To Begin Anew
"How… where did you get this?" Agent Myers stared at the tape player sitting on his desk as if it were something poisonous.
"A friend," Sara hedged.
"I take it this isn't the original?" Myers arched a brow at her cagey response.
"You take it right. I was pretty sure you were clean, but I've been wrong before." Pezzini shrugged, thinking she'd been wrong about a lot of things lately.
"It would be better if there were video surveillance to go with this audio, but I can piece this together with the rest of the data the investigation has already compiled." Myers took the tape out of the recorder and slid it into a manila envelope.
"What are you going to do with that?"
"I have to send the recording off to be verified, of course." The agent gave her a look that suggested she had lost her mind not to realize that.
"Oh." Sara fought back a surge of anger at not being believed. If someone had a tape that implicated one of her coworkers in something this bad, she'd have it checked out too. It was a reasonable precaution. "What are you going to do in the meantime?"
"I'll have Seifert watched, and I'll check into his financial records. Without Dante and Siri to lead me to the next link in the chain, I have to go after it another way."
"What about Irons? We know he was going to have them killed, he confessed." Now it was Pezzini's turn to look at Myers like he was an idiot.
"Key words there, 'going to'. He did not arrange the hit that took out Siri. If Irons were still alive, I could use that tape to find out what he knew and who his connections were, but he's not. If there were any links to be had in the first place."
"Oh he had them all right," Sara couldn't believe her ears. Irons was guilty as sin. This whole situation had his name all over it.
"According to the tape, Irons was being blackmailed for something in his past. Powerful men don't like to be embarrassed, and they don't like being squeezed. It is unlikely that he was involved with the White Bulls. Why would he be?" Myers held out his hands to indicate the huge gap in social strata that the two moved in.
"Why wouldn't Irons be at the top of that chain you're trying to follow?" Pez shot back.
"I find it highly unlikely. Irons has worked closely with our government on many occasions, and Vorshlag holds many military contracts. Companies like that get watched very closely." The agent shook his head in negation of Pezzini's idea.
"That's my point. Those contracts put Irons in contact with a lot of people in different places. Surely that would make it easy for him to mastermind the whole thing?" Sara arched a brow.
"Not really, and you shouldn't keep after Mr Irons like that, especially since you were involved in his death. It makes one wonder if his death was as accidental as you say." Myers stared at Pez suspiciously.
"I don't believe I'm hearing this." Pezzini sneered, not liking his attitude one bit.
"Watch it detective. You used up all my good grace when you skipped out on me this morning." The agent growled back. Witness or not, cop or not, if Pezzini had gone vigilante, he'd take her down.
"I got a… tip about the shootings. I had to go, there wasn't time to wait for you to come back, and besides, my informant would never have said anything with you present. Sorry." Sara's voice was flat and unapologetic. They'd already had this discussion when she showed up at his door an hour ago.
"Sorry? It could have been a setup, you idiot! I swear; if you were one of my people, I'd bust your ass." Myers leaned across the desk, pinning the detective with a hard stare. Going off alone like that, especially after just learning about the assassinations, was plain stupid.
"Well it wasn't, and I'm not." Pez crossed her arms and stared right back at him, clearly not intimidated by the threat.
"Thank God," Myers snapped and leaned back in his chair. "Cause I wouldn't want the political hot potato you've just dumped on your Chief by shooting such a prominent and upstanding member of the community."
"You've heard the rest of that tape. He attacked me." Her reply was defensive.
"Doesn't matter, Irons had a lot of friends in this town. If you were staying on here, it wouldn't be long before they put enough pressure on your chief that he found a reason to give you the boot." Myers steamrollered over her protestations.
"What do you mean, 'not staying on here'?" Pezzini narrowed her eyes at the agent and stood up. If he was going to start in on her about safe houses again, she was gone.
"Look, much as I hate to admit it, we probably won't get everybody. This organization is large and well established. Whoever we miss is going to have an axe to grind with you." Myers pointed out.
"I thought you guys were some kind of hot shit investigative unit." Sara curled a lip in derision.
"We are, but that doesn't make us infallible." A vein pulsed in the agent's forehead.
"Can I get that in writing? It sure would come in handy the next time we have a jurisdictional pissing contest with you guys." Sara could tell she was really winding him up, but she didn't care. It felt good to get a little of her own back.
"No." Myers gritted his teeth for a moment before going back to the original topic. "Even if, by some miracle, we do get everyone, it's not as difficult as we would like for an inmate to arrange a hit from prison."
"You're just a regular Pollyanna, aren't you?"
Myers shrugged as if saying, what can you expect? Everyone knew how corrupt the prison system was. "You want to live to be thirty-five? The Witness Protection Program is your best bet."
"You want me to give up being a cop?" Sara shifted, subconsciously moving into a fighting stance.
"That may not be necessary, but you would have to be moved to another city, one far enough away that it wouldn't fall under the White Bulls influence." Myers said calmly, ignoring the way she was gearing up for a fight.
"No way, I love this city." Sara protested.
"More than your life?"
Sara opened her mouth to say yes, but couldn't. She'd spent too much time in a hospital bed contemplating her own mortality to say that. "No," she finally admitted.
"Well, it'll be between you and your reassignment officer where you go, so be thinking about where you'd like to end up." Myers looked down at her with the first pang of sympathy he'd felt for her since she left him holding the Danish. He'd hate to be told he couldn't do his job any more either.
Sara nodded and tried to think of a city that she wouldn't mind moving to. She knew without being told that it couldn't be anyplace that she had ever mentioned to her coworkers, or that had relatives living in it, however distant their connection. That actually left a lot of options, since she was an orphan without any real desire to travel.
The idea of relocating wasn't as hard to think about as Sara had expected. There was no voice screaming objections in her head at the concept. Everything had gone to shit here, and it didn't look like there was any way to fix it. Maybe someplace new would be good for her, someplace that didn't hold a reminder of those she had lost on every street corner. Hell, someplace where she could ride the Buell year-round without freezing her ass off.
There wasn't anything to hold her here, just Gabriel and Vicki, really. Going to see the Woo family these days meant navigating a minefield of guilt and loss that left her nerves shot and her hands shaking like a wino between bottles.
Work wasn't any better. Most of her fellow officers were dirty bastards that she was going to have to somehow work with, without spitting in their lying faces. When the arrests finally went down, the ones who were left would have to deal with the censure and public distrust that would follow such a widespread and public bust of their precinct. Maybe it was cowardly, but Pez didn't think she wanted to be around for that.
Not to mention having to watch her back. Even if the FBI did their job and arrested everyone directly involved, those who went down would have their defenders. For some reason the biggest S.O.B. always had a friend or two that just couldn't believe their buddy was dirty. Those guys would hold a grudge, and make sure everyone knew who had sent their brother officer up the river.
It would be Hell every time Pez had some case that crossed into another department's turf, because even those without an axe to grind wouldn't want to talk to her. They wouldn't trust her, nobody liked a rat. She also knew Myers had a point about her being a political liability. There was every chance she'd lose her badge before the other things could even become a problem.
Maybe if the thing with Ian hadn't just been fucked beyond recall, Sara would have thought harder about staying. She wasn't normally one to back down from a challenge, but even by her standards their relationship had gone strange. What was she supposed to say to him? Sorry we shot your father? Ian wouldn't even look at her while they were in the waiting room.
It wasn't just him with issues though. Sara was not happy with the fact that he had been ready to assassinate the only family she had left in the world. Nottingham had betrayed her. Oh not by action, but certainly by intent. Perhaps the worst part was remembering how he had played her with that air of wounded innocence. It made Pez question whether anything he had said or done had been honest. Did she know him at all?
No, it would be better to go now. An ironic smile curled her lips. Just a week ago Sara had started to think that she wanted her life to change. Danny was right; she should be more careful what she wished for.
"I'll send a team over to pack out your apartment. The sooner we get you out of this place, the better." Myers shook his head ruefully; "I'd like to have at least one of my witnesses still alive when this thing goes to trial."
"What a coincidence, I'd like to still BE alive. Think your guys can manage not to screw up again?" Sara bit out.
"We know where the leak is, so you should be safe," Myers held up a hand when Pez started to object, "This time you are going straight to Witness Protection, no stopover at a safe house. We'll keep you completely out of the limelight until we need to bring you back to testify."
And that was that. Sara found herself very efficiently hustled out of the office and down to another department completely to talk to a 'placement councillor'. The office was sleek and very, very modern. Even the desk was glass and chrome. It didn't match the man sitting behind the desk at all. His hair was wavy and blonde, incongruously curling around an aged, strongly Slavic face.
Pez knew that face. She'd first seen him at Danny's graveside. He'd asked her if she was ok. She had caught glimpses of him at odd moments over the past few months, but they had never again spoken. "So, you're FBI."
"Not exactly," the man gently refuted her statement in that same accented voice she remembered from before.
"Then what, exactly, are you?" The bitchy reply spilled out before Sara could stop herself.
"I am called Lazar, and I am here to help you." He answered calmly, ignoring or missing the sarcasm entirely.
"You didn't answer my question."
"Did I not?" He slanted an enigmatic look at her.
"You know you didn't." Sara frowned, this Lazar character might sound like English was his second language, but he was proficient enough that there was no way he didn't understand the question.
"My title would mean nothing to you, and is unimportant at the moment. I am here to help you." Lazar rested his arms on the glass and leaned forward earnestly. "You stand at a crossroads; your choice here will affect the rest of your life."
"What choice?" Pezzini asked bitterly.
"Whether or not you will let these experiences destroy what you have always believed in and worked for," Lazar looked deep into her eyes. His face fell as he saw all the pain and misery hiding behind the thin veil of surface anger. Sara was a very wounded soul. Right now he doubted she was strong enough for the battles to come.
"What? You think I should stay?" The statement seemed very strange, coming as it was from a placement councillor.
"No. Where you are has nothing to do with who you are."
"Deep, very deep," Sara said in her best 'humor-the-madman' voice.
Lazar smiled without humor, "The fact that you don't believe me tells me much. You need to get away from this place, see the world with fresh eyes. Perhaps then you will be able to find yourself."
"Listen up, Mr. New Age Crystal Freak; I know right where I am. I'm up Shit Creek without a paddle." Pezzini stabbed a finger at him, "The only thing I want from you is to be placed somewhere that I can still be a cop."
"That can be arranged." Lazar shifted his attention from her to the computer, and did some two-fingered typing.
He paused, glared at the screen as though taking offence, and then began typing again. Sara wished she could see what he was doing, but the monitor was purposefully facing away from her, probably to keep her from seeing any passwords or profiles. At length he finished and looked up. "And so it is done. I could not make you a detective, but you are still a police officer."
"Why can't I be a detective?" Sara glared at him. She was still not happy about the sanctimonious little lecture she had been on the receiving end of.
Lazar shook his head; "There is too big a chance that you would end up with a case high profile enough to get your picture in the paper. Besides, uniforms provide a certain amount of anonymity, which is very important since you want to keep the same kind of work."
"But…" Sara began, only to be cut off.
"Normally you wouldn't be allowed to have anything to do with your former occupation, but I have a little latitude with your placement, and administering justice is too intrinsic to who you are. You won't be able to stop saving people, so I'm making sure you have some kind of support when you do." Lazar slanted her a look through the curls that had slid forward on his face when his head had been down over the computer.
For a second Pez thought Lazar somehow knew about the Witchblade. Her hand automatically covered her wrist, as if to hide it from him. She looked into eyes dark with old secrets and decided to redirect the subject. "Where are you sending me?"
"One of our people took early retirement about ten years ago, moved back to her old home town and took a seat on the city council. We still get together occasionally and reminisce; or trade new stories. Last time I spoke with her she was complaining about the lack of qualified officers applying for the slot that had opened up two months ago. I checked to see if the position was still open, and it was. Now it's yours."
"Just like that?" Sara arched a brow in disbelief.
"Once I tell her who you are, she will make sure you get the job. The fact that you are female, and therefore a minority, will make it even easier." Lazar shrugged.
"So where am I going?"
"The Midwest," Lazar quirked his lips up, amused by the thought of the city girl's first exposure to the country. Kansas might not survive the experience.
"Could you be a little more vague?" Sara complained. The Midwest covered a lot of territory.
"After what happened to the last two witnesses in this case?" Lazar shook his head, "I will not speak your destination until I am before your driver, and even he won't be taking you all the way."
"Why not?" Pez rolled her eyes at the excessive secrecy.
"It's best to break up your method of travel, makes you harder to track." Her attitude made Lazar shake his head.
"Yeah, and what about my stuff? How's that gonna get there?" Pezzini grumbled, not comfortable with the fact that a bunch of strangers were going to be pawing through her possessions.
"Things are easier to lose track of than people. We transport them to a warehouse, where they will be shipped out of after I get your itinerary confirmed. Your possessions will arrive on a moving van the day after you do."
"Fine. What next?" Sara asked with ill grace.
"You will need new identification. If you go down the hallway on your left, the first office you come to is for issuing the relevant papers. I may not see you again until the next time I have dinner with my friend, so I will wish you a safe journey now." Lazar raised a hand in farewell.
"Thanks," Sara realized she meant it, however grudgingly. He could have ignored her wishes and made her into a florist or something.
"You are welcome." Lazar watched her leave, waiting to move until her footsteps faded away. He took a cloth out of his pocket and wiped the desk and keyboard down, erasing all trace of his physical presence.
It was pure providence that the actual owner of this office was taking a long lunch, and that Sara's escort had not looked into the room when delivering her. Well, providence in the form of the Witchblade. The artifact was amazingly adept at manipulating events to give it the best potential outcome, which also meant it was highly unlikely that anyone would check back with the man whose office he had temporarily usurped, but Lazar had always been a cautious man.
He stood up and pulled a janitor's cap and jacket out from under the desk. Lazar donned his disguise again, careful to tuck his bright hair up in the hat. Then he headed to the closet and pulled out the yellow mop bucket, complete with dirty water and stringy mop, which he had concealed there. Long ago Lazar had discovered that menial labourers were invisible, and he was not too proud to join their ranks when he needed to pass unnoticed.
He had done what he could to set the Wielder's feet on the path. The rest she must do herself, for true healing could only come from within.
A/N: Time for the old bad news/good news/bad news. Bad news, we've come to the end of this particular tale. Good news, there will be one more story in this series. Bad news, it is going to have to wait while I complete the other pieces of fiction I have left unfinished. Thank you all for reading, and extra big thanks goes out to those who reviewed.