Author: Javanyet PM
A continuation of the events of Mortal Wounds. Maura's creative vengeance against Kevin Mitchell complicates Nick's life at home and at work.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 4 - Words: 15,097 - Reviews: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 08-21-06 - Published: 07-28-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3072765
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The speed with which her tangled mess had been unraveled was almost as disorienting to Maura as the events that set it in motion. Of course Schanke's revelation of the discovery of Kevin's sneakers raised yet another fear in her, that of who the vagrant actually was, and where he usually hung out. She'd been certain nobody had been around the morning of Kevin's flamboyant demise. Then again, she'd been certain she and LaCroix had gotten rid of everything that might draw attention to the area. When she called Nick after Schanke left the loft she begged him to find out more.
"Nick, this guy just dropped out of nowhere, poof. Nobody lived around there, no bums, no gangstas or crack heads. How the hell could he just have happened to be trolling for wardrobe? And I never heard about the arson, either."
"Slow down, will you?" Nick was at his desk when his cell went off so he took it down the corridor, trying to keep his voice down. "It wasn't a big fire, it burned hot but burnt out fast, by the time the one truck got to the scene there was almost nothing left to put out."
"I dunno, it all just seems so, so, outta nowhere, you know?"
"Look, why ask why. It's over. Kevin Mitchell's file has been officially closed, he's been declared dead in absentia."
"Bullshit. It takes seven years."
"In the movies, maybe. There's absolutely no reason for anyone not to believe he died in that utility shed. The assumption is, he got away and wasn't bright enough to skip town. Case closed."
There was something else. "Nick, Schanke knows." She could hear him jump when she said it, and his voice dropped until it was barely audible.
"What are you talking about."
"He knows, that I helped Kevin skip. He knew when he came here to talk to me, the sneakers were just a lame excuse for the captain and everyone else. He knew I had something to do with it, he called me first to tell me the real reason he was coming. Don't ask me how he knew."
"He's a good detective. That's how he knew."
"And he's your partner. He knew you were all twisted up over something and it wasn't more than just the disappearance itself. He came so close it was scary."
"Well he seemed okay when he came in… what could you have told him that would have satisfied him?"
"Almost the truth. I told him I convinced this guy I knew, a transient who said he had hypnotic talents, to interfere with Mitchell's transfer. I told him it didn't matter if the guy could do it or not as long as he found a way to get Mitchell away. I also told him I didn't know they guy's real name, or where he lived and that it would be impossible to track him down."
"Well you managed all that with just one actual lie." Nick sounded impressed. He could hear Maura's breath getting uneven. "Calm down, Sweet, it's all over now."
"But Nick, it was so close. What if this guy saw something?"
"Maura I have to get back to the desk. I'll be home by 2 and we can talk about it some more. But please just try to relax, okay? I promise you have nothing to worry about."
"Well okay I guess. I'll try to unclench my brain. See you later."
Maura flung herself into the leather armchair. "Nick, jesus," she insisted as if he could hear, "how can you be so sure. What if he saw?" She jumped a mile when she heard the smooth voice come from seemingly thin air.
"He didn't see. But he knew." LaCroix announced this from the gallery and strolled down the stairs as if he were a boarder coming down for dinner.
"Shit, LaCroix, what are you up to?" She leapt from the chair. "How long have you been here?" It really creeped her out that he could show up and hang around and she'd never know.
"Please, do sit down. Nicholas is quite right, there is nothing to worry about." Apparently vampires could tap cell phone conversations. Swell. In spite of herself Maura returned to the chair, bereft of comment. She was so bewildered by recent circumstances she simply waited for him to explain. He settled himself on the sofa in an elegant slouch, but said nothing.
"You're gonna make me ask," Maura grumbled, eliciting an oily smile from her "guest".
"Manners dictate I wait to be invited to speak."
LaCroix seemed disappointed that she wasn't playing along with his tease. "Oh, all right. I can see you have no appreciation for true storytelling. The reason this 'vagrant' is no threat to you is that he is one of us. Well, not quite one of us," he paused with an expression of subtle distaste, as if he just discovered a rodent hair in his flan. If he could eat flan. "He is a carouche. The reason that he was so effective in his role as a filthy idle ragpicker is that is exactly what he is."
Maura was aware of the existence of the carouche, but in her whole life had never encountered one. Not so unusual, they were near-untouchables to the Community. She'd be as likely to have had contact with one as she would with some exotic form of rat. "And this carouche just stumbled onto the shed?"
Now LaCroix perfectly mimicked Maura's exaggerated look of patience on the rare occasions she'd put him in his verbal place. "Well wouldn't that have been convenient." He fixed her with a look he might use on some simpleton requiring detailed instructions for a simple task. "Not only did he not 'stumble onto' the shed, he had one of his mortal minions set fire to it the night before."
"So it was a setup." God she sounded dense. LaCroix of course picked right up on it and clapped his hands delicately.
"Brava, Maura, you have deduced our little play-act. When my mortal minions went back to finish cleaning up on that fateful morning, one of them located the shoes you so carelessly neglected to remove. I confess I had a certain sentimental attachment to them, being the sole surviving evidence of our wickedly inspired adventure."
"You're a sick fuck, you know that?" Maura interjected, enjoying as always LaCroix's reaction to her foul language.
"I'll overlook the murderess calling the accomplice 'sick' for the moment… the fact was that there seemed to be no imaginable way out of Nicholas's dilemma by any conventional means. If things dragged on long enough there was a danger that some element of the truth might have been found out, which you know of course would be the end of your happy life with Nicholas."
"Yeah, truth sure is an ugly bastard, huh," Maura muttered bitterly, then to LaCroix, "Would you mind cutting to the chase? As you're fond of reminding me, I don't share your rich, full lifespan."
LaCroix rolled his eyes like a tolerant schoolmaster. "Very well. We reasoned that our scenario was plausible enough, given the recent unusual turn of events, to be accepted as an end to the whole unpleasant business. No more embarrassing questions asked about the night in question, no further need to search for a creature some of us knew was not to be found."
"You keep saying 'we', what's all this 'we' shit?"
"Why Nicholas, of course. He advised me what type of scenario would be most convincing to a conscientious detective like his partner."
"Nick knew about this." She could scarcely believe it. "He knew and he didn't tell me."
"Well we believed it best if you were seen to be as taken by surprise as anyone else. Some things are safer kept to oneself until the time is right." He had her there, and he knew it.
"Well I don't know what the hell to say to that." She thought for a moment. "What on earth possessed you to bail me out of this?"
"Do you really believe I'd stand by while a vengeful mortal brought the Enforcers down on us all with her reckless behavior? When it became evident that something needed to be done, I contacted Nicholas, who listened to reason after very little discussion. And after all, I did extend to you the offer of a favor should you need it." He reacted to her stunned expression with a ringing laugh. "Naturally you believed that my participation in your farewell to Kevin Mitchell was that favor. Please, Maura, be sensible… helping along the demise of an inferior creature hardly carries much currency, it was nothing more than a diversion for me. Setting the train back on the track again, so to speak, now that was a more worthy challenge." LaCroix settled deeper into the sofa and lazily examined his nails. "Barely."
"You couldn't have known this all would happen."
An offhand shrug. "My dear your 'plan' made it plain to me that when sufficiently provoked you follow no pattern of logic or reason. Things would spin out of control, of that I was sure. It was the variables that were intriguing."
"So this is the 'favor' you were talking about, then."
"You must admit I've solved what's obviously the first insoluble problem you have ever encountered. Or should I say, caused."
Maura was about to respond with an angry outburst, but LaCroix's single arched eyebrow stopped her. He was right, damn him, wasn't he? All her life she'd stumbled into mazes and traps, but they were already there and waiting for her. Her mistake had always been either the inability to avoid them or the stubborn denial that they might exist. This time was the first time (that she knew of anyway) where she had built the mazes, laid the traps, and everyone around her had paid the price. And wouldn't it just be the case that the only one capable of rescuing them all was this, this arrogant, self-important, self-styled omnipotent and eternal (in the most hideously literal sense) pain in the ass… his mild expression and superior, expectant smile made her want to break a chair over his albino buzz-cut head and pound the broken leg through his chest. But no, now she owed him. Kill me now, okay? For once just cut me some slack, and rip my throat out.
"So I guess I should say thank you," Maura muttered, clearly choking on the words.
"Now then, don't take it so hard. Your friend's death has been avenged, and Nicholas' job and reputation among mortals is no longer at risk. And I promise not to gloat… much." He put on the smile of a motivational speaker and gestured with both hands, palm up, as if revealing the newest wisdom of the ages. "What is that expression the corporate age is so fond of… win/win?"
By now Maura was slumped sullenly in her chair and scowling through her eyebrows at her much-too-cheerful visitor. "Fine. Fine. Game, set, and match to the general from Pompous. Oh I'm sorry, I meant Pompeii." She stood and stalked toward the elevator. "Not that I don't want to be the perfect hostess, but would you please get the fuck out?" She inserted a theatrical pause and turned to mimic his subtly satirical tone, "With all due gratitude, of course…" but he was gone.
"LaCroix!" she shrieked like a fishwife to the empty air, "Don't expect any flowers from me!"
Laughter echoed from nowhere, and everywhere. "I wouldn't dream of it…"
By the time Nick got home hours later Maura's temper had cooled, but the annoyance remained. "Why couldn't you have been an orphan?" she demanded the moment he'd come in the door.
There it was, the tolerant affectionate smile he reserved for moments like these. When she was being an unreasonable bitch-from-hell. "Maura," he sat on the arm of the chair where she'd been reading, "LaCroix did what none of us could do, he put and end to it. He pulled us all out of the fire."
"So to speak." She'd been thinking about it all evening, and it killed her to admit LaCroix's solution was brilliant in its simplicity, perfectly tailored for its 'audience'. She hated that. "You could've told me. You could've trusted me."
Nick's response was gentle but its point was unmistakable. "So could you." That knocked all the fight out of her.
"Yeah I could've, couldn't I." A shadow of sadness flickered in her eyes. Nick headed it off with a kiss and a reminder.
"No more circles, Sweet. And I think we've managed to redraw all those lines you crossed."
"You might want to add some barbed wire, just in case."
Nick laughed as he pulled Maura to her feet for a proper hug. "I'm sure Raven has some extra lying around." When he looked at her again, her frown had deepened. "What?"
"I'm thinking about James. That's one line I'll never be able to re-draw."
"You could be right, Doucette, and I'm sorry for that. But maybe Vachon was right, maybe all it needs is more time and things will smooth out."
"Eight hundred years?"
"Probably not. Now c'mon, why don't we go have a dance or two and visit Janette ."
Maura brightened. "Okay. Maybe she can lend us some barbed wire."