|Oh Sheet! Eleven
Author: DivaKiva PM
After Ten Big Ones, Steph & Morelli get back together. Ranger disappears while working on a secret project involving national security and Stephanie is drawn into it. Spoilers for Ten. PG-13 (Unless I get smut-inspired) Work in progressRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 14 - Words: 20,045 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 32 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 11-06-04 - Published: 10-06-04 - id: 2084436
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
You could almost hear the air snap when Morelli's eyes broke off from flaming Ranger to glare at me.
"You don't know? You talk about making your own decisions, but you're here on the edge of gang turf and you don't even know what's going on?" He turned to Ranger. "At what point were you going to let her in on the lay of the land? When you were all the way down on Comstock and Seventh?"
Ranger was tight-lipped and cold-eyed as he stared at Morelli. I got the feeling that his anger was because Morelli's barbs were hitting home closer than his conscience was comfortable with. I glanced between them, still no closer to knowing what they were talking about. I turned on Morelli, poking him in the chest with my finger, driving him back towards his car.
"Don't get on Ranger's case when he's no better than you are about telling me what I need to know in order to make intelligent decisions. And don't go yelling at me if I go flying half cocked through Trenton because everyone's more interested in keeping me in the dark than giving me credit for the brains that I have."
A snort from behind me made me turn and I saw, Tank, Hal, Lester and Bobby standing next to one of the SUVs. Bobby was grinning and Tank was nodding. I was guessing that they all agreed with me.
"Do you guys know what the hell they're talking about?"
They all nodded. Bobby grinned wider.
"Fudging A! Everyone in Trenton knows except me!"
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a homeless crackhead, huddled next to a stoop, watching us with bloodshot eyes.
"You!" I yelled at him. He twitched in fear and back-crawled a foot or two away from me. "Do you know what they're talking about?"
He shot a glance around in a panic before answering. "Are you the Bombshell Bounty Hunter?"
I was speechless. I really didn't expect him to know, I was just asking him to drive home a point. I nodded dumbly.
"Then, yup. I know what they're talking about."
I stood staring at the bum for a good thirty seconds. Everybody except me DID know what was going on. If I was angry before, I just shot into supernova. I grabbed at my utility belt.
"Where's my stun gun? Where's my stun gun? He's going down!"
Ranger grabbed at my arm. He pulled me back and turned me around. "Calm down."
Just for future reference, when I'm in the middle of a temper tantrum, telling me to calm down is just about the worst thing you can do. I twisted my arm free and pulled away. I paced back and forth, trying to cool off.
"You should all be grateful right now that I don't have any bullets in my gun."
The only thing that I could hear was the heaving of my breath as I paced back and forth. The truth was, I was exhausted. I was still weak from being mugged by a candle and this tantrum was sucking out whatever energy I had left. My temper ran out of steam so I stood with my arms crossed in front of me, glaring at the two of them.
Morelli finally spoke. "In the past six months, there's been a escalation of tension among the Trenton street gangs. The Slayers had been growing more and more aggressive and predatory. They were encroaching onto other gangs turf. The murder rate for street violence was up about three hundred percent."
Morelli was sounding like a Trenton Police Department press release. He paused and looked at me. I took a deep breath as he continued.
"About two weeks ago, there started a little change on the turf. There was a rumor going down that a certain female bounty hunter had declared war on the Slayers, vowing to drive them out of Trenton." Yeah, I had heard about that. It was load of huey, but I'd heard about it. "Of course, the other gangs thought this was just wonderful." The sarcasm in Morelli's voice had a biting edge to it.
"So, a week ago, the Slayers kidnapped and tried to murder this certain bounty hunter. She didn't die, but within twelve hours, all the Slayers were either dead or driven out of Trenton. As far as the other gangs are concerned, it was the Bombshell Bounty Hunter that wiped them out." Morelli's voice had gone completely flat, but I knew he was angry. Maybe not at me, but he was really, really pissed.
"That wasn't me! It was Sally! And the other gangs! The only thing I drove out of Trenton was the Big Blue!"
Morelli ignored my outburst. "About a week or so ago, we started getting some reports in from the State Prison. There seems to be a new prestige badge some of the inmates were bragging on. Seems getting collected by the Bombshell Bounty Hunter now has major face value. Even more face if she kicked you in the balls."
I felt like someone had kicked me in the balls. I put my hand on the hood of the Explorer to steady myself. Morelli took a step towards me, but I waved him off.
"And…?" I asked
It was Ranger that answered "The new prestige factor for all the gangbangers in Trenton is to be collected by the Bombshell Bounty Hunter. It's gotten so bad that they won't come in any other way."
"Fact is," Morelli added, "some gang members are letting themselves get caught just so they can skip bail and get picked up by you."
"It's gotten a little out of hand," said Ranger.
You think so? I was having trouble breathing.
"In the past week they've shot and wounded two bounty hunters and a cop." Ranger's voice was flatlining as well. "And on Wednesday, fifteen year old Manuel Martinez of the Kings got himself killed rather than allow himself to be brought in by another bounty hunter."
I really needed to sit down, but my butt was in shreds and so was my head. I leaned my elbows against the hood of the Explorer and cradled my forehead in my hands.
"I've got faces on the street." Ranger said, talking about his gang connections. "The down is, if you're there for the bust, they come in peacefully. I've checked it out and it's for real. They've got no grief against you. It's all about their street status. They're young and stupid, but some of them may live long enough to out grow it."
I looked up at Ranger. There was a bitter note in his voice. I got the feeling that the death of Manuel Martinez was personal.
"Were you there when Martinez got killed?"
Ranger stared at me for a long moment before nodding faintly.
"Were you ever a gang member?" I asked him quietly. Ranger didn't say a word, but he didn't look away either and I think I had my answer. I looked over at Morelli.
"It's my job." I told him.
He looked at me with a weariness that almost hurt to see. "You're insane," he said at last. "But I'll back you up."