in combat?"

Tora turned now to Takata. "There was a brief combat, though I chose not to fully engage her." Indeed, what he did in the alley was merely a taste of his full artistry in combat.

"Perhaps just as well, Tora. I am sure you will encounter Det. Pezzini again before this is over. If nothing else, she has a weapon that we value." Takata moved to step away from the window. "But for now, we have other business to which we must attend."


4:45 am
Chelsea
NYC

It had taken hours for them to finish up all the paperwork. But finally, Sara had finished and somehow managed to get off from work before sunrise. A definite point for her. Though it had been interesting trying to explain to explain to Lt. Siry and Jake about how she was attacked in the alley by a man, resembling a tiger, who knocked her around like she was his plaything. After she'd filed her statement, it had taken threats of near bodily harm to convince Jake that she didn't want or need a ride home from him and that she was just fine and safe on her own.

She still wasn't quite sure what to do about Jake. He was a good cop. He was a good friend. But anything beyond that'. When she had made the brief mistake of dating the late Ken Irons, she'd accused Jake of acting like a jealous boyfriend. Stalking her out on her date. Crashing a formal fundraiser to try and get to her. Even though he was proven right in retrospect'.

Sara shook her head to herself as she continued to gaze absently out of the cab window as it rolled down the New York streets. It didn't matter now. Even Ian was gone. He'd saved her life and he was gone. But the past was the past, and right now, she had more on her plate than she could stomach. Namely a Captain who was looking for any excuse to bounce her ass off the force and the possible start of an underworld crime war.

Who had been that hitman in the alley? Not mafia. His style seemed to scream Yakuza. And if the fireworks that had gone on that night were any indication, this case was going to be far from over. Men like that didn't make such grand moves without meaning serious business.

Sara blinked as something roused her from her thoughts. "What?"

"I said we're here, Pez." The cab driver had stopped in front of her brownstone apartment building and was looking at her through the review window.

"Oh, sorry -- been a long night." She reached into her pocket and handed him the usual fee and a decent tip. "Thanks, Max."

The older man smiled, though it was half obscured by his mustache. "Anytime."

Sara sighed a bit to herself as she climbed the stairs up to her apartment. Was it only a few hours ago that she had woken up and walked into one war zone after another? That was the problems with irregular sleeping patterns, sometimes things blurred together without you even knowing it. Sara took her keys out of her coat pocket and jiggled the handle a bit before opening the door.

But soon everything was going to be fine. Maybe she'd get a nice, hot cup of something. Slip into a pair of comfortable old sweats, and then climb into bed and not roll over until about noon. Maybe she could go to the gym '

"Sara ' where the hell have you been? I thought you got off at 2:00 am tonight? Whoa...slow down there, Lone Ranger...."

Sara blinked startled brown eyes as she tried to pierce the half darkness of her apartment. It took her a spare moment to shake herself into an alert state, "...Julie?" Sara held her position just inside the doorway as she looked up and at her sister who stood halfway across the room, her hands raised in the air. "What are you doing here?"

Julie Pezzini still didn't move a muscle, her usual grin faltering just a tad. "Umm...how about I tell you after you put your gun away?" She pointed with her hands still upraised in the air.

"What?" A look of confusion crossed Sara's face momentarily until she looked down and realized that she was standing with her .357 handgun trained dead center on Julie's chest. Still, watching Sara, one might think she lowered the weapon with a bit of reluctance. Sara didn't hold a tremendous amount of fondness for her sister, and whenever she showed her face, it usually meant a headache for the detective. "Maybe next time you'll think twice about picking my locks." She muttered as she reholstered the weapon and shut the front door behind her.

Julie relaxed about tenfold as Sara's weapon disappeared. She grinned and walked over to the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen of the one room apartment. There was a carton of orange juice set out with a bottle of vodka. "Are you 'always- in cop mode, or do you like...ever take a break? Maybe I'll drag you off to that new club that just opened up." She grinned. "Want a drink?" She lifted up an empty glass on the counter.

Sara sighed to herself as she got the sinking suspicion that sleep was going to be a bit farther away than she had hoped. "No, Julie. I'm tired. What I want is bed. And you're sitting in my living room, drinking up the last of my vodka, and babbling incessantly."

"Geez, love you too, sis." The sarcasm was more than evident. Julie was only three years younger than Sara, but most of the time it felt like three hundred. "Come on, I'm celebrating." She smiled and pulled out a rolled up magazine from her back pocket. "Hot off the presses. I thought I'd bring one by personally." At the blank look from Sara, she continued on. "Remember? I landed the cover to 'Ouch' Magazine?"

Actually, Sara didn't remember, but perhaps it was just as well. "Yeah, great. Congratulations. I'm thrilled."

Julie frowned and flopped the magazine on the counter. "Thanks for your oh-so-encouraging-words."

"Julie ' " Sara sighed. On their best days, she and her sister were at a semi-truce. They'd always been different. Sara thought her sister was frivolous and couldn't care less about the important things in life. Like a steady job and being responsible. Julie thought Sara was a little too serious and acted more like her mother than her sister. "That's not what I meant. Look, I'm just tired. I really am very happy for you."

"Please, don't strain yourself, sis." She grabbed her coat from the back of her chair and started toward the door. "I better go. I've got at 'go-see'* at 11:30. I need to get some sleep."

"Julie, look... "Sara shook her head again. "Why don't you just stay here, it doesn't make sense for you to go back across town ' "

"Don't worry about it." Julie interrupted and was out the door before her older sister could interject with anything else.

Wonderful. Sara locked her front door and disappeared into her bathroom momentarily to look for a stray pair of sweats. It was cold in her apartment and she didn't feel like waiting for it to heat up. She curled up underneath the covers of her bed with a cup of hot chocolate and watched the early bird news. There was a report on the warehouse incident, though they were reported that it was arson caused by some neighborhood kids or something to that affect. Nothing was told about the murdered bodies within. The police and the medical examiner had made no comments, of course.

When Sara finally fell asleep, it was well after sunrise. Visions of white tigers chased her through darkened streets in her dreams. And as always...the voice of the Witchblade called to her with its siren's song.


Part 3

 

11:32 am Cavalry Cemetary

When was the last time she had been to visit Michael's grave?

One week? Two? A month?

Detective Sara Pezzini had to be completely honest with herself. She hadn't been to the gravesite of her dead partner since the fruneral. Even then, she had struggled not to cry. She had to be brave. Strong. Every bit the rock she knew Michel would have wanted her to be.

It had been hard then. And for some reason - it was even harder now. Had she ever really grieved for his loss that night'the same night the Witchblade came into her life. The night it saved her life. The night she almost wished it hadn't.

She never knew then or later why the Witchblade had choosen her. What little she knew about it came from the mind of the man called Kenneth Irons. Its powers were formidable. She had seen it at work more than once. She had even managed to revive the body of Michael in the morgue -and even now it sickened her to think of it. The expression on his face. The confusion. Her guilt.

But now, he was at rest. At peace. A peace that eluded her, and had probably eluded her since the day her father was killed.

Sara knelt down near the grave marker. Underneath Michael's name was printed: Loving husband and devoted father. Sara placed a small flower, not a rose, but a white carnation just in front of it.

There were a million and one things that raced through her mind that she wanted to say. So mcuh she wanted to share'but words seemed so frivilous right now. In this place. So, she just sat there in the still quiet.

When her pager erupted with a loud BEEP BEEP BEEP to startle her out of her revere several minutes later, Sarah felt her heart catch in her throat. She reached to the waist of her jeans and checked the numerical message on it. It was Jake. And as usual, they had trouble.


Meanwhile-

 

"Look, Joe. I know you mean well, hell, you're one of the best cops I know. That's why I had you meet me here." Roy Lofrumento sat across from Joe Siry, a cup of coffee held between his massive hands. The back room they currently sat in was bear with the exception of a large, rectangular table and a few scattered chairs. "Crime in this city has gotten out of hand - you know it, and I know it."

Joe shook his head a bit to himself. Roy was his Captain. His superior. His friend. They'd been friends for years. They'd both been guilty of a lot of things he'd much rather forget, and now, they proposed to do it all over again. "Roy, we can't go back to all of that stuff. If we let them force our hand, then we're '"

"That we're sick and damn tired of letting these bastards run all over us!" Roy interrupted. A massive fist slammed on the table for emphasis, but Joe was not put off. He knew Lofrumento and his temper. "Dammit, Joe. These nuts are blowing up buildings in the middle of the city and they think they can get away with it. The Yakuza, the Mob, the Triad, the Syndicates; their little underworld wars have to be put to an end!"

"We're doing the best we '"

"That's bullshit Joe, and you know it!" Roy's voice was reaching another fevered pitch.

Chief Siry's expression became sullen and her jaw tightened,"What we did back then was different. Things are different."

Lofrumento's face turned a dark red as he slammed down another fist. "If we don't take care of this now and take them down, they're going to start thinking they run this city. Hell, half of them already think they do." Surprisingly, he grew calm again. His dark gaze relenting as he looked at the reluctant face of his friend. "Come on, say you're with me on this."

Slowly, with more than a show of foreboding, Chief Joe Siry nodded. "I'm with you."

 


1:45 pm Lower East Side

Det. Pezzini arrived on the scene to find that a building and area alley had already been cornered off by the uniforms. As usual, there was a slight crowd being held back. People always seem to flock to tragedy. Its human nature. Not necessary good...but human nevertheless.

Jake McCarthy waved her over from his position on the front steps of the building, "Hey Pez, took you long enough." He held a small notepad in hand that he had been using to take notes. He looked down the front of her jeans and noticed the fresh grass stains with a raised eyebrow. "Have fun?"

"Visiting a friend," she shrugged and glanced up to the front of the building. "So what've got?"

Jake nodded a bit and flipped back in the notebook toward the beginning. He knew Sarah well enough to know whens he didn't feel like talking. So, business it was' "Okay, we've got a caucasian female. Appromixately late teens to early twenties and'." He looked up at her and seemed to consider something. "Maybe you should come take a look for yourself."

Sarah arched a slight eyebrow,"The M.E. hasn't bagged and tagged yet?"

Jake ran a hand through his short blonde hair and shook his head. "Not this one, not yet. It's a bit - unusual." Jake refolded his notebook and stuck his pen back in the front pocket of his shirt.

The way into the building was being guarded by a couple of the boys in blue, but they parted to let the two detectives into the crime scene. Though they didn't have far to go. Just beyond the entrance and up the hall was a body spawled out for all of the world to see. She was young. Couldn't have been a day over 21 perhaps. She had a small frame though she was not entirely petite overall.

Sarah bent over the young woman and looks up at Jake, her question apparently obvious as he nodded his head. "M.E.'s already been through here with a fine tooth comb and the guys and girls back the lab have more photos than they could possibly ever need."

The woman reached out a hand to the body's jaw. Best always to think of it as a body. It just doesn't do to think of it all in terms of he and she - someone's sister - girlfriend - daughter - Sarah turned the head to the side and saw the marks around the neck. Strangulation. Whatever it was has been able to bite through the skin and bruise it heavily. She'd died slow. She'd died painfully. That much Sarah could tell.

Now, to figure out who did it.

And why?

 


*'go-see' ' a modeling term. Basically going to 'audition' for the job. Letting the client see you in person.

Special thanks to my editor and Beta Reader, C. Perez. How does he put up with me? The world may never know.


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