Disclaimer: I don't own Vincent, Detective Fanning, Max, Annie, Pedrosa, Zee, or anybody from the movie Collateral. I do own Claudia, although no one else wants her, and I do own Victoria, although she isn't here right now. So leave a review at the beep!
A/N: All right, I just couldn't wait to post the new story. So sue me. Actually, don't sue me, I have no money. So, this is the direct sequel to Soulless, so if you haven't read Soulless, you really want to becuase this won't make complete sense otherwise. Although if you're good at picking things up fast, you could probably give this first chapter a try. Anyway, without further ado....
One did not just get up and walk away after an encounter like the one Max and Annie had had on that MTA. Sure, they walked for a while, but Annie, the solid voice of reason, spoke up.
"We have to go to the police."
Max was uncomfortable with this idea. "You know, they think I'm him."
Annie gave him that look again. She'd given him that look two times more that evening, but they'd been in the process of running for their lives at the time, so she hadn't been able to pursue it.
"Okay, Max, you gotta tell me, now. Tell me everything."
So he did. How Vincent got into his cab. About the poor fat guy who took a nose dive onto the roof of his taxi. How Vincent had forced him to help him put the dead guy into the trunk of the cab and drive him to the next stop. How he'd been nearly mugged in an attempt to attract attention, and Vincent had shown up, shot the perpetrators, and given him back his wallet. He told her about the jazz club and Daniel. He told her about going to see his mother, how he had stolen Vincent's briefcase and destroyed it by tossing it onto a busy street, where it was run over by a truck. How Vincent had made him go into a club to see Felix, and pretend that he was Vincent himself, to get the work-ups for the last two hits of the night, the very last being Annie.
This was the part Annie was very interested in. "How did you do it?" she asked, incredulous. "How did you convince those guys you were Vincent."
Max was uncomfortable with this question. "I just did it. I had to do it."
"But why didn't you walk away? Go for help? You had ten minutes, you could have -"
"If I'd gone back to that car without the stuff he wanted, he would have shot me, and then shot my mother on the way out of town."
Annie considered this. "It doesn't make sense. Why would he keep you around for so long? I mean...especially that stuff you told me about how he stood up for you when your dispatcher was giving you hell, that is really strange." She rubbed the skin between her eyes. "God, I need some sleep. Look," she said, her hand going into the air, "we're going to the police, and that is that. I work for the Justice department, they'll listen to me. We'll clear this up."
"There was a cop who believed me," Max said softly.
Annie whipped around, looked at him. "Who is he? Do you know how to reach him?"
Annie closed her mouth.
"Vincent shot him," Max continued. "As we were coming out of Fever. Everybody else thought I was Vincent, but he believed me and was going to get me out. For it, he got two in the chest and one in the head."
Annie nodded, drawing a shaky breath. "What was his name?" she asked.
She nodded again. "Don't worry about it, Max. You saved me, now I'm going to save you. We'll work this out." She took his hand, squeezed it. "Okay? His body is floating around on the MTA, they'll pick it up, your story will be confirmed by it. OUR story," she added, giving him another squeeze. "Trust me, okay?"
He gave her a tired look, but he nodded. He would trust her. Right now, she was probably the only person in this world that he would ever trust again.
He'd been wearing a vest. Kevlar, best stuff on earth. The third bullet had grazed his temple as he'd been falling, possibly doing more damage than the two that had broken a few ribs.
Detective Ray Fanning, narcotics division, woke up in the hospital several hours after Max and Annie had found a police station and reported their story, in an amount of pain that morphine could only dull, not kill. But he was alive. He had a huge, bloody scar on his forehead and felt like he could barely breathe, but he was alive.
"Thank God," Richard was saying, the man popping out of his seat and coming over to the bed. "You crazy fucker, you know how goddam lucky you are?"
Fanning groaned in a vain attempt to right himself. "What...what happened?"
"I wasn't there," Richard said with a shake of his head, "but my guess is that that Vincent guy tried to take you out, and the only thing that saved you was this." He held up the Kevlar vest with the bullets embedded in it.
If he'd had the energy, Fanning would have reached out to kiss it like a holy cloth. "Holy shit," he groaned.
"Yeah. The one on your forehead nearly did some damage, but the doctors seem to think you'll be your old asshole self again in a few days." A pause, hesitancy, not sure if he should continue. Fanning looked up at him through hazy eyes.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Well...turns out that your guy Max saved a district prosecutor, lady named Annie Farrell. They went into the 113th this morning just after dawn and laid their story on a night detective, and when your name came up, they called us. That's why I got involved, basically. Turns out they back up your theory, that he's not the shooter. The prosecutor confirmed it." He cleared his throat, still uncomfortable.
"But..." Fanning pressed.
"But, they claimed that they somehow managed to kill the guy on the blue line going into Long Beach, that he was sitting on one of the trains with a bullet hole in his chest. Problem is, we've been searching all the trains since the call came in, and there's no body. There's blood, but no body."
"So they didn't kill him," Fanning said.
"Either that, or somehow this Max is brainwashing this girl into thinking he's her hero, in order to save his own neck."
Fanning gave him a disdainful look. "Yeah...guy like that is going to convince a woman, by the way, who happens to be a district prosecutor-have you even met Annie Farrell?"
Richard shook his head. "You?"
"Once or twice. Piece of work. I would hate to be the guy who tried to muscle her."
"So you're still sticking to your earlier story," Richard said.
"'Course I am, because it's right." He was getting irritable, his voice carrying. Within a few minutes a nurse was in the room, checking his IV, chastising Richard for upsetting a patient.
"Look, I'll keep you updated," Richard said, his tone much softer now. "But you gotta get better, man. They'll probably be around to ask you a lot of questions. Did you see the guy who shot you?"
"No," Fanning said, closing his eyes.
"Well, think hard. Otherwise, the word of a District Prosecutor may not be enough to keep Max from being brought up on charges."Fanning opened his eyes. "Wait...do you believe me?" he asked. "You didn't before."
"Something about all of this just doesn't sit right with me," Richard agreed. "I think...maybe...you might be right."
Fanning almost smiled. "So much for there being nothing in it for you."
"Maybe there isn't, but it's still my job. Get some rest. I'll see ya." And he left him alone to think.
Agent Frank Pedrosa had been shot before. Even in the leg. It was always dangerous, taking a bullet in the leg, but he'd known right away that it wasn't fatal. The artery had been missed, and it had taken a big chunk of fat right out from above his knee. It bled like hell, but they were able to patch him up. Against doctor's orders, he was on his feet again within a few days, even though he needed a cane. He was rather fond of his cane, as it had been his grandfather's, and made of a thick, sturdy wood, topped with sleek stainless steel in the shape of an elephant's trunk.
"How you doing, boss?" Zee greeted him from her desk as he returned to it. He gave her one of his trademark smirks, barely lifting the corners of his mouth.
"Well, I feel like I've been shot, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
Zee shook her head. Agent Zee Ricardo hadn't been with him long, but she was good. Very sharp, rarely missed anything. Of all the partners he'd had, she was probably his favorite. Even more than old Teddy Jackson, God rest his soul, who had taken him under his wing and taught him everything he knew. No, Zee was even better than him, with her dark eyes that missed nothing, her ears which dismissed nothing, and her mouth, which never opened without a damn good reason.
"Any news for me?" Pedrosa asked as he shuffled through his old mail. Most of that shit could wait, Zee knew damn well what he was talking about.
"We got a call from C. You want to go meet her?"
Pedrosa looked up. "C called in?" He paled a little. "That can't be good news."
Zee shook her head, a small grin curling her lips. "Shakespeare is dead. Shot in the throat."
Pedrosa slammed his fist down on his desk. "Dammit!"
Zee shrugged. "You know, if you look on the bright side -"
"Yeah, major player out, yadda yadda. But he was the only major player willing to give us suppliers."
"Probably why he's dead." Zee gave an indifferent shrug. Another thing he liked about her, she never got excited, even over really bad news. "But there is a bright side."
"Oh?" Pedrosa perked up.
"We still have Felix." She looked up at him, her dark eyes smiling.
"How? All the witnesses were executed!"
"But we still have Annie Farrell. She was number five on that list, and she made it out alive. We've also got the cab driver, who, it turns out, was telling the truth. He's not our meat-eating super assassin. According to C., it's a guy who goes by the name of Vincent."
Pedrosa had been looking at her, one hand supporting his chin on his desk. "You mean... C knows him?"
Zee nodded, smiling slowly. "This isn't over yet, boss. We've still got a pretty thick string."
A little after noon, when people were on their lunch hours and traffic was starting to slow, Pedrosa and Zee pulled up outside of a bar called "Jedediah's." It was an unusual place, busy but not packed, even at this time of the day. People ate their lunches in quiet corners, knowing they wouldn't be disturbed. The waitresses went about their work silently, as nothing could be heard over the loud blast of jazz that came from the jukebox in the center of the place. There was a raised section of seats, and all the way in the back was a curved corner table, occupied by a single person, with long, straight, white hair.
Pedrosa had to lumber up the short flight of stairs on his cane, and Zee stayed behind him, knowing it simply wouldn't do to have her getting to the table ahead of him. When he managed, he gave the occupant of that table a singularly annoyed look.
"Couldn't you have picked a floor table, Claudia?" he said as he slipped in beside her. Zee took the other side.
Claudia smiled. She had a thin white bandage over her nose, holding the cartilage in place while it healed. Her arm was in a sling under her black jacket, which didn't go over the other arm, either. There was just the hint of a bandage on her opposing shoulder. "Sorry, I don't like people seeing me when I'm not my best," she said, her voice low key.
"Then why did you call?" Zee asked in her flat, no nonsense voice.
Claudia shot her a look. "You're a real party, Agent Ricardo. You know, why don't you go out into the street and get hit by a car? Then you can come back and join the rest of us wounded in the line of duty."
Zee's reply was a sharp smile of her own.
"Talk to us, Claudia," Pedrosa said, finished with the banter. "What happened?"
She sighed. Her large, ice-blue eyes rolled heavenward as she swirled her Long Island Iced Tea. "Well, where shall I start?"
"You were supposed to be watching Shakespeare," Zee said. "Make sure none of the hits that were contracted were carried out. You had a ten for ten record, until number eleven came along. What happened?"
The penciled eyebrows narrowed onto Zee. "Okay, fine. I can see you're no fun. Truth is, neither am I. Things were going well. But there was a problem. A man named Vincent go involved. Meat-eater, like me."
The two agents exchanged looks. That couldn't be a coincidence. "Vincent?" Pedrosa echoed.
"The name has come up," Zee said.
Pedrosa added, "If he's the same Vincent, he's responsible for a series of hits in our case against Felix."
"Really?" Claudia said slowly, with great interest. "That explains what he was doing in town in the first place."
"He took out all our witnesses, almost got our prosecutor as well," Zee continued. "What about him?"
"Turns out, I know him. From a long time ago."
Pedrosa's eared perked up, and Zee's eyes actually widened. "How?" she asked.
"We were in a half-way home together. After my incarceration, he was still hanging around. He'd already been brought in, I followed pretty close after." She shrugged. "Vincent's funny...real sociopath. Not that I have any right to judge him. It was good, and then it wasn't, so I left. Didn't see hide nor hair of him for almost fifteen years. Then, I'm checking out some leads on Marcus' favorite doctor, a Victoria Potter. Shakespeare was worried about her, had heard that people might want to try to use her to get to him. He was smart, he never let her see where he lived, but that didn't mean her life was in any less danger. So I went to her ex-husband's home, things went kind of sour there, and then she showed up, with Vincent. Turns out that some guys from the other side tried to get her to take them to Shakespeare's home, she didn't know, they almost killed her, but Vincent interfered. Marcus has a scanner in his home, there was a big stink about four bodies at Victoria's illegal medical office buried deep in the backways. Then Vincent...I don't know what the hell he was doing, looked like he was protecting her. They were shacked up in a hotel room just east of the airport."
"Why?" Pedrosa asked.
"That would really be a question for him," Claudia said. There was a glint in her eye. "Although, if I had to guess, I think he's sweet on her."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Zee asked.
Claudia leaned closer to her. "Okay, Zee, listen carefully. You know what I am, don't you? The only difference between me and Vincent is that I work for you. People like us don't have relationships, we have liabilities. And if she's still with him, he's got a major liability hanging around."
"I don't see how we can use this," Pedrosa murmured. "I mean, obviously Vincent got past you-"
"He didn't get past me," Claudia snapped. "Marcus wouldn't listen to me about security. He tried to be all big and heroic by trying to trick Vincent into thinking he was going to pay him off." She paused. "I couldn't blow my cover, Pedrosa. You know that."
"True." He sighed, looked out toward the street. "So Shakespeare is dead and we're barely holding a case together against Felix. What do you want to do about it, Claudia?"
"You said he's responsible for killing your witnesses?" Claudia asked. "How do you know for sure? Did any of you see him?"
"He kidnapped a cabbie. He witnessed...a lot," Zee said quietly.
Claudia absorbed this news. "I can find Vincent," she finally said. "If you want, I can bring him in. If the cabbie is willing to testify against what he saw, or at least threaten to, we can get Vincent over a barrel. Anyone else?"
"Yeah, the district prosecutor, Annie Farrell," Pedrosa said. "She was last on his list. The cabbie supposedly saved her."
"Then there we go," Claudia said. "That's two. Vincent won't have any choice but to testify that Felix contracted him to kill those people, unless he wants to go to jail. And I can promise you, he doesn't."
"Seems to me," Zee said, "that all of this depends on you even being able to get Vincent into a position where he would have to choose. How do you propose to do that?"
Claudia smiled. "I need to know everything there is to know about Dr. Victoria Potter."
Two weeks passed. Fanning returned to his job, nice and cushy at his desk for a while. They had wanted him to take leave, but he wanted some kind of resolution with the Felix case. He sorted through files, he read through reports, and he found nothing.
The Feds had had it in the first place, and they weren't going to let it go.
It was infuriating. The only comfort he took was in learning that Max was okay. He thought he should pay the man a visit, let him know that he, too, was alive. After all, Vincent had shot him three times, twice in the chest. He'd fallen over like a trimmed tree. No doubt, Max probably thought he was dead. Nobody bothered to tell civilians when cops survived messes like that.
His car had been impounded, but Richard had been nice enough to pull the right strings and get it out for him. It was waiting for him in the work lot, keys on his desk. He got in gingerly and started it up.
And someone slipped in from the other side. Someone dressed entirely in black. With long, white hair.
"Can I help you?" Fanning said, his hand going to his gun as the woman turned and smiled at him, her eyes shielded by sunglasses.
"No, but I can help you, Detective Fanning," she said. "My name is Claudia. I believe you and I have a mutual friend, Vincent?"
Fanning paled. "You know Vincent?"
"I don't just know him, Detective," she said, removing her glasses. "I know where he is. Is there somewhere we can go and talk?" She looked around. "Somewhere good for both of us?"
Fanning started up the car. "There's a restaurant in Park and Lincoln. Not too many people go there. You've got fifteen minutes to convince me not to arrest you and have you thrown into St. Lucy's."
A/N: All right, all right, I hear you. Where is Vincent? He wasn't in this chapter! Don't you know that's the only reason I read this story? For Vincent, the hottie assassin guy? Well, don't worry, he's right here. Say Hi, Vincent.
Me: After the last story, he needed a bit of a vacation. Right, sweetie?
Vincent: Uh...yeah. (Looks all around, very uncomfortable)
Me: So where did you go?
Me: You don't work for the government, you're in the private sector now. You can tell.
Vincent: No, I can't. Look, I really don't like these interviews.
Me: Oh, sorry, I forgot. You like to be in control. That's cool.
Vincent: Yeah. Well, I gotta go now. Although, there is a question I'd like to ask you.
Me: You want to ask me a question?
Vincent: Yeah, and if you get it right, you can come with me to this new jazz club I've found.
Me: Oh, wow. Well, go ahead, ask your question.
Vincent: Where did Miles Davis learn music?
Me: Uh...who's Miles Davis?
Vincent: (Goes completely and utterly psychopathicly insanely angry) YOU DON'T KNOW WHO MILES DAVIS IS??? (starts to throw chairs around and step on things, making them break.)
Me: Holy shit...you know, the crazy-killer act is a lot cuter when it's not happening right in front of me. I'm gonna run now, you guys enjoy the next chapter of the story!
Vincent: HEY, YOU WAIT! I'M NOT PLAYING WITH YOU!
Me: Okay, Vinne, go play with them. (points to the readers) Maybe one of them knows who Miles Davis is.
Vincent: (to reviewers) Well, if you do, you'd better review!
Me: You heard the man! (ducks out of sight as Vincent throws another chair) Review!