Author's Note: Welcome to Episode 3: Buried Above Ground. This episode is a continuation of the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 2: Rules of Engagement. This episode will take place mainly away from NYC. We'll also see Mac Taylor and Stella Bonsasera interacting once again, working together to solve the case in the present while dealing with the repercussions of their pasts. As always, disclaimers apply. I'm borrowing the characters respectfully for everyone's entertainment but I don't own a doggone thing. I appreciate any and all R&Rs and definitely listen to suggestions if any are made. Enjoy!

Current order of the stories:

Episode 1: Missing Heart

Episode 2: Rules of Engagement

Episode 3: Buried Above Ground


Chapter 1

Adam Ross' words hung in the air over a thousand miles away. "Stella … I've got an emergency and I need your help."

Boy had that been an understatement. Stella sat at her desk in her office at the New Orleans Crime Lab looking at the phone she'd just hung up, replaying the unexpected conversation. An emergency and he needed her help? The woman just shook her head and prayed that Mac could keep Adam from jittering apart because he certainly sounded like that was what he was on the way to doing.

She stood up and walked out to the young woman that acted as the lab's office manager. "Justine? Someone from the FBI is going to be calling within the next thirty minutes to get your assistance on hotel availability. They're probably going to need help booking a couple of rooms as well. It would be a personal favor to me if you could give them what assistance you can. If that assistance guides them into booking at your Grandmere's extended stay hotel so much the better. If they balk staying in the historic district, tell them the building has all new wiring and upgraded wifi. Are Josef and Thad back yet from that body found in the dumpster down in the French Quarter?"

"Yes ma'am but they had to hit the showers before reporting to you."

Stella shook her head in sympathy. "I can imagine. When they have the funk of Eau de Dumpster under control tell them to meet me in the conference room."

# # # # # # # #

Back in NYC all eyes had been on Adam when he handed the phone off to Mac, unable to verbalize what was happening sufficiently so that Stella wouldn't think she was being pranked.

"Mac? What's going on?"

It had been so long since Mac had heard Stella's voice that it took a moment for him to respond; however, once he did he had Stella on the edge of her seat. After a moment she asked, "How sure is Adam that they're bringing his girlfriend to New Orleans? And why the hell would he think that? And why the hell didn't I know he had a serious girlfriend? What happened to that Michelle chick Lindsey told me about?"

Adam heard the question and felt Danny's hand of support easing him down into a lawn chair someone had brought down off the porch. Mac murmured that he would explain the personal stuff later then activated the speaker phone so Adam could answer Stella's question, and explain it to the rest of them at the same time. Adam said, "It's a game we've played off and on since we met … it was just for kicks and giggles at first … creating messages from composers and their song titles. Kenny Loggins … I'm All Right. It's the theme from the movie Caddyshack and one of the songs we use the most."

Danny shook his head and muttered, "So that's what she meant." When everyone looked at him he said, "Couple a weeks back we're sitting watchin' a game when we hear this big crash from upstairs. Adam jumps to run and check when we hear Emi calling down the stairwell, 'Sit back down! I'm Kenny Loggins!' I'm wonderin' what in the hell she means when one of the other guys there just shakes his head and says not to even try and figure it out unless I wanted a headache so … you know … I just let it go 'cause … Emi is like … Emi … and she and Adam are real good at not speaking English about half the time."

Adam nodded then continued, "The Fats Domino reference … she was driving me crazy playing it over and over the other day. It was making her cry and it was like prying a state secret out of her to get her to tell me why. Found out it was one of her Da's … I mean her father's … favorite songs. Not only was Fats Domino born and raised in New Orleans, he had a song called Walking to New Orleans. And … and Curly Sue …"

Hawkes said gently, "That's an easy one. Stella's hair."

Adam said, "It might also mean she'll try and get word to Stella, or make contact, or leave clues, or …."

Mac patted Adam on the shoulder before asking Stella, "Did you get that?"

"Yeah. Give me the rest of it Mac and you're saying the Feds are involved as well?"

Mac walked off a little ways and quietly gave Stella as much information as he could over the phone while Adam stood up and stumbled inside then up the stairs to the bedroom he and Emi shared.

Agent Fielding followed him and just stood there observing as Adam threw a few clothes into a back pack. Fielding asked, "There's no convincing you to stay here I take it?"

"What do you think?" Adam asked irritated that the man even had to ask.

Fielding sighed. "Very well, but this has to be done my way since we are crossing jurisdictional lines. You …"

Mac found them and said, "Make that two of us."

Fielding just looked blandly before saying sarcastically, "Of course, why on earth would I think otherwise? As I was saying, you'll be far removed from your jurisdiction so I'll be in charge. Having Detective Bonasera as a local contact will definitely help but if we are going to lock down this case and bring the threat to a final conclusion then it needs to be done the right way so no piss ant lawyer can undo our work on a technicality. When we get these crazies I want to be able to dump them down a deep well, lock the cap, and throw away the key."

Mac nodded after giving the man a look. "But we're included in the investigation and kept in the information loop."

With only a brief hesitation Fielding said, "Agreed."

Mac and Fielding left to go attend to their responsibilities and prepare to leave. Adam, without an audience, finally sank onto the bench at the foot of their bed and grabbed Emi's robe that she'd dropped there that morning. He brought it to his face and inhaled her unique scent that reminded him of the flowers his mother used to grow in window boxes when he was a boy. "Hang on Emi. Just hang on. I'm coming. I'm coming and I'll find you."

# # # # # # # #

Emi regained consciousness briefly to find herself trussed up like the Thanksgiving turkey that she'd gotten on sale a couple of days earlier and put in the small freezer in the basement. She wondered briefly if she'd be home in time to cook it … would anyone ever cook it.

She shook her head to disperse the depressing thoughts. The last thing she needed was to get on that kind of thought merry-go-round. But she had to admit that she was scared. The old nightmares of the night she fought Jeannie Scott had returned to plague her while she was in the hospital recovering from her kidnapping by the Missing Heart Killers. Falling off those blasted buildings had hurt. So had the knife that Jeannie had been using to slice her up. The only thing that had helped her focus on surviving was the thought of leaving Reni and Gary to the mercy of a world where the deck was already stacked too high against them. The subsequent threat to them both is what convinced her to steer clear of active criminal cases from that point forward. Adding insult to injury, the plastic surgery to repair the damage done during her fight with Jeannie hurt worse than the fight had. The memory of that pain now motivated her to try and refocus and figure out what was going on; she wasn't totally sure at this point but it definitely had to do with Jeannie. Most of her nightmares seemed to always point back to Jeannie, even if it was just the long way around. Only she had a bad premonition that this time the monster she faced was going to be infinitely worse.